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.

Finding the right DJ equipment

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 components

Now you're ready to start learning about all the components that go into a DJ setup.
  • Turntables
  • Mixers
  • CD Players
  • Computer Based Systems (Software, DVS & Controllers)
  • All-In-One-Packages
  • Glossary Terms
5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Turntable

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.

    1. Direct-Drive Turntables vs. Belt-Drive Turntables
  • For beginners on a budget belt-drive turntables are a common choice. Although they are more affordable than direct-drive, they can take some time getting up to speed. High-Torque Direct-drive turntables get up to speed faster, which is better for cueing records and are the preferred. Direct-Drive turntables also tend to hold pitch in a more stable manner, which aids on longer mixes.
    2. Start and Stop Buttons
  • Some tables offer multiple start/stop buttons for flexibility of DJ styles and how you angle your turntable (mix/scratch). Many let you adjust the start and stop speed so you can start music up quickly or wind it down slowly. The ability to change start/stop speeds can make a difference in your playing style.
    3. Speed Selector and Pitch Control
  • Playback speeds are usually set to 33 or 45rpm, some tables also offer a 78rpm setting. You can fine-tune all speeds by using the pitch control, which allows you to speed up and slow down the music up to 8% or more. This allows for easier beatmatching of one record to another. More advanced turntables also offer a selectable Pitch range for the pitch control (i.e. (+/-8%,+/-25%,+/-50%) with Quartz Lock so adjusting pitch is more accurate and consistent.(You may want to mention “Key Correction”, “Key Lock”, or “Master Tempo” here, a feature that allows the user to change the tempo without modifying the pitch).
    4. Straight Tone Arm vs. S-Shaped
  • Standard mixing can be easily done on either design. However a straight tone arm minimizes the risk of skipping and is ideal for scratching due to its tracking ability. Whereas the S-shaped tone arm offers better sound.quality when doing hi-fidelity recording. Note: a proper setup of tonearm weight makes all the difference in the world for both tracking and recording.
    5. Cost
  • For the hobby DJ spinning in a friend's basement or at small family parties, you can still play decent music on turntables offering minimal features. But for those looking to go pro, check out the more expensive tables with the stronger motors. Investing in quality decks now will serve you well in your longer-term plan.

Other considerations


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.


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.


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).


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.

5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Mixer

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.

    1. Channels
  • Each turntable or CD player you plug into the mixer is assigned its own channel, and every channel has its own set of controls. For DJs just starting out, a basic mixer with two or three channels and enough inputs for your turntables or CD players is usually enough to get you spinning.
    2. Inputs and Outputs
  • RCA inputs let you plug in your turntables and/or CD Players Some mixers include aux inputs are for plugging additional auxiliary audio devices (such as MP3 players / effects processors . Also common is a balanced output which sends sound to your amplifiers Some mixers also offer inputs that are selectable, you can connect either a turntable or CD Player into the same input. Make sure the mixer you choose has the connections you are most likely to use. If you are using turntables, unless your turntables have a line output, it is important that your mixers feature the ability to receive a phono signal. The output of a turntable is not traditionally at a line level.
    3. Controls
  • Mixers offer many controls, some are standard and others are not as common. Gain control is usually above each channel section and is used to control input levels. EQ knobs let you adjust the tone (bass, treble, midrange) for each channel. You may also find a kill switch on some mixers, which lets you turn off the lows, mids, or highs. Pan allows you to adjust the Left and Right balance of the input signal.
    4. Faders and Crossfaders
  • Like the names suggest, these sliding levers let you fade the volume in and out. One-channel faders control the volume for one source. A crossfader on the other hand allows you to simultaneously fade in one channel while fading out another. Because the crossfader tends to wear out due to heavy use, look for a mixer that has a replaceable crossfader. If you plan to scratch, make sure that your crossfader has a curve adjustment. Some scratch DJ’s are not interested in fading from one channel to the other, but rather prefer a steep curve that transfers immediately .
    5. Cost
  • Mixers have a wide price range mainly because they offer a wide range of features. For beginners, a few channels and essentials like gain control and EQ knobs, plus the basic inputs and outputs should give you what you need. You can always upgrade to a mixer with all the bells and whistles later – or purchase external effects modules.

Other considerations


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.

5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a CD Player

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.

