Dougie Blog

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)

 

 

 

 

 

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To Cut A Long Story Short…

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After a couple days of erasing duplicates tracks in Itunes on my maxed-out MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013), I started getting a weird anomaly.  The tracks were gone but the space that should have been freed up wasn’t there. I was alerted to this when my OS kept warning me I was running out of space. But how could this be if I was erasing files? I tried the obvious and restarted the computer hoping it would eventually correct itself, but it essentially started crippling my computer as it became sluggish for lack of space. Rather than keep erasing mp3s I decided to back my library (and anything else of importance) and take my laptop to Carbon Computing on Queen St. in Toronto to get them to do a fresh install. Since, I was in the market for a new DJ controller, I figured why not upgrade to an OS that could fulfill my Serato Scratch Live and Serato Dj needs (which was Yosemite). The result of installing a new OS on my computer, it shed a 100 gigs of space on my hard drive. I am realizing this is sounding like a weight loss commercial but really though! The task I set out to do, which was more or less to free up my space to add a new OS, more or less happened backwards.  So, I didn’t get to go through my entire library, but ultimately fate decided for me: its better to go through an edit your library as it happens than sit down and try to do the whole thing at once. Its a daunting almost impossible task to achieve if you have an extensive mp3 library. What is more, better quality version of songs come along all the time, so you are better off just erasing duplicates as you see them.

The Approach (with Caution)

As part of of my ongoing blog posts regarding iTunes editing/cleaning from a dj’s perspective but could also useful to anybody who has extensive collection.

Once I knew I wanted to clean up my library and update my OS,  my next question was:

Should I edited my library first before I update the OS or just add everything back after the OS and edit my collection later?

If things are time sensitive, ie you are burning to have that piece of gear or if you think editing your library may take forever, then you may want to move everything and edit your library. I decided it would better to go through my library first, clean house and then back it up and re-add everything after the OS update. In my mind, if I was going to go through the trouble of adding back my library, I was going to avoid adding back useless files after the update. Plus, freeing up space to make the computer run more smoothly can never be a bad thing. So, better to go through the library beforehand.

Now what is your best approach?  The best thing to do is to look for unwanted files:

  • Duplicates
  • Bad Files (corrupted files, bad audio quality files)
  • Files you don’t play or probably will never play 

I will go through each of these subjects as I progress. I am looking forward to going through my collection, making changes where I can and marking the progress. I will bring up the challenges as they come up.

Editing Your Digital Music Library

“January can be the cruelest month for working DJs” (- a wise poet) once you get passed that holiday party blitz of December, which often culminates into New Year’s Eve. But for those that have a little (more) down time it presents an opportunity to “do stuff”. To get things in order. To not only take spiritual stock but to also take physical stock. So, for me I decided to take on the arduous task of cleaning out my Mac (a 2.6 ghz, Intel Core i5), which I use for djing. The mac which I have been using in professional and a personal capacity is at its… capacity (funny enough). The hard drive (1TB) is maxed out more or less, with about 10 gb left, which is unadvisable. In Serato, you begin to see weird activity: visual dropouts and slowness, which is unacceptable. Performatively, it can be stifling.

So, I figured why not take full advantage and update the OS as well and wipe the drive, start “fresh”. I figured its the sure fire way of getting rid of anything unnecessary (why do I have 100 gigs of “other” files in system info). Besides, I have been interested in getting a dj controller for gigging. I have always been a turntable guy, but carrying turntables these days seems overkill. Often, when you show up, there isn’t even enough room for them. Also, people’s expectations have changed. I could go over the pros and cons (perhaps in future blog) but now I digress. So, I am hoping to get a dj controller, however, a lot of the newer generation controllers require at least 10.10 (Yosemite), notably the Roland DJ controller series. Laugh, yes I am on 10.9. but I have always been of the mind: why update unless its for specific software or hardware? For the emojis? Plus, in light of recent news regarding Apples phones, I wouldn’t put it past them regarding their computers. They said they don’t but they weren’t so forthcoming about their phones. Anyways, I figure 10.10 shouldn’t be totally debilitating to my 4/5 year old mac.

So, this is the plan: to edit my library & update the OS. The process is going to take quite a bit of time, but I expect it to be an enlightening experience. So, I am going to do some blog posts regarding this and the issues raised as they come up.