We all know that humans and technology are evolving at a faster rate than ever before, this of course includes the music / entertainment industry, both which go hand-in-hand. DJs or as most would say, performers, need to be at the forefront of this, embracing new technology and use current forms in which that they can express themselves with through music and entertain the crowd. Whether you are a bedroom DJ or someone who is established and playing to thousands, it is still important not to be left behind... As we all know, there is someone who is eager to take your mantle and replace you - this is the tough, cut-throat industry that we live in!
Through this article we will outline some of the main reasons that you should consider upgrading your equipment and give you an indication or some examples of changes that are possible. There are many stages of evolving through being a dj or producer and of course, its all down to personal preference and style at the end of the day, not forgetting budget too. Dont get me wrong, I know that there are still some DJs that will only play vinyl, but just because the format of music you chose to play has been out a while, it doesnt mean that the equipment you play them on has to be. Feel free to use this as a way to get a bit of extra knowledge on what you may not know about the equipment and make your own mind up as to where you want to be, then I'll give you some good examples of what to look towards if youre just starting out, getting the hang of it or fully on board with being serious about it.
One thing to consider with this article is the phrase 'industry/club standard', which basically means 'what you would find in any respectable venue'. This is what we all would aim towards having and what you would see in the superclubs around the world, with all of the top DJs knowing the units inside out, meaning that when they perform on them, they rock the crowd - Ultimately, this is what we are all trying to do. There are many manufacturers that try to emulate this, but there is a standard uniform of what you would see and expect to see in the booth.
So what would you see in a DJ booth? Pioneer.... basically. Pioneer have been cemented in nightclubs ever since the CDJ 800 rocketed and changed the way the majority of djs chose to play. Im not forgetting the Technics 'CDJ' SL-DZ1200, Im just chosing not to speak about it, as it'll be as much of a waste of time as what the actual product was (Sorry Technics, I still love your turntables and RP DJ1200 headphones). Up until the 800's, most would use vinyl on turntables as every other CDJ previous just didnt feel like the traditional way of djing - it just felt odd twiddling a small dial with your finger, rather that nudging a platter to do that perfect mix. This basically means, that any media player since the Pioneer CDJ 800 in 2002 that has been in the booth, has been a direct upgrade. So, will any other manufacturer produce anything to replace them? I honestly dont think so!
Pioneer themselves, have recently released their new line of their flagship model the 'Nexus' range with the NX2 (basically Nexus 2, but that would be a bit too obvious, so theyve ditched a few letters). So far we have seen an upgrade to the CDJ 2000 and the DJM 900 mixer, but this could be a start of the overhaul to the iconic range, as apart from the XDJs, the other cdjs and djms are a bit old on the block now and need a bit of sprucing up. So what has changed?..... A LOT! The footprint of the units are still the same - hey, if its not broke then dont fix it! There have been some awesome additions that even took us by surprise though. The first thing is the touch screen display that is mounted facing up at you with super high-res quality, which we first seen on the XDJ 1000's that was a sure-fire hit. It makes navigating through your files so much more pleasurable and less time consuming - anyone that has ever plugged an external hard-drive into a CDJ 850 will know will know what Im talking about - NIGHTMARE! You can fully embrace Pioneer Rekordbox with this, even getting submerged with the tagging system that not many people got to grips with and believe me, the touch screen on the NX2 makes flowing through your set, so much more quicker and enjoyable.
The second that jumps out at me is going to sound really geeky, but when you get to this stage of equipment, you really want your monies worth... Step in the upgrade in sound quality. Okay, I get that you will not hear the difference straight away and think "yeah but im only playing in my room".. I get that, i do, but you'll be surprised how much that your ears need training and how they adapt. If someone listens to music on trash speakers, you'll not hear what others hear on quality speakers - right? Well this is the same... Oh and we'll get to speakers shortly. 24bit, thats what you'll get... this is also FLAC, ALAC, MP3, WAV, AAC & AIFF supported also.
What else? Well with Rekordbox being as popular as ever and people using all of its functions, it'd only make sense for the ability of being able to store 8 Hot-cues, transferable onto the unit.. so yes, an 8 hot cue function. There was nothing more annoying than spending time tagging, sorting, setting hot cues on tracks, then to find... yeah, I cant use all 8 on the cdjs... well, not anymore... This little beauty of a feature makes creating tracks on the fly, so easy and make you stand out from the rest as you jump through the tracks at different points sporadically. It kind of makes the function a real function, rather than it just be a way to set 3 cue points like 'intro', 'breakdown', 'drop'.... yawn!
