Will DJing back-to-back online finally be possible?

B2B for online DJing may soon be a reality

While online collaborative music programs are having their moment thanks in large thanks to COVID-19, the same cannot be said for similar DJ services. 

Up until now, latency has been the primary issue impeding DJs from playing together back-to-back across the Internet. DJing with a partner across a network requires real-time, instantaneous data transfer, and thus such time delay issues have prevented the instantaneous creativity that a B2B requires. 

Latency no more: meet faraway.dj.

Stepping in to provide a solution to this problem is faraway.dj, a start-up service in the UK set up by DJ and network engineer Gavin Hamill. As stated on the site, faraway.dj’s goal is to ‘provide an easy to use service that allows any DJ to play a live set against any other DJ.’

Originally having designed a software system that would provide the link between two online DJs, Hamill eventually came to the realization that the only way to overcome this problem was with a customised hardware box that everybody could use.

3D-printed hardware unit showing input connectors and network port. Photo via faraway.dj’s Kickstarter.

The faraway.dj hardware unit takes the master and headphones from your mixer and syncs it to three places: a network stream, your headphones and speakers. So instead of trying to fix the problem of latency, faraway.dj resolves this problem by syncing the audio stream with what you hear. But still, surely the Internet connection is going to provide some hurdles, right?

“The quality of the Internet connection is important, but not critical,” Hamill shared over email.  “The system is expected to work on domestic or residential broadband. The key criterion is ping time. If your Internet hookup is good for gaming, it’ll be good for faraway.dj.” Even if there are glitches in your Internet connection, the system allows for small levels of buffering and makes adjustments accordingly to keep everything in sync. “The system does cope with some jitter and packet loss, but you will start to hear the music shifting in pitch as the system desperately tries to keep its tiny buffer full.”

See the B2B tech in action

The system also allows both DJs to use a shared crossfader and EQs, as one would while going B2B at a normal event. The only difference being in this instance, the mixer is virtual. There’s also a chat feature to ensure you can both discuss (argue) over who’s in control and who plays next.

Original attempts to fundraise the project Kickstarter proved unsuccessful, however you can still request a trial use of the unit, subject to availability, subscription costs and a deposit payment (and we are assuming that this is currently limited to the UK). “With low hardware volumes, I’m happy to produce the boxes in my little workshop here for those who are interested,” Hamill states about the demand. 

Is this a sign of digital DJing’s future?

Sure, it sounds too good to be true – but does it work? In order to provide a platform for those using the system, Hamill established ‘Virtual Festival’, an online environment where like-minded DJs can gather and collaborate online. ‘Virtual Festival’ allows you to see both DJs on screen, and comes with streaming functionality.

Initial tests so far have been done and presented with Hamill himself (aka. DJ Localhost), going B2B with British hip-hop mainstays The Nextmen. And although there appears to be a small learning curve, the technology and applicability have succeeded in doing what they set out to do. And though their current Kickstarter did not fully succeed, this is a significant indication of the potential technology available for DJs to play with friends and colleagues around the globe – without needing to leave their own personal space.

Online streaming of DJ sets are here to stay, whether we like it or not. The future of clubbing and collaborative performances are solely dependent on how science, and society will deal with the current pandemic.

But for the rest of this year, livestreaming is the only way the majority of us are still going to stay connected with DJing, and having a collaborative tool like farway.dj is only going to make this experience more exciting, challenging, and for those of us in lockdown, more engaging. 

You can check out faraway.dj here and visit their Kickstarter to get the low-down on their project.

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