Skip to main content

Hello all - I am very excited to have just received my CK unit. I will be running it with dual 750w QSC (left and Right) subs and left and right QSC 500w tops - should be a pretty bangin setup!

unfortunately, I am used to a PC based DJ program and I am very new to this higher end / more professional unit. I am trying to practice via headphones and a few cd's but I admit I am getting a little frustrated.

The booklet that comes with it is good at explaining what buttons "do" but doesn't really go into "how to" do things such as how to smoothly mix one song to another, how to use headphones and que a song while another is playing etc... at the end of a song I want to smoothly transition / start the 2nd song and keep the beat going...(I hope I am making sense!)

Is there any literature or cd's or websites I can visit or purchase that are a little more on the "teaching how to" use this unit.

I truly want to be a good dj and I am dedicated to study and learn - so any of your input is welcomed.

Thank you

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Well, nice decision on your choice to go with QSC.

Now, bad decision to go with anything that deals with MP3's.

Why? Let me explain. And I want others to read this too.

Let me start by saying that the QSC stuff is some great gear. Having some great gear is a good start. Not just self-powered, but active, which is better since the amplification is specific to the drivers, not just "slap an amp on the back" as many low-end "powered speaker" makers do. Additional advantages include the fact that you have your frequency management built in, saving time, not having to muck about with cross-overs and other sort of optimization that might be necessary to get PEAK and/or optimum performance out of your gear. I'm not saying passive is worse or inferior, but active has it's advantages.

In my case, I'm using KV2 Audio, going with an active driven solution. Simply put: the "power plant" for the speakers is specific to the gear I use it with. It's "active" with the amplification being external. 900-watts per top, 1600-watts per subwoofer solution(of 6 possible options). Very high end, very accurate, very clean. 4 tops, 2 double-15 active driven subs, 4 single-18" driven subs, and 2 ACTIVE double 15's from the same company. 13,200 watts and will gover 2000 people no sweat, can do 3000 people with a tiny bit of pushing NO problem. But recall, I do concerts, not DJ work.

However, even with really good gear and active or active driven technology, or even passive amps and speakers with properly set cross-overs and freqency managemetn, that only really addresses PART of the situation. But a real time analyzer with a reference microphone might not be an item most people don't want to spend $1500 or more on(for a decent unit) in order to then optimize the sound system for the environment. This goes between your front end and your amplification.

But going back to the QSC stuff. It's good stuff. But why? I mean, seriously, why are you going to spend money on good gear when you're gonna pump crap through them? And by crap, I mean anything that is a .mp3. Why? Because it sonds like crap. That's why. MP3 is a lousy lossy compression algorithm, tossing away a lot of GOOD data and bits trying to crush the size down.

People constantly complain about how MP3's sound through my system, and I even had the unique opportunity where a guy was complaining about it to put on the CD with the same song on it. Difference? Night and day, that's what. His stuff was MP3 sourced and burned to CD, while mine was sourced from the CD, and then burned to a compilation CD I use for walk-in/walk-out music. All the stuff he was complaining about with his MP3 crud went away when I put on my CD of the sane track.

Granted, most of your clients won't give a crap. They don't care anyways. They just want music, and are most likely shopping price rather than what you CAN do, or in your case, what you'll become capable of doing later on.

I can't find the American Audio product you are describing, so I can't relate to you too well. The American Audio site kinda blows, it needs a "products" page like the ADJ site has. Maybe it's a CK100 MP3 system?

But, short of that, you're starting out by doing the right thing: PRACTICE. Leave the mains off, and use those headphones. Learn the cue system so you can monitor the next source before it plays out through the mains. Have the manual open and try things. You put in your posting a GREAT example, a very common thing a DJ would want to do. The bottom line is you're gonna want to spend a lot of time practicing. Don't worry about messing up right now, you're practicing, so screw up all you want. Why do I want you to screw up now? 2 reasons. The first is "better now than at an event", but also because you'll learn more from screwing up than doing things right at this point in time.

DJ's have different styles and methods of getting the job done. Also, different gear works in different ways. Ask a question to 5 different DJ's and you'll get 5 different answers sometimes.

