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Getting To Know Your Gear

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PART 1 - Setting Up Your Decks And Mixer


CONTENTS

THE SET UP - AT A PARTY

AMPLIFIERS & SPEAKERS
Positioning
Ohms and Watts, Resistance and Power
Audio Cable Types & Input Connections
Series And Parallel
Bridged
Using Parametric EQ

BASIC ANATOMY OF A DJ MIXER
BASIC ANATOMY OF A CD PLAYER

USING MICROPHONES

Using Standard Vocal Mic's
Using Wireless Systems





THE SET UP - AT A PARTY

CONNECTING UP YOUR SPEAKERS & AMP
Setting up a sound system for a party can be a little different from a domestic set up.

POSITIONING
At home we suggested that you’d want to place your table for your decks and mixer between the speakers so that you are facing the speakers. This is great at home because the priority is you being able to hear what you are doing. At a gig the priority is your audience and there are a few complications to be dealt with. You need to be able to hear what you are doing. The audience needs to be able to hear what you are doing. You need to be able to see their reaction. If you place a deck right in front of a really loud speaker you will suffer from bass feedback. If you try to use a microphone right in front of a speaker you will suffer from mid to high frequency feedback.

So the trick to satisfying all these things is careful positioning. The first challenge is deciding where to set up your DJ Equipment decks and where to position your speakers. As we’ve said, if you put the decks in front of the speakers the DJ may have trouble hearing the sound in their headphones and feedback may occur. So in a professional Club the DJ booth is placed behind the main speakers and smaller ‘monitor’ speakers (with an independent volume control) are provided especially for the DJ. In a bar or party situation where you’re working with just two main speakers you don’t have that luxury. A different solution is required. Try the following first...

Speakers should be pointing at the audience, preferably at one end of the room and preferably a sufficient distance apart to provide the listener with a decent stereo image of the sound.

The decks should be between the speakers, so the DJ is facing the audience.

Being behind the speakers isn’t ideal for the DJ because it may be difficult to hear.

If the DJ cannot hear the main speakers well enough to mix there are two possible remedies.

You can try rotating one of the speakers inwards slightly, so that it points a little more towards the DJ. By turning the speaker a little more or less, you can (to some extent) control how loud the sound is for the DJ.

Rotating the speaker too far however might point it too far away from the audience so the alternative is to physically re-position the speaker. If you started with the speaker beside and directly in line with the decks, move it back a foot or two. As you slide it back the DJ will be progressively more ‘in front of’ the speaker so will hear better.

How far back you pull or how much you rotate a speaker depends on circumstance.

It can work out better if you only pull one speaker back because DJs tend to monitor the sound from the PA in one ear and the record they’re trying to mix in the other (on their headphones). It’s also a good idea to only pull the speaker back as far as is strictly necessary. This is particularly important if you are using microphones.

Microphones are very susceptible to feedback so mic’s need to be positioned behind, or if necessary beside, the speakers to avoid it. If the DJ is to use a mic’ then you will need to experiment a little with positioning the speakers to get as good a compromise as you can between the DJ being able to hear the sound from the speakers and avoiding feedback on the mic’. With an MC or vocalist etc simply ensure you place them correctly in relation to the speakers.

OHMS AND WATTS, RESISTANCE AND POWER

You’ll probably be aware that most amplifiers and speakers tend to be rated in Watts. The idea is to give ourselves a means of measuring how loud a particular combination of amplifier and speaker is likely to be. The more Watts the louder it all is, right? Erm, sadly, wrong. The idea of the Watt is that it is a measurement of either how much power an amplifier can put out or how much power a speaker can tolerate before it breaks. But there are two problems.

Firstly, there is no law governing precisely how a manufacturer has measured the power an amplifier can put out. The question to ask is whether an amplifier that’s rated at 200W is capable of sustaining a constant output of 200W (which logically means it can actually produce peak signals which are much bigger than 200W) or whether 200W represents the absolute loudest signal it can produce without distorting (which would also logically mean that it could actually only sustain a much lower constant output). There is a way of measuring the comfortable constant operating level of amplifiers or speakers and anything that could produce or handle a sustained measured signal of 200W would be called 200W RMS. The RMS bit stands for Root Mean Square - math’s heads will see the point. Many manufacturers however rate their amplifiers at the ‘peak’ power they can produce.

Also, is that 200W shared by both speakers, if it is that 200W actually means 100W ‘per channel’.

So the following scenario is possible; we have two amplifiers, both quite legally stated as having a rating of 200W. One delivers 200W RMS per channel in to 8 Ohm. The other 100W ‘peak’ per channel in to 4 Ohm. The former is probably three times more powerful.

When a speaker is said to be rated at 100W RMS, this means it can deal with 100W of power comfortably. A rating of simply 100W could mean that it can handle a maximum of 100W.

