CDJs – Commonly Asked Questions

There’s a moment in your DJ life when you’ll be confronted with CDJs.

These big, futuristic devices can be daunting at first, but getting to understand them will be an important step in your career and will open new opportunities for you.

Let’s jump right in to the CDJs FAQ you always needed!

What are CDJs?

CDJ is the generic name (inherited from the original Pioneer CDJ 500) given to CD and digital media players that are designed to be used in professional situations like DJ sets.

CDJs allow DJs to apply several manipulation techniques directly derived from vinyl, like playing a track slower or faster or navigating the track and a lot of others that are not possible with just a turntable, like looping a section and analyzing the track’s BPM.

Modern CDJs allow digital audio playback from CDs, USB sticks and SD cards.

Why should I use CDJs?

World-wide, CDJs are the standard gear on clubs and serve as a common platform for DJs.

They are reliable, sturdy, professional and in general, serve as a good inversion for a club to make. Since DJs are not expected to bring their CDJs, and you know that you’ll find them almost everywhere, why shouldn’t you get familiar with them?

Also, a good DJ should be able to get through the night with any piece of gear available!

Once you start getting the hang of using them, you’ll see that all the different models are fairly similar, and you’ll know the pleasure of arriving to the venue with just a USB stick and your headphones!

Are CDJs hard to use?

Disclaimer: Most CDJs don’t have sync capabilities, so if you rely too much in it when doing digital DJing, you may miss it at first.

That being said, mixing with CDJs is like a hybrid between laptop and vinyl DJing, since you are beat-matching by ear -turntable style- but with tons of visual feedback and digital mixing capabilities, not unlike you would find on software.

Pioneer CDJs use Rekordbox, a software that analyzes BPM and key of your tracks.

This information will then be displayed on the screen of the CDJs, along with the cue points you decide to set as reminders.

This could be useful since if you know the BPM of the tracks you need to mix, you’ll be a step nearer of beat-matching them successfully.

Another useful facility CDJs have is the possibility of linking them via ethernet cable, which will allow you to navigate the USB stick or SD card you connect on one of units from both of them.

Is buying CDJs worth it?

I know, I know, they are expensive. But if you are considering getting serious on this DJ thing, you should learn how to use CDJs, and the best way of achieving this is having a pair.

Maybe you can look for used CDJs, specially for cheaper models, since lots of the functions on higher tier CDJs are secondary.

A few older models like the Pioneer CDJ 800mk2 have CD-only support, which could be all you need if you are a CD guy.

The Pioneer CDJ 850 are USB compatible and although they feel plastic, remember that you are not expected to bring your CDJs to the venue, so build quality is not as important as in regular gigging gear.

In case you absolutely can’t buy a pair of CDJs, it’s not rare for DJ schools to let DJs practice for a fee.

If you can arrange a few sessions and do your homework (reading manuals, googling, asking questions), maybe this is a decent way to start.

Are CDJs better than controllers?

I don’t know, are hot dogs better than burgers?

CDJs are just another way of mixing music: If you are a wonderful selector on laptop, you can be one on CDJs as well!

The point is that knowing and understanding different techniques and technologies will help you professionalize and will make you more versatile.

Imagine getting offered a gig but there is no room in the cabin for your laptop and giant controller. Would you let the opportunity slip?

What audio formats can CDJs play?

From the very first Pioneer CDJ-500 launched in 1994 to Pioneer’s current flagship model CDJ-2000NXS2, CDJs have come a long way in terms of features, design and digital audio capabilities. In terms of audio formats, older formats are ubiquitous among CDJs.

These boil down to two types of formats: Lossless and compressed. Lossless formats like WAV and AIFF offer “full quality” audio since these are the formats in which music is recorded and worked on.

Generally, lossless audio offer you best audio quality with the trade-off of bigger files. These formats the way to go for clubs with very high-end PAs and all CDJs are compatible with them, so you might want to use them.

Compressed formats like MP3 and AAC offer you best size ‘value’ and are OK most of the times, if you use the higher settings. Most CDJs can read these compressed formats.

Some modern CDJs can read FLAC and ALAC, which are compressed lossless audio formats that offer a little reduction of file sizes without compromising audio quality.

Take a look at this chart for more info.

Model Plays Sources
CDJ-2000NXS2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win
XDJ-1000MK2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
XDJ-1000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-1000MK3 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-1000MK2 CDA CD
CDJ-1000 CDA CD
CDJ-900NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-900 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC CD
CDJ-850 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-800MK2 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-800 CDA CD
XDJ-700 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-400 MP3, CDA USB, CD
CDJ-350 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-100S CDA CD

How To Get More DJ Gigs

Every DJ knows how important it is to be constantly playing gigs.

Nowadays you can find a huge amount of people claiming to be DJs with very little skill to show for, and that might get in your way if you’re starting out.

If you already have your thing going, you will still find obstacles and you have to stay smart to keep your wave going and growing.

Whether you are a professional DJ looking for more gigs or you’re starting out, be sure to read our best advices for every step of the way.

DO I HAVE A PLACE IN THE MARKET?

This part is destined to those who are still shaping their identity as a DJ.

Think of yourself in a number of fronts: image, performance, presence and so on. Contractors will look at you as whole when considering you for their party, so let’s look at how you can work your professional profile to increase your chances of getting that gig you’re looking for.

This is not about shaping you into any kind of market, this is about showing your best self, because you definitely have a place to fit in.

1. HAVE A VISUAL ID

You will link contractors to your website or social media page, and whether he checks one link or all links you sent, they must show you as one. This means having a logo, promo shots, release covers and others that will be on the front of these pages.

You can make your own logo, but in order to get the best results it’s better to hire a graphic designer, because this professional will be able to capture the essence of your work and translate it into something visually fitting.

Another advantage is that you can bring your input to the table so that the final result is of your liking. Don’t forget to have more than one option, mostly your logo on different backgrounds or colors.

Your promotional pictures must also express your concept as a DJ, so find a good photographer and discuss the possibilities. Look at Marek Hemman, for example.

He’s a deep house producer from Germany with a discography of calm, soothing and groovy tracks, and his press photos show exactly that.

In that sense, his music, his logo and his picture match perfectly, showing his best self as an artist.

Check out one of his sets to get an idea how Marek sounds.

2. HAVE YOUR OWN KIT

Now that you have your photos, your logo, and, of course, your music, let’s look at how to put it together.

The piece of material you need to send contractors is a press kit. It will have every information needed to facilitate your gig hunting and the contractor’s life.

SHORT BIO

Have some short but engaging text talking about your background in music, your style of DJing or how unique are your selections.

No need to go telling your whole story, be concise and put together selected information that highlights your best artistic self.

RELEASES AND APPEARANCES

Leave a page to link the contractor to your releases. You can put the cover arts in a visually fitting order and make them clickable or list them with links.

Singles, EP’s, collaborations with other artists, remixes, features, mixtapes, appearences on radio shows, or even that set recorded at an important event: those are all to be shown, and don’t forget to select a picture or two for this section.

Look at this section from Ms Mavy’s press kit:

Here’s a dope track by Ms. Mavy as well to dig into.

TECHNICAL RIDER

If you’re just starting out, you may end up playing at smaller clubs with less structure in general, and having a technical rider ready for the contractor is part of being one step ahead.

This basically consists on how many outlets and space you will need in order to perform, plus giving specifications about your equipment.

For example, Marek Hemmann is a house DJ from Germany and he has a solid career, so he has higher standard requirements, but you can look at his technical rider as a model.

3. HOW TO GO AFTER GIGS

With your material in hand, you now have a few options to start filling your DJ agenda.

GO THROUGH YOUR CONTACTS LIST

Start out by people who are closer to you and can introduce you to club owners and promoters, or they can personally put in a good word for you while handling over your material, which is now ready to go and totally professional.

This is a little old school, but maybe it’s time to have a little black book.  Unless you are old school enough to already have one.

You probably have a friend who is a party animal, or you probably even nome the hostess of a club from going there yourself, there are many possibilities here, and some people might be surprisingly helpful if you show them a well put press kit.

Professional and instigating material are always considered.

GO ONLINE

Your next step is to go online and find out the names of club owners and promoters so you can reach them via e-mail and/or social media. Remember to be polite!

These are people to whom you are introducing yourself to in a professional environment, not your crowd who’s expecting something artistic and probably very exciting, this is job searching.

Also if there is a scene going on in your city, reach out to collectives who promote musical events in different places outside of nightclubs.

