Dateline December 2004: Gemini dropped the biggest bomb to hit the DJ hardware scene for sometime – they announced that they were making a hybrid deck. Not CD – not vinyl – but both on the same deck. People had been wanting to see this for some time after decks like Numark’s CDX came out and indeed some had even dabbled with this technology but it never made it out beyond the R&D labs.
But Gemini? Now that the previously “cool to hate” Numark had began to shake off its poor image, the scene needed a new target and sadly Gemini was in the firing line. Thus when a product so revolutionary comes from the company everybody loves to hate, it’s immediately met with derision and scepticism. But this new product is backed up with a new regime at Gemini – one committed to shaking off the old image and having the desire to “do a Numark” (as we like to call it round here).
But we at skratchworx are open-minded. We judge a product by its merits and not by it’s brand name. We are neither fanboys or haters so we’re very happy to talk about Gemini in warm terms because they really do seem to be trying to change and start to make some real quality products – one such product being the CDT-05.
OEM – an explanation
When the CDT first came to our attention, we figured Gemini had drafted in a whole new set of designers and given them a blank canvas. But it soon transpired that the CDT-05 is in fact an OEM product. Essentially the product comes from a factory in the Far East and is made for several manufacturers at once, but with slight spec difference so that each product is slightly different. In the case of the CDT, Gemini took a leading hand in the development of the product and have made their version noticeably different from the other variants from Citronic and US Blaster. Gemini will be first to market as well with theirs, giving them a nice head start and a chance to establish theirs before anyone else.
If you’re looking for award winning creative industrial design, then you’re in the wrong place with the CDT-05. Image-wise, it’s functional and that’s what counts. It looks a lot better than it’s competitors with black brushed steel, a straight arm and the regular Gemini platter but you won’t ever oooh and aaaah over its beauty.
The CDT-05 is big and bulky, but this is because of the extra controls for CD use so it’s new flight cases if you want a pair of these. And because of the location of the CD drive, battle position is a no go for scratch DJs. Technically you can on the right hand deck as you can still gain access but in practice, the short tonearm proves to be an advantage as it doesn’t really get in the way in the regular orientation. And putting these in battle position will probably mean installing new worktops for most people.
The layout is probably as good as you can achieve while trying to keep everyone happy. Essentially it’s a regular turntable with all the controls placed where there’s space. The effects have been moved out of the way a little but they’re not likely to be used as much as the other features on the deck. There are some subtle differences on the CDT over its competitors and these in my opinion make the CDT more usable. The track/effects selector knob for example is quite prominent but has been moved a few inches on the CDT out of direct line between your hand and the platter so no mid juggle knob clashes ahead.
Quality and durability is a hard thing to judge with the CDT-05, or indeed any fresh out of the box product. While it would be easy to simple assume that because it’s Gemini then it will break with 5 minutes of use but I have no reason to suspect that this is the case. At the request of Gemini, I’ve been deliberately rough with the unit – knocking it around, shaking it etc and it’s not shown any signs of problems. While I don’t think it’s the most rugged of units (see Numark TTX for the definition of rugged) and not screaming high quality and polish, it should bear up to most people’s use. Then again, it's the quality of components inside that counts. This slightly lightweight case did have a side effect – more feedback than normal. However, the CDT-05 comes with 2 sets of feet - low profile to keep the unit at the standard turntable height and standard profile which reduce the aforementioned feedback problem a little.
And for the torque junkies out there, the CDT-05 is driven by a 3.6kg motor - more than Vestax and Technics but not as much as Numark, so it's a nice balance.
Best of both worlds
The hot new buzzword in the DJ scene is “hybrid” but what does this mean? As well as having a full size 12” platter, the CDT also has a CD drive, allowing you to play vinyl or CD. But thanks to some clever shenanigans under the hood, the CDT allows you to use both at the same time. This mix mode works by having a separate output for phono and line outputs. So you can use this either by linking to one channel and switching between line and phono or using the line on one channel and phono on the other and suddenly you’re a DJ with one deck.
Taking a look at the CD side of things – the CDT can read audio and data CDs, both CDR and CDRW and handles MP3s as well. I wouldn’t be getting too excited about multi level navigation or searching by tags etc – it’s all a bit linear but still very usable. When inserting a CD it can take a few seconds to read in the data but nothing that I’d call too long.
