Best CPS platform: laptop, desktop/tower, rack or shuttle?

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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Postby Steve Fernino » Fri Dec 07, 2007 4:53 am

Another option to add for CPS (officially) is outboard Media controllers and combination Media Controller/Midi controllers.

I like the shuttle or as we call them "luggable" solution in the form of an imac. I also like rackmount setups & Digital Media Controllers. I am not a fan of laptops. I actually support a combination / hybrid of several methods.

We have been revamping our old main rig into a CPS. It is almost complete. I will post pictures soon... It fits us perfectly... Many, though will think it is overkill... My motto has always been overkill, is good!

I would rather be prepared for anything than to be caught by surprise... LOL

Here is are some pics from NYE last year, when we took the macs out for a trial run as an add on to one of our CD based rigs....

Yes that is a laptop!
It is a macbook Pro, which is a very highend audio/video laptop.
This was to be used as our active backup. We have since went with a different active backup solution. The macbook Pro is now my portable podcasting laptop.
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Postby dokai » Sun Dec 09, 2007 1:20 pm

That's quite the setup! And yeah, the word "overkill" does seem to apply at least a little. :hahaha: But hey, if you can't have fun while you work, then you need to find a new profession, right?

Two quick questions, Steve:

1. How long does setup / teardown take?
2. What type of UPS do you use?
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Postby Steve Fernino » Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:42 pm

dokai wrote:That's quite the setup! And yeah, the word "overkill" does seem to apply at least a little. :hahaha: But hey, if you can't have fun while you work, then you need to find a new profession, right?

Two quick questions, Steve:

1. How long does setup / teardown take?
2. What type of UPS do you use?


Well... that's not the overkill part yet...LOL

And Yes, I must have my toys!

Usually setup takes between 30-40 minutes depending on what we are setting up. Breakdown is about 15-20 minutes. If speed was an issue... I can be setup in 20 and broken down in 10.
All of my systems are designed for efficient setup and teardown (the setup with computers shown sets up and tears down fast... The computers were a trial run as we were deciding our direction before mounting them.)

I use a Tripp Lite Smart Pro rackmount UPS now in addition to 1 (or 2 depending on the rig) Furman Ar1215 Voltage Regulator(s) for the whole system.
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Postby CJ Greiner » Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:22 am

You mention that you switched computer systems... what direction did you choose, and why?

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Postby Steve Fernino » Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:31 am

CJ Greiner wrote:You mention that you switched computer systems... what direction did you choose, and why?

Thanks,

Didn't really switch computer systems... Switched our backup.
The reason mainly was new available choices not in the original plan. Choices that we had been hoping and waiting for for a long time.
Also, even though it is a MacBook Pro, I am not a big fan of laptops for DJ use (except DMX lighting.)

Originally the plan was to use the iMac as our transition computer to a custom rackmount Mac CPS in about 2-3 years. The MacBook Pro was to be our active backup and also serve as extra playback decks when needed. The iMac was going to be mounted to the case with a detachable vesa mount. The MacBook Pro was going to have a wing extension on the side of the case.

With the release of the HD2500 this became unnecessary. The 2500 was a better fit for us, being longtime hardcore Denon users. Initially we were going to control everything with the 2500... using the internal as our last ditch backup and 2 externals... 1 connected directly to the 2500 and one connected to the iMac, but using the Torq through time control CD code stored within the 2500. All this in addition to the BU4500 CD trays and a backup library of MP3 discs.

With the release of the HC4500 Midi controller, that allowed us more flexibility and individual control of 4 decks simultaneously from controllers (which was preferrable coming from the 9000.)

When I post the new pics, you will see that it is a very flexible system... lots of options. As a result, the iMac is no longer a transition computer, but an integral part of a new-style CPS rig that includes software, media players, media controllers, and more.


This all fell into place nicely. We had held off going computer until now for several personal factors:

1. I refuse to use Windows based software. I waited till mac software was more readily available. (Not going to debate this... My personal credo "I don't do windows anymore!")

2. I waited till the right program was available. While say Megaseg is a great program for most mac based DJs, it would be a huge downgrade in features for me and would effect the style of entertainment I provide. My software of choice allows me much of the flexibility (and some more in some cases) as my Denon 9000s that were the centerpieces of my sound systems.

3. I waited until Denon supported Computer Performance DJs. I told Silvio prior to the announcement of the 2500. I don't want to use anything else, but if Denon did not start going this route, I would have to find another option. Luckily for me, Denon was already secretly planning to go CPS.

4. I waited until I could get portable and reliable mirrored RAID storage solutions for a good price. I did not want to use Mp3 (except in a backup capacity.)

I am much happier with the new setup and options. I also feel comfortable dumping the master CD library at the office with my last 9000 with this setup. Whatever could go wrong. There is a workaround. Featurewise, everything that I would use in the 9000 on a daily basis is available to me between the Denon controllers and the Torq software. I also added some features that I always wanted but didn't know how to integrate them until now.

I hope that answers the question.
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Postby dokai » Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:39 am

Yeah, Win-doze annoys me too. If somebody would come out with something like the HD2500 that included a 14" full-color screen for around the $500 mark, I'd be interested in moving to a single function machine. Right now, though, I can have a dedicated laptop with the 14" screen for the cost of a second "DJ only" hard drive - just pull out my daily-driver disk that contains my browser, MS Office, etc., and put in my stripped down DJ only disk, and I'm out the door. Because it's a Thinkpad 600X, this can be accomplished in about 60 seconds on a slow day. And the "DJ Only" disk only cost me $60 because I didn't need much storage for a disk dedicated to DJ only use - just the OS and my DJ software and I have tons of room left. And since the DJ disk is rarely connected to the rest of the world, there's little chance of viruses, malware, etc., thereby negating a major advantage of the HD2500.

