Monday, 11 April 2011

Audio: What Do I Need To Start DJ-ing?

Audio here,
                    So i have heard this question from a lot of people, (i remember asking it myself at one point) as a lot of kids want to start mixing their own tunes, or just get into the hobby. For the purpose of this particular article, I will just talk about the pieces of hardware you need. Maybe in a later entry I could talk about technique, or how to promote yourself etc.

You Only Need 5 Things To Start:

1: A Mixer
                   Ok, so this is the first one, and also a big one. You Need at least a two channel mixer with a crossfader. This just means the mixer can handle two inputs. This could be a turntable, cd deck, mp3 player, laptop, you name it. The crossfader is simply for panning between your two channels at will. This is how DJs get a continuous mix going throughout the night, by constantly having one track ready to go. These mixers come in a wide range of prices, that can easily run you thousands, for a pro model. But here's a link to a decent beginner mixer, with two channels and a crossfader for only $80. These are easy to upgrade, as all you need to do is unplug your old one and strap on your new one.

2: Turntables Or CD Decks
                                              Ok, so here's where things get a little more complicated, and a little more pricey. You need your decks so you can play your music. In theory you could just have your iPod and a CD player hooked up to your mixer, but that doesn't allow you have the same quality or functionality of decks. The purpose of decks is that you can find specific passages of songs quickly, through analog means. (Literally picking up the needle and dropping it on that sick break you wanted to add) When looking for a good turntable, the number one thing you want is for it to be direct drive. This is opposed to the cheaper alternative of belt drive. Belt drive means that there is a little gear inside the turntable attached to a belt that spins the plate which spins your record. There's a lot of moving parts in this design, which generally leads to more breaking, and a more uneven sound. A direct drive has the plate directly attached to the motor, which is more reliable and has a more even sound. I understand how many newbies might not care, so i scoped a cheap introductory turntable for about $150.
Alternatively, you can purchase CD decks, which works similarly to a turntable, and in fact, are actually modeled to look and feel like a turntable. These come pretty cheap, but like anything, the fancy ones can run you a lot of cash. Here's a reasonable one for about $65.

3: Speakers
                    Just like playing an instrument, you can do it without an amp, but no one will hear you. DJing is no different. I don't think i really need to explain to anyone how speakers work, but you're gonna plug them into your rig and make it sound real nice. Speakers come in a huge range of prices, especially when you factor in possibly buying additional components, like a subwoofer or tweeter. The one thing you have to look out for is Powered vs Passive speakers. A powered speaker has it's own "brain" inside it, it's good to go out of the box. But if you buy a passive speaker, it's just a speaker with nothing else. You will need a powered mixer or powered pre-amp to make something like this run. But still, you can pick up an introductory set for about  $70 a pop.

4: Headphones
                          This one may seem obvious, but you need a really good pair of studio-quality headphones. No more earbuds for you. You need noise-isolating headphones so you can cue up your different tracks without getting distracted by the crowd, our your other tracks. These are pretty easy to come across these days, as the style is now to walk around with big chunky headphones. Regardless, you can get some solid studio-quality headphones for about $60. This is a pretty decent brand, also makes good microphones.

 The only other thing you may need, depending on your set-up, is a 3.5mm to 1/4" adapter. This takes a regular headphone output and converts it into a 1/4" output, one you will see often on more sophisticated DJ gear. The price is no problem, you can pick one up for only $2.

5: Music
               You need music. Plenty of music. ALL KINDS of music. This means CD's vinyl records, mp3s, mp4s, tape cassettes, you name it. You're gonna be a DJ now, and this means understanding music past the surface level. Learn how different an mp3 sounds to a vinyl record of the exact same song. Learn why we don't use tape cassettes anymore. Once you have a large library, then you can hope to satisfy the demands of clubs, parties, and weddings.

Well, that should be about everything. This is only the gear you need, the skills will come after many nights spent in your basement scratching the decks and watching youtube videos. I hope this helps some people out, and puts DJing in the realm of possibility for some people, especially seeing it may only cost you as little as $427. This is if you buy your gear piece by piece, I do know of all-in-one DJ packages you can buy for as little as $265. But I promise, you will love a set you made yourself much more, and it will be of better quality that these "DJs in a box". Plus, most of these do not come with speakers of any kind.

Well, that about does it for me, be sure to message, comment, or e-mail us if you have any questions or comments. I hope you enjoyed reading this feature as much as I enjoyed writing it.



  1. What would be the best headphones for just listening to music? I'm not rich but i'm willing to spend some cash on a pair.

  2. I have the old-skool two turntables setup. Nothing better than vinyl, in my opinion. Sure, you can't do as much with them, but you get a lot of respect when you bust out the big 45's.

  3. Nice to know I can get most of that at work :) With a 50% discount I may need to become a DJ.

  4. @Toasty Many of the dj pairs you see are awesome for listening to music, if you don't mind the bulk. If you prefer something without the noise-isolating (i know sometimes i get a little spooked walking around at night with em) i would reccomend the Grados SR-60's, only $100 and studio quality sound without the isolation.