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DISCUSSION: A call for standards
DISCUSSION: A call for standards
Posted by Gizmo on July 8, 2005 :

Something that has long bugged me about DJ gear - other than a slipmat, mixer faceplate or risky fader mods, your ability to customise your gear to suit your tastes simply hasn't really been an option. Flicking through all sorts of leisure magazines e.g. mountain bikes, etc the list of accessories you can buy to improve your setup is staggering. But in the case of DJ gear, a deck is a deck - a mixer is a mixer with little in the way of being able to tweak. Wouldn't it be cool if you could buy each element of your gear to suit your preference?

Example - I think that Vestax's Dynamic Balance tonearm is the finest on the planet. I'd love to be able to buy it as a unit and plug it into my existing Numark TTX base. Here's my thinking - if manufacturers could make a base - think like a custom PC case from eBuyer - and then we could buy say stop/start buttons from one place, platter from another, tonearm from company x etc etc. This would open the market up for all sorts of small companies to dip their toe in the market and bring out revolutionary accessories.

Take the example of faders. I have a room full of all shapes and sizes of mixers and not one fader knob properly fits another. We need standards of fader fittings and stem sizes which would allow you to buy a knob size, feel, colour and weight that suited your scratch style.

But this is all dependent on agreeing some standards. So far, there seems to be a certain amount of retro fitting with faders and headshells but this isn't enough. If manufacturers could agree on a core set of fitments, this would start a whole new industry - an cottage industry where even Average Joe could craft something at home and sell it through his website. The industry would be revitalised - people would be able to simply upgrade the gear for a few dollars should they see fit instead of having to save hundreds of £/$/Ä to buy the latest super mixer or deck.

I know it's a giant leap from the current situation but it's not too much of a stretch to imagine a time where we could go to a site like any custom PC site and cherry pick all the accessories in the same way we'd build a custom PC.

This could all be totally unworkable but someone has to come up with these crazy ideas and post them up for discussion. Run with it people and let's see where it goes.

NOTE: No further comments are being accepted.
33 comments to this story

On July 8, 2005, elgee said this:
good point.

On July 8, 2005, Ceri Grafu said this:
Personally, I'd love to see this. You're completely right, people love customising things, be it for the aesthetics, to make them perform better, fit their required ergonomics, or just for the point of making something unique. Isn't the figure of car/motorcycle tuning and aftermarket parts spent annually (worldwide) in the region of $20,000,000? There has to be a market for something similar in tablism.

But (and this is the big one): to get it to work, you'd need a couple of the big manufacturerers (say Vestax and Technics) to agree on a standard to which other manufacturers would gradually adhere to. Judging by 'standards' in other industries, the specs for this would need to be published and no charge made for adhering to them/using the logo.

Unfortunately for the reasons you point out, this is unlikely to happen:

"an cottage industry where even Average Joe could craft something at home and sell it through his website."

= More competition, where's the benefit for the originators of the standard? Arguably, they could make more sales/at a higher price if people were confident they could buy cheap replacement parts if the originals failed: Who has gigged on more than a handful of occassions and managed not to break anything on their gear?

"The industry would be revitalised - people would be able to simply upgrade the gear for a few dollars should they see fit instead of having to save hundreds of £/$/Ä to buy the latest super mixer or deck."

That's the biggie- fewer people would buy a new mixer if they could just upgrade to a better x-fader.

In other areas where standards have been successfully implemented (probably plug-in technology in software, eg VSTs for production software, photoshop plugins etc.), it's usually where the main manufacturer has intentionally made something open so people can add to/modify it. If one of the big manufacturers had the commitment to the scene and a genuine interest to advance the state of the art and not neccessarily make a buck off the back of it, we could see some great innovation.

On July 8, 2005, Ceri Grafu said this:
Erm, my comment regarding the automotive customisation, I meant $20,000,000,000 (twenty billion dollars!blink1.gif

On July 8, 2005, markski said this:
Sup Giz?

Certainly faders is a proven place to start for standardisation. What would be cool is a branded interface standard (like PCI) for mixers to fit faders so the purchaser knew if they bought mixer X they could fit any fader that was labelled with that standard (like the USB sticker you get on PC's/Mac's and peripherals to let peeps know that they are compatible).

