M-Audio Xponent Woe – an update

You may have read my generally glowing review of the M-Audio Xponent. I’ve been meaning to update you all with some important news on that front. After I wrote the review, my Xponent developed a fault. I’d had it less than a month, and it had had only fairly light use, maybe 8-10 hours total.

One of the audio channels started cutting out (on both Main and Booth out). Started as just a bit of distortion, then it was really quiet and badly distorted, then it cut out completely. The headphone channel wasn’t affected.

I surmised that this was a bad electrical connection. To test this theory, I did what any self-respecting techie would do: gave it a whack (well, a gentle tap on the side, and then lifting the right-hand side of the unit by about an inch and letting it drop). That did the trick: the sound cut back in, diagnosis confirmed.

Obviously I was mortified that the unit should have such a trivial manufacturing fault (it wasn’t the only one either… I’d already started to uncover some much more subtle and minor problems, like one of the pots being centred at controller value 66 rather than 64). So it was sent back to DV. A month later, repairs were still not done and there was no ETA, so after some argument and quoting of the Sale of Goods Act, DV graciously agreed to a refund.

All of that prompted a reassessment of what I was aiming for with DJing, and whether computer-based mixing would really work for me even if I got a fully working Xponent. Was I happy to be staring at a monitor to mix? No, I do that all day for my day job. Could I imagine taking a laptop and console out to a club every time I play out? No, I’d just worry about it getting nicked, broken, and the hassle of setting it up. Was I content with the quality? Sort of, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t ever going to be as good as a pro quality mixer. If I’m serious about DJing, I might as well do it on the equipment that is already there in every club the length and breadth of the land.

So I decided to invest in Pioneer CDJ1000s and a new mixer after all. That has definitely turned out to be the right choice for me. I’m having a lot more fun now than I was doing it on the computer, and getting professional-quality results that I don’t think I’d have got from the Xponent. All at much higher cost, of course, so it comes down to considering it as an investment rather than an expense. I’m glad I tried out the computer mixing option first, and did it with a console that (manufacturing defects aside), can seriously claim to be the best or one of the best out there. That left me in no doubt that I needed to pursue a different approach, rather than just a different console.

9 thoughts on “M-Audio Xponent Woe – an update”

  1. Funny…. I had bought the Hercules mk2 dj console last month just to test the waters of laptop based mixing and low and behold after about 10-12 hours of use, some switches started to act up or just not work at all… Cant have that~! Pioneer CDJ’s and a good mixer wont ever let you down! Or Crash.. PC’s should be used to retrieve music and burn it. Not play it! Plus what kind of dj needs beatsync? lmao…..

    – DaneZen

  2. I work for a major music retailer and we have an Xponent on the floor for the general public (the ultimate test) to demo out, and no problems with the audio after 100’s of hours of use. However, one of the jog wheels definitely has issues with it now. People really tear at those things and although it still functions, it has a hefty groan whenever you spin it. Otherwise, the unit has held up to getting battered pretty well. My two cents…

  3. Thanks so much for the review of xponent & the follow up.
    Its a real shame when gear lets us down like that. I really liked the idea of an all in one device with FX built in & soundcard but… Keep reading of problems people are experiencing. Obviously not a professional option so forget it!! (For now)
    Looking forward to when a Pioneer quality all in one comes out.
    Is the scratch wheel on a cdj 1000 a lot better then the xponent & how does the pitch slider compare in terms of resolution? Was wondering if you had thought about Serato or Torq? I guess if a club is using Serato then you would need to bring all your cds and a hard drive too..
    So annoying all this but i guess the way to go is pioneer for the time being.
    Thanks

  4. The wheels are a particular highlight of the Xponent. For jogging I actually preferred them to those on the CDJ; they have a nice weight to them and a very smooth movement, and of course you can configure how responsive they are in software (at least, you can in mixxx, because I programmed it that way :). The CDJ wheel is rather light by comparison. On the 1000mk3 you have a tension adjustment which allows some control over their resistance to movement, but it’s a purely frictional control which makes the wheel feel a bit uneven, so I tend to leave this off.

    However the Xponent wheels are too small and a little too weighty for any serious scratch use. The CDJs are a clear winner for that application.

    Also I’ve got fairly dainty fingers. Those with chunkier digits might prefer the larger finger-notches on the CDJ wheel.

    There are controllers out there with larger wheels, I think the EKS XP10 does though they are still not as large as the CDJ.

    Pioneer are starting to bring out hardware which is capable of MIDI control, albeit as an adjunct to their primary function of playing CDs, such as the CDJ400. Again though this doesn’t have the same wheel as the CDJ800 and 1000. The 400 has scratch-type effects rather than full scratch capability. But I guess anyone who’s seriously into scratching and wants to go digital is probably going to opt for Serato etc controlled from vinyl.

  5. (The reason I didn’t go for Serato was that I see it as the worst of both worlds. I DJ’d vinyl for many years but doing everything digitally is just so much easier for cueing and beatmatching. I scratch a little but it’s not at the core of what I do, so the digital scratch emulation on the CDJs is perfectly adequate for my needs.)

    Incidentally, I guess I should point you all at quextal.com where you hear the kind of thing I get up to on them 🙂

  6. there’s a lot of things you can do with a laptop that you can’t do with standard decks, especially looping and effects manipulation which i use a lot. the other thing i do is speed track tempos up by as much as 30% which i can’t do on decks, while keeping them in the same key, great when bringing very old dance tracks to modern tempos without them sounding like the chipmunks. Also, i now take a lot less gear to gigs, but each to his own.

    BTW, I use traktor with just an xsession controller to keep it small.

  7. Well I don’t know which “standard decks” you’re referring to, but with my CDJs and DJM I can do all of the things you just mentioned. Oh, except the pitch range goes up to +/- 100%. And I don’t have to take *any* gear to gigs because the vast majority of them already provide CDJs and a DJM or equivalent. I just take a bag of CDs, which if anyone is foolish enough to nick them, I can always burn again from my PC which stays safely at home.

    There are most definitely things you can do on a laptop that you can’t do on CDJs, but none of them strike me as worth the hassle and risk of having to take an expensive laptop and controller to every gig and then stare at a screen to do your mixing (hardly the best spectacle for the crowd, and likely to make you need spectacles before too long…)

  8. I’ve been using the Xponent for over a year now. And I can gladly say that as of this month, Jan 2009, I am leaving the CDJs forever. I had pioneers, I had denons, they all did me good but it’s still too much of the same old way to mix with…

    When you have the right gear to go with the Xponent, this thing is like a gift given to DJs.. I only use the sync button to beat match my song in a fraction of a second and I do the mix myself. But it keeps the beat so damn good, that you can go crazy with FX and looping like you never could do it on CDJs. I did shows for the past 6 months and mixes with this little beats in a way that I could have never done it before.

    Ya know I never have to burn CDs again (HUGE amount of money saved, + VERY environment friendly). I dont have anything else to bring with me wherever I spin other than the laptop, the xponent and the external HDD I attach to my laptop which I play the music from.

    Beat that with a bunch of CD cases. Or vinyl for that matter. It just makes sense. You can let your imagination go much wilder with digital DJing. And to say I was totally against that 2 years ago. Thank you M-Audio!

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