Rane Interview - Dean Standing and Rick Jeffs - November 2006
Here at skratchworx, we have a tendency to just report news rather than ask questions. So when this whole RaneFest began to take shape, I figured it would be good to get an insight from the good people at Rane about the ubiquitous TTM-56 - its past, present and future.
I fired a short list of questions off to Director of Sales Dean Standing (clutching the 57) and Senior Designer Rick Jeffs (leaning against the biggest wall of Rane on the planet).
To start - When did you decide to get into the scratch mixer market and what prompted it?
We started building club mixers shortly after the company was founded 25 years ago. We had a group of DJs (Big Wiz (left), Sugarcuts, Marz1 and Peter Parker) who approached us at an AES Convention in NY in the fall of 1997. They told us that they loved the performance of our mixers, but wanted a mixer geared for their style of mixing. We sent Sr. Design Engineer, Rick Jeffs back to NY to meet with them to learn what features were important to them in a mixer. The TTM 52 and TTM 54 came out of that meeting and were introduced in 1998. The TTM 56 was introduced in 2001.
These mixers incorporated a number of “firsts” such as
• First use of VCA fader system
• First use of continuous crossfader contour control.
• First use of reverse (hamster) and contour controls on channel faders.
• First use of assignable effects loop
• First use of Rane’s patented 4th-Order full-kill EQ.
The birth of the 56 - what was the design brief?
The TTM 56 evolved from all of the input we started collecting from the introduction of the TTM 52 and TTM 54. Rick Jeffs headed up the design team. We continued to work closely with DJ Big Wiz. The goal was simply to build the best performance mixer possible. The breakthrough feature on the TTM 56 is the magnetic faders – they solve the problem that performance DJ’s had with faders wearing out.
There seems to be confusion over the 56 and 56i. What's all this "i" suffix about?
We added the “i” suffix about a year later when we added a lexan plastic overlay to the playing surface of the mixer to increase durability.
The faders - Why magnetic?
We didn’t set out to invent a new type of fader; rather we were trying to solve a problem. Conventional faders wear out. We were able to get the faders to last longer by using them to control a VCA (such as we did when we introduced this technology to the DJ market with the TTM 52 and TTM 54), but the faders would still wear out. We looked at every possible solution. Optical faders were available at the time, but didn’t have the response of conventional faders, they were OK for cutting, but they didn’t really fade or transition well. With the magnetic fader, we were able to solve the wear problem while retaining the resolution and responsiveness of conventional style faders.
Who decided on the shorter travel of the fader?
The faders are only slightly shorter (37mm compared with 45mm). The shorter throw is more responsive for the rapid changes desired by performance DJs.
What's with the fader modes?
Because the faders are controlling a microcomputer, we had the ability to incorporate the alternate modes to provide options for additional creativity.
Perhaps the one weak point on the 56 is the PSU - why use the plastic connectors?
The external power supply with the phone style connector is a carry over from our professional audio products. The connector is locking so it eliminates potential problems with the power connector falling out. If the tab breaks off, it’s a quick fix to cut off the old connector and to crimp on a new one. The outboard supply reduced the weight of the mixer and reduced the 60 Cycle "hum" associated with internal linear transformers. Our newer mixers incorporate small, light-weight switching power supplies that work anywhere in the world.
And in a pro level mixer, why no XLRs?
At a slim 9 inches wide, the 56 is smaller than most performance mixers. Quite simply, we ran out of space on the back of the mixer.
FlexFX - what's so special or did you just trademark a cool name?
FlexFx stands for Flexible Effects Loop. It’s another Rane innovation that allows one effects device to be used independently on one or both channels.
The 56 to 57 path - What drove it?
We planned on integrating Scratch LIVE with a mixer before we even started selling Scratch LIVE. When customers started stuffing Scratch LIVE into their mixers, we just smiled. Putting the interface inside the mixer was the easy part. Moving to an all digital signal path, adding effects and Integrating the mixer with the software was more difficult. Building the software control surface into the mixer allows DJ’s to control Scratch LIVE software without having to touch the keyboard on their laptops. Stuffing all this into a 10 inch format mixer was a challenge.
The 56 is a classic - any plans to bring out a successor?
As for future possibilities…. just keep watching.
And what about that rumoured turntable?
It’s funny how rumors of a Rane turntable keep popping up. We have no plans to enter the turntable market.