On July 8, 2005, BattleFunk said this:
great idea, and I think a company like Vestax might go for it, but I have severe doubts that Technics would go any where near that kinda thing - especially as they hav'nt figured out the internet yet

On July 8, 2005, spencer said this:
its funny, cuz im working on this stuff right now. other than the faceplates, ive got other auxiliary ideas that will be aesthetic and functional for those of the scratch type.

check your email Giz

On July 8, 2005, Gizmo said this:
djip - Ummm... I was clearing out some very unwanted pharmacy spam and have accidentally lost your last 2 comments. Apologies... :embarrest

On July 8, 2005, Saint said this:
Great idea!

On July 8, 2005, 2wo said this:
Fuck yeah giz! this would be the best thing that could happen to turntablism.

On July 8, 2005, DrewDJ said this:
I don't think you would get much brand cooperation, because their goal is to outsell their competition. If a company has a good product, they want you to buy the whole package.

It's a great idea, but it's kind of like communism... looks good on paper.

On July 8, 2005, Reezy said this:
I wish my Vestax fader cap would fit on my 56

On July 9, 2005, leigh said this:
why dont you try melting the hole/stuffing it depending on whether it is too big/small?

On July 9, 2005, 2wo said this:
hey drew, it works in alot of applications, such as giz mentioned - pc customization, bikes, all that stuff. A great example would be RC cars, they have a ton of mods for that kind of shit. same could be applied to turntables and mixers if more companies would try new shit.

On July 9, 2005, Soba said this:
i'm a mountainbike mechanic with a few years experience and allround bike geek from way back, and its not as simple as it may seem. Some standards in bikes have taken years to get set in concrete, for example disc brake tabs varied so often in the mid to late 90s that just getting any parts whatsoever that were compatible was difficult enough, let alone a choice! Even when a standard was established, one major manufacturer refused to go with it so now we have 2 basic designs.
In any case, the number of standards there isn't really much different, you just have less parts in a dj setup. You can plug any deck into any mixer with any headphones, just like you can use any frame with most forks with most cranks on a mountainbike, actually dj compatibility there is better. But just like you can't use a Technics tonearm on a Vestax deck, you can't stick Marzocchi fork lowers on Fox forks. On the whole, turntables are better here too as hifi decks do often have interchangable tonearms.
One thing that is different though is the number of aftermarket parts available. In this case, parts aren't usually made for a standard but for a specific product, for example you can buy a Romic replacement crown for your Boxxers but they won't fit any other fork, and when the Boxxer design changes the Romic part will follow suit. This is similar to how P&G make slightly different faders for Vestax and Stanton mixers, to fit the different brands, or how Deckshells make different faceplates for 05s and 07s. In most cases, adding an aftermarket upgrade to your product is not recognised or encouraged by the original manufacturer and usually viods the warrantee, even if the upgrade has been designed specifically for that product.
Standards are difficult things to put in place, you need cooperation from all the major manufacturers. Given the competitive nature of the dj market, can you really see Technics and Vestax for instance sitting down and drawing something up? What are the benefits for them?
Its interesting to note that a lot of mixers have very similar fader specs anyway, due i would guess to practically all OEM faders being made by a couple of manufacturers. Most highend contact faders are compatible with none or very minimal modding. Its also interesting to note that most top end mixers have their own proprietary fader anyway, such as Ranes, Eclers and Pioneers. The included fader is a major consideration in their purchase, why would Rane want to standardise their 56 faders when it's one of the best selling points of the mixer? They don't want people sticking their fader in an 06, they want you to spend $700 and get the whole package. Mind you, a 56 with a P&G in it would be a great package.
So, to conclude, i'm all for it, but it works far more in the consumers favour than the manufacturers (unless you make only small parts), and i doubt we'll see any major advances in it.

On July 9, 2005, Gizmo said this:
But here's part of the problem - gear isn't selling. Even new quality gear is literally gathering dust on shelves. We have to find a new approach to make this sector exciting and profitable again.

And thinking about it, it will probably only take one manufacturer to start this. Vestax started this with the PDX 2000 to 2300 upgrade a while back. If Vestax were to look at the PDX design with a fresh set of eyes and design the basic chassis so that everything was interchangeable, this would allow smaller companies to make upgrades for it. Vestax would still shift decks and if they decided to, could make their own set of upgrades.

