Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

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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Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:22 pm

Hi All,
OK, I'm ready (finally) to take the leap. I'm sure I will be looking for a lot of advise. Please understand that this is new to me.
My first question is concerning the "hookup" of a laptop to a mixer. I assume I will use an output on the laptop (headphone jack?) to plug into my mixer then eq and mix with the mixer. What are you all doing?/Using to connect a laptop to your mixer? I would like to send a stereo signal to the mixer. I use a Denon mixer and Mackie powered speakers. So, I assume my laptop goes into a rca channel similiar to my cd players but how do I connect and still get stereo?
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Postby dokai » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:55 pm

Welcome to the computer age! You're going to love it!

The headphone output of a laptop doesn't provide very good sound quality, and only provide a single stereo output. If you want two stereo channels like you do from a dual CD player (L/R A and L/R B), then you're going to need a multichannal external soundcard. Soundcards for laptops come in either USB (like a Gigaport AG) or PCMCIA card (like an Echo Indigo DJ card). Once you have your external soundcard setup, you connect it to your mixer the same way you connected your dual CD player.

Using the above method allows you to play one stereo signal through your speakers while cueing your next source through your headphones, just like you're used to. Good luck!
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:15 pm

Thanks for the response, I've been doing research and have learned some more BUT could use some recommendations on a USB soundcard. Cost is an issue. Thanks
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:08 pm

I'm looking at the Numark DJ I/O USB Audio Interface, thoughts? I have been reading that using the laptop soundcard may be better but not sure how that is possible. The Numark product looks like exactly what I need and retails for $99
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Postby Dave Miller » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:12 pm

I base this on nothing but feelings.

If the laptop has separate jacks for audio out and headphones, THEN the sound MAY be better than a typical laptop that has just a headphone.

Additionally, such a laptop can be used without additional soundcards. Most (all?) DJ show software has built in mixing capabilities, so only one program audio channel is needed. You can then use the headphone jack for, duh, headphones.

If you still need to get a USB soundcard, I recommend the Griffin iMic which sells for around $30, and includes cables. It has one output and one input. If you got the bucks though, go for the GigaPort AG.
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Postby dokai » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:33 pm

Dave Miller wrote:If the laptop has separate jacks for audio out and headphones, THEN the sound MAY be better than a typical laptop that has just a headphone.


Wouldn't the headphone and audio out be slaved together? How would you get one song on one output and another song on the other so you can cue one while playing the other? Or am I missing something?

Additionally, such a laptop can be used without additional soundcards. Most (all?) DJ show software has built in mixing capabilities, so only one program audio channel is needed. You can then use the headphone jack for, duh, headphones.


You're still not getting two stereo outs, i.e., four separate channels. If you tell the software to run in mono, you can change the single stereo output to two mono signals, and then cue one while the other is playing. But those will be mono signals when they hit the speakers.

If you got the bucks though, go for the GigaPort AG.


The Gigaport AG is discontinued. You can still find them on eBay for around $100 or a little less.There's a new version, the Gigaport HD, that's going for around $150. I've heard very good things about it, but I haven't heard it myself yet.

FWIW, I don't like the sound of the Numark unit compared to the Gigaport AG.
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Postby Dave Miller » Tue Oct 27, 2009 10:33 pm

Slave audio? Hmmm.....

It would seem to me that if the manufacturer is going to the expense of putting in both an audio out as well as headphones, they'd make it so they could be separate channels.

It's been a long time since I've even owned a computer that had multiple audio channels built in. I'm relatively sure that computer DID have separate audio channels.
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Postby dokai » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:07 pm

Dave Miller wrote:It would seem to me that if the manufacturer is going to the expense of putting in both an audio out as well as headphones, they'd make it so they could be separate channels.

It's been a long time since I've even owned a computer that had multiple audio channels built in. I'm relatively sure that computer DID have separate audio channels.


