Do you know what those three-colored lights on your mixer mean ? Green, yellow and red. If you have your equipment, you already know but this is for real beginner DJs or candidates. Those LED lights show your “safe” and “over the limit” zones on the volume knob. Red means “May Day” and we’re gonna talk about distortion today.
The meaning of “distortion” is changing the form of a sound wave during transmission or amplification. In other words, sound deforms after a certain level. There is no definite standard for this level, it depends on the power of your source and where you increase the gain or volume. There are different ways you can turn the volume up on a DJ setup; from your main volume knob, your channel gain or from the amplifiers.
I think I mentioned this in previous articles but let me repeat one more time; increasing volume from your initial source is always a bad idea. I mean the channel gain knobs. Those are only meant to trim the gain for little level adjustments like equalizing the level of two tracks while mixing into the next song. So, make yourself used to not touching them unless really necessary.
As I said before, sound deforms when you hit the red lights and you may not be able to hear it while being in the DJ booth. What your audience hears is different from what you get by your setup. There is echo in the room, there is also a slight delay before sound gets to you from the main speakers. This is why DJs use monitor speakers in order to hear the music in real-time.
How To Avoid Distortion
The best way to increase volume without distortion is to turn it up from the amplifiers at the first place. Further you are from the main source, safer the sound is. Max out your amp as much and safe as possible and lower all other volume controls before you start. If you need more juice later on, use your mixer’s main volume and get more sound in the room. This way, you will avoid a possible distortion because there will be a good margin on your mixer for you to play with.
Also, once your amp is high on volume, any little increase on the mixer will be much more effective.
Long story short, distorting sound is not pleasant for your crowd and it is always best to stay away from the red lights on the mixer. Green is ideal, yellow is acceptable but not red 🙂