The Second problem is resistance. We all know that electricity can flow through metal but not wood. So wood has a very high level of resistance to the flow of electricity. Metals tend to have a lower level of resistance to electricity and all metals actually have different levels of resistance to electricity. Different speakers have different levels of resistance to electricity. So speakers have a ‘resistance’ rating stated in ‘Ohm’ which is a unit of measurement of electrical resistance. Some are rated at 4 Ohm, most are rated at 8 Ohm and some are even rated at 2 or 16 Ohm. To continue our analogy with the 200W amplifier; an amp’ that delivers 200W RMS of power to a speaker rated 8 Ohm will produce a quieter final volume than it would connected to a speaker rated at 4 Ohm. An 8 Ohm speaker needs a lot more power from an amplifier than a 4 Ohm speaker in order to achieve the same actual listening volume.

The main reason for rating the Wattage and Resistance of amp’s and speakers is so that you can avoid blowing them up. The most important rule to follow is to match the impedance of your speakers to your amplifier - if you know that your speakers are rated at 8 Ohm and your amplifier is stated as delivering a particular Wattage in to 8 Ohm you are on the right road. You may think that the next step in damage avoidance is matching the Wattage of amp’ and speakers but this can be deceptive. Using an amplifier with a lower Wattage rating than your speakers may make the amp’ struggle to provide enough power. It is actually often better for your amplifier if you use an amp’ with three or four times the Wattage rating of your speakers because amplifiers overheat when they’re worked too hard. If you don’t thrash ‘them they’ll last longer too. As long as the impedance ratings are matched between amp’ and speaker, the best tool you have for damage limitation is your ears. If it sounds distorted, turn it down.

Kam speakers are all rated at 8 Ohm. Kam amplifiers are rated at their RMS Wattage. Kam amplifiers are happy driving 4 and 8 Ohm speakers and the power they will produce in each circumstance is clearly stated on this web site and in all literature. You will have no problems with a Kam system. If you are going to use Kam products with those of other manufacturers, check that you match them up.

AUDIO CABLE TYPES & INPUT CONNECTIONS

Actual connection for a twin speaker set up is very simple. You’ll need 2 of the correct cables (see below) to carry the signal from your amplifier to your speakers. Attach one end to the ‘speaker output’ on your amplifier and the other end to the ‘input’ on your speaker. Obviously connect the left speaker to the output marked ‘L’ (sometimes ‘A’) and the right speaker to the output marked ‘R’ (‘B’).

Cable Types - mixer to amplifier
In the 'Wiring Your Decks To Your Mixer' section above we covered connecting your mixer to an amplifier in a domestic situation where the main type of cable in use is the standard RCA Phono. There are many different types of audio connection in use within professional systems. The input section of Kam amplifiers features three different types of connection to facilitate use in many different situations. With appropriate cables you can use whichever of these suits your needs. Here are some examples of what each might be used for.

1. Balanced XLR - this is the professional industry standard type of analogue audio connection. It uses a system based around Male and Female versions of two different plugs and sockets. The idea is that you have Male plugs that fit into Female sockets and Female plugs that fit into Male sockets. ‘Male’ has three exposed pins. ‘Female’ has three holes that accept the pins from the ‘Male’ connection. When used to carry audio from a mixer to an amplifier, the output on the mixer will have a Female socket ready to accept a Male plug. The input to the amplifier wil have a Male socket designed to accept a Female plug. A standard XLR cable will have a Male plug at one and and a Female plug at the other. XLR plugs/sockets are sturdy and have a 'latch' to prevent accidental disconnection.

Trouble can come from the fact that micrphones and some amplifiers and speakers also use XLR connections. The idea is that because you have different types of connection on the mixer and amplifier it’s more difficult to accidentally connect a microphone (see ‘Using Microphones’ below) or speaker (see ‘Cable Types - Amp’s & Speakers’ below) inappropriately.

Shielded Cables
All good quality audio cable is what we call ‘Shielded’. The 'shield' is actually a protective tube of copper mesh that surrounds the signal carrying wires throughout the length of a cable... the idea is to protect the signal carrying wires from external interference by catching any stray electrical signals (usually caused by close proximity to other cables) and carrying them safely away to to earth to release them.

Balanced Vs Unbalanced
A balanced audio cable has two wires and a ‘shield’ inside it; it uses one wire to carry the positive half of an audio signal, the other wire to carry the negative half and the shield to serve as protection from interferance. The ‘balanced’ approach helps reduce electrical interference (which can cause hum) and reduce signal loss. DJ mixers intended for use in professional/install environments (like the Kam KAP range) may feature balanced XLR main outputs. Using these to connect from the mixer to your amplifier should deliver a cleaner stronger audio signal from the mixer to the amplifier.

2. Unbalanced TS 1/4" Jack - is a semi-professional cable type which has a single pin. The 'TS' part of the name refers to the fact that the pin is divided into two sections; the 'Tip' carries the entire audio signal and the rest of the shaft which we call the 'Sheild' because it connects to the earth 'shield' within the cable.

3. Balanced TRS 1/4" Jack - is a single pin plug that is the same size as the TS Jack but the pin is divided into three sections rather than two so that it can be used to carry balanced audio signals. The 'Tip' carries one half of a balanced audio signal, a 'Ring' carries the other half of the balanced audio signal and the rest of the shaft which we still call 'Shield' carries the 'earth'. The balanced XLR was developed to replace the balanced TRS jack connection type.