Learn what you've got for now. Learn fundamentals and basics, which is what that system is gonna show you. As you move on, you'll get better gear and have to learn that, but the fundamentals tend to stay the same.

For example, I moved from a Mackie 1604VLZ(and Yamaha ProMix01) to an Allen & Heath ML5000 48B console. We're talking moving from a 16-input, 4 bus console to a 76-input, 27 output console and getting it one night and the next night doing a MAJOR show with it and "Kicking ass and taking names" with it. why? Sure, more everything, but my fundamentals are SOUND(pardon the pun). Thet transition was seamless!

Now, get off the internet and go have some fun with your new toys. Your best "how to" is going to be "figure it out yourself" because it's gonna stick in your head forever.

I really appreciate your input - thanks.

I am practicing but with headphones, I have a hard time knowing whats is playing "out of the speakers" and what ONLY I can hear as I cue the next song.

Also, I will not be using MP3's - although the unit can do it, I have built up a decent set of CD's.

I thank you very much and I will take your advise and try things.

I am a little confused, although the QSC sound system is powered, I should get something else as well?


Here's my suggestion:

First, let's address the QSC gear. Now, your subs and tops are all active, right? OK, good. And I bet your subwoofer has a high-pass cross-over that you CHAIN to your top's input? Right? I'm fairly confident I am right. OK, so now, with driver specific amplifiers driving each driver within the units, you have an active driven system that is already OPTIMIZED for peak performance of THAT GEAR.

But are you? That's the biggest question. It's a matter of "just because the gear is optimized to work doesn't mean it truly is optimized".

Now, mind you, your QSC gear, nothing is wrong with it. Don't change your wiring.

But here's your ideal signal path:

Mixer output to RTA or front end processor(typically a real time analyzer). OUT of the RTA to the amplifiers(or inputs on your subs, which are in turn cross-over to be chained to the tops).

Using a decent quality reference microphone, which you can get for a decent price(say, under $200 really, but you can go nuts if you want).

Here's what happens:
The signal passes though the mixer and the RTA. The RTA might also be adding things like limiting, feedback killing, compressiong, delay and EQ. As the signal passes THROUGH the RTA, it is also listening to the reference microphone. Ideally, you should make a CD with reference tones and pink noise. Send pink noise through the mixer and then through the RTA. Let the RTA listen to the pink noise and compare that to what is passing through it. NOW it will hopefully opmtmize your EQ for the room. NOW you are truly optimized. You want the room as flat as possible. By "flat", I don't mean dull and lifeless, but rather "theoretically, all frequencies SHOULD be represented equally". Of course, I always then end up bumping the bass by about 3-6db afterwards, but that's just me.

I spend over $50K on my KV2 rig(and I will be buying more) and same on my console. A $1500 RTA is definately a necessity. BUT, I'm not saying you need to spend $1500, but I need a LOT of features. Not to mentiom brands, but for around $400(and you can do better), Behringer makes a budget conscious RTA(and spend an additional street $90 for their mic). Sure, ain't as full featured as my Sabine, but hey, it will get the job done quite well and it sounds OK.

The difference an RTA can make can quite literally be that "without being used, your banging gear can sound like ass" or "with an RTA, you can ensure coherent sound with minimal distortion and thus reducing ear fatigue and increasing audience enjoyment". As I've said, great gear gets you a long way, but not all the way. At some point, skill enters the picture(but to a far lesser degree for DJs). It takes less skill to playback pre-recorded music than to deal with live musicians. And using this RTA isn't a one-off "set and forget", it's something you MUST integrate into your process and repeat in every new room(or every gig). My RTA lets me save stuff, but I never do. Would save time, but I don't to too many repeat venues, but that appears to be changing.

Now, back to pracicing. Yeah, I know what you mean. Working with my Mackie 1604 VLZ, it's easiy, I know what's going on at all times. With my ProMix01, I had some issues, UNTIL I did something about it. And really, I could have had this issue with the Mackie 1604 as well, but the layouts are vastly different and with the Mackie, it has features I needed that the ProMix01 does differently.

