Diary of a DJ

Carvin PA Kit

IMPORTANT – SEE THE BOTTOM FOR 2/9/2016 Update

I’ve taught dance for years and there is really nothing I like more than great sounding music. I’m a fan of it all.. Rock, Classical, Disco, Funk, Big Band, Country, Pop and even Dub Step, I love me some Dub-Step. Recently I was asked to DJ at a dinner club, I enjoyed it but their equipment was sub-par, so I’ve decided to buy my own.

This post is simply blogging the trials and tribulations of a newbie DJ.

It should be noted that if you have guaranteed gigs, you can very quickly pay off your investment of equipment. I was asked to prebook several events, so to me, the output of cash was well justified…and after it’s paid off, then you’re looking at pure profit.

Out of the gate I purchased 2 15″ Carvin PA speakers with an amplifier ($730) (seen above).

tepxtrem1501I used just the two 15″ speakers at two events..but I am a bit of an audiophile and was not quite happy with the bass of the speakers, so I recently purchased a 15″ Xtreme 1501 active subwoofer from Technical Pro (seen to the left). You can’t beat the price ($300) though I read both positive and negative reviews..I figured I’d roll the dice.

So far I’ve only tested the subwoofer in my garage, but I’m EXTREMELY pleased by the sound…I had to play with it for a bit, but once you figure out the balance between speakers and sub, it’s pretty golden.

Again, Keep in mind, I’m VERY picky about the sound and I’m digging this setup so far.

Finally, I purchase the American DJ Festive Pak 2 for lighting via Amazon for $100. There are 3 lights, 2 of which I’ll be using, but the third is a basic strobe, which most people hate, so I’ll be tossing that…or saving for Halloween!

NOTE: I had to learn this, so I’m passing it on to other newbies. There is such a thing as Powered (or active) speakers and Passive (or nonactive) speakers. Powered means they have their own power and don’t need an amplifier while Passive means they need an amplifier. Powered speakers generally run more expensive. My setup is two 15″ passive speakers that need an amplifier and a Powered Subwoofer. Powered subwoofers offer a more rich and deep bass from everything I’ve read…and if I’m going to invest, I want the best sound possible.

In my case, I connect the two passive speakers into the amplifier via the right and left ‘speaker’ outbound, then connect the subwoofer to the amplifier via the ‘monitor’ outbound. This way I control the speakers via the ‘Main’ volume and the Subwoofer level via the ‘monitor’ volume.

I’ve got two AV inputs on my amplifier so I have two different computers that hook in, each get their own volume on the amp. On one laptop I am using Club DJ PRO VJ6. It allows you to HDMI from your laptop to a large tv/monitor and run music videos while the music cranks from your speakers. The site says it’s $39.00 for only one more day…but it’s said that since I bought it 5 months ago. On the other laptop I use iTunes, which I was pleasantly surprised regarding how many dj friendly features iTunes has (auto fade, auto volume correction, song cue etc).

As I mentioned, I’ve only used my setup 2 times and this last time I had two issues where the music went dead for a couple seconds (which when you’re dj’ing it feels like an hour of silence). I am not sure what caused it, but suspect the amplifier went out momentarily due to overload. I am starting a Ladies Night gig every Thursday at a nearby bar, so If it continues I’ll upgrade my amp and let you know how it goes.

I also plan on tweet streaming live occasionally from the bar via TwitCaster  (@dancelesson)

Final Note: Everything but the Carvin Speakers I purchased through Amazon, and it’s been a GREAT experience.

Questions and comments are welcomed.

Latest Update: 4/16/2014
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4/16/2014 – So I’ve done approx 10 gigs using the setup described below…and I’ve had some issues.

My Carvin Amplifier (XP800L Powered Mixer) is not cutting it. Nearly every gig has some sort of issue. If I use just one speaker combined with my Subwoofer (sub with pole and 15″ speaker on top) then it works ok…but for the larger events, when I use both 15″ speakers along with my subwoofer, my amplifier will start dropping out (also known as clipping).

