Over To You: Why Does My Digital Gear Sound Worse Than CDJs?

audio 4 dj

The Traktor Audio 4 (since replaced by the Audio 6) is a fine audio interface, and is capable of producing excellent results.

Digital DJ Tips reader Andrew Potter writes: "I have recently been doing some gigs on Wednesday evening here in Tokyo. Every time I play my digital set up through the club's system, and then compare sound quality from that of the DJs using the clubs CDJs, I notice a perceivable difference. Somehow the sound quality from my Mac, Traktor and Audio 4DJ doesn't have the clarity or 'presence' that my CDJ counterparts achieve. I am completely stumped, because it's all wired correctly into the CD line in on the mixer. The filters are in neutral position too. I thought that digital should always sound better, but I'm not hearing this in reality. Have you or your readers had a similar experience?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

Yes, I have had a similar experience. It was in 2004, I was just experimenting with digital, and I was using 128kbps MP3s! Not surprisingly, it didn't match up to CDs. So the first thing is to ensure you're using good files. Some swear by WAVs or other lossless formats, others are happy with 320kbps MP3s. Try both and see if you can tell a difference.Your Audio 4 is a good quality audio interface, and so if the above doesn't help, you may want to check your gain staging.

That means checking the individual Traktor channels aren't being driven into the red, the Traktor master output isn't being driven into the red, and the line on the club's mixer you're using isn't in the red either. Other than this, I can see no reason why your sound ought not be as good as that from a CD player, which is also digital audio at the end of the day. So let's ask the readers...

Over to you! Have you experiences this issue? What did you try to do to solve it? Did it work? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Another thing to do is try process of elimination.

    What that means is to try switching out parts of your setup - the cables, the soundcard (borrow one), the laptop (use your soundcard and a copy over a few of your audio files), or the software (download VDJ or some free or trial software and try it).

    By switching out you can possibly narrow down what my be the culprit.


  2. A related question I have: why does my gear suddenly decide to screw up at gigs in a way that it never does at home? I have a Macbook Pro, with an external hard drive for music. I was playing Traktor when a guy asked for Merengue. I dont have that loaded into Traktor but on the hard drive I have a specific folder so I started searching and drag/drop a song into Traktor. It loads, starts to play and suddenly the hard drive light is flashing erratically. Next thing I know, a little 'black screen of death' displays on the Mac to shut down.

    I keep an iPad handy w/ a copy of my set for any given night. After a moment of silence the music continued. The laptop crashed 3 more times before I was able to just copy the salsa music off the external hard drive and onto the Mac hard drive. Then imported that folder into Traktor again. All this while the iPad was playing tunes.

    My external drive iTunes library is corrupt so Im spending Sat/Sun rebuilding my song library. Lucky for me I follow Phil's technique and have all my good songs w/ Grouping and Comments so I can get reorganized. And of course, the disk drive is working PERFECTLY.

    On another gig my USB hub failed, which I exchanged for a new one and that never happened at home either. Gremlins. I hate 'em.

    • Thats called a 'kernel panic' and generally happens when software or hardware isnt fully supported. The computer doesn't know what to do so it freezes and restarts. It happened to me when I first got a mac and the Logic software I was using wasn't updated enough.

      Try updating your software, and making sure your external hard drive isnt corrupted anywhere. You can check this by going into disk utility, clicking on the drive when its plugged in, and then running a check on it. It should say 'S.M.A.R.T. Status: verified'

      Hope this helps :)

    • One thing to throw out there also is that in a club or bar, you don't have the ENVIRONMENT you have at home. Mac or PC, clubs get much more hot and humid than at home. Seen many have crashes and not know why...only to find condensation on their motherboards and their laptops are so hot they could fry eggs on it.

      I have a cooling platform I use every time I go gigging. Some might think it's unnecessary, but believe me...even when I played weekly in a European-style cafe, it helped. I had crashes all the time until I saw how hot my laptop was. When I got the platform I went all night without any issues.

      If you are playing in "sweatboxes", then you might want to think of variating your gear usage. So let's say you play Thurs, Fri, and Sat every week. Find a way to use CDs on Friday and use your digital setup Thurs and Sat.

      Believe me, humidity in these hot clubs can ruin laptops and external sound cards. I watched a guy go through three scratchamps (Final Scratch 2) in a year because he was a resident in a sweatbox and found condensation inside his stuff.

      These environments were not meant for electronics.

