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Articles September - October 2023

Capturing The True Essence Of Sound New!

From Lewitt Audio's Pure Tube Microphone to Sennheiser's Profile USB Microphone, these studio microphones offer precise audio quality to the users and deliver crisp, clear sound. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Photo Feature: Studio Showcase New!

From A.R. Rahman's studio in Mumbai to composer Raag Sethi's first Dolby-compliant studio in Gujarat, PALM Expo Magazine's Studio Showcase features the latest studios in India. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Mastering The Art Of Sound With Donal Whelan New!

Whelan talks to the PALM Expo Magazine Team and discusses his foray into the world of mastering, his unique experience at the PALM Conference 2023, and more. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Nx Audio Celebrates Two Decades Of Pro Audio Journey New!

Nx Audio completes 20 years of delivering pro audio products for the Indian pro sound industry. Read about Nx Audio's journey over the last two decades. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Mumbai Studio Explores New Verticals With Genelec Monitors New!

The combination of Genelec Smart Active Monitors and digital audio interface delivered an ideal monitoring solution for BOING Recording Studios. read more

Articles September - October 2023

IRAA Awards 2023: Jury Reflections New!

Read about IRAA Jury's perspective on the bigger questions in the music industry - AI for music production, the status of mega consoles, & emerging trends in sound recording & mixing. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Gray Spark Audio Opens New Studio For Academy Students New!

PALM Expo Magazine Team talks to Ronak Runwal to explore how the newly-designed Studio D is poised to become a recording haven for the academy students. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Firdaus Studio: Building A Sonic Paradise For Recording Artists New!

The Firdaus Studio by A.R. Rahman stands as a beacon of innovation in the music production industry. PALM Expo Magazine explores the making of the musical maestro's magnus opus in the recording landscape. read more

Articles September - October 2023

Naveen Deshpande Elevates Stand-Up Comedy with Bespoke Lighting Designs New!

Naveen Deshpande, a renowned lighting designer, made heads turn through his recent collaboration with India's leading stand-up comedian, Zakir Khan, during the latter's international tour. read more

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The Indian History of Popular Media Players for DJing (Part Three)

In the 3rd & concluding part of our 3-part series, we try & understand the more recent developments in the technology & practical applications of media players around the world & how it trickled down to India. It has been a long ride & through the last 2 parts we have seen media formats & their players as counterparts go from analog to magnetic & finally digital. Talking about the term ‘digital’ in context to the theme of our story, so far we were dealing with the Compact Disc (CD) as a digital medium, which was very popular through the previous 2 parts. In this part, we shall see how mediums & formats truly take the amorphous & vivid digital form that we now associate with.

The Rise of Laptop DJing

The personal computer (PC) was - & always will be - the heart of all digital revolution. To think of it, digital music by now was downloaded on a computer, stored on a computer & ultimately computers were used to burn personalised CDs. In the grand scheme of things, it was only a matter of time that the PC would leave the homes of DJs (and share the stage along with them) to play & perform music with. Like anything else in technology, computers became faster, smaller & cheaper. There was a laptop out there for any specificational requirement or budget.

Soon you could see DJs turning up for gigs with a Macintosh or a Windows laptop of their choice at venues. More than it’s technological power & capabilities, the most important factor for this change was it’s memory. Just like how vinyl DJs got tired of lugging around ever-increasing record collections, after a few years in the CD realm the CD wallets of frequently working DJs became morbidly obese. By now some would be carrying 2 or 3 of these 300 CD collections which took a toll on the spines of many DJs. Having & playing with these same digital files on a laptop was more convenient for various reasons. Memory was getting bigger, cheaper & expandable while its physical footprint was getting inversely smaller. With a full-blown keyboard & screen on the laptop, it was very easy to search for a specific file (amongst thousands). All in all, it finally gave Indian superstar & mobile DJs the power of having their entire music collection on stage with them - totally at their disposal.

