In its more than 30 years in the industry, Gemini has a varied history. In the '80s, its mixers were popular with budding scratch DJs, and the company sponsored DJ Jazzy Jeff, who helped design the Gemini 2200 — a successful mixer aimed at scratch DJs. In recent years, the Gemini brand unfortunately has become synonymous with entry-level, bargain-basement products, having been surpassed by more desirable gear from the likes of Vestax, Numark and Rane.
Clearly, Gemini has decided to do something about this, starting with the release of a new hybrid turntable. The CDT-05 is an attractively priced, scratchable CD turntable that also includes a straight-arm vinyl turntable.
A third-party manufacturer mass produces the CDT-05 for Gemini, which took a strong role in development of the product. Gemini added some differentiating features such as a straight-arm tonearm (instead of the traditional s-shape) and a rearranged layout intended to be ergonomically friendly to scratch DJs. Prototype shots of the Gemini CDT-05 were posted more than a year ago on UK scratch DJ Website Skratchworx (www.skratchworx.com). Shortly thereafter, Numark announced its X2 Hybrid turntable, likely to be the CDT-05's strongest competitor.
Having recently reviewed the Numark HDX (a hard-disk and CD-based scratchable turntable), I could not help but compare its relative performance and CD-scratching abilities with the CDT-05. Assuming that Numark's X2 uses the same scratch engine as the HDX and CDX, the question is: Can comparable CD-scratching performance come from significantly less expensive equipment than Numark gear?
The look and feel of the CDT-05 is fairly utilitarian — it won't win any beauty contests. The turntable's main body consists of brushed black metal. The four-line dot matrix LCD is backlit in green. Some of the buttons sport green LEDs and others are blue — a somewhat weird combination. The controls are laid out intuitively, and while most of the buttons are fairly small, they are clearly labeled and require little reading of the manual to master.
The platter features a vinyl record and slipmat, held in place by a plastic disk (called the Scratch Anchor) roughly the size of a record's center label. The CDT-05 is slightly larger than a standard vinyl turntable and boasts 3.6 kg/cm of torque; not as high as some of the newest breed of turntables, but better than that of the venerable Technics SL-1200MK2.
The CDT-05 is a breeze to hook up. It comes with two pairs of easily accessible RCA connectors: one for CD out (line level) and one for phono out. Along with the power connector and on/off switch, there is an S/PDIF digital output, a Relay connection (for hooking up and remotely starting a second CDT-05) and a Fader port (for connecting to mixers that support remote fader start). Also included is a Voltage Selector for switching from 115V to 230V — a handy addition if you travel internationally.
PLAY IT LIKE A CD
A slot-loading CD mechanism on the front accepts CDs. I experienced some weird behavior with the Stop/Eject button where it would eject CDs and immediately try to load them again. The workaround was to grab the CD as soon as it was ejected and remove it before it was sucked back in. That is not ideal because it could damage CDs.
The CDT-05 plays audio and MP3 CDs. To play CDs, flip the Operation Mode switch to CD. Once loaded, the track number shows on the LCD. With MP3 CDs, the track name is also displayed. A Track Skip knob to the left of the platter allows you to select the track that you want to play. Once you press Play, the platter starts spinning, and the CD plays. After a few seconds, the LCD displays the track's bpm. The bpm engine does a decent job of calculating the tempo, but there is no way to correct it if it is wrong (like with the HDX's Beatkeeper).
To scratch CDs, simply manipulate the platter as you would a vinyl turntable. The scratch effect is remarkably good — even slow drags and rubs sound very vinyl-like, something that has been a challenge for many scratchable CD players. For the sake of comparison, I would say there was no noticeable difference between the scratch effect of the Numark HDX and the CDT-05.
The CDT-05 can apply three DSP effects — echo, filter and flanger — to the music. Since the effects are applied at the audio source, they are prefader, which reduces their usefulness to scratch DJs because they get cut when the fader is closed. Mix DJs will find them useful, and they sound quite good. Effect amount and certain parameters (such as echo delay length) are adjustable through the Track Skip knob, which does double duty as the DSP parameter adjustment when an effect is engaged.
Pitch control is configurable by ±4, ±8, ±16 or ±50 percent. Annoyingly, the CDT-05 doesn't remember that setting after you power off; instead, it defaults to ±8 percent. Two pitch-bend buttons temporarily adjust the pitch for as long as they are held, which is useful for correcting a drifting beatmix. The pitch section also features key lock, which allows the speed of the track to change without affecting the key. As is my experience with most turntable key-lock features, that performs only an adequate job and introduces digital flange effects if you set the pitch fader to anything more than about 3 percent.
