May 9, 2018

Vinyl or CD's/MP3's

Another great question for beginner DJ’s is what should I use vinyl or CD’s/MP3’s? There are several answers to this question as both types have pros and cons which we will go through together. I will also tell you how I made my decision over 15 years ago and talk about how I would decide today.

What is your budget?

In the end it might come down to how big is your budget. Although your money might stretch further with vinyl turntables there are other things to take into account. When I was saving up to buy my first pair of decks 15 years ago there was really only one option for me. I decided on vinyl because I liked the feel of it and I understood what I needed to do in order to beat match two tracks.

My budget was £600 which bought me 2 X Gemini PT 2100 turntables and a Gemini PS 626i mixer. The average cost per vinyl record at the time was around £3.99 but there but there were 3 for £10 type special offers on too. Pioneer CDJ’s were still very new and therefore expensive at the time. MP3’s were also hard to get as there were no digital music stores just sites like Kazaa and I didn’t like the low quality bit rates on MP3’s either so for me that wasn’t an option.

Digital Music File Formats

There are several music formats that have become very popular over the years and they can be split into two main groups. Those two groups are Lossy and Lossless. Lossy means that parts of the audio are stripped out, essentially lost during the compression process. There is little point including any frequencies that are above the threshold of human hearing etc. MP3 is an example of a lossy format.

FLAC (Free Loseless Audio Codec) is a lossless format. It is true CD quality audio. With the latest turntables being able to use lossless formats like FLAC the sound quality is much higher than before.

The range of tracks available

File formats win hands down on availability of music. Whilst you can find thousands of tracks on vinyl in every genre in music stores online, you can find millions of tracks in digital formats. I do not think it is possible to have every single track and remix pressed on vinyl. The costs not just in production but storage would be through the roof.

So the pros and cons are easy to see. The clear winner here is about availability and portability. There is no way to compete with the number of tracks available online and when it comes to portability how many vinyl records or CD’s could you carry?

Features of CD/MP3 turntables

Comparing Vinyl or CD’s/MP3’s is a bit like comparing old with new. For example cue points are so much better on digital. Cue points are the parts of a track you setup as the initial playback point. You can store at least three cue points per track and on the latest CD decks you can store as many as eight. The more cue points the better as you have more choice to use them in your sets. Digital turntables also allow you to store all of your settings on your memory stick. Every venue you go to you just plug in and all of your settings and graphics are loaded.

You also do not need to buy any kind of cartridge or stylus as CD’s are read by lasers and digital music stored in any format are just read from memory which requires no moving parts.

What I know now

Vinyl is damn heavy

If I were to answer the question today, Vinyl or CD’s/MP3’s, I think my choice would be very different. You get a lot more for your money with a pair of digital CD/MP3 decks.

With online music stores too, you can find unlimited numbers of tracks and remixes for a fraction of the cost of vinyl. £0.99 per track is a quarter of the price of a vinyl record and they weigh next to nothing.

You can carry thousands of tracks, your entire music library on memory sticks that weigh a few grams. With vinyl, at best you could fit 50 or so records in a flight case and with two hands that’s two boxes, so you can carry 100 tracks for a gig. With CD’s you can carry quite a few if you remove them from the cases and store them in plastic wallets.

Should I use Vinyl or CD’s/MP3’s?

This is of course a personal choice just like what music should I play? I still love vinyl, it’s what I learned to beat match on. I like the feel of it under my fingers and the control you get by physically touching the music. Every movement of your fingers has a direct effect on the track you are playing with no delay whatsoever. CD/MP3 decks are much better than they used to be. The vinyl effect turntables are much better although the quality does vary depending on how much you spend on them.

Starting out today I would certainly use a pair of digital turntables rather than vinyl. Having all of your music fit on a USB stick is so much easier to manage and no sticky labels stuck on records for cue points. With the latest Music Management Software, managing and editing digital libraries is easy to. I would still buy a pair of vinyl turntables later on though in order to learn how to use them as part of a 4 deck setup with a 4 channel mixer.

The only problem apart from the weight of vinyl, that you may come across by using two types of format is that the songs you want to play may be in the wrong format. So a track you want to play on one of the vinyl turntables is only available in MP3. This would only be a problem if you are using one MP3 turntable as the live track and the other playing a cappella leaving a vinyl turntable free which does not have the track available. You can of course get around this by having your tracks available in both formats but that is really expensive and of course heavy. You would also need to check that you were carrying the right vinyl records you need for each set.

Conclusion

So asking one final time Vinyl or CD’s/MP3’s? I would hands down go for a pair of digital decks to start with.

About the author 

Charles Duance

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