../ TestDrive: Ecler EVO5 DJ Mixer

After falling in love with Ecler's NUO4 a couple of years back, you can imagine our reaction when the Spanish concern announced that they would be debuting a new flagship mixer. Could the new EVO5 top the excellent ergonomics, handsome design and quality sound of the NUO4?


Ecler packs a lot of power into the EVO5

Driver


The Ecler EVO5, part of a completely new line, is a sophisticated DJ mixer that seamlessly bridges the gap between the analog and digital realms. In its simplest implementation, the EVO5 can be utilized as a 4-channel analog mixer for CD decks and turntables. It can also be used solely as a full-on MIDI controller with every knob and fader able to send MIDI data. In its most advanced application, it can be used as both a MIDI controller, and an analog mixer at the same time. This not only gives the EVO5 enormous versatility, but also allows the adventurous DJ to push the mixing envelope. With this much power and flexibility, every single DJ will approach the EVO5 in their own unique way. So in order to fairly review the EVO5, we've embarked on our most ambitious review to date.

Right-click the listing for your sound card or audio device, then select Update driver Browse my computer for driver software Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer. Select the audio device whose driver you want to update, select Next, and then follow the instructions to install it. ECLER ALMA24 and ECLER ALMAcard are digital loudspeaker managers including 2 audio inputs and 4 audio outputs, USB interface and 2 volume remote control ports (0-10VDC).



Five reviewers over five months put the EVO5 through its paces. The concept behind performing an evaluation of this duration was to determine how each DJ would utilize the EVO5 for their particular genre of music, and to evaluate the results. This approach yielded a wide variety of impressions, from very similar observations to completely opposite reactions. But before we get into the details, let's take a closer look at the Ecler's EVO5. Notable impressions from the reviewers are detailed in quotes.

Features:

  • Four Line/Phono/FireWire channels
  • One mic channel
  • 6 stereo / 12 mono — 24-bit / 96kHz soundcard
  • Sample rate can be set to 96kHz, 88.2kHz, 48kHz or 44.1kHz
  • 3.5' 320 x 240 TFT color screen
  • Digitally controlled crossfader with curve shape control (Eternal crossfader optional)
  • 8 Basic effects: filter, flanger, phaser, delay/ echo, transformer, panoramic, pitch, reverb, bitcrusher and vocoder
  • Adjustable fader curves
  • Customized Three-band EQ
  • Wet/Dry effects crossfader - curve can be customized
  • Full-on MIDI Controller: 69 MIDI controls and 64 layouts
  • MIDI In/Out
  • Auto BPM counter
  • Effect Oscillator patterns
  • Talkover release time and attenuation can be customized
  • Noise gate and compressor on mic can be customized
  • FireWire connectivity
  • Native Instruments Traktor Certified
  • Balanced XLR Outputs
  • Password protected output limiter
  • 17' W x 14.5' L x 3.25' H


Renowned Italian firm Giugiaro designed the EVO5


In order to make the EVO5 stand out and to get a fresh design perspective, Ecler hired Italian design firm Giugiaro to lend their expertise in designing Ferrari's to their new flagship mixer. The details show up in the brushed black aluminum faceplate with silver accents, as well as the Grand Turismo inspired graphical user interface on the color 320 x 240, 3.5' TFT screen. The mixer is quite attractive and retains Ecler's dedication to build quality, which is only slightly diminished by sharp corners that one review referred to as 'ginsu knife' sharp.

Lifting the hood of the EVO5, you'll discover a 6-stereo / 12-mono channel, 24bit / 96 kHz internal sound card with an unspecified A/D - D/A converter (Although Ecler never states the brand, they are Cirrus Logic Converters... — Ed.). This powers the four channel mixer — plus one mic channel — each with dedicated three-band EQ manipulated by large, 'tasty' knobs that 'beg to be tweaked.' The renowned Ecler EQ is quite smooth, musical and versatile — going from full kill to extreme — and can be completely customized (more on this later). A toggle switch at the top of the channel stripe specifies Phone, Line or FireWire, and each channel has its own LED meter. Things get a little less refined below the EQ with a cluster of buttons for cue, FX send and a FX amount knob. The Mic channel adds a talkover button. At the bottom are digitally controlled long throw faders with curve shape control. The faders work quite well, however two of the reviewers felt they were 'a little too long' and unnecessarily 'cramped the crossfader.'



