Essential Club Gear?
lsc9x
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#1
4th January 2013
Old 4th January 2013
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Essential Club Gear?

(Yeah, I did several searches on this subject, but didn't find my answer)

I am looking at playing 1 or more local clubs (and/or people's houses), but am just starting out, so let me tell you what gear I already have, then maybe you can point out things I might need. (Please, let's stay out of the headphones vs. monitor mixing debate. I have two sets of headphones for mixing at home, a set of mixing KRKs and a high end Plantronics headset - I simply CAN'T play speakers here - but a close friend has a proper mastering setup w/studio monitors I can use for finalizing stuff. 'Nuff said.)

What I really want to know is how to interface my gear to someone else's sound system(s). I am assuming that most clubs have their own sound setup (PA system? Other?) and I already have the right gear to connect to most stereos - as long as they have RCA input connectors, which may or may not be the case.

I have:

- iMac (for home work)
- MacBook Pro (for gigging)
- KRK mixing headphones
- Plantronics GameCon 780 stereo headphones (for output testing)
- Akai MPK Mini controller
- Akai APC40 Ableton controller
- Presonus Audiobox USB (with 1/4" and RCA outputs)
- Various bags, tools, screwdrivers, duct tape, external hard drives etc.

(No DJ gear needed, I am doing everything on a computer.)

So, it comes down to everything I need to have from either the Mac to the sound system or from the Audiobox USB to the sound system.

More outboard gear?
Cables?
Adapters?
Amp or preamp?
Soundcard or other unit?

I really have NO idea here...

Also, a lot of stereos these days don't seem to have RCA inputs (HUH?), so knowing how to interface to these newer systems would be cool too.

Thanks a bunch! I appreciate the help. =)
S21
#2
4th January 2013
Old 4th January 2013
  #2
S21
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Newer home stereos will have 3.5mm stereo "headphone" plugs as inputs for mp3 players. You just need a 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead.

Most rca and mp3 inputs are happily driven my headphone level output set to ~75% volume. Don't set the volume too high to avoid clipping.

What software are you using on the mac? What sort of DJing are you trying to do - just picking good songs and crossfading/beatmatching, or something more?
#3
4th January 2013
Old 4th January 2013
  #3
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Hey man,

Not sure how many people you will find on GS that know about Dj'ing, especially when you are talking about only using a laptop, so thought I would help you out.

I have spent the last 4 years Dj'ing in clubs and parties along side becoming a professional mixing engineer so I'm sure we can figure out what you need to get going.

First of all- if the club is good they will have a set of pioneer CDJ's and a mixer, most likely a DJM800 or a newer model if its a good club.

My first piece of advice is learn to use the cdjs if you are serious about being a DJ because you won't be taken very seriously if you turn up and ask where to plug your laptop in (plus there are a LOT more things to go wrong with the set up you are proposing)

Secondly, if you do want to play on your laptop and trigger tracks in Ableton with the APC40, thats cool. I have a friend who is a club DJ and does the same thing, however- you will get very little respect from other DJ's as you don't actually do any of the mixing (It all happens in Ableton where it syncs everything up).

If you want to go down this road you will most definitely need an audio interface to run the audio from your USB port on your computer and out to the mixer. The interface will have stereo outputs, which you then need to run cables (probably Jack to xlr) into one of the free channels on the mixer in the club. You just leave this channel at full volume and do all the mixing/ volume in the computer.

In terms of running into peoples stereos, I would avoid this. If you blow their $5000 bang and olufsen sound system- the egg will be on your face. Best bet would be to get a couple of cheap, powered loudspeakers. If you want to go a step up, the JBL Eon speakers are amazing. I have seen a club sound system go down and we powered the whole club just with the DJ monitor (which was a Jbl) and hardly anyone noticed.

The bottom line is: You need good, reliable equipment and know how to use it. Computers are trouble in the live audio scene and good old CD's work until they are scratched beyond recognition (and don't run on batteries)!

I have had a drunk girl run into my gig box (with two cdj 2000's and an 800 mixer) , knock the whole thing on its side and the music never missed a beat.

Any more questions feel free to ask but I think there is a bit for you to think about in there!

ZED.
lsc9x
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#4
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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ZED!

Hey ZED!

Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it, especially the part about not blowing up someone's $5000 stereo. =) Good point on investing in good speakers. I'll have to do a lot more research into that as I am sure it's like anything else: What can you afford vs. how good is it?

I'll just be frank: I am not a DJ, nor would I represent myself as such. In fact, it's not really my goal. This is NOT to diss on DJs! DJing is an art form, you have to have actual skills to do it well, and I have heard several DJs who have blown me away.

I am an "electronic music composer". I've done music mostly for fun and for a couple of professional gigs (creating game music) but Ableton has provided a new tool and avenue for me: live shows. To be honest, I can't really play an instrument (I played some piano back in the day...) but with Ableton I can compose music, and I am quickly discovering that I can work the controller, so now live play is suddenly open to me - for my music!

The goal for me isn't to use other people's loops and string them together into a set, it's to compose and engineer my own loops and then string them together on the fly. It's exciting.

My favorite band in the 1980s was Depeche Mode (by FAR) and I was in to Ministry, New Order, Sisters of Mercy, Front 242, NIN etc., and more recently Daft Punk and DeadMau5 (as well as being a long time Metal Head...). Skrillex is good too, but not my cup of tea. Hard to listen to some of it!

So, to get back to your points:

Audio Interface. I have a USB AudioBox from Presonus that has RCA outs and a 1/4" out jack. You mentioned that I need an audio interface. Is the Presonus good enough, or is there some other piece of gear you would recommend? That's my essential question: what connects my computer to the sound system?

You mentioned a jack to XLR connection. So, should I pick up some 1/4" cords, a 1/4" to XLR adapter? XLR cables? Any lengths you would suggest? I am sure there are cables too long (electrical interference) or too short (can't reach the mixer) to be useful...

Then back to the mixer: Knowing that the music is coming solely from a laptop with a controller, would you still recommend getting a mixer? If so, what kind?

Yeah, doing everything with a computer is risky - there's only 1 piece of equipment and if it goes so does the show, but I'm an IT professional, so if I can't get it right, then it probably can't be done.

thanks again! I am sure a lot of your knowledge applies in this case.
lsc9x
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#5
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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Hey S21!

Thanks for the note...

Yeah, 70% - 75% is usually the volume I work with... surprisingly on most things.

Like I said to ZED below, I'm not really looking to "DJ" per se. I hate to use the term "EDM" because it's so overused right now, but I basically make my own music, electronically. Unfortunately I have never had a way to really do live stuff because I am not a skilled keyboardist and I don't just want to hit a button - I mean what's the point in me being there?

Now, with Ableton and an APC40, doing something live with my music live is a possibility within reach. So, I'm looking to compose and perform.

Party music, dance music, weird techno stuff. =)
#6
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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No worries,

Glad I could help out. Yeah sorry I just presumed you wanted to DJ when you mentioned playing music but if you want to perform your own tracks live then using ableton is a great tool and can work really well.

The Presonus interface will be ok but you are really at the mercy of the quality of the converters of it which (seeing as the unit on google is worth about $200) probably aren't great.

When I did any of this sort of stuff I was using an apogee duet II which sounded great on the big club systems. If you are happy to use the presonus then go for it. Its just that some people, like myself, like to put out the best sound possible, where I would avoid using a cheap unit which would form the weak link in your chain.

If you have XLR outs on the interface then don't worry about the jack, just get a nice long xlr (say 3m) because that way if you need a bit of extra length to get to a mixer etc then you have it.

In terms of buying a mixer im now a little bit out of my depth. I would say for parties etc you would be fine running out of your interface into the speakers if they are powered. maybe someone else can chime in here?

Good luck and feel free to ask more questions

ZED.
lsc9x
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5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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ZED,

So, I think I have narrowed it down somewhat. I have the Presonus right now, and I think it sounds pretty good, but I am thinking of 2 possible setups:

1) Using the 1/4" out on the AudioBox to some kind of beefier (preamp?) with XLR outputs - not sure if preamp is the right term. Something to boost the signal and get it to the PA system or

2) Nix the AudioBox and get something better with USB input and XLR outputs. (I'll check out the Apogee)

I'd like to stick with what I have for now, just because I have maxed out my cash for the moment!

But, bottom line, XLR sounds like what I need in the way of connecting to club systems? Or should I have either 1/4" and/or XLR available? I already have the 1/4" out.

