eggssell got a reaction from Cupe in Huge (& FREE!) Novation Launchpad / Ableton Sample Pack List
opens thinking can get free novation launchapd
eggssell reacted to LabRat in Spitty's random finds
I find some cool stuff when I browse the InterTube so thought I should start sharing what I see with you guys. I'll keep adding to this every time I find a video that's worthwhile sharing. They're mainly production videos which is why I though it would be cool to have just 1 thread which showcases heaps of different stuff. I do find a fair bit so I could update this thread a number of times a day, or never at all - keep your eyeballs on this space
eggssell reacted to LabRat in How to get your name around - Need Feedback!
with social media being a big and easy source of promotion, i would suggest getting involved with that. it's a stats game today so any kind of traffic that drives you to your socials is gonna help. i don't play a big role with my socials but there's some people around here that could help with suggestions and ideas.
get out there and get involved in your scene. put money behind the bar, get to know people and even help promote the night by dragging your mates down. it's very much a "what are you going to do for me" situation. when i was running my night i was out to help people but you understand quite quickly why most promoters are the way they are, and it's because no one gives back to the night. it got to a point where i had people ask me to play for free but they didn't promote my night nor did some of them even rock up! (some had no idea what it was. they only contacted me because one of their mates told them too)...
stay humble, there's too many cock heads out there. show your support for your local scene and those guys will give back to you.
eggssell reacted to Mitch in How to get your name around - Need Feedback!
OK, so there are two things you're talking about here:
1) technical ability
2) getting exposure -> assuming this is so you can move toward getting gigs?
I had a quick flick through the mix.
Genre: Personally wouldn't exactly call it jacking house, there was a bit of variety, but most of the tunes are what I'd expect to hear at a commercial / electro house night. Nothing wrong with that if that's what you're into.. But if you're trying to get gigs and telling promoters you're playing jacking house, I don't really know anyone booking 'jacking house' DJs around Melbourne at the moment, let alone for opening sets.
Mixing: OK in the sense that beatmatching and phrasing was on most of it. Levels were a bit up and down - the mixes sounded a lot like the incoming track just had the drums slammed over the live track, which makes the kicks sound wrong. EQ is your friend here - you don't want the low end of both tracks up if they both have heavy kicks going, you get volume peaks/drops and it makes it sound really noticeable that you're mixing a track in. Also try work on some different transition styles than straight intro/outro mixing with the same EQ movements each time.
Flow: Half hr is pretty short.. But think about if you were in a club, you want to build up to a peak, drop back off a bit to give the dancers a rest, build up again, and the night goes around like this. Then depending on what time the place shuts, fades off a bit toward the end of the night generally. Listen to some DJ sets and pay particular attention to the order they play their tracks.
Exposure: The hardest one. You can circulate via socials to friends and you may get a few plays, but the fact is not many people will listen. Unless they're a DJ, they probably don't listen to that style of music day in, day out. As labrat said - if you want exposure in terms of gigs, you need to be out meeting people all the time, frequenting the venues you wish to play at. It all comes down to $ at the end of the day, so they're going to book people they like / will bring them $ in / they're so good that they create the exact vibe the venue is going for.
Also, it's hard to get the first few gigs at venues. Just remember, no matter how good you are mixing in your bedroom, it doesn't transfer into club experience. Using equipment in the loud, dark room, people hanging off you, having to read the crowd, conform to the promoter's vision/music policies, probably had a few drinks before hand, etc... you will probably muck something up. So they will put you at the quietest time of the night; at least to start with. Find the venues you want to play at (generally a venue where you already know someone involved somehow), turn up early and learn what music they play. Focus on becoming good at that genre, and work from there. But at the same time, you want to sound unique (without trying to contradict myself). No venue plays hits all night.
P.S. Melbourne is saturated with DJs, and a lot of them are pretty good, at least in my circles. So to become 'known' for being a good DJ around here takes a lot of time and practice. I've been chipping away for years down here.
eggssell got a reaction from Bogartz in Vestal qfo
only wazza from the main cats will (may) have one but prob not looking to offload.
anyway hopefully someone will land here thru the magic of google.
in the meantime lets marvel at 5 yr old ryusei absolutely smash it on the qfo. the dance move at the end still gets me everytime
eggssell reacted to Rusty1 in Tips for first house party gig and reading a crowd
The party was last night and it went ok. I found chewing gum helped with the nerves and a couple of drinks before hand.