I'm not saying this would be easy, but if I could build a DJ setup from a menu on a website, knowing that in 6 months, I could add a Numark 5kg motor to my deck and upgrade my standard faders to Pro X fades throughout if I wanted to, I'd be one happy bunny.

On July 9, 2005, Soba said this:
Excellent point Gizmo.
In some ways, a standard already exists, it just needs to be taken advantage of. Clearly EB isn't having too many troubles actively advertising their fader to fit particular models, whats to stop someone, for instance, making and marketing a well-built straight tonearm for the 1200? Suddenly the 1200 looks a more attractive investment, the tonearms sell well (in my hypothetical situation) and the 1200s sales improve without Technics doing anything.
"Oh shit son!" crys Vestax. "We can't have this!" So they make the next batch of decks compatible with this new quality aftermarket tonearm. They haven't lost anything in sales, but now anyone buying a deck can choose their tonearm of choice.
"Damn!" says Aftermarket Builder B, "Look at how well that tonearm's doing! I bet i could build a nicer pitchfader than the stock Vestax one!" And off they set to work. Meanwhile, Gemini realise that if they make their decks compatible with the big boys plus push the upgradeability card, they can gain a bit more confidence in the market. Your $150 deck is upgradeable to one of those pro tonearms, thats a great advantage over the other cheaper decks!
And so the ball starts rolling with 3 brands in on the new standard, even if one doesn't realise it. That's half the market, any competitors would be stupid to not jump on the upgradeability bandwagon, and have a whole new market selling their parts to existing owners of the competition's gear to boot. Meanwhile the small parts companies flourish and have more room to innovate, so the technology increases too.
Its a lovely scenario, modelled off a few things i've seen in bikes. But who will make the first move? Is Eternal Breaks doing it right now? Did P&G start it? Or will it never happen?

On July 10, 2005, Reezy said this:
Doesnt Focus already sell straight tonearms for 12's?

On a TTX,the pitch fader and the rpm/quartz lock buttons are modular units, and you can switch them from either place.

Faders are pretty much modular already (-Rane)......

It sucks that the fader stem on the Rane is wider than the base of the Vestax fader cap. If I wanted to use it on the Rane, I would have to take my dremel tool to the fader stem (I wouldnt like to fuck that job up!!!blink1.gif

On July 10, 2005, Gizmo said this:
Focus's straight arm is essentially a mod. And I don't of many people who would pull apart at 1210 having spent a few hundred on them.

True about the TTX but for turntablists, they're still in the wrong place. I want to decide where my buttons go.

Cross faders have a degree of modularity in that you can probably swap a P&G out. But what about all the others that you can't? What about line faders? Fader knobs? EQ Knobs?

And your final point is exactly why I raised the issue. I want choice - not to have to mod my hard earned gear that invalidates warranties and has the potential for unfixable damage.

BTW - I swapped the TTX pitch knob into a Vestax mixer - DOPE!

On July 10, 2005, Soba said this:
Yeah, i did think about Focus's tonearm, but as Gizmo says its a modification, not a whole new part. In any case, any aftermarket parts are going to require a degree of pulling apart and some people are never going to be comfortable with it, i've been offered money to put a new PCV cross fader in before! (i laughed at him and did it for free). Maybe we also need a new generation of turntable mechanics, i'll be first in line!
Reezy, why are you grumbling about the Ranes wide fader stem when you have nothing but praise for the same feature on EB's fader? If you don't want your Rane knob send it to me, i like them.

I still make the point that if this happens, it will be driven by the small guys. The big players don't have anything in their favour in this, especially not the risk of making the first move.

On July 10, 2005, Reezy said this:
I like the wide fader stem, I just wish the fader knobs werent triangles......

On July 10, 2005, Gizmo said this:
Here's another angle to think about - there's always something on a lump of hardware that we don't like and this will normally adversely effect sales - especially if we've reviewed it and marked it down because of it. Following this new way of working, manufacturers needn't worry if something isn't to everyone's taste as they can feel safe in the fact that Mr End User can easily replace it.

Another side effect is that the pressure now moves off the manufacturers to dump large sums of cash into R&D when cashflow is extremely low. And ultimately that R&D cash is never recouped because the market is flat.

It could be all about forming strategic alliances with other smaller manufacturers to work towards this modular approach of thinking. Once established, the little guy can then start making their own addons for the modular method.

