DJTechTools Oct 30, 2016

For many DJs and producers, new Apple laptops have been important because macOS has been a historically bulletproof operating system for playing live. But with the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines both shifting to USB-C only, what do DJs and producers need to continue to use their current setups? Keep reading for our advice.

USB-C: An Industry-Wide Standard

Many online commenters waxing poetic about the new Macbook Pro yesterday came to a few false conclusions:

  • There’s no USB ports on the new MacBook Pro
  • Apple is removing an industry standard port and replacing it with their own proprietary one

In fact, USB-C is the new standard of USB ports. The original USB standard, which we’re all used to, was introduced in the mid-1990s (on the iMac G3). Twenty years later it’s time for a new standard – and there’s a distinct list of advantages that make it clear that this connector will be the expected port on every device in the future:

  • 10Gbps top speed transfer rate
  • 2.6mm port height allows it to fit in phones, super-thin laptops, and other slim devices
  • completely reversible – there’s no up or down orientation for the connector
  • the same connection on both ends – no device/computer sides to the cable
  • supports DisplayPort, HDMI, power, USB, and VGA – all over the same cable
  • USB-C supports 100w power delivery – so most devices will be able to be charged and powered and data connected via this cable
Image credit to usbc-adapters.com

Image credit to usbc-adapters.com

Over 700 different companies are a part of the group that designed and developed the spec for USB-C, including Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Intel, HP, and Dell.  You can expect continued adoption of it by manufacturers as it becomes more widespread and manufacturing prices go down.

Apple might be “out in front” in terms of releasing a laptop that only has USB-C ports on it, but we expect to see most other manufacturers follow suit. For another example, look no further than Google’s latest product introduction, the Pixel phone, or other devices like the Nexus 6P, 5X, OnePlus 2, etc.

Adapters: Are They Safe?

Many of the adapters on the market are being made by third-party companies, which means that you should use caution when shopping around for them. There’s a rigid set of specs that USB-C cables and adapters need to conform to.

We’re living in a bit of a “wild west” situation where many cable companies and accessory developers are quickly creating accessories without paying attention to the specs – so read the reviews carefully! Particularly look for reviewer Benson Leung on Amazon – he’s reviewed many USB-C devices to ensure they’re up to spec.

usb-c-to-a-adapter

The most common adapter that DJs and producers with a USB-C laptop will want will be a USB-C to USB 3.0 A Female adapter. The above $13.99 3-pack from CableCreation on Amazon is highly reviewed (and up to spec). This will allow you to quickly start using your legacy USB devices with their original cables.

If you’d prefer to avoid adapters all together and have a lot of USB-B devices (probably the most common DJ controller port), you can get cables that go from USB-C to USB-B like the one below from Cable Matters – just $7.99 on Amazon.

usbb-to-c

USB-C Hubs

Many of the USB-C Hubs are plagued by issues that go beyond failing spec. In an era of faked Amazon reviews, this can often be difficult to detect. As Micah Singleton from The Verge writes,

Third-party USB-C hubs are notoriously a disaster. They overheat, are missing crucial ports, or the ports they have are underpowered, and on many of the ones we?ve tested, the SD card readers consistently fail to work.. […] I, along with a few other Verge coworkers who own the laptop have used just about every viable USB-C hub to date, with less than stellar results.

The adapter that Micah begrudgingly recommends is Apple’s own mutiport adapter – but even that adapter isn’t great – just a HDMI port, a USB-C port, and a USB-A port. Not exactly versatile – and it’s $69.

The Arc Hub with a Launchpad

The Arc Hub with a Launchpad

But there are hubs that look promising coming soon – like the Arc Hub, with HDMI, Mini Display, SD Card, 2 USB-A 3.0, and 2 USB-C ports. This hub is still in development, but is set to ship in January for $105 – preorders here.

You could also take your luck with any number of USB-C hubs available on Amazon – from $9 to $64 – but buyer beware. We recommend using FakeSpot on anything you’re about to buy to detect fake reviews on Amazon.

USB-C Devices

So far there still aren’t very many devices on the market that are directly USB-C. We suspect that it may take at least one more year (NAMM 2018?) before we see any devices in the pro audio market come out with a USB-C connection as standard.

usb-c-flashdrive

However, there is one very important USB device that every creative professional needs – and many DJs use it every day: a thumb drive. There’s already a number of dual-port drives on the market – like the Samsung Flash Drive DUO, above. The prices are reasonable as well, which is great news for early adopters – the 128 GB model is $34.98 on Amazon.

 

USB-C Chroma Cables?

One final section here – mostly as a poll – would you buy USB-C Chroma Cables if DJTT developed them? As always they would be high-quality USB cables in great colors, with shielding and ferrites to prevent any noise issues. Let us know in the poll below:

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