I thought I could have done better but everyone else though I was so good and really enjoyed it. It was hard to get people dancing but I found that playing tunes that girls love got it going and I didn't really notice how many people I had actually got on the dance floor until I looked at the photos.
One problem I had was people messing with the mixer and my laptop. Luckily people didn't know how mixers worked and they touched the wrong jog wheel aha.
I started playing at like 8:30 and I was playing by myself until like 12 and then my other DJ friend hopped on with more tunes and we did a mad B2B for like another 3 hours aha.
Thanks for all the help as well guys it really helped me and I really appreciate it.
eggssell reacted to LabRat in Tips for first house party gig and reading a crowd
I think you're overthinking it too much. We've all been in this situation so I won't take it away from you but a lot of that is out of your control.
Firstly, don't do the maths of how many songs per hour you'll play because it never works out that way. Like we said earlier just keep collecting tunes. You may never play any of it but one day you'll need one of them.
You obviously don't wanna play all your bangers straight away so you can do what Andy suggested and throw on a chill mix for an hour or just play chilled stuff. You need to build up to it. Use the time only as a reference. Don't switch styles completely because you assume by 9pm it's time to go harder. Keep the time in mind and look at everyone around you. Experiment with a few different tunes to test the vibe and go from there. Some nights I was playing bangers by 10 and other nights I couldn't get people going until midnight. Different crowds will react differently so that's something you need to see at the time.
You'll know if you play a song no one likes because they'll let you know. Usually, everyone will stop dancing and stare at you. It's really awkward but that's usually the indicator. Don't feel disheartened by that because it happens to all of us. Like I said, different crowds react differently. Don't just cut that track into a new one. Try mix it out so it doesn't come across like you've made a mistake, because you definitely haven't. It just looks better when you mix the tunes and you look like you're in control of your crowd.
I guess to summerise, don't freak out and don't overthink it. What you portray in you head usually never happens and you freak out for nothing lol I don't know what you could do to calm down but I use to chew gum.
eggssell reacted to andyman in Tips for first house party gig and reading a crowd
Have a couple of podcasts or something to chuck on early in the night whilst you wait for a few people to get there.
personally I'd mix quick(ish) because 18 year olds have the attention span of a goldfish at times.
be prepared to play some super shit music, because that's what the people want.
eggssell reacted to Mitch in Tips for first house party gig and reading a crowd
For an 18th I guess you'll likely want to have a variety of popular. The majority of people will just want songs they know + songs they grew up to + anything recent. Aria charts, some stuff from JJJ, etc.
Reading the crowd is something that can be explained as a concept, but you'll only learn it from experience. The second part to this is having the right catalogue of music and organisation to cater, once you know what's working/what isn't.
You'll make mistakes - we've all made heaps. What I can say is nobody will notice except for you, so just move on as if it's all going to plan and it will be fine. Confidence is key
eggssell reacted to LabRat in Playing before headliner
I would say hit up the mainstream stuff first because as a warm up DJ you need to build the crowd. Maybe start with some deep house and move into some mainstream stuff then start playing some bass house to build the crowd for the headliner. Just be cautious not to "out-do" him. Some guys get a bit funny like that so keep it simple, play some cheesier tunes (even cheesy top 40 bass house remixes) to get the crowd in the mood and you've don't your job right.
how long are you playing for?
eggssell reacted to Mitch in Playing before headliner
If you're on right before the headline act, think of your set as wanting to end around the same level as the style of tunes they play. Then play tunes that create a nice build from who's playing before you, up to their set. You want to get the crowd up and about on their feet, without outdoing the main DJ for the night.
eggssell got a reaction from Cupe in Beginner turntable question
i have st-150s for about 7 years and yeh still going strong with original stylus
so yeah stantons go well
for sampling its probably more important how you sampling (what are you using) versus the turnie you using. unless you ripping whole tracks. then i guess you'd want one that has much less wow and flutter (though it gives it that turntable feel)
eggssell reacted to Mitch in Resources for learning to mix OS funk vinyl
Depending on what funk you're playing, it can be a weird. Also tempo changes in the tracks can make it more difficult.