On July 11, 2005, delatroy said this:
I think this is a bad idea for the following reasons:
More shoddy products will enter an already saturated static market. People wont know what to buy, which is the case at the moment with mixers.
I think technics have the right idea to keep things to a standard. Progression with turntables will, at the end of the day, lead to automating techniques to some degree, taking the skill and the fun out of it. If this happens, the consumer base will be divded further.
If everyone is using the same gear, then it levels the playing field between djs, so you can say that its not the dj gear, its the person which is good/bad.
Its like giving everyone the scratch sample aaaaa or whatever and seeing what they can do with it. If everyone has a standard to work from, it makes it more competitive, raising skill standards (which is what its supposed to be all about!!blink1.gif.
Essentially with a broader, more open range of mods availible, standards will fall.

On July 11, 2005, Gizmo said this:
Wow... wacko.gif

The problem with the mixer market is that they are essentially all the same. Manufacturers daren't pump R&D money into something radical because they're frightened that despite a great design, it will fail - so everyone plays safe and brings out a clone of everything else. And yet they still fail. Screams that something is very wrong and a change is needed.

Your level playing field idea is flawed for 2 reasons.

1. You're assuming everyone wants to battle. The majority of turntablists don't battle at all and spin for fun. It would be a very sorry scene if every deck and mixer was based around closely around emulating 1200 and SHEX formats.

2. Progression would be killed stone dead. The scene would wither and die. Could Woody do his awesome Flutine set on a Technics with 8% pitch? You're right about skills, but we don't want to be limiting creativity by having a small feature set.

All I'm getting from your post is "let's all use Technics and scratch Ahhh just so we can show how good we are". I'm all about opening things up - creating new standards that we can all work with and get things moving again. If the consumer is happy to scratch fffresh on expensive underspecc'd gear then that's their choice - but I would rather have the broadest choice possible and tailor my djing experience to the ultimate degree possible.

Any manufacturers care to join in on this discussion?

On July 11, 2005, Worzel said this:
Interesting idea and some good comments. To a large degree, and as has already been mentioned, dj gear is fairly standard. You can use any make mixer with any make deck/cd player, with any amp and any headphones, and any deck will work with any cartridge. The line/phono inputs/outputs are the equivalent of a computer USB or firewire port.
As far as the car market argument goes I think we forget that you cant fit front ligths from a bmw in to a volvo (without modification) and the huge market has actually grown from external comapnies making parts specifically for a certain range of cars. I dont think any car manufacturer will build parts that fit to any other manufacturers product, they cant even agree on whether windscreen washer and indicator controls should be on the left or right from one car to another! Even an engine wont fit in to another manufacturers car (or even a different model from the same manufacturer) without mods, so can a motor from a TTX be expected to fit directly in to a PDX or SL?
Faders are becoming more standard (due to many parts being sourced from the same OEM manufacturer), and there are engineers around who will fit a specific fader in to a different mixer with small mods, but this will only work on "user replaceable" parts. EQ faders are generally soldered directly in to the pcb and therefore much harder to change, as opposed to the crossfaders and (some) line faders which connect via a flying lead making mods easier.
It is a nice idea, but I believe it will have to start with an external company producing bits rather than manufacturers agreeing on standards. But is there a big enough market to make manufacturing cost effective? EB are producing a fader but it seems to be significantly more expensive than any of the manufacturers own faders. The market is possibly too small to attract enough interest to make it work. As has been mentioend in previuos SW dicussions, the dj equipment market is small, and the scratch section a very small part of that, so how many of any specific part would be sold? 1000, 5000, maybe only 500....difficult to know but a big risk to produce tooling which is extremely expensive. There are already a few people making face plates for decks and mixers, but almost to order for individuals...true customisation.
And in answer to delatroy....most of the world championships have been based around dj's using the same equipment (Technics decks and mixer) but maybe this is part of the reason the battle scene has diminished so much as dj's want to use their own choice of kit. And Vestax did a part of their Extravaganza competition where each dj could only use the same sample to scratch, but generally we all want to hear what a dj can do with whatever records and equipment he prefers using rather than being limited by kit or tunes.

On July 11, 2005, Soba said this:
i haven't really been following the EB fader recently, but wasn't half the point of it that it was going to be cheaper than the competition?

On July 12, 2005, Scoutwalker said this:
I'm still hanging out for a pre-amp and fader in a small box that I can bolt to the side of my turntable.

