Rant: Gear Choices, Sound Quality, and the Free Market
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  1. #1
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    Default Rant: Gear Choices, Sound Quality, and the Free Market

    As a digital DJ and event producer, I feel like the needs of the DJ community aren’t being very well served by the current crop of hardware producers. Once upon a time, it was all simple. The club had a pair of turntables and a mixer, each DJ brought their own vinyl, and they could each mix right into the next. Then, the standard changed to CDJs. Again, you brought CDs, or later USB sticks, and you could mix right into the last DJ’s closer. In both these cases, if sound quality was a priority, you could use a top-of-the-line Allen & Heath mixer and know it would sound great as long as the DJ didn’t redline, the media was clean, and the sound system was well tuned.

    Now, most DJs I deal with bring their own setups. The DJ playing out of the house mixer and CDJs might sound great, but they’re the exception, not the rule, and the DJ who brings their own controller never sounds as good—even if they’re playing lossless files. Even the DDJ-SX doesn’t sound as good as a DJM-900, which itself is not renown as a great sounding mixer. I don’t see this trend changing, at least until CDJs ditch the optical drives in favor of performance pads, needle searches, and all the rest, all laid out in an idiot-proof manner and HID compatible with both Serato and Traktor. Given the direction Pioneer is moving with Rekordbox and the XDJ-1000 I don’t see that as likely.

    What the new digital age of DJing needs is some combination of a higher audio quality standard and more competition. Quality DACs are very affordable. Companies like Schiit and Focusrite sell great ones for $100. Why does the only DJ controller that sounds remotely as good, the DDJ-SZ, cost $2000? Could it be because basically all digital DJ equipment is made by either Pioneer, inMusic, or Native Instruments? Are Serato and Traktor throttling the entry of compatible hardware into the market? Where’s the tech startup drive here? I’d buy the hell out of a $1000 DJ controller that combined four channels, two platters, performance pads, and a really nice sound card with two USB inputs. I bet a whole lot of other people would too. And where’s the simple, two-channel, high-sound-quality controller for $500? C’mon, free market. If everyone’s a DJ these days, why are there not more people selling us things? We shouldn’t have to spend $2000 just to get a DJ setup that combines the sound quality of a $100 Schist Modi and the functionality of a $250 Numark Mixtrack Pro II.

  2. #2
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    You know, I don't think the hardware is solely to blame for this. One of my biggest gripes about DJing is the majority of clubs I work in don't give a flying fajita about the sound quality.
    Kontrol S4Senn HD 25-1Kontrol F1

  3. #3
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    Part of this is why I believe every DJ should learn to beat match on vinyl, CDJ's and with their software, in case something goes wrong, or they can't use their set up. Then they won't be helpless.

    As for audio quality, it kills me how many people don't pay attention to quality of signal. I see and hear people redlining digital sources all the time. If you have not learned, you have ZERO headroom in digital. If you're red, it's distorted.

    To top it off, most are using MP3's which are sub optimal. After mixing between mp3's and AIFF/WAV/FLAC's and not understanding why I was hearing a difference, until I looked at my history afterwords, I realized that there is ABSOLUTELY a quality difference hen playing live, ESPECIALLY when using key lock in Traktor. Wish more people were sticklers for quality audio.
    Running: MB Pro quad 2.8, 4gigs ram, Traktor Pro with latest update, S4, F1(may return in favor of coming m3dpro!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sambo View Post
    You know, I don't think the hardware is solely to blame for this. One of my biggest gripes about DJing is the majority of clubs I work in don't give a flying fajita about the sound quality.
    Usually you're right, but I'm not throwing club nights. Many of our events are outside, and we've gone to great lengths to acoustically treat rooms when we need to use less than ideal spaces. We're renting large stacks of high-quality speakers (Danley, Void, EAW, etc) ran by accomplished techs. And we're dealing with DJs who know how to keep it out of the red.

