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+Quality Construction +Elegant Interface +OCR +Surround Sound Mixing +Intuitive
-Expensive -Poor FX Plug-In Control -No Instrument Plug-In Control -No ProTools Support -Can't Save Custom Settings -No Visual Stereo Mixing -€400 Upgrade For Lemur Users
Off The Record:
"Although I love the multitouch surround sound interface and the EQ functionality, there's no way I could rationalize spending $3300 bucks on just these two attributes."
"If you mix a lot of surround sound material, and don't have sophisticated multi-channel mixing capabilities in your console, then Dexter is a compelling option."
"JazzMutant's Dexter is all sex. A beautiful interface wrapped in a gorgeous chassis...it never failed to gather a crowd around it when I set it up in a
"The JazzMutant Dexter is a persuasive argument for incorporating touch screen interfaces into the music production paradigm, something that has been dominated
thus far by such mundane fields as Electronic Medical Records. However, for how I work, I just couldn't get past the 8 channel at a time layout. I think JazzMutant
developed an excellent workaround...the custom channel groupings is an adroit play, but in the almost limitless world of computer multitrack mixing, this wasn't
enough for the way I work."
December 18, 2007
../ TestDrive: JazzMutant Dexter
When the JazzMutant crew showed up at our studios to showcase their delightful, new Dexter multi-touch user interface, we were expecting a
long and drawn out demonstration. To our surprise, the entire dog'n'pony show lasted only about 10 minutes. This experience ended up revealing a
great deal about this influential controller for leading digital audio workstations (DAW) ...
The JazzMutant Dexter
Now we have to give JazzMutant's Axel Delafon some slack. He was in from France along
with his Mutant cohorts to promote their products at the recent AES show in New York City, and probably
was in convention mode: give a rundown of your product in under five minutes or lose the conventioneer's attention to either a scantily clad literature
bimbo (...known affectionately as LitBim's —Ed.) or another booth's bottle-opener giveaway. But even when we prodded him to delve deeper
into the Dexter's features, he couldn't seem to offer up many more details.
The takeaway is that the Dexter is extremely simple to use. We tested the unit with
both Apple Logic 7.2 and 8, and found the setup to be a breeze, even though we had to install a bridge application dubbed JazzDaemon. The Dexter
interfaces with your computer via the 100Base-T Ethernet port using the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol for speedy connectivity. It comes
preconfigured for use with Apple's Logic, Cakewalk's Sonar, and Steinberg's Cubase and Nuendo, the notable omission being Digidesign's ProTools,
although Alex informs us that support for additional DAWs will be addressed in future updates.
Dexter's delicious 800x600 12" TFT screen comes housed in a quality metal chassis
with a lustrous black lacquer finish. The screen is bright and vivid, and doesn't get fuzzy due to the multi-touch grid overlay. The multi-touch allows
you to use all ten fingers simultaneously, if you're that dexterous, without an input restriction like some of its competitors. The Dexter contains
its own processor and graphics card, which enables it to interpret the DAW's interface in realtime and depict it using its own Graphical User Interface
(GUI). The bidirectional communication, handled by OSC, works quite well under normal conditions without noticeable lag, but you will inevitably have
some connection issues that will result in having to redo a mix or automation task.
The Dexter's tasty multi-touch screen
JazzMutant's decision to have their own GUI allows them to add some fluid features that
you could only dream about with mouse interaction. We loved the Dexter's ability to zoom into a controller's resolution in realtime — allowing for delicate
level adjustments or minute filter tweaks. Just awesome. In fact, there are many savvy elements incorporated in the Dexter that will often bring a
smile to your face, and have you nodding your head in appreciation for JazzMutant's foresight. The company also did an outstanding job on the design of their
elegant GUI. It's clean, well thought out, and uses just the right amount of color for information design and aesthetics.
When you first connect the Dexter to your computer you must go through an IP sync, which
usually takes only a second, but once is a while can get a little clunky. Once connected, the Arrangement screen appears with eight virtual faders and one
The JazzMutant Dexter's 8 channel interface
Each channel strip contains a meter in the fader "slot," a sophisticated interface touch,
and the color of the channel reflects its current state, such as Solo, Mute, and Record Armed. Above the faders are 8 groups of eight mini channels, 64 total,
which allow you to jump to different sections of your console at a tap. You can even customize what channels are grouped together so you can have access to
all your vocals, your drums, or whatever you chose, an excellent feature. However, you cannot store the custom groups you've created and have to start from scratch every time you
begin a new session, a definite bummer. In addition, you're limited to 64 total channels. If you need to control any more, you'll have to access your DAW's
The JazzMutant Dexter's EQ Screen
Also accessible at a touch is a parametric EQ for each channel complete with Gain, Q and
band selection. Tap the EQ Curve button and the Dexter's goes full-screen providing a multi-touch playground for shaping sound.