If you want to count the BPM of your tracks you can get this app https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/bpm/id296956954?mt=8
Find a few records you have that are similar tempo, or even the same tempo would be perfect for beginning to learn. Something with a consistent kick makes it easier to get the technique down pat in the early phases.
This youtube playlist is full of beginner DJ tutorials, scroll down to the bottom (hit load more) to find some of the older ones which are based on vinyl.
Also just to touch on what oxy said: -2 on the pitch fader isn't equal to 2 BPM, it's -2%. If the track's original tempo was exactly 100 BPM this would be correct, but if a track was originally playing at (exactly) 80 BPM, moving the pitch fader -2% would make it 78.4 BPM. If a track was originally at 130BPM, -2% would make it 127.4 BPM... Also one of the joys of vinyl is you need to be aware of the fact you may get small fluctuations in pitch depending on how good your decks are etc.
eggssell reacted to LabRat in Resources for learning to mix OS funk vinyl
I would assume funk would be similar to mixing dubstep, dnb or breaks... Maybe more so hip hop. If this is so, the snare is what you'll be beat matching to as the kicks are not consistent like house style music.
As far as timing in concerned, I would assume that there would be a 4 or 8 bar intro so mixing in and out would be quite quick. This comes with practice and knowledge of your tunes
eggssell reacted to OxyKon in Resources for learning to mix OS funk vinyl
I'll do you one better, get yourself a beat counter, you can find them in the app stores on your smart phones, then start listening your vinyl and tap to the beat. I started mixing using vinyl like the dinosaurs did back in the day, what i had to do was borrow a beat counter off of a friend and i then started to do this to all of my vinyl at the time. On each track, i'd just write a number next to it (get little stickers from officeworks if you're worried about ruining the wax), that number was the BPM and allowed me to know how far off it was from the other track. Then it's just a matter of playing with you tempo controls until you can match the beats.
Say your 1st track is counting at 122bpm, and track 2 is counting at 124bpm. You need to decrease the speed of track 2 by 2bpm (-2 on tempo) and then when you release the track it might need just a little bit of nudging here or there to match it perfectly.
It'll take some time to get used to but this is how i taught myself, if it worked for me who is now mixing Drum & Bass at like 175bpm, then i'm sure it'll help you out.
i did however find this video on YouTube that should give you a better visual:
eggssell reacted to Mitch in Improve timing when mixing in/out
A simple technique you can learn is to "swap" the bass EQ. So the transition would be summarised as follows:
-Track A is playing
-Bring in track B with bass EQ cut
-When you've got the faders right up on both tracks, cut the bass EQ of track A at the same time you bring in the bass EQ of track B
-Fade out track A
The key point to all of this is timing... Knowing when to hit play on the incoming track, when to bring the volume up, when to swap the EQ, and when to fade the old track out. Most of this timing comes down to knowing about phrasing. Here is a decent video I just found in about the concept:
Just a note on that video - long term you don't want to rely on the visual cues in Traktor as you may want to move onto CDJs / vinyl down the track which may not have as much detailed info, or Traktor may get it wrong. Use it as a learning tool if you wish, but rely on your ears
eggssell got a reaction from AlphaFive in Serato v Traktor
no debate at all really, more depends on what you want to do and which can do it for you
i bought traktor scratch pro becuase it was cheaper at the time, and i have used serato a ton of times.
for what i do, load track, load next track, repeat.
both work perfectly fine.
back in the day there were arguements for traktor if you wanted to loop, effects, cues and other stuff.
but pretty sure serato also does the same. i know wrxfiends serato had hot cues going.
and the fallacy about serato is better for vinyl, from a user perspective is also a load of bs. ive onky ever used both with vinyl, and from a user standpoint is exactly the same.
load track to deck. pick up needle put on record.
setup wise i cant comment as ive never setup serato.
eggssell reacted to conCuss in Thinking of Turntablism? Beginner Questions v1
So I thought I would try and give something back to the community, as for helping me get into Turntablism.
Firstly, I have loved hip hop all of my life, and have been thinking about getting turntables for years and years, until I recently saw DJ Premier at the Metro in Sydney this year (one of the best nights of my life).
This made me pull the trigger and look into getting a pair of decks and a mixer.
Now as A beginner myself, please feel free to correct my advice.
