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Cap Capello

If you are NOT at least semi-computer literate, you DON'T have a computer, or you HATE computers, then STOP right here. MP3's are ALL about COMPUTERS and the more computer savvy you have, the faster you'll grasp the whole of this evolving technology. That's all the negatives about Digital DJ'ing. From there, it's all about speed, precision, ingenuity, imagination, flexibility, marketing, load reduction, and re-creating excitement in the mobile DJ arena using computers to achieve these new heights. Notice the emphasis here is on the mobile DJ world, as the software for MP3 utilization is currently only evolutionary in relationship to the beat mixing club jock. Club DJ's are handcuffed by current software designs but those are now being addressed by engineers.

Recorded music in the compact disk format is, by computer standards, a humongous space hog. At an average size of 10 megabits per minute of recorded music, and should you carry only 1,000 songs to every engagement, and assume an average of 4 minutes per track length, you would need a hard drive capable of storing 40 gb minimum and there'd be no more room for expansion. As most laptop computers feature hard drives between 4 and 20 gb, it becomes mathematically evident laptops were never considered as an alternative storage compared to CD's. Now ponder this.

 CD recorded music contains the entire sound frequency spectrum, much of which is above and below the human hearing spectrum. What if all those upper and lower non-audible frequencies were mathematically eliminated from the song? And what if certain nearly duplicate frequencies were also eliminated? How would that effect the perceived reproduced sound quality, how small would the file size now be, and how could these new data files (no longer "music files") be played through a standard PA-type system?  The answers resulted in the emergence of the MP3 file (MP3 is its file extension name just like a text file is a TXT and a computer sound file is a WAV file and so on. There is actually more to this but who cares). Now the standard CD music file size of 10 mb per minute can be selectively reduced to 15, 12, 9, 6 or 3 times its original size depending on what level of quality you want that sound to be. It is IMPORTANT to understand as this juncture that the transition from CD music files (WAV files) to MP3 files IS NOT A COMPRESSION TECHNIQUE in its true sense. Once a music file is converted to MP3, it CANNOT be restored to its original state. The frequencies have been surgically removed, not squeezed into a smaller package that can be re-expanded at a later time. Now near CD quality sound files take only 1/12th of the original size and virtual CD quality files are 1/8th the original size. In summary, here's the math. An 8 gb hard drive can store 150 songs in WAV (CD) format, but 1,800 song titles in near CD quality MP3 format. Voila! Laptops are now a viable storage media.

As the MP3 file is a computer data file, it can only be played through a computer. You cannot make a CD of 150 songs in MP3 format and play it through your Denon or Pioneer CD players. The MP3 can be played from your hard drive, it can be played from an MP3 CD off your laptop's CD-ROM drive, and it can be played from an externally connected storage media.  There are many MP3 player programs out there, some smooth, some glitzy, some expensive, some free, some functional and some not well thought out. The current winner in functionality and feasibility in terms of the mobile DJ (in this author's opinion) is WinAmp from The multiple occurrence feature (more than one version of the player running at the same time and each version can play a song simultaneously) easily facilitates fading and blending as opposed to strict beat mixing which WinAmp does not perform with any ease.

The process of converting any music file to an MP3 file has been dubbed "ripping". A program that performs this function is called a "ripper".  A file that has been converted has been "ripped". The quality of the file (the bit rate) is referred to as the "ripped at" rate. An MP3 downloaded off the net without paying royalties is "ripped off". Again, there are many "rippers" out there but vary greatly in speed, performance and flexibility. After much experimentation (and requests for refunds), the AudioCatalyst 2.1, was the fastest, most flexible, and error free of the horde in my experiences.

As in all facets of computer usage, processor speed, random access memory (RAM), CDROM speed, and available storage are prime considerations. Your mobile MP3 system should be dedicated to its job with virtually no other responsibilities excepting perhaps a scheduling program and a database. Designing space shuttles while playing MP3s is not recommended. If you're going the laptop route, insure it has at least a 366mhz processor, 128 mb of random access memory INSTALLED, a hard drive sized commensurate with your earlier math (total number of songs to be "ripped" at approximately 4 mb per song and don't forget to leave about 1- 1.5 gb of space for operating software and adjunct programs), and at least a 24x CDROM. Your laptop should also have the capability of one or two PCMCIA cards, and/or a vacant PCI slot, and/or a Firewire port for future expansion should additional storage be required (and it will). If you're going the new "lunch box" systems available from or

Colorado Sound and Lighting, order the biggest hard drive(s) they sell and insure you have 128 mb of RAM. If you're really committed to (and probably should be committed"), get a 500mhz PIII, 256 MB of RAM, a flat screen display, an internal hard drive of 60gb or more and an external duplicate of the internal drive. Add to this an UPS (for non-laptop systems) to eliminate momentary power losses resulting in re-booting right in the middle of playing Celebration.

This brief jaunt into the powerful and evolutionary world of MP3 was literally just the tip of it's potential and how to get into it. There's cropping dead air off the front and back of files for smoother transitions, there's editing WAV files utilizing professional audio editing programs to get that song edited properly "once and for all", there's getting samples attached to web sites for client preview, there's hours and hours and hours of "ripping" and editing, there's expense, there's an extensive learning curve and there's a huge commitment to all of the aforementioned.  Though MP3's may not be that last stop of the computerized music train, it will most certainly provide you with a major competitive "leg up" right now.

(Since the original writing of this article, the race for the smaller file size coupled with higher definition music has taken few twists and turns but I believe that the new Windows Media Conversion Utility Version 8 will evolve as the dominate format. The file sizes are less than half of while the sound quality rivals 160 & 192 kb MP3. This bears close scrutiny, as current pro-DJ software sellers are reluctant to jump into the .wma codec addition to their products)

About the author:
Cap Capello has been a mobile DJ since 1978, left his engineering position with General Electric in 1984 and became a full-time professional.  Though having trained twenty-seven other prominent DJs in the upstate New York's Capital District, he has steadfastly refused to become a multiple system company stating that he is terrified about hiring employees just like himself.  A self admitted computer geek, he continually illuminates the path in using computer-to-mobile DJ applications. Cap has been utilizing MP3 as the sole source of his music since May of 1999. All his CD's stay in van. He gladly shares his expertise with anyone who asks for it and may be reached via his web site at




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