Dead again
January 15, 2003 1:12 PM   Subscribe

The end of Vinyl II? Stanton ships Final Scratch, which enables a DJ to manipulate (mix, scratch, cut...) any music on their PC with their turntables. Besides not needing to carry all the weight and bulk of crates of records around, DJs can now skip the expensive and complicated step of cutting their own records in order to play original tracks. Is vinyl going to die for real this time?
posted by badstone (35 comments total)
Sorry about the commercial. I'm sure Stanton won't be alone in this for too long... An interesting side note - when you dig into the system requirements, you find that will only run on Linux, as Windows isn't stable enough.
posted by badstone at 1:14 PM on January 15, 2003

No. My bet is that most people who buy and collect vinyl don't use it for scratching purposes. Vinyl will never die as long as these folks keep buying it.
posted by corpse at 1:16 PM on January 15, 2003

An interesting side note - when you dig into the system requirements, you find that will only run on Linux, as Windows isn't stable enough.

So, does that mean I have to replace my snarky Pepsi Blue joke with a snarky Bawls joke?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:26 PM on January 15, 2003

I'm with corpse, the people I saw packed into the record store last saturday didn't quite look like DJ's to me, it might have been the gray hairs, or it might have been the suspicion that Gordon Lightfoot wouldn't make a real great mix, could be that they just heard about this though and they figured they'd better stock up really quick!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:28 PM on January 15, 2003

i buy vinyl all the time, and, while i don't use it to scratch, i do mix it.
yes it's heavy, yes it's a pain to lug around, yes it's expensive and takes up a lot of space.
i'm one of freaks who like the actual vinyl, and happily spends hours digging through the crates looking for the elusive white-label or early detroit classic and i don't think i'll ever change, and i know a lot of people like me.
just my $0.02
posted by dolface at 1:31 PM on January 15, 2003

That's pretty neat. The most interesting thing is that theres no windows version, and that it's linux only. Who knows how this might effect the marketing. It's a major pain in the ass to re-partition your hard drive and install LILO, not to mention learn to use Linux if you're not technically inclined to begin with.

I'm a software engineer and I use either Linux or Unix everyday. That being said, I'd never use it if I was a consumer, on my home computer. Its way too archaic and unfriendly for most people. I'd really like to know why there's no windows version (They said a mac version is coming out soon, and unless the port is just a standard unix port with some layer API for carbon, I don't see why it cant be ported to XP too)
posted by SweetJesus at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2003

The DM2 Digital Music Mixer is a similar concept, but instead of being a bridge between an analog turntable and a PC, it's a self-contained controller with turntable-like wheels.
posted by staggernation at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2003

dolface -

I don't think this'll put a stop to dusty fingered crate digging - it's just now you can keep those gems home and safe and not tear them up any further. Meanwhile, new stuff can come out online or on optical media...
posted by badstone at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2003

In answer to your final question: I get all my vinyl news from The Vinyl Anachronist. And he says that he "can only come to the rather radical conclusion that more people will be listening to LP's than CD's in the year 2022". Long live vinyl!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2003


I think you need to read into the site more carefully. The Linux distro that it is using sounds to me like one of the ones that can be booted from a virtual partition within windows ie. each time it is used it creates itself a virtual EXT2 filesystem within a windows partition and boots. This means there is no need for the average user of it to mess around with LILO and other linux nuances (or is that nuisances!), they can run linux on request, similar to any other Windows program.

I do agree with you that if I am wrong and requires a standard Linux install, re-partitioning and other hassles it will be far less marketable and probably prove quite problematic for Stantons support team.
posted by john.institution at 1:52 PM on January 15, 2003

I very much doubt that Windows isn't "stable" enough. (My desktop at school is Linux, and my home computer was exclusively Linux from 0.9-something until a couple years ago.) However, I can see two possibilities. In the extreme, I'd guess Linux can be made / is more stable than Windows. Where by extreme I'd normally be talking about typical Unix stuff where you leave your computer running and serving for months and don't think about it. That does, I suppose, translate into a correspondingly small chance of failure during a set. Also, this project may be pretty hard on audio I/O both in terms of quality and quantity.