    • Hmmm.
      If you heavily rely on your iTunes library (and that means well organized lists) and you want to be able to drag/drop from external drives you ought to give Algoriddim Djay a try. But
      Anyway, I have got a six years old Macbook Pro and haven´t seen more than two or three panics. I have got an external Itunes library, as well. And never, ever, had a kernel panic when I was djing.By the other hand, one panic happens. Repeating panics means something.
      You must discard every possible issue (including bad iTunes plugins) but if you got a USB drive, forget it. You need a firewire drive. USB external drives are not the best for djing. And avoid USB hubs when djing.

  3. Just like sound interfaces you would use for production, every card will do analog to digital conversion differently. There is a reason the top cards are in the $1300 range and others in the $400 range.

    Same apples to SL and Traktor boxes. The SL1 was pretty crappy. I personally like the sound from the 57 and 62 mixers.

    • SL1 is crappy? Not arguing that but any Rane mixer with built in interface uses the SL1...

      • I agree that the SL1 is a great sound card and shoulnd't cause any substandard audio output if you're using decent files.

      • Shishdisma says:

        The SL1 is actually a pretty terrible sounding card, especially compared to how the SL2 and newer chipsets sound. It's like going from the A4 to an A6, or any pre-Cirrus NI card really, the circuitry is just generally better, and produces a much cleaner sound overall. The 57 is the only mixer that uses the SL1, the Sixty Eight uses an SL4, and the newer Sixty One/Two use a modified SL2 with a floating point DAC, which are a marginal improvement over the SL2, let alone the SL1.

  4. Digital midi gear will never sound as loud as a real analog mixer, don't really know exactly why except for the balanced xlr outputs pro mixers always have, I think it's just way better... but really there'is simply no comparison... You can also notice this weaker signal when pre listening tracks in your headphones ... Even the headphones jack sounds incredibly louder on a real mixer than on midi gear... it's crazy such a big difference, but you WILL notice/feel it, just try it. Still no matter how expensive ur midi gear is... It's not gonna sound louder than a professional mixer... I'm NOT saying digital doesn't sound good at all cuz it sounds great and does the job, but there's a reason why these mixers cost almost 2,000 bucks hahah it's just better gear...

    I used to play out on an s4 and switched to 850s mk2 and an Ecler nuo 4 mixer mainly because of this same reason... Superior sound quality, ten times more power

    • Craig Berry says:

      There's absolutely no technical reason why what you are saying is true, with the exception of individual mixer 'color'.

      Digital and analog signals, barring no differences in media quality, will be exactly the same.

    • Your viewpoint is so inside-out that I wouldn't know where to start explaining how much you don't know.

      But good for you buddy, outboard mixing can sound better than inside mixing in many situations.

  5. I think you are playing bad quality files of you audio preference is not in above 16bit 44100khz or above. When I using my Audio4DJ or Audio8DJ somethimes the audiosound is even better then DJ who use CDs.

  6. I run from my sound card into a compact analog mixer. You can then boost your gain a little bit on the mixer and it won't hurt the signal the way digital clipping would.

  7. Pieter Passmann says:

    Never forget your settings ! Traktor has a configurable headroom and limiter built-in. Also think about Going lossless - 320 is really the lowest you should go.
    Also make your Files go onto your Laptop's hdd and think about investing in a SSD Drive. Vibrations and humidity are Huge hazards.

    • I agree with the headroom settings on Traktor, if you can get those where you like them, then everything should be all good. Recommending a SSD may be out of the price range for some, a 512 gb ssd is going for $350. An alternative is a hybrid drive,I have the Seagate Momentus XT (approx $120) which has 6 gigs of solid state memory and 750 gigs of sata. Works perfectly in the club, or at home. 320 mp3's are fine, I would go any lower than that also. You may also consider using PN on your tracks, some don't like, but I get compliments on how clean my tracks sound.

  8. Well, I have a story about that.
    I use only wav and at a moment my set sounded like MP3@320Kbps and less.
    After a long search and trying I noticed that my soundcard M-Audio FW401 had sound quality issues @ low latency.
    I've always been told you can lower the latency until you hear clicks and pops.
    Well in my experiance that is not true.
    I can lower my latency until 10 ms before I have clicks and pops.
    But my sound quality already changes when go lower than 20ms.
    I'm now at 28 msec (or something).
    So my advice is, check your latency and put it much higher.
    If u are using midicontrollers you don't need to go as low as 10 msec.

  9. liam alando says:

    Check your USB cables when getting kernel errors or for 'pop & clicks'. Not all cables are created equal! I believe there is an article on DJTT about it from a few years ago

  10. Can't fault the quality of my audio 8 card, lots of good advice above. Though first check the quality of your files, if u have downloaded them from illegal sites the quality night not be what it says. I stick with 320kbs, we noticed night and day difference when i followed after one guy at a house party, his files were from download sites mine were bought from legit sites.

