ACX Music like to stay on top of the latest advances in music technology. So when we came across this innovative new way to digest music, we just had to test it out for ourselves!
Coming in at around 8 centimetres in diameter, practically weightless, and smooth to the touch. The stem player comes in a modern and streamlined box, which seems to be made out of a material resembling something in-between plastic, foam, and suede, characterised by the stem player website as “soft skin”. It also comes pre-loaded with Kanye West’s project Donda on the stem player itself and a streaming-only link to a website where his latest effort Donda 2 can be streamed and loaded onto the stem player. The main selling point of this modern device is the ability to control each part of a song individually, each of these musical parts are called “stems”. So on each song on the Donda 2 album, every user has volume control over 4 different parts or the song, mostly resembling: vocals, samples, drums and bass. Upon further exploration, there is a panel of effects, including echo, feedback, or gate, rewind, fast-forward, tempo adjust, and also looping and recording. There are are also capabilities to be able to connect bluetooth and MIDI devices while supporting almost all existing audio formats.
What does the stem player say about the future of how we digest music? In our humble opinion, at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be much more than a toy, and an expensive one at that, running at around $200 before tax and postage. But after dominating the many effects and possibilities that the device has to offer, one could technically play a live show. After all, the stem player has most of the capabilities of a DJ mixer, and many capabilities which a mixer doesn’t have, all in a tiny handheld device.
If you investigate a bit on YouTube, you will be able to find that many people have been uploading clips of their friends “battling” with stem players, and it can be very fun and interesting to watch. If we are to talk about the negative points of the stem player, one of the main things is the lack of a digital display. There is no way to easily tell which song is being played, which means you have to memorise the tracks and the order of the tracks as well. Also, if you want to play a live show, you cannot transition/mix between two tracks. If you do not want to play the songs in the order that they were loaded on the stem player, it can become messy skipping abruptly between tracks.
All of these pros and cons do not change the fact that this is an incredibly innovative piece of modern machinery. It gives the aesthetic that it came from another planet. At the very least, the 200$ price point allows a newcomer to access DJ and editing technology in the palm of their hand. It is sleek, portable, functional, and impressive. Very user friendly and a blast to play with, we can definitely picture these in the hands of the next generation of music lovers. It is said that Kanye West is not eligible for a Grammy Award due to his album Donda 2 not being available on DSP´s, and only available through purchase of the stem player.
Whatever your view on Kanye West is, him and his design team deserve a pat on the back for this one.