Dark Wheel

We combined our dream components and made them portable
Pioneer CDJ-2000nxs2 C/P - Jogwheel - Encoder - Hot Cues


currently in beta Phase
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The idea behind Dark Wheel

I missed such a controller long ago for myself. Dark Fader is perfect for manual beat matching, but sometimes I am one of these ‘hot cue junkies’, using sync with 4 decks to mashup songs on the fly. I also spend lot time preparing songs (grid & cue), so having a portable controller on travel would be perfect. 

As a NI Traktor user I learned to love their 2 encoder concept (beat jump and loop size) and the direct access to 8 hot cues. And I made a dream come true: getting this amazing feeling of Pioneer CDJ-2000 Cue & Play knobs. So we added the original spare parts (2000 black / 2000nx2 silver).

Adding a jogwheel was a must have to complete any grid and cue search workflow. We could not find any tiny jogwheel in high quality, so we made our Dark ‘Wheel’ ourselves; in metal, smooth feeling, and a high tick per turn resolution.

A flexible firmware will complement the concept: User Customizable Shift and Alternate layer features, and a midi channel concept which allows to trigger 1, 2, or even 4 decks with one Dark Wheel.

I am quite sure Dark Wheel will be my favourite mobile controller ; ) .. ready to go midi with iPad or laptop. For preparing songs on travel and for playing gigs. And it matches perfectly to the connected Dark Fader.

Let us know what you think about this project!

Insights into the technical concept

Dark wheel is our most complex controller. Based on the Dark Board as always (using Teensy 3.2). The challenge was the portability and amount of controls. We constructed a 2nd printed circuit board as the carrier for all tactile elements, added some MCP in smd technology to this pcb and placed it as sandwich above Dark Board. We use the I2C bus technology to connect both printed circuits.

We milled the top panel backside to hold the original Pioneer cue/play panel spare parts. For the jogwheel, we used best components we could find: Magnetic hall encoder with ball bearing shaft and high resolution. We added the metal knob for a perfect smooth feeling.

The tactile feeling of original MEC switches with 2 colored led was our choice for the hot cues. And we completed with 2 original Panasonic Encoder with metal knobs. 

Projected Retail Price

We don’t know yet ; ) .. let’s see when its finished, but please do NOT wait for the Dark Wheel if you are in search of a cheap controller. 

Dark Wheel will be expensive – because of the high costs of the components (examples: NXS2 panel cost €40, the high tech jogwheel encoder about €100 etc). Currently we estimate the material costs to be more than double the Dark Fader. We remain true to our vision, producing in best quality we can … then we see where we end.

Project Status (updated Dec. 26, 2019): 
Hardware is ready, Firmware ready (currently in beta testing), Dark Wheel works perfect for us already. Next step: documentation and final pricing. We plan to start beta shipping eof January 2020. Contact us if you are interested in an early bird offer ; )

Technical Specifications

Chassis

  • Full metal chassis
  • CNC made panels, brushed and double black anodized 3mm aluminium, polished bare metal side surfaces
  • Engraved logo, product name (no painting, no laser cut)
  • Dimension: 207 x 65 x 38(52) mm
  • Weight: 450 grams

Control elements

  • Cue/Play: Original Pioneer CDJ-2000 (nxs) panel with low latency tactile switches and original led light pipe rings. Buttons available in black (optionally silver) 
  • Jogwheel: High quality magnetic hall encoder (10bit analog stepless, high TPR/resolution), ball bearing for multi spinning support. Full metal knob, clickless touch pressure sensitive (for CDJ and Vinyl mode) 
  • Encoder: 2 original Panasonic encoder, soft click (low pressure) push encoder, 20 TPR. Full metal  knobs with concave top shape
  • Tactile buttons: 8 original MEC switches (US made), with midi mappable bicolor LEDs (red/green, optionally: yellow/green and blue unicolor) 
  • LEDs: unicolor encoder feedback leds (midi mappable), bicolor LEDs for indicating Jogwheel operation mode (L: CDJ/Vinyl mode and R: midi message indicator) 
  • All control elements send midi messages. Activated SHIFT and BANK buttons (and any combinations) modify midi note of all other buttons and encoder. MIDI CHANNEL button on top allows to trigger 1, 2 or 4 deck with one Dark Wheel controller 

PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD

  • Bottom layer pcb: Dark Board (CAD factory made pcb, dual layer, black glossy surface, immersion gold contacts). Mounted CPU: Teensy 3.2 (72 MHz 32 bit ARM processor)
  • Top layer sandwich pcb: Dark Wheel control elements carrier pcb, smd components soldered in SMT (surface-mount technology), CAD factory made, I2C bus connected to Dark Board

IN/OUTPUTS

  • USB-B IN: Connects Dark Wheel to midi host
  • USB-A OUT (optionally): Available if an active hub is mounted on board. Intended use: connect additional midi devices in daisy chain
  • DC Power IN (5.5/2.5mm, center pin +5V): Only available if USB A OUT and hub is mounted. DC Power IN is not needed for operation (USB self powered, consumption less 80mA). Intended use: Optional power for USB OUT connected devices and Dark Wheel

FIRMWARE

  • Midi class compliant, no driver needed 
  • Highly user customizable via ‘Power-On Setup Mode’: Flexible DECK, SHIFT and BANK ‘modes’ enhance the behaviour of 3 buttons (from ‘normal’ buttons to multilayer/multi-deck features). Realizing user specific needs, simplifying complex mappings in the DJ software:
  • 4 MIDI CHANNEL modes (TOP knob behaviour): off (normal btn. only) – 2nd deck during hold (momentary) – toggle between 2 decks – toggle between 4 decks
  • 3 SHIFT modes (LEFT BOTTOM knob behaviour): off (normal btn. only) – shift momentary – shift permanently (toggle on/off behaviour)
  • 4 BANK modes (RIGHT BOTTOM knob behaviour): off (normal btn. only) – bank 2 momentary – toggle bank 1/2 – toggle bank 1-4 
  • JOGWHEEL: customizable touch threshold (Vinyl mode) and spin detection sensitivity

Dark Wheel Features

will come soon

MIDI Mapping

We know the midi charts below look complex,
we will post the idea behind this flexible concept next .. promised ; )

DOwnloads

will come soon
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