DJ gear: Another revolution or will evolution do?

dj gear

NAMM 2014 is coming, and with it comes enormously heaped expectations by the masses on the various manufacturers to bring forth revolutionary game changing DJ gear by the stand load. But with increasing regularity, newly released shiny is met with a low pitched “meh” or a more shrill “EPIC FAIL”, which does prompt this question — have we become spoiled tech brats by too much revolutionary stuff, or have you truly squeezed the nuts of every single feature until they cry?

We have become somewhat accustomed to revolutions. First it was CDs, then DVS, then controllers, and finally touch screens, all of which to some degree have entirely changed the way we DJ. And with them have come a world of next-level features that are all too quickly classed as entry level, essentially leaving nowhere to go, and even the lowest beginner aimed controllers shoehorning samples in somehow, often to the detriment of the product itself.

So suddenly everyone has access to a seemingly endless menu of DJ tools, immediately turning sections of the buying public into rabid feature junkies who crave fix after fix to satiate their gear acquisition hunger. But we’re now at a point where there are no revolutions on the horizon, as all that can be done with DJing with current technology has been done. well probably anyway?

We only have to look at the last 12 months to see a slowdown in entirely new things. When NI’s Kontrol S4 mk2 came out, people were most definitely left with a feeling of “is that it?”. And just before Christmas, Denon’s MC6000 MK2 has done much the same thing, and has updated the previous version to simply be better. And as mentioned in previous stories, there’s actually a bit of a retro controller rebellion happening, with more a growing interest in the old ways (hence my Seratophone pastiche, which is not real BTW).

Thus the revolution is over, and DJs have a bewildering arsenal of tools with which to mangle, mash, mix, or simply play music to the gathered punters. But for some that’s just not enough. And regardless of whether they have truly mastered the gear in front of them, they want more.

But here’s the thing — for the most part, DJs are only required to play A to B and repeat until the lights are switched off. And as each DJ wants to take a step beyond this process, thus the feature set needs to expand, but the market narrows a little. Every DJ needs to play tracks, and have volume control. Most probably use EQ, but not every DJ uses loops, hot cues or effects. Even less will use samples, and a bare minimum will use things like remix decks or video. So with each creep forward, the path narrows. Adding new features means preaching to a smaller crowd, which is not good when the industry needs to make money more than ever.

It’s clear that new game-changing revolutionary features are going to be thin on the ground for some time, so in part this story is a cautionary “don’t get your hopes up” message for NAMM 2014. My feeling is that a period of natural evolution is coming, where existing things are done better, more efficiently, and more effectively. There’s also the interesting dynamic of software and hardware partnerships, where a manufacturer will come up with an idea, but they’ll have to wait for the  developer to implement it, and vice versa. Production will continue to overlap the whole “playing other people’s music” basis of DJing too, and probably be more about doing more with other people’s music rather than just making your own.

So I’ll finish this off with a question:

Do we DJs really need more new features? And if so, what more could you possibly want that isn’t available already? Or are you happy with what you’ve got but just wish they worked better?