DVS – which is short for ” Digital Vinyl System” – is one of the oldest forms of digital DJing. It uses special timecode records and CDs (or timecode file loaded on USB sticks) paired with turntables or DJ media players to control laptop DJ software.
Once you enable DVS in your software, you get a choice of four play modes instead of just the one mode you get without DVS. Each mode performs differently, and learning how and when to use each mode is the key to getting the most out of any DVS.
1. Absolute Mode
This mode provides the most “vinyl-like” experience. Like a real piece of vinyl, the song starts at the very beginning of the timecode record and you are able to skip around the song by lifting the needle and placing it at different points on the timecode record. However, this does mean that if the needle skips, the song will skip too – just like it would with a real vinyl record.
This mode was popular in the early stages of digital DJing as DJs were making the jump from using vinyl to using a computer. It strips the DVS to the very basics, making the transition more comfortable for experienced DJs. It is also the most “purist” way of using your DVS, however this simplicity comes at a price: many of the features that digital DJs have come to love such as cue points and looping are not available in Absolute Mode.
2. Relative Mode
This mode basically turns your record deck or media player platter into a jogwheel, similar to a DJ controller’s jogwheel.
Unlike Absolute Mode, your needle position on the timecode vinyl doesn’t matter. The song will play as long as the timecode record is playing, which means if the record skips, the song will continue playing as normal. It will not jump forwards or backwards as a real skipping vinyl record would (or as if you were in Absolute Mode).
This feature is a huge benefit when playing in a loud environment with heavy bass which could make the needle more likely to skip.
Relative Mode also allows for all the modern features that have become standard for digital DJ software. If you are looking for the tactile feel that vinyl provides, but would like to use features like hot cues, looping, and even sync, then Relative Mode is what you are looking for.
Most DJs who use DVS play in Relative Mode because of all of these added benefits when compared to Absolute Mode.
3. Internal Mode
Internal Mode bypasses the timecode signal completely. It allows you to control the software with either your mouse and keyboard or with a DJ controller. If you use software such as Serato DJ Pro, Traktor Pro, Virtual DJ, or Rekordbox DJ a controller, you are using that software in Internal Mode by default.
Internal Mode is also used with certain media players such as Pioneer CDJs when accessing HID Mode. HID Mode essentially turns the media player into a controller (ie it sends Midi to your laptop) instead of using it to play the timecode via CD or USB flash drive.
4. Thru Mode
This mode will change the deck into an auxiliary channel allowing you to play a source outside of the software. For example if you are using turntables and would like to play a real vinyl record during a DVS set, you would need to put the deck in Thru Mode. This tells the software that you’re playing from an external source, letting you bypass the virtual decks.
Newer DVS DJs are sometimes unsure when and why to use the different modes that their DVS has to offer. Although most will spend the majority of their time with a DVS using Relative Mode, each mode can be used effectively in certain situations. For example, learning to use Internal Mode with the mouse and keyboard when having signal issues has saved me more times than I can count, and if I hadn’t taken the time to learn this technique I wouldn’t have made it through many gigs.
The four different DVS modes can all be useful in certain situations, and the better you understand the features your digital DJ software has, the more you can get out of it.
Do you spin with a DVS? Which mode do you prefer – Relative or Absolute? Why? Let us know below.