Most of you high-minded 'DJ' types out there have probably heard of Intimidation through their highly successful analogue rotary 'Blue' series of mixers.
Along with the 'Don' series, these mixers helped put a new face on the map as far as quality mixers at a reasonable (although not necessarily cheap) price.
With innovations like kill switches (a set of three switches that, when turned off, will drop a whole track, each switch representing highs, mids and lows... thus allowing you to, say, drop the kick out, while leaving a synth and high-hat structure in place), and VCA punch buttons, which, unlike regular phono line switches feature a quick fade unheard by the human ear, whereas phono/lines almost are always quick cuts in sound, thus giving that handy popping noise that all of us MTX and Gemini users have come to know and hate... Intimidation is setting the standard for techno style mixers.
The Apex retails for a price that makes it well worth it if you consider the options. The only other mixer in its price range with similar capabilities would be a lower level Furmahn, which will cost a bit more. Nowdays, you can pick up vintage Apexes for less than 100EUR online.
The Apex is a battle-style mixer, meaning it's compact, about 9" x9" and features all-pro mixer style knobs, excepting the cross-fader, which is still of course a horizontal slide fader. For each channel there is a main gain, which for the most part can be left at full volume. For volume setting there is a Pre-Fade gain that features two LED displays, one to show the level of your source, and the other to let you know if you're clipping.
Although there is no master read-out display, with these handy tools I've found it to be almost unnecessary. In-between each channels PFG and gain, you'll find a three-dial EQ, bass, mid and high. For those of you that like to EQ effectively, this is it. Although some superstar DJ may wow you with his manipulation of a 489 band EQ, if you know what you're doing, this is all you'll need.
By simply turning the rotary dial left, you'll hear a huge drop in the range you've chosen; compared to the EQ drop in similarly price unit, the APEX stands out. The crossfader is a joy to work on, and every amount of beating I've dished out, it has taken. Built with t he aforementioned VCA, the sound is smooth and precise. An added plus: If your fader ever breaks down, Intimidation replaces it for free, and yes the fader is 100% replaceable.
I'm not a huge fan of extras on mixers. Samplers were always built to be sh*tty and any effect they threw in was novel for about twenty minutes. The Apex offers up a little variety, but honestly I can't see myself using these for a n extended period. First up is a neat little toy that basically mirrors the stereo image being put out to create a flange effect.
Termed 'phase generator' this tool is put into operation by switching on a button, with an LED indicator to let you know when it is activated. To use the Phase Generator, two rotary knobs a re supplied that allow you to gradually bring the effect in and out. When both knobs are opposite each other, the effect is either completely on of off. The second effect supplied is coined 'Slaughter Chamber.' In order for the Slaughter Chamber to be activated, the Phase Generator must be activated.
The basic premise of the SC is a phono line switch without the work. For scratching, this is a great tool, although the effect is placed on the entire output. With two knobs you are allowed to determine the cut rate of the Slaughter Chamber, with a range from fairly slow to extremely quick. Also supplied are two 'Punch In' buttons.
Placed on each side of the cross fader, these allow you to punch in (at full volume) the source opposite the side your crossfader is on... very good for those slap happy mixers like myself, also good alternative to fader scratching if you can get the finger work down.
Another quality feature is the panning knob. Unlike most panning levels on DJ mixers, the Apex comes correct with a pan that leaves the bass on both channels, as the human ear cannot tell where bass is emanating from. The highs and mids can fully pan from left to right with one turn of this charming spindle.
For the price, the Apex cannot be beat. For those of you considering a mixer purchase in the near future, this would be a good alternative to the MTX/Gemini/Numark styled boards that come with too many options and are prone to serious and quick breakdowns. With an almost dust-proof surface (excluding the fader, which, again, is replace for free), this mixer is built strong for the long run. Check out one anywhere finer DJ accessories are sold.
Thanks for your regards.
