DJ Technology has evolved beyond recognition over the last 50 years – here, we look at its history…
Despite having a relatively short history, DJ technology has evolved beyond all recognition since the days that DJ gear first began to appear in the ‘60s. Here we take a look at how things have changed since those fledgling days.
1960s – Bozak Mixers
Though the term ‘Disc Jockey’ had been used as early as the 1940s, it wasn’t until the ‘60s that gear designed specifically for the purpose began to appear, and DJ Technology was effectively born.
Most famously, the Bosak DJ mixers were among the first devices to provide DJs with the means to easily mix from one audio source to another.
The standard of the day was held to be the stereo, Bozak CMA-10-2DL.
1970s – Technics SL-1200/ SL-1210 Turntable
The Technics SL-1200 was, remarkably, first introduced in 1972, and production was not stopped until 2010. The iconic turntable was originally designed to address the issues that plagued many vinyl turntables.
In this regard, it minimized acoustic feedback by employing a heavy plinth made of non-resonant composite, and using rubber feet. It addressed the wow and flutter inaccuracies of typical players by using a direct-drive design, and using the famous ‘Frequency Generator Servo Control Quartz Lock’, which removed the possibility pitch variance caused by static and stylus drag.
These factors made the ‘ones and twos’ the ideal tool for DJ situations, where decks were set up within proximity of loudspeakers. Combined with bombproof construction, they remained the DJs tool of choice for decades.
1990s – Pioneer CDJ
Pioneer were the first brand to truly offer the sort of control DJs demanded from a digital player, with their CDJ range. The CDJ-500 was the first CD player designed specifically with modern DJ usage in mind, offering pitch control and tactile jog dials, it provided CD quality with plenty of control.
It also offered a glimpse of where DJ technology was headed, with Master Tempo allowing tempo manipulations without changes in pitch, and the first appearance of a loop function.
2000s – Traktor, Ableton Live and the Launchpad
The noughties were undoubtedly the decade that saw software based music technology become the norm. At the forefront of this was Native Instruments Traktor software. Native was one of the first to recognise the potential in software-based DJ-ing, and with vast experience in audio software thanks to its pioneering work in soft-synths, its approach was characteristically innovative.
Exploiting the huge libraries afforded by using computers, along with the huge display, it made digital DJ technology more powerful, more flexible and more intuitive.
Though it wasn’t originally designed for the purpose, Ableton Live has, perhaps, done more to change the way DJs work than anything else.
Conceived as a live performance tool for electronic musicians, Live was quickly adopted by DJs due to its rock solid performance, and ability to auto tempo match audio files.
Inadvertently, it also provided those using it with a new set of tools that made reconstructing, re-editing tracks on the fly an absolute breeze.
The Launchpad provided an intuitive interface for these, live ‘mash up’ shenanigans, and before long, what is becoming known as controllerism was born. Tracks were now remixed live in front of an audience, bringing a whole new level of performance to DJ Technology.
2010s – Pioneer Wireless Technology
The past twelve months has seen Pioneer push the envelope, once again, with its incredible wireless technology. Initially appearing on the XDJ-AERO, before being followed by the CDJ-2000nexus and other nexus products, it allows the user to stream audio to the devices wirelessly, via Rekordbox software.
This can be run via a host computer, smartphone or tablet, providing the means to organise libraries and playlists, and even edit loops and cuepoints.
Recently, Pioneer added a new device, the XDJ-R1 that offers increased control from iOS devices. Via the Remotebox app, the user can control just about any aspect of the R1’s function wirelessly, from cueing up songs to manipulating FX.
What does the future hold for DJ technology? It’s impossible to say. But, with tablets being taken increasingly seriously as a DJ medium, it seems likely that these will figure highly in any developer’s plans. Plus, the increased demand for performance features, such as samples and hotcues, suggest that ‘controllerist’ style DJing isn’t going anywhere soon…
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Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.