A couple of days ago, my friend Wanita asked me if I could help out a friend of hers, who’s interested in picking up DJing. He was wondering if he should bypass vinyl and go to CD, then to MP3. Although I hate to say it, with the advent of MP3 DJing, both vinyl and CD are going the way of the dinosaur. Don’t get me wrong; I love vinyl, but the trade-off between carrying a laptop to a gig today or three crates or records? In my book, the MacBook wins. Ask any touring DJ if he or she wants to get searched by security at the airport, then have their records lost, broken or stolen. In today’s touring DJ world, you bring a book of CD’s, your laptop and a portable hard drive, and you’re all set to rock it.
I remember when I was at a DJ Times Expo (I think it was ’96 or ’97) and someone was demonstrating one of the first MP3 DJ mixing hardware and software combination. My man had to roll in a cart with a computer tower, 15″ monitor and other gear. I thought, oh lord, this is never going to happen. What DJ in his right mind will roll in a kitchen cart to a gig? 9-years later, laptop computers are more powerful than ever and the processing speed, combined with mobile storage, is incredible.
If you want to see how incredible, check out this Rane demonstration video posted to YouTube of 2003 DMC Champion, DJ CXL on the turntables. He is using specially encoded records that come along with the software, which allow the DJ to use traditional turntables and needles to trigger playback of MP3’s on an accompanying laptop, virtually without any latency. What is “latency?” It is the time for instructions you have input into the computer as you slide (scratch) the record back and forth, to reach computer to manipulate the MP3 exactly the way you would if you were using a traditional vinyl record. The software was written to mimic exactly the sounds generated by scratching the same song as if you were using vinyl. Pretty amazing engineering, I’d say.
Serato Scratch Live is a program that is so well written, the latency is undetectable to the human ear. Whereas I doubted DJing with digital files way back then, I now see the power of moving right to MP3, and bypassing CD, for anyone who is interested in learning how to DJ.
I’ve heard, but I can’t confirm, that Stanton’s Final Scratch product, although similar, isn’t as good as Serato. I don’t want to start any rumors, but most of the DJs I’ve seen scratching with MP3 use Serato and swear by it.
I agree with audiophiles who claim that we have lost so much fidelity by adopting digital recording over the warmth of analogue vinyl. But in the club world, when your next record can make or break the dance floor, having a library of hundreds of tracks to program in the mix is invaluable. Add in software like Ableton Live 5, which allows you to add other elements to your set, and you’ll become a legend overnight.
So, check out the video. I would love to get some comments on what people think of the difference between Serato and Final Scratch.