So you want to know more! Well I've got 60 minutes and will try to spend it well. I will try and give you a little glimpse from my perspective (I have never done so before!). Please excuse lack of grammar. I am Steve Carroll, the designer and director of Intimidation.
I started Intimidation when I was 21. A bit early maybe or maybe not. I didn't study or obtain any qualifications (except one year part time electronics) however started my war with the soldering iron when I was about 10, I left school at 14 and went to work, in a little shop fixing TV's, by the time I was about 18 the summer of love, 87-88 was kicking off, I was still waving my soldering iron about and living up in kings cross, (10 minutes walk home from Busbys). Just what you needed late on Saturday night.
Naturally all my friends were DJs. I had been brought up in Brixton, around the reggae industry. I was quite well known in Brixton as Mr fix it and as a result was brought in to fix up a lot of the sound systems around at the time. For you that know the sound system world, its an endowed industry that specialises in using one deck, loads of amps and loads of effects with a lot of echo.
That was a valuable education for me, my roots have always stemmed from their. At that time the DJ industry was in its infancy and kicking, new and fresh, however the mixers kept breaking and were, well black and crap. By this time I was working in Tottenham court Road, selling electronic gadgets, soon enough I had the shop selling DJ mixers and was ordering loads of the old NuMARK not to be confused with the present company that uses the name.
Those were the best Mixers about in their day. Quite expensive as well, 1300 for the 1975, but then you all know that. Well they were interesting but had gone down the sampler line and didn't have any other direction.
The history of these mixers had originally stemmed from another world that being the world of scaled down studio mixers aimed at Mobil DJs. Lots of sad graphics and features like stereo, graphics for each speaker etc.
It was like the designers for these products had no idea what was required and had never been to a club in their lives (that turned out to be true). On top of that the mixers kept breaking, especially the expensive ones. The little favourite at the time was the old MRT 60, great names.
Well being slightly frustrated with this whole affair I set out to do something about it. At the time I did not know I was building Intimidation but was fired up and had a passion for my plight in great abundance.
Now not having a classical education I was not limited to the dogmatic plan and did much better without it.
I firmly advocate against a formal education as I believe it is more like an indoctrination process! Not the ingredients needed to allow some little upstart to enter the murky world of design, manufacturing and distribution.
However I was taught my best electronic skills by one of the best electronic engineers the country 'Bill Kelsey' who went on to be my mentor, being someone whom knew the music industry (albeit in another era) and without him and Denis I would never have been able to do what we did.
Denis came on board at the beginning of the DON 2, but that's jumping ahead a bit.
I arrived at Bill's office with a box of tricks for which I had been working on for about 18 months, Bill laughed and started about putting me right, he became a very close friend and taught me the art of elegance, for which I'm sure you all appreciate.
I had the basic concept for the Challenger 1, (my first mixer). It had kills, 8 channels, Slaughter chamber, two graphic EQs (One for the left deck, the other for the right deck) contrary to the one for each speaker affair, digital echo chamber, cross fader for the headphones, it was a nice phat mixer, with a load of new innovative features, it took 3 years to finish with many trials and tribulations along the way, thank the lord for the dreaded weed!
At the time of finishing it I had raised just enough money to build 50 of them, that took six months alone... well as some may know the unit was a big success and we spent the next year, me and Ben, building the units in my house and selling them directly to the public. I had a load of trouble with the retail sector very early on as they were used to dictating the profit margins of the products and were demanding 50% mark ups for just selling the units.
I was having none of it and decided to distribute and retail the units personally, which was a great laugh, people would arrive at my flat in south London, have a smoke and pick up their unit, I think they liked that as well, cause they could just pick up the phone and speak to me, many of the very early customers are still close friends.
Well the income just about paid for a trip to the Germany Frankfurt exhibition, the biggest for this sector. By that time I had the basic concept and prototype for 'The Don', the products were received very well in Germany, in fact Intimidation was considered as one of the little stars of the show, along with another little British company you all know 'Novation'.