MAKE YOUR OWN SCENE

If your city or area is kind of bleak musically, there’s still an option for you. Make your own scene! Sure it sounds hard, and it will definitely demand you more work hours, but promoting your own event can make you the hot item of the next big thing.

Go after that bar owner who has a nice space and negotiate a first night for your event, if this first one is a successful endeavour, you can bring to the table a monthly residency, and now you have a solid ground on your area to start fishing for more gigs outside your region or state.

This option requires not only more hours put in, but also more responsibilities to deal with, and maybe you’re not the “DJ Entrepreneur” kind of person, but if you execute well, your name you get a solid start on any scene.

4. GOT SOME GIG? SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY!

If you followed the steps given here and it led you to some gigs being scheduled, here’s how to completely seize the opportunity.

BE PREPARED ON ALL FRONTS

This is prior to your gig, so you probably have time to go over a few things. Have a checklist for your equipment, including cables and adapters, and always have a spare one of the irreplaceables.

WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH

From start to finish, be a professional. Make sure you get to the club or venue with enough time to have a sound check, and if you have a big wait between that and your spot don’t waste all your energy before going on stage, stay sober and focused on the set ahead of you.

Be friendly and kind to the whole staff!

These people are working together with you, not for you, and together you make an unforgettable experience to the public, plus they will all remember you as “that nice DJ who played here” and that can only help you.

FINISH BY GETTING SOME MORE

After you played, be sure to post pictures from the gig on your social media and keep them on your hard drive for any professional needs in the near future. Tag the club, the party, the photographer, and show appreciation for the great time you had working with these people.

Then, find out the right time to contact the person who hired you for the job and ask for feedback.

If you get a positive response, that’s when you can introduce a proposition for a monthly gig, not only because you are a great DJ, but because your act will bring more people to the club, given your professional posture, your concern in engaging the professionals involved after you played, and the respect you showed.

We hope that with these tips you can find more gigs to play and further your career as a DJ!

We Review The Best Headphones for DJs

You see it all the time: DJs holding headphones against their head as they do magic on the mixer to drive the crowd wild.

How Do DJs Use Headphones?

It seems like headphones are an essential DJ item, but, what do they use them for?

It turns out that DJs use their headphones to listen the next track they will play. This is called “cue” or “pre-fader listen” and it helps a DJ select a track and match its beat to the track that is playing through the PA.

In other words, the headphone pre-listen gives the DJ a way to listen to a track “in private” to prepare it to mix it in.

‘Ok, so if I want to be a DJ, what do I have to look for when checking out headphones? And what are the best?’ You may be thinking. Since we are here to help, we created a list of the best headphones for the aspiring and experienced DJ alike.

Since headphones have several uses that range from the studio to the booth, there are different designs that manufacturers can apply.

Open-Back vs. Closed-Back

A main feature of booth-friendly headphones is that they are closed-back, meaning that the design was made to isolate from the outside sound as much as possible.

This makes sense if you consider the loudness and noise present in a booth or electronic music stage.

Headphones that are more studio-oriented tend to be open-back, which makes them a bit more comfortable for long sessions and give them a more “natural” sound, not so isolated from the environment.

Rotatable Ear Cups

DJ headphones are often ergonomically optimized for listening through one ear only.

This is extremely important since it allows you to keep an eye (or ear!) on the current track playing through the PA and the crowd.

Booth headphones should allow you to do this in several positions, holding one earcup against your ear with your hand or keeping it in position with your shoulder.

The Right Sound

It’s not enough for DJ headphones to just sound good, they need to have a special sound.

Since they are your preview device to your next track, they must allow you to hear every component of it.

And they need to do it in a noisy environment, so they need to sound loud!

Having said all this, let’s get to it and talk about the best headphones for DJing…


Monoprice 8323

Feature Pick

Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi Dj Style Over The Ear Professional Headphones – Black With Microphone For Studio Pc Apple Iphone Ipod Android Smartphone Samsung Galaxy Tablets Mp3

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The Monoprice 8323 are dirt cheap. But can good can they be for DJing, sitting in the $20-$30 price range??!!

Turns out that pretty good! For starters, their ear cups can rotate, which is pretty comfortable to use them on one ear. Also, you can fold them to put them away, which make them pretty comfortable to carry in a back-pack along with the rest of your gear.

The build quality is decent: Nothing out of the ordinary but despite being made of light plastic, they seem like they can endure the usual DJ treatment.

Sound quality on the Monoprice 8323 is decent, I mean, we’re talking about 30 dollar headphones! Highs could be a little more sculpted and refined, but general frequency response plus good noise isolation, make them good company for the booth.

All in all, a good pair of headphones to get started with your DJ carreer and not worrying about having to upgrade for some time!

Commonly asked questions about the Monoprice 8323

How are these headphones for noise cancellation / sound isolation?

They do a pretty good job, although not 100%.  There is less noise cancellation in the bass frequency end, than in the treble end of things.  In other words, it’s better at blocking out treble.

Would a true audiophile be satisfied with these?

Maybe not, but they’re still a great set of headphones for the price.  If you’re a discriminating listener with audiophile level hearing, buying under $30 headphones maybe it’s the best option for you, since presumably the rest of your gear would be top tier.

Are these headphones good for other purposes, ie. gaming and other types of music?

Lots of people use these headphones for gaming, and on all manner of other devices.  If you’re missing some little piece, many people have been known to mod these headphones until they work perfectly for the task at hand.


Shure SE215

Feature Pick

Shure Se215-K Sound Isolating Earphones With Single Dynamic Microdriver

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Moving up in the price/quality scale we have the Shure SE215, in the $90 – $ 100 range.

What sets these guys apart is that they are in-ear headphones, or more appropriately, earphones. Right now, you are probably thinking about the little crappy stock earbuds that come with smartphones and thinking “why the hell would I want to DJ with that?!”. But bear with me!

These are not regular cheap earbuds, but instead, the Shure SE215 have a little soft plastic part that sits comfortably inside your ear canal, providing much better noise isolation and reducing the need for high volumes.

Since they are a bit bigger than earbuds, their design is made to wrap around the upper part of your ear, instead of hanging freely.

This makes for a comfortable DJing use, where you could leave one of these guys on all the time and just boosting up the volume from the mixer when you need to cue a new track.

Sound quality is nice enough for such little earphones, offering a nice frequency response in low and mid frequencies.

Treble frequencies don’t shine much though, since it’s not easy to offer a set of headphones that can really be up for the task of true audio quality in this price range.

The SE215 are mainly marketed as in-ear stage monitors for musicians, a kind of use use that has a lot in common with DJ needs.

If you are up to the challenge of using in-ears, these guys may be the right choice!

Commonly asked questions about the Shure SE215

Is there a warranty with Shure when it comes to these headphones?  If so, how long does it last?

It should be for 2 years, from my experience, and it will be honoured as long as it wasn’t your fault and you didn’t damage them on purpose.

Is there a black case included here?

Yes, the case with the “Shure” logo is included, as well as 3 silicone ear tips, as well as 3 foam ones, plus an earwax cleaning tool.

What’s the durability of the Shure SE215 like?

By all accounts, these are durable headphones with strong cords, and ear hooks.  Not easy to break them unless you somehow go insane and try to smash them.


Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

Feature Pick

Audio-Technica Ath-M50Xbt Wireless Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones, Black

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Audio-technica has a reputation for creating quality products with very reasonable price tags.

These headphones, sitting in the $150 range, are marketed as an integral solution for all things audio: Take them to the booth, but also use them to track and mix in the studio. That said, how possible is it to deliver as promised on all fronts?

As far as construction quality goes, The ATH-M50X are rugged and seem like they can endure the stage and booth treatment, offering a wide head band and tough looking cups.

Although the cups are big, noise isolation is not as neat as it could be, but it’s possible that this is a trade-off for studio audio quality.

Indeed, when it comes to audio quality, the ATH-M50X offer a different kind of sound than the other headphones: Although they are not super clean and neutral studio headphones, these can be described as DJ headphones that can still be useful for tracking and mixing tasks.

This is interesting and useful for DJs that also produce music, since very few headphone models can boast sounding right for several settings.

Commonly asked questions about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X

How is the sound quality of these headphones across various devices?

Depending on the source itself, the sound quality is all around very high quality.  The only thing that will lower the sound quality is the source.  The headphones are set up to process high quality sound, if that’s what you feed into it.

How comfortable are these headphones for wearing with reading glasses over long periods of time?

Users have reported some discomfort over several hours of listening, but generally, these are headphones which will conform to your head without pinching.  You should be fine to wear glasses and use these headphones.

