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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: CD-Decks

3. Common Features

  • Play
    starts the current track - pressing again usually pauses the track - common to all models.

  • Stop
    stops the current track - common to all models.

  • Cue
    used to set a start point other than the beginning of the track. Once a cue point is set, if the button is held down in pause mode the track will play from the cue point until released. If pressed in play mode the track will start again from the cue point and continue playing.

  • Skip (fwd/rev)
    used to select the desired track on the CD - common to all models and often combined with search on the same buttons.

  • Search (fwd/rev)
    used to move to a particular position in the current track - common to all models and often combined with skip on the same buttons (pressing and holding usually activates this).

  • Pitch Fader
    a slider that alters the pitch of the music being played. Higher pitch (like a chipmunk) produces a faster tempo and conversely lower pitch (like Barry White) produces a slower tempo. The standard range is plus or minus 8% from the original pitch of the track (based on the range of the industry standard Technics SL1210 mk2 vinyl deck).

  • Loop
    this allows a certain part of the track to be played repeatedly. The most important thing to look for here is that the loops are seamless, i.e. you cannot hear when the loop begins or ends. Many systems automatically loop for a set number of bars giving great 'one touch' looping which allows you to get on with the mix without having to edit your loop.

  • Jog/Pitch wheel
    this is used to 'nudge' the track into time, in much the same way as a vinyl DJ would by touching the record. In jog mode it can be used to scroll through the track quickly and accurately.

  • Hot Cue
    a feature that allows instant access to any desired parts of a track. For example Hot Cue 1 would instantly take you to Cue Point 1, and play from there no matter what mode you were in at the time.

  • Sampler
    many of the latest machines allow you to record a number of short pieces of audio and play them back at will over the track - great for dropping in vocals or small sections of your next track.

  • Master Tempo
    also known as time stretching, this function maintains the original pitch of the track, no matter what level of pitch shift is applied, and effectively turns the pitch fader into a pure tempo fader. As a result you can change the speed of a track without changing the pitch - very useful for mixing a fast track into a slower one without taking the energy out of the mix (pitched down tracks tend to sound laboured and dull), but also has many other uses just experiment!

  • MP3 Play
    many newer machines allow you to use MP3 CDs that you can easily burn from most computers. This feature is very useful as you can get many more tracks on a CD in MP3 format than in the standard audio format (although the quality is slightly lower). Make sure you put tracks onto the CD in the correct format for the CD player or they won’t play at all!
Pioneer's CDJ-350 plays MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF and from USB (flashcards, HDDs)
  • DSP effects
    this stands for Digital Signal Processing and typically adds a number of effects to your deck. There are two categories of effect: tempo synced and continuous. Tempo synced effects are usually synced automatically to the music by the BPM counter (see below), but can be often be overridden by a tap tempo feature. Common effects include filter, flanger, delay, echo, reverse and pitch shift.

  • Anti-Shock Buffer
    this feature stops any vibrations or accidental jogs from causing the CD to skip. Essential in a club as people love to dance into the decks!

  • Wave display
    this feature shows a timeline of the current track and the relative volume levels at regular points along that timeline. This is useful because breakdowns, intros and lead-outs are usually quieter than the rest of the track, so this allows you to quickly identify when they are going to happen without listening all the way through the track.

  • Variable Pitch Range
    allows the user to change the amount of effect the pitch fader has on the music. Less range gives finer control over the pitch, more range gives a coarser control over pitch. Some units provide up to 100% pitch range, that is double the speed of the original! Tip – don’t change this while the track is playing as it will cause it to change speeds suddenly!

  • BPM Counter
    a function that works out the tempo of your track and gives you a reading in BPM (beats per minute). As well as beat mixing, this can be useful for cataloguing all of your tunes by tempo, or syncing effects, loops and samples to the currently playing track.

  • Tap Tempo
    a means of setting the BPM of the counter by manually tapping a button on the unit. Used to sync effects when the BPM counter cannot work out the correct tempo of the track (this can happen with tunes that vary in tempo or do not have an easily identifiable beat).

  • Fader Start
    this requires a compatible DJ mixer to work, and allows a selected track to be triggered by the crossfader of the mixer, i.e. when the crossfader is on channel A, deck A is in play mode and B is in pause. As the DJ moves the fader across, deck A pauses and deck B goes into play.

  • Card/Memory Slot
    provides a means to store data, for example the Pioneer CDJ1000 has an SD card slot for saving the wave display and cue points of each track played, allowing the user to transfer all this information to another CDJ quickly and easily. Some machines allow other data can be saved such as samples and effects settings.
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