Forward Motion

"The Velocity is much more than a CD player, it’s truly a complete digital instrument for the DJ and the remixer."



American Audio’s new Velocity dual-CD player has everything from true touch-sensitivity to a lockout feature for when the jock has to use the can. Sales manager John Brown gives up the details.
By John Landers

American Audio’s John Brown is a busy man. As national sales manager for American DJ’s growing audio division, Brown is in constant motion. A familiar figure at industry conventions like the NAMM trade show and the International DJ Expo, he’s well known for his enthusiasm and energy. Brown is justifiably proud of his company’s ever-expanding product line, and he preaches the gospel of American Audio to everyone within earshot.

Despite his hectic schedule, Brown says he always makes time for the people who use his company’s products on a professional basis, and he appreciates end-user feedback and constructive criticism. “DJs have no problem coming up to me and saying, ‘You know, you did a really cool thing on this, but …’ That ‘but’ is where I go to work,” he says. Brown’s continuing attention to his customers’ needs has helped American Audio in the marketplace, and it’s paid off on a more personal level, too. “My business card has my cell number,” Brown says, “and I hand it out to all these DJs. I couldn’t do that if I was selling shit.”

One of John Brown’s recent pet projects has been the development and launch of American Audio’s high-performance dual CD player, the Velocity. This radical dual deck represents something of a departure for American Audio, which has a well-earned reputation for solid, competitively priced products. Although the company has achieved more than its share of technological firsts, consumers tend to associate the brand more with value than invention.

Brown is convinced that this sophisticated new product will help bring American Audio the respect and recognition it deserves. “The Velocity is much more than a CD player,” he says. “It’s truly a complete digital instrument for the DJ and the remixer.” Indeed, the versatile Velocity has been embraced by many high-profile digital DJs since its introduction. Even the most cynical members of the online CD DJ community have been favorably impressed by the Velocity’s features, performance, and price tag. Various web forums offer unsolicited testimonials from delighted deck owners.
The Velocity is certainly equipped to take on the other major players in the premium dual deck market. It boasts nine built-in effects, real-time scratching, true instant start, fader start, seamless looping, a BPM counter, ten seconds of anti-shock memory per side, and +/- 4, 8, 16, or even 100% pitch control. “Your hands can actually create all of the sounds, tracks, and mixes you’ve ever heard or imagined in your head,” Brown claims. And you can do it all on the fly and for under $1700 (MSRP).

Despite Brown’s infectious optimism, it’s too early to tell if the Velocity will displace other, more-established products and become a true nightclub standard. The professional CD player market is highly competitive, and buyers can be fickle. Some DJs have been reluctant to embrace, or even accept new technologies. Because of this, club owners and managers have often been responsible for dragging their DJs deeper into the digital domain. As increasingly complex and powerful CD decks are installed in booths around the world, DJs have been forced to either learn or leave.
Fortunately for all involved, DJs, not electrical engineers, are now driving product development at certain companies. User-friendly features have become more important than dubious gimmicks, and reliability is no longer a luxury. Given the Velocity’s innovative design, intuitive operation, robust construction, and attractive pricing, Brown fully expects American Audio’s elite dual deck to gain widespread acceptance with both club DJs and owners.

We caught up with Brown via cell phone during his hour-long morning commute. While negotiating the rush hour traffic, Brown talked to us about American Audio, the Velocity, and the future of the digital DJ.

American Audio certainly started a commotion at the International DJ Expo with the introduction of the Velocity dual CD player. Were you surprised by the reaction?
No. It’s the most user-friendly scratching piece out there. We weren’t really sure what the acceptance would be, going with the four-space controller, but it was the only way we could do it and do it right. Other guys have come up with 19-inch units with scratch effects, but then you’ve got a wheel that’s like two inches – a jog shuttle wheel. You can’t scratch on that. If you’re trying to do it in two or even three spaces, you’re not going to have enough room to put a wheel of any real consequence on there. [The Velocity has] the same size wheel as our Pro Scratch 2.

Is the Velocity related to American Audio’s Pro Scratch line?
It’s an evolution of the Pro Scratch 2; a rack-mount unit.

