I heard a term ‘DVS system’ a few months ago in passing at a friends house, I didn’t really understand what it was at the time. So after some research I realised that I have actually have a DVS DJ setup, so thought I’d shed some light on the topic with you.
What is DVS DJing? DVS stands for ‘Digital Vinyl System’. The system works by connecting a computer with ‘Vinyl Emulation Software’, to a DVS interface. The interface allows specialised time-coded signals sent via vinyls, mixer or DJ controller to control music on the emulation software.
My passion for DJing grew exponentially when I invested in a Digital Vinyl System, and just for your information I use Scratch Live by Serato. I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective on the amazing setup that’s evolved as a technology over time. If you’re in the market for upgrading or simply browsing different DJ setups, hopefully I can shed some light on the DVS setup for you.
How does a Digital Vinyl System Work?
DVS Technical Setup
A Digital Vinyl System works by syncing a digital time-coded controller physically used by a DJ. Typically this is in the form of time-coded record vinyl on a turntable or in some cases a CD.
The time-code sent by the controller (vinyl) is interpreted by a DVS Audio Interface. An interface is a box that connects input and output phono cables to the mixer and also a USB cable to a laptop.
From there the DVS audio interface syncs up with DJ Software known as ‘Vinyl Emulation Software‘. This then allows DJs to control whatever digital music track is visibly loaded onto the software using a traditional format, as stated above a record vinyl or CD. There are new controller formats on the market which we will go into more detail later on.
DVS Software Setup
Vinyl Emulation Software that is most common on the market today is:
- Serato typically is paired with DVS Audio Interface hardware made by RANE and Denon.
- Traktor is made by Native Instruments, who already make a lot of other music based digital equipment.
- Rekordbox works in conjunction with Pioneer based DVS audio interface
From experience the software is really easy to use, simply drag and drop music onto each turntable visually shown on the software, cue up your track and catch a beat, enter the mix. Job done!
Vinyl Emulation Software requires you to invest a short amount of time installing the software and adjusting the settings. In the settings you will come across ‘Calibration‘, this is to make sure that the software is connecting to the control signal from the vinyl/CD to a high quality level. The calibration is displayed as a circular shape on the software, and ideally the more circular the shape is the better the signal.
Noise sensitivity can be set for the calibration, and how strong the calibration is set depends on if you want to simply mix or scratch. Less sensitivity is required for scratching, more sensitivity suitable for normal mixing tracks together.
On the main user interface of the software, ‘Absolute’ and ‘Relative’ modes are available on for DJs to use.
This simply means that:
- ‘Absolute‘; will play like a traditional record vinyl, for example if you move the needle on the vinyl when a song is loaded, the song will skip ahead or back depending on where you place the needle. This gives old school vinyl DJs the real feel.
- ‘Relative‘; allows DJs the possibility to use effects buttons to jog, loop and play around with the sound playing on a particular turntable at that point in time. This can give you a great amount of control over manipulating the sound. This is great fun if you like playing around with songs, similar to a beatpad with samples.
A quick point about the music file formats that the DJ software includes: MP3, WAV, AIFF, Audio-CD, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis. Most common is likely to be MP3 and Audio-CD. Secondary formats you’ll probably use are WAV and AIFF.
At this point in time, time-coded controllers and DVS equipment comes in a variety of formats, starting with audio interfaces evolving to mixers with built in audio interface technology. It’s actually amazing and exciting how much DVS technology has evolved since Serato arrived on the scene with their first product in 1999. You can see the evolution of there brand on this page here.
Now let’s delve into the different DVS setups and equipment on offer out there and are even being developed. Hopefully this information can provide DJ beginners or someone looking to upgrade their DVS setup.
Types of DVS DJ Equipment
DVS Enabled Audio Interface (sound card)
This is one of the first Digital Vinyl Systems that was launched. It’s been mentioned a lot from the beginning of this article, but I wanted to share with you where the Digital Vinyl System all started.
In fact, the DVS audio sound card setup is the format that converted me from being purely a vinyl DJ and being out of pocket all of the time investing in Drum and Bass records, a few Garage records too.
This format has got better from what I’ve seen with improved low latency for Mac and PC drivers. Which means the signal is as tightly connected as possible. Minimal delays.
The main part of the setup includes:
- Sound card
- Time-coded record vinyls and CDs
- Vinyl emulation software e.g. Serato or Traktor
- USB cable
- Plug adaptors
Native Instruments offer a soundcard setup for around £240 online, potentially cheaper if you shop around, especially if you can find an older model version. Their Traktor Scratch A6 DVS package contains 2 time coded-vinyls and CDs, with the Traktor DJ emulation software.
Denon have created a soundcard and paired up with Serato software, and offer their Digital Vinyl System setup for around £350. The Denon DS1 Serato package is pretty much the same as the above Native Intruments A6 package.
Rane offer a DVS soundcard setup for around £780. Steep price I know. Rane do offer 4 time-coded vinyls and CDs in the new SL4 package containing a travel bag with plug adapters for professional DJs travelling around the world.
- Great addition for existing DJs that have a traditional vinyl turntables of CDJs setup. You still get that vinyl feel and benefit from a digital music library.
