The booth at The 212, Leeds

The booth at The 212, Leeds

One other thing a smaller city centre venue such as The 212 has had to consider is sound pollution, especially in Leeds, a city notoriously keen on keeping external vibes to a minimum. “We had to pay for a predicted noise pollution test even before putting in for the licence,” says Jacob. “We’ve also had to put acoustic treatment and soundproofing throughout the bar to minimise the sound leaking.”

So far, so good. Or is it? Whilst Fabric has always catered to everyone, and The 212 is a new venture whose niche is slightly older and wiser crowds with a specific appreciation for vinyl, London’s 350-capacity The Nest is somewhere in between. The club’s sound engineer, Akis Kollaros, refutes the suggestion that vinyl is growing in popularity: “I wouldn’t say there’s currently a trend towards vinyl. On the contrary, I get more DJs requesting CDJ2000s nowadays, so that they only need to carry USB sticks or SD cards. I do however find that some Serato users are turning from CD to vinyl as their control medium.”

As a result, Akis himself is confident that sound at The Nest is equally good no matter its source. “Digital can sound more impressive, as it can deliver more low end and more crisp highs, but at the same time vinyl has a charm and a warmth that is very difficult to put into words and that makes it popular amongst some DJs.” That said, different things need to be done in order to maximise the system for one over the other. “Certain things have to be taken into account to prevent feedback from happening when using vinyl, but that’s something that needs to be taken into account when using any modern and powerful soundsystem with turntables. This can vary from an EQ notch on a specific frequency to using certain isolation devices to decouple the turntables from a vibrating surface, or even to have the sound engineer keep an eye on the levels to ensure feedback does not occur.”

Best of both worlds: The Nest, set up for vinyl and digital

Best of both worlds: The Nest, set up for vinyl and digital

Again, then, feedback is the bane of a sound engineer’s life, and may account for why so many clubs have previously been keen for DJs to use CDJs over anything else. “Deck tonearms have a tendency to sympathetically vibrate and so feed back when in close proximity to powerful subs,” Kollaros continues. “Special care has to be taken to avoid that, but our decks are not on stabilisers. The stage floor is concrete so there’s not enough vibration transmitted through it to require them.” There’s also another endorsement for Ortofon’s Concord cartridges, in this case the DJ S model: “The vast majority of DJs love them and they are very reliable. Of course, if a DJ prefers to use their own, they can do so, but it’s been a long while since the last time someone did this at our club. The DJ S are pretty much a standard.”

So, do digital vinyl systems like Serato introduce any extra concerns into the mix? “No extra concerns really,” says Akis. “The opposite, I’d say: feedback is much less a concern when using Serato, so the system can be used in pretty much the same way as if CDJs were being used.”

Digital can sound more impressive, but vinyl has a charm and warmth that is very difficult to put into words

Looking at the bigger picture for all three clubs, representing the smallest specialist venues through to the biggest superclubs, it seems that plenty of consideration has gone into booth and system setups to ensure that systems meet the standards of vinyl DJs. With that in mind, we thought it was only right to get a second opinion from the other side of the booth. Boston duo Soul Clap are committed vinyl heads, travelling with hundreds of slabs slung over their shoulder no matter where in the world they play. Are Fabric, The Nest and The 212 representative of the global situation for vinyl DJs? Sadly, the answer isn’t  entirely positive.

“Our real pet peeve is that so many DJs got lazy and don’t travel with any records,” the duo tell us. “Because clubs don’t need to accommodate vinyl DJs very often, many have given up on having working vinyl setups or the sound guys don’t know how to make vinyl sound right, so unfortunately most clubs – especially outside of Europe – are not designed for playing vinyl.”

“Too often, venues don’t have their turntables in great shape, or the booth vibrates from the bass and the records feed back,” they continue. “Old analogue systems sound better for vinyl, and it helps when they’re big enough that you can keep the volume low but still have power. The best clubs, like Air and Trouw, have sound guys on a separate mixing board keeping the levels right all night.”

Most clubs - especially outside of Europe - are not designed for playing vinyl

Of course, key to good sound is not only booth setup, clean records and deck selection, but so too mixer choice. It’s all part of a much bigger picture. Soul Clap’s technical rider is quite strict: “We really don’t like playing on Allen & Heath. Sure, the mixers are analogue, but they sound really hard and pumping even when you turn them down. All the techno DJs swear by them, but for our musical style, a lot of old records and vocal songs just get lost. We’re from the New York school of house, so we love rotary mixers, especially something like a Rane or Urei for long sets, and it really helps when the club goes the extra mile and has really nice EQ or isolators added on.”

