DJ Tip#2: Quality of Music Matters – Do It Right

DJ Tip#2: YouTube rips. First, we have to understand why DJs rip from YouTube. Either they don’t have the deep pockets to keep Beatport’s monopoly alive and may not belong to any record pools, or they’re unfamiliar with other possibilities. DJ’s rip from YouTube for two reasons: 1. It’s free (and also illegal). 2. Someone uploads a track before it’s officially released on Beatport, Traxsource, etc. or becomes part of a record pool.

Second, please understand that when a file is uploaded to YouTube, it is automatically compressed. In other words, the file has lost some of the sound frequency, which, of course, is important to music lovers like us who enjoy those big sounds coming through our speakers and earbuds. Even if a user is uploading a true 320kbps mp3 to YouTube, it still has lost some of those precious frequencies. Note: Don’t be fooled by a YouTube Downloader giving you the option of downloading a song in 320kbps, because it’s lying to you. 

There are a couple of free programs that will actually tell you where that newly downloaded song ranks quality wise. One is called, Spek, a drop and drag program. Second, and more commonly used, is Audacity, where you have to change the view of the waveform to Spectrogram. To better understand, visit

A true 320kbps mp3 will give you this result in a spectrogram.

True 320kbps mp3 spectrogram

This is the way to verify your music. As you can see, a true 320kbps mp3 rolls off at 20khz. If you’re playing your music on a Funktion 1 audio system or a Void Acoustics or similar, you would want to steer clear of anything less than 320kbps. You should actually be playing with WAV or AIF. A WAV track in the spectrogram view looks like this:

WAV spectrogram

This is clearly beyond 20kHz and rolls off at 22kHz. You can expect the same results from an AIF file as long as it’s a true AIF and/or WAV.  We can expect that a WAV/AIF file to be beyond 22kHz but the program is only revealing that it rolls off at 22 kHz.

So, what does a “320 kbps mp3” rip from YouTube truly look like?

“320kbps mp3” YouTube rip

Looks a little different than from a true 320kbps mp3, doesn’t it? It sits just underneath 16 kHz – not even at 128kbps.

Record Pools. With all of this being said, YouTube rips aren’t the only culprit. Believe it or not, there are some record pools out there that have their in-house DJs and/or producers releasing remixes, DJ edits, mashups, and bootlegs that sound just as bad as a YouTube rip and you’ve been paying for them. Just because you download an mp3 at 128kbps and place it into Ableton, Audacity, or another DAW you may have and export it out as WAV or an mp3 at 320kbps, it does not make it a true 320kbps or WAV.

I get it. Record pools can be expensive, especially if you’re a member of multiple pools, and buying tracks from Beatport and Traxsource can be very expensive. We’re stuck in a rut, again I get it! So, what do we do, download YouTube rips and hope that we play to a crowd that has no idea what they’re missing out on or do we spend 1/4 to 1/3 of our income on high-quality music? 

What if I were to tell you that there are free music pools that you can join? No, it’s not stuff coming off of Beatport’s Top 10, and no, it’s not stuff that’s coming hot off the radio. Imagine going to the record store and digging through the crates where you can listen to the record and decide for yourself whether it’s quality-worthy of you playing it at your next venue.

Inflyte offers an amazing selection. Music is released once a week. You can sign up by going by clicking HERE

Promo Push is another freebie that uploads music regularly. You can sign up by clicking HERE

FATDrop is another example of a free record pool to sign up for. They upload weekly. You can sign for FATDrop up by clicking HERE

Note: That’s the thing about being a DJ. Don’t be influenced by the radio or by people constantly asking for music from it. It’s up to you to be creatively interactive with people while making them happy while they’re with you. You’re a salesperson up there, and besides yourself, high-quality music is one of many things you’re selling.

Ok, so maybe the record pools aren’t fulfilling your wants and needs. Then what? What if I told you there was a way to improve the quality of any track that’s been uploaded then compressed? Well, you’re going to need these things in your life – one is free and the other, well, there are free versions if you look in the right places. 1. Audacity 2. Ableton. Ableton allows you to fine tune a little more than the free, Audacity has to offer. But, if Audacity is your only option, that’s ok. It’s a hell of a lot better than just playing the original download. Remember our example YouTube rip that sat just underneath 16kHz? Here it is again after some tweaking in Ableton:

You Little Beauty – Fisher enhanced in Ableton

Disclaimer: I’m not here to tell you how to get free music. I’m here to help you gain knowledge.

Quality of music matters. So, do it right!

Devin Chinn

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