Review: QSC CP8 Speaker – A DJ’s lil best bud?

QSC CP8 Speaker Front
The QSC CP8 Speaker: Angelic glow and loud as…

Late last year QSC revealed a new series of speaker, the “CP” series, which touted the same QSC signature sound we would expect, in a more affordable and lighter incarnation. Now, plenty was written in anticipation but not many reviews have surfaced out there. Particularly, for my intended purpose, which is how does it perform as a speaker monitor for DJing (for mobile set ups) and maybe as a secondary solution to a full rig?

Now, I should not have to explain why a speaker monitor for DJing is important, but I find I have to all the time (lol) to: wedding planners, restaurant owners, brides and grooms, my girlfriend, sound-techs, and even other DJs (I thought we were in this together). The answer is simple: DJ’s need to hear what is going on, more than anyone else in the room in order to perform. It is not unlike any other type of musician/performer. Timing, volume, pitch, tempo are all factors that are important to DJs or at least should be. Digital DJing is definitely more forgiving in that respect, you can almost DJ with your eyes now but ultimately we need to hear what we are doing, no interpretation. That is why any DJ mixer worth its salt has at least one “booth out” output. Now, there are some cases, as a DJ, where you are positioned close enough to a speaker where you are, more or less, hearing it the same way your audience is. More often, however, you may not be near a speaker, it may be positioned away from you or perhaps you are isolated from your audience almost altogether. I remember playing an early gig with kQuattro (1/2 of the duo was Egyptrixx, now ACT!) and Crystal Castles (RIP) and I was playing in a closet (pretty much) before the kitchen with the speakers and audience in another room. Every time someone would come out of the kitchen I would get hit with the swinging door: how am I sounding? In a more recent example, I played the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto. Huge space! However, the audio vendor would not provide stage monitors. We are talking $300,000+ worth of equipment, but fair enough. Furthermore, the reality is DJs are often an afterthought to establishments. Their makeshift booths don’t consider the things that DJs need, including an adequate amount of space and a speaker close enough to hear what you are doing. In some cases, you may need to hear the music louder than your audience does to get the mix right, for example in a restaurant or playing a wedding reception.

So, having a monitor for DJing is invaluable. Personally, I kept holding out for a 8″ to 10″ speaker that was lightweight and could wedge (perfect for the urban DJ to jump in your car service with). You would be surprised how little options there are. For example, the Yamaha DBR10 and Yamaha DXR8 which sound great, albeit a more flatter-true to the sound response, do not set up as a wedge, otherwise they would have been a contender. The JBL EON610 is kind of ugly, if you want to use as a secondary P.A., and JBLs sound (in my experience) is just ok: loud but can get brash (convince me otherwise in comments). There is of course the QSC K8, which is not a bad option but because it is discontinued you may have to go secondhand (i.e. no warranty for an expensive item).  Its newer replacement the K8.2 are a good option, but they are  for many, a rather expensive indulgence for the main purpose of a DJ speaker monitor at almost double the cost of the CP8s. However, even in a city as “world class” as Toronto, being able to hear them in the flesh is tough, no floor models anywhere. So, I decided to take the plunge so you don’t have to.

QSC-CP8-Speaker-Size-Comparison
Compared to the universal DJ ruler (a milkcrate) The QSC CP8 is approximately the same size.

First Impressions

It is of small stature and width but has a good weight to it. That is, enough weight to feel substantial but an easy pick up. There is no side handle but a top handle. Although, it should be relatively easy to take on an and off a speaker pole. The hard plastic (polypropylene) outer shell feels nice and solid. When you hear “plastic” you fear the worst but it feels solid, hopefully it withstands the test of time and doesn’t scratch easily. It is the perfect size for a booth speaker where space is often limited. Being able to set up 5 ways is nice: vertically on a tabletop; horizontally flat on one side or as a wedge on the other side; on a speaker pole (35mm); or they have a yoke / wallmount kit for installing to a wall. For the audio we have 3 inputs: two (x2) mic / line inputs; one (x1) 3.5mm input for a mp3 player and one (x1) xlr output to link the signal (post gain) to additional speakers. That is enough inputs to do smaller demo size setups or perhaps for weddings, small ceremony or a smaller reception room. Is it enough power though?

QSC CP8 Speaker Back with Inputs
The QSC CP8 has lots of inputs: Two (x2) TRS 1/4″/XLR inputs; even a 1/8″ 3.5mm input.

The QSC C9 boasts a 1000 watt Class D Amplifier, the same as its larger version the CP12. It does not have full control of the EQ rather it has six (x6) different EQ presets. On the first power up I would say it definitely met my expectations and surpassed them! This thing is loud with good clarity! As a monitor, placed facing towards me, I put the CP8’s volume at 8 o’clock (2 clicks) and 9 o’clock (2 clicks) on my booth output from the Pioneer S9 mixer and it was comfortable room-level listening and it only went up from there.

