The STIKAX is a handheld device for mixing sound and images on a PC. One part hardware, one part software, the STIKAX package comprises a handheld device, desktop software and a sample loop CD. The aim of the product is to allow individual and groups of users to mix and share audio and video, edit and play it back, without using the keyboard. There are a number of interesting uses here. As with more traditional (and more technical, such as Cubase, Final Cut) editing programs, the user can drag, drop, clip and merge sound and image files via the see as it plays desktop software. The sample CD contains a range of styles, each loop being cleared for commercial use, but thanks to an intuitive file access interface, any files loaded to your PC can be pulled into the software. This includes any digital sound files captured via a USB mic or other source, although there is no capture source included in the pack.

The inclusion of the handset gives a software program a physical presence and aims to draw in the more tactile groovers out there, adding an element of desktop and CD mixing into the pot. With 8 buttons and some scroll controls on the handset, one can mix samples together freestyle, as with the sample pads on a professional sampling unit, such as the ever popular Akai MPC (for those less familiar with sound equipment, hip hop impresario Dr Dre produces most of his work with one of these all-in-one boxes), rather than creating a new sound via hardware such as the Roland series of synth/sample units. As well as freeing up the keyboard and appealing to the fingers, the long leaded handset can also aid performers mixing skits live, or running a video mix in conjunction with live music.

Just how easy is it to mix and create? Any budding Nathan Barley types out there will no doubt embrace the ergonomic handset, but if you have experience with editing software, you may find this a little staid. After all, learning the whys and wherefores of a new program relies on some reading, idea exchange and some trial and error. I found the handset merely added to the problem.

On the other hand, the software has been well put together. With five channels, its easy to layer a track together and although the included sample CD lacks the kudos of a ripped sample, there is no reason why the STIKAX shouldn't take your bedroom output all the way to the record
label's offices.

From a technical perspective, the platform is rather limited- you'll need Microsoft XP to run both the device (plug and play), and the software. Plus the device uses an LED light beam to trigger activity on the desktop, so if you have shoe horned XP onto an old machine, you may hit a few snags. Also, make sure you have a Pentium 4 with minimum 1.3GHz and 256Mb Ram.

From a marketing perspective, it's interesting to see how the brand association of Ministry of Sound is being used to push the technology of the creator, Interactive Ideas. In reverse, the use of associated ephemera to push the long running (and perhaps a little tired) south London nightclub and its well established publishing empire is a sign of the commercialisation of a once underground youth culture and node of production.

Verdict

As it goes, this is a nicely bundled package and an interesting stance on editing. The capture of existing images and the editing isn't reliant on the device- it's merely the catalyst for making the process more exciting, tactile and accessible. With 450 samples of a broad range of dance music, licensed software and a plug and play device, this is well priced at 89.99, if this sort of thing tickles your fancy. Remember though, Grandmaster Flash started on old, home made kit and there are many Rebirth style edit suites available out there in freeware land. If you are thinking of mixing images, you probably got something as competent thrown in with your camcorder. All the same, it made my Sunday more ‘urban'. Needs more time to get to grips with, but I wouldn't say no to another go.