Review by Dale Wilks
Publisher: MixMan Technologies Format: CD-Rom Due out: Now Price: $39.99 Available: Direct from MixMan Technologies WWW site. *Requires* O/S: Windows 3.1 and 95 versions available Processor: 486DX2-66+ RAM: 8MB+ Graphics: SVGA CD-Rom: Double Speed Soundcard: All major cards supported Controls: Mouse & Keyboard *Tested on* O/S: Windows 95 Processor: Pentium 120MHz RAM: 16Mb Graphics: SVGA (1MB) CD-ROM: Quad Speed Soundcard: Soundblaster AWE 32 Controls: Keyboard/Mouse
Mixman: Spin Control
Mixman is the future of interactive music the advertising blurb proudly states. Hmmm, bold statement that. No cheesy cover tunes it shouts. It all gets a little questionable when they start saying Drop in a phat beat, break it all down and freak the mix! Like, yeah man. Cool. I think. Just what makes a beat phat anyway, that`s what I wanna know?
Anyway, the idea behind Mixman: Spin Control is that budding DJs, producers, or anyone else for that matter, can mix and record their very own versions of the 8 provided techno tracks, using nothing but the PCs keyboard. It has been designed to be easy to use, produce good results, and be damn good fun too, and blow me down if it isn`t all of these!
Look, this is how easy it is to use - my Mum walked into my room while I was playing, I mean, reviewing (!) Mixman, and asked me what I was doing? I showed her how easy it was to produce your own music, and to my genuine surprise, nay shock, she asked if she could have a go. Well, suffice to say that five minutes (yes, FIVE MINUTES) later she was mixing her own techno, bobbing her head and she had a huge grin on her face. Errr, half an hour later she was still there! Argh - my Mums a DJ wannabee!!
The first thing that hit me (not literally, mind) was the user interface.
Extremely sexy looking indeed; two turntables and a few buttons at the bottom of the screen, all with that trendy retro/chrome look. That`s it! No drop-down menus and no text all over the screen, just refreshingly simple looking. One of the buttons takes you to an options screen where you can load or save mixes and adjust the tempo of your mix, and one of the buttons lets you select the song that you want to mix. Nothing complicated though. The other ones are for recording a new mix, or playing the currently loaded one, and there`s a button that takes you to the song selection screen, where you can choose one of the eight audio tracks to remix. See? Easy innit?
The thing is, the packages friendliness belies its versatility - each of the eight songs have been split into 16 tracks, such as percussive fill, kick drum, rhythm break, vocals et al. Each of these tracks can be triggered on or off (and locked on if you wish) with eight keys on the numeric keypad (for the right-hand turntable) and eight keys on the left of the keyboard (for the, umm, left-hand one). You can apply an effect to any (or all) of the 16 tracks, which effectively shifts the pitch up or down, sounding great if it`s done at the right time. You can adjust how much effect this function has, as well as changing the tempo of the whole thing if you like, allowing you to come up with a laid back groove or a hi-energy thrash. At the same time as this, a backing track plays away - not as high up in the mix as any of the 16 tracks that you control, but which often takes the form of keyboards or somesuch which provides the perfect backdrop to your mixes as well as a useful prompt.
For example, if the backing track suddenly drops out, you may decide to solo a percussive fill and then bring three storming rhythm tracks all in at the same time. You can be quite clever in the way you use the tracks too - the percussive fill sounds great just before you, umm, drop in a phat beat (ahem!) but you can also use it in conjunction with a kick bass drum to form another rhythm. It`s nice to see that some of the tracks have been assigned to identical keys no matter which song you`re mixing too - the aforementioned fill, the bass and the kick drum are always in the same positions, for example. This means that whatever song you decide to mix, you can always get the basic bread and butter of the mix down, allowing you to freely experiment with the other tracks, which always vary wildly.
The 8 included songs are also included in red book audio format, which means that they can be played on any audio CD player. They are all pretty good techno stuff; one or two of the tracks may not be immediately likeable because of a lack of bass or whatever, but when mixed at a lower tempo they sound great. All of them have been produced by San Francisco artists such as Mephisto Odyssey and the Bassbin Twins - maybe not household names over here in the UK but they`re all pretty good all the same.
I really enjoyed reviewing this - it`s a lot of fun. I have only a few gripes - it might have nice to have the option to load samples of your own from hard disk. OK, maybe they wouldn`t be all synched together like the original tracks are, but it would allow more freedom and would mean that mixes could be really unique. My second quibble is the filename extension - when you create a mix and save it to disk it is given the extension of .MID, and it`s possible that these could be confused with MIDI files. The last thing was that I just wondered how long the package would last - once all eight songs have been mixed to buggery (OK, this would take a while) what then? There will be more songs available in time, won`t there?
I was skeptical at first, having never heard of Mixman Technologies or their product. This is a great product though, and deserves major success. It`s easy to learn and use, it`s a lot of fun, and I`ve now recorded my mixes onto tape so that I can play em to my mates and say "This is all mixed by me". If you`ve got any interest in techno music at all, you`ll want to check Mixman out.
Stompin man. Chill out in da place, with a ragga stylee. Blimey, I could be a DJ couldn`t I? [Err, no! - Ed]
================================ Rating: 9/10 Classic - Must Buy! ================================