As for the death of vinyl, how about: the death of practical vinyl. Collectors have different motivations from a DJ who just wants a certain functionality. In practice, of course, there is substantial overlap between the two groups.

A really fun project would be to get this sort of thing working without using special vinyl. I believe it should be do-able, but then I'm not a signal-processing expert. Oh yeah, and then use it mix video or other non-sound sources.
posted by Wood at 1:58 PM on January 15, 2003

I don't foresee an end to vinyl any time soon, especially not due to Final Scratch (which I do find REALLY cool).

The products that I think will take the biggest chunk of business from vinyl are the newer line of CD & mp3CD players from Pioneer (new Flash-only web site). Just look for the CDJ-1000, CDJ-800, and the DMP-555. The only downside is that these players are as expensive as they are fun & functional. Hopefully in time the price will drop enough so that us poorer DJ's can afford them.

But you have to consider that the extra money that you spent on the expensive CD player would certainly be saved over time from not buying grossly expensive vinyl. And what are you going to do if that super great Metro Area 4 12" is never again pressed to vinyl?

By the way, I spin both vinyl and CD's. Love them both.
posted by Rattmouth at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2003


You may be right, I just glanced at the site (I'm supposed to be working). I didn't notice any system requirements that stated you need Windows, just Linux. If it does run under Windows, I wonder if you can run it like you would any program, or it needs to be booted off a CD or something like that.

Then again, maybe it will guide you though installing Lilo in a nice, comfortable way. I recall Mandrake having a nice friendly install program. Maybe they're using something like this.
posted by SweetJesus at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2003

I agree with Rattmouth, the CDJ1000 and other such products are a much greater threat to vinyl than FinalScratch. Only a few major DJs (Richie Hawtin, Josh Wink) use FinalScratch, but almost everyone uses CD decks. CDs are much easier to transport than 12" vinyl, and the ubiquity of CD burners means that DJs can burn copies of unreleased singles (and make their own edits of them) very quickly, avoiding the costly and time-consuming process of pressing acetates.
posted by NoMoreLSAT at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2003

Oh yeah, and here's one other option for any aspiring breakthrough DJ's.... Native Instruments' Traktor 2.0. Traktor is DJ software with a lot of potential.
posted by Rattmouth at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2003

An interesting side note - when you dig into the system requirements, you find that will only run on Linux, as Windows isn't stable enough.

I'm betting it has nothing to do with Windows stability (XP is pretty fucking stable) but more to do with overhead. Windows takes up a big chunk of memory when it's run, which allows it to run a lot of different applications, but speed is sacrificed.

They're probably using Linux because it can be customized down to a very small footprint. You wont need any printing services, so no need to load the printer drivers into memory. Same thing with modem drivers, USB, a whole bunch of stuff. It would free up a LOT of memory (I remember reading that XP takes up somewhere between 80 - 160 megs in ram while running nothing) which could then be dedicated to sound processing.
posted by SweetJesus at 2:08 PM on January 15, 2003

I own one of these. It's a lot of fun, BUT the software is very early. Awkward to get set up, but once you're up, you're up.

My suspicion is that the reason its Linux is latency. Their drivers seem to talk directly to USB, not to the linux USB layer (not 100% sure one this), but I'm not sure how easy getting the audio in->process-> audio out loop super quick under windows would be.

It installs grub and you dual boot, windows or a super cut down version of debian.

The software should be getting updated, but with the big audio show (NAMM) coming up I have a feeling all the dev people are getting it running under OSX.

I'd still recommend it tho'. Check the forums on the site to see if other people have got it going on your hardware. I'm having great fun hacking it.

Big results for me:-
* I need to organize my mp3's.
* Many of my mp3's sound terrible.

