Thursday, December 1, 2005

Create musical joystick mash-ups with the StikAx


By David Gewirtz

This could have been such a great product. If you're a fan of TV, you're probably familiar with "Saturday Night Live" and the show's Not Ready for Prime Time Players. While the StikAx has an enormous amount of potential, sadly, it's not quite ready for prime time.

The StikAx, shown in Figure A, is, for all intents and purposes, a handheld DJ mixer.


The handheld StikAx mixes video and music. (click for larger image)

The idea is slick. DJing and mixing isn't just spinning records any more. With digital media, there's the opportunity to mash together different tunes on the fly, from a huge library of records, loops, and clips.

The way StikAx works is simple. It has eight buttons labeled A, B, C, and D, and 1, 2, 3, and 4. You use the accompanying TrakAx mixing program to assign a given clip to each button. Then, by dynamically pressing the buttons, the various clips play, all the while recording what you've pressed.

If you hooked eight musical notes to the eight StikAx buttons, you'd instantly create a new kind of digital instrument. If you hook four video clips and four musical tracks, you're able to dynamically mix music videos.

The whole sequencing process is controlled by TrakAx, shown in Figure B.


TrakAx is the device's virtual mixing board. (click for larger image)

On the left of the screen is the media library. On the right of the screen is a series of control blocks corresponding to each of the StikAx's buttons. Pressing a button can trigger media, but you can customize the buttons so pressing them turns off the media play and provides other options and effects. There's also a set of trigger buttons on the device that can add additional effects. On the bottom of the screen is a track preview window that lets you cut and edit your tracks.

If you're mixing video with audio, you'll also see your video in a side window, as shown in Figure C.


You can mix your video with audio on the fly. (click for larger image)

Once you turn on the device, you can play your clips instantly, simply by pressing buttons. The sequences are stored in the software. You can edit the sequences and once satisfied, you can "render" out those sequences in a variety of common audio and video formats.

I love the concept behind this product. And for $129, it's a great deal. If only it worked reliably.

The flaws

I don't like beating on products in reviews. I'd much rather just recommend you go out and buy the gear. But sometimes, it's important to tell you what's good and bad with a product, and -- hopefully -- tell the manufacturer how the product can be improved.