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

Check out my review on tote bags for the QSC CP8

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.

Check out my additional review on tote bags for the QSC CP8

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Review: Is the Sony PS-HX500 the USB ripping turntable we have been waiting for?

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The Sony PS-HX500’s all black exterior will have you hearing in colour.

Recording your vinyl records (LPs, 12″s, 45s) to digital files can be a costly, precarious, time consuming task, where the results can often be underwhelming. I am by no means an audiophile, but a DJ who has collected thousands of records over the years, and I know enough that the better the recording sounds, the better it is for DJing and listening. Now that digital DJing has become so much a part of what I do, I still long for digital copies of those records in my collection that are unavailable elsewhere or, in some cases, they are not decent rips (e.g. YouTube rips, illegal sites, 128kb rips of yesteryear). So, my review is going to be looking at what many of the other reviews of the Sony PS-HX500 don’t cover. While focusing on the Sony PS-HX500’s ripping capabilities (not its phono stage or sound replication in a stereo set up, maybe for a latter post), I am going to be asking:

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?
  2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?
  3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?
  4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?
  5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current DJ set up for ripping records?

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?

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First, I started with a “natural” recording. That nuance of live instruments seems like a reasonable first approach. For that, I decided to begin with a reissue Alice Coltrane ‎– “Journey In Satchidananda”. Not only does it have live instrumentation but the harp is a very vibrant instrument with sweeping highs and mids (probably hard to capture digitally I figured). For rock and amplified instrumentation, I used another reissue, here Black Sabbath’s Self titled debut.

The results across the board were excellent for the recordings. Alice’s harp rings through with great clarity, the double bass bumps, cymbals glisten. You could hear the reverberation from the room that they were playing, so there was great depth of sound. Black Sabbath sounded great as well. The rainy intro did expose a little surface crackle in my copy but as soon as the thunder kicks in it sounded great. The instruments (bass, guitar, vocals & drums) were allowed to play their respective roles and were easily accessible to my ears.

2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?

In contrast, with the more “natural” sounds of real instruments, I wanted to compare it with more modern recordings with some bump, i.e. some “club” records. For this example I used Jay-Z’s  ‎– “Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter” .  The results in comparison to a digital copy I had, “Big Pimpin'” sounded remarkably close, taking in consideration the limitations of a 33 1/3 record with 3 songs on the one side. The recording had good low-end with the kicks coming through as they should without detracting from the vocals. The vocals coasted on top with good clarity. The stereo spectrum was a bit more narrow but I think that has more to do with the medium itself more than a fault with the turntable.

3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?

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If your ghettohouse records don’t have the wrong sleeves send them back, “they ain’t ghetto enough”

 

For my scratchy record (which could also arguably double as another “club” record) I used a Dance Mania test of DJ Chip – “Ghettoslide” . The condition of the vinyl is probably VG with lots of scratches. It was a well-loved soldier of the clubs, hence the wrong sleeve. Furthermore, Dance Mania records are NOT world renowned for their quality pressings and I can’t imagine their white labels fair much better. However, the results of the recordings made on the Sony PS-HX500 were relatively kind. Surface noise from the scratches were heard but ultimately the music came through with good balance (lows, mids & highs). One thing that was remarkable, the vocals although maniacally stacked, were more discernible. I could hear all the nasty words clearly. With a little bit of post-production finesse you could definitely get a good usable digital file I think. Something like the Izotope RX7 editor software (which I will do a review of shortly).

4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?

I am a 45 fanatic. In fact my LP/12″ collecting has more or less subsided. Whereas I still have to look when I see some 45s. However, 45s are often not the greatest in fidelity. When you DJ them they often need a lot of EQ-ing to get them right. However, needless to say, I still wanted to be able to rip those impossible to find cuts. So, I tried various 45s of varying condition: High Rollers – “Place Your Bets” a Canadian disco cut; Fuji – “Revalations” a psych blues funk cut; Errol Scorcher ‎– “Roach In De Corner” a Jamaican pressing (not exactly a quality pressing or condition); Bobby Marchan ‎– “Rockin’ Pneumonia” a rock n roll romp.

Across the board: really good results. A little tinniness you would expect from a 45/7″ and little crackle, but really good clarity, and good lows particularly from the “Roach In De Corner”.

5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current DJ set up for ripping records?

Compared to my other set ups (and many DJs will have the same equipment): a Technics 1200 mkII; various cartidges (Shure N44-7, Jico N44-7, Ortofon S-120), various mixers (Pioneer S9, Rane TTM-57sl and Roland DJ-505 controller) using the Serato software (Scratch Live & Serato DJ), the recordings of the same records didn’t even compare. I would say 40% better or more. Every single time the Sony PS-HX500 outdid these setups. The clarity was not only apparent to my ears but when I would load the files in Serato (without any tinkering), you didn’t get these “all one colour” waveforms, like with Serato’s all red waveform vinyl rips, suggesting a wider spectrum of sound. The only thing I think would be required to make excellent “ready for the club” rips, would be an ounce of preparation (clean your records) and a bit of post production (gain, EQ). The gain on the Sony recordings were really low, but this could be seen as a positive in the sense that you can add more and it gives you ample wiggle room to do so.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend the Sony PS-HX500 as an USB turntable for ripping records. I got really good results that surpassed all the other popular DJ set ups I have. I think I will definitely change the cartridge it came with (something that I will cover in another review) to hopefully yield even better results. The cartridge it comes with is supposedly an unmarked $50 Audio-technica cartridge and needle. Because of this I am ripping my really scratchy records first before purchasing another cartridge. However, cartridges are not easily swappable on this unit and needs to be installed and wired with a bit of finesse.

Pros:

  • All in one belt-drive turntable with phono stage & USB that doesn’t actually suck.
  • Good price and value.
  • Recordings are excellent and are kind to all genres.
  • 33/45 switch on top means no belt adjustment required to play at different speeds.
  • Comes with recording software that is easy to use, available here.
  • Records 16/24 bit .wav files but can also record using Sony’s propriety DSD format.

Cons:

  • the stock needle it comes with is just ok.
  • Needle replacement may be difficult (I will find out later)
  • No height adjustment for the arm means only particular cartridge of a certain height will work.
  • Legs are not adjustable,
  • Arm is not automatic (I am going to look to see if an automatic lift can be installed).
  • For the best results you will probably need a better audio software editor to do a little bit of post tinkering, but there are free ones (e.g. Audacity).

 

 

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

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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.