Turntables No More

Serato Scratch LiveWhat is the future of the DJ turntable? Most of my colleagues and I use tools like Serato Scratch Live when we DJ, allowing us to bring huge libraries of music to the party without hauling heavy crates of vinyl.

We’re still using turntables ’cause they’re what we learned on, so we’re comfortable with them, but it seems to me that the mighty Technics 1200‘s champion days are numbered. The next generation of DJs will have grown up without turntables and won’t have any need for them. Especially now that there’s a whole new crop of tools poised to replace the visceral experience of using turntables (see below).

Last november we posted a poll asking our DJ readers which format they prefer to use. 80% said they now use digital tools. The remaining 20% use vinyl only. So far only 21% use digital exclusively but I imagine those numbers will continue to tip away from vinyl.

Pioneer CDJ 1000Now lets talk about the tools that will replace turntables. I’m already beginning to be booked at some gigs that only provide DJ CD players (CDJs). The Pioneer CDJ 1000 was the first digital tool that really gave traditional turntables a run for their money by providing a touch sensitive platter that DJs can use to control the data on the CDs in a tactile way.

More recently a whole crop of USB DJ controllers have been popping up — self contained units with a mixer and cuing features built in. The best of these also have jog wheels and sound cards built in.

PacemakerMeanwhile there are tiny contenders entering the game too. Yes, some people already “DJ” with iPods but I mean full blown micro DJ Systems like the Pacemaker. And now that Apple has opened up the iPhone to 3rd party software developers I’m sure there’ll soon be some touch-screen DJ apps for that unit coming down the line.

Speaking of touch screen DJ apps. Check out the Atigo TT by Scott Hobbs:

This thing looks really fun but there’s an argument to be made here about portability. If it’s the same size as a turntable why not bring the real thing?

Nothing’s perfect yet but sooner or later there will be an all-in-one DJ controller that’s got everything for a visceral DJing experience in a portable package. Perhaps the Numark NS7.

Numark NS7

Or maybe even better, or at least cheaper and smaller, the Vestax VCI-300

Vestax VCI-300

Both of these controllers are slated to come out this summer and both work with Serato software. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, give a listen to this 100% vinyl DJ mix by Wanklerotaryengine:

MP3 Download
Wanklerotaryengine; What is my Purpose? ->

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Tracklist

Wanklerotaryengine; What is my Purpose? Art

  1. DJ C – This is a Stage Show (Refix/Played@Silly Speed)
  2. Cardopusher – Fighters Unite
  3. Hey O Hansen – Fire
  4. DJ C – Come Back Version
  5. Krumble – Dread Bull Plastic
  6. Aaron Spectre & Prodigal Son – Say Yeh
  7. Ghislain Poirier feat Mr Lee G – Dem Nah Like Me (Remix)
  8. Aaron Spectre – Look Out Fi Liar
  9. Ghislain Poirier – Diasporia
  10. DJ C – Ransom Version
  11. Hey O Hansen – Babylon System
  12. Aceyalone feat Jah Orah – Jungle Muzik
  13. General Malice feat Sanchez – Kill Em All (Mashup Remix)
  14. Istari Lasterfahrer – Can’t Tek No More
  15. Krumble – Backward Country Boy Explosion
  16. Stivs – Dustbinmen
  17. Rotator – Untouchables
  18. Istari Lasterfahrer – Fuck with my Crew (Remix)

24 thoughts on “Turntables No More

  1. i switched to M-Audio”s Torq, simply because i thought you will get more bang for the buck. So one of the issue you have with all these proprietary tools is, that they dont allow you to run with any other soundcard, except of hey torq allows you to route through every soundcard, you only need the m-audio soundcard as a dongle to strat the program…. well nice try but serato does not supply core audio drivers for their precious sl-1…. major ripoff in my opinion to pay 800 bucks and you dont even get core audio driverrs…. at least it has asio drivers, but i run a mac…. well traktor did it better they have coreaudio and asio drivers, so evrybody is happy and can simply plugin the guys who played before traktor soundcard and go off with torq witout messing with the cables, but traktor found a even bettter solution, theyve created a cable called multicore cable. it routes through to the soundcard as well as straight from the turntable to the mixer. Please god, let these cables become the standard in every club around the world, it costs 30 US dollars and you need two of them. all the problem with rewiring to attach external soudncards, midicontrollers etc. will be history…. whos feeling me ????