DVS (Digital Vinyl Systems)

The DVS (Digital Vinyl System) originated from an exciting time at the turn of the century. Vinyl emulation software on laptops were used to physically manipulate the playback of digital audio files on them - using special records imprinted with timecode tones, standard turntables & mixer consoles and an audio interface. This preserved the hands-on control and feel of DJing with vinyl but with the added advantage of using your laptop full of music at gigs.

Stanton’s Final Scratch was the first DVS software (which came with its own separate audio interface) to be sold publicly in 2001. Since its release back then, much similar software and hardware packages were developed and marketed - Traktor & Serato being some of the most popular ones. In its initial avatar, DVS took time to set up, had a lot of cables & connections to deal with, and presented an added component of a clunky audio interface to the DJ console. However, due to advancements in technology & the amazing foresight of various DJ hardware & software manufacturers, these systems have become smaller & convenient through the years. For those who didn’t use vinyl, the same results were achieved with timecoded CDs on existing CD players. With the advent of USB sticks (more on that later) you could perform with timecode files on them & in recent years, thanks to HID (Human Interface Device) protocol provisions in all current media players - the use of timecode has become completely obsolete. As far as the clunky audio interface box is concerned, it’s very common to find these interfaces integrated within mixers these days. Some hardware manufacturers have been integrating 2 of these interfaces within their flagship mixers so that it would be convenient for 2 DJs to play together or else to easily disconnect & transition from one DJ to the following one at a party - on their respective DVS.

Unlike many other older technologies, it’s fascinating to know that DVS still exists & is a prefered DJing system for many DJs in India & across the world. It was the first step & foundational groundwork of laptop DJing that we know & relate with today. What’s more important to notice would be that the competition between DJing brands shifted from the hardware territory to the software domain - out of which new contenders like Native Instruments’ Traktor & Serato were leading the pack with their groundbreaking developments.

Traktor & The MIDI Controller Revolution

Berlin-based music technology company Native Instruments had been developing & marketing their DJ software - Traktor - since the year 2000. In 2003, they partnered with Final Scratch as the software for their DVS known as Traktor Final Scratch. On its own, Traktor was forming into a powerful software through which you could harness the power of automatic tempo syncing, 4 deck mixing and a plethora of FX on your laptop. As a standalone software or as a DVS, the audio interface has always been an important component in laptop DJing. So with Traktor, many DJs soon started chucking out the players & timecode components from their setup - performing only with the laptop, audio interface & the mixer - shrinking the modern day DJ setup & console.

But performing on a complex software like Traktor with just a keyboard & mouse was not as tactile as DJs expected it to be. You could achieve it to a great extent by remembering keyboard shortcuts. However, this was not as intuitive as playing with a conventional DJ setup - where each button, knob & fader had it’s own fixed name & function. One interesting feature about Traktor was that its inner workings were an open system which could be customized to a great extent by its end user. Some DJs began to exploit this - along with it’s MIDI through USB protocol - by mapping MIDI keyboards & controllers to the specific controls & features on the software that they needed. This gave birth to the era of DJ controllers & Controllerism that you could associate with today.

For Native Instruments, it was fascinating to witness Traktor users exploit their software with generic MIDI controllers with true DIY spirit. The company made a brilliant move in 2006 by manufacturing their own range of hardware controllers (with high-quality buttons, knobs & faders), that came with a free copy of the Traktor software. Later they started integrating audio interfaces within these controllers (which further shrank DJ setups), making them all-in-one devices of great repute. With newer software feature developments (& now as hardware manufacturers) they had the advantage of launching these new & required hardware provisions in their next device release. Nowadays, their hardware line is broadly divided into modular controllers, mixers & all-in-one controllers. Out of their entire range of products, the Traktor Kontrol X1 modular controller & Audio 2 soundcard was the most popular combination of purchase in India. These two products gave the Indian laptop DJ a taste of this digital revolution on a budget. They are still widely sold & are a popular choice for many DJs across the nation. This same ‘hardware for software’ ethos was later followed by other popular DJ software developers - launching controller devices in the same vein as Native Instruments - by collaborating with other DJ hardware manufacturers.