I have played with the nice CD players, but there's something so tactile about a physical object on a real spinning weight that makes a good interface. Even if I'm spending $500 to fake a piece of vinyl.

If you've got any more questions, I'm flatfeetpete on everything.
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 2:09 PM on January 15, 2003

When they say that Windows XP is not stable enough it is probably just a case of marketing to the lowest common denominator. It is easier for them to make a claim like that which DJ McAverage can relate to and believe he understands than claiming Windows XP has too high an audio processing latency. No matter how you dress it up more people understand 'stable' than 'latency'.
posted by john.institution at 2:18 PM on January 15, 2003

I'd still recommend it tho'. Check the forums on the site to see if other people have got it going on your hardware. I'm having great fun hacking it.

So, how much hacking would it take to get this to run on a handheld running embedded Linux?
posted by badstone at 2:20 PM on January 15, 2003

There was already something like this for linux: TerminatorX.

TerminatorX homepage also has instructions on how to convert your turntable to a usable computer turntable. It's free too.
posted by abez at 2:23 PM on January 15, 2003

Video of it in action

john: yeah agreed, if you see the demo video above they seem to enjoy the fact its non windows..

badstone: people have moved it to othe linuxes (is that the right plural?). I think the binary only scratchamp driver needs a 2.4.17 or 18 kernel
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 2:24 PM on January 15, 2003

personally i prefer vinyl for just casual listening. i intend to continue to buy it for many years to come.
posted by Zebulun at 2:27 PM on January 15, 2003

i have a cdj1000 - which is that pioneer badass cd player that lets you play with cds and behaves exactly like any high end direct drive turntable. but ya know, after having had it for a year, it's become just _another_ instrument, not a replacement. the more you play with it the more you uncover unnatural sounds from it too, further distancing it from the old and loved real turntable. there's just something very nice about holding a physical vinyl album in your hands. i think it's more than half of why people get into this sort of thing. it influences the way you play, too. i love the new toys coming out but they dont hold a flame to real vinyl.
now of course, if i were to dream....
posted by Peter H at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2003

okay tho, i just watched that video flat feet offered up
yeah, shit, thats pretty hot
posted by Peter H at 2:51 PM on January 15, 2003

I used to be a dj that got gigs fairly regularly. I've used finalscratch, and read plenty of articles and mailing list discussions about it.

The Linux thing:
It comes with a bootable cd, which starts up linux and can play mp3s from an NTFS partition on your hard drive. It's not like you have to install and config linux or anything - you take your normal windows computer, stick a cd in it, restart, and you're running finalscratch. the reason for this, to my understanding, is that windows does not allow low enough level access to the USB port, which makes the latency bad enough that it's unusable. I'm sure if they could make it run under windows, they'd do it in a heartbeat. as it is, they've come up with an un-technical enough solution that any dj can use it, tech-savvy or not.

As for the replacing vinyl thing:
The price on this is high enough ($500 plus the cost of a newish laptop) that at this point few people other than actual working DJs are going to buy it. The vinyl market is based on a bunch of collectors - the "i have the original 7 inch" dudes. They're not going to ditch their original pressings for mp3s any time soon. The "every raver is a dj" fad has more or less faded, and vinyl wasn't killed by that - so I don't think this will do it either.

One more thing: finalscratch is INCREDIBLE to use. You absolutely cannot tell that you're not playing straight from vinyl. If i was still playing out a lot, I'd buy it in a second. I'd still buy records too. I'd just rip them to my computer and play them that way.
posted by chrisege at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2003

the reason for this, to my understanding, is that windows does not allow low enough level access to the USB port, which makes the latency bad enough that it's unusable.