How much noise is cancelled with these headphones?

A fair bit, due to their closed back design.  Although they’re not 100% noise cancelling headphones, most dins, fracases, and melees are effectively blocked out.


Sennheiser HD8 DJ

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Feature Pick

Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

Buy On Amazon

Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

Buy On Amazon

Sennheiser Hd 8 Dj Headphones

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Warning: Now entering the $300 tier! As it should be at this price tag, Sennheiser delivers what’s promised:  No nonsense kick-ass DJ headphones.

For starters, they come with a nice soft case that’s very comfortable to carry them around safely, two spare earcup pads and two cables that you can switch around: a coiled cable and a straight longer one.

Build quality is supreme: Being metal the main material (yes, including the headband), they feel like they could last forever.

The cups are elliptical instead of round, which makes them feel really comfortable. The shape and design are very ergonomic and wearing them doesn’t get tiring, even in long sets. Of course, the headphones adapt very well to one-ear use.

In terms of sound quality, the HD8 DJ are excellent: The audio is super clear and defined through all frequencies.

Low frequencies shine: Since it’s easy to lose them in the club context, Sennheiser has gone the extra mile to ensure that you can appreciate the basslines of your tracks correctly.

Noise isolation is greatly achieved, helping you to take care of your ears by reducing the need of high volumes. But, if you ever need to crank them up, the DH8 DJ can achieve high-pressure levels and they will definitely bite back.

There is no doubt that Sennheiser has created a pair of headphones that will deliver what’s promised and last for at least a big chunk of your DJ career. This comes with a price of course, but it’s one definitely worth paying.

Commonly asked questions about the Sennheiser HD8 DJ

Is there any sort of sound bleed with these headphones?  Can people hear what I’m listening to?

No, these are closed back headphones and there’s no bleed, so no one should be able to hear anything, unless you’re DJing with one headphone off.  In that case, yeah, probably.

If the ear cushions get worn down, can I replace them easily?

Yes, replacements can be ordered online.  HD8 ear pads for the win.

I have a giant head.  Will that be a problem?

No, these headphones should fit nicely on your giant head, no problem.


Wrapping Up

Whether you are testing the waters of an aspiring DJ career or if you are looking to raise the bar with your next pair of headphones, we believe this list will serve as a reference of the current DJ headphone market.

The market changes constantly and there are always new releases, so stick around for the next list!

We Review the Best Beginner DJ Software Programs To Get The Party Started!

Not to sound overly dramatic, but being a DJ is kind of like being a party GOD.  Think we’re exaggerating?  Not necessarily…

Ok, not all DJs reach “godlike” status, but even for up-and-coming DJs, there is that feeling of connecting with a whole lot of people.  You are the conduit between the music and the people, and that can feel pretty damn good, not gonna lie.

A good DJ can work a crowd in a way that brings people together like almost no other medium.

Whether its a wedding, a house party, or a huge outdoor festival in front of thousands of people, people are there to party and they are looking at you – the DJ – to bring it hard and don’t stop.

As any good DJ can demonstrate when they’re putting on a show, DJing is a skill, and it comes from within. It is your connection to the music and your understanding of a crowd’s specific wants and needs that will make or break you as a DJ.  

Your familiarity with the technology, and the software must be such that you understand exactly what’s going on, and you must be able to bring the hardware and software together in such a way that it creates a mood of excitement and keeps the crowd wanting more the entire time.

At the same time as DJing is almost a spiritual connection between you and the crowd, its also something else – a job.

And to do a job well, you need to understand how everything works as much as you can. You need to understand your audience, plus the hardware, PLUS the software, and this can be a lot for a beginner DJ to take in.

The Best (And Easiest) Beginner DJ Software Programs

Today we want to speak to beginner DJs, and talk a little bit about the essential software that is needed in order for you to become a master DJ.

If you’re dipping your toe in the huge ocean of current DJ software, allow us to lend a hand and give you a few suggestions for software you should investigate as you start out.

Essentially, all DJ programs do the same thing, which is allowing you to play multiple tracks, mix between them and working with controllers to enhance control and playability.

Also, they might offer sync capabilities, helping you play tracks that have different speeds and making them synchronize.

Although the basics are the same, each program has its pros and cons, with some being shifted towards live remixing, others offering more hardware integration, etc.

Beginner DJ Starter Pack

Here’s some of the best software and other gear you’ll be needing if you’re getting into DJ’ing.

What It Looks Like Name Price Features Buy Now

Macbook Pro $$$$
  • Ample hard drive space for song storage (128, 256, or 512 GB)
  • Intel Core i5 processor (Or more, for newer machines)
  • 8GB memory, with some being upgradable up to 16GB.
  • The stability of OSX makes it realiable to play live

available-at-amazon-1

Denon DJ DN-MC6000 Professional Digital Mixer Controller $$$
  • Mixer, MIDI Controller & Sound Card
  • 4-Channels; 2 in / 2 out USB Audio Interface
  • Real-Time Channel Matrix; Dual Jog Wheels
  • Mac & Windows OS

available-at-amazon-1

native-instruments-traktor-audio-2-dj-audio-interface

Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 DJ Audio Interface $$
  • Ultra-portable soundcard 
  • Plug-and-play with TRAKTOR PRO software and mobile TRAKTOR DJ 
  •  24-bit/48 kHz  sound quality
  • Cue and monitor -pre-listen

available-at-amazon-1

Serato DJ $$
  • Made for all levels of DJ, from pro on down
  • Perfect for seamless transitions between songs
  • Sync to lock your tracks together in time for seamless multi-deck mixing
  • Comes with iZotope FX expansion pack

available-at-amazon-1

Numark Party Mix – Starter DJ Controller $$
  • Flamboyant controller for your software
  • Compact
  • Comes with everything a beginner DJ would need
  • Can work with lights
  • Looks cool

available-at-amazon-1

Cable Matters 5-Pack 1/4″ Adapters $
  • 6.35mm to 3.5mm stereo adapters allow a 6.35mm (1/4 inch) stereo port to accept a stereo cable with a standard 3.5mm (1/8 inch) plug
  • A tool of the trade for DJ’s! Eventually, you’ll need them 

available-at-amazon-1

Oldboytech AUX Cable $
  • Nylon Braided, 4Ft/1.2M
  • 2.4K Gold-plated connectors
  • Useful for going to the PA through an aux input
  • 2 Pack

available-at-amazon-1

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1 DJ Mixing Interface $$$
  • Complete, ultra-portable setup for TRAKTOR DJ
  • Pro-quality knobs, faders, and backlit buttons
  • Mixing interface with 3-band EQ, built-in 24-bit soundcard

available-at-amazon-1

Korg KP3+ KAOSS Pad Dynamic Effects Sampler $$$
  • Not strictly necessary, but very cool for turning your DJ set more into a performance
  • Use the touchpad to control effects in real time
  • A total of 150 effects ideal for DJ mixing
  • Live sampling

available-at-amazon-1

Laptops For DJ’ing

There are many ways to approach DJing, but one simple way is to play music off your laptop.

In case you didn’t know, you kind of need a laptop to connect with both the hardware and the software.  

A Macbook pro does the job nicely, although nowadays PCs offer all the specs you need and can easily do the job if you configure Windows just right.

In both types of systems it’s advisable to have an SSD drive, since their read/write speeds are a lot higher than regular hard disks and, while still more expensive, they have gotten cheaper over the course of years.

Also, the more RAM you have, the smoother your software will run, and with a good processor (Intel i7 would be ideal) your tracks will process faster.

At the moment of setup, if the club you’re at has a mixer of its own, it can be as simple as needing an auxiliary cord to get hooked up. You may need an adaptor to go from 1/8” to 1/4”, and those are pretty cheap to get a hold of.

This is as easy as its going to get in terms of logistics, but more often than not you’re not going to just be able to bring your laptop and an auxiliary cable. A seasoned DJ is probably going to pull up with a truck or van full of gear, but if you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have that…yet.

But let’s stick with the laptop scenario for a moment. At the very, very least, you can make an iTunes playlist, but we wouldn’t really call that DJing. To kick it up a notch, you’re going to need some dedicated DJ software that will let you do 100x more than just your laptop on its own.

Serato DJ Lite

serato-dj-intro

Serato DJ Lite (previously Serato DJ Intro) is the little brother of Serato DJ Pro, a classic DJing program with a lot of history on its back.

Although Lite is a reduced version, it’s surprisingly complete, giving you all the basic functions you need to start doing some wall-shaking DJ sets.

