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Why Can’t DJs Stay Away From Red Lights

In short explanation, red lights on a DJ mixer means distortion, although you may not hear it at times – the bottom line is that it’s unforgiving to send such signals to the sound engineer’s console mixer/desk. There is almost nothing the engineer can do to repair the signal, especially if the low frequency is pushed to 5 past position on a DJ mixer, believe it, this happens more often.

High and mid frequencies are commonly positioned at this mark, 5 past on the DJ mixer – for what reason, I don’t know – see picture of a DJ mixer below. I sometimes don’t believe my eyes when I see this, the reason normally provided is that the “Track is not mastered properly”. The point now becomes why the track is played, it is important for producers to note that a badly mastered track should not be played. Radio stations have that policy too and there is nothing wrong with this decision. I am aware that Direct boxes (commonly referred to as DI box) help in this case by reducing the signal send to the console desk, but do we really have to compress the signal with these measures.

Most sound owners feel disrespected when someone does this to the system, its unjustified. It’s just as good as borrowing someone a car and driving it blind folded. One classic example is to use a vehicle’s rev counter on a speedometer if one cannot understand how distortion is created or decibles (db). Before one changes a gear, it is a damaging act to push each gear into the red prior to changing gear. By enlarge, the DJ is indirectly asking the sound owner to prepare a budget for replacement parts because he/she is intending to damage the system. Only if we all knew how much/what is sacrificed to own the system!

This normally happens as the mood/night progresses, could it be that the sound system falls short at covering the venue. In most cases, I think not because even if you set the master volume to bounce off 0 db on a DJ mixer during setup, in few hours this gain structure would have been destroyed causing you to compensate on a console desk – this ends up being a cat and mouse game between the DJ and the sound engineer. One requiring more volume while the other is concerned about protecting the system.

In a perfect world, the gain structure on a DJ mixer should be maintained at 0db throughout the entire operation of the system. The system will sound way better than when in distortion. However, we all know this would be an application to tear the system apart if done this way. I’ve actually never met anyone who would set this structure because it’s given, it will be broken in no time. Imagine if the gain structure is set at 0db, you have no technical equipment to define parameters like compression, Low/High Pressure Frequency (L/HPF), attack if a specified db is exceeded and your amplifiers are near clip. Should the DJ exceed by 3db and the amplifiers go into prolonged clip, the amplifiers will send double the power to the speakers and the system is as good as gone.

Even if one sets the structure this way, I only set this structure when I know I’m the only one playing on the system for the entire time. Under normal conditions, I set it up at expected maximum db on a DJ mixer (just before red lining) and compensate on a console mixer. It remains important for the DJ and sound engineer to communicate prior to each DJ getting on stage because in general, if the DJ maintains a specified db (even if he’s lower) as discussed with the engineer, the engineer will always give the DJ more volume resulting in everybody’s satisfaction. Let’s all build on the success of an event.

DJ Mixer showing frequencies set higher on channel 1 and 3.

There’s a BIG difference between LOUDNESS and CLARITY!!!

Apologies if offended, not intended…

Facebook Profile Name: George DjSonik Mpaneng
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