I hear you on the $200 piece of equipment! But on the flip side I have a friend who records with a $100 bass guitar and a $120 Fender and fixes everything with engineering. LOL!
lsc9x
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5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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ZED, so I am assuming you were referring to the Apogee Duet 2 USB audio device? Because Apogee also has the Apogee Duet 2 breakout box. One is $600, the other is $100.

I should look at just getting the breakout box for now (on a budget), but can upgrade the USB box later.

Thanks!

I think now I'm going to take some time and look at breakout boxes... thanks again!
lsc9x
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#9
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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OMG.

I just started looking up breakout boxes and other types of converters, cable adapters etc. and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of boxes. Limiters. Signal boosters. Signal levelers. Underpowered connectors. Splitters. Every kind of cable to every other kind of cable adapter. Unbalanced to balanced boxes. Direct boxes. Breakout boxes...

Seemed like a simple question but now I have some serious homework to do...

I am starting out with either 1 1/4" out or 2 RCA outs, but to WHAT?!
#10
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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Haha yeah this stuff does get pretty complicated but let me see what I can figure out.

First of all, all standard DJ mixers have RCA connectors, so if you get a jack to rca cable that should be fine. Jack at the interface and RCA at the mixer end.

I was referring to the apogee duet 2 audio interface yes, they are top quality for a very reasonable price, the breakout box just allows you to expand your ins and outs so I don't think theres much point having the breakout without the Duet.

Hope this helps

ZED.
lsc9x
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5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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ZED,

I have made SOME progress on this:

First, I forgot, but I actually got 2 1/4" to RCA adapters for the back of my Presonus. They are actually 2 "impedance balanced" 1/4" TRS jacks at 50ohms resistance. I put the RCAs on because I had to feed back into a 1/8" jack on my mac in order to record audio coming out of the Presonus back into my computer. It's a circle jerk, but it was the only way I could use the ASIO drivers for output from Reaper and then have the audio fed back via the mic in to record. They are actually 1/4" output jacks. I was using Reaper before I got Ableton Live.

So, I'm going with so called "balanced" 1/4" TRS outs.

After slugging through a bunch of technical articles and looking up tons of devices, it looks like I need to:

- Convert 1/4" balanced input to XLR balanced output
- Clean up any signal noise and
- Possibly phantom power the XLRs?
- Maybe drop the ohmage from 50ohms to...?

There was some mention of DI units, but I am not sure about those because they seem mainly to be used for input from various instruments and not output to a PA system.

OK so next is getting 2 high quality male to male 1/4" TRS cables (gold plated?) I won't skimp on cables, I have to have good stuff. I would LOVE to get that audio interface you recommended right now, but it's the difference between $200 and $700.

Next?

Last edited by lsc9x; 5th January 2013 at 09:13 AM.. Reason: forgot missing piece of info (again)
#12
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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I honestly think you are making things harder for yourself by reading those technical documents.

In my opinion you don't need to worry about noise reduction or changing the ohmage. Just run the output of your interface (jack or Xlr) into the mixer (Rca) and you will be in business.

No DI, no phantom power, no complicated limiters or splitter boxers- just simple!

ZED.
#13
5th January 2013
Old 5th January 2013
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A nice selection of adapters is handy and should be kept on you for EVERY gig. Most of these are cheap, a few dollars max for each. Some that I use a lot are:

RCA to quarter inch. its an RCA female on one side, 1/4" TS male on other. I have so many of these it's crazy.

1/8" to RCA. for getting laptops and mp3 plays into stereos and mixers. single 1/8" TRS on one end, a long cable, at least 3 feet, and it splits into two RCA males, usually color coded red and white for right and left respectively. i have maybe a half dozen of these. use them all time.

quarter to RCA. female 1/4" on one end, RCA male on other. good for getting unbalanced audio gear into consumer RCA inputs.

1/8" to 1/4". female 3.5mm stereo mini on one end, 1/4" TRS male on other. comes with headphones since most pro headphone jacks are 1/4" but consumer headphones jascks are often only 1/8".

any other connectors/adapters you think you'll need. i have some i've never even used, just have them just in case. I keep them in a couple of little tackle boxes labelled "solutions". get twice as many as you think you'll need, because you'll lose them, loan them out, have them stolen from you, or just need a pair when the ones you have are already in use elsewhere.

the right combination of patch cables and adapters will let you get just about anything into anything else.
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