Thanks for your welcome and tips and for the link,
I've read the article and it's great and in depth reading. Have to admit some of it still goes above my head at the moment. I'm still learning and I'm sure I'll read that thing again and again in the future to understand more.
Yes, I forgot to even mention acoustics. I know it's a huge part of the deal. But here, rather than careful planning, it's just a hitt or miss situation (well, actually it's usually - miss..). The house music club that lasted for the longest period (5 years. Other clubs here come and go all the time, unfortunately) was a small mini-club (could hold about 250 hundred people) where I used to be one of the resident DJs and it just happened to have nice acoustics and sounded warm - but only compared to other places here, if some of you would have heard it I'm pretty sure you'd be horrified..
I'm trying to do things step by step. First - get myself the best system I can afford - mixer, processors, etc. Then later I can try and talk to the club owners and get some sense into them to make adjustments that will help my equipment shine better in their venue. Financially of course I can't afford anything beyond my own DJ setup.
OK, so to the technical details:
First of all, I am - naturally - a vinyl junkie. Here I'm considered very old school compared to other DJs, in that I hate playing CDs or MP3's (everybody plays them here). But I have to admit that at on the poor conditions over here, the vinyl doesn't always sounds superior. Sometimes even an MP3 cuts better through the sound.
But, differently from some of you old schoolers, I am used to playing using separate 3 band EQ for each channel. I know you can nicely mix without it too, but it has become a standard feature for me and I do use it in a creative way and would not like to loose it.
Also (and I hope I'm not going to apear as a sinner to any purists) it has been a dream of mine to be able to control the music without any creative limitaions - or in other words in the digital domain - editing, looping, processing etc. I haven't made the move from vinyl to digital for years and years because I didn't believe that sonically the technology was there yet. But a few months ago I have decided to give it a go and got a laptop and an RME A/D/A convertor and Ableton Live software.
At the moment I'm not using them yet for playing outside, I still play vinyl and spice it up with some edits that I do myself on my laptop using Ableton Live (edits made of audio recorded from my vinyl collection). I burn those edits on CD and play them using the club CDs.
So the decisions that I face now are in two major areas:
A. What units to use to record my vinyl collection into the computer (and play it back) in the best possible way, compromising the sonic quality as less as possible.
B. What mixer and external units to use for playing to get the best possible sound.
Regarding the first point: From what I've learned so far I am thinking of -
Recording my vinyl with:
Probably using my Technics 1210. I have thought about getting a turntable for straight playback that might be better sounding but it seems that many believe that the 1210 can do a good enough job here.
Here I am still in the dark. At the moment I use Sure M44-7. I got recomanded the Sure White Labels. On the other hand I'm asking myself if a hi-fi cartridge *not* tailored for DJ use would actually sound better for recording? Having in mind I'm not going to use the cartridge for playing. I got offered the Ortofon 540 MK II in the local shop. Also someone recomanded a Grado cartridge. Other names which I was told about - Goldring 10xx series and Shure V15.
Problem here is that I just can't listen to the cartridge before I buy it, so I just have to go by recomandation..
I'm not sure if what I want is a transparent hi-fi cartridge that will sound closest to the original music, or maybe (considering that it's house and not classical music), I'm better off with a cheaper cartridge that colours the sound in a flattering way to the genre?
3. Phono stage:
Don't know if I should use a good DJ mixer (like the Urei) phono stage for recording, or maybe I'm better off with a high quality dedicated phono preamp?
At the moment I record using my old battered Numark DM1835X DJ mixer. Even though it's cheap compared to the better mixers (and I am going to buy a Urei anyhow), I kinda like it's sonic characteristics. I always got laughed at when I told people I think it's nice and warm sounding, but was surprised to hear from house producer Dennis Ferrer (I play a lot of his music) in another forum, that he knows of many house tracks that were mastered going through one of those Numark mixers. He said there is something warm and nice about those cheap parts..
