Your guide to buying DJ Equipment
The DJ equipment you need to get started is now more accessible than ever. DJing is even taught in schools as a BTEC program, so children and teenagers are now just as likely to get started with a pair of decks as they are to pick up a guitar for the first time.
What kind of DJ do you want to be?
Is this just going to be a hobby, or are you planning to eventually perform your own sets to large audiences? Whatever your intentions are, your path towards mastering the basics could be closer than you think. Read on to learn what DJ equipment you’ll need to get started, as well as learning about the main formats available to the modern DJ.
Back in the 1970s, a basic DJ setup would cost you at least £1,500. Thankfully, the options available to you now are not only cheaper, but more varied and widely accessible.These days, you can complete your setup for under £500 – and you still might have some budget for lasers, smoke machines and other extras.In the past, DJs were restricted to vinyl records, but nowadays aspiring disc jockeys have a wide range of options. Many people have stuck with vinyl records, but CD players, digital decks and computer-based DJ controllers continue to rise in popularity.The options may seem overwhelming and you may not know which option to go with, so find out which music formats best suit your needs below.
Around the turn of the century it looked like vinyl had become a thing of the past. However, vinyl records have made a comeback in recent years, and many people continue to collect them today. With supporters claiming that digital formats simply cannot recreate the magical intricacies of vinyl records, it appears they are here to stay.While many of the original turntable models have been discontinued, a number of exciting new turntable models have become available, and many people continue to collect readily available vinyl records.
Vinyl records produce a unique crackling background noise created by the stylus. This has not been recreated in digital formats, and enthusiasts claim that this crackling effect is part of what makes vinyl records magical.You would be surprised at the vast range of records available to the vinyl collector. There are many useful online marketplaces, and to some there is no better feeling than unearthing a hidden gem at their local record store.Many producers release rare test mixes on acetate dub plates, which are only playable on vinyl decks. If you want to play rare tracks that digital DJs simply cannot get hold of, then consider a set of vinyl turntables.Vinyl DJing is the most difficult format to learn, as it requires more delicate control and skill than alternative formats. Choose vinyl if you relish a highly rewarding challenge.
To mix vinyl records, you will need two turntables and a mixer. Check whether your turntable comes with a stylus. Usually sitting in a head shell, this is the needle that reads your vinyl records.
Vinyl could be for you if…
- You want to rediscover all those vinyl records in your loft and re-live the older days of DJing dipped in your younger days.
- You want to mix with rare tracks that digital DJs simply can’t get hold of.
- You prefer analogue technology, and talk of MP3s, laptops and software doesn’t appeal to you.
There are two types of vinyl turntables: belt driven and direct drive.
Direct drive turntables are the preferred choice for those wanting a high-performance pair of decks. They provide more torque, so you can scratch and pull back more effectively.
Belt driven turntables are typically less expensive and less powerful. They provide less torque, but are still ideal for mixing one track into another.
After rising to prominence in the 1990s, CDs became the format of choice for many DJs. CD players continue to be popular for DJs who desire portability and convenience.
They have been around for 30 years, and commercial CDs are readily available online, at records stores, supermarkets and even at petrol stations.You can burn your own CDs in most computers or CD recorders.Smaller in size and less delicate than vinyl records, CDs are more robust and portable.CD player tutorials are fun to learn and easy to find in video format on the internet. This is a great way to learn new skills or how different features work.CD players are easier to learn with than vinyl turntables, as they have intuitive features such as BPM identification and auto cue.
If your burn your own CDs, check what format you CD player can read. This could be any combination of CD-R, CD+R, CD RW and MP3 CDs.You can learn how to use loops, cue points and other advanced DJ techniques that are difficult to replicate using vinyl.
Some CD players allow you to use USB sticks to connect your laptop. This gives you more flexibility and control, so check whether your controller has these options available before you finalise your purchase.
CDs could be for you if…
- You have an extensive collection of CDs to DJ with.
- You would rather burn your digital music to CDs than carry your laptop around with you
CD players have platters – wheels designed to emulate spinning records that you can use to scroll through tracks.Look out for controllers with vinyl mode or scratch mode. These modes allow you to scratch – a technique often used by hip-hop DJs.Delay, echo, filter and phaser are some of the most popular sound effects found on CD players. Check what effects your decks have before you purchase.
Digital audio formatting has revolutionised the music industry, and this can be seen prominently in the DJ world. With most families owning at least one laptop, it’s easy to see why digital controllers are becoming the go-to for DJs.Digital controllers typically use a laptop screen to display their interface. This is highly intuitive, as DJs can make use of the visual representation of exactly what they are doing.
Highly portable, as you can carry your massive music collection with you on a small device like a hard drive.You can carry your controller and laptop in a rucksack and easily transport everything to the next big house party.Highly intuitive due to the visuals displayed on your laptop. Intuitive displays and a wealth of information means digital controllers are the easiest to learn to DJ on. Some digital controllers will even connect to a tablet.
Digital controllers are not stand alone. They require a connection to a laptop. Check whether your controller comes with its own software. This could save you money as advanced DJ software can be expensive.When using headphones, some digital controllers accept quarter inch jacks, some accept mini jacks and some give you access to both. Check what headphone types your controller is compatible with before you purchase. Some digital controllers are compatible with iTunes, so you can use your laptop, iPad or iPhone to mix your music collection for friends and family.
Digital controllers could be for you if…
- You want to learn DJ techniques in the quickest and easiest way
- You have a laptop with a sizeable music collection on your hard drive
- You like to see a visual representation of what you are doing
- You are comfortable with digital software
An audio interface or sound card lets you output music to your amp and speakers.
Serato, VirtualDJ, Mix Vibes and Traktor are four of the most popular DJ software titles on the market. Each has different advantages and disadvantages.
Controllers are often designed for use with specific types of software. Check your controller’s compatibility before you purchase.
Headphones are used to cue your next track. You can audition a song through your headphones without having to play it through your speakers, which is essential if you want to get your mix right. What type of headphones should you go for? These are the features to look out for when buying headphones for DJing:
- High output: - A loud pair of headphones will further help you hear your cued tracks over the background noise
- Comfort: - As you will be wearing these headphones for long peroids of time, you'll want them to be comfortable and cause no strain to the ear
- Cable length: - You may need to move around a lot while you are playing, as you could be mixing for hours at a time. A long cable will give you freedom of movement.
- Robustness: - Your headphone will be transported across distances and parties and events can become rowdy places. Choose a robust pair so they will last through it all
Your speaker requirements will change depending on where you are DJing and how big your audience is.If you are just practicing in your bedroom for now, have a look at our active monitors. They are usually small in size but highly efficient. With inbuilt amps, studio monitors can be loud if you want them to be. You will need to plug them into a power source, and we recommend placing them at head height if you can. For parties and larger venues, take a look at our PA speakers and systems. They are loud, powerful speakers with subs that can produce loud, clear bass. This will be an essential piece of kit if you are looking to step up your game and play to larger audiences.
For your setup to work, everything needs to be connected; you’re going to need some cables. Depending on what equipment you are using, you may need the following.
- Phono lead – This connects your CD player or turntables to the mixer, or your controller to the monitors also known as an RCA cable.
- XLR cable – This will connect the speakers in your PA system together. In some cases, an XLR cable is used when your controller or mixer has an XLR balanced output also known as a Cannon.