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Right, so I mentioned speakers just... Those little or big boxes that relay the sound. Are they important? YES! The older that Ive got, the wiser that I have become with what I subject my ears to. Gone are the days where I want the rumble of bass wobbling my eardrums, its all about caressing them now ;) All joking aside, most producers make music on high quality speakers, so you playing that same music on book shelf speakers isnt doing the track any justice whatsoever. Oh and dont think, the more expensive the speaker, the louder that it'll go, as its not about that at all - far from it. Its all about clarity and precision. I mean, whats the point in learning to beat match on bass driven speakers and then when you get to a crisp sound system in a club, where every kick or tom is heard with crystal clear quality, your loose mixing will just sound shocking and you'll no doubt start to question your ability. Its honestly best to learn at a low volume with a clear sound... whacking the bass up isnt fooling anyone these days.
The best selling monitors worldwide are the KRK RP Series and there are many reasons why. Overall, the value for money cant be beaten as there are reputable manufacturers out there that are offering similar speakers for more money, but they just don't sound as good all round. Until you get to professional studio level, there really isn't any point in spending over £350 on a pair, with the main difference between the RP5 and the RP6 KRK is the volume that you can drive them. So with this in mind, you really have to ask if you like your neighbours or not! The KRK RP5 are perfect for bedroom mixing, but if you're anything like me, for the little bit of extra money, you might as well go for the 6's as they do give you the extra oomph if you ever need it - also it would give you less reason to ever change them in the future.
These are as important or even more important than the speakers, as these are the 'speakers' that are that are resting on your ears. More and more djs and producers are aware of how sensitive and how much bad sound can damage your ears, so more and more are investing in headphones that wont fatigue your eardrums. Exactly the same as what I said with the speakers, its all about detail rather than volume. One thing that it paramount to mention here, is that if you are looking to play in large venues, you will need a good set of cans as the clubs soundsystem will drown out and overpower any set that you pay less than £80 for. There are some great headphones out there for sub £100, but none that I would confidently trust whilst playing out. Ive had it happen before where the headphones have blown mid set as i was driving them hard, luckily the next dj was already in the booth so I used his, but imagine that happening and you had no back up?
The standout headphones over the last 10 years have undoubtably been the Sennheiser HD25 and you could ask ANY pro DJ and they will either own, or have owned a pair of these. They're lightweight, extremely durable and an have impeccable all round sound, so due to this, they have always been the 'go to' cans for djs.
Pioneer PLX 1000
Love them or hate them, its a given fact that they have given people the opportunity to step into the world of djing. Due to their huge popularity, there are hundreds of variations on the market that fundamentally 'control' 3 popular DVS programs - Traktor, Serato and Rekordbox DJ. There are a few more out there, but they are a basic version of these and with less compatibility with the popular controllers, its really not worth looking at them.
The best selling introductory controller over the last 3 years has no doubt been the Numark Mixtrack series. Simple designs that have been affordable and 'does the job'. But as I touched on previously, there will always be a bit of snobbery in the industry to what you use; a bit like when you was at school and you had plimsoles on your feet in PE, no one cared if you won the race in them, you were still wearing plimsoles. Ok thats a bit harsh, but what I'm getting at, is that if youre doing well and winning races, you'll inevitably want to buy a fresh pair of Adidas, so use the Mixtrack Pro to see if you like DJing, but you will outgrow it. So what are the Adidas's of the controller world? I think its now a two horse race between the Trakor and Recordbox DJ controllers, both having huge backing from the worlds best jocks. Traktor S Series come with the full version of the software and give you so much scope to add other Native Instrument devices, so it all works in sync with each other - a huge plus when it comes to creative freedom. The controllers themselves are very distinctive to Native Instruments, a very well built jet black unit, with bright, illuminated rubber buttons. Compare that to the Pioneer Rekordbox DJ controllers, which again are extremely well built, but you'll see a very similar design across the whole of their range as they look to emulate the CDJ and DJM club units. This mean that if you know your way around a DJM mixer, the Rekordbox units will look exactly the same... So basically, you'll visually have a club set up unit, fused together as a smaller controller (unless youre looking at the DDJ-RZ, which is virtually the same size).
If you chose to buy the Traktor S2/S4 or the new Pioneer DDJ-RX, turning up to any party or club with one of these wouldnt be an issue and you'll have the ability to manipulate the DVS features fully, so these would be the obvious units to aim for.
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