Deckadance – The Review!
Two months ago, I did a usability look at the interface of the demo of Deckadance. While I seemed harsh on the developers for some parts of the interface, I still held great hope in this program as a replacement for Traktor DJ Studio on my Final Scratch setup. The end result didn't disappoint me one bit. Deckadance in my book stands as the future for digital DJs out there.
So for all the fellow digital DJs like me who are asking "how well does it perform with timecoded media?" the answer is amazingly well. I would even go out on a limb and say Deckadance can read and react to timecode better than Traktor DJ Studio. With DJ Studio, whenever I would cue the record or CD back and forth, it would react great most of the time, but it would also skip under a lot of movement…hence when I would see it not work well with quick-movement scratching. Even with the demo, Deckadance never lost a beat. I could work the hell out of a record or CD and it would never skip on cueing.
Unfortunately, the one downside is that there is no absolute tracking for the timecode. What that means is that with DJ Studio, I could drop the needle anywhere on the record (or fast-forward in the CD) and it would know where to go in the song. At the time this article is being written, the ONLY timecoded media that will do this is Ms. Pinky. There is work being currently done to also make this possible with the Stanton Final Scratch Open format, but that's still a work in progress.
One other cool feature is that you can mix and match timecoded media with different "scratchamp" hubs. So you could use Ms. Pinky vinyls with the Traktor Scratch hub, or Serato CDs with Final Scratch Open. Deckadance has the ability to learn the timecode for any of the setups, only they cannot have an absolute tracking mode with anything but Ms. Pinky and soon Final Scratch Open.
Outside of timecoded media, you can also use Deckadance with almost any DJ MIDI controller, thus even taking away the need for turntables and a mixer if you choose. A pretty affordable solution for bedroom amateur DJs who want to get digitally started on a small budget or even experienced bar and club DJs who want to haul a small solid setup of midi control and laptop to different gigs.
Another feature that rocked my world was the amazing beatmapping functionality of Deckadance. You put in songs, scan them, and it very accurately will map the beat structure, thus making it way easier to match beats. There's even a peakometer that can literally show you where to match beats as well as alert you to which song is "ahead". The beatmapping also makes for solid loops when you need them, a function I use a lot to create or extend a break or extend an intro while mixing.
Add to the fun is a multi-channel sampler that allows you bring in saved loops or create them on the fly, thus allowing you to produce tracks as you perform. Deckadance also has an effects setup similar to a Korg Kaos Pad, but unfortunately I wasn't very impressed with it. However, you can use Deckadance as a Virtual Studio Technology Instrument (VSTi) plugin or bring in exterior VSTi plugins into the setup. So maybe someone will make a better effects deck for me to connect to Deckadance. Plus imagine using Deckadance with Logic or Ableton.
Does Deckadance ever crash? When I first purchased version 1.0, there were bugs. It crashed on me a few times when I pushed the program too much. I'm talking about trying to play two tracks at the same time and having one track still being loaded and scanned. With updates to 1.10 now I managed to spin in that quick continuous long mix manner known to DJs like Justin Long. Never crashed or strained once. I again was highly impressed.
So with all the digital DJ solutions out there, why get Deckadance over Serato or Torq? I would first say Deckadance is ideal for all the Final Scratch customers who didn't want to jump ship and get new hardware. For Stanton's "Open Source" policy of Final Scratch they want to push, this is an ideal example of the benefits of that logic. I also think Deckadance is the perfect solution for digital DJs who want to forgo turntables and instead use a midi control. I know most hardcore DJs would scoff at the idea, but I imagine wedding, mobile, and bar DJs loving the idea of less equipment to carry. Plus I imagine me back in 1992 when I first started DJing. I would have probably bought a midi control and a laptop with Deckadance to learn the basics...then maybe later invest in turntables. Finally, I also think Deckadance is the ideal DJ software for producers and other audiophiles who more want to combine it with other pieces of software like Logic, Reason, Fruity Loops, or Ableton; as well as take advantage of VSTi plugins.
In the end, I was thoroughly impressed with Deckadance and continue to be impressed with it every time I use it. I can only imagine what we'll see DJs do with this much power and functionality in the booth.