The stereotypical scratch dj can be very resistant to embrace anything that differs wildly from the ruthlessly clear battle mixer layout. Conversely, those crazy dance music djs tend to enjoy overly cramped mixers with rotaries that allow them to elevate the crowd's mood with just one over-exaggerated twisting movement. The world isn't as simple as that though, and plenty of people moonlight as one or the other when they think no-one is looking - so is there a happy place in between these extremes in the diverse world of mixers? Of course there is.
Most Skratchworx visitors should be aware of the AEM-100, Audio Innovate's first foray into the competitive mixer market. It stood out for lots of good reasons, and perhaps for some not so good reasons. Well maybe one reason - the Fader Cuts buttons. I never really got into them to be honest, but they were pretty unobtrusive in reality and easy to ignore if so wished.
Elliot Marx, head of all things Audio Innovate, actually listened to the feedback he received surrounding the AEM-100 (please take note all manufacturers!). He saw an opportunity to address some of the suggestions without major modifications, and as such the AEM-100i was born.
The AEM-100 has taken a fair bit of cosmetic surgery to get to the AEM-100i. The now redundant fader cuts buttons are hidden out of sight under the new faceplate, and the associated control rotaries and switches have become channel fader contour and reverse controls. This is a really welcome addition, and not just for scratch djs. Plenty of people like to mix using the upfaders, so being able to dial in the right contour for your own style is always welcome.
You can adjust from an almost crossfader like cut at the bottom of the travel, through a linear sounding fade up to a profile which is more weighted at the top of the fader travel (but not as sharp as a crossfader). It's a good comprehensive set of curves, but a full spectrum embracing sharp cuts at both ends to give maximum choice in conjunction with the reverse switches would be nice. However, Elliot states that the reason for the lack of absolute sharpness at each end of the channel faders is to do with hardware restrictions meaning that only a transform style switch feel would have been possible, which would be in greater danger of causing bleeding.
The other changes have been to the faceplate markings, colourings and the style of rotaries used. Audio Innovate have put up a neat comparison picture, so harnessing the true power of the internet you can look at the this link to get a clear visual idea of the differences
People will no doubt draw their own subjective conclusions, but I personally like the unconventional new look of the AEM-100i. The gold band to separate and highlight the effects section will be especially useful to those who may happen upon the AEM-100i for the first time in low lighting conditions. The removal of the fader cuts gives the main faders plenty of breathing space, but does reinforce how far apart the channel faders are. I'm not a multiple fader manipulating kind of guy, so the distance doesn't bother me. Some others may have to grow larger hands to cope though!
The new colour coded rotaries are certainly strange looking, but do afford a bit more finger space when using the effects and the rubberised feel is good to
The rest of the mixer is identical to the AEM-100 in function, so instead of repeating myself in an inconsistent way, I will refer you to our review of the AEM-100.
The effects section really is a huge amount of fun, and is such a nice contrast to a lot of DSP driven onboard effects found on the majority of other dj mixers. There's plenty of control and great sounds to be had within a few twists. The Pro X-Fade feels as slick and solid as ever, and the fader implementation doesn't suffer from any response / decay style problems that a fair number of manufacturers forget to iron out.
I suspect the majority of people will welcome the changes that have been made to produce the AEM-100i, adding some useful features as well as freeing up the crossfader space for the scratch happy. As with the AEM-100, you get a comprehensive set of I/O and a refreshing set of effects for each channel. For those like me who love to scratch and mix equally this mixer has the best of both worlds, with good build and sound quality at an attractive price. I recommend everyone to put it on their 'to try' list when looking for a new mixer.
Build Quality - 8/10
Solid casing coupled with the market leading contact crossfader.
Sound Quality - 8/10
A pleasing overall sound given the price point and no obvious noise issues.
Features & Implementation - 10/10
A superb analog effects chain for each channel to give maximum audio control.
Value For Money - 9.5/10
A lot of fun for a reasonable price. And an extra half a point for coming in under the magic £300 barrier.
The Bottom Line
The AEM-100i stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons, and should help sway those not totally convinced by the original AEM-100.
Thanks to Elliot Marx for the review model and explaining the finer points of digital resolution on crossfaders!