Q. First things First, Pre-Owned or New?
Before you go and blow 1K + on a hobby you might just give up after a month or two , I would highly recommend buying pre owned, if you decide to move on from the hobby , you can resell / not have such a burning hole in your pocket
Q. What should I look for in a pair of decks ??
there are two types of decks, direct drive and belt driven
Direct Drive is the way to go, as scratching / djing places a lot of stress on the turntable itself causing a belt drive too pop off or break
many dj's go for straight arm tonearms, as they are designed to skip less when scratching, however this can increase record wear
Q. So iv found a pair of high torque, direct drive decks , what next? The Mixer..
The mixer can be said to be one of the most important tools in a Turntabalist setup.
So Can I just choose any mixer?
You can just choose any mixer, give it a go and find the limitation of the mixer but for scratching its recommend to look for these certain things..
Curve Adjustment -
Make things easier for yourself, look for a mixer which you can adjust to have sharp crossfader curve adjustment, making it easier to scratch and cut sounds. This will explain what crossfader curve adjustment is..
2 or 3, it doesn't matter as you are starting out
Fader quality ,
you can find high quality faders at http://www.innofader.com/whichinno.php , recommend for scratching, but start out with the factory fader.
DVS or Non DVS,
some mixers include a DVS interface (DVS will be explained later) that means you are able to connect your mixer to your computer with a USB cable without any extra hardware, i would recommend non DVS at this stage, and upgrade later or buy the extra piece of hardware that is required for a Non DVS Mixer
Q. So once I get my turntables can I hook them straight up to my computer?
This was the first thing I thought I could do when looking into turntables. In short if you have a Non DVS mixer and two turntables No you cannot you will require a DVS.
Q. Whats DVS?
A DVS Is a Digital Vinyl System , which allows you to use a control vinyl ( given from the software you are using Traktor / Serato) load a song onto it from the computer , and manipulate it as if it was an actual vinyl.
I recommend starting without a DVS, if your looking to get into scratching, pick up some battle records (explained later) lay down the fundamentals and practice before investing into A DVS, which can be seen here.
Q. So now I have a turntable / pair of turntables and a Mixer now what?
1. GET HOLD OF SOME SCRATCHING NEEDLES , The Shure M44-7 can be seen as an industry standard - HOW TO SET IT UP AND MORE ABOUT IT FOUND HERE
2. GET some decent slipmats, you want the vinyl to easily slip as you pull it back and forwards to manipulate it , I am currently using a pair of Butter Rugs which I love, but are pretty overpriced in my mind, there is a trick were you can used the vinyl sleeve as a slipmat
3. GET battle/scratch records , a battle record , is a record filled with samples, drum loops and sound effects for you to learn how to scratch, so this to me is mandatory. Look into picking up 2 Battle records , one for beats and the other for samples.
Some recommendations are Super Seal Breaks, Toasted Marshmellow breaks. Both which can be found here , but I recommend highly looking around at your local Vinyl store, to find them cheaper , I picked both of mine up for $35 each from the record store, sydney
Q. Who is here to teach me?
the Internet is now your best friend..
I started learning through Angelo's youtube channel I recommend this highly to learn the basics of scratching , he will teach you the basics and more and the best part it is free.
once you think you want to invest more into scratching / turntablism, I recommend checking out Studio Scratches this will give you in depth tutorials
I have been using studio scratches recently and found it great as she uses well known samples and gives you the instrumentals to scratch over
OTHER SCRATCH SCHOOLS CAN BE FOUND http://djtechtools.com/2012/02/13/online-dj-scratch-schools-comparison/
My setup and its Costs..
So I decided to go the pre owned way towards turntablism, so far so good , I am loving my gear.
I highly recommend checking Ebay and Gumtree, constantly , contact the sellers , ask about the gear, ask for more picks.
A Quick Overview
-2X Stanton STR 8 - 60's Direct Drive - $200 - Good condition - Ebay (came with a pioneer mixer, that I wouldn't use for scratching)
-1X Numark M4 Mixer - $100 - Brand new Used once- I got this off gumtree. It was great as the guy had it as a backup mixer and never used it, it sells for $180
-1X Shure M44-7 Cartridge - $100 - Brand New- got this from Store DJ ( Check your local vinyl store to see if they got any) - I recommend buying these new
-2X Battle Records - $70 - Brand New - got this from a vinyl store - I recommend getting one with lots of samples and another that has a lot of beats to scratch over!