We picked up a load of distributors world wide, and soon the demand started to rocket. From then on it became a major rush as if it hadn't been already.
About 6 months later I released the Don and by that time their was a lot of speculation in the market, basically everyone was screaming at me for stock, I was having the usual problems with manufacture, (supply of components). The mixer was received well and turned the market upside down.
Everyone trying to find out who this Intimidation lot were. We soon became known as axe-wielding south Londoner's because of a few little territory wars.
The retailers by this time were all forced to come around to my way of thinking and accepted the low margins I offered them (18%), they never forgave me for this and always eagerly awaited my downfall, whilst begging for more stock as they couldn't sell enough...
The company grew and we moved into a little unit and I took possession back of my flat, as by this time it was a full-on manufacturing centre. I wasn't happy with the Don 1 but was forced to bring it out because funding demanded it, having the usual problems with manufacturing for for the DON 2 (supply) again instead designed and launched the Kill Switch unit, all in about 2 months, to raise much needed cash.
It was also a big success and saved our bacon, whilst I carried on designing the Don 2 until I was happy with it, which was also well received when it was finally released and by this time we could do no wrong. Or so it would seem...
I took a back seat from the front end of the company and I started again designing this time 'Blue'. Ben got on with manufacture, the problem really with Ben was he was great at making things but could have been a bit better at the manufacturing processes, he ordered enough components for 800 Dons over the next 4 months to ensure no more of these little supply problems (which was the supply of 200 per month before Christmas).
However albeit that sales were at 200 per month before Christmas, after Christmas was a different story and by the time February had hit home, I started to realise something might be up.
Ben had been off taking holidays as he had done a hard year, and ended up ill which kept him away for a few months. 800 Don components and about 300 sales left me in serious debt. (about 250K) anyway (whilst trying to squeeze it back in) I gambled and borrowed another 70k (GBP) worth of components from the suppliers and hoped that we would trade out of trouble, albeit we were technically insolvent.
Blue, as you all know was a lovely little gem, in many ways, it was a hard year but we paid everyone back, Blue strutted its stuff and took the market by the neck. We didn't go under and managed to balance the books again.
As usual I continued running the business daily and at night with Denis designing Apex, that took another year and again we launched it in Frankfurt, yet again it exploded, by this time we had one unit out in every price bracket and were considered a real contender for the mixer market.
I was 27 years old and had done what I set out to do, we had maximum respect and had taken the world-wide market by storm except America.
I wanted that one for my self.
I set off and spent a year going back and forth personally setting up the USA operation. We were very well received as usual by the public but were receiving much unwanted attention from the home boys. In fact you could say we pissed off some major players. I was just playing around, but these others were conspiring to see about my downfall, in fact ALL the other players were playing against us directly, one by one they set about coping the concepts and undercutting us with cheap Chinese copies of our own designs.
Behind the scenes their was many other games being played, it was like playing a part in a conspiracy move. I wont go into details but imagine what disgruntled human beings will do to whilst under pressure, some of which being more familiar with the term intimidation than we were.
At this point I had really had enough of the silly games and the pathetic nature of these people. I was interested in making good mixers, I did that well, the others were flattering to begin with until they started getting desperate. Then their true nature was displayed. Nasty twisted little ****s who would stop at nothing until I stooped (including infiltrating the company).
I had already finished, I finished when I completed Apex, I achieved what I set out to do, and could never hope to top it. I was no longer passionate, but hungry for a new challenge, a bigger challenge. I took a back seat and put my soldering iron down and picked up my next weapon, the book.
Since then I have been having a much needed rest. Bill and Denis both passed away in the same week (believe it), the boss must be working on something big!
Since then I have been set some new challenges and am heavily researching other brain teasers, albeit in other areas, but which are as relevant to our generation as they could be but which I consider to be much more important. I will not elaborate further but leave your imagine to ponder, except for saying I hope to contribute further to the challenges we have been set.
Hope you enjoyed my little story.
All the best. Steve