Sunday, February 18, 2007

Torq Xponent

I'm an old-school rock 'n roll guitar player, so the fact that the latest craze in music technology equipment is DJ products hasn't really been a source of excitement for me. At least not until I was actually impressed by a piece of DJ gear: M-Audio's Torq DJ software application and its accompanying hardware, the Xponent control surface/audio interface.

The layout of the Torq software is very logical:

A Deck on each side plays back a digital music file, just like a CD or turntable would. These Decks allow you to pitch shift and change tempo of the music, loop it, and jump to locations within the song.

At the bottom is the Browser, where you navigate through a database of all the music files on your computer, iTunes library, and hard drives - including ones no longer connected (displayed in red). It also automatically creates playlists, storing them by date.

Above the Browser is a Sampler which will play loops synchronized to the mix.

In the center, above the Sampler, is the Mixer, featuring gain, EQ, and a crossfader which will go back and forth between the two music files being played on the decks.

On either side of the mixer are the Effect Racks, which enable you to add phasers, flangers, distortions, etc. to each of the audio files in the Decks - up to three on each side. Amazingly, you can add any VST plug-in to Torq (and even the buggiest VST won't make the application stop or crash!).

At the top center is the thing that has sold me on the Torq system more than anything else: The Main Waveform Display. The way M-Audio has chosen to display audio waveforms is great:

Unlike all other programs which show visuals of audio waveforms, Torq only shows the upper or lower half. This gives maximum space to see the beats by eliminating the redundant information, and to see visual alignment between two audio tracks playing simultaneously. Simple, yet ingenious!

On the hardware side of things is the Torq Xponent, serving as both control surface and audio interface.

Some highlights of the Xponent include:
- a pad that serves a dual purpose: as both a mouse-like track pad and a touchpad MIDI controller (like the Korg KAOSS Pad) that lets you tweak parameters in realtime
- illuminated buttons for easier performance
- two responsive controller wheels for cueing or scratching

A good overview of all the Xponent's features can be found on M-Audio's Flash page.

Overall, I'm thoroughly impressed with this setup. If I was a performance DJ, this is definitely what I'd be using. It is both Mac and Windows compatible, with a recommended system requirement of only 1Gb RAM. For just six hundred bucks, you get both Torq and Xponent.