It works fine for the first 1.5 – 2 hours, but as the party gets going you’ll find you’ll need to boost the volume. This is when I’ve had the problem, numerous times. I’m not even turning it up 3/4 of the way, just past half way and it’s starts having issues. Also, the USB port started to smoke when I plugged in my Phone adapter, that’s no good. I took the Amp into Carvin and they said the USB issue should not be happening, and I can reduce clipping if I rely on the Main volume control more than the Input volume control. I tried that at my last gig and it did not have any issues after 3 hours, but…the volume was not being challenged at that gig because it was more low-key event.

I’ve researched and the Carvin XP800L delivers 140 watts per 8 ohms and my speakers are 8 ohms. 140 is not allot so I decided to update my amp. I’ve recently purchased the GTD Audio BM-226. I found it on Amazon and it’s REALLY affordable (around $170) …but it delivers 250 watts per 8 ohms, so that is nearly double what I currently have. The reviews were decent in regards to sound and power though the instruction booklet is pretty useless and is written in POORLY transcribed english. I have not used the new amp at a gig yet, but out of the box it’s very sturdy and it feels/sounds good.

Lastly, I’m not using Club DJ Pro as much and rely more on Virtual DJ. I’ve found it to be easier to match beats and it works great with a USB headset. I have also found that 128 Beats Per Minute is the hot trigger for getting/keeping people dancing. So query online for popular dance songs that are 128 BPM to build your library.

Lesson Learned: If you don’t have powered speakers, the Amp is the heart of the system and it needs to have power.

Latest Update: 2/9/2016
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I’ve had countless gigs now, mostly weddings, anniversaries and such.. Since purchasing the GTD Audio BM-226 amplifier I have not had a single clipping issue. This amplifier has proved to be WELL worth the affordable price (I hope I’m not jinxing myself).

Quick notation, I did do a gig at a beach and required a generator. I thought a 2000 watt unit would do the job, but it did not. There fortunately was a 3500 watt unit on the premises used by another vendor. They allowed me to plug in and it worked fine. I was unable to plug anything ELSE in, but for just the amp it worked fine. I was a bit screwed when my laptop died ;0). Keep in mind, the other vendor was also pulling juice, so perhaps if I had the 3500 watts to myself it would have been fine.

Please note, after 2 years now, both the Carvin 15″ speakers and the Xtreme Subwoofer have performed wonderfully. Well worth the money and I am now charging enough to where I’ve paid for my equipment 50 fold.

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Looxcie Into The Future!

A bluetooth camcorderA bluetooth earpiece that doubles as a camcorder..that would be cool!

This is a quick shout-out for the Looxcie bluetooth camcorder. I’ve had this device for about 8 months. I have the first generation…which is a bit bulky, but still very cool!

Here’s what it is and how it works:

Looxcie is basically a Bluetooth audio device for your smartphone, I have an Android. If I want to make a call, or if my phone rings, I can speak using this little gadget in my ear. However, Looxcie also contains 4GB of a flash memory and can act as a camcorder.

The tip of the device (the white part) is a camera lens. If you where to simply press the red button (on top of the ear piece) you would start recording whatever you are looking at. You can twist the camera very small turns to ensure you are getting a stable recording (make sure everything is not crooked).

How do you see what you are recording? You use the Looxcie app that goes on your phone! Looxcie has two applications, well three now, more on that later. In general you have LooxcieCam and LooxcieMements. To be TOTALLY honest, I really don’t understand the difference between them. I have BOTH on my phone..but still don’t quite understand what the difference is except that the interfaces are different…they appear to DO the same thing (start recording, view previously recorded videos etc).

Regardless, in a nutshell, you turn on your phone’s bluetooth, you turn on the camera and turn on your LooxieCam application. As you record you see your footage on your phone, pretty darn cool. Because this is video delivered via a bluetooth connection, it appears a bit jumpy, but rest assured the actual footage is not jumpy at all. On that note, when you review your footage via your phone, you are initially viewing it from the earpiece to the phone..so that footage is also jumpy because it’s Bluetooth that is still pulling from the earpiece to the phone display. You need to SAVE the footage to your phone before you get the actual footage as it really is.

