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Old 5th March 2009 , 01:53 PM
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Thumbs up EKS Otus Review

EKS Otus DJ Controller
Tested with N.I.'s Traktor Pro

Otus at DV
Traktor Pro at DV



Overview
I've been using laptop DJ solutions for a few years now, but I never went the time-code vinyl/cd route, and until late '08, had not found a controller I wanted to invest in that had the features and functionality I desired. Then along came Finish company EKS with their Otus. I'd seen the smaller XP5 and XP10 models that did indeed catch my attention, but still I waited to see what was around the corner.

The Otus looked incredible, a real design icon, and it's designed to sit on top of a record deck should the need arise (see pic). It's light (at 2kg), though solidly well made, with good quality knobs and buttons, plus a unique spin 'n click circular affair above all four legs. The machine is finished in a matt & gloss black combo and illuminates with multi placed led's in orange, and then green (depending on which deck is highlighted for control). There is a large (7.5") CDJ style platter at the centre of the unit to take care of cueing, +/- pitch adjustment and fast search back and forward through your audio files. The futuristic design of the Otus also accommodates, an X/Y pad (for mouse control or FX), a relative pitch slider and touch sensitive pads

Courtesy of the great quality Bur-brown audio card, at the rear are two pairs of rca phono analog jacks, and two seperate digi-outs should you be lucky enough to have a corresponding input on your mixer. In addition, a dedicated stereo headphone jack further adds to the flexibility of this controller.

Otus can be used to control two decks via a hardware DJ mixer, or can be configured to control Traktor's internal mixer (hence the importance of the headphone jack just mentioned) by assignment of crossfader duties to one of the very responsive rubber knobs. A selection of EKS provided templates show clearly the preset assignments of each button, fader, dial and knob - depending on your software choice and use of internal or external mixing.



Controls
The four rotary jog buttons above the Otus' legs, are used for navigation of your music library, loading decks, key changing and browsing multi effects. They feel very responsive with a reassuring ratchet feel and selecting your chosen parameter is done by clicking the large, central rubber area.

The back-lit play/pause and cue buttons are large and once again, responsive. They are similar to the CDJ style so feel instantly familiar in their positioning. The smaller buttons are a little more fiddly, especially the ones vertically grouped on the upper right hand side, taking care of the looping functions (on my unit, and using the above pic as reference, I've hidden the 'next/previous' cue point buttons with tape. I found them confusing placed slap in the middle of the 'looping action'!) Note: Reassignment of controls is possible with the advanced midi editor provided by EKS

The large X/Y touch-pad (with left and right buttons) can be used in the above instance for mouse placement and clicking, but in practice I found this a little awkward and not as accurate as my MacBook's trackpad, and, where needed, found myself leaning over to use that instead. I would imagine the Otus pad is much more useful and effective for Kaos-pad style manipulation should you wish it.

The relative fader 'ribbon' pad has no centralised area, and of course no physical knob to slide up or down. To change tempo, you assign the scale of the pitch range to one of three sensitivity settings (upon power up), coarse, medium and fine, and once you get used to how it talks and relates to Traktor, it's perfectly functional, responding well to the finger slides you make.

In The Mix
The Otus connects to your computer via USB, needing no other power source than that. My set up was to use it in external mixer mode, with its audio outs going straight into my Technics DJ mixer. Selecting a choice of either left or right deck as focus is dead easy using the dual layer tactile select button located at the central lower section. Pressing once and holding gives temporary focus to the other deck, whilst double clicking engages a permanent fix -highlighted with the orange (for left) and green (for right) light-show that accompanies it



The jog wheel has two specific zones of contact that perform different tasks. To ease in gentle plus or minus pitch change adjustments, you move the outer rim of the wheel.. to effect fast dual direction cueing (spin backs etc), only the 'top' part of the platter is used. This does take a degree of familiarisation to make it coherent to your DJ workflow, but as with everything, practice makes perfect It is at this stage important to point out that the Otus, specifically in relation to the jog wheel, is not an urban/hip-hop style scratch capable controller. It doesn't seem designed to transmit the finite binary information that dedicated timecode related CD or vinyl can achieve - so if you want that kind of 'battle for world supremacy/Scratch Perverts' vibe, look elsewhere.

Traktor Pro has introduced a plethora of new effects, which can be multi-stacked as three with basic functions, or as a singular instance with flexible control over an increased level of parameters. The Otus handles all of these in a breeze. I found it amazing to flick from the north east and west jog wheels to select both effect racks, then move quickly over to the dedicated rotary knobs to mash up the sound with extreme gusto, and ease - very nice!For those wanting to use Otus as an 'in the box' internal mixer, the effects knobs previously used above in the external format description, are assigned to 'track volume', '3 band EQ' and 'crossfader' duties.

To the right of the larger X/Y pad, there are 6 smaller, touch sensitive touchpads which are not actually very tactile, and any parameter engagement with these I found needed visual confirmation on my laptop screen to see they had in fact done their job. Room for improvement there I reckon.

Futureproof
EKS have ensured that the Otus is more than ready for the future by providing MIDI editing software. Users can engage this to completely re-assign any specific controller to be a part of their own customised template. You may wish, for example, to make the south-east circular dial take care of tempo/pitch adjustments, previously assigned to the ribbon controller.

The easy to use graphic interface of the Otus editor can communicate with any software (even larger DAW types) that respond to MIDI. Program change messages, adjustment range, latching or toggling can all be achieved here.

Summary
The lack of physical crossfader and pitch slider may be off putting to some, and the smaller select buttons, in their template assignment, may be a little confusing whilst making fast paced movements in a live DJ performance..

However, these are minor issues compared to the gargantuan leap forward for digital DJ's that the Otus provides. It's use in the studio is as essential as it is in the club environment. The superior quality sound card and audio routing features, added to the iconic design and real hands on functionality make this the controller I personally have been waiting a long time for. I also genuinely feel that the Otus will quickly gain a ubiquitous status before too long. Surely, the only way for EKS from here is up, as the next year or two may see an Otus 2, and goodness knows how good that might be

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Old 5th March 2009 , 03:13 PM
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cool review, interesting points.
OT what do you use at your residency if not time code? just Traktor?
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Old 6th March 2009 , 09:32 AM
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At my residency, it's been CD's for the past year..A Denon DND 4500 set up. My use of Traktor and laptop has been prior to that at non-residency type gigs. After the recent Otus/Traktor bench test, I'm now about to take the above into my residency DJ booth

(I wanted to be fully au fait with everything operational and technique wise before I made the plunge)
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