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Articles May-June 2021

Pursuing the Pro Audio Trail

In conversation with Caroline Moss and Sue Gould

PT got in touch with the Pro AVL Asia magazine core team of Editor - Caroline Moss and Sales Director - Sue Gould, who between them boast of over three decades of experience in the pro audio industry..... read more

NJSM Marks a Milestone in the Business of Sound

From Rental Company to manufacturer and innovator, Nixon Johnny has guided and grown NJSM from a two-person company to a fifty-person company, continuing to expand into virtual events with NJSM Virtual Studio..... read more

Tech Savvy Environment for T-Systems

Eyte Technologies installs high-tech AV Solution at T-System’s Experience Center facilitating brand value and delivering superior customer experience..... read more

Conversations with SudeepAudio

Sudeep Audio, one of India’s first pro audio web store selling studio software and equipment online commenced its YouTube Channel, ConverSAtions, in 2011 to share the journey of Indian Sound Engineers..... read more

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The Rise of Portablism

Portablism - aka. portable turntablism - is a recent cultural phenomenon which has been achieved through millions of tiny items on the wish lists of day-dreaming turntablists, over the last decade or so. But before we dive into its roots, emergence & developments, this article also aims to make you aware of the rise in a new breed of musicianship where the artist is also now getting immersed into hacking/DIY culture with the aid of inexpensive battery powered musical gadgets.

The Vestax QFO - the predecessor of Portablism

Roots & Development

The earliest draft of this concept was etched by the legend DJ Qbert, where he had designed an experimental turntable (with an integrated mixer) for Vestax in 2005 called the QFO. It was primarily aimed for the niche turntablism markets but like all Vestax products, they were expensive, bulky & manufactured in limited numbers. The QFO conceptually was the finished product of a mega Japanese company - a concept where all turntablists could enjoy the convenience of just having a compact scratching setup, barring the traditionally beefy 2x Technics SL1200 & a quality scratch mixer console. Since this dream was not affordable by all, turntablists started to tinker with their smaller battery powered record players (with an inbuilt speaker), which you could carry on record shopping expeditions.

One of its most popular iterations around that time was the PT01 model, manufactured by Numark & Ion. They were inexpensive, easy to maintain & its plastic casing was conducive for hacking & customizations. Coincidentally, there was also a movement in making third-party & high-quality crossfaders - to replace sub-par components in any mixer of your choice. As the developments in the crossfader technology got better, cheaper & smaller, some turntablists (with the aid of some casing, velcro & deft wiring) combined the PT01 with these new crossfaders & voila - portablism arrived.

Its prospect was highly appealing for all of those DJs who wanted to learn to scratch without investing big bucks on 2x turntables & a mixer. The concept blew up in a big way internationally, which also birthed the rise of strictly vinyl labels releasing limited edition 7 inch scratch tools. Numark quickly took note of the rise in sales of its PT01 model & quickly released their highly successful PT01 Scratch model in 2016.

PT01 Scratch & its Customisability

In version 2.0 of its PT01 model - the inexpensive PT01 Scratch - Numark had made a portable turntable with a multi-directional/adjustable scratch switch (more like a pseudo crossfader) integrated within the casing of the unit. This switch is a very light switch that pivots (unlike the sliding nature of a conventional fader) with a fader cap on it. When a DJ cuts & scratches with a fader, he/she technically is switching the turntable's audio signal on & off - a feat which is easily achieved in theory & practice with the scratch switch. Simultaneously, a few eminent scratch enthusiasts & companies from the scene like Jesse Dean Designs, Turntable Training Wax, Bihari Designs, portablismgear, Solid Cutz, Raiden, Stokyo, Mixfader, Serato & Magma started to produce a plethora of components/accessories revolving around PT01 & PT01 Scratch customers.

Now, there is a really wide (& ever expanding) range of products available for the aspiring portablist. There is now a good range of external & internal crossfaders - utilising never heard before Bluetooth & optical technologies - to replace the scratch switch. Carbon tone-arms to house proper cartridges (some with an integrated cue light). Machine milled high-quality metal platters for record stability. Easy to integrate start/stop switches, ultra pitch controls, power break out & phono pre-amp circuit boards. You could conventionally run these decks using a wall socket or on batteries - which makes it clunky & not portable. A popular hack to beat this issue would be by running them on easily available USB power banks - with the aid of special 5V to 12V step up USB power cables. A few other accessories worth mentioning would be more powerful speakers, custom knobs/fader caps, custom printed faceplates, various styles of carrying bags & 7inch timecode records for further expanding the scope of portablism with existing DVS systems.

On purchasing some of these accessories, you would have to open up the PT01 & indulge in some soldering & tampering of its original internal circuits - making its warranty void. However, these original circuit boards are inexpensive & easily available through Numark - encouraging DJs to give the DIY ethos a try safely. You could also order online a fully customised portable i.e. if you wouldn't want to take the DIY route. This new approach & trend has never been witnessed before in any other DJ product & industry.

Portablism has single-handedly revived the dying art of turntablism worldwide & also given birth to niche portablism related content & events. There are now special clinics, Youtube creators & content, active Facebook groups, global online DJ battles & this year, portablism has been officially recognised & venerated by DMC.

Numark PT01 Scratch - the fire starter

Forecasting Future Portablism Trends

Even with its wild success, the PT01 Scratch is admittedly not the perfect product. For example, it's pitch control is very unstable, making it impossible to beat mix on it for conventional DJing. However, as it is a simple & easily hackable electronic product it is just a matter of time for the solutions for such problems to surface from the manufacturers through its future iterations, or from the users through newer components & hacks. The PT01 already has a contender - the soon to be launched 7" Portable Scratcher - a fully crowdfunded portable turntable, with more bells & whistles, which were implemented immediately by learning from the feedback from the sudden success of PT01 & rise of portablism. I could easily see big DJ brands like Pioneer, Reloop & Denon getting into the portablism game to fill & capitalize on this void - making superior portables (with stronger metallic bodies & flagship components/features) from their years of experience in making industry standard turntables.

But before all that happens, you need to realise that there is still a lot of potential waiting to be tapped in the Numark's PT01 models. With minimal inner components, most of its body is hollow, which could accommodate additional gadgets & thingamajigs - with some planning & simple hardware tools. This is exciting as it gives portablists the ultimate feature that they are seeking for at the moment - an inbuilt Raspberry Pi computer, eliminating the need to carry a laptop - making it furthermore portable.

On a final note, all eyes are solely on Numark at the moment. After all, they were the first to capitalise on the portablism boom with their PT01 Scratch model. Hopefully, they would wow everyone again with version 3.0. Thanks to them there is a thriving portablism culture now, which is surely not going to fizzle out in the decades to come.