Here’s a quick overview of Serato DJ Lite and what it can do. Visit the Serato website and download Serato DJ Lite for free.

As you can see from the above video, Serato DJ Lite can actually do quite a bit.  It offers a very clear interface, six effects to have fun with your tracks and a very useful interactive Help section that will guide you through the software on your learning quest.

Aside from that, you can sync tracks, change BPM’s and setting up up to four cue points, which will help you organize your tracks and their more useful parts. Like with any other DJing software, you’ll be needing a compatible controller to make Serato DJ Lite shine.

The good thing about Serato DJ Lite is that whenever you feel ready, you can take it a step further upgrading to Serato DJ Pro ($99).

The classic Pro version is famous for its tight audio engine (featured in the Lite version too) and its vinyl control capabilities, which allow you to control your digital tracks with vinyl turntables. Awesome, especially if scratch is your thing!

What does Serato DJ Lite do? Here are some of the main functions and features of this free DJ software.

  • Create tight grooves using Serato Sync, which locks tracks together
  • Stay organized with Serato Crates, a simple file management system
  • Comes with advanced iTunes integration
  • Features classic DJ controls like nudge, bend, scratch, and EQ
  • Jump to a specific part in a song using cue points
  • Looping feature to repeat specific parts of songs
  • FX bank containing Phaser, Reverb, Echo, Flanger, HPF, LPF

Traktor Pro by Native Instruments

native-instruments-traktor-audio-2-dj-audio-interface

Another great piece of software that is perfect for beginner DJs is Traktor Pro by Native Instruments.

Now, with Traktor Pro you should know it it is not a free download, but also it is not just geared at novice DJs.

We would say that if you are willing to invest in software, this would be a great place to start.  

It’s around $100, not too bad for getting a professional piece of software that’s been in stages and booths since 2001.

traktor-kontrol-s4-interface

Some have said that the interface for Traktor Pro is quite busy (eg. confusing), but we take that as a good thing because really at the heart of it all this is a simple, great piece of software and once you get the hang of it you’ll love it.  

Think of it like this – its versatile, not even kidding.  Also, Traktor offers you several interface layouts that you can change at any moment, from an extended browser to see your library more comfortably to an advanced mixer mode that shows all the controls that a virtuoso DJ may need.

Here’s a great tutorial you can watch, to get a feel for how Traktor Pro looks and feels. It goes over many of the main functions of the software and if you’re willing to put in 12 minutes to watch it, it will definitely be worth your time.

It may be useful to consider that Native Instruments – the crazy germans behind Traktor – manufacture a whole lot of controllers for the software, from small and portable decks to full-fledged flagship controllers.

Traktor can also make use of the STEMS technology, a multi-track audio format where you can find separate instruments (drums, vocals, keys) and mix them with other songs.

This brings DJing to a new level, allowing you to remix and mash-up on the fly!

Here are some of the main selling points of Traktor Pro:

  • Lot of super-compatible controllers to choose from
  • Sync capabilities
  • Looping feature to repeat specific parts of songs
  • Great FX and filters
  • STEMS allow you to remix on the fly
  • Several interface layouts

Mixxx

After showing you two established DJ programs, one with a free version that expects you to upgrade and the other with a full license right off the bat, we thought we could show you a totally free, full-fledged mixing software.

Given that computer DJing has been around for 20 years or so, it’s no surprise that a few “new kids on the block” would appear to dispute the traditional heavyweights. Mixxx is one of these, and it’s been stepping harder and harder since its first versions.

This short video gives you a tour of Mixxx and what it has to offer.

Don’t get fooled by its modest interface, Mixxx has all you need to start banging awesome tracks, just like on any paid program.

You can change track speeds, mix with up to four decks and even use it in Linux.

Like many other free software efforts, Mixxx has a very cool and helpful community and developers willing to listen to users’ suggestions.

  • Several skins to choose from
  • Cues, loops, sync and everything you need to fine-tune your DJ set.
  • EQ, crossfader and effect chains of up to three simultaneous FX
  • Four decks
  • Comprehensive MIDI system that you can customize and even program

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1 DJ Mixing Interface

This is an entry level controller for Traktor Pro, which means that it will put you on your way to rocking the decks in no time and without much configuration process.

It includes audio interface capabilities so you can route your audio to your PA and your headphones directly from this gadget.

Notice that it doesn’t include jogwheels, which may look annoying for experienced folks but seems reasonable considering the price, compatibility and the presence of the audio interface.


Korg Kaoss DJ

Korg is known for offering budget-friendly solutions that work amazingly well.

Small and cheap, the Korg Kaoss DJ is Traktor and Serato compatible. 

It comes with a kaoss pad, the classic korg tactile interface to add effects on the fly to your DJ set.

Coming with audio interface and hardware inputs (in the case you want to plug a phone or another audio source), the Kaoss DJ is perfect for a very mobile equipment DJ setup!


Conclusion

We hoped this inspired you to get some of this software, and kick start your DJ career.  Who knows where it will take you!

Yamaha Reface YC Review

Riding the wave of reissues, Yamaha released the successful Reface series, a modern take on some of its classic keys of the past: The Reface DX revisits the ubiquitous in ‘80s MOR recordings, hotel discos and cruise ship piano bars DX7 digital synth, the Reface CP is based on the CP80 electric piano, the Reface CS on the legendary CS analog monosynth family of the late ‘70s, and last, the Reface YC, is a modern take on the YC organs, Yamaha’s very own combo organs of the late sixties to mid-seventies period. These new iterations of the Yamaha classics were built with affordability, versatility and portability in mind. The latter is of particular importance, since they come as alternatives to heavy, bulky analog machines.

Feature Pick

Yamaha Reface Yc Portable Combo Organ With Vintage

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Being someone who uses keys all the time, and knowing very well the pain of having to move a transistor organ or an electric piano around venues and studios, I was happy to see Reface around, even though I was a bit skeptical about the sound: I find digital organ emulations to be somewhat flat and lacking – and the costs involved into owning a modern top tier organ emulator are disproportionate when compared to the sonic quality and low cost of a ‘70s analog transistor organ. The basic question has always been: “Why spend 1.500$ for a Nord Electro, when a 150$, battered, yard sale Ace Tone will sound better?” 1.500$ is a commitment. 150$ is a fun amount to spend.

With a price ranging anywhere from 300 to 400 US $, the Reface YC looked like a very interesting proposition, and the wealth of features seemed like a fair trade off to the 3-octave mini-key keyboard.

The only thing I wasn’t willing to trade was of course the sound. As said, transistors – especially the older, Germanium ones – are key to creating a warm, fuzzy, perfect organ sound, while the Reface YC, being a contemporary design, uses instead the AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) tone generator, which is the proprietary PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) sampling engine used by Yamaha.

On the other hand, even the original YC series, used tone generators that were outside the canon: They were the one of the very few organs using ICs (Integrated Circuits) instead of discreet components in the frequency dividers and filters, and probably the only true organs to use ICs in the oscillators. The company was experimenting since the late ‘60s, following an individual path in circuit design, something that played a role in shaping their unique sound.

Yamaha was never the legendary company with a fandom that other brands can boast about. It was never about flashy endorsements, legacy and emotional connection to some gilded history. Most people anyway connect the name with motorbikes or boat engines than with instruments. And even in the field of instruments, its classic, the DX7, is of rather utilitarian nature, becoming a classic for successfully emulating an acoustic piano rather for having any personal character.

In reality, the company has offered instruments that were full of character and unique sonic capabilities – finding their way on stages and in recording studios worldwide. Some of them, were very beautiful examples of modernist design – lacking only somewhat in the naming department: The – Link Wray-endorsed – 1967 SG-2 guitar, the A-3 organ introduced in 1966 and the YC organ series, introduced in 1969. These instruments were a feast for the eyes, as they embodied the best elements of the futuristic ‘60s, and were the first serious rivals – quality-wise – of the US and European manufacturers of the era.

Especially the YC organ, available in a multitude of colors and permutations, was the definitive Yamaha instrument. Extremely stable, being the most reliable organ around, very well designed, with a control panel that helps approach the instrument in a novel way, and a sonic palette that extends way beyond that of most electric organs, it is has been an instrument of choice for the last years.

The only downside it that the most common variation, the YC-25, is a two-manual beast that weighs 45 kilos (100 lbs), meaning that it isn’t very practical to move around – even if it comes with handles – so it mostly a studio dwelling machine.

This alone was enough of a reason to be curious to try the YC Reface, which weighs just under 2 kilos (4 lbs) and is not much larger than a laptop.

