Mixing with vinyl is the traditional way to DJ and the way that I learned! Mixing with vinyl records has some great benefits. Firstly, and I don’t care what anyone else says… nothing sounds as good as a vinyl record! Vinyl gives you a pure analogue sound as the audio is created as the needle moves with the grooves of the record. There is no digital sampling at all, so you get a lovely warm sound, especially on stomach-rumbling low-end bass parts! What’s more is that you occasionally get some lovely little pops and crackles as the needle runs over a speck of dust, or due to scratches that the record has picked up with age, which gives every record a unique and individual character! You can actually hear which records have been most loved and this is something that I love! Plus, not much beats bringing home a brand new batch of fresh plates (or receiving them through the post as is more common nowadays).
However, I know that vinyl won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact, I suspect most people that haven’t been brought up with a love for vinyl will feel that the cracks and pops are a reason not to opt for vinyl mixing in the first place and will instead prefer the digitally clean sound of CDs or audio files, which I can completely understand.
Another advantage of mixing with vinyls is that things are very simple! You get very few controls on the turntable itself (i.e. an on/off switch, a couple of speed buttons, a pitch fader and maybe a ‘reverse’ button if you have a fancy one), and if you want any effects you will just need to select a mixer that has some built in.
The only big decisions that you will need to make when purchasing a vinyl turntable is to decide which make and model you want and whether you want a belt drive or a direct drive turntable. My personal advice would be to always go for a direct drive turntable if you are mixing. Belt drive turntables are never as powerful, which means that they make it much harder to mix.
The whole point of mixing vinyl records is to use your ears to get separate records in time and this inevitably involves touching the records to speed them up or slow them down whilst you try to match their tempos. Belt drive decks use a rubber band (or belt) to spin the platter, which means that they aren’t exactly the most sturdy things in the world and so speeding them up and slowing them down can be a little erratic as the platters take a while to lock back to their original tempo. In contrast, a good quality direct drive turntable will make things a whole lot easier as they are a lot more powerful and will almost instantly lock a record back into the set tempo as soon as you take your hand off it. Technics used to rule the turntable world with their 1200/1210 series, but as demand for vinyl decks fell (due to the introduction of CDs and digital mixing), the company decided to discontinue them and so they are now only available as second hand units or at a ridiculous rip-off prices from some retailers that still have them in stock.
In fact, this point also leads me onto a disadvantage of mixing with vinyls… clubs have rapidly started to disown the equipment that once made their nights a success. In recent times I have unfortunately begun to notice that many clubs have started neglecting their vinyl turntables. On more than one occasion I have entered the DJ booth to find that the vinyl turntables are under the DJ desk, meaning that I have had to set them up myself! On one occasion I got to the club and found no record decks at all and was told by the promoter that he wasn’t expecting anyone to play vinyl anymore… and this wasn’t a little venue either… it was a large club with a famous name! They eventually managed to get some sorted from their stock room but I had to get the CD-mixing DJ before me to play on whilst I missed half an hour of my set. Shocking!
Vinyl decks are also not suitable for anyone who wants instant mixing results. Whilst other forms of mixing offer automatic synchronisation features, or visuals (such as waveform views and BPM readouts) to help you mix more accurately, vinyl turntables offer nothing of the sort. You have to use your ears and it will involve months of dedicated practice before you can confidently perform smooth transitions between two songs... in fact, for the first few weeks you should prepare yourself to get extremely frustrated as you clang your way through every mix!
However, the main thing that puts young DJs off mixing vinyl is the cost. Vinyl costs a lot! A standard 12” record will cost around £6 and each record usually only has one track on each side, which works out at a cost of around £3 per song. Factor into this that many people only buy a record because they like one of the songs and this means that you a practically forking out £6 for one song! Downloading single high-quality tracks is a whole lot cheaper than this… so you have to be really sure that this is definitely the way you want to go before you fork out for a pair of traditional turntables because you can be sure that you will be spending a good deal more on records in future!
However, if you are still convinced that you want to get some vinyl decks, my advice would be either to get a second hand pair of Technics decks, a pair of Vestax PDX decks or some Numark TT-series decks. All of these turntables are absolutely rock solid! We stock the Numark series, including the Numark TT500, which features selectable pitch ranges, 3 different speeds and a reverse button. There is also the TTX series that Numark do that feature ultra-powerful motors and a host of handy features! Give us a call on 01202 597180 or speak to us on our online Live Chat service if you have any more questions about any of these products or availability.
So, to sum up, vinyl mixing is highly fun and it will force you to learn how to beatmatch just like the DJs of old! However, some people may be put off by the fact that you actually have to put in a fair bit of effort until your mixes sound any good - trust me, the reward will be worth it though! I think that there is a buzz with mixing vinyl records that you don’t get with other formats. Will the records be in perfect time? Will the needle jump? I love it! On the downside though, the fact that you have other things to worry about means that you are unlikely to have time to add extra unique twists to your performance.