Professional mixing desk
Professional DJ mixing starts here...
Punching, scratching and cutting - Citronic style. John Wright mixes it...
Trying to manufacture the perfect DJ mixer must be something of an R&D nightmare. No sooner have you added the finishing touches to a product, perhaps months in its development stages, than DJs discover yet another way to use - and abuse - their rig in search of the ultimate mix. The demand is then for new and revised features that allow them to practise their new techniques easily and effectively - forcing you either to return to the drawing board, or to release a product that DJs simply won't want to use.
Unless, that is, you've been keeping a close eye on how the live DJ scene is developing - and even anticipating new mixing effects before they become fashionable. Citronic are one company who have learned to keep abreast the whims of the DJ, and over the years their mixers have risen to a position of considerable respect in the studio, mobile and club worlds. The SM650 is just the latest example of their understanding of what live mixing is all about.
Make no mistake, this is a professional machine (...it even says so on the top panel!). Designed for top-flight mobile use and club systems, the SM650 carries the kind of advanced features that leave you in no doubt this is pretty serious piece of kit. For example, several dedicated circuits, providing program and in-fill mixes (for remote areas of clubs) are included for installation use; but if you intend this desk to be studio-bound - or even mobile - then these facilities have a variety of other applications.
The sheer number of connections provided on the back panel of the SM650 indicates just how flexible Citronic intend this, their flagship model, to be - right down to the optional balanced/unbalanced main outputs. Of course, you'll never use all of the sockets all at once, but it's nice to know they're there.
The front panel looks rather daunting on first inspection; indeed, if you're not used to professional mixing systems, the SM650 could prove to be a bit of a techno shock. But within a few minutes you should find things beginning to become a little clearer - particularly as things are laid out in a highly logical (and therefore effective) way.
Basically, there are six channels on the SM650: two dedicated mic strips, two CD strips and two - guess what? - phono (turntable) strips. (Incidentally, the latter four also carry stereo line inputs for other sources, such as a tape deck or sampler, and these can be called up by means of dedicated front panel switches.) All channels feature a nifty illuminated 3-band EQ section - the mic inputs have the additional benefit of a sweepable midrange - and access to two of the three available Auxiliary Send busses, which have their own master level controls.
Start buttons are included for those who can control their CD machines or decks remotely, and, naturally, a prominent headphone Cue switch can be used to monitor each input. Reflecting its professional specification, Citronic have opted for high-quality level faders on all the channels - these have what can only be described as a very sensuous feel (...try them, before you scoff).
No DJ desk would be complete without crossfade, but the SM650 takes things that bit further by allowing you to assign the side of the crossfader (X or Y) that each of the CD and phono signals appears on. You can also switch the crossfader out completely (not everyone uses it, you know...), and override it in a mix by using a channel's Punch control. This button simply brings the chosen signal to both sides of the crossfader at once - allowing you to get up to all sorts of weird scratching and transformation effects. Clever stuff. I would, however, like to see the crossfader being made easier to replace; these controls, unsurprisingly, have a habit of wearing out, and fitting a new one on the SM650 appears to involve the desk equivalent of open-heart surgery.
But enough of this pre-occupation with knobs. You know it's built well, and you know it can hook into 99.9% of rigs. So just how does it perform? Well, for the most part, the answer has to be 'admirably'. As with any high-end desk, the SM650 takes a bit of getting used to, but once you know the controls and the layout, you can get involved in some intensive deck work. I tried it with a fairly average mobile rig (two decks, CD, tape and sound system) and in a similarly average studio setup, and in both systems Citronic's attention to detail really did shine through.
The SM650 is extremely quiet, pleasantly responsive and well-designed; everything from the EQ to the bar-graph meters is top notch. If I have one minor whinge, it concerns the colours scheme - I'd quite like to see more brightly-coloured fader and switch caps to help you make out the controls more easily under changing light conditions. Black, grey and beige on a blue background isn't the best combination to work with when the strobe's on and a smoke machine is coughing its guts out at you. I personally don't find it particularly stylish either...
Such quibbles aside, one can only conclude that the SM650 is a professional desk in strictest sense of the word, and an obvious choice for those who are serious about their mixing. Clearly, Citronic's awareness of the needs of the DJ is paying rich dividends - long may it continue.
|Accessibility||Immediately easy to use|
|Originality||More 'evolutionary' than 'revolutionary'|
|Value for money||Good|
|Star Quality||Up there with the best|
|Price||£1350 inc VAT|
|More from||Citronic Ltd, (Contact Details)|
Review by John Wright
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