Control is handled by the supplied vinyl disk. It’s fixed to the spindle mechanism in exactly the same way as the CDX but the centre lug is a little subtler. The controller is actually a recycled piece of vinyl - a conscious decision on the part of the manufacturer. Cheap and eco-friendly! The lug is held in place via two holes so making your own fit shouldn’t be an issue. It also comes with a felt slipmat and despite my slipmat fussiness, I didn’t feel the need to change it.
In use, it’s a dream. It’s a nice low profile platter and combined with the real vinyl, you really do a get the true feel of a traditional analog deck. It’s not just the feel though – the sound is amazing. Somebody somewhere has gone to great lengths to disguise the digital origins of this deck as it sounds much closer to vinyl than ever. Slow drags don’t break up into digital noise and it sounds warmer than the CDX as well. There is still an inherent digital issue with fast and slow scratching – drags sound louder and fast scratches go quieter but nothing too bad – you hear it if you listen for it.
Taking the vinyl element of the CDT - the tonearm is a simplified version of the regular Gemini TT series – but gone are the lift lever and the anti-skate. Height adjustment is retained via slightly fiddly adjusters under the tonearm but has a twist – you can if you wish completely remove the tonearm and leave it off. For people who are only going to use the CD function, I guess this is an option but does rather defeat the option of buying a CDT. A tidy cover is provided for the gaping hole that’s left (although not supplied with my demo unit).
But how is vinyl used on this deck? Well the CD controller remains on the platter and the difference in height is taken up with a sponge rubber mat with a big hole in the middle. You then put the vinyl straight on top or you could (like I did) put your own mat on top. I used D-Styles new Table Cloths (review coming) and they worked just fine. Obviously the platter began to resemble a pile of pancakes but despite the lack of anti-skip, the CDT didn’t skip – even with my pair of notoriously fussy Ortofons. The fastest scribbles remained stuck to the groove which I’m sure is a poke in the eye for all the armchair critics out there who just assumed it would skip.
To close off this section I’ll state it plain – the CD scratches like a dream. It sounds great and in my book is the closest thing to vinyl. And the tonearm works incredibly well – must better than I expected. My current favourite thing is looping a beat on the CD and just scratching over the top. One deck – one mixer – one happy Gizmo.
One niggle though. If you do use the CD feature more than anything else, I found that the tonearm complete with cart seriously got in the way of the pitch fader. If it’s something you plan to do a lot of, just remove the headshell and the pitch fader is clear.
A deck isn’t complete without pitch control and the CDT-05 is fully featured in this department. It has a slightly odd but very useful combination – 4, 8,16 and 50% adjustment or off completely. Helpfully, there’s also pitch bend buttons for those finer mid mix adjustments. This pitch control works identically for CD and vinyl but with the added complication of mix mode, it’s still possible to adjust the pitch when using vinyl and CD because the pitch bend buttons double as pitch control for the CD deck. And for the pitch geeks out there, resolution is 0.1%.
To wrap this up, the CDT-05 has keylock as well. Press the button to engage it, press it again to turn it off. It works very well and quality wise is very good. Even speeded up beats don’t sound too soft as is the way of keylock technology. But as with any other deck, run it too slow and it descends into a phased flanged mess.
On a related subject, platter speed is controlled on the front of the unit and is switchable between 33 and 45, and should you feel the need to cut up your gran’s precious collection of classical music, it runs at 78rpm too.
Looping is always a winner for me. The CDT comes equipped with a basic but really simple to use looper. Press A to define the start, B for the end and it’s immediately looping. You can also redefine these points at any time while playing or when paused and you can fine adjust the start and stop points with the platter.
Note: this only works with the CD so don’t be expecting live sampling and looping from vinyl. The reloop buttons engages the loop again or acts as a stutter button.
Even more fun to be had here. The CDT-05 has 3 instantly definable hot starts. Pressing the memory button activates the process – all you need to do is then hit one of the buttons at the right time and your hot start is defined. And these points can be redefined at any time in exactly the same way. But they are temporary – remove the CD and they’re gone. However master cue points can be set and saved as well, but only 1 per CD and not on MP3 CDs. Simply get the CD cued to the right place and hold the memory button for 3 seconds and the point is saved to CDT memory.
But with a bit of clever playing, you can expand 3 hot starts to 5 by combining the reloop and cue buttons, allowing you to do some pretty creative stuff. I just love the way that you can get yourself an instant drum pad by defining different drums or maybe horn stabs.