4. Unbalanced RCA Phono - is the standard domestic audio connection format. It uses a central pin to carry the entire audio signal and the flattened outer ring to connect to the earth. RCA Phono cables are often unshielded.

Amplifier Input Connections
Kam amplifiers provide XLR, Unbalanced 1/4" Jack and RCA Phono input connection types to facilitate use within many different set-ups.

For stereo use; move the 'Output Mode' switch (if your amplifier has one) to the 'Stereo' position. Connect the left side of an appropriate cable from your mixer to the input marked 'Channel A' and the right side of the input cable to 'Channel B'.

For Mono operation; move the 'Output Mode' switch (if your amplifier has one) to the 'Mono' position. In this mode the input signals from Channels A & B are combined and their signal is sent to both amplifier Channels… so you can connect a mono input cable to either Channel A or Channel B. If your amplifier does not have a mono mode and you need to connect a mono audio signal to it you’ll need to use a special cable that splits the mono signal into two and connect both sides to your amplifier.

About Crossovers
All Kam speakers are 'full range' which means they're designed to handle the entire audio signal. In a large club style installation, separate speakers are often used to handle bass, mid and high end slices of the audio spectrum. To make this possible the signal is split by a device we call a 'Crossover' that sits between your mixer and the amplifier in the signal chain. The Crossover divides the signal into three bands (or sometimes only two - one for bass and another for mid/high) and then sends them to separate amplifiers, which in turn drive the speakers.

Cable Types - amplifier to speakers
Finding the right cable is down to identifying which of the methods of connection commonly used at the ends of speaker cables is right for your system. The main types are;

1. The 1/4” Jack. It uses a single pin plug and it doesn’t matter which way around you use the cable.

2.
The XLR. When used for connecting speakers, the speaker will feature a socket designed to accept a ‘male’ XLR plug. The amplifier will have a socket designed to accept a ‘female’ XLR plug. XLR plugs have a latch to stop them being accidentally disconnected and they will only connect the correct way around.

3.
The ‘Speakon’. This uses cables that have identical chunky plastic plugs at either end. The plugs feature a type of shaft unique to speaker connection. The Speakon system was introduced to replace the use of Jack and XLR connections for speakers and has become the industry standard professional speaker connection method for safety reasons. Both 1/4” Jack Plugs and XLRs are also used by microphones and if you connect a microphone to the output of an amplifier the microphone can become live and very dangerous. Speakon plugs also have a latch to prevent accidental disconnection.

4.
Bare Wires are often used at each end of speaker cables for Hi Fi systems. They are attached to both amplifiers and speakers via ‘binding posts’ similar to grounding posts on DJ mixers. You loosen the nut on the post, loop the bare wire around the post and then screw down the nut.

5.
Some Hi Fi systems use small plastic plugs called ‘banana plugs’. Simply follow the colour coding.

SERIES AND PARALLEL

It’s possible to connect more than one speaker to an amplifier and there are two ways of doing it. It’s very handy but it effects the impedance rating of the speakers so should be approached with care.

1. Series. Where you connect them one after the other. Many PA speakers have both an input and an output socket on them specially. The idea is that you connect the output from the amplifier to the input of the first speaker in the chain, then you take another cable, connect one end to the output on that same speaker and connect the other end of the cable to the input on the next speaker in the chain. If you connect two speakers in this way it doubles the impedance rating of the speakers. 4 Ohm becomes 8 Ohm.

2 Parallel. Where you connect them side by side. To achieve this you need a box or cable that splits the signal from the output of your amplifier so that you have two plugs/speakers being fed by one amplifier output. Simply connect each plug to the input on each speaker.

It may take a minute to grasp this but connecting two speakers in parallel actually dramatically reduces the impedance rating of the speakers by about 75% (so 8 Ohm becomes 2 Ohm). This is not a clever way to get more volume from your system because it will simply place massive demands on your amplifier and could cause it to overheat. It works well if you wish to use a single high powered amplifier to drive several low rated speakers. Parallel connection should be left to professionals.

BRIDGED CONNECTION

Bridged Mode operation effectively devotes both Channels of your amplifier to driving a single speaker.

Bridged Operation is inherently potentially dangerous for your equipment so you should not attempt to use it if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Bridged Mode works by connecting a single speaker to the positive terminals of each side of the amplifier. Kam amplifiers feature binding posts so all you need to use Bridged Mode Connection is a special ‘Y’ cable. The cable connects both positive terminals on the amplifier to the positive input connection of the speaker (regardless of connection type). If an amplifier doesn’t have binding post outputs then a different cable needs to be made... but we’re afraid that for now, we’re not going to explain any further.

You should never connect a bridged output from an amplifier to any speaker with less than an 8 Ohm input Impedance rating and rated Wattage of the combined power of both amplifier Channels.

USING GRAPHIC EQ

Using EQ is the subject of much misconception and myth. EQ stands for ‘Equalisation’. Here’s why; a perfect sound system will simply amplify and reproduce all of the frequencies within music equally. The ideal is for music to sound exactly the same as it did in the studio when it was produced, on any sound system, in any environment. Of course all things are not equal. Every sound system is different and any particular sound system will sound quite different in different rooms.