-1X Pair of Butterugs - $55- Brand new
All together $525... can be seen here
Few final things
its a beautiful art form, keep it alive and immerse yourself in it. Stay inspired, watch the best scratches out there , one of my favs DJ Babu Practice Practice Practice , I cant stress it enough.. at first Using the crossfader and spinning the record felt so awkward it was not funny, but now its natural even when I thought it was impossible Make it your own, come up with your own patterns Extend the limits.. If you are looking for any more help on which gear you should get check out Studio Scratches Guide to gear, its pretty indepth..
Anyway I hopefully this can be useful to anybody looking to get into scratching and turntablism,
Shout out to all the community for helping me get into this art form.
eggssell reacted to russell in Surviving the Loudness Wars: Ambivalent on Mastering
Having previously delivered one of our favourite My Studio features, Kevin McHugh (aka Ambivalent and LA-4A) returns to discuss the process of mastering a record. From the most fundamental questions of what mastering really involves, all the way through to the specific techniques used on his most recent release, it’s a revealing insight into a fascinatingly nuanced subject.
“Gather round the campfire, kids. I’m going to tell you how we survived the Loudness Wars.”
I’ve rehearsed the story in my mind, but I don’t have kids and my nephews just roll their eyes and walk away when I try to lecture them about dynamic range and harmonic distortion. But I think about it a lot: how music is being heard differently, how that pushes artists, labels and mastering engineers to adapt, and what it means for quality and value in music.
I have two record labels, Delft and Valence. Both of them release on vinyl and digitally as well. The mechanics and hurdles of financing and distributing these two paths will be another long, scary campfire story, but I figured I’d share some of the things I do in the technical process before it’s released. Attack have allowed me to discuss some of the things I do with the crew at Manmade Mastering to get an optimal balance of ‘loud’ and ‘good’ for my labels.
First, let’s start with a few things as background. Shortcuts are everywhere: magic underwear to help you lose weight, new apps on your phone to help you get pregnant via the Cloud… If a shortcut is something you feel you need, go for it. Just remember that snake oil was once a real thing that was sold – just because it’s for sale doesn’t mean it’s good, or even real. There are shortcuts, and there are ‘long cuts’, too. I can spend €400 on imported gold Corinthian-leather-lined audio cables, but it’s not likely to sound €400 better. And what comes out of my synth is still only as good as my ideas.
What I’ll describe here is certainly not a shortcut. One could argue that there are long cuts included here, and I’ll agree that the deluxe package I’ll describe is not a necessity. But I also feel strongly that shortcuts are a crime against music. Letting an algorithm alter your music is dangerous and self-defeating. Whatever you use to make it, music is made with human ears, to be enjoyed by other human ears, and sharing music with the public is about offering what you feel is the best you can give, not what’s “good enough”.
Skip over this if you’re familiar already, but I think it helps to outline some of the basics before going deeper. The mastering process has a lot of different kinks and quirks, but the constants are normally a first stage of EQ, then some form of compression including a finalising process of hard limiting or maximisation. Once tracks are mastered, those files destined for a vinyl pressing plant are prepared for cutting to a lacquer disc, from which the metal plating is made to stamp the black gold.
If it were as easy as slapping an EQ and a limiter on a piece of music, we would not need mastering engineers, but mastering is both a science and an art, equally important as mixing, and equally powerful with a skilled professional. I’ve learned a lot about mastering in the 10 years I’ve been making records, and I absolutely don’t believe I am as good as the people I pay to optimise and master my tracks. I also know how to cook, but I would never dream of selling that to the public.
RME interfaces, Crane Song HEDD, Manley Backbone, Prism Sound MEA-2
When I’ve got a release that’s ready to go to mastering, I prepare digital files for the engineers. I prefer to use 24-bit, 44.1 kHz files, as there is significantly more headroom available in 24-bit than 16-bit, and as you’ll see here, headroom is the main play in the loudness game: use it up too early and you’ll lose the game before you hit the field. With that in mind, I do not use any compression on the master bus of my mixdown. This is important, because a compressed file can not be processed any further. When there is zero headroom to use, you have eliminated all your options, and the mastering engineer can not help you. Short answer: send 24-bit, uncompressed files, peaking somewhere between -6 and -3 dB.
I prefer to mix my music via an analogue mixing unit, because the additional gain-staging, as well as the extra per-channel headroom, is an advantage. It’s not necessary, but I find it gives me a few extra bits of fuel to hand the mastering engineers.