As far as the EQ setting I preferred the default setting. I got really good clarity (highs, mid, lows) testing a vinyl record. The more I turned it up, in the confines of my small studio, the more it scared me how loud it got (hello neighbours). The dance setting added more bass but I felt it was a little bit muddled (your audience will probably not know). However, I don’t really see that as its purpose, as full P.A. solution. I think this is best suited as a monitor;  an additional speaker for filling up a room; or as tops with the addition of a sub (there are EQ settings that drop the bass on the CP8 to accommodate a sub). However, if your client is on a smaller budget maybe 2 of these in a small setting would be adequate.

As a speaker wedge on the floor by my feet, it performed well. It has a 90 degrees of sound dispersion, which makes it ideal for this use. I had this placed maybe a foot away from me on the ground and could hear it no problem. The speaker was more or less pointing at my lower torso but could still hear it. I would say ideally at around 2-3 feet away from where you are standing (depending on your height) it would be pointing directly at your ear.

Update: Recently, I used the QSC CP8 as a DJ booth monitor for a wedding (250 people, 30 foot high ceilings, a pretty big room and it did a great job. When I arrived, being unfamiliar with the venue, I had to walk around for a bit to find the room I was playing in but I did not break a sweat or my back carrying it around. May buy another in the future to see how it fairs for a P.A. with a subwoofer.

Pros:

  • A more affordable QSC speaker that does not sacrifice sound.
  • Compact design that will fit most DJ booths.
  • Has a 90 degrees of sound dispersion, which makes it ideal for a wedge by your feet. Even at a foot away I could hear what I was doing.
  • Loud enough for small crowds.

Cons:

  • Very little
  • Warranty is only 3 years compared to their usual 6 for other speakers. *Be sure to register online to qualify, otherwise it’s only one (1) year.

 

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Can you teach an old dog new Technics with the new SL-1200MK7?

technics-sl-1200mk7
The new Technics SL-1200MK7, don’t ask how much…no one knows.

UPDATE: the Technics 1200 will be coincidentally priced at $1200 US dollars.

For many the Technics SL-1200 is synonymous with djing. What made it so appealing to djs was its rock-solid build, allowing it to be dragged out to block parties, installed at clubs; and its pitch control making it possible to mix records together with precision. Not to mention that its direct drive technology allowed for scratching and manipulation of the record. However, for a long period the Technics SL-1200 model was discontinued making it a much coveted (& heavily sold) item on the secondhand market. However, I digress though, because this not a history lesson. What we want to discuss is what does the Technics 1200 mean now with its new incarnation the Technics SL-1200MK7?

I first heard about the news from buddies Skratch Bastid & Pat Drastik (Thugli), both having previewed and contributed input into this new design. Both DJs are insanely good in their own right, so it makes me think that Panasonic (who own Technics) have the best of intentions in mind for djs and the new features included seem to confirm this: detachable rca’s and ac power, as featured on the rival turntables like the Pioneer; 2x speed button allowing you to double the pitch  to +16 / -16. As usual though, there are detractors, people already don’t like that its digital pitching instead of analog pitch; that the classic 1200 torque will not be the same; and most confusingly, that people won’t see it in the club because it is the black model and not the silver model.

However, what most are really concerned about is (always) the price point, something Technics is being candid about. A previous boutique model introduced in 2016 came out at a laughable $4000 US. If its not competitively priced with other models like the Pioneer DJ PLX-1000, I think it will not be considered by most as a viable option . They will either get second-hand 1200s, and since they are practically indestructible and Technics has sold 3.5 million historically they can be found.  Or most will go to a competitor or instead choose an entirely different path.

Its true, that for many years there was no competition in the analog dj turntable market  but ultimately music and djing is about expression. With the advent of dj controllers and midi controllers, I wonder if this generation will find it too limited and this is coming from someone who loves both digital and analog djing (still have my 1200s MK2’s). Its true things like doubling the pitch and allowing reverse play (another new feature) can allow for more expression but is it enough, when other turntable style controllers like the Rane Twelve have midi buttons for cueing or whatever (its midi)? I understand, however, purists would probably see the addition of buttons as a blight on the 1200s. Ultimately, Technics is calling the bluff on those who have longed to have new 1200s. Will those who have always wanted Technics 1200s and those who have older models splurge for this new model remains to be seen and heard.

Update: the Technics 1200 will be coincidentally priced at $1200 US dollars. Which makes me think there is definitely something psychological about making things a little too expensive (I see you Apple & Pioneer).  It is meant to set it apart from other companies. Usually, the outcome is that the company wins and people will splurge. However, I personally would have this way down on my list, since I already own MK2’s. Its true the addition of detachable (replaceable) rca and power is compelling, particularly for being mobile. Businesses, such as bars, restaurants and clubs, should definitely take note however. If you are in the business of having DJs play, who use turntables, this could definitely be what you need: A hopefully more easily maintainable, industry standard turntable with a warranty.

