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Serato Scratch Live v1.6.2
Reviewer: Idlemind • Date: October 2006 • Price: £440/$540 • Link: Rane

Test System Specs:
OS: Apple OSX (10.4.8)
CPU:
2.16GHz Intel Core Duo
Memory:
2GB (DDR2 533 MHz SDRAM)
Video Adapter: ATI RADEON x1600 256MB
Turntables:
Numark TTX
Cartridges:
Shure M447

Introduction

Serato Scratch Live v.1.6.2 reviewYou have hopefully read the Skratchworx review from last year on Serato Scratch Live v1.4; so as not to reinvent the wheel, know that it is required reading. The packaging and contents essentially has not changed. The only thing I might want to add is that the quality of the interconnect cables is still low but that is surely not the fault of Rane or Serato. In fact, I think there are a host of manufacturers that would give anything to have a complaint like that as the only one this review could manage to come up with. The Installation and Set-up are also the same for 1.6.x as for 1.4. Some have hopes that there would be USB 2.0 availability by now, but the truth is, it would no nothing more than make SSL cost more. True the USB 2.0 bus is much faster, but the latency (a much misused term) with regard to SSL has the same 1ms overhead that USB 1.1 has.

The Updates

Aside from Rane/Serato’s stellar product support and very busy forum, one of the things that make this product stand out for me is the frequency of the product updates. One may think that a lot of updates would mean solving problems, glitches and such; but that would be due to what some large OS manufacturers seem to do. Rane simply takes a lot of the users requests that make sense and incorporate them into successive versions; (along with changes and other suggestions).

The 1.5 update was the first major update in that it added a quite a few of the users most requested new features; these include:

  • Serato Scratch Live SSL review - v1.6.2Looping: This was a hot topic in the forums for a while and I’m sure many were happy to see it implemented. To set a loop, set the in-point and the out-point. To enable or disable a loop, click the loop button. To force the playhead to jump to the start of the loop when you turn it on, hold down the ctrl key and click the loop button. You can save up to 9 loops per track. You can even adjust the in and out points of loops for those of you that aren’t as sharp on the key strokes as you may be on the cut. To adjust the in-point of the loop, click the in button. Use the arrow keys - left arrow to move the in-point towards the start of the track, right arrow to move the in-point towards the end of the track. Hold down the shift key while pressing the arrow key to make coarse adjustments. Click the in button again to save the in-point. The same applies to adjusting the out-point. And for the purists, you can of course use the control vinyl to adjust the in and out points.

  • Serato Scratch Live SSL v.1.6.2 reviewSampling from vinyl: As you may know, in 1.4 you could sample from the mic. Clicking the little triangle near the record button now lets you select inputs 1 and 2; they also added soft knobs to adjust the level +/- 12dB. Recordings are still saved in the same place as 44.1Khz .Aiff files.

  • Play From… (1st Cuepoint or Beginning): this was a big one for me and one of my original requests, so imagine my surprise when it was realized. This option falls into a hierarchical order along with Instant Doubles for those of us that want to release our inner beat juggler. If all 3 options are enabled (and they sure can be), they may not apply to all files so Instant doubles will apply first, play from first cue point second, and play from start third. These naturally apply only to Relative and Internal modes.

  • Horizontal Waveforms: For those that would like to maximize available screen real estate, the horizontal wave form can both zoom and expand to fill available space.

  • Audio Cache Size: This will control how much audio is loaded into memory. Increasing this will load more audio as well as provide bigger (wider) horizontal waveforms at the expense of having increased CPU Load.

  • New Crate Format: The crate system was updated to load and navigate faster. The file extension is now called .crate.

  • Date added column in the library: This stores the time and date the track is added to your library. The date stamp is stored in the database. If you remove a track, and add it again, you'll get a new date stamp.

    More lead in time: This is for control CDs to catch the beginning of the track more reliably. This was big for people that made MP3s of their scratch records and put their favorites right at the beginning only to find that it was near impossible to catch without bouncing to the end of the previous track.

  • Double Keystroke Delete: Deletion of music library songs and crates to now require Ctrl or Apple key and Delete key.

  • Smaller Additions:
    - If you are in autoplay mode ("auto" button lit), the next track will always play from the start, regardless of the state of the "play from start" option in the setup screen.

    - The option in the setup screen that was labeled "allow file deletion" is now labeled "protect library" as this more accurately describes what the feature does - prevents changes to the library, including file tags, renaming crates, deleting files etc.

    - When you reach the end of the control vinyl or CD, the mode would automatically switch to Internal mode, thus allowing the song to continue to play. Now if you pick up the needle and place it in the 1st minute, it switches back to the mode you were in before emergency internal kicked in. If you put it in the 2nd - 5th minute, it switches to Relative mode.

    - When you press a cue point button while you are not playing, it plays forward for as long as you hold down the cue point button, and jumps back to the cue point when you release the mouse button. This also applies to the temp cue point.

