When it comes to DJing software, there are a lot of options out there that could do all kinds of things, but one of the most beloved ones out there is the Serato Scratch Live. It’s an example of vinyl emulation software which allows the user to use their conventional physical turntables to control and manipulate the playback of digital audio.
To put it more simply, this piece of software allows you to use your turntables as an interface for your digital music files. This means you can utilize all kinds of DJing techniques using your turntables like scratching and beatmatching, but with all the songs in your digital audio collection, not just the ones that are part of your regular vinyl collection. This type of emulation provides the closest possible digital DJing experience to analog DJing with actual physical records.
How Does Serato Scratch Live Actually Work? (Requirements and Limitations)
Having your regular vinyl turntables control your wavs and mp3s sounds really neat and it is, but when you start thinking about it, you will soon realize that your turntables and the piece of software would not actually be enough. This is why you cannot really use the Serato Scratch Live software without pairing it up with some compatible hardware. You need a special mixer, audio card and special vinyl records.
Here’s a quick video tutorial for Serato Scratch Live by DJ TLM…
Making It All Work
In order for this nifty set up to work, the computer that is going to handle the files needs to know and understand what you are doing on your turntables. If you put in a normal record with some regular tracks on it, your output will simply be too confusing and the computer has only your audio line out to guide it on how you need it to twist and turn the audio file it’s playing. That’s why Serato have created special time-coded vinyl records that produce analog sound that is easy for your computer to interpret.
So when you start slowing down, scratching or adjusting the time-coded vinyl record on your conventional turn table, your computer would know exactly what you’re doing and would do the same thing with the file it’s playing. This means that you could be scratching using an mp3 file from your computer as if it was a physical record that you can put on your conventional turntable and manipulate.
Here’s another video of DJ CXL doing up some Serato Scratch Live.
But the record is not the only thing that you would need. You need some high quality audio interface with your computer and a mixer that can also tell the software what is going on. That is why besides the software you are going to need at least some basic controller from Serato and some time-coded records and you can also get a special mixer from Rane that is specifically created to interface between your turntables and your computer with the Serato Scratch Live running on it.
It’s quite important for you to be aware of one more thing – Serato have actually discontinued the Scratch Live software and hardware and have moved on to Serato DJ which is a similar piece of software. This means that you might have to get many of the required hardware and accessories second-hand.
Here’s a selection of the stuff you need to get your Serato setup going…
Why would anyone use the old version when they can use Serato DJ?
That’s a very good question with a pretty interesting answer. If you really look into what professional DJs are using in order to be able to manipulate digital tracks using their conventional turntables, you’ll find out that many of them still use this version and there might be a few different reasons why.
First of all, Serato Scratch Live works great, and with the right settings produces great audio quality and provides a very realistic feel. And when something works well, many people are reluctant to upgrade or move to a brand new platform. Nostalgia might also be part of it. Others just can kill with it so why not? Mix Master Mike…
But also, using old software that produces the required results has some distinct advantages. When Serato Scratch Live first came out, computers were much less powerful and it managed to run robustly on the machines that were available back then. This means you don’t need state of the art equipment to run it today and could easily have an outdated but robust laptop handle your needs. It makes it easier to afford a dedicated machine for the purpose of running the software and when you do fewer things on a device like that, crashes become much less likely. So getting a complete dedicated setup ends up being more affordable if you use the discontinued version.
Pros & Cons
Every product out there has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, but this is especially true if you are considering something like the Serato Scratch Live which is no longer supported. This is an obvious tradeoff and there need to be some killer features for it to be justifiable, so let’s look into what’s on offer and what’s not.
- Offers a real DJing experience but with digital files
- You don’t need to lug around a huge vinyl record collection to live shows, just a laptop with the tracks digitized
- You can use a cheaper older laptop as part of your setup
- Excellent audio quality (pro tip: if your computer is powerful enough, decrease the USB buffer size to the minimum to increase the audio quality and response)
- A product beloved by a number of professional DJs
- Supports wav, mp3, aiff, ogg, non-DRM aac
- Not supported anymore
- No more software upgrades
- You need to purchase some physical equipment to make it work
Serato Scratch Live is a legend and getting to know it might still be a great idea. It still gets the job done with the best of them while costing less. It allows you to get the best of both worlds – work with a real vinyl record and a turntable while actually controlling a digital audio file.