    What i have noticed though using my adio 8 is that sound quality from itunes is not as good as through traktor, anyone else notice this?

  11. DJ Forced Hand says:

    Once you check all of the above off the list and you find you still have audio quality problems, you should really see if your components have their gain set correctly. Typically, when you have gain on the master set too high (to try and boost a low signal) you'll get weird, over-amplified moments. Try starting everything (except main outs) at "Unity" (the Zero dB of gain point). Check the PFL levels to make sure you're not pegging the V/U meter and dial up the gain on the channel until the meter shows levels that are momentarily in the reds. At this point it is safe to bring up the Mains volume to a comfortable level. If you need to adjust the volume of your channel independent of other channels, the mixing board is the place to do it.

  12. there could be loads of reason why it happens but usually its the file, but there's a free spectrum analyzer called spek, it will help you rule out that its your files. i've bought a few 320s @48hz(22khz) and once i scanned it with spek i found out they were only at 32hz(16khz) missing all the low ends of the frequency.
    http://spek-project.org/ (a must have for all digital djs)

  13. 16b441khz says:

    No one has mentioned yet that the quality of the DACs on CDJs and their mixers are only rivalled by rane or a&h. But the secret is the CDJs. They just have better everything and eliminate the variables associated with laptop djing. That's why they cost so much...

    WAV makes a huge difference. You can't get the same sound out of an MP3 320 as it cuts off at 16khz and does some weird shit in the low frequencies.

    • Firebird says:

      320s cut off at 20kHz not 16. I can't even hear above 18kHz. I can't tell the difference with monitors and I have to try hard to tell with headphones. Also in my experience mp3 compression barely does anything to the low end with most of the weird shit happening at the extreme high end.

      • Chuck van Eekelen says:

        Yeah, I tend to agree with that. Having done a rather extensive test in a club environment with various rate mp3's and wav's and collectively concluding that there is no discernable difference between 320 (and even 256) mp3's and the wav's.

        High's over 18KHz are not really important since only (pretty) young people can hear anything there at all and there really is very little musical information there, apart from some harmonics.

        The other thing is that there is mention of 48KHz mp3's. A 48KHz sampling rate is usually used for stuff like MD and DAT (native digital tape formats). CD's (and most MP3's) are normally 44.1KHz.

        It would pay to check the native rate of your soundcard (very possibly 48KHz) and that of your MP3's (as said probably 44.1KHz). This COULD be a potential source of distortion. So, in the proces of elimination, take 2 or 3 tunes, rip them yourself to 320/44 and 320/48 versions and play both. If you can hear a difference, you might have found a (possible) cause.

        Happy spinning & greetinx,
        Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen

  14. I've also had a similar problem. I'm using HID connected CDJ 900s to my laptop using traktor, we had a DJ switchover, this other guy was using numark mixdeck with CDs connected to the club's DJ mixer(not the channel mixer). I noticed that the SQ between mine and his is quite noticeable to the discerning ear.

  15. I had very weird audio problems because of my sound card and then I upgraded and it sounded a lot better but still gave me problems from time to time. I finally got a NS6 and it sounded better than my American Audio soundcard, I had some XLR cables I didn't use over a year and they sound so fantastic. They are much louder and clearer. Only thing is my low quality files sound worst on XLR. but as long as I get good files it'll sound good.

    I've also had the laptop crash that was in the comments, due to overheating. I got a fan and it made all the difference. Now my laptop is elevated. No problem yet.

    • Chuck van Eekelen says:

      Funny you should mention cables.

      A while ago, in a studio environment, we did a little test (A-B comparison) of microphone (XLR) cables. I was convinced we wouldn't hear a difference. Boy, was I wrong! We used a low-end bulk cable (it was DAP, but the same is true for several of the low-end brands) and compared it with a quality XLR cable from a high-end supplier.

      I was shocked to say the least.

      We seem all too keen on spending big bucks on laptops (why get a 1000 dollar laptop if you can get a 2000 dollar mac right!), controllers, software, etx. And then we go online and order some discount cables or worse, we find something laying around in a box somewhere in the attic or garage.

      I would like to suggest using pro quality cables, regardless of the connection you want to make. RCA plugs being at the bottom of the list (and even get sturdy pro-level cables for those!) and balanced XLR or balanced jack at the top of the list.

      I am not saying you need to get the extreme stuff that is available for the audiophile consumers (e.g. monster cable and such), but make sure your cables don't have to come out of the very tail end of your budget.