EQ is used to decrease or increase specific frequencies in relation to the rest of the sound. In terms of using a graphic EQ unit within a PA system, the idea is to compensate for the way a PA sounds in a particular room. You’ll find that in some rooms a particular PA will sound more piercing or boomy than in others. The reason is that all rooms have ‘resonant’ frequencies that will sound louder than all of the other frequencies coming from your speakers. The idea of the EQ is to actually reduce the offending frequencies.

Very few people understand this and instead attempt to use EQ to boost (increase) certain frequencies (usually the bass!!). The result is usually distorted sound. If you have a speaker that does not reproduce bass very well, then feeding it more bass will just make it sound worse.

Connection
A PA Graphic EQ is connected between your mixer and your amplifier. Connect the master output from your mixer to the input of the EQ (ensuring to follow the Stereo signal path and about general connection procedure. Connect the output of the EQ to the input of your amp’.

BASIC ANATOMY OF A DJ MIXER

The idea of this section is to tell you what all of the various controls on your mixer are called, to tell you what they do and to give an insight in to how they might be useful. We are going to run through the controls in the logical order in which you might use them for a standard beatmix.

1. Channel Input Selector Switch. Each channel of the mixer has two sets of input sockets on the back panel so that several bits of equipment can be connected to each channel. Usually one for ‘phono’ signals from a turntable and one for ‘line’ level signals from a CD player etc. This switch swaps between the two. In addition to simply choosing whether you want to play music from your deck or a CD the switch can be used to sharply cut sound on and off to produce rhythmic stuttering type effects.

2. Cue Select Button. Pressing this button sends the sound from this particular channel to the both the PFL Level Meter and the Headphone Monitoring System.

3. Split/PFL Headphone Selection Button. This button is used to switch between two different methods of headphone monitoring. When the button is up you hear the sound as set up by you (via the Headphone Crossfade & PFL System below) will be heard in both ears of your headphones. When the button is down the sound from the Cue/PFL System will be heard in the left ear and the sound of the Main Output will be heard in the right ear.

4. Headphone Crossfade. When this little fader is to the left the sound from the ‘Cue/PFL System’ will be heard in both ears of your headphones. When the fader is to the right the sound of the main output will be heard in both ears of your headphones. When in the middle a mix of the two will be heard.

5. Headphone Level Control. This sets the volume in your headphones.

6. PFL Meter. PFL stands for Pre Fade Level (or Pre Fade Listen). When you press the Cue Select Button of a particular channel it’s signal is sent to this meter and measured. An ideal input signal level will be peaking at the ‘Zero’ dB mark.

7. Channel Gain Control. This is a volume control. It’s used to adjust the level of sound as it arrives at your mixer, before it passes through EQ etc. Use it to get the input level (as measured by the PFL Meter) peaking at Zero dB.

8. Channel EQ Controls. EQ controls reduce (cut) or increase (boost) specific frequencies within a sound in relation to all of the other frequencies. In this case we have four knobs; one controls bass, one controls low mid, one controls high mid and the other top frequencies. Turning anti-clockwise cuts frequencies and clockwise boosts. Try it to get a feel for which controls effect which frequencies. EQ has many uses but there are two main ones; the first is to remove frequencies from one or more records so that they can be more easily mixed together (without clashing rhythmically or melodically). The second is to compensate for deficient recordings EG boosting the bass of older records that have less bass than we have come to expect from our music. Care should be taken not to overload the Master Output by excessive boosting.

TIP do not over use EQ to boost frequencies. Sadly far too many DJs tend to end up turning ALL of the EQ controls to maximum in the bizarre belief that this will somehow make the music sound better. This will simply make the entire signal louder and mean you either end up turning down the channel level to compensate or listening to distorted music.

9. Channel Fader. This is a volume control. It’s used to set the volume of your individual decks, CD Players etc in relation to each other so that they can be mixed together seamlessly. It is possible to mix entirely with Channel Faders without using the Crossfader at all.

10. Channel Fader Curve Switch. A standard Channel Fader takes the volume of a sound from ‘off’ (the bottom of the fader) to ‘maximum’ across the entire length of the fader. The Curve Switch reduces how much the fader needs to travel to get from ‘off’ to ‘max’. It has 3 positions; ‘long’ acts as a standard fader, on ‘medium’ the fader reaches full volume about 65% up the fader, on ‘short’ the fader reaches ‘max’ about 35% up the fader. This is useful for particular scratch techniques.

11. Crossfader Assign Controls. These are used to assign particular channels to either side of the Crossfader. Selecting one of the numbers routes the corresponding channel to the appropriate side of the crossfader. The ‘off’ setting bypasses the crossfader completely. With the Crossfader ‘off’ the sound from all of the channels goes straight to the Master Output.