An overview of the Ecler EVO5's features from FutureMusic TV


On the right side of the mixer is the 3.5' color screen, where the main action takes place. The TFT screen is flanked on either side by six nondescript soft-buttons with four, silver soft-knobs underneath. This lone interface is where you can choose the 64 effects, select features, customize controls, and access the utilities. Due to the digital nature of the mixer, almost every one of the EVO5's parameters can be modified to the user's personal tastes. The EQ's frequencies, curves and range can all be tweaked, and Ecler didn't wuss out on giving the DJ full, unabated access to the effects parameters as well. With the EVO5, the question is:how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

Tweaker's Delight

Well, if you're into effects, Ecler not only gives you the keys to the mansion, they give you all the alarm codes to boot. The sheer amount of tweaking that one can do to the effect parameters is staggering. You can really fine tune the configuration for each one of the effects, which include filter, delay/echo, flanger, phaser, reverb, transformer, pitch, panoramic, vocoders, and thanks to the latest firmware update, a new bitcrusher distortion effect. You can even daisy chain the effects together for more complicated processing. Each one of the reviews raved about the filters, but thought some of the other effects were a tad 'tame.' However, with the amount of flexibility that Ecler builds into the effects section, its hard not to get something that will work a little magic into your transitions, or add tension to your build-ups.


The EVO5 has a full compliment of Inputs and Outputs, but no digital out

Sound Cards Creative


Ecler borrowed the Wet/Dry Effects crossfader from the NUO5, which one of the reviewers aptly described as 'brilliant.' Unfortunately, our hip-hop reviewer found the placement of the OUT 1 knob on the right side of the effects crossfader to be 'idiotic,' since its positioning eliminated his ability to perform a Crab and other scratching techniques with his right hand. This is a legitimate gripe, especially since that knob could have easily been placed elsewhere, and one has to wonder:Does anyone at the famed Giugiaro Design house actually DJ??

Ecler Sound Cards & Media Devices Driver

Additionally, our reviewers weren't thrilled with the EVO5's effects Graphical User Interface, which they described as 'clunky' and 'counter-intuitive.' The majority also found the effect activation process to be 'poorly thought out, considering how fluid the other sound-shaping elements of the mixer were instituted.' That said, all of the DJs eventually 'got over the hump' and adapted to the mixer's methodology after 'working with the EVO for a couple of weeks straight.'

Although the effects section of the OS is a little 'rough around the edges' compared to the straight forward 'drill down' menus of the mixer's other attributes, the EVO5 does give the user several powerful features that many comparable mixers don't possess. The EVO5 allows the user to apply beat-synced, oscillator patterns to the Filter and Flanger processing for musical rhythmic movement, which our progressive house reviewer found to be 'outstanding.' In addition, the BPM detection engine is spot on, allowing many of the effects to 'groove along with the music.'



With its 69 MIDI controls, the EVO5 plays nice with almost every Digital Vinyl System (DVS) on the market, as well as Ableton Live, but its number one lover is Native Instruments' Traktor. In fact, the EVO5 is Traktor Certified, meaning you can use the mixer's internal soundcard instead of the Audio 8 DJ interface. Just switch to TS mode, and the digital signal from the special timecoded vinyl or CDs will be sent from the mixer channel directly into the soundcard.Sweet!

Kids

With the included template and TKS file, setting up Traktor was a breeze, and all of our reviewers were simply amazed how well the EVO5 bridged the gap between 'old school and new school.' Two reviewers accessed Traktor using the EVO5 as a MIDI controller, others used Traktor as a source, and routed the audio into two channels to utilize the Ecler's effects and EQ, and our hip-hop reviewer set up Traktor Scratch and 'went to town' using the 'combined power of Traktor, the EVO5 and the time-coded vinyl.'