  5. #5
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    I've never heard of DJs playing on the house equipment being an exception. You've got to ask why someone would lug a massive Pioneer controller around with them when you can just play on the Pioneer CDJs. Probably, and this is being totally blunt and honest, because they aren't a very good DJ, and have only ever played off Traktor. They could hook up Traktor with the CDJs, but probably only feel comfortable on the controller they got for Christmas a few months prior so turf that around in an overpriced rucksack.

    There aren't any properly high quality sounding controllers, because in the real DJing world no one takes them seriously in regards to playing out. That's not just me being harsh. That's the reason.

  6. #6
    Moderator keithace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KS2 View Post
    I've never heard of DJs playing on the house equipment being an exception. You've got to ask why someone would lug a massive Pioneer controller around with them when you can just play on the Pioneer CDJs. Probably, and this is being totally blunt and honest, because they aren't a very good DJ, and have only ever played off Traktor. They could hook up Traktor with the CDJs, but probably only feel comfortable on the controller they got for Christmas a few months prior so turf that around in an overpriced rucksack.

    There aren't any properly high quality sounding controllers, because in the real DJing world no one takes them seriously in regards to playing out. That's not just me being harsh. That's the reason.
    The equipment you use has nothing to do with you being a "good" DJ. If you have can rock the house with a laptop, keyboard and audio2, then do it.

    The only "cred" I need is for it to come out of the speakers.

    plain and simple.
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  7. #7
    Tech Guru DJAdeSands's Avatar
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    This debate runs a bit deeper than just using digital means. DJ's are going to sound as good as their weakest link. And if that means, a DJ who gets their controller for christmas, lugs it around in a rucksack, and then plays tracks that have been ripped from youtube.. then as much as they can rock, the music may sound terrible.
    I strongly disagree with the fact that no 'real DJ' takes controllers seriously.. just ask any 'real' DJ you see with a lappy.
    As for not using in-house system, if Someone has a large digital collection.. it becomes a chore to put it on CD..
    Denon DJ/MC6000KMK2/Launchpad S/LaunchcontrolXL/Traktor Pro 2/Bringin it since 96.

  8. #8
    Tech Mentor DeanOakley's Avatar
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    Can't say I agree with the point about MP3's being inferior - don't want to start a debate but my opinion is this:

    Even vinyl can sound bad on a poorly set up system, with a DJ that's redlining.

    It's not always the source that's bad.
    Equipment: 2x CDJ 2000s // Kontrol Z2 // 2x KRK Rokit 5s // Maschine MkII // Scarlett 2i2

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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by djadrenal View Post
    Part of this is why I believe every DJ should learn to beat match on vinyl, CDJ's and with their software, in case something goes wrong, or they can't use their set up. Then they won't be helpless.

    As for audio quality, it kills me how many people don't pay attention to quality of signal. I see and hear people redlining digital sources all the time. If you have not learned, you have ZERO headroom in digital. If you're red, it's distorted.

    To top it off, most are using MP3's which are sub optimal. After mixing between mp3's and AIFF/WAV/FLAC's and not understanding why I was hearing a difference, until I looked at my history afterwords, I realized that there is ABSOLUTELY a quality difference hen playing live, ESPECIALLY when using key lock in Traktor. Wish more people were sticklers for quality audio.
    When I use my S2 MK2, I have the volume faders (what's the real name?) up to the top. I always see the red "level" lights flashing next to them. Is this what you're talking about?

    Also, I use 320kbps MP3s, these are fine, right?

  10. #10
    Tech Guru Kwal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MalcolmDeXXX View Post
    When I use my S2 MK2, I have the volume faders (what's the real name?) up to the top. I always see the red "level" lights flashing next to them. Is this what you're talking about?

    Also, I use 320kbps MP3s, these are fine, right?
    Yes those are fine and you should not hit the red on your gains/trims. Keep it to where it's basically almost going to poke into red.. If that makes sense.

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