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Review of the Stanton C.324
by TweakHeadz Lab
I must admit, I like to wARp audio. For me, it is a passion. No doubt its unusual for a person to get their kicks this way. Thankfully, I can justify some of it under the guise of being some kind of DJ producer type. "Oh, I get it", they exclaim with relief, "you're a Pro-dooser!" "Uh, yeah, that's right!". Then I smile and pretend to be interested in worldly things, but really I just want to Chop N Screw. Heh. Many of you know I work at a school and we all get to teach a fun class a week. So I proposed a Chop N Screw class to add to my usual Hip Hop beat making class. "Your going to Chop and What...."
Screw. Lol. I don't know who started this trend in hip hop. But compared to some to the newer hip hop fads, like the "Stanky Leg", where it looks like...oh never mind...Chop N Screw sounds more like refined audio caviar everyday. I mean how can a tweak-headed person not get into warping and chopping? Towards this end I recently got a V-synth GT as it can load long samples and chop n screw them pretty well, in fact it can do it with a precision that you can't get on a cd turntable. But for me I had to have a CD turntable to scratch and screw my vocalists. (Mmm now that sounds bad...) See, when I screw its got to be on a table so I know its real, you dig? (Hmm...getting worse). JK you know.
Anyway. I spent about 6 months looking at all the cd turntables at zZounds and I knew the one I wanted. Hands down the winner was the Pioneer CDJ1000 MK3 DJ CD/MP3 Player. But there was no way I was going top of the line. And yeah I also saw those controller players. I definitely did not want a controller and had no interest in DJ software or time code disks, though definitely I see that could give one some control. But I want to be out of control. I always liked the sampler on the Numark Axis machines, but I was not going down that road again. Then I saw the gleaming Stanton C.324. Just about the same size as my beloved Pioneer. Saw the 4 sample pads and the sample sequencer (it lets you loop what you play on your 4 pads) and I was pretty much sold.
Things I like on the C.324
The Layout could not be better. In fact, I like the layout better on the Stanton than on my Pioneer dream machine. 4 pads on the bottom. Big Cue and Play buttons. Big pitch fader, pitch lock, key lock and pitch bend. Right where I want them. Tap tempo and reverse buttons well located. No complicated menus.
The display was OK for a unit this price. I wish it had a little more contrast. But it does tell one what they need to know about what is playing. It will read the titles of MP3s and show the MP3 bit rate.
The audio quality really surprised me at how good it was. The box must have decent DA converters. I was expecting less. I will have no problem using samples ripped in my own productions. (By the way, Tweak does not sample other people's stuff. I only sample my own stuff).
Effects. Simple, easy to invoke and they sound good. I like the filter, phase, flanger and delay. You can set the beat division and that affects, for example, how long the filter sweep is. The outer jog wheel can bring in the phase and flange by turning it while the effect is engaged. Actually quite dynamic and tasteful.
Sampling. Its easy and fun with 4 big pads to hit. You can record your pad hits on the sampler sequencer, and that is a cool way to bring 4 different sounding loops together on the fly. The way this works great for chop n screw is that you first get your 4 samples, then you can lower pitch, reverse, chop, etc.
Things I am not liking
While I did not have any trouble with commercial cds or with my own cds in CD format, I did have problem with MP3 cds burned on my Mac. Possibly it is the brand of CDs (Memorex) or the fact that I have songs with many different bitrates on the same media (128, 320, 160, 192...). But the problem is that the player seems to be unable to find a track so it keeps scanning and seeking and then it just gives out an audible groan and stops. After it stops there is no recovery other than rebooting the machine. The CD cannot be ejected, though the manual warns not to turn off the machine with the cd inserted, there is no option when the thing has froze up and won't eject.
After a found this problem and verified it and replicated it, I looked for some help on the Stanton website. None. I found answers to obvious questions. But no real user problems/solutions. Makes one wonder. Do I have the only imperfect machine? I am hoping they do a firmware update on the C.324.
Fortunately, this problem is not a serious issue for me because I do not play live. I just need to scratch and screw audio to make some warped out samples. I thought about getting a different machine, but the sample pads on the Stanton really make the deal for me.
In the balance
I am already enjoying the Stanton C.324. There are some features I wish it had, like USB transfer, the ability to store samples on external memory sticks, but one can't have everything. If you are a working DJ, I'd investigate the reported problems with this machine a little further. From my friends who are DJs I know that Pioneer is known as a reliable brand for CD turntables much as Technics is for analog tables. But for the person who just wants to make samples and do some serious studio scratching, the Stanton is going to be hard to beat at its price.
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