For whom was the Velocity designed?
Truthfully, the upscale DJ, the club jock, guys who are into remixing. It’s a remixer’s dream. You push a button and you get the effects. You can layer the effects through our DSP technology. I think we’re still the only one that has that possibility. You can do trans or echo on top of it, and throw another one on top of that. You can throw three effects on together if you want…and the beat counter synchs the effects to the beat of the music, so it’s automatically synched and you’re automatically in key.

So the echo effect, for example, is linked to the track BPM? And DJs can tap in a faster or slower BPM if they want to alter the timing of the effect?

How about the other effect parameters? Are they adjustable too?
You can adjust the parameter time and parameter ratio, and it has six built-in presets. We had four on the Pro Scratch 2, and people loved them so much we went with six on the Velocity. That way, you can just push a button and it changes you to another parameter.

Can you tell me about some of the other onboard effects?
You have echo, flange, pan, transform, phase, filter, bop, and skid.

Are the effects sent to the digital outputs?
Whatever you hear is going to the digital outs.

What about the Velocity’s “Power Touch” feature?
It’s touch-sensitive. It’s got two different modes: One is the beat juggling mode, and what that does is take you back to a preset cue point when you touch one of the wheels. It’s like beat-juggling on vinyl; you can go from one side to the other. In the scratch mode, as soon as you touch the wheel, the track stops – just like putting your hand on vinyl – and then you can start scratching from there.

You mentioned that the Velocity’s controls are “touch-sensitive.” Can you elaborate on that?
The touch sensitivity is such a cool thing. We call it “executive cue point.” It’s not pressure sensitive, [like other vinyl-emulating CD players]. The Velocity is touch-sensitive. As soon as your finger touches
it, it hops right back to the cue point. It’s like those touch lamps.

How do the Velocity’s sample buttons work?
There are three on each side. These are either hot-starts or samples. You can adjust the parameters on each sample. You can bring it in softly, playing in the background. You can play it one time, or continuously through the whole song. You can slam it louder than what you’re playing.

So you could drop an acapella into an instrumental track and remix on the fly?

Do you lose those samples when you change CDs?
No. The Velocity lets you store up to three sample or cue points on 128 different discs. When you put a CD back in, you push the memory button, and it recalls everything you’ve got set on that disc.

So, if you wanted to tease the crowd all night with a Missy Elliot vocal sample . . . ?
Not a problem. You can also scratch on that sample without even having the CD in there.

The Velocity was originally introduced with a silver faceplate, but now a black version is being offered, too. Why the change?
We were the first ones to come out with the brushed aluminum look, back in 1999. The cool thing about the brushed finish is you don’t get fingerprints on it like you do with a glossy finish, so your gear always looks clean and nice. The black is not going to be painted; it’s an anodized black, just like our brushed finish, but in black. So you’re still not going to get all the fingerprints, but it’s a real rich color, and with the silver it looks really, really sweet.

With all of these features, won’t a guest DJ be intimidated if s/he finds a Velocity dual CD deck in a club’s booth?
The idea with all of our gear, everything we’ve ever come out with, is that we want any DJ to be able to walk up to it, and within ten or 15 minutes, be comfortable using it without a lot of instructions or an owner’s manual an inch thick.

Even the looping, editing, sampling, and scratching features?
That’s the whole idea – for anybody to be able to just walk in, even if he’s never used it before, and in couple of minutes be able to use it and all of the functions on it; all of the tricks and tools. Also, one of the things we do as a company with the Pro Scratch 2, the PSX, and the Velocity, is include a how-to video, so a guy doesn’t have to sit down and read a manual. We use [endorsers] DJ Skilz, Omar Santana, and Gerald “World Wide” Webb to do the video. It not only provides easy-to-follow instructions from the pros on how to use the Velocity, but seeing those phenomenal performers up close will inspire DJs and further expand the way they play.

But what if a guest DJ, or someone else who hasn’t seen the video, inadvertently alters some important presets?
You have to push and hold the buttons and if you want to change them yourself. You can change the presets. The Velocity will store up to 384 different cue points and settings for you, so when you put in a new CD, it’ll recall what you were doing on that CD before.

So that will fix restore any changes, accidental or otherwise. But what if you have to leave the booth for a minute?
It’s also got a lockout feature. If the DJ’s got to go the restroom or something and he doesn’t want anyone to come up and touch it, [he can] press two buttons and the unit’s locked until the DJ comes back and unlocks it. It’ll just keep spinning. Everybody’s got to take a break now and then.
Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications