DJing on USB is by far the most popular and efficient format to play music from, so we decided to delve in and see what’s out there and give you some essential tips on using USB’s to DJ.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before we get into some recommendations lets highlight some of the key things you’ll need to know:
- SIZE MATTERS BUT SPEED RULES – Size is going to be the most common factor to consider BUT speed is the most important. Having slow transfer speeds means it’s going to take a lot longer to write tracks to your USB drive and also longer for your media player to read them. Ideally you want to go for a minimum speed 0f 100MB/s (megabytes per second).
- HOW MUCH SPACE DO I NEED? – The most common sizes used by DJ’s are 32GB/64GB but you can get drives up to 2TB (at a cost!). On average a 5 minute 320kbps MP3 audio file is around 11MB, this means you’ll be able to get around 3000 tracks on a 32GB drive.
- FORMAT – All CDJs use specific file systems when reading your tracks to be played. CDJs (and most media players for that matter) only read FAT16, FAT32 or HFS+ file systems from flash drives because they are great for indexing files (such as different tracks) and recalling the information quickly. Most flash drives are FAT systems, but some rare cases such as NTFS, will have compatibility issues.
- USB 2.0 OR 3.0 – Pioneer CDJs can only read USB 2.0 but will read a USB 3.0 drive perfectly fine. The benefit of getting a 3.0 drive is the write speed from your laptop when exporting tracks. Pioneer have no immediate plans to upgrade the CDJs to read USB 3.0 quoting:
If you were playing four 24bit/96kHz tracks from one USB source, the bandwidth out is still only 2MB/s (or 18Mbits/s), far below the USB2 theoretical maximum of 40MB/s and the network link maximum speed of 100Mbits/s.
- USB DRIVE BACK UP – ALWAYS take 2 USB drives with you. Not only will you need a back up if one fails but also if there is no network connection between the CDJs or they are old models with no network capability. For a very small cost it’s also worth taking an ethernet cable with you just in case the club doesn’t have one.
- Do you use more than 2 CDJ’s then check out this portable network hub for only £6.14!
- PLAYLIST BACK UP – We’d also recommend putting a folder on your USB drive with some essential tracks in, just incase there are any issues with the media player reading your Rekordbox playlist.
- ONLINE BACK UP – Have a copy of your essential tunes in a Dropbox folder online. You can get a free account with a decent amount of storage and works great if you get to a gig abroad and the airline has lost your bag!
- OWN YOUR DRIVE – One of the most common things to happen to DJ’s is leaving the USB stick behind! Rename your drive with an email address, number or something that can identify you. You could also leave a text doc in the root directory with all your contact info and hopefully the next DJ will get in contact to return it.
- CORRECT FORMAT – If you are also using this USB to update the firmware on your CDJ players it will need to be formatted as Fat32.
- IS HEIGHT A THING? – Something worth considering is the hight of your USB drive, the longer the drive the more it will stick out of the CDJ and be prone to being knocked.
TOP USB 3.0 FLASH DRIVES FOR DJ’s
TOP RECOMMENDATION – SanDisk Extreme 64 GB USB Flash Drive USB 3.0
Advertised Speed: USB 3.0, Read = 245 MB/s, Write = 190 MB/s
Storage: 64 GB (other sizes available)
Size: 1.1 x 2.1 x 7.1 cm
Enclosure: Plastic, retractable USB
Price: £31.99 (Prices vary, available on Amazon)
MOST COMPACT – SanDisk SDCZ43-064G-G46 64 GB USB 3.0 Ultra Fit
Advertised Speed: USB 3.0, up to 150MB/s read speed
Storage: 64 GB (other sizes available)
Size: 1.9 x 1.6 x 0.9 cm
Enclosure: Plastic cover
Price: £13.00 (Available on Amazon)
MOST STORAGE – HyperX DataTraveler Predator USB 3.1 Gen 1/USB 3.0 – 1 TB
Advertised Speed: USB 3.0, up to 240MB/s read speed
Storage: 1 TB (other sizes available)
Size: 7.2 x 2.7 x 2.1 cm
Enclosure: Metal casing
Price: £599.00 (Available on Amazon)
Advertised Speed: USB 3.0, Read speed up to 450MB/s and write speed up to 360MB/s
Storage: 256GB (other sizes available)
Size: 7.9 x 2.5 x 1 cm
Enclosure: Zync Alloy Cased Flash Drive
Price: £94.87 (Available on Amazon)