JazzMutant even includes the ability to freeze one axis of a parameter so you can just modulate the other. Think: sweeping the filter with a swipe of the
finger without affecting the gain, and vice versa. This turned the generally lackluster EQ interface into something truly unique, especially for automation.
The Dexter does include an effects plug-ins button, but there's unfortunately not much to
get excited about here; it's basically an on/off switch. You also cannot call up a specific plug-in from the Dexter's interface — you're forced to go
back to your DAW. For virtual instruments, the news is even worse since you cannot access or modify any parameters from the Dexter, another drawback.
Surround Sound Mixing on the JazzMutant Dexter
The faders, EQ, and group action is all well and good, but pales in comparison to the Dexter's
surround sound support, which is phenomenal. This is clearly the Dexter's finest feature, and if you're a pro who does a lot of surround sound mixing, then
you should seriously consider taking your own test drive at your local retailer, especially if your surround mixing is quite active. Unfortunately, the Dexter's
longest multi-touch lag time occurred in the surround sound interface, but it was not enough of a detriment for us to not whole-heartedly recommend the Dexter
for surround mixing.
Close-up of the Dexter's Surround Sound Interface. Instruments cannot be named.
As wonderful as the visual multi-touch surround sound metaphor is, we're surprised that
JazzMutant didn't translate the concept to stereo mixing. Simply limiting the radius to 180 degrees would allow you to get an instantaneous overview of
your mix in the stereo field, and allow you to precisely place individual elements where you want them to sit in the mix. Add automation to the approach,
and you'd have something truly inspiring.
When the Dexter first appeared on the market, many users were baffled that it cost €400
more than the Lemur. Why would the non-configurable Dexter cost more than a programmable Lemur? JazzMutant kept mum on the reasoning for the price difference,
which contributed to some slight confusion in the marketplace. As our review was going to press, JazzMutant unveiled DualMode for the Dexter. Via a
very easy firmware update, and a simple Lemur operating system install, you can now use the unit as either a Dexter or a Lemur.
With DualMode, the Dexter can boot in either the Lemur or Dexter operating systems.
DualMode is a free update for Dexter owners, but anyone who has a Lemur and wants to upgrade
to the Dexter software has to cough up €400. Frankly, this is a marketing misstep. Not only is it bewildering to consumers, but early-adopters of the
Lemur should be rewarded with a free update for supporting the company. JazzMutant should scrap the two model approach, and just sell one unit with
both operating systems pre-installed.
There's no doubt that JazzMutant's Dexter is a remarkable piece of equipment, and will
ultimately make you approach your DAW in new exciting and creative ways. However, the biggest hurdle for consumers will be the unit's price. At $3300,
it's a very expensive proposition for its feature set. If price is no object, and you do a lot of surround mixing, then don't hesitate, the Dexter will
reward you over and over. For more price conscious users, the deficits, even with Lemur support, may be too much of a barrier to entry.
The Future: JazzMutant should quickly put the Lemur upgrade distraction to bed.
One product, one price, two operating systems. Period.
ProTools support is mandatory. If you're targeting professionals, then not supporting the leading audio recording software is always going to be an issue.
Comprehensive effects and instrument plug-in support is mandatory. JazzMutant must focus on this vital aspect of DAW control if they want to take the Dexter
to the next level, and ultimately attract more users.
JazzMutant should add a basic MIDI keyboard controller to the interface of the Dexter. This would add a whole new dimension to the device and eliminate the need
for a controller if you wanted to take the Dexter and your laptop on the road.
While the Dexter may be the on the cutting edge at this moment for multi-touch interfaces, in another 18 months their technology is going to be eclipsed
by laptops or tablet computers. New computers set to debut in the next year will have multi-touch built into their screens rendering devices like the Dexter
obsolete. Apple, who is rumored to be developing a MacBook Touch, will certainly develop multi-touch interfaces for their leading software programs with far
deeper integration then JazzMutant could ever develop. If JazzMutant hopes to compete in the future, then they have to step up their functionality and step
down their prices.
JazzMutant's remarkable Dexter is a compelling digital audio workstation controller that showcases the future of computer music mixing. The extremely
well-built device features several dynamic and provocative methods for working in the digital age, however there are many areas where the Dexter misses the mark,
and that this price point that shouldn't be the case.