The Mackie console is designed for "all purpose usage", where in my opinion, the ProMix01 is more of a live console or a small mix-down/monitoring(not MONITORS) console. So, I got the chance to hook the ProMix01 up to, in my case, a small set of mains(my larger near fields) off the main outs , , another small set of near fields(My KRK 6000's) off the MONITOR outputs, and a set of headphones to the headphone outs.. NOW I could fully explore how Yamaha's line of thought worked.

In my case, this was easy. I've got tons of gear laying around NOT always being utilized. I sometimes need to remind myself I have this stuff. And you'll note I often think outside the box.

Take this next part with a grain of salt. Personally, I'd NEVER run a DJ console right to the mains. Here's the first reason why you need to take this with a grain of salt: Most DJ's have no concept of gain structure. RED is not a good thing, so I typically have to run them into channels on my console and then insert a limiter to prevent them from blowing things up. Of course, your QSC gear, like my Mackie SRM650's and SRS15500A's, as well as my KV2 AUdio stuff(and my other QSC amps with community speakers) all have limiters to prevent overload and damage, I'd prefer to NOT have the limiting happen at the amplification layer, which puts things dangerously close to clipping, which is where the real damage takes place anyways. However, the concept of those limiters is to PREVENT clipping to prevent damage. Still, running in the red is bad. Peaking in the read is OK, but living there is NOT acceptable. The second thing is that I just prefer to have another layer of control, but that's just me. I mean, I'm dealing with up to 76 channels of input and making a cohesive and coherent mix of a live band performing, which is vastly different than a DJ environment. Still, it's something I recommend. So, take that how you want. If you're running a microphone, you should have a mixer with an insert on the microphone channels so you can at least stuff a feedback killer in there if necessary(on the insert loop). Mix your vocal/MC/talk mic into the pre-recorded mix.

Do you have to spend $50K on a mixer? No.

For example, you're learning. That's well established. The next step is "well, crap, I really have to understand what is going to mains and what is going to my monitor/cue mix" as well as "and I don't want to waste money doing this as well as wake the neighbors". And how do you do this? Why, with a second mixer, of course! You take your MAIN outs from that DJ mixer into another mixer that would NORMALLY feed the mains or RTA-mains. For a budget, you could go with a dinky little Behringer Eurorack UB502, which is a tiny little super basic 5-channel mixer(1 mic, 2 stereo inputs, as well as tape/rec loop). Super basic, should cost you less than $50, but no phantom power on the mic, but you probably won't need it at this level. But keep in mind, my objective here is to help you practice for cheap, not necessarily make better recommendations for your actual events. While I have 2 of these dinky mixers, I also have the 602 mixer, but neither of which I'd use for my main signals to pass through. I typically use them at home for some monitoring purposes or on stages for the similar applications.

Want to get more advanced? Get 2 sets of headphones. But if it was me, I wouldn't. Just plug/unplug as necessary. So, if you're unsure what's going out to mains, move your phones around. Anything plugged into the "mains emulation" is what is going OUT through your mixer to mains. Now you can learn your cue system with confidence.

Another option is to go through your home stereo as your "mains" and turn the speakers off and use the headphone OUT on that. What's good is this is a better "emulation". You may need adaptor cables, which can be had relatively inexpensively, and you might be able to leave in place for practice lateron. As I don't know the interface on the unit you're talking about(the American Audio unit), I can't advise further other than you can talk a balanced signal and not transformer match it if you short pin 3 to ground on an XLR or balanced and then take ground and pin2 to HOT for your unbalanced and it should give you a -10 connection. If you short pin 2 instead, for some reason, that gives you a +4 unbalanced signal. I could be wrong about that.

I know, talking about taking a while to get there. I like to be verbose, but for a reason.

Now, go screw up some more!

I used up a LOT of gear to learn my ProMix01 because it was necessary for me to totally grasp how Yamaha did things. I did NOT need to do this on my Mackie 1604, and not on my A&H ML5000 48B. I take whatever steps are necessary to educate myself on my gear, including trial by error. Typically, nobody books me in January(2009 is different), and I spend that month re-certifying every bit of gear, wire, connector, you name it. That's also maintenance and education cycles. But now, I have so much gear, I only really need to learn the new stuff. An FX unit, some outboard, wireless stuff, testing wiring, things of that nature. But realize we're at two totally different levels.

So, I say "go screw up some more and have fun doing it".