      Good cables will actually sound better, make better, more reliable connections and usually last longer in the tough life on the road.

      Greetinx and happy spinning!
      Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen

      • yepp, cables do matter for analogue signals.
        Altough it should not change the soundquality on digital signals.
        use digital cables where you can.
        It's unbelieveable how many people still connect their CDJ's analogly to there DJM 800!!!

  16. ok, i remember when cdrs came out and they were really expensive. people would say that copying a disc with "a" brand drive using "b" brand discs was better to copying using "c" brand drive and "d" brand discs. i know it sounds crazy and myself never tried it but imagine going to mp3s. Of course there will be losses. hopefully, in a club environment they won't be noticeable to the customers/partygoers/dancers etc etc

    Loudness: certain hardware are just louder than others. in general. i know xlrs for the same microphones are louder than connecting 1/4" on the same powered mixer that i use. end of. my new laptop was a lower maxed out volume built in soundcard than my ancient one. loudness shouldnt matter though. you should be able to compensate with the analogue mixer or amps, equalizer etc. just don't go in the red because that means distortion. red is not good. that's why it's red.

    Murphy's law: if something can go wrong, then it will. so be prepared. Why use an exteral hard drive? means you have your laptop filled up with games/useless programs/movies/viruses/antiviruses/porn etc etc. none needs so much music. i think if people are prepared to get paid for djing on a regular basis then a dedicated machine is in order. yes, the entire collection in an external hard drive as backup but bring in what you want to use. clean up. format. and if possible have a backup laptop/usb stick/ipad/cd etc until all comes back to order. that way crashes are less.

    cooling is important too. had a laptop just turn off because the vent was on the laptop stands brackets :-). i also make sure i clean the fan and all heat sinks once a year. this does not improve quality, but overall speed and performance and longevity on any computer.

  17. I use a similar setup, my sound quality journey was improved in two categories. Gain stage and key lock.
    I put my track gains at -3, and my master at -3. I set the auto gain off, the headroom to -0, . While these arent conventional settings, this is how I make totally sure that I don't clip. I mix with the gains on the pioneer mixer externally.
    I recommend trying to push a track up +5% and listen to both key lock algorithms. I personally think ECO sounds more open than HiQ, others say the opposite. The best sound quality will be from no key lock, try all 3 settings if u are A-B comparing against cdjs

  18. Contrary to popular belief there's no much difference between (TRUE) 192 and 320kbs,

    16b441khz says:
    WAV makes a huge difference. You can’t get the same sound out of an MP3 320 as it cuts off at 16khz and does some weird shit in the low frequencies.
    Not true,320 will top @ 20k 192 around 18.5k not much difference, remember human can't hear past 20k( unless u r the bionic woman from the 70's tv serie)When in doubt use an ASA.

    Stavros says:
    i think if people are prepared to get paid for djing on a regular basis then a dedicated machine is in order.

    100% true

  19. Hi, i have a question, is necessary to use a external sound card to plug in the controller (like s4, pioneer ddjt1 or vestax vci 400 build in sound card) on the club mixer ?? Or just can plug in straight to the mixer?? Tks for u help.

  20. here are the things that have helped me in using Traktor to get my sound quality the best it can be. Gain stage, keylock and mp3 encodes.
    I set the gains to each track at -3, and master at -3. I turn off auto gain, limiter and set the headroom to zero. These settings are for mixing externally on a pioneer mixer for a timecode setup. While these settings may seem unconventional, it makes absolutely sure that i don't clip. I make up for it by turning the gain on the mixer channel up a little hotter. I've found if I go a little softer in software but a little hotter on the mixer, sounds fine. (a little meaning like less than 3db).
    I recommend trying all 3 keylock settings and seeing which one you think sounds the best. I personally think ECO sounds better than HiQ, but I may be in the minority. Keylock off will sound the best of the 3 but that may not be practical in all situations.
    MP3s i make from CDs sound tons better when I encode them in iTunes than from other software. Thats subjective too, but I deleted a lot of tracks made in Windows MediaPlayer, they sounded muffled.
    I agree with 16b441khz that the DAC (digital audio converters) of the Pioneer CDJ equip are top notch, but I am getting great quality from my TA6 also that I feel is comparable. The keylock quality of Pioneer gear can't be beat though.
    I also agree with Irvin Cee that going too short on the latency settings is not good and there needs to be a little extra room there for great sound.
    These are the settings I use, while not the most popular settings, they have worked for me, I get compliments on my sound quality from club managers often.