Gyraf Audio Gyratec XIV and Gyratec X, Pendulum Audio PL-2
We’re going to turn now to the expert here: Tim Xavier of Manmade Mastering. He mastered the very first records I ever made, and nearly every one since when I’ve had a choice (listen to his tracks – he’s also a great techno producer). Tim has a phenomenal mastering studio in Berlin with his partner Mike, and they have a fleet of gorgeous analogue EQs, compressors as well as high-end A/D-D/A converters and their record lathe.
Tim takes my 24-bit premaster with plenty of headroom, and sends it through the converters to an analogue EQ, cleaning out any resonance, imbalances, or frequencies outside the spectrum which can translate onto vinyl. Sounds above 20 kHz or below 25 Hz will not function on a turntable, and could damage the cutting needle on the lathe. Tim and his partner Mike have mastered thousands of tracks, so their ears are extremely well tuned to hear the small differences in frequency balance to make sure a track has enough in one band, not too much in another, and the relationship of all the frequencies together.
From the EQ, the analogue signal is sent to a compressor, softening peaks and gradually raising the overall signal while adding the ‘glue’ that drives so many people to seek analogue compressors.
Finally it will go into the last piece of hardware, the limiter, where the overall gain is brought to its limit (more on that later). Without giving away Tim’s secrets, I’ll say that the stages between EQ, compression and limiting are where mastering engineers can add their own unique gear choices, techniques and adjustments to the signal. Depending on the job, some may add a bit of saturation, distortion, stereo widening or other processing to accentuate or reduce certain aspects of the mix.
When the signal chain gets to the limiter, we’re facing the major challenge in today’s listening environment: the loudness war. This has a unique set of circumstances in electronic music, particularly dance music. Because my labels are mostly aimed at DJs who will play the records and files in clubs, they are subject to the pressure to be as loud as all the other tracks in a DJ’s set. Drums and stripped-down club music can often handle a bit more compression, as they already tend to have a high dynamic range (the difference between the the loudest and quietest moments in a recording). However, they are also the most vulnerable to being completely destroyed by an indelicate approach to limiting. Nothing is less exciting or danceable than a beat that’s been crushed to the point of a flat-lined airhorn. This is particularly bad in dance music where a listener might hear hours upon hours of music this way. We’re going to talk about this more in the later sections with regard to vinyl and digital approaches, and the chasm that’s opening up there.
So the final result of the typical mastering session should be a clean, crisp, balanced track with nicely honed stereo imaging, a bit more loudness and some dynamic punch left in the spaces between sounds.
Every engineer will handle these aspects differently, but only experienced engineers are able to deliver a product that is neither overcooked nor undercooked. Every engineer will also have a threshold to which they will push the dynamic range of a track. Many years ago, some engineers were daring to push their tracks to -13 dB RMS of headroom, in order to get a loud, impressive sound. Now, it is entirely common to find mastered files for sale on digital sites with a staggeringly small -6 dB RMS of headroom. To many seasoned producers and engineers, this is profoundly saddening. Imagine if the standard ceiling level in available houses was shrunk to be just above your head. The result is uncomfortable and worse, it pushes more people to do the same in order to compete. As a matter of record, I have to say my label actively resists the pressure for louder files, and Manmade has always done respectful and good work, shooting for an average of -10 to -9 dB RMS headroom.
Vinyl mastering requires a slightly different approach to the final step in the mastering chain. Because it’s a physical medium, vinyl has limitations as to how loud it can be. Analogue media has, by necessity, more dynamic range and headroom than digital media, so when preparing the mastered file for cutting to a lacquer, it will have more depth in a number of areas. The finalised file is sent back out through the D/A converter, and into the signal path for the cutting head. This needle etches the signal into a microscopic pattern on the lacquer at an extremely precise speed, depth and width determined by the mastering engineer. The lacquer is then sent to the pressing plant to be plated with metal, which will then be converted to a positive to be stamped into vinyl.
But there’s another option at this stage of the process, and this is something that we’ve started to do for some of the releases on my labels. To my knowledge, this process is only done at Manmade Mastering, and not available anywhere else.
