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REVIEWED: AlphaTheta Omnis-Duo
By Marcus Bond.
I know what you must be thinking. Marcus is back again with another controller review! But this is a little different from the usual. Alphatheta, parent company to Pioneer DJ, have launched the Omnis-DUO, a brand-new controller under the AlphaTheta brand. This makes this new DJ product the very first controller with the parent company's logo.

This is a controller designed to be innovative, fresh and boundary busting, packed into a unique all-blue briefcase-style housing. But let’s ignore the colour scheme for the moment and think about the reasoning behind this quite frankly surprising release.

First impressions

Let’s start with the current ecosystem from Pioneer DJ. Standalone controllers start with the XDJ-RR, which at a grand and change is a 2-channel system that kicks things off for the rekordbox standalone ecosystem (which is pretty long in the tooth now, lacking the bells, whistles and creature comforts expected in the modern DJ booth). The OMNIS-DUO takes aim at the standalone battery-powered controllers currently on the market, such as the Denon DJ Prime Go and Numark Mixstream Pro Go.

My first impression, straight out of the box, is that the OMNIS-DUO is very swish. The matt-blue finish was a bit of a shock but it gives off a more hip, funky aura than its garish and glossy bigger brothers. The screen is flush and the overall unit size of the OMNIS-Duo is fairly big, allowing more real estate for larger jog wheels. I’m personally happy with this, as smaller jogs are fiddly and do generally make you more prone to making a hash of the mix!

I also like how substantial the unit feels. The combination of a five-hour battery built-in and the company’s hardware-building knowledge make the unit feel solid and certain. The other thing I noted before switching on the controller is that the buttons and labelling are minimal, so the unit is sleek and easy to use (or even ‘obvious’) making it ideal for a beginner with a passion for music as well as the seasoned DJ.

Lots going on

Each deck features a standard setup of play and cue buttons, rubbery-feeling hot cue and loop pads, and a pitch control. A beat encoder allows you to select loop sizes, whilst there are also two beat jump buttons. The mixer hosts a 3-band EQ and gain/trim for each channel, along with a colour FX knob and headphone cue button. I like the beat FX section; simplified like the FLX4 and with two buttons to halve and double effect length – it’s especially fun to mess about with whilst in the mix.
In the top right of the unit are two mic volume controls and a talk over button (a feature I really need to use more). You’ll also find the browse encoder and deck load buttons there, as well as knobs for master and booth level controls, which is pretty cool on a unit of this size. Lastly, and the most intriguing, is a little group of buttons for Bluetooth to the left of the screen: Bluetooth Pairing, Headphone Cue, Play/Pause, Rewind/Prev Track and Fwd/Next Track. I’ll go into more detail on these shortly.

Connectivity not lacking

On the front of the OMNIS-DUO sits a pair of headphone sockets (one quarter-inch and the other an 1/8-inch jack). At the rear of the controller is the power input (supplied via USB-C), an SD card slot, a USB slot, and a secondary USB-C for when you use the OMNIS-DUO in controller mode.

Master outputs are on XLR and the booth is on RCA output – you can use this as a secondary master, too. There are two mic inputs on the back of the controller; one is an XLR-jack combo and the other is a quarter-inch jack input, but both have trim knobs on the back, which is great for real-world adjustment.

Firing up the (blue) Quattro! Just add music.

Plugging this in with the supplied USB-C power both fires up the unit and charges the in-built battery (in approximately three hours, the unit is charged and a light next to the power button shows the battery status). I can see the battery feature being embraced by Pioneer DJ users who play music remotely, such as for wedding ceremonies and camping trips.
The next task is getting music into the OMNIS-DUO, which can be done in more ways than most controllers. The traditional rekordbox route is probably the most common – dragging music from the rekordbox computer software onto a USB stick or SD card. Instead, you need rekordbox Library Plus database, which is also shared by the Opus-Quad. Luckily this was just a two-click software update from my current version of rekordbox.

The new way to do it, if you don’t want to mess about with sticks and cards, is by connecting the unit via Wi-Fi to the same network as your laptop. You can then use the LINK EXPORT feature to move music wirelessly to the controller, which certainly feels space-aged and more Apple Airdrop-esque.

Speaking of Apple-like features, if you are a user of rekordbox’s cloud subscription service, you can also import music directly from your library in the cloud – handy for those obscure B-side requests or tunes you forgot to bring with you. Bluetooth is also built-in and it replaces a physical aux input, so you can leave a playlist running or have your phone linked up if you’re in a bind. There is also what I’m calling a ‘Bluetooth mode on steroids’ – but more on that later!