    • Chuck van Eekelen says:

      I rip everything from CD to WAV with dBpoweramp (paid version). If installed and tuned perfectly (takes about 15-30 minutes to get is set up exactly right the first time) and using Plextor CD-drives (the best around at error correction) I dare say it does rip very well. I then use the batch converter (converts one song per core on my six core PC :-), so nice and speedy) to get them to 320Kbps/44KHz/Full Stereo MP3's.

  21. No-one has mentioned the limiter in traktor yet. Try flicking this on and off whilst playing a tune. Its literally night and day, even on a hifi setup.

    Take the auto gain off too, that can balls up tunes and isn't as good at gain staging as you are with your ears.

    Are you running your tunes through anything else before putting them into traktor? MP3Gain? Platinum Notes?

    They might be doing your tunes a dis-service.

  22. I've heard some dramatic differences in quality between even CD ripped and paid for downloads (particular some older music, I play a lot of funk, soul etc). All ripped/downloaded at the highest bitrate or itunes format btw. It depends on the original source recording and they can vary.
    I compare multiple copies of tracks with good headphones before deleting the duplicates, I don't want to lose the best copy (plus versions of the same recording can vary of course; longer edits etc). Doing this through laptop speakers wont cut it.

    I too can hear the difference between even the best recordings playing out through my Audio 4 or my S4 (with gain set perfectly) and CDs playing through CDJs. That's gotta be the difference between CD audio and MP3 as NI gear has quality DAC and components. I'm still very impressed by the sound I get in the club using my digital setup though although if I play what I perceive to be a poor recording of an MP3 at gig I'll often obtain a better copy at home for next time.

    Not one punter has ever complained about sound quality.

    Here's a question though: Is there any point adjusting the bitrate/KHZ setting for the audio device itself within Traktor? I've always stuck with the standard settings.

    PS Top tip re the hazards of hard drives dying: clone your drive regularly onto another external drive, bring it with you to gigs and if the internal drive goes wonky, boot up from the clone like nothing's changed (or boot it on another person's mac even).
    I started doing this with my mac and pleased to say I've not had to use it yet. I'm very anal with all my backups and spares though!

  23. Gee I read all the replies and some of them are full with misconception and false information...

    320kbps MP3 cut off @ 16Hz????? How can anyone come up with that? Get yourself a nice spectrum analyzer and watch it filling the frequencies up to 19kHz easily.....

    "Digital midi gear will never sound as loud as ananalogue mixer?" jeesus christ.....how did you come up with that? Digital audio gear CANNOT DISTORT like an analogue mixer can...it can go as loud as the analogue equivalent goes though.......

    As for the OP - check your tracks sources......downloading an MP3 file in 320kbps doesnt necessarily mean its a 320kbps QUALITY MP3...if anyone has "degraded" it to 128kbps for example and then someone else re-converted it to 320kbps, what do you think the final file sounds like? Yup, like a 128kbps MP3....


    • Agreed mate, some bizzare theories. Half-cocked 'knowledge' is also why Wikipedia can't be trusted.

      The only thing I can trust sometimes is my ears.

      • I'm trusting Wikipedia for this one though!:

        "Audio CDs
        Audio CDs do not use WAV as their sound format, using instead Red Book audio. The commonality is that both audio CDs and WAV files have the audio data encoded in PCM. WAV is a data file format for a computer to use that cannot be understood by CD players directly. To record WAV files to an Audio CD the file headers must be stripped and the remaining PCM data written directly to the disc as individual tracks with zero-padding added to match the CD's sector size. In order for a WAV file to be able to be burned to a CD with most burners it should be in the 44100 Hz, 16-bit stereo format."

    • Not too many people here know what an ASA is.
      I always use it even for cd rip, you never know what's out there.

  24. Oh also another misconception on the actual OP's question: CDs are digital too you know! 😉

  25. Ben Grimm says:

    The last time I played out at a club, I ran my S4 through the Pioneer mixer in the booth, and from there to the house mixer, and barely had it turned up to 12 o'clock on the master volume out, with the limiter on, and the headroom set to -6db I think. The house asked me to turn it down a little (the Pioneer mixer wasn't even peaking into the yellow). It was still louder than the DJ who used Serato after me, and the DJ who spun last was using an Xponent, and he always had to turn up the mixer gain after putting the Xponent on full volume (he's since switched to an S2 and hasn't had any volume or sound qualities issues that I know of).

  26. Ole Caspersen says:

    @DJ Xel: What's the PN you mention? Thx. Ole.

