Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Many DJ's are "switching up" to computers as the new way to DJ. They provide near-instant access to large song lists and can be integrated to control video and DMX lighting.

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Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby LYoung116 » Mon Apr 24, 2006 4:36 pm

I am getting ready to go MP3. Not sure the best way to go about getting it started. Some people say 2 notebooks, some say a small chasis (shuttle type PC), someone else suggested a tray-like disc changer arrangement (sounds expensive). How any thousands of songs is too much? Can I realistically get a really good setup for $2,000? My "friends" try to make it sound as if I would freak out if I got a "blue screen" and say they don't think I can handle the technical part of it. I have a bit of technical know-how, but I don't work in IT. Your inputs would be welcomed. I am tired of sticking CDs! HELP :!:
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jwg » Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:22 pm

Hi Karen!

Welcome to the preparation stages to go digital. Speaking from experience, it is FAR from an overnight process. There are several steps you must make. I'll number them.

1) Decide whether you want to go laptop or rackmount. I have both. I know some people that are just laptop. The key here is plenty of ram and a fast processor. Some programs are more resource heavy vs. others. If you buy a laptop, decide whether it will go on the internet or not. If not, that's a good thing. You'll want just bare bones software. Windows and several key things that compliment it. Lot of people have gone with Dell laptops. Good price, but again, loaded with unneeded software.

2) Rip, Rip Rip. NOW is also the time to begin the tedious process of converting all your CD's to MP3s. A great way to do this is download the FREE Audiograbber program. Also, download the Lame MP3 encoder. The best ripping rate seems to be 192. I have several at 160 and that sounds fine too.

3) Get yourself an external hard drive. Nowadays, 200gb and larger hard drives are very affordable. On an internet accessible computer, start ripping your music through Audiograbber onto your external hard drive.
I, like many of my counterparts here, set up folders in Windows Explorer much like I have in my DJ program. My main groups are by decade or genre and then sub-groups within those main groups. Ballads, Dance, Rock, Pop etc. Depending on how much free time you have, the ripping process can take several months.

4) Download demo versions of various DJ software programs. This will allow you to get the feel of the programs and a basic idea of how to use them. Then, practice, practice practice. Software choices range from PCDJ, Virtual DJ, OTSDJ, Rane, DJ Power. BPM Studio no longer appears to be supported. In addition, there are forums for PCDJ, OTSDJ and Virtual DJ. Dr. Drax has a paid forum for DJ Power users.

It all seems overwhelming. But, with patience and time, you'll be up and running and be very happy once it all falls together. There's more work
leading up to the process, but immense freedom away from your booth once you are digital.
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Postby Dave Miller » Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:18 pm

LYoung116 wrote:Some people say 2 notebooks.[/quote}Not unless they mean having a spare / backup computer. IF they were thinking "Left and right", the same way we think of turntables or the two drives in a dual CD player, then they don't have a clue.

How any thousands of songs is too much?
My 160gig is about 60% full with my 12,000 songs. The important thing is not to have too many songs loose in any single folder. It's fine if you have all your songs in one folder, provided that folder is further broken down. But don't worry. Your CD ripper program will probably automatically create sub-folders for each CD you insert.

My "friends" try to make it sound as if I would freak out if I got a "blue screen"
Yeah. Probably any DJ that isn't prepared would. So be prepared.
In 12 months since I switched, it never happened. But I bring a CD wallet with 43 CD-Rs of my top songs. I always keep one CD loaded. Never used it yet....

and say they don't think I can handle the technical part of it. I have a bit of technical know-how, but I don't work in IT.
Nice friends.
It's not as complicated as they would have you think.
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Postby dokai » Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:40 pm

Copied here from the original thread...

LYoung116 wrote:I am getting ready to go MP3. Not sure the best way to go about getting it started. Some people say 2 notebooks, some say a small chasis (shuttle type PC), someone else suggested a tray-like disc changer arrangement (sounds expensive). How any thousands of songs is too much? Can I realistically get a really good setup for $2,000? My "friends" try to make it sound as if I would freak out if I got a "blue screen" and say they don't think I can handle the technical part of it. I have a bit of technical know-how, but I don't work in IT. Your inputs would be welcomed. I am tired of sticking CDs! HELP! :!:


I'll answer the easy question first: You can never have too many songs. It's not like your hard disk is going to get heavier as you add songs, right? I'd have a copy of every song ever recorded if it was up to me. The computer does all the searching, so why not?

The rest is going to take a lot more typing...

As to the what type of computer system you should go with, that depends on what attributes are important to you. Just like "What kind of car should I buy?", it all depends on your priorities and what you want to do. An Alienware laptop, for example, is going to cost a LOT more than $2000. However, you can buy a new Dell notebook for $399 after rebates (but I don't know if it has the specs to use as a DJ computer). Or you can buy a shuttle or desktop or tower system. There are pros and cons to all of them.