12. Crossfader. The purpose of a Crossfader is to allow you to perform a seamless transition from the sound of one channel to that of another with a single hand movement. It functions like two standard faders that cross in the middle. When the Crossfader is to the left, the sound from whatever channel you have assigned to the left side of the Crossfader will be sent to the Master Output and the sound from the right side of the Crossfader will not be heard. As the fader is moved from left to right the sound from the left will gradually fade out. As the left side is faded out, the sound from the right side will be gradually faded in. The same happens from right to left. When the fader is in the center an equal mix of both channels is heard. Without a Crossfader you would need to use both hands to achieve the same thing by moving the two appropriate channel faders.

13. Crossfade Curve Control. A standard Crossfader takes the volume of each channel from ‘off’ to ‘maximum’ across the entire length of the fader. The Curve Control reduces how much the fader needs to travel to get from ‘off’ to ‘max’. With the Control fully anti-clockwise the Crossfader will function normally. Turn it fully clockwise and the Crossfader will ‘cut in’ the incoming channel very sharply so that you only need to move the Crossfader a few millimeters before it reaches full volume. Turning the control between the two extremes gives you a sliding scale of settings. Many scratch techniques require very specific Curve settings.

14. Punch Buttons. These springy buttons are used in conjunction with the crossfader. The idea is that they are handy when you want to cut the sound of a track in sharply rather than the gentle blend achieved with the Crossfader. If the Crossfader is 100% right, you use the left punch button to cut in the sound from the left hand side. Inversely if the Crossfader is 100% left, the right button punches in the right side.

15. Master Output Level. This is used to set the volume of the sound as it leaves the Master Output.

16. Master Level Meters. These are used to measure the volume of the sound leaving the Master Output. Level Meters are not just pretty flashing lights. They have an extremely important role in the mixing process. They’re there to facilitate smooth mixing. It can really help how good a mix sounds if the volume of the song you are mixing in matches the volume of the song you are mixing out of. Drastic jumps or drops in volume sound crap and the bigger the sound system the more noticeable they are. The optimum output level for a DJ mixer is ‘zero dB’. If the Level Meter is always kept peaking at the zero mark you will maintain a more constant mix and you’ll know that you are not overloading the PA (which is very handy if you can’t actually hear the PA directly).

17. Effect Send Switches. If you want to use an Effects Processor to twist the sound of your music then an effect send and return system allows you to process individual channels. Pressing these buttons splits the sound flowing through the channel and sends part of it from the relevant channel to the Effect Send Control. It does not stop the sound continuing on its way to the Master Output, unaffected, as usual.

18. Effect Send Level Control. Many budget Effects Processors do not have input level controls. The Effect Send Control allows you to set the level arriving at the Effects Processor so that it does not overload.

19. Effects Return Level Control. After passing through this control your Effected sound is passed directly to the Master Output of the mixer. This control is therefore used to get the relative volume right between the original un-effected sound and your effected sound.

BASIC ANATOMY OF A CD PLAYER

The idea of this section is to tell you what all of the various controls on your CD Player are called, to tell you what they do and to give an insight in to how they might be useful. We are going to run through the controls in the logical order in which you might use them for a standard beatmix.

There are two kinds of specialist DJ CD Players; the traditional ‘twin’ machine and the ‘CD deck’. The twin format is compact and convenient because it fits into the kind of standard 19” rack we use for mounting amplifiers and all manner of professional audio equipment in clubs and recording studios. Rack mounting means it fits easily into a flight case so is great for those who wish to be mobile. The CD deck format has a larger surface area devoted to the controls which inevitably means it is a little easier to use when you’re in a hurry. The CD deck is generally not quite so convenient for mobile use.
We are going to base this run down around our very own KCD990 twin CD Player.


THE TWIN FORMAT

A twin CD Player has two boxes, the ‘Player’ which is a large, heavy unit with two trays that slide out to accept your CDs and the ‘Controller’, which is the smaller, separate box with all the buttons etc. The idea is that because the Player unit is a bit bulky and needs to be used in a fairly level location to work properly and the Controls ideally need to be positioned quite close to your mixer (often angled slightly for better access to the controls - see the Kam Case for an example, it is more convenient to split the two things up.

Connections
1) The Controller needs to be able to tell the Player what to do so the two units are connected together using a ‘Control Cable’. You’ll find small 12 pin sockets on the back of the Controller and identical sockets on the back of the Player and an appropriate cable in the box. It doesn’t matter which end of the cable attaches to which unit but the connector on the cable only fits these sockets the right way up. Oh and connect the left side of the Controller to the left Player etc! Connect the two units together before you turn on the power.

2) Each of the two CD Players has it’s own Analogue and Digital audio output. So you’ve got two pairs of RCA Phono sockets on the back of the Player for analogue out and two more lone RCA sockets for Digital out. Marked Left and Right appropriately. You’ll need to attach the analogue outputs to the ‘Line Inputs’ on a DJ mixer. Which inputs you use on your mixer is up to you and which mixer you have. If you have a two channel mixer you’ll want to connect the Left CD Player to channel one and the Right Player to channel two. You then use the ‘Channel Selector Switches on your mixer to choose whether your CD Players or your turntables are played through your mixers two channels. If you have a bigger mixer you may have the luxury of connecting each Player to its own mixer channel. As yet there are very few DJ mixers available with Digital Audio inputs but you might want to use the Digital Audio Outputs to transfer music to a computer or Minidisc Player.