  27. nobody write about songs :) for instance if andrew play something from 80's and another dj play sometihin from this days 😉 check Loudness war on google

  28. PN stands for platinum notes, from the people who brought you mixedinkey

  29. djcl.ear says:

    Well, what this article shows was bound to happen.... and increasingly so... since Denon DN-X1700 mixer and Pio DJM-800, since then CDJ gear and DJ mixers are on the verge of HiFi quality (over 105dB signal-to-noise-rate (SNR) and less thsn 0,005 THD). But not many have noticed till recently, since parties' sound systems were still on typical Pro-Audio level (85-95dB SNR and 0,01 THD)... hence not revealing enough for the difference in source.
    FFWD 2012, and MACKIE and the likes, have vastly improved SNR and lowered distortion, and are increasingly bettering sound chains in this regard.

    You DJS riding on MP3s are going soon to be exposed, if haven't happened yet...just like Andre Potter describes says here. The rule of thump now is the better the place and the bigger the sound system, then the more chance is there your MP3 sourced audio is going to sound thin, weak, veiled, and the high freqs scratched or dull, even 320 ones at some time.
    I don't want to open a discussion but humans may not hear this freqs, but do REACT to them as tests have proven, and detailed measures not only show that the upper freq lost content is important in the DAC process... more so if it uses oversampling, but also the conversion does trickle down affecting as low as audible 12Khz... at the antialiasing filter.

    C'mon note that most of the lost info of going from 1440(CD) to 320 Mp3s are spatial cues. Yes cleverly done, so your car stereo sounds better, but in big and hifi SSystems as are now spreading the sound is lifeless... These rigs are going to even clearly expose bad or lower quality mastering in the actual music, regardless all is played in above 44,1khz formats!
    So better stop lying ourselves the sooner the better andinvest in extra storage but wouldn't recommend buying lower than 44,1/16
    If you can't yet handle it with your DJ system, just convert it down while keeping the lossless original till you do.

    Soon LABELS are going to be happy to resell to you again (or for first time) your deared files at higher resolution.

    Besides, one big factor in sound difference that still remains, is the soundcard quality you convert your files with, and nope, those M-audio and the likes ARE sound levels worst than the installed mixers mentioned above or what the "industry standard" has moved up to, years already.
    I am very happy with my EKS Otus' twin digital outs allowing me to plug my gear thru a lossless way into the main mixers and using those great converters... it even sounds even better than a CDJ, 'cause the latter typically goes out thru RCA and thus adds an extra ADC-DAC conversion to the whole sound chain.

    //OTHER ADVICE,this is rarely known, but be careful not to lower volumes digitally, since many of those digital volume reductions what really do is truncating the files quality(reducing the bit number)... for volume calibration use DSP from dedicated software, not the driver controls. Digital Gain structure is not like analogin that you set every part to +7.

    //About having to go over $1000 for a good DAC conversion this is not true, not anymore. You do need to investigate spec wise, and it needs a whole article because there are really good choices out there, very different ways to tackle this and most all with VERY different sound as a result.

    //And last, balanced XLR is +10dB VS -4dB for line RCA outs, that is how it is designed, and the sound guy should know and adjust.

  30. evil twin says:

    I use Traktor Scratch Pro 2.5.1 with keylock (normally HiQ), master limiter off, headroom -6db.

    When I last played out in a club on a F1 system, I connected my laptop directly into DJM-900 via USB. Compared to CDJ2000, the bass lost all of its power (I play mostly dubstep & drum&bass), the tunes sounded thinner. Same thing actually happened when I used my trusty Audio8 - although, to a lesser extent. Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

    I play around 50/50 320k mp3 and lossless AIFF.

    • I found this too and wonder if it's Traktor 2.5.1. I'm going to downgrade to 2.3 see if this makes a difference. Was fine at one point.

    • several reasons.
      1) The default latency with DJM900 is set to 10ms, change that to 20ms or higher unitl your sound is right.
      2) The first set of drivers where buggy and crappy.
      3) The soundcard of the DJM900 is crap.

      • evil twin says:

        Thank you for the reply. If I run into similar problem when using NI Audio 8 sound card + external mixer (they are connected via standard NI multicore cables of course) - that is, the bass is not as meaty as it's supposed to be, treble is bit muddy, transients are duller, etc - how can I improve the sound?

        So far I have found the following advice here and elsewhere:
        1) turn auto-gain off (might cause a problem when playing very silent files)
        2) increase buffer size
        3) turn off keylock (really don't want to do that because of harmonically compatible content)

        I'm using either 48khz or 88.2khz sample rate (the latter one only when my CPU power allows to do so). The buffer size is usually either 256 or 320 samples, allowing 10-13 ms latency.