Laptops are typically more expensive and less expandable than other styles of computers of similar specs. However, they are also the most portable (size and weight) and have other attributes that make them a good choice for a DJ computer, IMHO. Can you design a desktop/shuttle into your rack so that it's integrated like a laptop could be? Sure, but then you're dedicating the computer to use only as your DJ computer, unless you're willing to (at least partially) disassemble your DJ system to use the computer portion of it somewhere else. You'd also have to use some fairly esoteric (and possibly expensive) components to mount your LCD monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc., into your system, which would negate some of the cost savings you'd see otherwise by sacrificing weight savings and buying a shuttle/desktop/tower. You don't HAVE to integrate your computer into your rack or case to use it with your DJ equipment, of course, but manually connecting everything for each performance, carrying everything seperately, etc., is going to severely increase your setup time and place a LOT of wear and tear on your computer very quickly. I'd strongly suggest integrating your computer into your rack or case to keep the abuse to a minimum. (Check out http://www.djrak.com for some great examples of integrated computer systems. Great stuff, highly recommended, but not cheap.)

I use a laptop because I don't want to dedicate the computer to use only with my DJ system. I keep a docking station mounted in my DJ rack and can integrate my laptop into my system in about 5 seconds just by snapping it into the docking station. Mounting it into the docking station automatically makes all the connections for power, external drives, external soundcard, etc. Just to keep things clean, after each performance I swap out the "DJ" hard drive and replace it with my "home" hard drive, keeping my "DJ" configuration safe from virus infestations, user-induced problems, and bloated applications that the DJ system doesn't need, but that my home life DOES (Microsoft Office, for example). Swapping the disk out only takes about fifteen seconds. My DJ hard disk only has the operating system (Windows 2000 Pro), the DJ software (PCDJ Red 5.2), and THAT'S ALL. (I keep my song files on the external hard disk, which is backed up to a second external hard disk.) My home hard disk also contains a copy of PCDJ Red 5.2, just in case my DJ disk fails.

Is my laptop state of the art? No, but it runs fast enough since I'm not running Windows XP and PCDJ FX. Running older versions of the OS and software means compromising on some of the new features, but none of the new features really seem like "gotta have it!" features to me. It also allows me to use a laptop that I purchased used for $400 four years ago. I think I got my money's worth. :D And I've never experienced a "blue screen of death" at a performance, so tell your friends to chill. :hahaha:

If you decide to buy a shuttle/desktop/tower computer, the good news is the cost of a 15" LCD monitor is now less than half of what it used to be, thereby reducing a big portion of the cost of a rack computer that would be nearly as portable as a laptop. However, you'd still have to come up with a small and lightweight uninterruptible power supply (aka UPS) to keep the rack computer running during a power failure. This is done automatically on a laptop by switching to battery power when needed. The additional cost of a UPS, assuming you can find one that's small and light enough, means you're still probably going to spend nearly as much on the rack computer as you would on the equivalent laptop.

So, you're not saving any money by avoiding laptops, and you're certainly carrying more weight and taking up more space. That leaves upgrade potential as the sole true advantage to using a shuttle/desktop/tower form-factor instead of a laptop, IMHO. There is one exception of which I'm aware: Alienware makes a laptop that uses desktop components, and can therefore be upgraded like a desktop, but it's hideously expensive. It is a sweet box, though, and worthy of much geek-envy. :wink: However, if you're not a techie planning on upgrading incrementally to continuously stay on the cutting edge, then the premium cost isn't worth it. Just buy a new box every few years instead, and enjoy a new warranty along with your increased performance.

So that's why -I- use a laptop (actually, a pair of laptops, since I also have a spare). Again, though, it all depends on what YOU decide is most important to YOU.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby TheBartman47 » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:00 pm

jwg wrote:... If you buy a laptop, decide whether it will go on the internet or not. If not, that's a good thing. You'll want just bare bones software. Windows and several key things that compliment it. Lot of people have gone with Dell laptops. Good price, but again, loaded with unneeded software.


I use a Dell laptop myself, but if I had to do it all over, I would rather get some other brand. The Dell laptop IS LOADED with tons of unnecessary software. I'm half way tempted to wipe the hard drive and start over, but I would hate having to restore all the drivers and other such things. On occasion, sometimes video playback is a little jittery, and if I type too fast on song searches while it's playing, it will lock up. Actually, the song will keep playing, but the program quits responding, so at least I have time to load a CD and get it queued up when the song currently playing get's to the end. Then while the CD is playing, I usually only have to restart the program and not completely re-boot the computer.

Anyway, a friend of mine has an HP laptop, and I've never seen any of the problems on his that I have on mine.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jwg » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:12 pm

I personally have an HP zv5120us. I reformat it once a year just to keep it fresh and running well. Very easy to put XP in, then a separate drivers disc for sound and video drivers. I also use it for my DJ business here in the home office so it requires internet access. AVG Free for anti-virus, Zone Alarm Pro for firewall. Usually run Ad Aware once a day to clean out any spyware.

It came with 2 256mb sticks of ram. I replaced the easiest accessible ram with a 1 gig stick. Now, I have 1.12 gigs of ram.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jwg » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:14 pm

Oh, and as Teddy Bear said...nice friends!