The video format is MP4 and the camera has two settings (set on the LooxcieCam application settings). You can set the resolution to either 480P (30 fps), this is youtube ready footage, or you can use 380P (15 fps) which is smaller and better for emailing.

You can view Ariel Winter from Modern Family via Looxcie here.
You can view lots of users samples here.

One very cool feature from Looxcie is the 30 second clip button. Let’s say you just recorded something cool…with one click of a button on your ear piece, the last 30 seconds of footage is taken and uploaded it to your Facebook account…pretty bitchen!

Now, as I mentioned, I have the first generation Looxcie, it cost me aprox $149.00 down from $200.00 after about 3 months sitting on the shelf. It clearly was a bit over priced and I don’t think people understood what it was.

Looxcie 2 is now out (pictured left) and is a bit more sleak and attractive with an all black, more lightweight design.

And finally, one of the coolest features just released from Looxcie (1 & 2) is their Looxcie Live! Now I do allot of live streaming (I developed and own Bspot.tv) so my natural assumption is that I’d be able to use this feature to stream to Bspot.tv..too cool!!! But, that is NOT yet the case.

Looxcie Live only works with other people using the Looxcie Live app on their phone. I personally had to upgrade the firmware on my Looxcie 1 in order to use the feature at all. So currently you can not broadcast live to other peoples computers..only their phones IF they have the looxcie Live app on their phone. While this feature is basically useless to me personally..it’s a step in the right direction and I have to think home computer viewing is right around the corner!

Here’s Looxcing at you!

Square Up – Credit Card Processing Made Easy!

Process Credit Cars Via Smart PhoneAs a web developer/designer who works with a lot of small start up businesses, The most popular question I get asked is “How can I take credit card payments?”

The time and expense of setting up a merchant account with your bank so that they can lease you a credit card machine while also charging you per each and every transaction..can be daunting, frustrating and expensive!

Paypal now has a virtual terminal that you can use if you are a Paypal member. However the virtual terminal requires you to ‘apply’ to this service and you may get turned down based on your credit rating. You also still need to be sitting at the computer to process the transaction when using Paypal.

There are newer, and what I consider AMAZING, sites/apps you can now utilize to process credit cards. I predict these sites are scaring banks and causing them to lose processing fees hand over fist.

One of those site is wwwSquareUp.com

Square is an amazing application that I frankly am SHOCKED I had not heard of before! With Square (www.squreup.com) you can be set up and taking credit card payments (visa, mastercard, amex, discover) in about 10 minutes via your smart phone or iPad (iphone/ipad/Android). NOTE: this is NOT a resolution for processing online payments from your website, Square is only to process credit cards person to person or over the phone.

Setting Up Your Account: Simply navigate on your computer to SquareUp.com and sign up. They will ask you questions regarding your needs (personal or business account etc) and they will need your bank information so that they may batch transactions into your bank account. They do not ask for your full SSN, only the last for numbers along with DOB. They will then ask a few questions to validate your ID..pretty impressive really.. and it’s all done via HTTPS SSL security.

Accept Credit Card Payments via Square

The account is set up literally within minutes and you can instantly start taking credit card payments via the Square application (load to your smart phone or ipad via iTunes or Android Market). The application will allow you to type in the Credit Card information and process the card, but they also will send you a credit card swiper that plugs into your phone headphone jack…for free!

Truth be told, my experience with the swiper is hit and miss. Some cards took numerous swipes to process correctly..but some went right through.

After entering the amount to charge and then swiping the card, the customer can ‘sign’ the transaction with their finger right on your phone! (under settings you can tell the app to not require signature for any transaction under $25.00).

A receipt containing an image of the signature can be sent to the customer via txt or email.
Every evening Square will batch your payments and deposit them into your bank account.