I’m not a huge fan of onboard effects as by nature it means pre fader and pre fader echo is of no use to a scratch DJ. But for you mix boys, the CDT comes with 3 basic but useful effects – echo, filter and flanger. Control is simple – turning the DSP parameter knob changes the overall parameter while keeping the button pressed for a second allows adjustment of the wet/dry. While effects are engaged however, track selection isn’t possible. And of course, the effects are for CD only.
To spin or not to spin?
The CDT has full control over the platter whether it’s in CD, vinyl or mix mode. There’s the obligatory play/pause button that does just that for vinyl or CD but in mix mode, you have a second motor on/off button. This controls the vinyl platter while the play button controls the CD.
There’s also a good deal of reverse control as well. The whole platter can be set to reverse in CD or vinyl mode but in mix mode, reverse just effects the vinyl. Instant reverse works in CD mode only and immediately reverses the sound only. When engaged, the audio reverses at that exact point but the platter continues to spin forwards. When disengaged, the audio picks up at exactly the right point in the track, meaning that if you’d beatlocked, it should still be in perfect sync. It’s useful for mix DJ or for that instant “radio edit” effect.
Round the back
It’s a turntable so it’s not exactly over-endowed with outputs but there are separate outputs for CD (line) and vinyl (phono), as well as digital S/PDIF output (CD only). There’s also a relay connector as well – link 2 x CDTs together and it’ll start one CDT playing when the other stops. It's worth mentioning that the other OEM models a few more options round the back.
The CDT-05 has been a long time in coming, not just in terms of release date but as a technology as well. But how useful is it? Only time will tell but I’m having the best time right now with a mixer and CDT and just scratching away with a CD on loop. Really clever DJs will be able to do a lot more with this mix mode than I can but in theory, you can now rock a party on one deck. Or for those who want the best of both worlds, you’ve now got CD and vinyl in the same unit.
In usage, scratching on vinyl is rock solid, even with the extra depth of slipmats. And the CD scratching… it’s sooo nice. Not only does it seem to be as close to vinyl feel as can be, it sounds almost analog too. While gushed endlessly about the CDX when it came out, I’m gushing equally about the feel and sound of the CDT-05. I’d have a pair of these in a heartbeat, and in place of CDXs as well. I’ve found that the features of the CDT-05 were much more useful to me than the CDX – the mix mode and hot starts in particular made this deeply attractive.
Overall, I was struck with the simplicity of the CDT-05. Trying to make a deck that runs CD, vinyl or both at the same time is a feat in itself, but Gemini have succeeded and at the same time, made it so easy to use. But not just easy, also very effective. Usability hasn’t been compromised in trying to do too much. It does what it’s supposed to and does it very well.
It’s not perfect though. It’s a tad ugly, big and has a Gemini logo on it - the latter in particular will immediately dismiss the CDT-05 to the bin for the armchair haters without even trying it out - but try it you must. Some will complain about the position of the CD slot but as I’ve explained to people over and over again, we scratch DJs are but a small part of the market and it the majority that has to be kept happy.
My one and only reservation is longevity. I’m assured by Gemini that they’ve made sure that stringent quality checks are applied to their products from the factory – more so than normal as they realise that the quality of the CDT is key to the growth of Gemini. Only time will tell if this is the case.
Skratchworx has a reputation for saying it like it is and I’m more than happy potentially lose my credibility and say that the CDT-05 is a gem of a deck and recommend it without reservation to each and every one of you. The CDT is without a doubt rocking my world. And if Gemini is good enough for Roc Raida then it’s good enough for me.
Build Quality - 8/10
Feels solid enough. I've shaken it, knocked it around and it comes back for more.
Sound Quality - 9/10
Outstanding vinyl emulation - more realistic than ever. And the DSP gives good effects.
Features and implementation - 9/10
Packed with easy to use functions, and the welding together of CD and vinyl is seamless.
Value for money - 9/10
Fully functioning CD and vinyl deck, loops, hot starts and effects that all work well. You get your money's worth with the CDT-05.
• Vinyl and CD
• 3 hot cues
• CD location means no battle position
The Bottom Line
The CDT-05 does exactly what it says it does and with style and class. If you want the best of both worlds, or want to put the fun back into your scratch sessions, buy the CDT-05 today.