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Stanton SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation

Manufacturer: Stanton Magnetics
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided DigiFreq with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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Normally, a digital DJ setup requires at least a laptop along with a controller. The controller in a pro setup usually consists of multiple parts. For example, the top-of-the-line Stanton SC System 1 provides three separate pieces for a two-deck system… two platter units and a mixing unit. Now what if you could combine the controller components into a single unit and ditch the laptop altogether? That's what Stanton aims to do with the SCS.4DJ, although it's definitely not meant to replace the SC System 1. The SCS.4DJ is aimed more at beginners who are just getting started, as well as some pros who are looking for an all-in-one rig for small venues.

The Stanton SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation
Sporting two decks, a mixer, effects, and a built-in computer, the SCS.4DJ provides everything needed for a basic DJ setup. We'll get into more specifics later, but the basic setup procedure goes like this… you load your tracks (AAC, MP3, WAV, etc.) on to a USB storage device (flash drive, hard drive, smart phone, etc.) and plug it in to one of the four available USB ports (one on top, one on the back, and two in a hidden compartment on the bottom). The SCS.4DJ will then analyze your tracks so that the Auto Sync function will work for instant beat matching between decks. While the tracks are analyzing, you can create playlists and get setup for your gig. If you plan on recording your set(s), which the SCS.4DJ can do at the press of a button, I recommend plugging in a separate USB drive for the best performance.

Now when the SCS.4DJ first shipped, many users complained that the analyzing process was slow. Since then, Stanton has seen fit to provide users with a system update to improve the process (along with adding many other new features), but it can still take some time to analyze tracks (especially if you have a large collection). So, in addition to the update, Stanton has provided their QuickGrid software for both PC and Mac. Using QuickGrid, you can analyze your tracks using your computer, which makes the process much faster. Of course, you can download both the system update and QuickGrid for free from the Stanton SCS.4DJ website.

Gearing Up For Your SCS.4DJ Gig
Although, the SCS.4DJ includes all you need for your performance, you still have to provide the external gear… microphone, headphones, and PA. On the front of the SCS.4DJ, you can connect any dynamic microphone with a 1/4-inch connector and you can adjust the mic level with the rotary control. To the right of that is the Master Volume control for the entire unit. In addition, the front provides headphone inputs and controls. There are both 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch stereo headphone jacks, which can be used at the same time but provide the same signal. The Mix knob controls how much of the cue and master output can be heard in the headphones and there's also a Volume knob to control the entire level of the headphone signal.

The back of the SCS.4DJ provides the power button and connection as well as additional USB ports – one port for another USB drive and one port for PC integration (allowing you to use the unit as a MIDI controller). In addition, there are balanced and unbalanced master outputs. The balanced outputs are 1/4-inch TRS connectors and the unbalanced are RCA connectors. There's also a Kensington security lock connection to help prevent someone from walking away with your unit.

The Built-In SCS.4DJ System Software
When you first power on the SCS.4DJ, the first thing you'll notice is the beautiful, full-color, 4.3-inch LCD display. This display gives you access to the built-in computer and all the different settings, as well as performance data (ie. colored waveforms, etc.) during a gig. You access the system via four main buttons: Home/Waveform, Browse, Playlists, and System. There are also eight "soft" menu buttons (four along each side of the display) that provide different functionality depending on what main button is pressed. The Home/Waveform button lets you toggle between the Home and Waveform views. The Home view shows album art, a beatkeeper (for deck alignment), and a small waveform with play position for each deck. The Waveform view shows full-sized, colored waveforms for each deck, as well as beat locations and cue/loop locators.

Pressing the Browse button gives you access to the song libraries on your connected USB devices. From here you can view/select songs to load into playlists, as well as choose songs to play on each deck. Of course, the Playlists button gives you access to your playlists. From here you can load, edit, and save playlists as well as manipulate the currently active playlist. And finally, the System button lets you customize your SCS.4DJ. There's a huge list of adjustments that you can make to the unit including setting it up in a special MIDI mode so that you can use it as a MIDI controller. This means that in addition to being a stand-alone unit, the SCS.4DJ can also interact with your favorite DJ or DAW software when connected to a PC.