Prove them wrong! Once you get up and running with a complete digital system you'll be able to prove them wrong!
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jbrown157 » Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:08 pm

It was about this time last year that I was thinking about making the switch. I got some good advise from my buddies who have posted above and here I am... a year later--- a digital DJ! I love it. It's a long process and some adjustments will have to be made as to how you go about programming music... I still find myself wanting to browse the CD case... but each time I use the system, it gets easier. I wish I had done it a few years earlier. You won't regret making the change.
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No trees were harmed as a result of this post..
However, thousands of electrons were horribly inconvenienced.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby DJ Scott » Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:54 am

I've been digital for over 6 years when Prof. Jam brought his own spacejam system on the first DJ cruise. I picked it up in 5 minutes and that was all it took.
As soon as we got back home, we bought a notebook and started ripping.
I still have that same notebook and use it from time to time.
We now have 4 notebooks all of various makes and models from a 500AMD to 2.4Gig powerhouses. From Windows ME to XP-Pro.
In all those years and computers....we have never had the "blue screen of death"
I do have an MP-3 Dual disc player in my rig with a small folder of MP-3 backup disc's....but to date....have never needed it.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby Dave Miller » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:36 am

jbrown157 wrote:I still find myself wanting to browse the CD case...
I was the same way. In fact, I *WAS* browsing thru the CD case.

For the first few months, I brought all my CDs with me. I hadn't burned my 42 CD emergency wallet yet, so the primary 'excuse' was for backup emergencies. But I found myself flipping thru the CD case, finding a song, then doing a search by title to play it from the computer.

It took a little time to get all my keywords and genres set up enough so I didn't need to flip thru the case. Now I don't bring it.

By the way, that 42 CD emergency wallet is audio CDs, not MP3 files. I.E. It's only about 700 songs. The same songs I list on my web site as my most popular songs.
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby Professor Jam » Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:30 pm

DJ Scott wrote:I've been digital for over 6 years when Prof. Jam brought his own spacejam system on the first DJ cruise. I picked it up in 5 minutes and that was all it took.


Wow! It was that long ago Scott.... My how time flys when you have fun...

Hi Karen! ,

First decide on the software package thet meets your mixing and/or performance requirments...

Also, look into attending the Computer DJ/VJ/KJ Summit and have your friends attend to see what Computeri DJing is all about.. http://www.computerdjsummit.com/2005_summit.htm
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby DJ Scott » Tue Apr 25, 2006 5:53 pm

Yep...it has been a while my friend.
When you going to come out and play in MY backyard? :)
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Postby LYoung116 » Tue Apr 25, 2006 8:21 pm

All of the responses have been wonderful, thank you so much! Btw, it's Laura, not Karen. I just shared some of your comments with one of my male DJ friends who just said " hmmm - sounds like someone i should trust.".
I'm just gonna ignore him and my other male DJ friend/competitor. Look out, I'm gonna really blow them away! I've already had people ask for me, and not the guy I was working with. They said they didn't want him, just me. He botched my wedding anyway! :hahaha:
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jwg » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:20 pm

Laura...my mistake. Looked quickly and thought the L was a K. Nonetheless, good luck with your transformation into a DIGITAL DJ!
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Postby LYoung116 » Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:01 pm

Thanks, JWG! I will probably get set up before June at the latest I hope.
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Postby LYoung116 » Sat May 06, 2006 8:25 am

This is what my DJ "friend" said today:
"What if your sound card locks up? I had it happen 3 times one night, and if u switch to spare what are u doing in the spare time for music? It takes abt 15 mins to get a computer up and running. "
Uh, that's what the spare CDs and notebook are for.... right?
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Postby Dave Miller » Sat May 06, 2006 9:01 am

I don't know why you 'friend' has such a sh¡tty computer that it's locking up like that. Or maybe your 'friend' is doing other things with the computer at the same time that causes it to lock up.

But regardless... You still bring your dual CD player and mixer, just in case someone hands you a CD. Bring a few CDs as well.

Before I stopped bringing my CD library, I created a set of 42 CD-Rs with my most requested / best stuff. In 12 months, I've never used any of them. But I still bring them....
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Postby TheBartman47 » Sun May 07, 2006 12:11 am

LYoung116 wrote:...It takes abt 15 mins to get a computer up and running....


15 MINUTES! :shock:

I can re-boot my laptop in nearly 15 SECONDS. (well, actual time is probably more like 25 seconds, but still, if a computer is so old and slow that it takes 15 minutes to get going, then that computer is NOT up to par for DJ use and it's time to go shopping for a replacement.)
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Postby dokai » Sun May 07, 2006 12:32 am

15 minutes to reboot a laptop? I've engineered unattended builds that BUILT a laptop from bare metal in that long!

I think you need to find someone that's actually experienced with using computers, instead of listening to THAT guy. *rolls eyes* Yeah, that's harsh, but seriously, he needs to get a clue!
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Re: Switching to MP3s, not CDs

Postby jwg » Sun May 07, 2006 12:59 am

To be truthful, it sound as though he's trying to discourage you. Ignore the man behind the curtain. Everyone at DJ Gold will get you up and running with the right advice in no time.
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