Whether you plan to perform for a crowd of 1,000 or 1, making sure you have the right equipment is the first step to success. This guide will take you through the different equipment options and some of the lingo you'll need before you start looking at products.
Vinyl vs. Digital
The big decision you have to make is what you plan to spin. Are you more traditional and prefer vinyl? Or do you love the portability that CDs offer, allowing you to carry a huge collection of music from gig to gig. Even if you have trouble deciding, you can start with one and add the other later. Remember many CD Players can play MP3 files from a CD just as easily as an audio disc.. (No mention of MP3 and the mediums for it: iPod, hard dirves, SD cards, etc.) Digital music can also be found in the form of MP3’s on iPods, hard drives, SD cards, etc. And now with the invention of Digital Vinyl Systems (DVS) like FinalScratch, Serato & Traktor DJ (just to name a few). Digital DJ-ing has a whole new meaning; creating a hybrid DJ, one who uses both Digital & Analog DJ equipment via a laptop computer.
Separates vs. Package
You've got two ways to go when looking to purchase DJ equipment: buy each piece of gear separately or go for a package which gives you all the pieces in one box and at one price. While professional or aspiring DJs typically choose pieces separately in order to customize their setup, beginners and hobby DJs usually do well to start with a package. Keep in mind that even if you start with a complete package many allow you to upgrade separate components as you progress. Check to see what DJ systems / products are MP3 compatible if this is a format you plan to use. The advantage to purchasing a package is that you get a system with components that are designed to work with one another, at a price that is usually better than the sum of the componentsNow you're ready to start learning about all the components that go into a DJ setup.
Things like how much torque you have in your turntable motor and which kind of tone arm you use can impact your overall performance. Because you want to sound your best every time you play, it's important to get the best tables you can afford.
Holds the stylus (needle) and converts the vibrations from the stylus to an electronic signal. Make sure you have the right cartridge for your application / DJ style. Some cartridges come pre-mounted others are an all in one design which don’t require or allow for much modification.Platter:
The round plate that the record sits on. Although most are aluminum, some platters are made of different materials and others include additional sound dampening material underneath for more professional use.Spindle:.
The metal tip in the center of the platter that the hole in the record fits through. If you have a record smaller than 12” that does not fit this spinde it is likely you may need a 45 adaptor. Check to see if this is included in your planned purchase.Stylus (needle):
The tip that picks up the vibrations from the groove in a record. There are mainly two types of styli. Elliptical and Spherical. Although most DJs use Spherical for its tracking ability (less skipping) if you plan to record your vinyl collection an Elliptical styli may be preferred (especially when doing hi-fidelity archiving).Output:
All turntables should include an audio output which is most commonly a RCA output. Many modern turntables offer a variety of output types (such as Phono/Line switchable RCA, SP/DIF and USB) to allow for connectivity to non traditional DJ applications. If you plan to use your turntable in a non traditional manner (without a DJ mixer) make sure you have the proper output.
Often considered the heart and soul of any DJ setup, the mixer can be the difference in you sounding like an amateur or sounding like a professional DJ. Your mixer connects your gear together and houses many of the controls and features that help you customize your sound.
All mixers should include a proper headphone output so you can pre-listen (CUE) the music. Check to see where the headphone output is and that is does not hinder your preferred DJ Style.CUE Pan/Fader:
When pre-listening to the music generally you can CUE each channel or the master signer by using the CUE pan or fader. See where this is on your planned purchase and what type suits you style.Mic Inputs:
Depending on your application or DJ style you may need to connect a microphone. Check to make sure you have the proper connection type if this applies to you.Led Meters:
Some mixers offer LED meters. These lighted bars are usually found by each channel input and/or the master output. The LED meters are important to watch so that you do not distort you sound or damage other equipment.Booth or Zone Output:
Some more professional mixers are likely to have a booth/zone output. This is used when sending the master signal to another location such as a zoned room or the DJ booth. Check to make sure if you need this option before you purchase your mixer.Output Types:
Most mixers have at least RCA mater outputs.. Many more professional DJ mixers offer other outputs such as 1/4" (Quarter Inch) or XLR (Balanced), make sure you have the proper cables for your mixer so you can properly amplify your sound if needed.
The improvements in digital CD players in the last few years have caused many DJs to leave their turntables behind. In the end it's up to you whether you prefer spinning vinyl or CDs. If you choose to go with CD players, here are the features to look for.
