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Stanton SA12X Review by Wozza - June 2005

With a new, slightly improved model and a price cut Stanton are hoping to draw some attention in the massively populated world of the scratch mixer. Not content with just creating a basic mixer Stanton have decided to add in effects.

The mixer on review here is the SA12X, which is essentially the same as the SA12 but with the mod3 installed instead of the mod1 (more on that later).

Have Stanton taken away from the basics to supply the effects or are the effects there to look good?

In the beginning

The first thing you will notice about any mixer is the build. When the mixer is taken out of the box you are greeted with a mixer that is solid if not a little lighter compared to other companies offerings (Pioneer DJM707). This lightness does not seem to be a problem though as the mixer does not move about and will save your back if you decide to take it out and about. Travelling about with this mixer will not be a problem as I can not see this mixer falling apart in a hurry.

The faceplate is made out of Aluminium and adds a touch of class to the mixer. On closer inspection you will notice that there are no screws on the top of the mixer. Most battle mixers tend to have screws in the corners of the plate but not this one. Where have the screws gone? Looking over the mixer reveals that they have been hidden away just under the rack mount ears, a very nice touch.

All in all the build is of a very high standard. The mixer has been built to last and this is clear from the start. I am starting to think that the SA12X has been thought about a lot making me interested in other touches the mixer might have on it.

The important bit

As I am sure you will agree, the most important feature of a scratch mixer is the faders. When you see the faders are Penny and Giles you know you are in for a treat. If you have ever used a P+G fader you should know what to expect. Both the crossfader and channel faders are nicely weighted and very smooth. The cut in time is not the sharpest in the world but this is to be expected, after all the faders are contact faders. I have heard of mods being done on the fader by adding washers to the tracks but I feel the cut in time is sharp enough not to take the mixer and fader apart. If however you wish to take the fader apart it is an easy process. The instruction manual explains how this is done but seems to make the process appear more complicated then it actually is.

The curve on the fader (even at the sharpest) is not instant leaving about ¼ - ½ mm before full volume is reached (this is after the cut in distance). This makes the fader slightly quicker to cut in to full volume over the Vestax PCV fader. My first minor gripe is with the crossfader. Sometimes there seems to be a slight delay with fast techniques such as crabbing. I have seen reports on the Denon mixers (which use P+G faders) having the same problem but I have not used the Denons to find out if the problem is as bad. This is also one of those faders that make a noise when it hits the side of the fader. Through a bit of research I found that this appears to be the fader stem hitting the faceplate rather then the fader itself. This might be a problem but I just see it as Stanton telling you to turn up the volume.

Overall the faders are very good and very usable. They are not as sharp as non-contact faders but are defiantly as good as other top contact faders. If you do have a problem though you can quite easily swap over to the Focus 2 fader for that ultra light and ultra sharp cut in time.

Moving about

To be honest the layout of this mixer is not very different from any other scratch mixer. The bottom half of the mixer has the faders and monitor LED’s on and the top half covers the rest of the controls. OK this is not quite true as all the curve controls for the faders are found on the front of the mixer. There is also reverse switches put right along side. There id a nice touch on the front of the mixer. The feature is having two headphone inputs. There is one small and one large input. This is a nice touch and could get you out of a sticky situation if you forget your adaptor on your headphones.

Back at the top of the mixer you will find the 3 band EQ on faders. This did not come as a big surprise after the SA5 mixer that does not feature a rotary pot on the top plate. Stanton seems to think that a scratch artist prefers faders and for me they are not far off the mark. The problem with faders is you cannot always get the accuracy you want that a rotary pot can provide. Due to this the gain controls are of the rotary type and better for it.
Right at the top you will find the effects section. It is out of the way but easily accessible. It is clearly marked so you will not be altering the effects by mistake.

The layout does not bring up any surprises but does not exactly stand out. This is just down to the fact that all scratch mixers have roughly the same layout. All the controls are in the place you would expect and have plenty of room between them.

Effecting the mix

Let me first explain the idea of the effect section.

Right from the start Stanton decided on doing three effect modules that could be easily swapped about, they have called these modules the Mod1, Mod2 and Mod3. The SA12 came with the Mod1 fitted and the SA12X comes with the Mod3 fitted. The SA12X also comes with the Mod 2 but you have to install it yourself if you want to use it. You can also find SA12’s which have a Mod2 included in the price. Swapping the units is as simple as possible.

• Take out two screws (the ones at the far ends of the unit)
• Pull up on the Mod to take it out of the mixer
• Put in the new mod by just placing it in the gap
• Replace the screws
• This whole procedure takes less then a minute if you have a screwdriver handy.

So what is the advantage of having the Mod 3 in the 12X compared to the Mod 1 in the SA12? Well a quick look at what each Mod unit does shows the advantage very quickly.
The Mod1 has pan, reverb and delay on it
Mod2 is the filter unit with high, low and band pass filters
Mod3 has pan, reverb, delay, pitch shift, transform and flanger.

This quickly shows you that the Mod3 has the effects of the Mod1 but adds 3 more to it.
When it comes to effects I am fussy. I only like a handful of effects. Although there are only a few effects Stanton have managed to put in some of the better ones.

Out of the lot the best effects seem to be the flanger, reverb (I add them over vocals where there are no beats) and pan. I have not come across a delay I like and pitch shifts always sound to digital to me. The transform is ok but most people who buy this mixer will not use it, this is a high-end scratch mixer so most people will know how to scratch.

The effects are very simple. This is needed due to the speed you need to operate them. On each unit there are 3 rotary controls. The first one is the effect select, the second (on Mod1 and Mod3) is the time control and the last one is the wet/dry control. Unfortunately a BPM counter does not drive the effects so the length of the effect is down to you to control. This means that the best way to use the effects is to change the time control quite a lot so that the timing with the beats does not drift. Giving the fact that effects are only used for a few beats at a time this is not the biggest drawback in the world.

The Mod2 makes this mixer very interesting. This Mod makes the mixer appeal to the trance/house style DJ’s. Think a poorer version of the Allen and Heath filter and you will not be far off. The sound quality is not as good and you do not get as much controls. The controls included are the filter type, resonance and frequency. These give you enough to do good sweeps with some interest added by the resonance (I like this put high myself).
These Mod units are not the best effect units on the market. You will get more control using an external effect unit but those units are much more complicated and will take time away from the mix and require a more hands on approach. Practicality and speed is the key here.

And the rest

There is a nice list of little extras included on the mixer. One of the main things worth a mention are the OS2 switches. These are basically the phono/line switches and are placed above the channel faders (but far enough away not to cause any problems). The difference with these switches is that they are not switches at all. Very short and loose faders are used allowing for quick changes without audible pops. Because the switches are easily moved an OS2 lock is included. Simply put this just ensures that you do not change input by accident. I cannot help but think it might have been better to have the OS2 as a transformer and have a separate control for the input select. A lock would still be needed but this would allow you to switch the sources over with less thought on if the mixer is set up right to do it.

There is a headphone mute button located right in the middle of the mixer in easy view. This is a great feature that allows you to cut the volume to the headphones and hear the master signal without having to switch over to it in the headphones, great for scratching.
A microphone section is found on the left where you expect it to be. If you wish the microphone can be switched over to a line input allowing you to daisy chain mixers together. I feel this feature is now to be expected on a high-end mixer like this.

On the right is the headphone section. Monitoring between channel 1 and 2 is done via a short fader. There is also a switch allowing for listening to the signal pre or post effect as well as allowing for monitoring of the master signal.

Top right is the master volume on a rotary pot. This control is a bit strange as the volume control is not continuous but increases in stages. The knob is notched. This takes a little time to get used to and means that once you set the master volume you will not be changing it while mixing.

Sound quality is very good. Stanton have now got a bit of a habit of making mixers sound better then they should. Part of this seems to be down to Stanton’s SST (Superior Sound Technology) that does do it’s job.

The lights on the mixer are a mixture of blue and green. These lights are a lot nicer on the eye and add a bit more class to the mixer.

It is also clear that Stanton have thought about servicing the mixer and keeping it feeling as good as new. Included with the mixer is a small amount of fader lubricant. Although you do not get a lot this will last you a long time. I feel that it is well worth lubricating the fader almost straight away so that you get a looser fader for the quicker techniques, but I am a fan of very loose faders.

The SA12X does not have that many features (excluding the effects) over other mixers of the same price. What the mixer does offer is a spacious design and very useful extras like the OS2 switches.

The end

I am finding it very hard to find fault with a mixer that has been this well thought out. The designers have obviously taken a lot of input from DJ Craze as well as other DJ’s. Features from mixers further down the range have been included to create a mixer worth sitting at the top of the SA range. This mixer has a lot to do to steal attention but the effects offer something extra over other scratch mixers of this price. The quality of other parts has not suffered as shown by the inclusion of the P+G faders. The SA range has got a lot of respect from people who have used one as they appeal to both the scratch DJ and the trance/house DJ, a feat done by very few mixers.

Overall score - 89%

At £400 there is a lot of competition for this mixer. First off is the Pioneer DJM707 that offers an optical fader already fitted. For about £50-80 you can add one to the SA12X though and the SA12X does offer the effects that you cannot buy for the Pioneer for £80. The other major contender for about £450 is the Allen and Heath Xone02. This mixer is now very established and offers great sound quality. The Stanton offers the same faders fitted as standard and the same layout.


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