DJing Vinyl vs Digital: Which Format is Best for You? | Beatmatch Guru

DJing Vinyl vs Digital: Which Format is Best for You?

DJing with Vinyl and Laptop

Digital music has become a dominant format for DJs and music lovers alike. From the illegal downloading days to amazing services such as Spotify, it’s quite clear that records vinyls have taken a back seat. I love DJing with record vinyls as it instills a lot of nostalgia, but I equally love digital music for DJing. I do wonder how long I will be DJing with both formats.

DJing Vinyl vs Digital? A record vinyl contains audio engraved within grooves of polyvinyl chloride. Vinyls are placed onto turntables to transmit audio to speakers. Digital audio is recorded as MP3, WAV or AIFF formats. Digital music is commonly played via CDJs, DJ Controllers and DVS setups.

Let’s take a look into both formats and explore which is best for you. Like me I’m sure there’s a lot of DJs out there that DJ vinyl still and have a hybrid setup. There are a several considerations to take onboard if you’re new to DJing.

What is Vinyl DJing?

DJing with record vinyls is the grass roots and dawn of the format to DJ with. From my experience it’s a lot of fun to DJ this way mainly from the feel of the record vinyl. Also I get a major buzz from the process of shopping in a store purchasing records and admiring the amazing artwork.


You’ll need two record player turntables each containing a pitch shift and RPM selector for 33 or 45, some turntables offer more speeds. Invest in quality and buy direct drive turntables, don’t make the mistake I did and buy belt drive turntables. Belt drive simply does not offer the speed responsiveness you need to beat match when using the pitch shift.

To connect the two turntables together you’ll need to mixer. A 2-Channel mixer is all you really need to get going and is as basic as they come. There are 4-Channel mixers out there on the market too which are more advanced allowing more turntables to be connected, e.g. 2 x record player turntables, 2 x CDJ turntables.

Once setup you can connect to either pre-amp speakers or an amp which then connects to speakers. Test out a record to see if it plays through the speakers, if not the usual checks include checking the mixer is correctly set to phono on each channel and also check the channel/master volumes are not set to zero.

Boom! You’re ready to mix your heart out.

That’s the simplified version of the vinyl DJing setup. Now let’s explore more about the positive points of using record vinyls as a format to DJ with and versus DJing with digital music.

Why DJing Vinyl is Better than Digital?

Vinyls = Feel

It’s as simple as that for me to DJ with vinyls. Sure there’s a large amount of nostalgia to DJing with vinyl but it feels like you get a lot more control over the speed of the vinyl with the pitch.

When correcting a mix to not go out of sync with the other beat, it’s actually quite easy correct when the vinyl is spinning on the turntable. Multiple touch points on the vinyl allow a great amount of control to quickly get the vinyl to beat match in the mix quickly again.

Sound Quality

Analogue signal vs digital signal is arguably better due to the standard of record vinyls being mastered to a more consistent and higher standard than an MP3 for example.

It seems there’s a potential argument to be had for the explosion of digital audio formats reducing in consistency of quality and consistency across the music industry as a whole. Especially as many producer DJs are starting their own record labels.

I remember a while ago on Radio 1xtra and also a separate interview with Dillinja (a legendary Drum & Bass producer) they discussed the quality of the EQ range of vinyl. This was specifically around the quality of the low sub / bass range being better in comparison to digital audio file formats. If you play a genre that has a lot of low sub basslines then this is something to consider.

Tune Selection Quality

Selection of tracks can arguably be better quality and tailored from lugging around a limited amount of record vinyls with you to perform live as a DJ.

This fact could mean that as a DJ you craft a setlist that is tailored to your audience. The idea being that you’ve tailored your tune selection better due to thinking about it more before the actual gig. Don’t get me wrong here this is not applicable to all DJs and I suggest this would be appropriate to specific venues and gigs you play. For example, festivals, small bars or radio.

Printed Artwork

You can admire the printed artwork on 12 inch lush cardboard record sleeve cover, especially prominent on albums which I absolutely love. Observations of the music industry is why over the last 5 years is why record vinyls has has a resurgence.

Vinyls have amazing artwork too. In the electronic music genres some record vinyls have amazing artwork baked into them. Hopsital Records occasionally release coloured artwork record vinyls.

Equipment Setup

The DJ equipment for purely a vinyl DJ setup is pretty simplistic, although larger in size compared to digital DJ Controllers for example. There’s no tinkering with a software to setup and calibrate etc which to some people is a great thing.