Some digital players offer a fader start feature that lets you crossfade over to a channel without having to press a cue button to play the track. The fader stop automatically stops the player as soon as you fade out its channel. DJs who like to beat juggle will especially appreciate this feature. Sometimes this is referred as a Remote connection on the Mixer &/ CD PlayerTransport Controls
Most CD Players have similar transport controls; Start/Play, Stop/Pause, Eject, Track select, Scroll Forward /. Back and sometimes multiple Cue buttons, which are usually grouped together). Make sure you try the buttons to decide if they are the right size and that they feel good to you.Memory
A relative fear for DJs who spin in public places is the needle or CD skipping due to excessive vibrations (i.e. when the floor shakes). Some CD players with buffer memory ensure that the music you are playing won't skip a beat, this feature is commonly known as anti-shock. Some CD players even offer data storage with internal memory or removable memory cards which let you store cue and loop points.
Computer specifications like RAM & Operating System can easily impact your overall performance. Because you want your experience to be a stable and uninterrupted one, it's important to get the right (compatible) software & hardware for not only your computer but also your DJ style. Choosing wisely can make the difference between minutes or hours of setup.
If you're making your first leap into the world of DJing and you don't know what you want, a package is an easy way to get everything you need at a reasonable price and without the stress of researching and buying each piece separately.
Short for Auxiliary Return. A control, usually found on a mixer, for adjusting the level of "returning" signals from outboard equipment patched into the mixer's Auxiliary buss. Aux Send: Short for Auxiliary Send. A control for adjusting the level of the signal sent from the console input channel to outboard equipment or an amplifier via the Auxiliary buss.
A popular mixing technique which involves mixing two identical programs with a slight offset to create a doubling of the bass line. This technique also includes mixing two different programs in tempo to create a more complex alternating beat structure.
A mixing technique where two programs with similar beat structure are mixed together in tempo, creating a seamless transition between the two songs.
A single audio signal received through the mixer from a turntable or CD player.
Fading in one track while fading out another.
A point in a song that you want to start from DVS: Short for Digital Vinyl System. A time code based DJ-ing system that connects with the computer via a soundcard. This time code is usually presented in the form of a vinyl record (although CDs are available) which allows the DJ to manipulate the playback of digital audio files on a computer using the turntables as an interface.
A control used to adjust the gain of an input or output channel on a mixer.
Also known as IEEE 1394 a serial bus interface standard for high-speed communications and isochronous real-time data transfer. Considered a high definition audio standard, frequently used by personal computers, as well as in digital audio, digital video, automotive, and aeronautics applications.
Miniature speakers worn on the head that allow you to hear the audio output. LED (Light Emitting Diode): A small diode device which passes current in one direction and lights whenever a voltage above a certain level is fed to it.
To carefully listen to and study a recording or mix so as to make adjustments. A speaker used as a listening reference for recording or live mixing. A meter or display device that provides a visual reference of audio signal levels.
A hardware device used to control software via MIDI protocol (messaging). MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface usually found in keyboards & drum machines. Some of the many use cases for MIDI controllers are recording, audio, DJ and lighting software.
Known as Random Access Memory, is computer memory used for creating, loading, or running programs and for the temporary storage and manipulation of data; considered random because the time of access to each item is independent of the storage sequence.
A popular audio plug found on stereo audio cables featuring a center pin connector and outer shell connector. Mates with panel mounted female jacks like those found on the rear of most home stereo equipment.
Stands for revolutions per minute – how many times the record completes a spin in a minute.
Lies between the turntable surface (the platter) and the record to reduce friction.
Also known as an audio card / audio interface, is a computer expansion card that facilitates the input and output of audio signals to and from a computer. This is primarily used with DJ / Recording software, some of which are proprietary for a specific application. Many sound cards will also allow you to record into your computer (ex. archiving vinyl records)
The tip of a cartridge that picks up the vibrations from the groove in a record. Usually can be replaced after it has worn down from months of use.
Stands for Universal Serial Bus and is an interface standard for communication between a computer and external peripherals over an inexpensive cable (USB Cable) using two way transmissions. Typically found on computer mice, keyboards, printers, external hard drives cameras etc. If your computer only has one or two USB ports a USB hub is recommended.