It's all about latency, and predictability. Unlike other vinyl replacements, Final Scratch doesn't do your beatmatching for you, you still have to do that by ear. Which is fine, as that's what the target audience has been doing since Francis Grasso. However, even the smallest amount of latency in the system makes it almost impossible (I have to turn all of my pre-amps digital processing off when I'm practicing) to do this without causing a trainwreck. It's not just the USB driver, but any significant or unpredictable system load incurred by the OS itself, hence, a custom, cut down, predictably low-latency version of linux is a necessity.

Incidentally, 95% of dance music is still only available on vinyl.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:51 PM on January 15, 2003

I buy and listen to records (and CDs) put out by small independent record labels, mostly hardcore and indie rock (Hydrahead Records, Escape Artist Records, Quarterstick Records, Tortuga Recordings, Constellation Records, etc). As long as it's around, I'll buy it.

So: no.
posted by The Michael The at 5:23 PM on January 15, 2003

Whatever. More cool cheap used vinyl for us record raccoons.
posted by jonmc at 6:00 PM on January 15, 2003

I think that inpHilltr8r means "95% of dance music is pressed to vinyl, 5% is burned on CD's (by the label)." Filesharing throws a huge funky monkeywrench into that figure.

Thank goodness for filesharing and monkeywrenches, because most vinyl pressings are so limited.
posted by Rattmouth at 6:23 PM on January 15, 2003

Seems a fantastic idea, and if I was playing out alot more to crowds where I was playing stuff I didn't give a hoot about then it would be good. But I love the actual use of vinyl and I am big into my beat mixing, not just playing song after song so I am unsure if this could live up to the job.
posted by Frasermoo at 12:58 AM on January 16, 2003

Serato Scratch is the same principle and comes with some pretty high recommendations. The studio edition is not intended to replace vinyl - it simply means you can manually scratch up something that you've just recorded without the expensive vinyl pressing carry-on.
posted by meech at 3:20 AM on January 16, 2003

I think that inpHilltr8r means "95% of dance music is pressed to vinyl, 5% is burned on CD's (by the label)." Filesharing throws a huge funky monkeywrench into that figure.

It's a figure from off the top of my head, but I'd still stand by it. 12" vinyl, is expensive, difficult to rip, and scarce. While there's an enourmous amount of the stuff released every day, much of it is in limited pressings of a thousand at most. Many of the better known underground artists are woefully underrepresented on the file sharing networks (from personal experience), not to mention the ones that dissappear overnight.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2003

12" vinyl, is ... difficult to rip
  1. hook turntable to preamp using RCA cords.
  2. Hook preamp to computer using RCA to 1/8" stereo plug.
  3. Press RECORD on computer recording software
  4. play the record.
  5. Press STOP on computer recording software
What steps did I forget?
posted by milnak at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2003


Yes, those steps appear to be pretty easy. But from personal experience it can be a little more complicated. I'm helping my dad rip his vinyl to mp3 right now. He wanted to do it as cheap as possible. Most shareware will only let you rip 1 minute at a time until you buy it (around $20-$30). It took a while to find adequate software (ended up with ripVinyl, its pretty good and cheap - $7).

It took over 2 hours just to get that setup. Now he has to sit there and manually play every one of his albums, rename them and organize them. The software I used eliminated the step of splitting the tracks (thank god).

So its not as easy as getting a CD, putting it in, getting track names off a server and ripping it.

cd - 6 minutes
vinyl - >1 hour
posted by kookywon at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2003

Ok, most people have already hashed out the standard arguments. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't put in my own .02 as well though. Realistically this a very awkward idea. To absolutely not be inconvenient, this would most likely have to based on some sort of club installment. It's a pain in the ass most of the time just to plug in my minidisc to record. I can't see messing with wires right before I have to spin. Also to Vinyl is an extremely romantic media, Tactile, Visual, uniquely beautiful. Each piece tells it's own story and we as DJ's use that story to see where we need to do what we need to do. I know in my heart that vinyl will never die because it is the majority of dj's medium of choice. Final Scratch actually proves it will stick around because you still need tables. Vinyl Rules.
posted by Fidel at 5:34 PM on January 16, 2003

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