Looking for a thorough DJ equipment guide?
Are you just getting started as a professional DJ?
Whether you’re producing and mixing at home or are looking to get your act on the road as soon as possible, it makes sense to invest in some fantastic tech to help you play your tunes to the masses.
But you’re going to need more than just decks, headphones and a decent pair of speakers these days. Beginner DJs should be thinking carefully about a wide variety of hardware and software choices, which means you should also be careful in planning your budget well in advance, too.
Here’s a quick guide to everything you’re going to need to get your first DJ setup up and running before you head to the clubs.
Source Your Equipment
Of course – the first thing you’re going to need to do is start searching for the best DJ equipment. This is going to take some serious shopping around, so make sure you have a firm budget in place, and you’re reading plenty of buying guides to give you inspiration along the way.
You might also want to think about whether you’re going to buy equipment outright, or if you’d benefit from renting your equipment instead. Buying your DJ tech means that, of course, it’s yours for life. This is likely to be a great option for anyone who is serious about DJing long term, or as a career.
Renting means you often need to be extra careful. You may find that renting is cheaper in the short term, but career DJs should look into buying their own systems outright!
There’s a benefit to renting, however, in the sense that you’ll be able to get a feel for leading equipment and branded systems before you buy. You’re not necessarily going to get the chance to try the equipment and tech you buy otherwise, so this might be a solid avenue. Otherwise, we seriously suggest you go ahead and buy your DJ equipment outright.
What Equipment Will You Need?
While no two DJ setups are quite the same, there are always going to be a few essentials you should stock up on.
Here’s a quick breakdown of everything you’re going to need, alongside a few brands and options you might want to look closer into in your own time.
While it’s possible for you to go ahead and start mixing and performing without a laptop or Mac Book, the modern way is to get yourself a solid, high-performance system you can load everything into and up from.
There are plenty of big brands out there – Apple is always a safe choice, regardless of the DAW you want to run and the controllers you’d like to use – however, you might want to take a look at a laptop running Windows with at least an i5 processor, and at least 16GB RAM.
This means that you’ll be tapping into a computer that will keep up to all your DJing demands without any of that annoying slowdown. The last thing you want when mixing or performing live is, of course, to have to deal with a clunky piece of kit.
Mixers are at the heart of your operation. It’s here where you’re going to connect your inputs and outputs, and where you’re going to keep track of channels, gain and EQ. Therefore, you could make an argument that all good DJ setups start with finding the perfect mixer or two.
These tend to come in all shapes and sizes and may even come with DAW software attached, which you can install to your laptop. Look for big brands such as Pioneer, whose DJM-2000 offers an LCD as well as four separate channels for multiple inputs.
Of course, Behringer is also a safe bet, and their DDM4000 is a great pick towards the budget end of the scale.
DJ Controllers combine the best of mixer and turntable technology. That’s because you pretty much have everything you need to get up and running with in a simple device. The best DJ controllers are those which offer flexible jogwheels and an array of performance pads for you to diversify your performances.
There are some solid picks out there – again, Pioneer produces plenty of great controllers, though you might want to drift towards the solid Numark Mixtrack range if you’re on a tight budget for great quality music control.
Turntables and Other Inputs
Prefer to go old-school? No problem. Mixers of all shapes and sizes still welcome turntable inputs. Vinyl is still very much alive and well, and it’s often the best way to get access to some of the biggest and best 12” mixes on the scene.
Modern turntables and decks worth looking into include Pioneer’s CDJ 350, as well as the pleasing Numark NTX1000, which helps to keep things refreshingly simple. You might also want to start looking into cassette players and CD players, too, if you’re into your old-school media! And why not?
Software and DAWs
If you’ve got a laptop up and running, you’re going to need some solid software to run mixes through, too. A DAW is a digital suite through which you can play samples, edit loops, and generally manage your whole mix. Provided you have a stack of outputs and hardware, you can put software to great effect when playing in the club.
Each DAW and suite has something a little different to offer. You could keep things simple with Apple’s intuitive GarageBand suite, or you could opt for something highly regarded by industry professionals, such as FL Studio and Ableton. In fact, you will likely find that there are some top DJ controllers out there built with Ableton Live in mind.
Headphones are everything, even when you’re playing live. This is because you’re going to need a private line-in, so you can tell how your mix is going to sound to the masses. With all that feedback, it pays to have a private option to listen to your mix while you’re actively mixing and building along the way.
There are, as you can imagine, plenty of different types of headphones out there. But be sure to look for headphones built for performance and studio use. These will help you listen into the finer points of your music, so you can make sure your crowds are getting the best of your mixes.
Sennheiser and Sony tend to be solid picks as far as great DJ headphones are concerned. You might want to take a look at Sony’s studio offerings in the form of the MDR-Z7, for example. They are a little pricey, but they are certainly worth it for HD quality audio.
Speakers are perhaps some of the trickiest pieces of DJ kit you’ll need to invest in. That’s because there are so many types, brands, and lines out there.
Crucially, if you’re going to be playing to the masses, you should be looking for PA speakers as a priority. If you’re just going to be mixing to record in the studio, then studio monitors – naturally – are going to work best for you.
There are stacks of great picks for monitors and PAs alike. Take a look at the Presonus Eris E5, for example, if you’re looking for a single studio support with crisp clarity.
If you’re playing live, and want something portable yet powerful, make a point of investing in something as flexible as the Roland BA330, which likely won’t set your budget back too much.
Think carefully about other pieces of equipment and tech you might need. You’re going to need to protect your equipment, for example. Have you got cases for your mixers, laptop, and controllers? What about your headphones? It pays to keep things tightly under wraps.
Make sure, too, to consider if you need stands or units to house your speakers while you perform. When you start playing the wider club circuit, you will probably be able to take advantage of each venue’s individual speakers.
But to keep completely mobile, it pays to have your own tech, and stands, to hand.
DJ Equipment Guide Conclusion: What Makes the Best DJ Setup?
No two DJ setups are quite the same. Therefore, there isn’t a “perfect” setup per se. But there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when setting up for the first time.
You’re going to need a DJ setup that’s lightweight and flexible. But you should also look closely into brand appeal. The more appealing and better-known the brand is, generally, the more confidence you can place in it.
What’s more, always read up on what seasoned DJs and verified buyers have to say. There’s perhaps nothing more reliable when first starting out!
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- DJ Equipment Guide: How to Build a Beginner DJ Setup - August 25, 2020