    1. Tabletop vs. Dual Players
  • Tabletop players look a lot like traditional turntables and have room for one CD but include a larger jog wheel/platter. Dual rackmount CD players include one unit with two front-loading CD slots or trays and another unit with the transport controls. Neither option is technically better or worse, but DJs moving from vinyl tend to feel more at home with the desktop player due to its turntable look, whereas DJs looking for more compatibility and lower cost tend to prefer Dual Players which can be rack-mounted.
  • 2. Looping
  • A handy feature when you need to extend a song or when creating your own re-mixes. The looping feature lets you select a specific section of a song to play repeatedly. All you need to do is define your start and end points (cue points) and the loop is ready to play by pressing a button. The reloop button lets you play the loop over and over / re-enter the loop if currently not active. NOTE: looping is not standardized on all CD players try this feature on a variety of units to see which one works if needed.
  • 3. Pitch Control
  • Many CD players are more flexible than a traditional turntable when it comes to pitch control. Pitch control faders let you adjust the playback speed/pitch in order to match one record's beat to another, Pitch bend buttons give you more precise pitch adjustments and a pitch lock keeps the pitch the same at different speeds. Key lock or Master Tempo allows the user to change the tempo without modifying the pitch.
  • 4. Cost
  • What typically separates lower priced players from the higher ones is the feature set. At the lower end look for a player that can perform the basics well and has a good design. At the higher end, features like looping, different sound effects, sampling and scratch effects all add to the overall price.
  • 5. MP3 Functionality
  • Although most CD players will play MP3’s today, it is worth checking to make sure that they do. You may also want to check to make sure that it has full MP3 functionality, allowing the user to create sub-directories on the CD in order to organize their tracks plus the ability to use effects (if available) on MP3 files.
  • Stanton c324

Other considerations

Fader Start/Stop

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 Player

Transport 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.


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.

Other Additional Features

Several other features are available in CD players and vary from brand to brand:
  • Effects like echo, filter, phase, flanger, transform and pan are available.
  • Cue points let you go to a spot in a song by pushing a button.
  • Eject lock prevents accidentally ejecting a disk during play.
  • LCD displays help you see in the dark; the brighter the better.
5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Computer Based DJ System

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.

    1. Platform (Operating System)
  • Before you begin to look into a computer based system, you have to know what computer you are using or plan to use (if you haven’t already chosen one). Keep in mind that different computer manufacturers offer different platforms & operating systems (ie. MAC’s run OSX & PC’s run XP/Vista/Windows 7). This is extremely important to keep in mind when choosing what software you want to work with (some software have different requirements based upon the Platform / Operating system).
    2. Connectivity
  • Make sure your computer & hardware device have the same connection type (like USB / Firewire); and that you have enough ports to connect all devices (i.e. using a USB hub if your computer only has one USB port). Many computer based DJ systems come complete w/ an audio soundcard (for a more professional setup). Some of these devices require drivers for the port type (i.e. USB driver for ‘XYZ’ soundcard). Also keep in mind usage of any traditional DJ equipment like CD Players / Mixers / Turntables which many Digital Vinyl Systems require.
    3. Software
  • There are hundreds of DJ software programs out there, however many offer similar features (i.e. 2 or 4 Decks, Looping, FX, Multiple Cue Points / Triggers, MIDI messaging, Relative/Absolute mode for mixing/scratching, etc). Make sure the software you choose matches well w/ your computer’s Operating System and that it has MIDI capabilities if you plan on using it with a controller. Also be sure to find out what soundcards are recommended if not included w/ the package.
    4. DVS & or Controllers
  • Many DJ software packages come as a DVS, a complete package including software & hardware (soundcard / controller) using timecode Vinyl / CDs. Check to see what medium is offered and that you have the proper equipment for a DVS if that is your goal. Most professional software offers some level of MIDI messaging which is necessary when using a MIDI controller. The MIDI controller can easily enhance your experience and alleviate many of the headaches when only using the computer’s keyboard & mouse to control the software.
    5. Cost
  • Pricing on DJ software easily ranges from around $100 - $600 (or more) depending on what is included. The higher the price typically the more hardware you get. Some hardware like DJ controllers include software in either a full / light version. Remember some software include audio interfaces (soundcards) for use in a more professional realm (with headphones & analog gear like Mixers / Turntables / CD players). And some controllers can replace the need for Turntables / CD Players / Mixers or be used as and add on to enhance ones performance / options.
Things to Consider When Shopping for an All-In-One-Package

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.

    What's in the box?
  • Packages typically include a pair of turntables (or a dual CD player), slipmats, cartridges and stylus' (needles), mixer, headphones, and all the cables you need to connect everything together. Amps and speakers are usually not included.
    How much does it cost?
  • That depends on what brand you buy and the features that are included. Some packages start in the mid-hundreds and others can run you several thousand dollars. Refer to the other tabs in this buying guide for more details on each piece of equipment and then make yourself a checklist of which features are must-haves for you.

Aux Return:

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.

Beat Juggling:

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.

Beat Matching:

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.

MIDI Controller:

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.

RCA (Phono Plug):

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)

Stylus (needle):

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.