Tim Xavier setting up the lathe
Before I go further, I want to say that this process is what I identified earlier as a “long cut”. It is an extra stage meant to achieve a small jump in certain qualities. This is the opposite of a shortcut; it is sacrificing efficiency in favour of quality. If you want to sacrifice quality for efficiency, then enjoy Burger King. I would not advocate, however, that everyone spend €90 on an artisanal cheeseburger for every meal. There’s an ideal middle path that I’ve outlined above, and now I’m going to detail the deluxe package.
The same cutting lathe that etches a lacquer disc for vinyl manufacturing will also etch what’s known as a dubplate. Most people who are familiar with DJ culture have heard of a dubplate, even if they do not know what it is. They are increasingly rare in the era of digital DJing, where a mastered file can be played in a club immediately following a mastering session, but as recently as 13 or 14 years ago this was still rare, as digital DJ technology had yet to crest into its current ubiquity. Until then, if a DJ wanted to play a track that was not manufactured on vinyl, he or she was only able to do so by creating a dubplate.
Dubplates are cut on the same lathe machine that cuts a lacquer, but are made of a slightly different material than the lacquer, and are therefore playable on a standard turntable. (Lacquers are extremely fragile and would be destroyed by a phono needle.) Dubplates are playable, though not as sturdy as manufactured vinyl record. All vinyl records will eventually degrade in sound quality after enough plays, but dubplates deteriorate even faster from needle friction and age quicker even just sitting on a shelf. They are also expensive. Dubplates are not cheap material, and the extra time and effort required for an engineer to cut them is prohibitively expensive.
What dubplates offer is an excellent window into the final sonic qualities of a piece of music transferred to vinyl. The subtle nuances of vinyl’s unique sound profile will come out through a dubplate, and this is why a lot of cutting and mastering engineers will use them to verify that a cutter head is transferring properly. To save money, engineers will normally cut just a short sample of a track to a dubplate, and verify from this. They will often cut many samples into the same plate, as it’s just a testing tool. This is where Tim comes in. He had the brilliant idea to cut a mastered track to dubplate, and then record that back to digital. As soon as he told me about the results, I was hooked. This is a holy grail for digital files: a mastered track with all the warmth and depth of a vinyl record, but available months before the laborious process of test-pressing and manufacturing.
What is the result? Why would it matter, and is it worth the effort, time and cost? I’ve got some examples below to illustrate the differences between each option, and you can decide if it matters. In these four clips you can hear the progress of how a track goes from mixed down premaster to mastered digital file, to dubplate recorded master.
The first clip is simply my recorded mixdown of ‘Triad’, normalised. This file would be delivered to the mastering engineer with more headroom, but that gain difference wouldn’t allow you to notice the other changes being made in the process.
The next example is the identical file with a -3 dB threshold set on a limiter. This is simply to keep the contest fair. A louder file will always seem ‘better’, and so to even the race, we’re just taking that advantage off the table. This clip will show you some of the flaws in the mix: a bit of mud in the low end, slightly dull on the top frequencies and a relatively narrow stereo field.
UNMASTERED, 3DB LIMITING APPLIED
The next step – the mastered digital file – is where we get to see the advantage of a good set of ears, and some high-end processing on a digital master. The low end has power and tightness, letting the 808 kick boom nicely. The Moog bass has a balance of roar and weight, but less mud. The transients still pop very nicely so that the kick and the snare hits don’t get lost in the compression. The high end has more sparkle and air, and there is a bit more smoothness in the stereo field.
Finally, this is the cherry on top: cutting the digital master to a dubplate and then processing it lightly to match current loudness standards gives us this result. Like I’ve said, this is not a necessary step; the digital master works perfectly on big sound systems, and translates nicely onto vinyl. The first thing you’ll notice with the dub plate version is how the low end bumps harder, and the stereo field fills out. There is more ‘cream’ in the mids, making it softer and pleasant; the transients feel dynamic and punchy but still natural and unforced. There is separation between the different elements of the mix, but still a cohesion and plenty of space. The stereo field wraps around more comfortably and adds a bit of dimension to parts of the first file that weren’t standing out properly. It is louder and somehow still dynamic.
I’ll cut right to it: the difference between the mastered digital file and the version recorded from a dubplate is a matter of nuance. It is not a night and day change in results. However, this is where a philosophical boundary shows up. Some musicians are constantly seeking every small advance possible in tone, warmth, depth and character in their sound. Others are satisfied with what’s easily available, and I can’t criticise that. But if you have experienced the rich differences between analogue processing and recording, you will know that it is the extra 10% improvement that hooks some people. It is the difference between fresh mozzarella on a handmade crust made by an old man with a stained shirt, and a delivery from Pizza Shack.