Of course, that won’t always be possible, as many a modern day party take place on boats, beaches, in deserts or atop various moving vehicles. “It’s usually an adventure playing vinyl at a festival and it’s completely impossible to play records on a boat. Even without the rocking of the boat, the wind will get you every time; I don’t know how DJs managed to play boat parties before CDJs! The most important trick at a festival is having good sound guys, being nice to them and working as a team. It’s also important to get all the tonearm settings right for the cartridges you’re using, and we got these special edition Ortofon Cocoon cartridges about a year ago that are kind of magic. Whenever we don’t put them on at the beginning of our set, records seem to skip until we switch to our needles. So thanks, Sven!”

In spite of their troubled travels, Soul Clap insist on playing vinyl as often as possible for a number of reasons, not least because it “always makes DJing more fun. It feels more smooth and natural, plus you can really use your intuition and your ears instead of scrolling through a CDJ or computer and using your eyes and brain.”

So, for all the remaining frustrations, is it still worth it? Well, Soul Clap have no intention of giving up their vinyl any time soon. It seems that it’s still mainly a question of finding clubs that cater to the vinyl heads, whether that be the DJs or the crowd itself. “Air in Tokyo has all the ingredients. So did Trouw in Amsterdam,” Soul Clap conclude. “Panoramabar in Berlin is also a great place to play vinyl… but more to show off how deep your crates are to all the trainspotters!”

18th February, 2015


  • Ortofon needles are absolute shite really so not sure why they’re getting so much love in this article.


    Perhaps if you’re a masochist.

  • I wouldn’t say Ortofon are sh*te, but I much prefer Shure Whitelabel’s, or even 447’s over any Ortofon model by a long shot.

    The guy in this article from Dubplates and Mastering agrees with you on Ortofons though!

  • any DJ that turns up w/o their own pair of needles (plus spares) deserves what they get!

  • hmmm, never experienced that, cause agencies always send a tech rider or ask the dj directly what he/ she needs.. …

  • I agree, Ortofons are awful. But again, any self-respecting vinyl DJ should bring his own carts and spare needles to the club, it’s common sense.

    Shure’s M44 line is built like a tank and with the proper setup you can use as low as 1.5 grams of force without skipping so your records will also live longer if you only play them on Shures. I’ve seen Ortofons skipping at even 3 grams, but it’s always external factors like vibrations, feedback or vinyl condition.

    Oh and regarding Cinthie’s comment: that is true for artists that are represented by an agency, but there are a lot of new (and old) djs who represent themselves and venues don’t usually ask for tech rider, they assume that if you have one, you should always stress it.

  • nothing wrong with the DJ S concords…

  • Shure M44-7’s have amazing tracking, fantastic output levels, are great with timecode & the bottom-heavy genres its sound has been created for, but for great sound quality? Forget about it. They colour the sound waaaaaay too much.

  • It really goes to show when the #1 dj hardware company in the world (pioneer) is putting out state of the art turntable. give it a few years and i guarantee they will be the industry standard. i for one couldn’t be more excited about vinyl being a standard once again

  • Drawing for SlapFunk at fabric. Thumbs up.

  • Since when Soul Clap plays vinyl? i guess since is trendy cause they were always playing frigging Serato. I guess they’re now trying to be respected fellas… whatever

  • Sadly, these clubs are in the minority, and it’s going to take a good few years for most clubs and most festival sound systems to catch up with the vinyl upswing. added to that, the vinyl upswing is not really for dance music – it’s for collectable pop/indie/cult releases that don’t get played in clubs. I’m pretty much the last viny/dubplatel DJ in my genre of Drum and Bass and I dragged my 25Kg of beloved dubplates around NZ over the New Year’s weekend and every gig failed to have decks that worked properly. Feedback central. I’ve been flying the flag for vinyl for years now, refusing to play CDRs or mp3s for anything but broadcast, but so many clubs and sound engineers have no idea, love, or respect for vinyl equipment that I fear I may have to change, and I never thought i’d be saying this. I love Pioneer for their new deck, they gave us at Hospital Records a pair and they are gorgeous. Check the next Hospital podcast next week and i’ll be playing 100% from them. Oh – and M-44 7 all the way for me thanks, adjusted to 20% off axis for dubplates 🙂

  • If kept clean, computers won’t crash.


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