Camelot Sound Harmonic Key Database Review

Focus: Harmonic Mixing

Tags: review

Harmonic mixing seems to be in the spotlight more than ever these days. Many new DJs want to learn how to use it in their mixes and more companies are developing products that detect keys for your tunes. One company that provides a different take on harmonic mixing is Camelot Sound.

You’ve probably heard of them before even if they don’t immediately come to mind. Mark Davis over at Camelot Sound is the one who came up with the simple system that combines numbers and letters to categorize keys that you’re probably used to seeing. If you’ve ever done a harmonic mix using the Camelot Key system and thought about how easy it is to do, then you’ve got Camelot Sound to thank for that.

The Camelot Sound Difference

The difference between Camelot Sound and its competitors is two-fold. First it takes a different approach to presenting key information to you. Instead of buying a piece of software that you download to your computer, you purchase access to their online database. You can buy access in batches of 1, 3, or 6 months at the rate of $10 per month or $100 for a year’s worth of access. You can access the database anytime with a simple username and password login after you complete your purchase.

The second difference is that instead of using a piece of software to detect keys, all of the key information in the database is identified by ear. That means that a real person took the time to listen to each track and manually identify its key. As far as I know, it is the only service that does this with a database of its size.

The Pros

Camelot Sound’s main advantage over competing products is the emphasis on accuracy. Manually identifying every track should produce much more accurate results than software algorithms. While I don’t know the inner-workings of the company, the emphasis on accuracy over speed of detection or other factors is promising.

One important factor when judging any type of web service or software application is ease of use. Navigating through a database can be rather difficult and tedious if not set up correctly. Thankfully, Camelot Sound makes it easy to search and filter the database entries to find exactly what you are looking for. You can search for the obvious, like artist or track title, and you can also filter by BPM, Key, and Genre. These filters can be combined. For example, you could search for tracks at 128bpm in the key of 2A and include tracks within a set range of BPM differences. I don’t know of other software applications have the same level of filters.

The Cons

There are really only two downsides to using the Camelot Sound database and both are minor when compared to the positives. The first is the issue of internet connectivity. You have to have access to the internet to access the database. Mixed in Key has a similar issue in that you have to be online to key new tracks. However, Mixed in Key does keep an internal database of previously keyed tracks.

The second issue is the lack of automated metadata insertion. With a program like Mixed in Key, once a key is detected, the key information can automatically be added to a track’s ID3 metadata. With the Camelot Sound database, you would have to manually insert the key information into your digital files or physical media labels. Both of these cons are inconveniences more than anything else, and as I said before the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

My Experience

The fine folks over at Camelot Sound gave me access to the database to test out their service. As a web service, I never had any problems connecting to the site itself or accessing the database at the random hours I chose to login and as I mentioned before, it’s surprisingly easy to use considering the size and scope of the database.

It’s tough to judge a service, like the Camelot Sound database, when I myself cannot manually key tracks. I compared track keys identified in a variety of programs to the ones in the database and found some similarities and differences. However, I can’t tell which keys are accurate and which ones are not as I don’t have the ability to key tracks by ear. This is the case with any key detection system when you can’t identify them yourself. You have to somewhat blindly accept the keys identified for you. For this very reason, I have recommended in the past that once you pick a key detection method, you stay with it. If you decide to switch methods, you should think of it as a fresh start.

The Final Verdict

I was happy with my experience testing out what Camelot Sound has to offer. If accuracy is the most important factor in your decision process in deciding between one key detection system or another, this may very well be the solution for you. Even though I liked the filters a lot - and wish other programs had the same capabilities - there is one drawback that will keep me from continuing to use the service. If I buy a track the day it is released, I want to get its key right away. Realistically I can’t expect Camelot Sound to keep up with every new release, and for that reason I don’t fault them for it. Remember that just because Camelot Sound isn’t right for me, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you.

If you’re looking for a first step into harmonic mixing or are unhappy with the results of other software solutions, you should give Camelot Sound a try. $10 for a month of access will give you plenty of time to test out the service and judge it for yourself without breaking the bank. This is just another reminder to me about one of the great advantages of the digital DJ era: There are so many different tools and methods out there that eventually you will find the one that is right for you.