As for mods: Its relatively straight foward to mod most analogue mixers with a bit of knowledge, but nowadays they are pretty fully featured anyway. The intresting part will be the development of software mods in digital mixers me thinks. You've got a whole load of knobs and faders, and a big DSP, and the software man-in-the-middle running the show. With a bit of openness of the firmware of these new mixers, and you've got modders paradise!

@Soba - It was going to be cheaper originally. Not so sure thats still true tho.

On July 13, 2005, Samurai said this:
I do 1200 modifications which make them your own personal deck, with a full respray of any color you want, change all lamps to any color you want, ie. blue, green, red or amber. Designs are also done on special decks. I'm tipping this is an American site so you probably wouldn't be interested in using me (I'm in melbourne Australia), but if you can find a service technician that can pull the deck completely apart just to the metal housing, take it to a panel beater get them to strip it back and respray with a baked enamel, and get your tech to put it back togetehr with replacing the lamps, you're set. Then again if you are in melbourne feel free to give me a call on +61 0427 268 724


On July 13, 2005, Samurai said this:
Oh I have photos of one I modified recently if anyone wants to see how one turns out. my email address is


On July 13, 2005, delatroy said this:
^ Pimp my technics

On July 13, 2005, Soba said this:
i beat you to it...this has been my signature in a local forum for the past year. Bigups MSPaint!

On July 18, 2005, flesh o.n.e. said this:
It would be nice if there was at least a standard pinout and Voltage control for faders. That's a pretty simple standard that would really help me out. Then, like you guys said before, there might be a lot more companies like EB.

You could buy one mixer with the features and layout you like, and have 20 different faders sitting on your table. Just like you can do now with needles. And then you wouldn't have to buy a whole new mixer when all you really liked about a new mixer was it's faders.

On July 18, 2005, Siya said this:
Hi Guys,

Once again it's great to see some constructive conversation here in regards to the development of OUR industry. I personally think these are the sorts of idea's that marketing men, R&D ppl, and engineers at these big companies should be following closely.

In here are guys who are clearly passionate about this industry and also understand a fair amount of what the consumer wants to see and if the manufacturer's joined in to fill in the missing blanks regarding costs and practicalities of the development stage then we could all work toward a more profitable industry.

Anyway my two cents...the pro x fade will be the most competitively priced fader upon release in September. My earlier posts which I'm sure are archived somewhere, criticised how $5 faders are being sold at $90-$100 whereas our product would not rip off the consumer with inflated profit margins. Infact this product would never have been built because of it's high development costs by any other manufacturer yet we can still be as competitive on price.

In regard to standardisation, I think until consumers & manufacturer's start to talk directly and frankly with one another then nothing is going to change.

If sales continue to be slow then you will see some manufacturer's diversifying.

Infact we have already seen components manufacturer's not so much 'the brand's' already moving away from making components specifically for the audio industry into other industries.

What this means is that brands will have less power persuading a components manufacturer to do sufficiant r&d on specific products unless they have their own engineers and large scale manufacturing capabilities across a variety of components.

In turn this would mean a size reduction for many brands thus either downsizing or paving the way for new dynamic competition to enter the market.

For the consumer what this scenario would mean, would perhaps be beneficial in that although there would be significantly less products, hopefully the products will have more direct input by the consumers and be of superior quality.

We have seen two very interesting requisitions lately in two of the worlds best analogue desk brands, SSL and Neve being bought by Peter Gabriel and SAE respectively.

We should follow closely what happens and the changes which are made in those area's to get a good idea of what could end up happening to the DJ industry.



On October 4, 2005, ZzComputerKillerzZ said this:
all I want is interchangeable faders I break my fader all the time it doesnít matter what kind of fader I have optical magnetic or good old contact fader if its not one thing its anther to lose to tight the plastic cracks contacts can were out just about anyway you can think of braking a fader I have broken it just having a cheep aftermarket alternative for faders instead of having to pay 80$ for a fader thatís going to last a month...

well I just got an idea :-) ok here is the idea why can a guy start a company that makes riley good fader I mean the big bad best faders all aluminum titanium magnetic fader ((the dream fader)) and make it have adapters to fit a wide rang of current mixers now thatís a good idea we can buy good faders and use them in our currant equment and on top of it cuts the mixer manufacture out of the picture and they can make the mixers however they want and the fader company just can make an adapter.

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