Looping the colour
A sampler for the DJ
Happening guru of the club scene MC Magnus makes a rare daylight appearance to review a small but perfectly formed sampler: the Citronic RS32
Whether it's art or mere craftsmanship, DJing is about creating a sound canvas. So it can't be long before pseudier elements on the scene start defining themselves by their brush style. Those working in water colours, for instance, might go for an impressionistic image over a pastel wash, while the egg tempura-types prefer bolder hues and abstracts. (Yes, just get on with it - Ed).
Whatever your technique, you'll benefit from a sense of continuity. Mood and tempo changes have their place, but overdo it and they'll lose the thread. If your punters start to feel like cats on bonfire night, before long they'll be taking refuge in the bar or chill-out lounge.
Interweaving and seguing tracks is the traditional solution. Until recently it's meant an auxiliary tape source, or a third deck and a nimble set of fingers. DJs who've taken the trouble to refine these skills might not like it, but nowadays sampling technology can perform these tricks for the price of a Technics 1200.
One such device is the Citronic RS32, a rack-mountable battery/mains sampler with a power which belies its cigarette-box girth. Citronic's bread and butter continues to be the sort of cheap and cheerful 'disco system' you'll find down the Dog & Duck on a Saturday night, but they have some important innovations to their credit. Even if the hardware's a bit plasticky, the micro-circuitry is advanced. Their auto-cue system, for instance, could baffle none but the most gin-soaked of jocks.
The RS32 and its little brother the RS16 take their names from their total memory capacity in seconds. In each case, you have a choice between four long memory presets and eight shorter ones. In the case of the RS16 this means two-second samples, which must be of limited practical use.
So logical are the unit's functions that I soon tossed caution, and the manual, to the wind. Connections are as simple as they come, via phono plugs. The single LED which indicates recording peaks would be satisfactory if it was not so poorly calibrated. A signal which clipped only intermittently on the test unit, came out distorted on playback. It is a minor quibble with a recording stage which is otherwise so user-friendly. The push-to-make, release-to-break recording button allows for surgical accuracy in targetting your break or loop, and the recessed Defeat switch allows you to protect 'those priceless samples'. The on-board PP3 battery also allows you to preserve them in transit, or prepare them in advance.
There's a 20%± pitch control, the effects of which can be doubled, by use at recording as well as playback stages. Playback modes include that cliche of the 12" remix 'stutter', the facility to change samples midstream ('splice'), and particularly useful in seguing, 'loop'. Unlike the 'looping' function of a domestic CD player, the absence of moving parts allows a genuinely seamless loop, permitting ghostly extensions of a dance track long after vinyl has departed deck.
If this sort of seguing is to be deft (or even 'def'), fidelity has to be maintained, which is where the RS32's 12-bit technology disappoints. Test-bench and nightclub acoustics may be worlds apart, but without the luxury of some inline EQ, or EQ-able mixer inputs, I fear those cheeky catchphrases may fall on deaf ears. But this may be welcome news to dancers for whom such wackiness gets wearisome.
The RS32 emerges as a DJ accessory which is useful without being quite indispensable. Those working in an exclusively rave or dance œuvre will appreciate the smooth 'looping' function, which can be easily and swiftly re-loaded on the hoof. With the pitch facility, this can dovetail the most ill-matched of BPMs. In this sort of acoustically undemanding role, the sampler performs well enough.
The unit is so light and pocketable that I advise using the rack mounts at the earliest opportunity (with an oxy-acetylene welder). The present 19" width implies studio applications, and Citronic would be well advised to configure its circuitry in a more DJ-friendly package. One that is more comfortably ensconced between a pair of 1200s, for instance.
A third deck or CD player is not always easy to transport, or find the fingers to operate. The RS32 discharges this role quite effectively, and allows the DJ to remind his audience that behind the meanderings and tangents there lies a masterplan. Good news for the cubists among us.
Price: RS16 - £299 inc VAT RS32 - £349 inc VAT
More from: Citronic, (Contact Details)
Review by MC Magnus
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