Buying Guide:DJ Equipment Part 3 - Digital Players
Tabletop players vs. dual players
The first thing to consider when looking into digital players is whether you would rather play on a dual rackmount CD player or on two tabletop players.
Tabletop players are usually set up on both sides of the mixer, just like phonograph turntables. Some of these digital turntables feature pressure-sensitive platters that let you simulate scratching or cueing a record by spinning it forward or backward. Some players also offer platter effects like reverse, brake, and more.
Dual rackmount CD players offer versatile setup options with two rackmountable units, one with two front-loading CD slots and one with the controls. Dual rackmount CD players come with speed-sensitive jog wheels that let you speed up and slow down the song like you would a record on a turntable for scratching and beat juggling. A dial around the wheel lets you fast-forward and rewind a song.
When buying a digital CD player, be sure to check out the audio formats it supports. Most of the newer players support MP3s. If you’re considering MP3 players, look for features like ID3 tag support that displays title, artist, and album; BPM tags (automatically recalls the BPM); and MP3 file search systems that allow you to easily locate files by name or folder.
Shockproof memory is one of the strong arguments for digital players, especially for rave and club DJs who’ve had needles skip when the dance floor shakes or their gear is bumped. A standard feature on DJ CD players, shockproof memory ensures the music won’t skip a beat.
Your ability to control the pitch on a digital player is much more versatile than on a turntable. Digital audio players, like turntables, have a pitch control fader, but in many cases you can select and change the range of the fader, say between ±8%, 16%, 25%, or 100%. In addition to the fader, digital players offer pitch bend buttons to allow precise pitch adjustments. Many players also offer a pitch lock button (also called "key lock"), so that when you adjust the pitch bender, the speed will change but the pitch will remain the same.
If you plan on playing in dark clubs, make sure your digital player has a bright backlit LCD display; most players do.
Most digital players let you set cue points so you can go to a certain spot in a song with the push of a button. Some players let you save cue points to a removable memory card (see the Memory section below).
The looping feature on digital players lets you select a given section of a song to play. All you have to do is give the player two cue points, the start and the end, and your loop is set and ready to play at the touch of a button. If you want the loop to play over and over, simply press the reloop button. This feature is called seamless looping because you can play the loop over and over without a break in the music. Seamless looping can be used to extend songs, which is handy when creating your own mixes or creating extended base tracks on which to add new sounds.
Many digital players offer effects like filter, echo, phase, flanger, transform, and pan. While the effect is enabled, the platter and other controls can be used to change the parameters of the effect to create dynamic remixes.
Fader start is a feature some digital players offer that works with compatible mixers so that when you cross-fade over to a channel, the cued song automatically plays without your having to press a button. Fader stop is similar in that it will stop the player as soon as you fade out its channel. Fader stop can be configured to reset the CD to a given cue point. This feature is especially handy for beat juggling.
Some DJ CD/MP3 players offer data storage with removable memory cards. For example, Pioneer’s CDJ-1000MK3 has a memory feature that lets you store wave data as well as cue and loop points to a removable memory card (MMC or SD) or the player’s internal memory. The removable memory card can also be used in any CDJ-1000, so once you’ve stored your favorite cue and loop points they’re stored for life. The CDJ-1000MK3 also has a feature that allows you to duplicate memory cards.
Many players offer an eject lock button that prevents accidentally ejecting a disk during play. This feature can be turned off if you want to do quick mixes.