The Rekordbox Ecosystem

Meanwhile, the product development heads at camp Pioneer were charting out their own course in digital DJing history. With the success of their CDJ1000 players & considering newer digital storage mediums/file formats around the corner, they launched their flagship CDJ2000 players - which was their first true multi-media player - accommodating music files on DVDs, SD cards & USB flash drives. By understanding the challenges of working with huge digital music libraries & the need for DJ playlist management on these new players, they developed their own music database software known as Rekordbox.

Rekordbox allowed DJs to prepare their music & playlists on a laptop before their performance. Once ready, they could then export data to a USB or SD device to access vast libraries of music files and perform live – without the need for a laptop. This was a game changer as you could now take advantage of vast digital music collections at your gig, without the need for any computer. Later Pioneer launched their Nexus range of products through which you could connect 4 players on an ethernet network & beat sync Rekordbox processed files on all of 4 of them. By developing a computer software for keeping the said computer out of DJ consoles - team Pioneer achieved a commendable feat. As Pioneer DJ consoles had become a global industry standard by now, the convenience of just turning up for a gig with just a flash drive & a pair of headphones has been matched by no other DJ technology brand.

On a side note, Pioneer was also aware of the developments in full-fledged DJ software like Traktor & Serato. Their hardware products supported this software by accommodating high-end audio interfaces in their mixers & HID/MIDI protocols in their players. With their pre-existing dominance in manufacturing hardware & newer developments in their Rekordbox software, Pioneer developed & launched their Rekordbox DJ line of controllers & all-in-one players.

Much like its predecessors like vinyl & cassettes, CDs are soon becoming completely obsolete. The omission of the CD slots in the new XDJ line of Pioneer players is an indication to that. Currently, their range of hardware - in conjunction with the Rekordbox ecosystem - provide a plethora of additional features like DVS, video mixing & DMX lighting controls.

Future Forecast

Through these 3 articles, I’ve made you aware of milestones & developments in DJ technology & it’s resulting popularity in the Indian market. In these terms, we are currently at par with any other country. However, any technological development by the behemoths of the industry would eventually impact the Indian markets too. So let’s gaze into the future & brace ourselves for change.

In our journey so far, we have seen certain pieces of equipment & various music mediums get obsolete. I strongly believe that the laptop would be next. Think about it, a DJ invests in an expensive laptop & does all sorts of work on it (email, social media, design, music production, Netflix etc.) and also lugs it around for the gig. Having one big computer, to do many of these trivial tasks is not the future that I foresee. Contrary to that point, having many smaller/cheaper computers dealing with specific tasks would make sense. 2007’s SCS.4DJ controller/player by Stanton was the first piece of equipment to float this idea, where they crammed in a Linux based mini computer (strictly for DJing purposes) within its controller - making the laptop obsolete. This same principle could be noticed in the recent Pioneer XDJ RX & RX2 all-in-one players. At the same time, there have been interesting open source software developments within the Raspberry Pi & Arduino domains - which could soon let you design players & code software of your own. Also, Android & iOS device software has been getting stronger & reliable by the day - providing controller & DVS support - which could be another alternative for carrying laptops.

Talking about mobile app developments, some of these DJ apps are already coming with online music streaming service integrations. This concept is already on the horizon, which will mark a day when DJs would completely stop purchasing & storing music - for now with a solid internet connection you would be able to search, stream, scratch & mix any song in the world at your gigs. Lossless compression formats for music are quite the norm these days, and multi-track formats for songs like Stems have been around for some years too.

And finally, as more & more DJs are deviating from their classic ‘mix-in-mix-out’ style & delving into adding live elements with outboard drum machines, synthesizers & FX processors, there has been a rise in brands making these modular machines or integrating them within their controllers.

So, that has been our journey so far. Hope you have gained some insight from this 3 part series. It’s really exciting to see how this niche sector of electronics has developed into a multi-million dollar industry in the past 3-4 decades. Remember that machines & technology will come & go, however, the role of a DJ is always gonna stay. So let the beat go on.


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