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This gadget lets you scratch and DJ on vinyl without a needle

This gadget lets you scratch and DJ on vinyl without a needle


Turntablism, no tonearm needed

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Update Thursday, February 15th 12PM ET: This article was originally published on February 10th, 2018 and has been updated to include new video.
French company MWM has announced a new product called Phase that sits on your turntable and allows you to DJ audio files with vinyl, without the use of a needle. Phase wirelessly translates a record’s movements into timecode, which can then be read by Digital Vinyl System (DVS) software like Serato and Traktor.

Debuted at this year’s NAMM show, Phase is a pair of small rectangle-shaped transmitters with sticky bottoms that you affix to the top of a piece of vinyl. As a record plays or is scratched Phase’s sensors send information about these movements to a receiver, which is connected to both the DJ gear and your laptop running the DJ software. This enables you to play and scratch the music loaded in the software using turntables without the use of a needle and tonearm. The company says it is using a proprietary method of wireless communication based upon radio frequency, not Bluetooth as many speculated.

Phase schematics
Image: MWM

Vinyl DJs that play with DVS software normally use records that have timecode on them, not music. Tracks are loaded onto virtual decks in the software, and then those audio files can be controlled and physically manipulated with the timecode vinyl. This preserves the tactile feedback of DJing with turntables (allowing for things like slip-cueing and scratching), but it doesn’t eliminate the pitfalls that come with it. Turntables and needles can be fussy, especially in a club environment. Rumble from loud bass can make a tonearm jitter, dust caught underneath a needle can cause skips, or there can be the worry about someone physically bumping into the turntable and making the stylus jump.

Throughout NAMM, MWM had several turntablists perform routines using Phase, and there appeared to be no immediate discernible latency, even with quick, complicated movements. (Post NAMM, other turntablists, like Craze, got their hands on it and the videos are quite fun to watch.) It’s really clever, not just because it solves a lot of inherent problems with turntable use in clubs, but because it can easily be brought to gigs, is compatible with any turntable, doesn’t require the use of special timecode vinyl, and also means DJs don’t have to upgrade or replace the turntables they already have at home.

There are also a couple of nice design notes, like a light-up line that acts like a sticker cue, or rotation marker. As a side note, since it’s affixed to a surface, there’s also the quirky showiness of being able to hold a piece of vinyl with a Phase transmitter in the air, without it touching anything, and rotate it to create scratching noises.

The company says the Phase transmitters should last up to 10 hours on a charge, and they’re working to increase the battery life even further. Phase should be available to purchase this summer for around $300.