So Dice and I have discussed, nay, dreamed about being on wax since the outset of our group in 2009. In the past seven years, we haven’t been able to make it happen unfortunately because of the high overhead costs of pressing to vinyl. You essentially need to pay for a minimum of 100 records to even have these copies made (or you have to know somebody). This makes sense though, because of the delicate/expensive pressing process. Totally cool though.
However, coming from listening to the likes of Slick Rick, Gang Starr, Lord Finesse, and others like that, I was used to hearing the DJs scratching the voice of the rapper who is actually rapping on the track. They were able to do this because the record labels would press acapellas of their vocals from previous records or they were just using previous records. Dice and I never got our first album on wax (yet), but fortunately we were able to come up with a smooth alternative thanks to technology.
In the podcast episode at the top of the page, there is a clip of me telling Dice that I got my hands on a piece of technology that allows us to scratch our voices on our album without having to press vinyl. His reaction is priceless! Then, I describe how I made my decision to purchase the interface (Rane SL2) along with some of the process I went through while setting up. Additionally, I made a video of me unboxing the Rane SL2 and setting it up. Check that video out here:
Before buying the Rane SL2 Serato, I ensured that it would be compatible with my current computer and operating system by checking the specs and minimum hardware requirements at the manufacturer’s website. I have a MacBook Pro and OS X version 10.8.5 so I was in the clear.
Once I got the product, I unboxed it and the first thing I had to do was install the drivers and software that came with it on CD ROM. The installation of drivers is often overlooked in the process even though it’s super simple. Drivers are included on the CD ROM disc, but can also be downloaded from www.serato.com at anytime. The first thing I always do when I get a piece of hardware is go straight to a search engine and type “Rane SL2 USB Driver Downloads” (obviously replacing “Rane SL2” with whatever hardware unit I am using). Doing this generally directs me to the website to download direct from there so I know I have the most up-to-date info. Essentially it’s like installing a printer for the first time on a computer; you just need to make sure the computer knows what device it is talking with.
So I downloaded the drivers and the next thing was the Serato DJ software. This was another super simple install as It’s just like installing any other piece of software. Once I was finished, I checked my Audio MIDI setup to make sure that the drivers were properly installed and they were, so I selected the Rane SL2 as my audio input and output.
At this point, I could finally get to the hardware! I took the main unit out of the box first, shut down my computer, and plugged in the interface to my Macbook Pro via the included USB cable. I restarted the computer and immediately, the blue light of success came on and I knew I was golden!
I got so excited and I wanted to try it right away even though my buddy Aaron Baker hadn’t brought over the direct drive turntables that we were eventually going to use to do the official testing. I instead grabbed the only turntable I had which was belt driven. Not the kind you generally use for this. Not the type of table for scratching, beat juggling, or mobile DJing. Nope this is purely for listening, Here is a picture of a turntable NOT to use with the Rane SL2:
My Numark PT-01 USB Turntable is great for listening, not so great for scratching.
I still wanted to test the new gear so I used it anyways. I continued digging through the box and came across the other four stereo RCA cables, the control CDs, the rubber feet for the SL2, the quick start guide and Serato DJ Manual, and BOOM!! There they were like two plaques waiting to be framed! The time code control vinyl records! This is what it was all about for me. As soon as I saw those, it became real. The SL2 comes bundled with two of them. This is the real magic of what this device does in my opinion. Now we can utilize Dice’s DJing skills with our own recorded voices! Here’s how the signal flow works:
- The time code vinyl goes onto the turntable just like a normal record would.
- Drop the needle.
- The signal goes out the phono outputs from the turntable go to the inputs of the SL2 using one of the RCA cables. In this case, we have set the SL2 to phono (not CD) since we are using turntables.
- Conversion of the electrical signal occurs, transferring it into digital using ones and zeros (just like the Matrix! NEO!!)
- The USB cable carries the impulses made on the turntable (scratching) into the computer where the Serato DJ software allows you to cue up any ole’ piece of music or sound effect.
- The USB cable then carries the signal BACK to the SL2.
- At this point, the signal can be sent out to you standard DJ mixer or just any old mixer! In my video example I just used a regular 8 channel mixer to do the testing.
- The sound is mixed like any other live sound!
Now, I’m coming from a non-DJ background so I don’t have a traditional DJ mixer with a cross fader at the moment. Dice and Baker have those. I plugged directly into my 8 channel Harbinger mixer that I have laying around, plugged in my headphones and there it was! I was able to connect the vinyl turntable as a controller for my digital software.
This for me, was a big deal. This means we can DJ our record as we write it! This will allow for bigger picture decisions like tempos and track flow on the fly! I’m pretty excited to continue to dig in more!
Speaking of digging in more… I have a lot of it to do! But if you are trying to make a decision about whether or not to get the Rane SL2, listen to us chat about how we are making use of it in the podcast at the top of this page. In the podcast, we discuss how we can use it to record our voices and scratch them into the song any time we please! We don’t have to wait for the vinyl press of our acapellas to come back from the mastering plant anymore! Just kidding, we’ve never actually done that either. 😉 Take a listen, leave a comment, have a donut.
Music In Today’s Episode