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Eclectic Breaks Pro X Fade Crossfader
Reviewer: Gizmo • Date: September 2005 • Price: £90/$99 • Link: Eclectic Breaks

We at skratchworx hold this truth to be self evident - a scratch mixer is only as good as it's crossfader. This is an indisputable fact and cannot be argued with by any logic.

Some manufacturers get it right, making the fader the centre of attention and the starting point from which the rest of the mixer is designed. Others seem to add the crossfader in almost as an afterthought, without realising the consequences of their actions. But it's fair to say that there are very few mixers that couldn't be improved with a different crossfader.

Maybe the people designing the mixers aren't turntablists and just don't get the subtleties of fader control. But to us, it's vitally important to get the feel just right. If something is slightly off with a fader, it can make the difference between sounding like ATrak or ANewbie.

Enter Eclectic Breaks

The EB remit is wide - they're club promoters, a record label, artist management and also dipping their toes in the fast growing world of interactive media. But at the heart of all this activity is the DJ. EB is run by DJs for DJs - a bit of a cliched term but it sums up perfectly what they're all about.

Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the standard of equipment being laid down in front of the DJ community, the EB guys began to hatch a master plan. Understanding that the key to a good mixer is the crossfader, they hatched the idea of making their own. Easy enough you might think... after all it's only small and should be pretty simple to design right? Sure, easier if you want it to just fit in one mixer but EB wanted one fader that could fit into as many mixers as possible. But not just that, it had to be adjustable to suit any DJ's style. This meant taking a leaf out Ecler and Pioneer's book and having infinite lag adjust as well as being able to adjust the tension as well. But that's not all - this new fader must also be built like a tank. We've all heard stories of snapped fader stems - understandable when you look at the relatively flimsy nature of some faders out there.

So all in all, EB wanted a seemingly impossible task - to design a crossfader that would fit into any mixer, have infinite adjustability for lag and tension AND be able to withstand the heavy handed antics of even the most slap happy scratch DJ. Thus the Eclectic Breaks Pro X Fade was born.

Now I could spend a lot of time going into the 2 year R&D, design and production process but the good people at SpinScience have already started to delve into the Pro X Fade's background in this article. What I plan to do is set out what you get for your money, what it fits and how it works.

Fader Basics

To understand what makes the Pro X Fade different from its competitors, you need a very basic knowledge of VCA faders. And I needed this as well so I read Professor BX's FaderFAQ to school myself in the finer points of faders.

Instead of volume being passed through the fader, a voltage is passed through instead. This is controlled by the position of the contacts in the fader stem against the tracks in the fader body. Usually the tracks are made up of some sort of carbon based material. The action of the contacts rubbing against the tracks meant fader wear and eventually bleeding. The Pro X Fade is different in this respect - it uses a 100% conductive plastic material, meaning less chance of wear and a smoother feel to the fader. That really is as much as you need to know.

The Package

You can't help but think that the EB guys are big Apple fans and have been inspired by the industrial design and marketing of the mighty Apple. Instead of the usual cardboard header and plastic bag packaging combo, the Pro X Fade comes in a very iPod-esque clamshell package. The packaging itself screams quality - you get the impression that just from the box, you're in for something special. This does add to the whole EB/Pro X Fade experience - it feels like you're actually getting something special rather than just a spare part for your mixer.

Upon opening the package, you're greeted with a little more that is usual. Obviously you get the Pro X Fade but a few extra bits as well. No fader is complete without a fader knob and the one included is quite possibly the nicest I've ever used. But it did remind me of one I'd used before... that's it... it's identical to the Rane 56, except that this fader knob is Brown and Green. Whilst they're not interchangeable, side by side they look to be cast from the same mould. Let's face facts, the Rane does feel amazing in your fingers so why not use that as a base design? Manufacturers get it so wrong sometimes.

Looking at the other features of the fader, longevity is obviously key to a turntablist. We've all heard horror stories of heavy handed skratch DJs breaking fader stems - a clear problem mid-set. With this in mind, the obvious solution was to beef up the fader stem - in this case up to 8mm. This obviously adds a little weight to the feel but it's made for a more solid cut.

Having previously mentioned that the fader is adjustable for both tension and lag, you need something to adjust this with. So EB have rather cleverly included a tool that is used to not only adjust tension (the smallest Allen key I have ever seen - we're talking watchmaker size here) but also the lag (a more conventional flat screwdriver). But that's not all - it's all well and good having the best most adjustable fader in your mixer, you need to maintain it as well. Enter the second tool, complete with spare cleaning pads and a small tube of CAIG DeoxIT oil as well. Those EB guys have thought of everything. And it all fits on a keyring as well so you need never forget to pack the tools or indeed lose them either.

Installation

The first thing you need to know is which models of mixer the Pro X Fade fits to ensure that it's compatible with yours. With the best will in the world, one fader cannot fit all mixers - the fader plates and connectors are all different - but broadly speaking, it will fit most 45mm faders with a 50k resistance value. This means most Vestax PMC series (05/06/07), Numark, Stanton, Allen & Heath, Rane Empath, Gemini, Tascam etc - pretty much anything that will take a P&G fader as well, with the exception of modified P&Gs as found in Stanton's Focus Mixer. A full list is being prepared by EB as we speak.

