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The Digital DJ: A guide to vinyl/CD emulation

Published: Wed April 13, 2011  News Feed

In the first of our guides tackling the fast paced and sometimes confusing world of modern Digital DJ gear, we bring you the low-down on Vinyl & CD Emulation set ups.

This particular method allows the DJ to control digital audio files (mp3, wav, aiff, etc) on their computer or laptop using time coded records or CDs alongside a traditional DJ set up of a mixer and either vinyl turntables or CD decks. The technology allows them to manipulate audio without relying on a mouse or keys and adds to the performance element by offering a further level of hands on control. Some users personalise their rigs further by adding MIDI controllers or independent samplers or FX units which can be added via USB to your computer where compatable or plugged into the interface or mixer via phone cable.

This format is popular with time served DJs wanting to make the step into the digital arena but also keen to maintain a degree of familiarity it is however also popular with DJs involved in Dubstep or Drum & Bass and within other scenes where the use of vinyl is still heavily championed by aficionados. One of the great benefits of switching to this method is that it can vastly decrease the amount of heavy vinyl carried to gigs while increasing the size of the available music library. For current CD DJs, just imagine not having to squint at roughly scrawled track lists on scraps of paper in dark DJ Booths or discovering that fatally scratched CD as time ticks down on the active deck. Practicalities aside, digital DJing provides new performance and artistic possibilities and believe it or not it can be a lot of fun!

Central to this set up is a laptop or home computer and your chosen platform. Remember that if you want to play bars clubs then mobility of your gear will be important so unless you’re looking at setting up a permanent DJ booth a laptop is often the safest option. The other thing to bear in mind is that the specs of your computer are suitable for your chosen software. We try to list this information near the bottom of our product descriptions but if in doubt our team is always happy to explain things in more depth.

With regards to choosing your platform, there are a number of worthy contenders, from the big guns like Traktor Scratch and Rane for Serato Scratch  to innovative and cost effective new-comers such as Reloop’s Spin+. Most of the available packs contain all you need to get started i.e. dedicated software, an audio interface and of course, time coded CDs and vinyl. Some brands offer different versions that deliver specific features or extra channels to allow for the use of more sources e.g. four vinyl decks rather than two. Another new development is digital mixer/interface hybrids complete with software such as the Rane TTM 57SL which cut out the need for an external interface,

It’s is important to remember that in order to get the full functionality from Vinyl or CD emulation at home, you will need to use the software and hardware in conjunction with traditional turntables or DJ CD players and in some cases a mixer. This is often not a problem for existing DJs making the step over to digital as they will often already own this equipment but the extra cost could put off beginners from following this particular route into DJing. Look out for our next guide on digital DJing to learn more about the options available.

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