Old Becomes New Again

The first thing that someone familiar with the original YC series will notice, is that the designers kept not only kept an appearance similar to the original YC – down to the color palette – but also used a similar layout for the control panel, something that is a big plus, as it is very ergonomic, suited to the needs of organ playing, intuitive, and most importantly, capable of almost infinite tone combinations, managing to maintain the versatility that made the YC such a useful instrument.

On the left end there are the Output Amp controls: Rotary Speaker simulation controls and Volume. Next to it, the Oscillator section, with controls for Octave Transposing (+/-3 octaves, mitigating the limited range of the keyboard) and Wave. There are 5 different waveforms available, each one assigned a letter, which happens to be the first letter of the organ that it imitates, and that Yamaha hasn’t got the rights to it: H for Hammond B3/C3, V for Vox Continental, F for Farfisa Compact, A for Ace Tone Top and finally, Y for Yamaha YC.

In the middle above the keyboard, there is the Footage section with 9 sliders (in the tradition of the 9 Hammond drawbars), on its right the Vibrato/Chorus selector and the Intensity, next to it the Percussion section with On/Off and A/B buttons and a Length slider. On the right end, two sliders for the Effects: Distortion and Reverb.

On the back we find the AC adapter input (it also works on batteries, by the way), On/Off button, and foot controller connection, along with 1/4” L-R output, 1/4” stereo headphone output, 1/8” Aux In, plus, two handy MIDI and USB connections.

The building quality seems good, and the external material – a rubbery, anti-slip plastic, feels good to the touch. The keyboard is solid, stable and with a very nice feeling. In fact, it’s good enough to make the small key size seem irrelevant, and become a factor that greatly adds to the enjoyment of this instrument. Its 3-octave range means it is mostly suited for lead roles, and not so much for 2-hand Hammond organ style playing.

The only inadequacy seems to be in the control panel: The sound of the organ has zero dynamics by nature (it is either on or off, without any sustain or any attack variations), so the tabs, switches, drawbars and sliders of an organ are regularly used, abused an overused, in order to create dynamics. For this reason, the controls have to be sturdy and reliable. This is true for the sliders, but not for the tabs: The 3 tabs present (Vibrato/Chorus, Percussion On/off and A/B) are flimsy to the touch, feel fragile and not always succeed in making contact. Luckily, the controls prone to overuse – and especially the metallic Rotary Speaker selector – feel sturdier and can be used with confidence.

But, given that I can survive the crap quality of some ‘70s organs because a good sound is what I am after, these Reface reliability issues do not distract me at all from the main thing: The sound. And what a sound this little machine has! The good thing with this organ isn’t that it is a good emulator (which, it obviously is), but that it has a personality on its own.

The tones are defined, yet warm. It is a very melodic instrument, that, in the tradition of the best organs, can become eerie and mysterious very easily, something that the tame digital organs in the market struggle to achieve. The sound has all the small “irregularities” so characteristic of transistor and tonewheel organs, yet they remain defined and articulated well.

The “H for Hammond” wave is a very convincing B3 copy, even though its tiny on-board speakers are unable to reproduce those low 16” notes and it would be best enjoyed when hooked to an amp. I may not be the biggest fan or Hammond around, but I found myself using the H wave a lot more than I’d expect.

The obligatory combination with the Rotary speaker emulation, gives some very good results, even if – let’s face it – all approximations of a physical rotating speaker and a rotating horn, are expected to come short and be – at best – a glorified chorus effect. If someone wants a Leslie speaker sound, the only way is to use an actual Leslie and go through the pain of carrying it around. Nevertheless, the Reface’s Rotary speaker simulation is an effect that produces very rich sounds, with swirling bass and pulsing lows, and thus, it is destined to be used all the time for its own sake. Even as a Leslie simulation though, it is worthy, as it is designed to have the characteristic delay when accelerating from Slow to Fast, which is half of the enjoyment of using it, being the perfect tool for verse-to-chorus build-ups.

The V wave offers the rich, square wave tones of the Vox Continental. A very close approximation, with an added plus: The 9 Voice sliders, offer a much greater palette of sounds than the 4 drawbards the Continental had. Plus, the Continental offered 16”, 8”, 4” and 5 1/3” voices, while the Reface offers 9 different footages, making it possible to play sounds that the Continental wasn’t designed to play. This is a very big plus, since it permits the musician to escape the expected norm, given that 60 years of use of the Vox Continental in some of the most famous rock records ever (The Doors are the first example that comes in mind), has somewhat created some fixed expectations of how it should sound like.

The same goes for the next sound wave: F (for Farfisa). Of course, a Farfisa Compact has such an untamed sound that I am not sure anyone would notice if an extra footage or two were added to its sound. This wild, alive sound, was the strong point of the Compact, courtesy of a combination of a unique square wave design and an array of Germanium transistors in the oscillators and preamp. As expected, it is the only one of the emulations that isn’t very successful. This is not a bad thing though: Farfisas are still available on the 2nd hand market, so who wants one can have one. What we have in the F wave, is a really beautiful, lively and frisky organ sound, which becomes totally psychedelic and engaging with the Vibrato on, even if someone is playing simple, one-finger melodies.

The Acetone sound – marked “A” is a much more successful emulation, and it is the one sound suited for every garage, surf, trash, and lo-fi project one could dream of. Reedy, dirty and mean, as it should be.

Finally, the Y wave, is a faithful reproduction of the YC series sound, but with a catch: The YC series had 2 different sound banks – the Flute/mellow one, and the Reedy/Strings/harsh one. Only the mellow one was included, even if all possible needs for a mellow sound are already covered from the absolutely great H wave. Nevertheless, it is still a very usable section, with a characteristic clarity – bound to find its way in many recordings, since it has the ability to cut very clearly through almost any mix.

All these sounds are controlled from the 9 sliders mentioned above. Each slider controls a footage. A footage is practically the octave in which the note will play, and is measured in feet – a remnant of the era of pipe organs (feet measurement corresponds to pipe length)

The 9 footages are the “standard” Hammond footages: 16”, 5 1/3” 8”, 4”, 2 2/3”, 2”, 1 3/5”, 1 1/3”, 1”. So, a C key played with the 8” slider on will be an octave higher than the same C played with the 16” slider on. The sliders with fractions, produce different notes: A C key played using only 2 2/3 will play a G note. By adding the sound of the different sliders together, a very complex, rich in harmonics sound is produced, and it is possible to achieve a very big amount of control on the sound by using the fraction sliders accordingly.

This means that the amount of tones the Reface can produce is almost endless. This makes it a very expressive instrument, something that comes as a welcome exception in a family of instruments which are not very expressive by design – since the sound in an organ is either on or off, without any envelope variations.

The Percussion, which comes in 2 different flavors (mellow and sharp) with adjustable length, is another factor that adds to the versatility of this instrument. Apart of the usual implementation, as companion to the Hammond-like H wave, it can also be used for pseudo-harpsichord sounds (sharp), Hohner Pianet-like sounds (mellow) and with the addition of Vibrato, for a Marimba/Vibraphone-like effect.

The Vibrato has adjustable depth, but sadly fixed speed, and it’s very rich and organic – permitting some rather sci-fi effects on full depth. The chorus on the other hand, is a puzzling addition: It sounds almost exactly like the Vibrato (which was the only effect that all electric organs feature), any chorus effects are too quiet to be heard, and looks like an afterthought in an attempt to make the instrument more appealing to a younger generation and to non-organists who know what a Chorus pedal does, but not what vibrato is. It would have honestly been better if they didn’t include it: A Vibrato On/Off tab, as in every other organ before them, and a variable speed Vibrato control would have been the perfect set up.

Compensating for the useless Chorus, the YC has 2 more- yellow – sliders. In the original YC, the yellow color was reserved for the Strings slider, that is, for the slider producing the most exhilarating, delightfully ear-piercing sound. The meaning of the color coding remains the same: Reface’s 2 yellow sliders (labelled “Effects”) are Distortion and Reverb, do a great job in roughing up things.

Reverb was a feature in most upmarket organs in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Most were using a variation of the Hammond design (made today by Accutronics), and it was included in order to imitate the sound of either the Hammond or the Cathedral organ, but used to a totally different effect from rock musicians. Of course, in the Reface case we are talking about a digital reverb, as there would anyway be absolutely no space to fit a spring reverb unit in this tiny machine. It has a warm, dirty sound, bassy enough to fill the mix, but not enough to muddy it, and the slider seems to control both intensity and duration of the reflections. It is a very useful addition, since most keyboard players tend to hook the organ directly to the mixer than to use an amp, and it helps shape the sound.