3) You’ll also find a mains cable coming from the Player unit. Always follow the correct connection rules ‘White Left Red Right’.

THE CONTROLS
The Power Switch. This is found on the front of the Player and is surrounded by a protective ridge to prevent accidental power down.

The front panel of the Controller is divided in two. Each side has identical controls, one set for each Player.

1) Open/Close Button. Hit this once and the CD tray on the Player will slide open. Hit it again and the tray will close again. These buttons are the only controls which are duplicated on the front of the Player.

2) Track Skip Buttons. These are for locating the next track you want to play. Hit the button and the beginning of the next track will be cued up. If the Player is already playing the current track, this will cue up and begin playing the next track... just like a normal CD player. One button takes you forwards the other takes you backwards. The +10 button between the two Skip Buttons skips you forward ten tracks at a time.

3) Play/Pause Button. Hit this once and you start playback. Hit it again and you pause playback. Hit it again and Playback continues from the same song position... unless you hit the Cue Button whilst playback is paused, which takes you to the Cue Point as described below.

ABOUT CUEING UP
Once you’ve found the track you want to play you need to set the place within the track that you want playback to start from. We call the exact moment you want playback to start from, the ‘Cue Point’. We call the process of locating and setting this point, ‘cueing up’. The need to cue up is the same for CD DJs as it is for Vinyl DJs and many of the same musical rules apply, the difference is how we do it. A DJ CD player gives you three tools to for the job; a Cue Button, Search Buttons and a Jog Wheel.

ABOUT FRAMES
Before we can explain about Cueing Up we need to explain about Frames.

A DJ CD player divides each second of music into 25 chunks. We call these chunks ‘frames’. Each frame therefore contains a very small snippet of sound. If you think about it one twenty fifth of a second is a quite short piece of sound. Ponder this; a piece of slow house music would run at about 120 Beats Per Minute, 120 BPM would give you 2 musical beats per second, so a single beat would be about half a second long and a kick drum perhaps as much as a quarter of a second long... which would mean that a kick drum might occupy about 7 or 8 frames. From a Djing viewpoint we usually wish to select an individual kick drum as a Cue Point (usually one at the beginning of a bar). So having each kick drum divided into upwards of 4 or 5 slices means we have a very accurate tool for ensuring that we start playback from absolutely precisely the beginning of the right kick drum beat. Cueing up with a DJ CD player is arguably considerably easier than with a turntable.

4) Cue Button. Before the Cue Button is of any use you need to start playback and then pause it. If you then press and hold the Play Button and press the Cue Button at the same time, the Cue Point is set to the current frame. Once you have set a Cue Point, pressing the Cue button will stop playback (if the track was playing!) and set things up so that pressing the Play button again will start playback from the Cue Point. The idea is obviously that if you’re trying to perform a drop mix or beat mix, being able to instantly start playback from the right beat of the right bar, over and over again is invaluable. With a turntable you’d have to take the time to backwind and Cue Up manually every time you want to practice the mix.

5) Search Buttons. These are very similar to the rewind or fast forward controls on a tape player and we use them to find the approximate area of the track we want to Cue Up.

Press a Search Button and watch the Display; normal playback ceases and we start to wind forwards or backwards through the current track. You’ll quickly notice that if you were actually playing the track at the time you hit the button the Player will continue to try to play the track, but it will be jumping from frame to frame.

6) The Jog Wheel. The Jog Wheel is used for finding and precisely setting Cue Points. Logically, we only ever need to use the Jog Wheel when our player is in a state of paused playback, somewhere near to our desired Cue Point. The moment you turn the Jog Wheel from this state the player should enter ‘Cue Mode’ and you will hear a kind of stuttering effect as one frame is played over and over again. Put your finger into the little indentation on the Jog Wheel and wind it around. You’ll notice that moving the wheel slowly moves the Cue Point by a single frame (either forwards or backwards). By winding the Wheel you should be able to find the right place for your Cue Point. A good tip for cueing kick drums is to actually wind the Wheel until it is playing part of the drum beat you’re after. Then wind it back frame by frame until you get the frame immediately before the first frame of the drum. This frame is almost always actually silent (or relatively quiet). Then set this as your Cue Point in the usual manner by pressing and holding the Play Button and the Cue Button together. This way you will get the nice clean sound of the kick drum without it sounding at all clipped... don’t worry, a single frame is not going to make any difference to the timing as you go for your mix.

7) Pitch Button. The ‘pitch’ of a piece of music refers to how fast it is. Before you can beatmix two pieces of music they need to be playing at the same speed or musical tempo. The Pitch controls on a DJ CD Player are used to slow down or speed up playback of one track to match another. The Pitch Button switches on and off the rest of the pitch controls. It is accompanied by a little status light which lets you know whether the Pitch Controls are active or not.

8) Pitch Slider. This speeds up or slows down playback. With the Kam KCD990 used for our illustration, the pitch slider can slow down or speed up a track by up to 16% but this will vary with different DJ CD Players.