  2. i’ve already seen an iphone app that let’s one control ableton remotely, so that’s promising.

    me? i’m still waiting to be able to juggle beats and loops in the form of holographic objects. can’t wait for that! even if it means i have to learn to juggle.

  3. I don’t dj myself but I can imagine there are great advantages on the logistics side of going digital…
    That being said I think there’s some pretty interesting developments going on in the music & distribution industry, where on the one hand you have a lot of dj’s going digital, but on the other hand there seems to be a vinyl revival going on, with even mainstream artists releasing on vinyl as well as cd and digital formats.
    I guess in an age when music doesn’t necessarily have a physical format anymore there’s an added value in cool artwork on the larger area of a sleeve and being able to actually SEE the music. Regardless, i’m just pleased that it looks like vinyl is here to stay, while cd is slowly dying.

  4. Dang, that Vestax VC1-300 looks like it might be that device we have been looking for, can’t wait to check it out! would be even cooler if it had an extra channel or two for mic/line inputs. The next thing down the road might be a built in hard-drive, sound card and small lcd screen so you could leave your laptop at home too (Like an MPC for mixing) Be sad to lose those wondeful techs but long live music and mixing!

  5. I loooove me some vinyl, but I have started using vinyl-controlled Serato to play digital-only releases. I have never actually used CDs before, but I’m interested in learning the CDJs for 2 reasons: 1. They are pretty robust to rough outdoor conditions that tend to piss off traditional turntable needles on a record (you ever have debris from a tree or spider web get under your needle while using Serato? bad news…). 2. Because I can always carry a few CDs around for those spontaneous DJ jams that happen when you least expect them and when you are not likely carrying vinyl or a laptop.

  6. I started using Torq a few months ago. Main reason was getting releases not available on vinyl. Ironically, when I started djing, I quickly switched from CDs to vinyl because most releases I wanted were not available digitally…

    Feeling the Wanklerotaryengine mix. Nice to hear someone djing breakcore that knows about contrast, up ands downs, valleys and peaks, sweet and sour… and I guess it’s clear now so stop.

  7. I think that digital interfaces need to come a long way before they are able to replace vinyl for me.

    The record-like touch/wheel/thingies are pretty good but something akin to the physical process of digging through a box of 45s or LPs is lacking. To illustrate the problem of “digging” through mp3s, consider this: I often find myself buying mp3s that I already own on accident! Maybe it’s just because I deal with a large volume of music or my brain is skewed but I think better digital interfaces for managing a huge collection of mp3s will soon emerge. OS X has made some strides with the jukebox view in iTunes/Finder but I don’t know if this has been incorporated into any DJ application yet. The jukebox interface still has drawbacks compared to having a well-organized bin of 45s in front of you (I use the 3 row Odyssey cases and keep my 45s organized in ways that work well for my brain).

  8. Kloseline,

    Multicore cables, Y-cables, or audio switches can all work to help with multi-technology set changes. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more DJ mixers with “phono thru” outputs so the turntables could stay plugged in while switching boxes. turntables with 2 sets of outputs would solve that problem too.

    The best solution I’ve seen is to chain boxes. For example, You can run the turntables in to a Serato box, then run the “thru” from that box into a Final Scratch box. Now you’ve got the precious phono signal running into both boxes and all you have to do is plug the “line” outs from each into channels on the mixer. You just need a mixer with 4 line inputs. It’s not perfect but it helps.

  9. Flack,

    The Numark NS7 has mic and aux inputs, in addition to high-torque 7-inch spinning platters, which I assume feel a lot like standard turntables.

    It looks like it’ll be a real nice solution except for the drawbacks — size and price.

    It’s true that unit doesn’t have a built in hard-drive or LCD screen, but I don’t mind bringing my laptop ’cause I want a large screen to work with anyway.