Anyhow, the names I heard for dedicated phono preamp are: Grado, Creek, NAD, LINN LINTO, Graham Slee Gramamp 2 (the last one seem very interesting, since it's very cheap and I read many raving reviews saying that it actually sounds as good as some of the best 4 digits units out there.. http://www.gspaudio.co.uk/
So I have to decide between: going through the Urei I'm about to buy or from one of those dedicated phono preamps.
4. A/D/A Convertor:
This I'm soing to use also for recording and also for playback in the club. At the moment I have an RME RPM unit. The sound seems ok but I wonder if I can do better. It's got a couple of phono pres but I really don't like their sound so I don't use them. Also I'm going to sell that unit anyhow because it only has a couple of stereo outputs and I want to be able to play more than two layers at the same time and have discovered that the difference between digital and analog summing and EQ is night and day. I want to be able to have at least 4 seperate stereo outputs going into 4 seperate channels on the Urei mixer.
But for recording: I'm not sure how vital this stage is compared to the cartridge and phono stage. Regarding resolution - at least with my RME I found that I could tell a difference between 24 and 16 bit, but could hardly tell any difference between 44.1kHz and 96kHz doing blind A/Bing. Maybe it's because of my actual RME unit and maybe it's because the frequencie resolution of 44.1kHz is really good enough, I don't know.
Three units that I was thinking to choose one from to replace my current convertor are: RME Multiface, RME Fireface (has Firewire, and goes up to 192kHz) and Apogee Rosetta 800. I know the Apogee make better convertors than the RME but just don't know how vital their better quality would be for my application.
5. Possibly a high quality analog processing unit to go before the convertor:
Not sure if this is needed or maybe will just mess up the sound. I know that the signal path should be as short as possible. But the reason I was thinking about it was because I have many vinyls that have sonic problems, problems with pressing, mastering, etc. I was wondering if - by careful use - I can actually improve some of these problematic tracks (softening squeaky mids, tightening bass when needed etc.).
Another application for this might be warming up tracks from CD's or MP3's if I haven't got the track on vinyl (I can buy MP3's extracted from the master in Traxsource), possibly making them sound a bit more three dimentional and sweet.
Should it be an EQ? Compressor? Enhancer? Haven't checked this thing thouroughly enough yet, but units which I heard about are:
Empirical Labs Fatso, Thermionic Culture: Culture Vulture, SPL Tube Vitaliser, or maybe one of the Isolators that were dicussed in this forum.
OK, that's it I think for recording vinyl.
Now for playing back in the club:
I like Ableton Live for it's flexibility and intuitive user interface, but have noticed that, sonically, it's time stretching algorythms sound poor, unless I use RePitch. So I'll either use that, or do my edits in Live and play back using one of the other software available. Though I would like to have the possibility to play at least 4 layers at the time if I want.
As I wrote above the options I was thinking about wre RME or Apogee. Sum it using the Urei mixer and EQ it using outside units. Play it back probably 24bit and 44.1kHz?
That seems to be one of the simpler questions. I was thinking about the Rane Rotary, but after reading more, especially in this forum, have decided to go for the Urei. Only thing I'm not sure about is should I go for the new LE model or for one of the original old units? Did the people that use the new unit reached a conclusion that there is no compromise in sonic quality compared to the original?
4. Seperate EQ:
Well, after reading a bit in this forum, it seems to me that the best option is that Shorty's unit you were talking about. After reading clubman5's review of it I could hardly wait to own one. Thing is - I don't know if it's for sale yet or when it will be available, and don't have a clue how much will it cost or even on what price range we are talking about. Other options that I noticed are the DUO (expensive!) and the Electrix EQ Killers (cheap and nice I understand, but possibly not good enough - I'd hate to degrade the sound in any way).
Depending on the price I would love to have a good Isolator for each channel - or at least three I can play with.
It seems that this will solve the problem with the Urei lack of seperate EQ and my extensive use of this feature.
Am I thinking right here?
5. Any other units:
Don't know enough about this yet: Maybe I need something here: Expander? Bass enhancer?
Well, I think that's about it at the moment.
I would be totally grateful for any feedback regarding any of the points above.