9) Pitch Bend Buttons. Merely having both pieces of music running at the same tempo is not the end of the story with beatmixing, you also need to synchronise the beats of the two tracks... so for example the kick drums need to be occurring at exactly the same time. Pressing a Pitch Bend button temporarily slows down or speeds up playback (by+/-16% on the KCD990) for as long as you hold down the button. This is the equivalent of touching and then letting go of the platter of a turntable. It’s used to pull or push the downbeats of two tracks together.

10) BPM Tap. This is a mixing aide designed to help you figure how much you’ll need to speed up or slow down a track so that it matches the tempo of the one playing on the other player. If you tap this button in time with the music, the tempo of the track will be shown in the display. It will be shown as a number that represents Beats Per Minute. If you do this for both tracks you’ll know what the difference in speed is between he two. Possibly the best use for this information is simply to let yourself know which direction you need to move the pitch slider for your incoming track to bring the two tempos closer together. If necessary you can re-tap the tempo button to make finer adjustments to pitch.

11) Stop Button. Performs an instant playback stop.

12) Display. The LCD screen is there to keep you informed. To the left of the screen It shows the currently selected track number. Just above the track number it shows whether playback is running or paused with the usual little triangle or two little vertical line symbols. Over on the right side you get a read out of the amount of pitch adjustment being applied to the track. The middle of the Display shows a numeric readout of either the amount of elapsed or remaining time for the track and a horizontal dotted line. The dotted line represents the overall length of the current track, As the tracks plays the line gets progressively shorter. When there is less than a minute of the track remaining the whole line flashes on and off to give you a warning that you need to be ready to mix in the next track. There’s also a written indication of whether you’re in single or continuous playback mode.

13) Time. It’s important to know how much playback time you have left for a particular track before it runs out and you need to mix in another track. With vinyl on a turntable you actually guess by looking at how far the needle is from the end of the track. The CD Player actually gives you a read out of this info’ in minutes, seconds and frames. It can be useful to know how much of a track has already ‘elapsed’ and how much there is ‘remaining’. The Time button toggles the display between these two different display modes. Press the button once and the display readout will change, press it again and it will change again. You can see which mode is enabled on the display next to the numbers.

14)
Cont/Single. This button switches the player between two different playback modes. Press the button once and the mode will change, press it again and it will change again. You can see which mode is enabled on the display. In ‘Cont’ (Continuous) mode the player responds just like a normal CD player because when it gets to then end of one track on a CD it simply moves on to playing the next track. This is not particularly desirable when Djing so in ‘Single’ mode, when the player reaches the end of the current track, it stops.

CD DECKS
The controls outlined above for Twin CD Players are similar to those found on CD Decks. They will be laid out differently but the function will be very similar.

USING MICROPHONES

Microphones are one of those seemingly very simple things. They’re really easy to connect up and get working, so people often overlook some of the finer points about how to get the best results out of them. So here is a simple set up procedure and a tip or two to set you in the right direction.

There are two basic breeds of microphone; ‘studio’ and ‘live’. Studio mic’s are designed to capture sounds as well as possible, so they tend to be very sensitive, particularly to handling noise. Handling noise is what you get if you hold a mic’ and use it at the same time and it is caused by the friction of your hand against the body of the mic’. Most studio mics are designed to spend their lives on stands so handling noise and a few other similar considerations are not so important. With a mic’ intended for live use, handling noise is a big issue, so is having a rugged build. The result is two very different types of mic’ whose attributes are tailored to fit their intended use. Obviously we have restricted the following information to mic’s intended for live use by DJ’s and MC’s.

USING STANDARD VOCAL MICROPHONES

Positioning If you try to use a mic’ in front of a PA speaker it will feed back. Feedback is the sound produced when a mic picks up it’s own signal coming from the speaker. This creates a loop because a specific frequency passes through the mic, into the amp’, back out of the speakers, into the mic, back into the amp’ etc, getting louder and louder each time.

Unless you use a separate ‘Feedback Dstroyer’ (a device that automatically prevents feedback by detecting the offending frequency and suppressing it with EQ), the only way to ensure that you avoid feedback is to position the vocalist behind the speakers. In essence the best way to grasp this concept is to try it. Use the following procedures to set up a mic (behind the speakers) and try slowly walking out in front of the speakers with the mic’... you’ll get the idea in no time and get an idea of where in relation to the speakers a mic’ can be positioned before feedback starts.

Connection
First you need to identify your mic’ level input on your mixer. It’s pretty important that you find the right mic input socket on your mixer because one of the most important things to know about mic’s is that they produce a much smaller signal than line level equipment like CD players and ‘phono level’ turntables. If you try and plug a mic’ into a line or phono input it won’t work. It probably won’t damage your equipment (which plugging a line level item into a mic’ level input may well do) but it won’t get you far. Your mixer should either have a 1/4” jack or Male XLR mic input socket. Kam mixers either feature 1/4” jack or dual function XLR/1/4” jack input sockets.

Next you need to ensure you have the correct cable. Most vocal mic’s have a Male XLR socket in one end. So you’ll need a cable that has a Female XLR plug at one end and either a 1/4” jack or Male XLR plug at the other. If your microphone has an integral cable with a 1/4” jack plug on the end you will need a mixer with an appropriate mic’ input socket to be able to use it.