The differences between analogue signal and digital are often debated, and I’m not here to convince anyone of the superiority of one approach or another. The approach of seeking slight improvements is a choice, maybe even an indulgence. But what I can say is that every small advance of tone, nuance and quality adds to another. If one process adds a 2% incremental advance, and the next adds 5% more, and another adds 10%, the improvement is not just additive, it’s compounded. The nature of striving for better results is the heart of great creativity.
Cutting the dubplate (cutter head to the right) and recording (tonearm to the left)
Here’s how it’s done. A fresh dubplate is set on the lathe, maintaining the same exact settings as those used to cut the track onto the lacquer. When the lathe is started, and the plate is spinning at the proper speed, the cutter head (the needle which etches the frequencies into the material) is set down on to the dubplate and the mastered signal is sent from the D/A converter. As the cutter begins to etch into the dubplate, another phonographic needle is laid on the dubplate, several rotations behind the position of the cutter head. Varying anywhere from 3 to 6 rotations, the second phono needle is picking up the cut signal several seconds after it’s been etched by the cutter head. This signal is then sent back to the A/D converter and recorded into the mastering station’s computer. Remember that dubplates deteriorate from age and playing, so this needle is capturing the sound mere seconds after it’s etched into the plate. This process captures it in the freshest state possible.
Back to the results. What’s different? First, there is a noticeable widening of stereo imaging in the mid and high frequencies. That frequency range also becomes what I often describe as ‘creamy’ – a softening of harsh tones and a smoothing out of the sonic profile in the mid-to-upper sounds. The low end has a thicker punch and clarity; low sounds are pronounced and separate out against each other more. Transients are simultaneously denser, and less sharp. There is an openness to the sounds in a mix, after being glued together through the compressor; they stand just slightly more clearly against each other now.
There is one final key difference to address, and it leads us to the last step: dynamics. Because the signal to the cutter head is not as compressed as the digital master, there is more dynamic headroom, or less ‘loudness’. This is where the final advantage presents itself. Having attained all the sonic richness of the vinyl head, and the unblemished fresh cut of an otherwise unplayed vinyl groove, now we have a digital file with ample headroom.
FLoKaSon Pitch13 cutting lathe controller
If you’ve ever played digital files in the same DJ set as vinyl records, you’ve noticed that records need to be ‘pushed’ louder to maintain the same levels as the digital files. This is a result of the loudness war I mentioned earlier. Digital files allow for greater compression than a physical medium can handle, allowing mastering engineers to reduce dynamic range between the peaks and averages of a signal. The result is a higher average sound level (RMS) than is possible in vinyl. The unfortunate result is that very often a good DJ is forced to overdrive a vinyl channel to match perceived loudness of a CDJ or laptop, eventually clipping the turntable’s signal into the mixer, and distorting all the sonic richness of the record. This is tragic. Yes, in an ideal world, all of us should be reducing gain at the mixer in order to achieve balance. But unfortunately, in nightclubs, varying factors can often make the ideal choice impossible.
With the dubplate process I’ve described above, there is another option: increasing the loudness (RMS) of a file that’s been recorded with all the sonic richness of vinyl. By treating the dubplate recording with the same level of compression as the digital masters, the result becomes as rich as a vinyl record, giving a DJ the ability to match levels without compromising quality. I’m aware that digitally compressing a dynamic analogue source may seem silly to some, sacrilegious to others. Some DJs will only play on vinyl, and it’s an excellent strategy; the gain issues are solved by the consistency of the medium. But if you are willing to play a digital file with -6 dB RMS, you’ve already offset the balance, and somewhere along the way there will be a compromise.
Trying to have the best of analogue and digital is probably naive or at least wasteful. But it’s an indulgence to try to find the best possible result for the music I want to share with my audience. A lot of seemingly foolish things done in that pursuit have eventually proved worthy.
eggssell got a reaction from conCuss in BEGINNER TURNTABLE SETUP
def need a direct drive, you would totally rek belt drives
and as per scottie the cross fader is prob what you need to be mindful about.
another thing that is key is get a copy of super seal