Got Headroom?

I hate to revive this old argument about mixing inside software or outside but it came up again last night while I was spinning at a friends party . The axe for the night was a new template we are working on for the vci-300 and Traktor. The controller was working well, but my mix sounded like garbage. I cant help but feel that, while the deaf dj must take some responsibility- it was largely because there is no headroom when mixing inside dj software. Has anyone else had this experience or might have found a way to combat this truly troublesome problem?

The complaint is not a new one, as digital summing of multiple audio signals is just never going to compare to the analogue counterpart. I know, for example, of many a sound engineer that will run several groups of a song (stems) out to an analogue mixer for the final summing. That’s not to say that you can some-how magically turn up the signal louder in the analogue domain. No, the analogue distorts at the same point but the distortion itself is night and day. Take that classic Mo-Town sound that we all love and associate with being rich and fat- its just bucket loads of good distortion.

As the night progresses and djs tend to want to turn things up louder and louder, there is just no where to go in digital land. Well you can always turn up the master channel- you might counter. Not exactly, because the problem is this constant balance of sonic levels between the tracks as you mix. Some songs for whatever reason, even after auto gain- just require a little extra pump when in the middle of a mix. Once you have hit the digital ceiling, which is un-bearably low- then it’s all bad from there.

If they really expect everyone to mix in a computer, digital dj companies need to start making their software more dj friendly. Which means expecting us to turn it up too loud and putting rich, warm compressors on every channel.

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