    There is the iDJ2 which lets you DJ using and iPod and/or an external USB hard-drive/flash-drive, and it has a built in monitor. I have a feeling the OS is not easy to use when DJing though, so I’ll stick with the laptop.

    I agree with DJ Bylamplight about the search interface. There was something about flipping through vinyl for “the one with the blue cover.” Serato will show you a small image of the “cover art” and allows you to color the virtual labels of specific tracks, but I do think Cover Flow-style searching would be helpful. In terms of organization though, it’s all about setting up playlists/crates that work for you.

  10. Tones,

    That smaller Vestax controller looks really nice but people like me who are used to playing with wheels will be sad that it doesn’t have them.

    I hadn’t seen the EKS OTUS before. That looks sweet, but without the mixer component built in it’s kind of like a traditional CDJ minus the CD part. I’m also curious about the jog wheel; weather it’s touch sensitive for vinyl simulation.

    Those two together might actually be pretty dope!

  11. i got serato about a year ago and (despite the 2-deck limitation) its been great — i still haul around vinyl of course. but im chiming in here b/c i will ALWAYS LOVE Technics (& a DJM-600 mixer) as my preferred interface for DJing music. its so immediate, tactile, etc etc.

    i know a whole batch of ‘next generation’ DJs who embrace serato only — new tech hybridized with ‘classic’ interface.

    in NYC, Serato has become a kind of Technics 1200s — club standard — you can expect certain venues to have it hardwired into their deck setup

    Serato is extending the life of the turntable; even as less vinyl get sold, folks will want to use 1200s as their main DJ interface for a long time to come.

    One other thing is that Technics are so great b/c of the quality of construction, and this in turn will help keep them spinning for awhile to come. Me, i bought mine 2ndhand from Bruno @ Biscuithead like 12 years ago… and they´ve never broken or given me any problems whatsoever.

  12. Agreed, rupture. 1200s are the power-horse. I had my set for 10 years before selling them to get Vestax PDX 2000s. I remember at the point when I switched, Ripley asking if I thought they’d hold up as well as 1200s. I didn’t know but I can tell you now that it’s 8 years later and they’re still going strong.

    I also remember when you did a set on my Vextax tables you didn’t like the feel, which is understandable ’cause it’s different than 12s, but man! once you get used to using the 100% pitch bending it’s hard to go back. It’s an obvious problem of standardization.

    Bottom line is that people need to use what’s comfortable. 12s and DJM600 mixers became club standards, and now Serato too. That’s my fave setup ’cause it’s what I’m used to.

    I agree that 12s will still be around in 10 years but I think the overall DJ gear landscape will look a lot different.

  13. Yeah I am feelin what rupture is saying and any DJ who is used to the feel of vinyl and techs will be very unsatisfied with some small dinky midi wheely device and it is such a great feeling showing up at a club that already has a built in serato/turntable set up. I also agree with DJ C that Scrolling through mp3s is annoying enough with a big screen and a little one would make file management unbearable. That said, if I am going to do a show that doesn’t have turntables at all it would be nice to have the option of bringing along a small lightweight (and cheap) device that I could just through in my backpack and bike to a gig with and still be able to do some mixing. Any DJ who has had to break down his or her home turntable set up and lug it across town for a small short unpaid event (no matter how cool) knows what I am talking about.

  14. very interesting discussion. i think the bottom of a possible solution rather lies within a new digital format for the music than in a new carrier-medium. serato, final scratch and other solutions adapted the motorics of the turntable and gave the dj the freedom to carry all his music on a small disk. It also added some more features like cueing, but you still have the same manipulation possibilities for the tracks you´re playing(bass, mids, highs, …)
    Just imagine having a simple filetype which offers access to every hi-quality audio of a composition.(bassline, clicks, acapella, noise, ect.)
    just a thought…

  15. This post is mainly ponders the future of tools for the physical manipulation of digital music files in whatever form, but you make a good point, clr/cdd, about the future of digital audio files themselves.

    Have you checked out Melodyne? It’s audio manipulation software that’s touching on the ability to break down recordings into their component parts and edit single notes within chords or harmonies individually.

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