        • Keylock is the big one. One trick is to mix with keylock on, then get the pitch back to zero, and turn keylock off. Thus you may have only a minute of keylock-affected music and the rest of the track played as it should be.

      • evil twin says:

        Phil: Yes, I have tried that. Unfortunately, it's still a "workaround" and not a real solution. I wish Traktor's keylock was as good as the CDJ's.

    • I got myself the DJM-900NXS2 and one of the news was the beefed up internal sound card that now supposedly should be almost as good as running a player through the analog/digital channels. So far I'm good with running my players in the mixer digitally, but in the future, who knows what I will plug in to it :) . One thing I can say though, is that when I switched from my 2000Nexus/DJM-800 setup to the NXS2 setup, the sound quality was noticeably better. Even my headphones sounded better...

      Since then a firmware update has taken the sound quality up another notch, but that one I couldn't hear. The overall feeling is that the sound is warmer and clearer, especially when running more than one channel to the master and effects are applied. That sometimes feel compressed or even messy with the 800-/900's, not so anymore with the NXS2.

  31. Hi Phil,

    While searching various forum's I noticed that there is a way to hook up my kontrol s2 into two channels on an external mixer mine being a djm 600.Ie a song on each channel.It says that i run a phono lead as normal from the output of the s2 to a channel on my djm 600.Then run a jack(headphone jack with adapter) to phono lead from the headphone socket into another channel on my djm 600. I am just wondering is this safe to do? will it harm the s2?iv tried this routing at home and it works but i'm just wondering if I used it over a long period would it harm the controller?

  32. I got a Audio10 Soundcard and experiencing the same loss in quality when playing through it using Timecode CD's. The music doesn't comes "through" the same way as the same files are from my CDJ 400's with a USB plugged in.

    I've been struggling the last year with features, settings volumes, and at times I thought I was hearing things, cause others didn't heared it. And at certain times I thought yes it's proper now. But now I know for sure at least at mine system at home I can hear it. I recently hooked up the card in Direct Thru mode with the both CDJs loading music from the USB, and just using Traktor as a Recorder. Then my recording are sounding pumping and the music really comes "through".

    It's kinda sad cause I bought my Audio 10 last year July, and totally forgot to send it back to the shop where I bought it to return it to Native to check if there would be something wrong with it.

    It's really hard to tell but its most noticeable during a mix in my experience.
    I could link some recordings done w the following setup if people would like to hear it: Macbook Unibody 2.4, Traktor 2 (recently 2.5 and to be totally honest a cracked one, simply didn't bought cause I was having troubles w the quality), Audio10, DJM800, CDJ400 w 2 Traktor Timecode CD's.

  33. djayhooker says:

    I've seen a lot of djs djing with traktor and the djm900, Datsik for one.

    Isn't this all getting a bit anal? I know anybody that is into music tech tends to be anyway, but most of the pro gear is up to the job...isn' it ?

  34. I use Traktor too and at first hated it because of the sound quality. I discovered it is because the built-in limiter in Traktor is very aggressive and it kills the dynamic range of the sound. You can fix this by disabling the software limiter in traktor's settings (or setting it to the highest setting) and then setting the master output lower, usually to around -6dB. By lowering the master out you can be sure the output doesn't clip or get limited and you still get the full range of the sound. You can make up for the lowered output levels by increasing the gain on the mixer or speaker amp that you are plugged into. I found this made everything sound 100000x better and I was no longer dissatisfied with traktor's sound. I've played like this in a club (using my audio8dj) and i would say it sounded as good as anything else.

  35. Hi Phil,

    While searching various forum’s I noticed that there is a way to hook up my kontrol s2 into two channels on an external mixer mine being a djm 600.Ie a song on each channel.It says that i run a phono lead as normal from the output of the s2 to a channel on my djm 600.Then run a jack(headphone jack with adapter) to phono lead from the headphone socket into another channel on my djm 600. I am just wondering is this safe to do? will it harm the s2?iv tried this routing at home and it works but i’m just wondering if I used it over a long period would it harm the controller?

  36. Just a thing I was wondering, when you use the Audio10 in DIrect Thru mode, and play a signal CD or USB from a CDJ through it, is it correct the output is lower in volume as it would when it comes directly from the CDJ to the mixer (with the same gain on the channel offc)? I can't find a real answer to this question anywhere, hope someone could help :)

  37. To the OP, my guess is the quality of the DAC in your controller is not as good as the CDJs. (DAC does the digital to analogue conversion.) Good DACs are expensive, and they make a massive difference.

  38. The reason your Audio 4 or any native instrument sound card wont sound as good as pioneer cdjs even after all trimmings etc is down to the DAC used.