My experience has been that on the rare occasion there are separate "audio out" and "headphone" jacks, they're both playing the same signal. The only difference is the headphone jack's volume is controlled by the volume control while the audio jack is a fixed level signal. Of course, I've not seen/used every laptop out there, so I could be wrong.
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Postby mickey j » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:27 pm

Hi,
Regardless of audio out options on a laptop, it seems to me an external card is the way to go. I've looked at several and still haven't decided. One thing I am now considering is the option of being able to JUST use a laptop and my powered Mackies, this would be after I get comfortable mixing with a software program. Thus, a sound card w/ a mic jack, headphone jack, two rca audio outs AND XLR outputs would be ideal to cover all situations. I have only seen one with XLR's. I realize I will now run into more $$$ but it may be worth it to have a "universal " option.
Again, ANY suggestions would be appreciated. Also, what are you using/doing as a digital DJ? A rundown of equitment (Laptop, mixer, soundcard, software, etc.) from several of you would help narrow my research.
Lastly, this site rocks! You are all very knowledgable and helpful. THANKS!
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:39 pm

Hi,
One more thing, have any of you heard of or tried Mixx? Its an open source mixing program, looks pretty good plus its free! I know of many open-sorce programs that work great (Word, Powerpoint, etc). I am going to download it and play around, just wondered if anyone has any experience with it.
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Postby mickey j » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:42 pm

Hi,
Also, to be clear, initially I would like to use my laptop basically as a music storage devise/ dual CD player and mix with my mixer which is why I need two audio out options. Again, once I get used to a software mixing program I may not need this option BUT having it would definately help should the software not be performing/crashes.
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:48 pm

Hi All,
OK, seems you all like gigaport , so far, well the same company makes this: esi u46 xl, which looks like it will do everything I need (I will need an xlr to 1/4" adaptor to plug Mackies into the unit). I do wonder if the sound output will be as good as I'm used to if I go directly to the Mackies from this unit and what a xlr to 1/4" adapter will do to the signal. Thoughts???
Retails for $180, which seems good for what you get and is in my price range. I was hoping to get something a little cheaper but this unit looks great, could even plug in a guitar.
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Postby dokai » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:57 pm

OK, here we go...

I've never used Mixx, but it sounds interesting.

Talk to the makers of the software you intend to use to make sure the soundcard you're considering is compatible.

Using an external mixer allows you to mix AND play at the same time. Otherwise you have to click on one button and then quickly click on another. Or use the keyboard shortcuts. For me, it's worth it to have an actual mixer, although it's nice to have a software mixer available as a backup.

For my main rig I use a supermicro rack-mount PC as my primary computer, running PCDJ, with a laptop as my backup. Those feed a Gigaport AG soundcard, which feeds my Rane MP2 mixer. The signal then goes to a Rane MLM-82a mixer (which provides multiple mic inputs and more stereo inputs) which feeds a dbx DriveRack PA. This DRPA sends the signals to two QSC PLX-3402 amplifiers, then out to my EV SX-300 mains and whatever subs I'm using.

Hope that helps!
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby jbrown157 » Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:12 pm

Hi Mickey and welcome to DJ Gold. I have used Gigaport AG soundcards for the past six years without any negative issues. I recently purchased a Gigaport HD and frankly, cannot tell any difference between it and the older model. I do not know what is different, but they work equally well.

My suggestion is to listen carefully to what Dokai tells you - he knows his stuff and will not steer yoiu wrong.

Once you go (PC) digital, you'll never go back! All the best.
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:21 pm

Hi All,
Thanks for the responses. I am currently looking at Laptops and know what I want, just waiting for a "deal". I also need to wait for Gigaport (ESI) to update their drivers for Windows 7, I contacted them and they are working on it. Thus the switch may take a couple months. Traktor is available with certain laptop configs, anyone use this. Still need to check out Mixx, I'll keep you updated. Also have to convert more music, about 75% there.
Any suggestions are welcome! Especially software and how you all organize your digital music files. I've used audiograbber to convert but am confused about the "checksum" part of the conversion and how I can use this to organize, etc. I sure hope I converted correctly to take advantage of this but have no idea.
Thanks again everyone.
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Re: Looking at going digital, need help/suggestions

Postby mickey j » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:09 pm

Hi All,
An Update, ESI (Gigaport) has released their Windows 7 drivers for many products, see their homepage. Also, been playing with Mixxx, like it very much, so far.
Mickey J

Here's the link for the product I am going with:
http://download.esi-audio.com/?w=esi&p=54&g=2&l=en
You can search for others from the same page
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