What Is EKS Otus?
The Otus is a way to get more hands on with your digital DJing. I see a lot of DJs with software and many with traditional decks, but how many mix the two? I don’t know, but that’s just what the Otus does. For DJs comfortable with their craft and who have good software to mix their music, the Otus gives them hands on control. For people like me, it makes DJing easier.
What It Does And How To Us It
EKS has some pretty user-friendly instructions on their web site to get everything set up, but I still had some problems getting it going, even after I realized that I needed to map all the channels per the instructions. Eventually, I found that I just needed to make sure I started the EKS Midi Agent first, then Deckadance, then plugged in the Otus via USB. The USB is also the power source, so my testing consisted of just my laptop with it’s power cable, headphones, USB to the Otus, and the Otus, itself. For such a device, it’s really portable for a DJ who travels. The Otus should fit nicely in a backpack with a laptop.
Some of it’s capabilities, it seems, are going to depend on the software you pair it up with. As long as you have the right software, however, it does just about anything I could imagine a DJ needing to do with music. The most prominent feature is the 7.5 inch jog wheel that lets you adjust pitch by touching on the outside or scratch by touching the surface while spinning. To the left of the jog wheel I found the master volume and cross-fade control knobs. Above those were the left track control knobs for bass, mid, treble, and headphone volume. The top right of this device has the same four knobs for the right track. Below the right track control knobs are seven loop control buttons to trap or release a loop and control how long or short it is. Below these knobs is a pitch ribbon with a button to adjust the scale. On the bottom left, opposite the pitch ribbon is a set of general playback control buttons, including three to remix on the spot. Dead center at the bottom is the layer control button and directly above it at bottom center is a touch pad with two mouse buttons and a set of six programmable action buttons. On the back is the USB connection, headphone jack, analog RCA outputs for both virtual decks, and S/PDIF outputs for both virtual decks, as well. The whole thing rests on four pointed rubber feet to minimize vibration interference.
For this review, I downloaded and installed something called Deckadance (per instruction from the EKS web site), which was only a time-limited demo. I’m not sure if it’s the Club or House version, but either way, the purchase price of $99 or $179, respectively, seemed worth it. It would be nice to see some basic free software packaged with the Otus, but I imagine this device’s target customer will already have something like Deckadance in use. A professional DJ might also have been able to do a lot more than I did with the Otus, but I still got plenty of action out of it.
Of course, there’s the basics, like messing with the EQ controls, cross-fade and cue points, but there’s also some pretty cool controls like the three buttons to the left of the play/pause button that accessed randomly configured reloopers which could also be mapped out very specifically if needed via the software. I was able to program each differently for varying effects. With Deckadance, I was able to have six different reloopers set up, three for each deck. The loop control buttons also made it very easy to set up a loop, and adjust the length as it loops. Between the reloopers, the jog wheel, and the loop controls, I was able to create some familiar effects that actually sounded decent, if I do say so myself.
Everything is lit up green or red, depending on what track you’re controlling, and looks pretty cool. It would also be very helpful in a dark club, especially since some of the control buttons are pretty small and close together. One of the more unique features of the Otus is the four control wheels placed handily at its corners. They can be programmed to meet your own needs such as rapid movement through a track, file and folder selection, pitch and volume. While I didn’t use these a lot in my testing, they came in handy when I did use them with one exception. I found myself turning to the track pad to mouse through my track lists rather than use one of these control wheels because it was faster and felt more natural.
Also programmable, as mentioned previously were the six action buttons. I used these for recalling cue points, but they had far more possibilities, many I didn’t even have time to touch on. These were actually touch pads rather than buttons, so you had to either hear what you expected or watch for it on your laptop. Similarly, the pitch ribbon was a touch sensitive pad, which made precision a little tricky.
Although I was able to keep the EKS Otus for a lot longer than expected, holidays and other circumstances prevented me from giving it the time it really deserved and after using it, I really wanted to hold on to it longer. What I did experience was nothing short of magical, even if it could use a couple minor adjustments like the placement of the headphone jack or the tiny loop control buttons. For the price, it’s worth it, but only if you’re going to put it to good use as a pro or just have the money to spend. Portable, powerful, and good looking, I’d say any professional DJ should add this to his or her arsenal.