The Distortion effect is mostly an Overdrive to be honest, since a real distortion would have created a total mess over the harmonics-rich sound of an organ. It very nicely set up as to warm up the sound significantly, but not to the point of forcing the musician to use power chords. It was designed as an imitation of the Hammond tube preamp overdrive, which gave a characteristic warm color to the sound, but, as with most other features of this organ, it goes beyond that: Adding it to any other wave – especially to the F, creates a dirty, fuzzy, buzzy, irresistible mix, putting the fun in organ playing, and making this little organ achieve the impossible: To stand next to a vintage Farfisa, Gem, or Vox organ in regards of how fun it is to play.

In a world where accountants have an equal say in designing a musical instrument as the actual designers, where efficiency is prioritized over personality, and practicality over fun, Yamaha offered the best thing possible: A product that can keep both the accountant happy and the designer proud, but most of all an instrument with a sound that will make a musician excited, while being cheap and really, really portable – two more reasons for excitement.

10 Synthwave Artists You Should Know

 

Synthesizers! They are so cool, right?  You take the most reliable aspects of a computer – programmable, reliable in its mathematics – attach a keyboard; amplify the sound through electronic speakers and be taken to another dreamy and sometimes intense world.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones Review

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones Review

Today I review the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones, which are headphones that are most often used by audio engineers, pro DJ’s, and high end audio lovers due to their particular design which lends to such work, due to their large-aperature drivers that come with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils and rare earth magnets.  Fancy stuff!  But it does have a purpose as well.

Of course, if you just love listening to music recreationally, gaming, or you listen to audiophile types of things re-mastered studio albums, or you like to put on binaural beats that are made for long sessions of studying or meditation, then these are other applications these headphones were made to enhance.  More on that in a bit. 

Basically, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are purported to be an all-around tour de force when it comes to listening to music or any audio at all really.  Seemed quite promising to me going in!

Album Production 

Personally, reviewing these headphones at this juncture couldn’t be better for me.  Why?  Because it timed perfectly with some recording work I was doing at my studio and I needed a new pair of headphones, so having these available for mixing was perfect, or at least it seemed so a few weeks ago when I got started with what ended up being over 100 hours of mixing.  Here’s a tune I mixed with these headphones recently.

I was looking forward to using these, partly because I expected these headphones to be made for the job, as they’re designed to convey audio from a source to your ears without any manipulation, but also because I would be doing this work for hours and I heard these were comfortable.  So that’s what I’m going to get into first here – are they comfortable?

Comfort, Professional, Portable

Feature Pick

Audio-Technica Ath-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black

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Honestly, I was willing to sacrifice comfort for being able to mix properly if it came to that, but luckily these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s really lived up to their “professional” label, as I was able to hide out in my studio for hours on end, and I wasn’t leaving with a headache due to any discomfort from the headphones. 

I think if you’re going to call something “professional”, you should be able to do your actual profession using the product and have no complaints.  In fact, it should be the opposite – you actually WANT to use the product for that job, because that’s what it was designed for.  This may sound redundant, but I’ve used many products that claim to be professional grade, and they seem about as good or worse than products that don’t make such claims. 

Luckily, these headphones aren’t just called “professional” for nothing.  In all the literature I’ve read on these headphones, they insist that they’re designed for the pros.  Personally, I was able to do up to 4 hours of work at a time wearing these, and I probably could have gone longer, but when it comes to mixing, I find it best to do work in 3-4 hour stints, so that’s when I take the headphones off regardless.  That said, wearing these headphones for 3-4 hours of a time was “like buttah”, if you get that old SNL reference.  If you don’t have time to Google that, it means these are smooth headphones in that they’re very comfortable to wear.

The padding around the ears is super soft and pillow-y, which makes these excellent for the purpose of wearing for long periods, but it does nothing to interfere with the sound whatsoever.  This, in combination with the headband, which doesn’t apply too much pressure on your head, is the perfect recipe for wearing these for longer sessions if you prefer. 

Whether it’s studying, meditating, mixing, listening to podcasts, listening to full albums – I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with these at all.  In addition, the ear cups swivel in whichever direction you please, so that makes them customizable to any shape of head.  I personally have a huge head, so that works for me!  It’s also good for doing single ear mixing, when you’re trying to balance something.  My friend did notice that they put some pressure on her glasses which caused a tiny bit of strain, but she ended up taking the glasses off after a while, which I would also recommend, if you’re just listening.  If you’re reading something at the same time, I can see how this might be a problem.

Also, I should mention that at 953 g, these are super light headphones that aren’t going to drag you down to the ground as you carry them around in your bag.  Which, by the way, these headphones have a cool way of folding up so they’re great for popping into your bag or backpack.

I certainly wouldn’t wear these to the gym or anything, but I’d be tempted to just because of the comfort and the audio quality.  That said, no one wears these types of headphones to the gym that I’ve ever seen.  No one wants to look like a dork at the gym wearing some big honking headphones, and these aren’t exactly hard to notice!  I mean, these headphones aren’t that huge, but I just wouldn’t wear them to the gym, is all.  I have the bluetooth adapter for these, which makes them a lot easier to wear outside, but I still don’t really like wearing them at the gym, or running with these on.  For that I still prefer ear buds.

Audio Justice

One thing I’ve read about these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s is that they sound good on just about any device, and I’d say that’s pretty much true.  But that doesn’t mean that all devices will sound great, since certain devices just aren’t that great to begin with.  So, if you’re plugging these into a Macbook vs. an iPhone, you will get a different result from the same song.  Or a gaming PC, or what-have-you.  It depends on the sound quality of the device as well, ie. sound card.  So, if you’re running your headphones into an adapter, that runs into a pre-amp, that runs into an audio interface, being used on a computer you got out of a dumpster, keep that in mind and don’t necessarily judge the headphones if the audio you’re hearing isn’t up to snuff. 

The main thing about these headphones is that you’re getting the god’s honest truth about what you’re listening to regardless of the device you’re using or the platform.  Certain sound formats will be exposed for the bad audio they are, and certain recordings will show themselves to be inferior, if that’s how they are recorded.  This can be jarring to some folks who are used to hearing their recordings all artifically enhanced by speakers and headphones they’ve used before. 

Budget Vs Expensive Headphones

There is a raging debate about these headphones being sort of mid-range in terms of price, in that you can get cheaper headphones by the same brand like the M40x’s, which are the relatives of the M50x, of course.  You can also go into a higher price range if you are an audiophile with very specific requirements for listening.  That said, these are great because they offer you the comfort (extra padding for this model) as well as the audio clarity and honesty, but for a price that is not too high, if you’re basically investing in a pair of headphones that will last you a long time and excel at multiple applications. 

Bass

One big reason I wanted to try out these headphones is to see how hard it was to mix bass with them.  The problem with some headphones, not to mention monitors, is that bass is often over emphasized.  For instance, on my car stereo, bass is always given a “boost” just because they assume I want it boosted.  I have adjust the bass manually to get it in the right spot.  Same with a lot of headphones I’ve owned – they also give the bass a boost.  These Audio-Technica ATH-M50x’s are meant to give you the bass as it is – that is, completely accurate. 

Your average music listener probably isn’t going to be too finicky about the mix of the music they’re hearing, as most people I know just listen to MP3’s, meaning they don’t really care about sound quality all that much to begin with.  That said, that’s not actually true.  Just because you listen to MP3’s doesn’t mean you don’t want quality audio – it probably just means that you don’t know that MP3’s aren’t designed to be high quality, but that is a different discussion.  In any case, the base, as conveyed through these headphones, is very much in it’s own place in the mix, and doesn’t bleed into other frequency ranges.  This makes bass, in particular, very easy to mix with these headphones.  Dig it!

Binaural Beats

As I mentioned earlier, one application that these headphones are great for is listening to binaural beats.  If you’ve never heard of this, we have a great article on this website here you can read about this:

http://youtubemusicsucks.com/brainwave-entrainment-binaural-beats-and-affecting-the-mind-through-music/

Anyway, these ATH-M50’s are actually great for this.  If you want to enhance your meditation practice, or get some serious studying done while listening to the right “waves”, I highly recommend these particular headphones for doing so.