What is Digital DJing?

Digital DJing started out as CDJs and DVS setups allowing DJs the opportunity to DJ with both record vinyls and digital audio formats. Nowadays there’s definitely a real scene and trend in some music genres whereby DJs are mainly using DJ controllers and just CDJ turntables and a mixer.

It’s no surprise really, we’ll get into the positive points below later, but there’s certainly a few points that really override DJs using vinyl as a format of choice.


Spoilt for choice would be my first thought when considering which type of turntable setup to use for DJing digital music. You can use a DJ Controller which is an all in one system (turntable jog wheels and mixer), then there’s Digital Vinyl Systems and also DJ mixers that have the same DVS compatibility. Check out some insights I’ve put together for DJ Controllers vs DJ Mixer, also what is a DVS is here.

CDJs are still very prominent for a lot of venues, ranging from bars, clubs and radio stations. The brand Pioneer have literally pioneered their way into the CDJ market becoming the industry standard for a lot these venues. So my advice would be to get some practice on these sort turntables before playing live.

Again, similar to the vinyl turntable setup, once equipment has been selected connecting to a speaker system you’re ready to start mixing!

Why DJing Digital is Better Than Vinyl?

Purchase Price

Cheap! In comparison to purchasing record vinyls. Let’s do some direct comparisons shall we?

Beatport offer a lot of MP3 and WAV formats ranging from £1 to £3. Whereas buying a record vinyl would cost at least £5 to £8, maybe more.

Buying in quantity is a much more common occurrence when buying digital music, with a budget of £100 you could potentially buy 100 tracks. This aspect of digital music really grabbed my attention as I love buying and getting hold of new tracks to DJ with.

Speed of track selection

Quicker mixes by selecting music tracks swiftly is more of a thing in DJing now. It’s not a standard sort of mixing technique but it gives you greater ability to select tracks super fast. DJ equipment such as DVS and DJ controllers have allowed DJs to achieve this.

In my opinion some sets do sound too mental when tracks are dropped in too quickly over a long period of time, but on the other hand DJ performances have got better because of this.

Easy to travel to gigs

Digital music = No heavy vinyls to take to gigs.

It’s so easy with digital music, you could actually in theory turn up to a DJ gig with a USB stick and plug it into a DJ Mixer to start mixing away. Maybe I’m being a bit farfetched here, but imagine if you’re a resident DJ playing a lot at one place. That’s such a comparison to the days of DJing wth vinyl.

Tip: Remember to take back ups of your digital music just in case you lose it or gets damaged.

Highly Shareable

Quicker to receive tracks from producers for example remixes, new releases, dub plates bootlegs etc. This is awesome, you don’t have to wait outside record shops or wait for a vinyl to arrive in the post.

Straight of the press is not really a thing anymore. A producer could finish a remix in the morning and by the night time you could be DJing with it in a club.

Performance flexibility

My point here is that DJing with DJ controllers and similar digital compatible equipment allows you now to add extra elements to your mixes. The first time I came across this was with looping effects to make for a better transitions between different tempo tracks.

Also, for example adding acapellas over instrumentals – this can be achieved easily with DVS, DJ controllers and CDJ setups. Even better too you can connect beat pads to the mixer, including brands AKAI or Native Instruments to add in some live playing of sounds to your mixes if you’re feeling funky. This is a performance element that certainly didn’t have much presence in vinyl DJing.

Related Questions

Do DJs still use Vinyl?

Vinyls are used less often within professional DJing venues as digital equipment becoming more of an industry standard. Digital equipment has become a dominant format offering DJs less equipment to transport to events and lower costs involved.

What is a vinyl in DJing?

A Phonograph Record, also known as a “Vinyl” due to being manufactured out of polyvinyl chloride. A common RPM speed for modern DJs is 45 rpm for 12 inch vinyls, and in some cases 45 rpm for smaller 7 inch vinyls.

What does it mean when its a DJ set?

A DJ set is list of music tracks selected by a DJ. The list of music tracks are mixed continuously non-stop to create a “set”, also known as a mix. Set lengths are commonly between 30, 60 and 120 minutes depending on the DJ performance being live or recorded.

Dan Dracott

I'm Dan Dracott from Beatmatch Guru. I love DJing and have done since I was 15 years old. I want to share my knowledge and love of DJing to help you guys get better at DJing.

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