Catch Scratch Fever

Digital DJs no longer lug dozens of vinyl discs to their gigs

2 min read

Photo: Rane
Photo: Rane

This is part of IEEE Spectrum’s Special Report on IEEE Spectrum’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Rane SL 3 for Scratch Live
US $879


Remember when disc jockeys schlepped crates full of vinyl records from gig to gig, showing their “scratching” prowess by manipulating the records to a musical beat? How 20th century!

Nowadays, DJs tote digital devices instead. One of the best is the Scratch Live kit from Rane, based in Mukilteo, Wash. It syncs MP3 files stored on a laptop with a special vinyl record that carries a built-in control signal instead of music. When you rotate the record, the signal gives the software what it needs to calculate velocity, direction, and song placement. This way, DJs can manipulate their digital music files with the same feel as they got scratching their old LPs.

This spring, Rane introduced the Scratch Live SL 3 version, which lists for US $879 and features improved audio performance, higher output levels, and additional recording capabilities, compared to its initial $725 SL 1 model. An extra $219 gets you the Video SL software plug-in that controls video files as well as audio—a game changer for DJs wanting an edge on the competition.

“It’s a blessing and a curse—you don’t have to lug around records, and you have a song for every circumstance,” says Los Angeles–based celebrity DJ Graham Funke, who spins with DJ StoneRokk. “But it makes it easier for anyone to DJ.”

Scratch Live makes DJing easy, perhaps, but not cheap. For a mere $30, amateur DJs can try Cimio, a three-step DJ software program from New York City–based Scratch DJ Academy that turns playlists into mixes for casual uses, like house parties, workouts, and commutes.

About the Author

Susan Karlin, based in Los Angeles, writes frequently for Spectrum. The youngest engineers in the household might be interested in her June 2009 article, “The Design and Engineering of Superheroes.”

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