So you can see why it's difficult for me to justify the $899 cost of the HD2500 with the 3.8" monochrome display. My eyes are too old for a screen that small, and I don't hate Windows THAT much (yet). :D I do have to admit that the combination of the HD2500 and the HC4500 makes for a VERY nice setup. I can certainly see why long-time Denon users would like that system.

Steve Fernino wrote:... I am not a big fan of laptops for DJ use (except DMX lighting.)


Other than the dollar per horsepower issue discussed earlier in this thread, what about laptops don't you like? Also, you mentioned a low-cost RAID solution. What are you using for RAID?
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Postby Steve Fernino » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:09 pm

dokai wrote:
Steve Fernino wrote:... I am not a big fan of laptops for DJ use (except DMX lighting.)


Other than the dollar per horsepower issue discussed earlier in this thread, what about laptops don't you like?


Remember this is just my personal opinion:
1. Perception - A bad reputation for laptop DJs is prevalent in my area because there are so many low-end DJs using laptops now. Also 95% of computer DJs in this area that are screwing up things because of improper computer setup or usage or corrupt music files are using laptops. Many potential customers are gun-shy about hiring anyone using laptops, especially if that's all they use, because they have already seen some huge failures at events. (Some could also be attributed to not having a proper backup solution and plan period... but the perception is the laptop.)

2. Other than Mac Book Pros and PCs like the Live Book and Music XPC laptops, laptops were not designed for professional level audio/video usage. Now I agree that many are becoming better at it, but I am still not comfortable with them as the proper tool for the application personally.

3. Laptops heat up too much.

4. Laptops aren't as expandable/upgradable (an argument that in fairness could also be made in some part for the luggable iMac & mac minis.)

5. I know many laptop DJs using their laptops correctly, and still seems like they (in my experience with them) are still more prone to errors and failures than those I know using rackmount CPS solutions, digital media players, or luggable solutions.

6. Look at the screen size and brightness difference between the 2 computers pictured... And that is one of the bigger MacBook Pros. (I also have brightness cranked on the laptop and turned down on the imac.)

7. After working on the imac, I just can't work on the laptop, when it is just as portable and works just as well (if not better) within our rig design.

8. Computer DJ Summit - I am a big supporter and huge believer of the CPS summit & certification. Most of the instructors discourage laptop use for many technical reasons I cannot begin to list here.

9. It "seems" like "every" DJ is using laptops now. We always prefer to stand out from the pack by not doing "what everyone else does" and it has been successful for us throughout the years. Also, when we brought the iMac out for a few trial shows, the perception was amazing. People were really impressed (and didn't even mention the laptop sitting right next to it.) It truly made us more unique and raised our perceived value vs. "me too" laptop DJs they had seen, even if nothing (computer performance wise) had been noticably different.

dokai wrote:Also, you mentioned a low-cost RAID solution. What are you using for RAID?

Well, it isn't as low cost as say a regular hard drive, (but lower cost than putting together a RAID config by yourself with separate RAID cards, etc... and more convenient, too.)

I have an automatic mirrored backup on my iMac Music drive (and will be getting another for the 2500. - This in addition to the multiple levels of backup on the show and at the office already.)
I use a Western Digital My Book Pro Edition II.
It is 2 removable and user serviceable 1 TB hard drives in 1 housing.
It can be set as RAID 0 or RAID 1 - I am using mirrored RAID 1.
If one drive fails the other kicks in automatically. We also have a backup power supply in case that fails.
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Re: Best CPS platform: laptop, desktop/tower, rack or shuttl

Postby Steve Fernino » Wed Dec 26, 2007 8:54 pm

Here are pics of the new CPS rig, as promised...
These were taken in my laboratory...er I mean... equipment workshop. It will be on the road as soon as the rest of the database gets finished.
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Postby dokai » Thu Dec 27, 2007 12:43 pm

:drool: Wow, and I thought -I- was *ahem* enthusiastic.

Yeah, I can see where the "overkill" you mentioned earlier REALLY starts to apply here. I'm sure there are support groups for people like you, Steve. :hahaha:

I'd love to see this rig up close and personal. Any chance you can bring it to the next OSDJA meeting? You know, the one you're going to FINALLY drop in on? Kidding aside, the next meeting is 01/08/2008, and you're still invited to attend. Let me know if you need directions, etc. And no, you don't HAVE to bring the new rig with you. :D

Phil
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Postby Steve Fernino » Fri Dec 28, 2007 3:22 am

dokai wrote::drool: Wow, and I thought -I- was *ahem* enthusiastic.

Yeah, I can see where the "overkill" you mentioned earlier REALLY starts to apply here. I'm sure there are support groups for people like you, Steve. :hahaha:

I'd love to see this rig up close and personal. Any chance you can bring it to the next OSDJA meeting? You know, the one you're going to FINALLY drop in on? Kidding aside, the next meeting is 01/08/2008, and you're still invited to attend. Let me know if you need directions, etc. And no, you don't HAVE to bring the new rig with you. :D

Phil


LOL Phil...

Let me check my schedule. I am not sure if I can make it yet or not.
Are you back to monthly meetings? Either way, Please send me your meeting schedule. The plan was to definitely bring the rig to the next local ADJA New England Chapter Meeting in January.... with some bibs to keep the drool of my gear! LOL

I plan to talk one on one with people as to why I choose what I did and what every piece of gear does. Basically, there is no failure I can't recover from quickly with this rig. It also gives me all of the options I need and then some. I am personally not a 2 deck, cue and play DJ. I use a lot of the deeper features to my advantage.
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