Note: March 12, 2012 – Recently, Mixman Technologies had released a new version of their software for Intel AppUp, an App Store for Windows 7. Currently, there are two versions of this software, Mixman and Mixman: Spin Control. Mixman: Spin Control is offered for free until March 18, 2012. Also, if you have past versions of the software, the old files will work with. The DM2 controller, however, is not supported. There will be a full review of the new software in the near future, so stay tuned.
DJ Hero, a game modeled after Guitar Hero, is making tracks as one of the first video games where the DJ is the central character. And while there were other hip-hop themed games, this one focuses on scoring points. However, I can’t help but think that I saw this turntable concept before. So, let me thell you about a game that was actually an earlier and stylish form of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software that came out way before DJ Hero, Guitar Hero… even the music producer games such as MTV Music Generator for the game systems. Allow me to (re)introduce you to: the Mixman.
Back in college (1997/98) when the Internet was literally for the bleeding edge geeks, I was rapping and performing shows in the Virgin Islands. After performing songs over other artists beats for a while, naturally, I wanted to remix and create my own beats. So, I studied music production by getting any information from the Internet and music equipment store back on St. Thomas. While I managed to collect a keyboard, I was never able to get two turntables and a mic that isn’t a computer knockoff. The next best thing was to get a DAW and while Acid existed back then, it was expensive. So, this is where the Mixman came in.
Using my computer keyboard (and an earlier version of this software), I was able to learn a few things about song creation. It auto-matches BPM (beats per Minute) for me, so it was not possible to mess up… well, other than novice’s first musical mistakes such as too many drum tracks, scratches and not enough lessons in Music Theory 101.
Making patterns is one thing, but I never really have beat control over my own samples. So, I frequent the Mixman’s website, hoping for an update with better control. From 1999 – 2003, their flagship product gotten much needed tweaks, which you can find in their current (and last) version of Mixman StudioXPro. It included a full remixing studio with recording and editing capabilities. The biggest release from Mixman, however, was not the software, but the next evolution of their product: the DM2 Controller.
The Controller works like a huge joystick controller, with scratching rings. It helped the Mixman operates like a true DJ set with the buttons acting like a sampler. With this controller, and different versions of the software, Mixman Technologies signed a distribution deal with Digital Blue and Mattel in early 2000. They had major backings by Missy Elliott, Om Records, Tommy Boy and even George Clinton, the father of P-Funk along with artists from other genres.
The concept was a hit… so, what happened? Well, it’s a mystery to anyone outside of Mixman Technologies. Granted, the software isn’t perfect and does have its limitations. However, there is one thing Mixman made sure you fully understand:
You can create remixes, but you just can’t share it!
Unless you just want to share it with your just friends and people inside the Mixman community, you will not get too far in your quest of becoming the next hot remixer. Along with the usual proprietary things (can’t change the software, can’t reverse engineer it), you cannot use the Trk files (their proprietary format) or the WAV files in a commercial mix or use it for live performance. You’ll have to buy and chop up your own samples. How about hooking up others with your Trk files? Sorry, you cannot sell nor give away your own Trk Files. So, you have a fully powered DAW that can stand toe-to-toe with Acid and Magix Music Maker and yet, you’re limited with how you can express yourself. While it’s the main reason Mixman didn’t get much acceptance, it was far from the only reason.
Poor customer service, lack of product updates, as well a buggy radio station (the only place where you can share your creations) and the track limitations drove away their fanbase. Other DAW software companies, such as…
- Sonic Forgery (now Sony Creative), – creator of Acid
- Magix, (creator of Magix Music Studio/Maker series)
- Cakewalk (creator of Pro-DAW software that released home versions of their music creation tools)
- Imagine-Line, (creator of FL Studio formerly Fruity Loops)
… managed to capture the audience that were looking for a better product.
So, what is going on with Mixman Technologies these days? Well, that is also a mystery. Their website remains frozen in time, with the last update in late 2005/early 2006 with expired links and no way to download or purchase their software. Mixman now plays the role of cheap and outdated vaporware at garage sales & thrift shops. The DM2 Controller nowadays is known as cheap toy. However, not all is lost.
People are getting creative with the DM2 controller. How? By using it to control other software:
This is a demo of a person using the DM2 as a controller for Trakor, a DJ software that allows you to mix MP3 files like vinyl. This is all possible thanks to a project called DM2 to Midi, it’s possible to salvage a DM2 controller and use it as an affordable Midi Controller, allowing you to use it for DeeJaying, or music production:
For those who think this is cool, I must give you a “buyer beware”. While the DM2 Controller may sound like a possible investment, I wouldn’t really call it a wise one. First off, the software to get the DM2 to work with other software is not supported by Mixman Technologies. The hardware itself is not “open source” (a license granted to be used anyway you want), nor will it will ever be because the patents are still owned by Mixman Technologies. So, if you want to do what these guys are doing, then you’ll have to do it at your own risk.
While I did test out a full version of StudioXPro recently on Windows Vista & Windows 7, it’s not without its visual bugs and outdated annoyances. Plus, with almost no support from Mixman, it’s better to just skip the software and take a gamble on the controller.
Will Mixman Technologies ever bounce back and reintroduce the controller and software as well as give us more support and less restrictions on it in this day and age? While it is possible, chances are it’s not likely. The latest word is that Josh Gabriel, one of the founders of Mixman, is looking to develop a similar software for the iPhone.
But if there’s a lesson to be learn is that no matter how good your creation software is, if you put limitations on the user, you will most likely not last long.