    - Cue points no longer “slide down” when earlier ones are deleted. You can choose which slot you want to add a new cue point in, and you can remove a cue point, leaving the others untouched.

    - If you prefer to have your cue points sorted chronologically, go to the setup screen and select the "sort cues chronologically" option. This was another one of my suggestions (and obviously enough other users to cause its implementation)

    - Another welcome addition was to "lock playing deck". This is like the safety lock, because I think every SSL user at some point has loaded a song on the wrong side and had to revel in the ensuing chaos. If this option is on, you'll have to stop the deck before you can change song. For me, this negates the Play from first cue point since I tend to do live instrumental “Beat Jacks” with my favorite instrumental playing. (email me I’ll let you hear what I mean if you can’t picture it).

    - M3u playlists can now be imported (via the import panel or by dragging them into Scratch LIVE from Finder / Explorer)

    - Support for numeric keypads

    - added vinyl select to relative mode,

    - added year to search options

    - added mono or stereo output to the setup screen

    - Scratch LIVE now remembers what mode each Virtual Deck was in when you last quit the program

    - added vinyl select within the prepare crate

    - added flashing the prepare button if you use the keyboard shortcut (ctrl-P) while the prepare panel is closed

    – undo now puts a track back in the prepare panel.
As indicated, there were plenty of new features; perhaps so many, that these bug fixes may have flown under the radar:

  • USB drop outs greatly reduced for most setups.
  • Improved the handling of bad MP3s.
  • Improved overall stability.
  • Removed delay when jumping to cue points.
  • Fixed sorting of # column.
  • Changed text area input to not accept non-printable key characters
  • Removed bug that could cause video files to be corrupted by Scratch LIVE.
Almost before that barrage of changes could be properly digested, the rumors about the TTM 57 were brewing and before long they brought forth the release of v1.6.1. This added support for the TTM 57, and a few more user requests:

  • Center on selected song option. With this option on, scrolling up and down in your library holds the selected track in the middle of the library.

  • Better performance when scrolling.

  • Removed a mac-specific bug where crashes would occur when writing tags on fat32 file systems. This was a pain for those that used both macs and PCs and shared an external drive between them.

  • Removed the bug where minimizing then maximizing the window on a Mac wouldn't produce the correct results if the dock is not set to autohide. This was probably the most annoying and hard to describe problem I had at that point.

  • Fixed bug where if you drag a folder into scratch live, the songs are added with an incorrect trailing slash in their path - producing duplicate song entries in the database.

  • Improved vinyl tracking

  • Adjust loops with vinyl option in setup screen. If you turn this off, vinyl stays controlling playback: you can only adjust the loops with the keys.
There were a number of 57-Specific additions as well, but since this is an SSL review based on the SL-1, I will leave those out. In even less time than the 1.5 to 1.6.1 release was the 1.6.1 to 1.6.2 release. This brought on very few but very important changes. MP3 playing and overview building was given a serious overhaul improving stability and fluidity; in fact, Serato claims that they have yet to find an mp3 that crashes this version. Sticker orientation was also fixed so that marked records would maintain their orientation in relation to the audio while cueing and scratching. Relative mode will now also adjust to correct the effect of the needle skipping - if you have two tracks beat matched in Relative mode, and the needle skips, the two tracks will now stay in time. (Previously, the time the needle spent off the surface of the record would not be taken into account, and the track that skipped would drop behind). You will notice that if you pick the needle up, and turn the record a partial revolution, and put the needle back down, the playhead will now jump - just like Absolute mode. If you wish to change the orientation of the sticker, without changing the position within the song, put the needle down at least one minute from where you picked it up. Internal mode with the addition of a contol-click will start at a 0% pitch. Recordings of over 3 hours will now be automatically split seamlessly. An Overall Progress Indicator was also added while building overviews so now we can not only watch a boiling pot, but we can guess how long the whole thing will take.

Final Thoughts

The progression of SSL over its versions has created a good amount of talk, (I’m sure both good from its users and bad from its rivals) enough to cause a lot of companies to jump into the vinyl emulation arena. I won’t taint my SSL 1.6.2 review with them at the moment, but they appear to be feature-packed and competitive. However, what these new products lack (albeit sight-unseen at this time) is the solid reputation and top-shelf support that the Rane/Serato product has. If I may make an analogy, in the vinyl emulation software race, Rane has the stability of luxury sedan, the build quality of a Volvo (safe but kinda boxy), and the over all performance of one of those exotic European supercars; and we must remember, their car is on the road and on its 4th lap where some of these new products are still doing crash tests. Anyone that is contemplating purchasing SSL can expect not only an easy to use product right out of the box, but the piece of mind associated with a world-wide forum of users that are only a post or two away. Not to mention the vast (and growing) numbers of "notable users" – if you are into that.

Rating - 95%

This is based on the improvements from 1.4 to the version available at presstime (1.6.2) on the test system noted above.

 

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