Vinyl vs. Digital.|
This topic seems to come up frequently...
How good is digital deejaying vs. vinyl?
Since I have done both extensively, in various forms, and also know something about
production, mastering and sound engineering, here's my $0,02 on this topic:
What's cool about Vinyl
* you can juggle, scratch and nudge a vinyl, you can do old-school tricks
* real records with real labels that change with each song are nicer to look at
* the gesture of putting vinyls away is cooler than fumbling a mouse
* browsing through a physical choice of vinyls is surprisingly more practical than most deejay music database tools
* most vinyls have been elaborately mastered to provide a beautiful fat sound
* sometimes a deejay who had to learn how to beatmatch etc. delivers deeper quality than a laptop dj
* receiving a promo record from somebody isn't just an honour, it's useful
What sucks about Vinyl
* those pieces of plastic are damn heavy. if you only take as many records as the weight of some laptop equipment, they're gonna last for only an hour
* vinyls age with time, especially if you, like most deejays, don't treat them carefully (don't touch the grooves, don't stack records horizontally, always keep them upright to avoid dirt from getting pressed into the grooves - also, try to not put the full weight of the arm on them and learn what anti-skating is about. should i mention that cleaning cloths may be a good idea? naaah, nobody's into that)
* needles may be susceptible to bass feedback, vibration, physical shocks (aka drunk people) and improperly placed amplification. digital saves you from all of that blues
* you need to learn to deejay for real. by the time you are really good at beatmatching or at least placing songs one after the other elegantly, your musical creativity may have faded. in the years in between a lot of people had to patiently deal with your technical evolution, but they probably liked your musical creativity when you were fresh, enough to deal with the little glitches here and there
* sometimes, but only sometimes, a digital deejay or live act will have better sound than you do (even if everything is fine, technically)
* vinyls, turntables and needles are hell expensive
* if your records get stolen, you're fucked
What's cool about Digital
* there are amazing tricks you can do digitally, not just scratch and nudge
* if your taste in music is so fantastic, then you don't really need to know how to beatmatch records to run a party. sometimes a freshman dj is much more fun than someone who spent so much time learning the job
* if you don't know who you are playing for, you can bring your entire record collection with you
* you can go without a deejay mixer, although it will look less cool if you do. your soundcard may plug straight into the amplification and save the party promoter some money
* you can buy new music at a fragment of the vinyl price, thus stay fresher and buy more songs than other deejays
* you become eligible to web download promo materials and make full use of them. it's cheaper for labels that way
* you can use other music that you didn't buy
* if you ensure that your entire digital music collection is of at least high mp3 quality (CBR starting at 192 or VBR starting at 140 would be my recommendation) if not cd and better, properly mastered to an industry standard frequency spectrum and kept at a uniform sound level, you can blast the party at maximum loudness, likely to sound better than your vinyl friends.
What sucks about Digital
* a laptop is expensive, but maybe you need to have one anyway. still, a laptop gets worn out much faster when taken into a club frequently - so you are spending the money you used to give to vinyl artists for laptop and operating system
* having the light of a laptop in your face was cool in 2003. not anymore.
using cd players instead is cooler, but they are expensive. using special deejaying gadgets is cool, unless you still stare at the laptop most of the time. using control vinyls is cool, but you are still looking at the computer screen at times
* putting a huge pack of cds on the turntables is not cool, better have some vinyls rest there, even if you're not going to play them all night
* finding your way through huge music databases can make you crazy. you tend to throw everything you like into your deejay software, and then you get lost finding the really good tracks while under stress
* depending on the complexity of your set-up, soundcards and cabling may fail on you just as badly as turntable technology. somebody stumbling over the power cable may stop the party longer than when using vinyl
* if you like to use lo-fi mp3s, some (audiophile) people in your audience will suffer as your sound is likely to suck
* you will always run into tracks that have not been mastered. if you use unmastered or amateurishly mastered materials, you may find yourself having a different frequency spectrum and loudness from track to track, which you can't just fix by turning the gain and eq. in fact you will be too busy to also pay attention to that. even web downloads from professionals and online dj shops are no guarantee that you will receive properly mastered material (but things have gotten better since i wrote this, so it's more likely you get industry quality mastering when you buy a file nowadays). if you know how to remaster material before you insert it into your deejay software, you can deejay just about anything - but that's not as easy to do as putting a new vinyl in your record box. maybe you don't give a shit about all of this mastering blah blah and have a hell of a party anyway and that is totally fine by me, but you'll have to accept that your vinyl colleagues have better sound quality and impact than you
* with so many technological possibilities, you might just make a mess by overdoing things, or get so used to the computer doing work for you, that you don't notice when it goes wrong, like try to do the mix when the program thinks the beats are in sync while in reality they aren't. what you get is a crap mix
* if your laptop is full of downloaded mp3s and movies, you may get busted
* if your laptop gets stolen, you're fucked. especially if you didn't encrypt those movies you made with your girlfriend. if, instead, you only brought a back-up laptop or back-up copies of your music on cds, then you're comparatively well off. in theory you could even have full disk encryption technology in place, so when someone steals your hard disk it will be unreadable without the password.
There is no obvious choice here. Both approaches have their weaknesses.
One thing is for sure, if you can deliver fun and joy to your audience that
is much more important than any of the technical stuff. Anything goes in
Also, there is no general analog vs. digital rule here - you need much better
equipment than a club sound system to really hear the coldness of a cd versus the warmth of a record. If your record sounds warmer, your needle is dirty or your cd isn't produced at the same level of quality or your cd player sucks etc. Since turntables return a different frequency spectrum than digital outputs, even identically mastered music will not sound equivalent on the two mediums. Your subjective sensation is a lot likelier to be the source of your judgement than the actual sharpness of digital edges vs. the softness of analog currents. In theory it's there, but given our dj circumstances it's academic to worry about.
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