Sound Isolation

athm50x folding headphones

This is a big thing with these headphones, as the advertising emphasizes that these are excellent headphones for sound isolation, owing it to the circumaural design contours.  This is very important for audio mixing, but also for studying, and especially meditating.  Basically what this means is, you can be in a loud environment, and the audio coming through your headphones is all that you can hear.  I agree that these headphones are excellent for this, as I’ve been in loud environments and I can still get things done while wearing these.  It’s actually amazing what sound does NOT get in while you’re wearing these headphones, as people have basically tried to talk to me while I’m wearing them and I can’t hear them at all (thank god). 

On the flip side, people also can’t hear what I’m listening to unless I crank the volume up a bit.  So, if I listen to something with these headphones at a moderate volume, someone near me can’t tell what I’m listening to or really how loud it is.  This is also handy, if you are at a library or in an environment where they want you to be quiet.  The sound will leak out eventually, but not unless you turn it up quite a bit – about 50% or more on various devices I’ve tried.

Conclusion

Yes, these Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are all they’re cracked up to be, and more.  For me, they’re great for mixing or doing whatever else that might involve listening, such as meditation.  Sure, I could go for something more pricy that has a few more features, but I think when you include the bluetooth adaptor into this whole package, there’s very little you can’t do with these headphones.  It’s also nice that they offer different colours, and the removable cord is a nice touch as well. I think you’ll love ’em!

KEF LS50 Wireless Pro Audio Speakers Review – An Audiophile’s Dream!

Today I’ll be reviewing the KEF LS50 wireless speakers, which are high end pro audio speakers that are best appreciated by audiophiles such as myself. 

Hence, I’ve been saving up for these speakers for months and they finally shipped last week. So, I’m excited to talk about them, as you can imagine. 

These speakers are by no means cheap – I bought mine for around $3000.  But when you know what these speakers do, you’ll understand why someone would spend that kind of money on some audio speakers. 

Here is what they look like, if you’ve never seen a pair.

KEF LS50 wireless pro speakers review

Mini KEF Comparison with Dynaudio and KRK

First let me say that I’m used to high quality audio.  It’s gotten to the point where if I hear lower grade audio, I run for the hills.  Which means I basically can’t go anywhere, as most audio and specifically the devices that play audio are build for non-audiophiles. 

The speakers I was using before I got my new KEFs, and which I still have, are high end Dynaudio studio monitors with an extrenal dac.  To your average music buff, these would be quite enough.  But not for me! 

Before the Dynaudios, I had some sweet KRK speakers, that had great sound, but I sold them in an effort to upgrade, which is when I got my Dynaudio speakers by a stroke of luck when a friend of mine sold them to me for a song. 

Now, with my KEFs, I feel like I’ve levelled up once again.

Why Did I Buy These?

My reason for the upgrade from KRK to Dynaudio is that those KRK monitors I had just didn’t cut it audio-wise, especially compared to my Dynaudios, not to mention these KEF’s I have now.

To touch on Dynaudio briefly, if you’re not too familiar with the brand, yes, they do build high end speakers for audiophiles, but they also make studio monitors for regular folks who don’t want to spend a whole lot.

The studio monitors I had were nearfield, with a small sweetspot, and overall they were not as musical as Dynaudio audiophile speakers, but that’s when I started looking at the KEF LS50’s. 

Dynaudio built to lower price points, for non home environments, and that’s what I had.  They were good, but not great.  They weren’t quite audiophile grade enough to stave me off from wanting something with real hi resolution. 

What I mean by high resolution, is that they will decode and play hi rez digital files, and I can plug analog turntable direct into it. And when I say “audiophile”, its the whole signal path you are trying to protect, and because so much it is controlled at the speakers by one design team, is awesome for me. 

And we are only talking speakers and amps. What I have here with these 2 KEF LS50’s is an integrated system, designed for a full hi end sound reproduction. I was talking to a guy at a fine audio store in Ottawa, and he said that the whole staff was blown away.  If I was a record producer, I’d use these for sure.  Great sound. 

The speaker they have built this system into, is already considered on of the very best standmount speakers ever developed. It’s trickle down technology from that 299,000 speaker system.

KEF have been one of the biggest most legitimate high end speaker manufacturers since the sixties. I’ve had other models from them, and they sang beautifully.  

My Audio Space and Why It Is Perfect For KEF LS50’s

My main living room, being acoustically very good on its own, sounds really really great with the right speakers.  Why?  Basically geometry and materials, ie. thick carpeting, and the room has cubic dimensions.

Here’s sort of how dimensions work as it pertains to pro audio gear and how audio travels in the space.  Generally reflective square rooms are disasters. Sound will reflect and create standing waves, particularly in high frequencies.  Or cancel out. 

Basically depending on where you sit, and where your speakers are set up, you will get various degrees of too much these frequencies, and not enough of those…usually the ones you want because the reflections. 

Say a bass wave is 10 feet long, and you are in a 10 foot cube room. That frequency is going to double and cancel every time it reflects.  So both of the rooms I use to play audio are pretty great that way.

Also there’s and isleway, I have a virtual bass trap in my closet and crawlspace, and a port (if you think of a room like a speaker box) from on level to the other.  Basically they both sound great.

My house would make an awesome fine audio store location.  As such when people drop by to visit, they are quite literally amazed at the audio quality I get with my speakers. 

I’m talking about the Dynaudio’s I had before.  Wait until they hear the Kefs!  I have a lot of gatherings, and music is usually a big highlight of those gatherings, and so next time anyone is at my place, they’re in for a real treat audio wise.

Features of the KEF LS50’s

The KEF LS50’s are not just biamped studio nearfield monitors, but biamped coaxial reference grade audiophle speakers, with build in dacs, dsp and various preamp inputs. 

If you don’t know these terms, like dac, and dsp, a dac is a digital to analogue converter. Its the part of your average pre amp, that takes whats been digitized on your computer, and turns it back to analog.

These KEF speakers do just that, right at the amplification stage with no latency.

You can plug a turntable directly into them, but also stream via bluetooth from whatever tablet or phone is in the room with you (communal sound access, perfect for parties) plug a computer in via usb, inputs for line level..ie cd plare, or mixer I guess, but these are maybe a bit too audiiphile to take a chance on possible hot signals, etc. 

All the room mode dsp, and integration with subs, if I ever buy one, which I won’t because I dont listen to pipe organs or hip hop, is controlled by an android app, which doubles as remote control.  Pretty good, right?

Vinyl VS Digital – They Both Win!

Let’s say you’re like me and you love listening to vinyl.  What will make you a bigger fan of these LS50’s, I suspect, is hearing vinyl properly done. If the phono preamp stage of these speakers are at the same level they say the system performs at. We are talking amazing.

However, hi rez digital, can be just as good. What the mainstream echo of the industry insiders repeat, are opinions of non optimized vinyl vs non optimized digital.

Digital now has changed a lot since it was demonized in the late 80s and 90s by audiophiles. Now the software and hardware is so much better, it will out perform vinyl, if it’s not a good table, arm, cartridge, phono preamp combo.

So if I can just plug this in without a decent phono preamp and it sounds like I remember my old system I had in the early nineties i’ll be astonished. I’ll even buy the same turntable!

Music Therapy

I need audiophile grade gear to maximize therapeutic effect listening to music. Time coherency at low level details reconstructs recordings in much more natural ways. 

The trouble for me was, how can I ever afford the gear?  On the second hand market, which holds its value, it would still cost me a couple grand per component, at least 10 grand to get to this systems performance, and then not have the versatility this has. 

That said, these KEF LS50’s integrate everyone into the speaker, and so my music therapy sessions are going to be a lot more rewarding from now on.  (I’m both the therapist and the subject, so this was a prescription from me to me – I needed these LS50’s!)

Design Aesthetics

From a design point of view its almost flawless. They are using analog amps for high frequencies and digital for low, but its all tuned through dsp. 

Digital signal processing to fine tune crossovers, amps, room position, dimension, and subwoofer integration. The tweeter sits in the middle of the woofer, so the sound-staging integrates immediately, which means, the have a huge sweet spot for listening, and you don’t have to be on axis for balanced sound.

When set these up a foot from the wall, they intelligently adjust for neutral.  Quite impressive. I’ve mostly been reading about them up until recently on some of the audiophile sites, but if you even read the purchasers comments on that article, you see the continuity. 

All in all, I think I’ve made a very solid purchase here.

Feature Pick

Ls50 Wireless Powered Music System (Black, Pair)

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ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker Review

Today we review the ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker, which is everything you could possibly need in a speaker, more or less.

It’s got an FM radio, the ability to stream music from any device, a microphone input for karaoke, performances, speaking engagements, or backyard parties. It can be carried easily and be used as a powerbank for your devices, too.

There’s almost nothing this speaker can’t do.