The EVO5 sports MIDI In/Out jacks for employing other creative pursuits such as connecting an external drum machine. Thanks to the EVO5's excellent BPM detection (as well as an Auto Tap feature if things get a little dicey), adding complementary beats can make Electro, tech house, or minimal sets come alive.



For those who like to yammer on during their sets, the EVO5 offers a lot of customization to the Mic channel. The Mic has specialized Compressor and Noise Gate effect settings, which, of course can be customized. Talkover release time and attenuation can be tweaked, and the three band EQ, like the other channels, can also be edited. One of the reviewers found the variety of manipulation to be well suited for adding acoustic instrumentation into the mix, especially percussion.

While the EVO5 has a nice array of connectivity options on the back, a blatant omission is a dedicated digital output. When queried about the lack of a digital output, Ecler claimed that it would have added significantly to the price of the EVO5. We don't buy it. If you're going to bring a new flagship mixer to market, with considerable digital features, and you don't spec a dedicated digital output, you've dropped the ball. This is a serious misstep.


Our reviewers found the layout of the effects controls to be problematic


Another problem area is the effects controls (see picture above). For a company who gets ergonomics, every one of our reviewers found the effects control section to be 'messy.' While the aforementioned OUT 1 knob gets in the way of the Wet/Dry crossfader, the layout of the other effects parameter's knobs don't appear to have been designed with performance in mind. 'Besides the OUT 1 knob stepping on the FX crossfader, the other obvious mistake is that the Launch button should really be where the FX PFL button is...so you can easily turn the effects on or off while rocking the Wet/Dry crossfader or the parameter knobs,' one reviewer observed. (see The Future below for additional thoughts).

Conclusion

Aside from some of the grievances, the Ecler EVO5 packs a tremendous amount of power and technology into an affordable package. There are only a couple of comparable mixers on the market, notably the Allen & Heath Xone:3D/4D and the Korg Zero8, which can compete at this level. If you're looking for a mixer that can seamlessly connect the analog and digital worlds, and even be the front end to a performance-oriented, Digital Audio Workstation, such as Ableton Live, then you owe it to yourself to TestDrive the Ecler EVO5 — there's a lot to love.


Based on the evaluations of our reviewers, here's how we would update the EVO5


The Future: For the first generation of a hybrid analog-digital DJ mixer / MIDI controller, the Ecler EVO5 has a lot going for it. However, based on our extensive review, there are several modifications we would make for the MK2 version (see picture above). First, we would provide a digital output. Second, we would redesign the effects controls underneath the screen by relocating the FX PFL next to the headphone jack; reducing the size of the Out 1 & Out 2 knobs and repositioning them under the balance knob; centering the silver Parameter 1 & Parameter 2 knobs under the screen; and relocating the Launch button to the left of the Wet/Dry FX crossfader for better performance.
Next, we would shorten the length of the five channel faders to make more room for the main crossfader. We'd also refine the cluster of PFL, FX Send, FX amount knob and crossfader source controls. First, we'd combine the FX Send button with the FX knob into one push button knob with a LED 'on' indicator on the top. Next, we would align the elements vertically so there would be no interference or usability issues.
And last, but not least, we'd clean up the workflow on the mixer's Operating System, making it easier and more intuitive.
As far as what Ecler can do in the future with the current model, we'd like to see them beef up some of the effect algorithms, and maybe even add a few more beat-oriented effects in the next firmware update.

The Ecler EVO5 sells for $1899.
Buy an Ecler EVO5 now!
For a limited time, use Coupon Code: FMUSIC1 for an additional 5% off your order from this retailer!

More information on the Ecler EVO5 DJ Mixer.


>>> Back to Digihear?


Advertise on FutureMusic.com! Privacy Policy Employment Opportunities Contact Us

Copyright © 2008 FUTUREMUSIC® All Rights Reserved.