Track Freeze Problem with Roland DJ-505 & Review

Roland DJ 505 track freeze

This past summer I made my first foray into buying a DJ controller. I know its a crazy world: the same year Shure discontinues their needles, including the much loved N44-7, Dougie buys his first controller: these are crazy dj times. After a year of researching, I eventually settled on the Roland DJ-505 from their Aira series of Serato controllers (DJ-808, DJ-505 and the smaller DJ-202). This series of controllers are, coincidentally, Roland’s first foray into making a dj controller.

Why did I choose the Roland DJ-505?

I settled on it, primarily, because of its much toted low-latency platters and its sound card. For the most part it is the same layout and price point as your Pioneer DDJ-SR2. The Roland also comes with a free Serato Tool Kit license (which includes Serato Pitch ‘n Time DJ, Serato Flip, and all Serato DJ FX packs) for free. Which I hadn’t purchased yet, so that was a plus. But its most distinct feature, which makes it stand apart from most controllers, is the addition of the TR-S drum machine (Roland style step-sequencer/drum machine) on top.  When I first saw it last year, to be honest, I thought it was a bit gimmicky. Do I really need an addition of a drum machine? Will it sound monotonous, repetitious or worse shoes in a dryer when I combine the drum machine with the songs from Serato? And to be honest, my initial impressions have been really good. As long as your grids are lined up you can get some really good results. The drum machine features the sounds from Roland’s classic TR-707, 808, or 909 sounds or you can even use your own samples. But what really sold me was the inclusion of a midi out that send midi clock tempo (e.g. send midi out to a 303, Volca, MPC…).

Track Freeze Problem (THE BAD)

 

My first impressions were good….until a couple months into it. While using my DJ-505 with Serato DJ at home, I started getting this reoccurring error. This anomaly usually happened while I was manipulating the left platter (sometimes the right) and sometimes in conjunction with performance pads / play button. The track would “freeze” in Serato. By freeze, I mean the play button in Serato would be engaged (blue / active) but the track would not play. Even on the controller the play button would be engaged (green) but the track itself would not advance. You could hit the cue points or pads and it would respond normally: it would go to the cue point, you would hear the sound and could even hold them down to make the track play normally. But as soon as you release the button it would stop. You could switch to another channel (e.g. 1 to 3) but inevitably the same problem would occur on those channels as well, until both/all channels were stuck. The time frame for such an occurrence could happen from two minutes to three hours into DJing.

The only thing you could do to remedy the situation is to turn off the DJ-505 and turn it back on, which would take about 25 seconds. However, 25 seconds of silence might as well be an hour when you are DJing to a crowd. When the music or sound stops at an event, it feels like the air is being sucked out of the room. There will be booing, there will be chanting of: “turn it on!” Because of this I have been hooking up my laptop’s 3.5mm jack to an external mixer. In case it happens I can segue to something on iTunes. Not a perfect work around, believe me, but the only one I can think of. The only other precaution you can take is to limit the use of the platter altogether, however, a controller you cannot touch is a bit ridiculous.

So, after a bit of research I found out it was not an isolated incident with many owners complaining about this problem with not only the DJ-505, but the 202s and the DJ-808 as well. So, with warranty in hand, I contacted Roland (Canada) and currently, my unit is in the Roland shop being fixed for a SECOND time. The repairs people at Roland have been courteous and helpful. Its not their fault that Roland released this half-baked “concept”. But I am beginning to lose faith.

UPDATE: After having received my DJ-505 back (twice) it appears to be working, I haven’t experienced any “freezing” as of yet. However, my evaluation of the DJ-505 is mixed. I highly enjoying using the DJ-505 features. Its light weight, platter response, soundcard, drum machine and midi output are all desirable features and a lot of fun to use. My recommendation: if you buy one make sure you hold your receipt tightly for warranty, in case you got a bad one. This defect (which I assume is due to the platter contacts) affects some of the units. What percentage is unclear.

Roland DJ-505 Review

Pros

  • Great soundcard (for Serato DJ) for an under $1000 CAD.
  • Low-latency platter (very responsive *when it works)
  • Roland TRS-808/909 style Drum machine/step sequencer
  • Midi Out (sends midi clock out)
  • Light-weight
  • Comes with free Serato Tool Kit license

Cons

  • Some units have a defect, that freezes Serato tracks.
  • Phono inputs do not sound good (might not be ideal for the centre of your set up)
  • Some tracking problems with certain needles when used with a turntable
  • No onboard effects (all in Serato)