The application is free, the card swiper is free and Square charges only 2.75% (similar to Paypal) from every transaction for the convenience of instantly accepting credit card payments for your business! You can also have numerous users all logged into the same account with their phones processing payments (like in the case of a sales expo or a small shop with numerous sales clerks).

Other features from Square via the phone App:

  • Log Sales History
  • Accept/log cash transactions
  • Automatically add sales tax
  • Allow for tips to be added to sale
  • Multiple users accept payments into the same account

The ONLY thing that would make companies like Square unstoppable is if they offered an API to allow you to process credit cards through your website…I have to think that is in the near future.

OpenOffice.org, An Alternative to Microsoft Office

Listen, I’m not a Microsoft ‘Hater’ and honestly I don’t own a Mac and I really like my XP system which has crashed maybe twice in 6 years.

However, I have had more issues with Outlook and Word over the past few years. So much so that I started looking around for alternatives, honestly thinking I would run into a brick wall and be forced to live with my frustrations.

Well I was wrong and somehow stumbled upon OpenOffice.org, put out by Sun Microsystems (think Java) and it’s FREE. OpenOffice is a package of about 6 programs that will handle anything from text docs (Word), to Database Manipulation (Access), to Spreadsheets (Excel) and a couple more I have not even used.

Did I mention it’s FREE? Not only does OpenOffice handle the ability to read and manipulate Word/Excel docs, but it allows you to save them as such. It also has a native ability to convert docs to PDF’s!  I have told many people about this free software and the word so far is that I am a GOD!

Now OpenOffice is not without flaws, it has not Outlook alternative and I’ve had a couple crashes….But did I mention it’s FREE?

Blackberry gets Torched from Engadget

Not surprising after taking a look at Blackberries new phone, Torch, Engadget gives the new item a 6/10 siting THE GOOD: Portrait slider is a great form factor, Big improvements in native web browser, OS is far more polished than last version & THE BAD: Hardware design feels dated, OS improvements are mostly skin deep, Low resolution display.

They did not appear to have the same issue with the size of  the Keys which are most certainly smaller than those found on the BOLD.

Read Review

iTunes 9 Vs iPod Classic (no bueno)

I hook up my classic iPod to my new HP Mini loaded with iTunes 9 and iTunes will not recognize my classic 60 GB iPod. Now I go into analyst mode and wonder is it my iPod (which I don’t use much anymore), is it my HP Mini or perhaps my connection cable.

After several connectivity tests and swapping out my cable, I decided to Google the issue and found there is INDEED a problem with iPod Classic connecting to iTunes 9…and Apple has recently admitted looking into the issue.

So do I wait for the fix or do I try to locate and download an earlier version of iTunes?? hmmm

Update 12/14/10:  I have not updated my iTunes since this post, however as of yesterday (12/14) I updated my iTunes to version 10.1.0.56 and it appears to be recognizing my classic 60GB iPod. It may be worth noting the I loaded this to my new Win 7 system, not my HP Mini as mentioned above, that will be the next task.

Google Caffeine

It wasn’t well publicized, but in June Google came out with a new web indexing system. Indexing is how Google looks at your site and makes it easier for others to find you.

Caffeine helps Google produce 50 percent fresher search results than it did prior to it’s introduction. In a nutshell, Google visits your site aprox once every 3-4 days in order to list your content for people to find. My understanding is that Caffeine now allows Google to visit your site nearly once PER DAY.

What does this mean for you?? It means keeping your site up to date and offering dynamic content will be more beneficial to you and the people looking for your service. If Google visits your site, they want to find new information..so if your site is static and not updating on a regular basis, Google will loose interest.

So keep your site up to date…caffeine will like it!

Read Google’s Blog

Blackberry Torch

At first sight I was excited about the Blackberry Torch (offered only through AT&T), but upon handling the phone I soon realized the physical buttons are too small.

I have not been able to play with the touch screen, but the physical keys would be one of the primary reasons for purchase, and the size alone tells me it would not be useful to me.

So play with it before you purchase it!!