SCS.4DJ Platters and Playback
One you've got your devices connected and library analyzed, you're ready to DJ. Use the Browse and Playlists buttons to load up the decks, set the crossfader, press play on both decks, press Sync on one of the decks to automatically beatmatch the two decks, and off you go. On that rare occasion where the SCS.4DJ doesn't guess the correct BPM of a track or you're using a track that hasn't been analyzed, you can use the Tap button to manually set the BPM. Keep in mind, however, that if you plan on using the Loop function, the track needs to be analyzed.

Speaking of which, each deck provides looping via the Loop, ¸ (divide), ´ (multiply), and Reloop buttons. Press Loop to create the initial loop, which can be 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16 bars long (set beforehand in the System menu). Press the Divide/Multiply buttons to halve/double the length of the loop, respectively, giving you some additional control of the loop length. If you press Loop again to exit the loop, you can then press Reloop to playback the last created loop without setting it up again. The only drawback is that you can only set up one loop. If you create a new loop, the old loop is lost. In addition to looping, you can set up a cue point via the Cue button. Just pause playback and press Cue to create a cue point. Now whenever you press and hold Cue, playback will start at the cue point and continue until you let go of the button. Like with the Loop function, the drawback here is you can only create one cue point, but you can quickly find cue points via the Platter, which makes navigating a track faster and easier.

Of course, the Platter gives you the most control to manipulate playback of a track. The SCS.4DJ provides a high-resolution, touch-sensitive Platter for each deck, which is used for a variety of functions. Most notably (and like with a real deck) touching the top of the Platter (the touch-sensitive part) allows you to jog the track backward and forward to scrub and/or scratch the audio. If you move the Platter via the outer bump ring (which is not touch-sensitive), you can adjust the pitch of the audio. In addition, the Platter provides a number of different modes of operation. In Normal mode, the Platter acts as previously described, however, in Scratch mode (activated with the Scratch button), touching the top of platter lets you scratch the audio similar to a vinyl record. You can also perform spins by quickly "flicking" the platter backward/forward. The quicker you move the Platter, the faster the spin. Playback then slows back down to the original speed, just like when manipulating a vinyl record. In Touch mode, you can touch the top of the platter to quickly and repeatedly go to the cue point for various performance techniques. In all modes, the outer bump ring controls pitch.

In addition to the Platter bump ring, the SCS.4DJ lets you control pitch via the Pitch Bend buttons and Pitch slider. Pressing the Pitch Bend buttons temporarily raises/lowers the pitch 2%. Adjusting the Pitch Slider raises/lowers the pitch depending on the range set in the System menu: +/-5%, +/-10%, +/-25%, or -100% to +25%. There's also a Keylock mode, which allows you to change the pitch without altering the key of the track.

SCS.4DJ EQ, Effects, and Mix
Each deck on the SCS.4DJ provides three EQ knobs (High, Mid, Low), which can provide a 6dB boost or a complete kill. Each deck also provides four effects via the associated buttons: Filter, Flange, Slice, and Delay. The effects are automatically synced to the beat and their parameters can be controlled via the Time/Rate and Freq/Amount knobs. The Filter effect provides a combination hi-pass and low-pass filter with LFO modulation of the cutoff frequency. The Flange effect provides that same classic sound you get from a flanger. The Slice effect provides a sample-slicing effect that can be used to create glitching, stuttering, repeating, or severely mangled audio. You can also use it for manual sample-looping. Of course, the Delay effect allows you to apply echoes to the audio.

The mix section of each deck provides Deck Clip Meters, Master Output Volume Meters and Mic Input LED indicators. There's also a channel fader, which is pre-cross fader and post auto-gain. Yes, the SCS.4DJ employs auto-gain rather than providing manual gain control. In addition, the cross fader isn't replaceable (like on pro decks), but Stanton says that since these are digital controls, they should last much longer. Overall, the faders have a nice feel to them and you can control the cross fader curve via the System menu… a nice professional touch.

SCS.4DJ for Pros and Amateurs Alike
In addition to all the aforementioned features, pressing the Record button lets you record your sets to 16-bit, 44.1kHz WAV file and there's even an Auto-DJ feature that will automatically play your set if you need to step away for a bit. Now while the lack of manual gain control and the limitations of only one cue and one loop may turn off some pros, I think you'll be surprised at just how much you can do with all the features that the SCS.4DJ provides. You definitely won't find anything better at this price point. So, if you're an amateur or pro looking for an all-in-one unit because you want to be portable and ditch the laptop, I can definitely recommend that you take the SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation for a spin. For more information, visit stantondj.com.

Additional information:
* Stanton SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation
* Gemini MS-USB Portable Sound System
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