Oh, further advise: I would recommend a set of closed back headphones by Ultrasone. Good sounding and good isolation. My KRK240's absolutely rule in the studio, but SUCK when I take them out live. The semi-open design gets lost. I've switched to using a set of wireless in-ears for the time being for my cue/AFL/PFL/SOlo monitoring applications at FOH.

Hit my web site up. Hopefully it's working. Don't drool on the keyboard too much!
I managed to find a manual for this unit that you speak of. Neat all in one design. I see where the MP3 option comes into play, but is other than working with CD's loaded with MP3's, it's a fairly typical DJ-type set-up, just a consolidated all-in-one design and nice and compact.

So, here's my off-line notes, since I had time today while waitinf for other phone calls, so I copy/paste them here.

Ah, listening to one to get ready to go while the other plays.

This is an interesting configuration and SEEING the unit pictures AND reading the manual makes a lot of sense to me. Also, the logic is a little off as I would think as an audio engineer, but the logic behind it makes perfect sense.

First, we need to look to the middle section of the mixer. Yes, the typical "center master section". Someone used to mix bands! No, it actually makes sense logistically in this environment since it is in between the two playback sections.

1: The MASTER knob. This is your master output playback level, which is the mixed level between the two devices or rather whatever you've routed to the master output. This is the signal that goes out to mains, your QSC gear.

The Master KNOB derives it's signal souce from the "Replaceable Cross-Fader", the one that goes sideways. Full left, it is getting signal from #1 only. Full right gets signal from #2 only. In between, you get your mix between 1 and 2. So, during a song change, you'd move that fader from 1 to 2 or 2 to 1, depending on which way you need to go. This is a "Cross-fade"

This part is very logical. Very straight forward and basic signal routing, which is not only ideal, but appropriate for this environment

The next two knobs in the middle are Cue Volume and Cue Mix.

Think of your CUE volume knob as the "volume for your headphones", which is precisely what it is, because the CUE system is the same as the "control room" in bigger consoles, at least in basic concept. The concept is expanded upon to match the unique environment DJ's are looking at, wihc a regular true mixing console doesn't directly support at least.

The Cue Mix is the main knob you want to focus on for determining what you need to listen to. It works like the "Replacable Cross-Fader" in the fact that it will let you listen to whatever you want independent of what the "Replaceable Cross-Fader" is currently assigned to.

The best way is via example.

Let's say you've got #1 playing, so your "Replacable Cross-Fader" is full to the left and therefore this is the ONLY thing going out your Master OUTS to your mains. Now, you're immediately getting #2 ready to go. Leaving the "Replacable Cross-Fader" alone, twist the Cue Mix to FULL RIGHT/Clockwise which lets you hear #2 only. Bring your Cue Level to say, 3-O'Clock or so(I'm assuming you're gonna need some decent volume and most headphone amps are wimpy). Playing Disc 2, you should hear only disc 2 in headphones. Disc 2 will NOT be playing out of the mains. Should you want to tempo match your songs(I can't but wouldn't anyways, but I'm not a DJ), you can twist your Cue MIX a towards #1(to the left) as necessary so you can hear that along with #2 to see if you're where you want to be. This has NO bearing on what goes out over the mains at all.

Now, this is where setting your CUE points on the players becomes more important. Let's say the song playing on Disc 1 is 3 minutes and 40 seconds long, and it takes you 45 seconds to get things the way you like it on Disc 2. By previously setting your start on Disc 2 via that Cue function(on the player section), you can "snap" back to that cue location. This is cool, at least in my opinion. I can set my "start" point, then go about my business of pitch/tempo matching, then when I'm happy, snap back to my start point with my new settings ready to go, then when I release #2 and cross-fade between #1 and #2, I'm good go to. No "re-cueing". COuld be worse, could be records and having to lift and drop the stylus!

One thing to think of is that just because it says "Cue" doesn't mean the same thing depending on where it is.

Cue on the player means "start here", where as "Cue" in the master section means "monitor/preview for getting the next stuff ready".

Makes sense?

Practice leads to confidence. And by ensuring you understand what's going out where, why and when as you practice now means you won't need to worry about the cue system later on because you'll know how it works. And right now is the time to learn it.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.