Previously on this site, we have explored the music production capability of the Raspberry Pi. Today I am going to show you how it can be used for DJing with turntables at an extremely low cost. For those of you whose primary residence has been under a rock, the Raspberry Pi is a very small, cheap computer, just bigger than a deck of cards. It is an incredibly useful tool for people as it is easily modifiable, and by this stage, documentation is everywhere.
The first way to DJ on a Raspberry Pi is by using Mixxx. Raspberry Pi's run on Linux and so Mixxx is the best choice due to it's compatibility. You will need to install Raspbian with a UI and download Mixxx. There are options for which version to download, it is worth doing some research into this as the latest versions may be optimised for graphical performance as well, which will consume a lot of processing. Mixxx 1.11.0 seems to be most stable at the time of publishing however readers in the future should note that this could change.
In addition to this, you will need to grab yourself a DAC (Digital Analogue Converter), this one has been recommended a few times across the web for cost and reliability. The other option is to use a Mixxx compatible controller with a built in soundcard.
PiDeck is one of the simplest ways to DJ with a Raspberry Pi however, there are some prerequisites. It is a basic DVS (Digital Vinyl System) which means you will still need turntables, control vinyl, and a mixer. The way it works is you download PiDeck onto a Raspberry Pi and connect it up to your turntable - you will need a Pi for each turntable.
In addition, you will need a screen, the best screens for the job would be a standard Raspberry Pi touchscreen. A soundcard will also be required for the control signal to go in, and the audio to come out of the Pi.
As you can see, it is a very elegant solution, which comes at a cheap price compared to most DVS systems (~£150 per system). One of the nearest direct competitors to this would be the Akai AMX for roughly £200, which comes with Serato included. In terms of value, I would have to recommend the AMX for a working DJ, provided they had a stable laptop, but for those DJs who have no intention of buying a laptop, the PiDeck is probably the better choice.
Performance wise, the latency is minimal and scratching is entirely doable, as proved by this video, which is impressive for such a small processor. So, for the more traditional DJ wanting to expand to digital, with no desire to use a laptop or anything fancy that comes with the more pro software, the PiDeck is undisputably worthwhile.
It is important to note that the Raspberry Pi isn't the most powerful of computers and so it would be wrong to recommend any of these applications for live use. While these tools have been proven to work, a DJ's job is to ensure continuous playback of well-mixed songs. If you are playing at parties, or at home the Raspberry Pi will likely suffice but don't expect to get away with charging big bucks if you don't provide a setup which guarantees quality and reliability. That's why CDJs are so frustratingly expensive, you are paying for the promise as well as the gear.