From there it is a good plan to get into the habit of sticking to the following procedure.

1. Turn down the input gain control (if it has one) and mic’ level control on your mixer.

2.
Ensure that your mic’ is switched off if it has an on/off switch.

3. Connect the cable between your mic’ and your mixer.

4. Use the Cue Select system on your mixer to ensure that the microphone input is being measured by your mixers Level Meters and that you can hear it in your headphones.

5.
Switch On your mic’ and start speaking or singing into it.

6.
Gradually increase the mic’ gain control if your mixer has one and leave the actual mic’ level control at zero (just as you would when setting up a record ready for mixing). If your mixer doesn’t have an input gain control you’ll need to turn up the actual mic level control instead.

7.
Observe the mixer level meters and stop increasing the mic’ input level when your signal is peaking at just below zero dB on the meter. This step of the operation is the most crucial aspect of mic set up. unlike other sound sources like decks and CD players, signal levels from mics can vary quite dramatically in normal use. The problem is that a vocalist does not always sing at the same volume, which we will discuss a little more in the ‘Mic Technique’ section below. So it’s important to set your mic’ input level with your vocalist when they’re at their loudest.

8.
Once you’ve set a sensible input signal level you can turn up the mic’ level control until the voice sounds right in relation to the music.

Other little mic’ tips
If you have a guest vocalist or MC during a DJ set the chances are that they won’t sing or chat all the way through your set. If they do you might want to consider stopping them as this tends to actually spoil a DJ set rather than improve it. Here are a couple of tips relating to what happens when they’re not doing their thing.

Switch off - Many mic’s have an on/off switch on them. When the vocalist isn’t active, switch off their mic’ using this switch rather than using the level controls on the mixer. Using the switch on the mic’ means that those carefully set up levels will remain correctly set so that when the vocalists kicks off again, all you need to do is switch the mic’ back on and all will still be nice.

Use a mic’ stand - all too often DJs and MCs resort to trying to find somewhere to balance the mic when they’re not using it... and 9 times out of 10 that means on top of the mixer or on a table. You don’t want the mic’ in the way of the DJ and you don’t want it rolling off onto the floor and getting damaged in the drop (not a problem with the Kam KDM550 of course thanks to it’s ‘anti roll’ rubber collar). So use a stand to stash the mic’ on.

Never unplug a mic’ from a mixer with the levels still up, it’ll usually create a nasty thunking sound that may damage the PA.

USING WIRELESS MICROPHONE SYSTEMS

Connecting Wireless microphones is a little different. Because of the transmission and reception process, Wireless systems produce line level rather than mic’ level output signals. The Kam KWM5 & KWM10 systems for example have either unbalanced 1/4” jack or balanced XLR line level output sockets. This means that you’ll need the correct cable to run between the mic’ receiver unit and a line level input on your mixer. You still need to follow all of the correct connection and level setting procedures on your mixer as outlined above, it is merely the connection point that differs.

Because of the technical considerations and diverse operating conditions associated with Wireless systems you will find an output level control on the mic’ receiver unit. This is there because differences in distance from the receiver unit and battery strength in the microphone can produce significantly variable level response. The level control is there to help you compensate... but it can cause trouble too if you don’t use it correctly. With the KWM system specifically the unit can boost output levels by as much as 20dB... which is a lot. So you need to keep a beady eye on the input levels to your mixer when using the system. From a manufacturers perspective this sort of thing is always a dilemma... ‘do we provide the end user with enough power to cover every eventuality, in the knowledge that power can be abused, or do we limit the functionality?’ Kam have chosen to provide the user with the power they may need, but that makes it the users responsibility to use the facilities correctly.


BASIC MIC TECHNIQUE

Learning a little bit of basic mic’ technique can significantly improve the overall sound quality and listening pleasure with vocals. The underlying principle of the whole thing is that it is likely that a good vocalist will sing or speak some passages at higher volumes than others. This is partly because the human voice takes on a different tonal and atmospheric character at different volumes. If you whisper you sound intimate and your voice will be quiet, shout and it will sound aggressive and your voice will be very loud. Different styles of singing therefore suit different songs, or parts of songs and will be at different volumes. The way to combat this is for the vocalist to move closer to or further away from the mic’. So for a whispered passage the vocalist should get right up close to the mic’ so that it can pick up the quiet nuances of the voice. For a bit that’s belted out at the top of their voice they should move as much as a foot away from the mic’. By following this rule, learning to gauge the volume of their own voice and moving closer to and further away from the mic’ (preferably whilst keeping an eye on the signal levels on the mixer), the vocalist can learn to capture all of the tonal characteristics of different passages whilst maintaining a relatively constant overall signal level. It takes a bit of practice but it works.


COMPRESSION & EFFECTS

The other way to combat vocal signal levels is to use Compression on your vocal mic’.

If you have a mixer with effect send/return facilities and an effects processor, using reverb or echo on live vocals can help blend them with background music very effectively.

Unfortunately both of these subjects will have to wait for a future installment of the Kam DJ Academy. Watch this space!

 
 


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