The CDT-05 includes three reverse modes, configurable through the Fwd/Rev switch and Instant Reverse button. In normal mode, the switch simply reverses the direction of the platter, and the resulting sound is identical to reversing a vinyl turntable platter. Pressing Instant Reverse momentarily sets the switch to reverse the audio immediately (without the platter slowdown effect). When the switch is flipped back, the audio continues playing on beat, from where it would have been had you not flipped the switch (essentially a “bleep” switch that could be used to reverse out dirty words). Pressing the Instant Reverse button for a longer time changes the instant reverse behavior to play — when the switch flips back — the audio from the point at which you first flipped the switch (like traditional reverse without the platter slowdown effect). In all three modes, the platter physically reverses. While the reverse features sound great, it would be better if the two instant reverse modes did not reverse the platter rotation and instead affected only the audio (like on the HDX).
The CDT-05 also includes seamless looping. Three buttons control that and are labeled A, for setting the loop start point; B/Edit, for setting or resetting the loop end point; and Reloop, for performing stutter effects on the loop. Loops can be set on the fly while a track plays or from Pause mode by stopping the platter and manually cueing the start and end points. There is no mechanism for automatically fine-tuning the loop based on the recognized bpm, a feature included on some other DJ-oriented CD players, including the HDX.
The CDT-05 can also store three Hot Cue points. Pressing the Memo button followed by one of the three numbered buttons stores an instant cue point and can then instantly recall it. That was one of my favorite features of the CDT-05 because you can create your own remix by quickly alternating between three different samples. It would be nice, however, if there was an option to save Hot Cue Points; they are lost when the CDT powers off.
Of slight concern was some audible hiss I noticed when the platter was turned off. When moving the platter slightly, there is a faint click and then some hiss for a few seconds from the DSP and DAC used to re-create the scratch effect. The hiss is impossible to hear during song playback (even during a silent part of a track), so while it was noticeable, it's not a major concern.
VINYL AIN'T JUST FOR SEATS
As a vinyl turntable, the CDT-05 does a fine job. The setup for vinyl scratching is a little unusual because it requires placing a thick, spongy slipmat over top of the platter/Scratch Anchor. Because the Scratch Anchor is raised, the slipmat has a large hole cut out of its middle. With the slipmat in place, you switch the Operation Mode to TT, place your record on top of the slipmat/vinyl/slipmat sandwich and cue the tonearm as per usual.
I was skeptical about that setup. Other than feeling slightly higher and springier than a traditional vinyl-only turntable, however, the solution works remarkably well. The straight-arm tonearm is very skip resistant. While the tonearm does not impress me as a particularly high-quality piece of engineering, I could find no fault with the vinyl scratching ability, even when using a normally skip-happy needle/cartridge combination. Also, I experienced no more record burn than would be expected from a straight-arm turntable.
The looping and effects features are unfortunately unavailable with vinyl playback. In vinyl mode, the CDT-05 bypasses the DSP and functions as a regular turntable. The start/stop button, platter reverse switch and pitch controls are available and function as would be expected on a traditional turntable.
Despite a decent torque rating, I found that in vinyl mode, it was fairly easy to cause the platter to physically slow down while performing certain scratch techniques. I am not a particularly heavy-handed scratcher, so I can only attribute that to a result of the double vinyl/slipmat stack. While also not a major problem, it was noticeable.
ONE MO' MODE
The CDT-05 features a third Operation Mode called Mix. In Mix mode, you can simultaneously play CDs and vinyl. That is a brilliant addition to the CDT-05 (and not available on the Numark X2). While in Mix mode, the CD is controlled through the Play/Pause button and is not affected by movement of the platter. The looping, effects and pitch-bend controls affect the CD playback, while the platter on/off, pitch fader and reverse controls affect vinyl playback.
That is a killer feature of the CDT-05. The versatility to scratch vinyl along to a looped drumbeat on CD — both playing from the same piece of equipment — scores big for Gemini because its primary competitor does not include that feature.
Kudos go to Gemini for introducing an affordable piece of DJ equipment that incorporates great-sounding vinyl and CD-scratch abilities into a single unit. It may be unfair to compare the CDT-05 to the higher priced equipment from Numark, but Gemini's ads for the CDT-05 definitely call out the CDX and HDX by saying, “We remembered the tone arm.”
Thankfully for Gemini, the CDT-05 can stand up to comparisons with Numark gear and is a lot of fun to explore. If this is the shape of things to come for Gemini, then it's on the right path toward redeeming its reputation and appears able to do it without pricing products out of reach for the average DJ.
CDT-05 > $1,180
Pros: Vinyl and CD scratch ability in one unit. Decent effects. Mix mode allows simultaneous vinyl and CD playback. Attractively priced.
Cons: Poor key-lock performance. CD ejection weirdness. No memory of settings/hot cue points after powering down.