- Versatile in setting up at any DJ setup in clubs/bars around the world
- Lowers your costs of buying record vinyls all the time
- Price can be expensive for some DVS soundcard packages
- Limited range of DVS soundcards on the market
- Potentially not future-proof due to newer technology integrating DVS into equipment (featured below)
DVS DJ Controller
It feels like there are tonnes of DJ controllers out there on the market. The price ranges vastly too. DVS DJ Controllers are great for someone who is new to DJing and doesn’t have an existing CDJ or vinyl turntable setup with a mixer. Point being if you already have a decent spec laptop, you could get a DJ controller for around £200 and you’ll be DJing before you know it.
There are DJ controllers with jog wheels and without jog wheels. My advice would be to get a DJ controller with jog wheels, it’s likely that you’ll use or come across CDJs or even vinyl in your DJing. So it makes sense to at least have a feel the circular ‘wheels of steel’.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5 DJ Controller does not have jog wheels.
However a lot of other do including Pioneer DDJ-RR, Pioneer DDJ-200, Numark NV II and Roland DJ-202 DJ controllers.
- Connectivity to CDJs or record vinyl turntable
- Easily transported to different venues due to how lightweight and the DJ controllers are
- Price point is low for entry level DJs
- Size of setup could get rather large if you’re plugging in vinyl turntables and or CDJs
- Spare parts to fix DJ controllers. If you’re travelling a lot with DJ controller, if something breaks then you’re limited or even hindered to play music. Whereas if you have a DVS soundcard, you’re more likely to travel better with it and simply plug into a mixer at a venue which is already setup.
DVS DJ MIxer
DVS DJ mixers seem to be developing and are available to buy online. It seems that manufacturers are integrating DVS functionality into DJ mixers. This means that mixers contain built-in USB compatible sound cards, super easy to plug and play with Serato DJ for example. Simply connect the mixer via USB to a laptop with Serato DJ software installed.
Essentially having DVS compatibility within a DJ mixer is a sort of hybrid of the initial DVS technology being separated onto an external DVS based soundcard.
Example brands that have launched DVS DJ mixers:
Akai AMX 2-channel mixer for Serato DJ. This looks to be a purpose built mixer to allow DJs to play and mix music with Serato DJ. It’s not like other mixers where the model of mixer has been around for a while and DVS tech has been integrated to compete in the market. You can pick this mixer up for around £200 on Westend DJ, link above.
Pioneer DJM-S9 2-channel mixer for Serato DJ. This is my favourite looking DVS compatible mixer from research I’ve carried out. The effects pads make for a great addition to this mixer, allowing you to take advantage of the ‘relative’ mode on the DJ software. Price at this point time is around £1500.
Tip: set different song cues on the DJ software and link those cues to different effects pads to have some fun playing around with the sound.
Pioneer DJ DJM-450 for Rekordbox. As mentioned above, this Pioneer mixer to me looks like an adaptation of a previous model of mixer enhanced for DVS compatibility. The price for this model appears to be a lot cheaper than the DJM-S9. Online store DV247 offer this mixer at a price of £569.
- DVS compatibility built into the mixer
- Multi-purpose by allowing various inputs e.g. vinyl turntable, CDJ & DVS software
- Less wires & hardware to deal with
- Easy transition to DVS DJ mixer for existing vinyl turntable DJ setups
- Cost is pricey for some DJ mixers
- Portability is arguably limited if a club or venue you’re DJing at doesn’t have a DVS DJ mixer or DVS related equipment
Wireless DVS System
“wireless turntable controllers replace traditional cartridges”
A company called Phase have released an absolutely amazing bit of DVS technology. When I first saw this technology I was genuinely excited and gobsmacked. Phase is perfect for the turntablist and DVS based DJs. It’s the next generation of DVS related equipment and it really feels to me like the benchmark has totally been raised.
Phase works by wireless turntable controllers that look like small remotes that sit on each turntable. Here’s what’s amazing, the wireless turntable controllers replace the traditional cartridges (the needle that connects to the vinyl.
Check out DJ Jazzy Jeff going scratch crazy on the decks using Phase.
Phase offer two packages, one type with 2 channel controllers and another with 4 channels controllers. The phase technology works by one receiver that plugs into the laptop via USB, and wirelessly connects to the remotes that sit on the turntables. Load the DJ software, sync it all up and you’re away.
Phase online account: You’ll need to setup an account online with with Phase. You can use any DVS based DJ software, you just need to link your Phase account to it to work.
Compatibility: The limitation I can see with Phase is that the receiver only works with DVS compatible DJ mixers or external DVS soundcards (not compatible with traditional analogue mixers). The receiver connects to DVS equipment using RCA cables to the line on the mixer.
Magnetic strips are required to stick to each record vinyl to allow the remotes to be stuck to them. In doing so gives greater stability when using the record vinyls for scratching etc. Once the remotes are calibrated (remember with the round circle on the DJ software), select ‘Absolute‘ mode, then you’re good to go start mixing it up and have some fun DJing.
Here’s a intro tutorial into the product featuring what you get with Phase.
- Reliability is 100% in terms of the cartridge on a turntable jumping, skipping or bouncing because the bass from the speakers in the club is too intense
- Accuracy of connection between the remote and receiver is of high quality (according to Phase, I’ve not tested it myself)
- Requires DVS compatible hardware to work
- Price is between £300 and £500 on top of buying a DVS mixer or DVS soundcard
What is Serato DJ DVS?
Serato is a software company. Serato offers a range of DVS software, which stands for Digital Vinyl Emulation software. It enables DJs to connect a laptop with Serato DJ software to DVS hardware allow DVS controllers to play digital music.
Can you use turntables with Serato DJ?
It is possible to use turntables with Serato DJ. Turntables compatible with special time-coded record vinyls and CDs.