    Native instruments soundcards use Cirus DACS whilst Pioneer use WOLFSON which are far superior and produce a nice warm sound when compared to CIRUS which is more clinical in sounding.

    Its the same as Ipods, the early NANOs and classics used Wolfson and the newer Cirus. massive difference.

  39. To put this issue to rest, the main reason why Traktor cannot and will never be able to compete with cdj is because Traktor is a software that processes sound and compresses the output when it sends the signal whereas cdj's laser reads the direct digital code off the cd and plays raw data (in Wav or aif). I've even been told that cds are better than usb sticks in the cdj, which is a notch higher and, honestly speaking, too much work for me to burn my whole collection. Thoughts?

    • Too much in their to tackle, but it really is nowhere near as simple or clear cut as you make out.

    • Contrabande says:

      Oh my god mate, really?? Raw data? Is that like raw sewage? Because that's what's flowing through your keyboard. Ha, BURN! No wait, that's what lasers do...

      Some of the tips here are actually useful: limiter off, key lock off, auto gain off - good stuff, thanks for sharing.

      @ Evil Twin keep playing with the settings until you get it right, last time I saw Andy C ( you play d&b so I'm assuming you know him) there was no real difference in sound between him on Traktor and everyone else on cdj, definitely no shortage of bass!

      If the cdjs were connected digitally to the djm 900 that may be causing the difference in sound, as with your audio 8 you've got an extra stage of AD/DA conversion going on that will colour the sound.

      A Skillz and Krafty Kutz often play back to back sets, A Skillz on Serato, Krafty on CDJ. If you don't look at the dj booth you cannot tell who's playing what based on the sound.

      Is cdj better than Traktor? It's all subjective: both the cdj 2000 and audio 8 / 10 dj offer good accuracy of sound reproduction, and their subtle differences are very subtle.

      The tracks you play do make a difference to your sound. If you're struggling with sound, buy a well produced, mixed and mastered cd like the new Daft Punk album, or some Noisia, or some Deadmau5, or some Pendulum / Knife Party and play it through your setup straight from the cd (ie don't rip it to mp3). If you still think it sounds sub par then maybe upgrade your kit. You kind of do need pro kit to achieve a pro sound, but it's a lot cheaper to start buying wavs that buying a whole new setup.

      A word on mp3s, premier league mastering engineer Stuart Hawkes ( Google if you don't know) conducted some tests at Metropolis studios with mp3s downloaded from the "big" commercial sites and found the sound quality of these 320 mp3s he down loaded were comparable in sound to 192 mp3s they encoded in the studio from the 16bit 44.1k wav. These websites do the encoding themselves, apparently with varying degrees of success!

      Furthermore, Tony Andrews of Funktion 1 has no kind words for mp3s. He knows a thing or 2 about phat club sound. Google it, he's on youtube rambling on about Djs and sound quality, he shares some good knowledge.

  40. Make sure to disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, TimeMachine, and any other driver and software you're not going to use, and monitor your CPU activity.
    Make sure your controller drivers are up to date.

  41. Simply we canot pass the 1985 Audio Wav format of CDR-W because we are using quality in every time we user low quality DAC and converting to mp3 low bitrate. Pionners they have the best DAC's out there. So the best we can do is to find good quality wav files or flac and burn the to Cd's or save the to Hard disk after choose what we want in big usb stick's. Pionner 900-2000-nexus every good club has that players. is the best players for music with usb drive we can play our music without computer and sound fantastic (better Bass, Mid's Hight's) or we can use The traktor and to do the same job. good quality mp3's sound better on the same setup with Pionner CDj's from every Usb soundcard no matter resolution 24bit 48,96,192Khz.
    Every time we see in video movies better an better resulution 720p1080p 4k etc, we need better studio quality music and good quality Players. Thankx

  42. Do we all understand the most notable reason why your digital files sound worse than CD tracks is because they're ripped to MP3? MP3 is lossy, and while you can rip them at 320 (which is technically better than CD quality), it still strips out some of the song information. Your best bet is to rip in lossless; FLAC,ALAC etc.

    The next big reason you might have inferior playback is that your soundcard (or computer) cannot playback as loud as a true, professional-grade audio playback device (having to crank the gain it up just to be as loud as another device creates distortion).

    Wires, connections, and other bad electrical connections (including pots and faders) can be a cause of sub-standard playback, but this is also true for CDJs and Record Players.

    If you can get a lossless (read as Master) track, and playback on a professional-grade Controller, your sound will be as good or better than a record player or turntable.

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