New user interface

With the OMNIS-DUO, the innovation hasn’t stopped at the exterior.
The screen also shows off a cleaner, more user-friendly interface with simplified icons for easy reading. From the first screen you can select music source, search, browse, playlists, tag list, waveform display and settings. It’s nice to have these here rather than squeezing more buttons on the unit, because more often than not, once you’ve found your source you only need to use a search and view the waveforms.

Once in the library, I like the fact the waveform can be viewed whilst searching. This is especially handy for differentiating two remixes of the same song. There is also an on-screen QWERTY keyboard for searching entire media, although once you’ve made some tag lists and playlists this becomes the easier option. Once you’ve found the tune you want to play, the Deck Load buttons let you chuck the song straight to the deck.

With the OMNIS-DUO in waveform mode, you also have access to other features which would have been a button press with or without a shift button on other controllers. Icons replace these buttons, so you can toggle jog, slip and quantise modes. This may feel clunky at first but generally these are ‘set and forget’ features for playing with your music. Other digital icons trigger the effects, with plenty to make transitions fun and enjoyable. They are definitely inspired by the Pioneer DJ stable of FX, with Delay, Echo, Flanger, Reverb, Transform, Spiral, Pitch and Roll.
The FX icon also opens up the menu for FX assign, which you can put to individual decks, master output or the mic – pretty nifty for such a small controller!

Bluetooth on the blue controller

OK, so here’s the party trick on the OMNIS-DUO. You can use Bluetooth in the traditional way, pairing your device and controlling from said device. Or, you can track skip, play and pause using these dedicated Bluetooth buttons – all whilst cueing the Bluetooth input with the preview button. And that’s not the fun bit! AlphaTheta are calling it ‘Input Playback’. Essentially, this feature allows you to instantly record the Bluetooth input for up to 10 minutes. So you can add audio from any source via Bluetooth and store it inside the controller!

IT GETS BETTER. If you hit load, it’ll assign the saved Bluetooth audio to a deck and analyse the waveform so you can treat it like a normal track. Adjust the tempo, loop it, cue it! Let’s look at this another way with an example of how this could help in a situation we all find ourselves in sometimes.

You’re playing a wedding. All going smoothly, you’re thinking of what to play next. The bride’s sister comes storming over to the booth, the glow of her giant iPhone illuminating the room. She presents you with a YouTube video of a song. It’s obscure. Very obscure.

BUT it has to happen. It’s the song that they completely forgot to tell you about, and it will make or break the party. You Bluetooth link the YouTube audio, extract it to the OMNIS-DUO. Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on the internet’s 2mb Wi-Fi, or watch the regular adverts for hair loss and Huel.
You cue the Bluetooth data to the deck and you hit play. The night is a roaring success! You get a healthy tip, a great review and everyone lives happily ever after.

In a nutshell, if you’re a crowd-pleasing DJ then this is a great feature for getting you out of a bind. Bluetooth can also be used as an output, so if you’re prepping tunes in the kitchen and have a Bluetooth-compatible speaker, you can transmit wirelessly. I did try and DJ with it, but the processing lag made this difficult to beat match without staring at the waveforms.

It’s also worth noting you can’t transmit Bluetooth whilst also receiving Bluetooth audio, which is a shame but not a deal breaker. Something slightly bizarre is the lack of a zero-latency transmitter, especially as AlphaTheta’s new Wave-eight speaker is designed to take a wireless input. You still need a little transmitter box if you want to go truly wireless for your sound rig.

There were some other notable features on the settings deep-dive. We get mono split cue, so you can mix easily in headphones only (a welcomed feature in loud environments with little or no wedge monitor in your booth).
We also get an EQ/Isolation toggle, depending on how you like to mix, and the option to add RGB waveforms so the frequencies are differentiated by colour rather than the default blue tones. I’m not sure why this isn’t set to RGB out the box, but it’s easy enough to change. You also have other settings like channel fader and crossfader curves. I like to mix on the vertical faders, so the crossfader bypass (called ‘Thru’ in the settings) is another welcomed feature.

Is it worth it?

There’s no shying away from the price tag; the OMNIS-DUO, on the face of it, is a small controller for big money. But that said, I think it offers you a huge list of excuses to pick one up! It’s familiar enough to the Pioneer DJ CDJ/XDJ ecosystem, yet it adds innovative features such as the Bluetooth playback and full rekordbox access via cloud, making your life just that little bit easier.

I reckon the OMNIS-DUO will be the most popular controller for those not just looking for a backup solution, but more of a Swiss army knife to keep your creativity flowing and the dancefloor rocking. If only AlphaTheta made a red version, so my Arsenal-loving business partner would let me buy one.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 124, Pages 84-86.
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£5.00 (INC P&P)