Feature Pick

Ion Audio Road Warrior – 500-Watt Portable Bluetooth Stereo Speaker System With Twin Lighted Speakers, On-Board Fm Radio, Rechargeable Battery And Ac/Dc Power Inputs

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Features

  • USB powerbank
  • Microphone input
  • Transmits 100 feet
  • Portable
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 70 to 20000 Hz frequency response
  • Wired or wireless

ION Audio Company

The company has been around since 2002 providing electronics to customers. They strive to provide innovative, fun products to their customers.

After their first USB-conversion turntable, they realized they could take vinyl records to the next level. That’s the kind of electrifying products they like to give the world.

Since that time, they’ve taken conversion to the next level as well as providing products like the advanced speakers we’re reviewing here.

Portable and Wireless

You can use these stereo speakers absolutely anywhere. It has recessed handles, so it can be carted anywhere you need it. Along with being portable in terms of weight and bulkiness, it can work wirelessly, too.

It can plug into the wall or be used with the included battery. Some people use this in the trunk of their car and when it’s needed, they pull it from the trunk and port it around to their destination.

Uses and Specifications

The speaker can be used with your favorite device to project and stream music from your phone, tablet, or computer. It has a built-in FM radio, so you can listen to the show while sitting in the parking lot.

It’s great for use with other applications coming from your favorite podcasters, radio announcers, or music sites. The angle of the speaker is perfect for projecting the sound into the crowd, too.

Along with your favorite music and sounds from others, you can use this speaker to project your own music or voice. This is a perfect speaker for karoake and performances in public where you’re making your own music.

This is a great speaker for the stage you erect in your backyard to perform for all your friends. It’s a terrific speaker for parties since you only need the sound to reach within your own property. The 100 feet of range is perfect.

Output Power

These 10-inch lighted speakers have incredible bass. You’ll be able to bring this to any event and project loud, clear sound at the crowd.

It’s built with enough power at 500 watts to really transmit sound over 100 feet. The design elements of the speaker provide even more power and projection since it’s angled for that purpose.

ION includes the ability to plug this directly into your car’s 12 volt input jack. They also send the wiring you’ll need to marry this speaker to your car. If you don’t want to power using the car, or want to have mobility in your speaker system, use the ION Warrior’s battery.

Rechargeable Battery

When you’re ready to break out the speakers at your next event, you’ll want to ensure they’re fully charged.

At full capacity, they can last for hours. If you plan on having an all-night party with this speaker, it can be paired with another power source to extend the life and music of the party.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the battery actually last?
The manufacturer boasts a 12 hour battery time, but customers have said it’s between 4 and 6 hours. After that, it has to be plugged into a power source.

Is it water resistant?
This isn’t splash resistant, so it’s important that you’re careful at the beach or around the drink table at the party. Consider placement before setting up the speakers.

Can it be paired with an MP3 player?
Hook up the cable from the MP3 player to the speaker. It works great for streaming from many devices. It’s not limited to MP3 players.

What kind of microphone can I plug in for karaoke?
You can use any microphone that needs to be plugged into a speaker.

Conclusion

This ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Speaker is a great portable option for times when you want to carry an easy sound system with you.

It’s terrific for parties and places where you might not be able to easily find a PA system.

That could be the beach, the back of your truck, your backyard, or a meeting room without its own system.

Yamaha Club V Series S215V Dual 15″ Loudspeaker Review

Today I am going to review the Yamaha Club V Series S215 Dual 15″ Loudspeaker

At just over 100 lbs and with dimensions of 19.5 x 23.5 x 45.9 inches, the S215 is the kind of speaker you might typically see getting unloaded off of a truck by some sweating roadies when it’s time for a rock concert or giving your future brother-in-law a minor back injury as he tries to one-man (“don’t worry I got this bro.. AHHH! my back!) it onto the stage for your sister’s wedding. 

Feature Pick

Yamaha Club V Series S215V Dual 15″ Loudspeaker

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At just a glance, it’s a solid unit.  In fact, I have seen these speakers used at various musical events, from church events, to open mics, to rock concerts, to live DJ sets. 

These puppies get around, and understandably so.  The Yamaha Club series of loudspeakers are what most consider to be all purpose speakers, so you can use ’em for almost any type of event, and they excel at producing what I might call a “lively” sound. 

The ones I have are definitely not small. 

Here is an example of these particular loudspeakers in action.  The sound quality of this performance is bad, but you can get a sense of the size of event you might use these for.

Don’t you just wish you were there?  Anyway, I have been using my pair of S215V’s for a couple of years now as they sit in the music room at my high school, where I am the teacher. 

We use them mainly for, well, various types of playback during classroom exercises.  Quite often, I’m playing things for my students and I don’t know if they know this, because kids these days are so entitled, but they’re getting treated to some very good quality sound that they probably don’t deserve. 

I’ve been known to play them Bach on these babies, or sometimes on lunch break I throw on some Orbital and let that bass vibrate my chesticles. In the ’80’s, my teachers used to play things on a boombox and it sounded like crap.  Big step up here with these S215V’s. 

Occasionally we use these speakers for assemblies, and I usually have to lug them down to the gym on a dolly or with the help of a strong student.  Since I’m the music teacher, they expect me to be an audio engineer as well, which I’m not. 

That said, I’ve used them for a few concerts myself with my band.  In my classroom, this pair of speakers are currently hooked up to a Behringer Eurodesk SX3242FX Mixer, and coupled with a Yamaha MSR800W 15″ Powered Subwoofer. 

We do a lot of ensemble pieces, using a wide variety of instruments, and often more than one vocalist, so having all of this equipment at our fingertips is very useful! 

Even the shy kids can be boosted so you can hear what they’re actually doing.  Nowhere for the shy singers and guitar players to hide when I crank this baby up!

High Quality Sound From Yamaha

Loud or quiet, the sound quality from these units is overall great.  I’m sure there are people with better ears than me who work in the music industry, but my ears work ok, thank you very much! 

In the classroom environment that I use this speaker in, the S215V provides quality sound, and a real punch.  The classroom I work in is fairly large, and these speakers have no trouble filling the room whatsoever. 

At fair-sized venues, these speakers are really in their element.  In fact, I’d say these speakers are a bit big for my room, but hey, they were there when I got there. 

They tend to stay in one spot, too, because they’re not the lightest speakers to move.  They do have nice handles, but that’s more for when you have to carry them down the hall, not drag them a few inches here or there.  

In our class, it’s not hard to point them in one direction or another, as they are somewhat directional in nature, but moving them around the room is a bit of a task.

Aesthetically, what you get with these Yahama Club V Series S215 Dual 15″ Loudspeakers is a trapezoidal cabinet design, a black carpeted surface, and a real rugged, utilitarian look overall. 

Every once in a while, I remove the odd hair or two from the speakers, or I give it a good vacuum, because they do collect dust.  I want them to be presentable when I take them out, and they’re not hard to keep clean, honestly. 

These speakers are big, black, and they stand there like monoliths in my classroom.  They appear to be more normal-sized in the gym, or at an outdoor event.  People have asked me if they have any XLR jacks in the back.  Nope, just 1/4″ jacks.  Here’s what the back looks like.  Sorry it’s blurry.

There has been one or two times where I really crank them up, but there’s no way I could max them out at school.  Windows would break. 

Using my Behringer, I can easily keep things in check in terms of volume, and I can do some EQ’ing as well to make the sound better depending on what is playing through the speakers. 

The bass is very clean, I will say.  And it’s deep as well, even on it’s own.  As I said, we have the MSR800W’s as well, and their inclusion in the setup wasn’t my choice. 

The two were purchased together, and sometimes I don’t even use the subwoofers as the S215’s have a great subwoofer.  When it comes to the bass of the S215’s, the crispness of the low end comes in handy in certain venues which can get muddied up by an overly bassy sound. 

As far as longevity goes, I think these speakers were in my class for a year before I arrived.  I’m honestly not sure how long they’re supposed to last, but they seem fairly invincible to me. 

I’ve never noticed anything that makes them seem like they’re old except maybe some dust.  A quick vacuum and they look new again.  I feel like these speakers will most likely outlive me, but we’ll see.  Highly recommended!

PS: I also used these speakers to mix an album I produced recently.  The sound coming from the speakers is fairly honest, so it was useful to listen to tracks on these speakers both quiet and loud.

PPS, and here’s a video I found online that shows how they make these speakers.  I showed it to my class, and they thought it was pretty cool.  Check it out.

https://open.spotify.com/album/1ccn5njCoBKCnaiWJHcp7i