Being the lucky bugger that I am, I was able to specify the mixer for my pre-release version on the Pro X Fade - in this case an Allen & Heath Xone:02. Already a great mixer, it seemed like the ideal candidate for a fader transplant. After all, if I was going to be impressed, it might as well be with something that was already good. Putting a new fader in an inferior mixer will always make it seem better right?

Installation should be as simple as whipping off the faceplate, unscrewing the fader plate and disconnecting the wires and reversing this process to fit the Pro X Fade. Assuming that it all works OK, it's time to start customising the fader's feel to exactly how you want it.

Adjustment

As previously mentioned, the Pro X Fade can be adjusted on 2 ways - tension and lag. Let's just clarify this one last time - lag is the distance between the edge of the fader and the beginning of the sound, cut-in is the distance from the beginning of the sound to full volume. Lag is mod adjustable (such as the famous credit card mod) whereas cut-in can only be adjusted by the curve control.

Fitting the fader is straight forward - adjusting it however can be a little more tricky. Thankfully, EB had the foresight to provide a special tool to do the task with relative ease. The lag time is adjusted with 2 small rotary wheels at either end of the fader. This really is the fiddliest part of the whole setup - constantly having to remove the fader to adjust it can be a bit wearing but it really is worth it to get the feel of the Pro X Fade just right. And of course either side is independently adjustable as well.

Tension is adjusted with the same tool in the side of the fader case. It's adjustable to ridiculous extremes from super loose (think Ecler Eternal/Focus) to as good as locked up.



These little adjustments really do make all the difference towards performance. Having got the Pro X Fade to exactly where I want it, I find that I can bust all the moves that I find harder on other mixers. Indeed because I find techniques easier with the new fader, my skill level has increased at a rapid rate and I find it easier to do harder moves on lesser faders - simply because I've been able to perfect the technique and then adapt it to suit, rather than trying to do the same techniques on lesser faders and failing.

Maintenance

Straight out of the box, the Pro X Fade needs no TLC. But over time, it will become necessary - as with any fader - to clean and lube the fader. Realising that the long life of a fader is a key buying factor, EB has included a small bottle of CAIG DeoxIT to do just this. It's a simple matter of popping off the front of the fader to gain access to all the technical guts inside.

Using the provided rather splendid looking tool and supplied link free pads, apply a little DeoxIT to the pad and gently clean and lube the rails and contacts. Seeing as the contacts are carbon-free, the likelihood is that other debris - like the crap you find in the bottom of your keyboard - may have strayed in to cause problems rather than actual fader wear.

So how does it feel?

I've used pretty much every fader on the market. I own a 707, a Rane 56 and an Ecler HAK360 - arguably the best faders on the market straight out of the box. Feel-wise it's a mixture of all 3 - the solidity of the Rane, the ultra-smoothness of the HAK and the weighting and adjustability of the 707. Let's not even mention the P&G... OK we better had. Being the Pro X Fade's only serious competition, the P&Gs are undoubtedly excellent and fit a wide variety of mixers. But they lack the robustness, smoothness and adjustability of the Pro X Fade.

Imagine taking the best features of all those faders and being able to transplant them into the majority of scratch mixers on the market and you get an idea of what the Pro X Fade is like. The very nature of these other faders makes them proprietary and expensive, making the Pro X Fade an even more attractive option. Owning all these mixers and then a few more besides, I still keep hooking up the Pro X Fade for a cut above the others.

In Conclusion

A fader is an unusual product to spend so much time reviewing. It's not like there's a huge 3rd party fader market - it's pretty much owned by P&G. But the importance of a replacement fader and how it can change the entire feel of a mixer shouldn't be underestimated.

There are a number of key features that a DJ will consider when buying any hardware, the main ones being price and quality. At this moment in time, the quality of the Pro X Fade isn't in question. It's built to last but it's hard to judge it's longevity. That said, prototype faders have been in use for the last year and are still going strong, and with no need to lubricate and clean.

The other remaining question is with the price. It's possible to pick up a P&G for £25 on eBay so why should you shell out a hell of a lot more for the Pro X Fade? Well the answers are outlined in the review above - the whole package has been well thought out and offers so much more than any other fader on the market and is designed to follow you from mixer to mixer, rather than being a disposable commodity. But I understand that not everyone has £90, but it's especially annoying when the US DJs get to pick this up for the equivalent of £53, making buying a Pro X Fade extremely attractive to them over a $99 P&G. The price difference is all to do with global economics and the outrageous import duties that we in the UK have to pay. Sorry people - there's nothing you, I or EB can do about it. The £90 price tag is recommended anyway - EB are selling it low and passing the margins to the dealers so hate them instead.

The whole package has been designed by DJs for DJs (that sucks but you get the point). You're not just buying a crossfader, but supporting the concept of DJs deciding what they want and going for it rather than waiting for manufacturers to design what we need. Your £90/$99 will go towards producing more products that the market craves. EB should be applauded and supported for what they're trying to do.

Here's the bottom line - the Pro X Fade package is outstanding. Buy one and breathe new life into your old (or even new) mixer. End of.

Rating - 90%

Thanks to the EB crew, Mike at Seltron and Laurent at SpinScience




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