The Blog of Jon Guerrera

Thoughts about health, goals, and anything else I'm nerding out to.

Split Cue in Serato DJ

As someone who often DJs at home in a small studio apartment, I'm unable to blast my music late into the night.

I'm still a noobie though, so practicing often is a goal of mine. I've heard many people recommend split cue as a way to practice things like beatmatching without becoming a noisy neighbor.

However, Serato lacks the features that other software (e.g. Traktor) has to make this setup easy for certain controllers.

Most, if not all, Pioneer controllers (including mine, the DDJ-SX2) do not have a split cue feature, and some people really, really want this feature.

I know the feature exists in the software, but perhaps because the software defers to Pioneer hardware for cueing capabilities, the software setting is grayed out and unavailable when using Pioneer hardware (see below).

I love Pioneer hardware, but missing split cue was a pain given my nighttime noise concerns during practice sessions.

As such, here are three alternatives I tried:

1) Route master out to a mono earbud

This workaround relies on using a stereo-to-mono in-ear earbud that is connected to the master out channel. The earbud I've found to work well for me is the XDU Pathfinder Single Earphone.

Here's what they look like:

Approach 1: Mackie Studio Monitors

I bought a pair of the Mackie CR Series CR3 Studio Monitors and was pleased to find that they have a headphone jack in the front, to allow you to pass the audio through headphones.

With that in mind, I connect my Pathfinder earbud into the headphone jack. While I DJ, I have my audio-technica headphones covering one ear, and the Pathfinder earphone in the other ear. This ultimately gives me what I want: cue in one ear, master in the other.

Approach 2: External audio card

If you already have studio monitors that don't have a headphone jack, an alternative would be to use an external audio card with a headphone jack.

I use a Behringer U-Control UCA222 USB audio interface that sits between my master out and my monitors, allowing me to route audio into my computer (e.g. for live mixes, during which I use a separate computer for streaming) or headphones, as you can see in the picture below.

Pioneer no support Serato split cue

Downsides

Unfortunately, there are two downsides to this approach

  1. Having to manage an ear bud while you're DJing can get mildly annoying. I really like the feel of my audio-technica headphones, so having to add this is less than ideal.

  2. Compared to the sound quality in my cue headphones, the Pathfinder earbud leaves much to be desired. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great for $25, but that's just it. It's a $25 earbud.

If anyone knows of a stereo-to-mono headphone solution that is superior, kindly let me know in the comments!

2) Consider a cost-effective controller that supports split cue

I originally purchased the Akai AMX controller because it's super lightweight and great for throwing in my backpack for gigs.

As a happy surprise, I discovered that the AMX supports Serato's split cue functionality (see below).

Akai AMX supports Serato split cue

The Akai AMX is very low cost (~$200 at the time of this writing), especially for a DJ controller that comes with the full version of Serato DJ (as opposed to the Serato Intro version). If split cue is important to you in certain contexts (e.g. practicing at home), but you still swear by Pioneer hardware in other contexts, the Akai AMX is a solid value.

On the other hand, if you have no desire for another controller, feeling the need to buy a second controller just to have split cue in Serato is ridiculous.

In an ideal world, Serato would enable split cue for all hardware, but I'm not a software developer there, so I don't fully understand the challenges of doing so.

In the meanwhile, if your hardware of choice (e.g. Pioneer DDJ-SX2) doesn't support split cue, using a separate earbud for your master out, or having a relatively-low-cost controller that can provide split cue in certain contexts, are the only two options I can think of at the moment.

And of course, if you're still in the research phase and haven't committed to Serato DJ yet, it's worth mentioning that Traktor has fantastic split cue support that doesn't differ by hardware.

Have any other thoughts? Leave them in the comments below!

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