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Monday 23rd September 2013

The Changing Face of the DJ Booth

The Changing Face of the DJ Booth

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothOnce upon a time every DJ booth in every club from Lands End to John o' Groats and from the UK to the USA was virtually identical. With VERY few exceptions, peering into the booth you would find a pair of Technics turntables and a basic analogue mixer. DJs would turn up armed with big, bulky boxes of 12" records to play their set on this industry-standard setup. The early 1990's saw the advent of CD DJ’ing which gave DJs a lighter, more compact alternative to vinyl and slowly relegated the wheels-of-steel to the ‘bottom shelf’ where they stayed, gathering dust (in many cases to this day). In the last few years, the technological advancement of DJ equipment has been phenomenal. In this short article, Phil from getinthemix.com takes a trip down memory lane looking at how the contents of a typical DJ booth have changed so significantly from the good ol’ days of vinyl. 

The Changing Face of the DJ Booth

“I recall the first time I set foot in a nightclub at age 18 (honest) like it was yesterday (which, sadly, it wasn’t). It was the Hippodrome on Colchester High Street and I clearly remember walking down the stairs and instantly being struck by the lights and that ‘club’ atmosphere (which, retrospectively, simply consisted of the smell of smoke machine smoke, sticky beer-stained carpet and sweat). Bear in mind, of course, that this was more years ago now than I really wish to count and there was still a strong club scene outside of the major cities.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothThere is a reason for this nostalgia; this very evening in the Hippodrome in Colchester was the first time I saw a DJ play in a club and, more importantly (for this article at least), the first time I saw a DJ booth. I can picture it now, there were CDJ-1000 Mk1 CD decks (they must have been Mk1’s based on the year this occurred) and I can still vividly picture seeing the spinning LED display in the centre of the jog wheel. I must stop at this point and admit something, I am a geek, there really is no other way of putting it, the technical side of clubbing, the sound and lighting has always fascinated me even before I was old enough to go out.

Anyway, I (finally), come to my point. I remember the DJ flicking through wallets of CDs, cueing and scratching on the, seemingly, huge CDJ jog wheels, making dozens of tiny adjustments on the mixer (for probably no reason at all), and the fact that he was using 3 decks…wow! This guy was almost certainly just the resident DJ and clubbers who were ‘in the know’ probably wouldn’t have paid anything like the level of attention I did. But I loved the show the DJ put on and the gear he was using made it so much more exciting for me as it all seemed very ‘real’, I had CDs, I could see what the DJ was doing and thought “I’d like to do that”.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothBut the face of DJ’ing has changed, being able to simply mix two tracks together really doesn’t cut it anymore. DJs today are creating whole sets ‘on the fly’, using hoards of digital effects, loops, samples and multiple cue-points to make arrangements that would simply not have been possible ‘back in the day’. Gear has moved on too and I wonder what the 18 (ish) year-old me, who was amazed by those CDJ-1000s all those years ago, would make of a modern digital setup.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothSome of the biggest and most exciting products released so far in 2013 bear no resemblance to anything a DJ from the 90’s or early 2000’s would recognise. Many of the latest DJ tools have no faders, no jogwheels and bear no resemblance to the DJ equipment of old. Take the Novation Launchpad S, one of the biggest-selling and most innovative DJ products of 2013, a sort-of cross-between a square keyboard and a fruit machine and with more lights than Blackpool seafront.This innovative controller allows the modern DJ to take their performance to the next level with on-the-fly creativity which simply wouldn’t have been possible with the DJ gear of the 90’s.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothThose dusty turntables in the DJ booth have now been replaced by the CDJs that deposed them all those year ago and, they too, are looking old and dejected. The king of the booth now is the laptop with a digital controller. That, mystifying, glowing ring in the centre of the CDJ jog wheel has now been replaced by the distinctive glowing apple on the back of the DJs laptop. Likewise, flipping through CD wallets and loading/unloading discs has been replaced by, what many call, the “Serato Stare” while the DJ matches waveforms, scrolls through thousands of tracks, loads, cues and plays the next track all from a laptop screen.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothNow, it may sound like I’m mourning the loss of the humble CDJ but it is very exciting to see this exciting new breed of DJs using this new breed of technology to create DJ sets which would have been impossible 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. I love the fact that a DJ setup the size of the Pioneer DDJ-SX can have far greater functionality than a ‘traditional’ CDJ setup yet costs less than a single CDJ-1000 Mk3 and is far more compact. I love the fact that an entire music library can now live on a laptop the size of a small CD wallet and that whole new tracks can be composed LIVE with a load of illuminated buttons.

The Changing Face of the DJ BoothI think, for me, I would like to combine the best of both worlds and go for a Pioneer CDJ2000 Nexus package. Nexus allows simple, native control of DJ software but maintains the look, feel (and CD playing capability) of the fondly-remembered CDJ1000’s (including, I am delighted to say, the same spinning LED readout). Set this up with Serato on your Macbook and the new DDJ-SP1 controller and DJM900SRT mixer and the you have the power to do amazing things with music.”

Obviously this top-spec gear doesn’t come cheap but, if you are looking to go digital then don’t forget that we offer competitive, flexible DJ finance. If you would like any further advice or information on any of the products from a complete digital package to any of the lighting and accessories we offer then then please don’t hesitate to give our friendly sales team on 01206 845125.