Picking a setup can be a hard task for any DJ, but the process can be even more intimidating for a beginner DJ and we’re here to help you.
With the advancement in technology, brands are able to create quality equipment for DJs at affordable prices, from budget to top of the range equipment, it may take a little bit of research but we assure you, the perfect setup is out there for everyone.
There are a few different setups to suit any type of DJ, in this article we aim to explain a few setups to help you develop a better understanding before making a decision.
What Equipment Does A DJ Need?
Before we jump into the various DJ setups, below is a list of the essential equipment needed for any setup, we will discuss them in more depth later in the article.
Any set-up will require the following components;
- Laptop/USB/SD Card
After that, it comes down to your personal preference, budget, goals and aspirations as a DJ when choosing your equipment.
- Turntables/CDJs & A DJ Mixer
- An all in one DJ Controller
- DJ Software
What Are The Different Types Of DJ Setups?
When choosing your set-up there are a few things to consider depending on your budget, goals and aspirations as a DJ.
1: Old school or new school? Technology has changed the way of DJing, with the majority of equipment such as DJ controllers and CDJs being digital. However, with the digitalisation of the classic analogue (vinyl turntables), it is possible to use timecoded vinyl to recreate the original feel of turntables using DJ software.
2: Where will you be DJing? Are you a home DJ? or are you a mobile DJ performing at parties and weddings? Do you have aspirations to be playing in clubs, festivals and venues?
3: What is your budget? If you are working within a budget, we would recommend starting with a DJ controller, they are excellent pieces of equipment that can be found at great prices, plus they really help a beginner DJ get a feel for DJing.
Below we will take you through the most popular and used set-ups within the DJ world.
DJ Controller & Laptop
Starting with the new kid on the block we have DJ controllers, these are all in one MIDI device designed to provide easier control over the DJ software on a laptop. A DJ controller achieves this by sending signals to the software instead of mixing the signals like a traditional mixer.
A DJ controller consists of two turntables and a DJ mixer built into one unit with the aim of imitating the look, feel and operation of a traditional DJ set-up for a much cheaper price, the devices usually come bundled with DJ software such as Rekordbox or Serato.
Using DJ software allows you to see important information such as waveforms, BPM, the time elapsed, cue points and much more information that can be invaluable to a DJ. Many of the more powerful controllers have onboard HD displays showing this information.
Many DJ controllers also feature a drum pad section which, depending on the standard of the controller they can have various uses from setting hot cues to programming effects and samples.
Advanced controllers have looping controls and a built-in FX section which can be really fun to play with whilst fueling your creative spark.
A DJ controller is perfect for the bedroom and mobile DJ, they are small, compact and easily transportable along with being great on price catering for any budget.
DJ controllers are becoming more and more powerful and starting to rival the professional set-ups found in clubs around the world.
For anyone starting out in the DJ world, a DJ controller is a serious option to consider.
CDJs/Turntables & A DJ Mixer
A DJ mixer typically consists of 2 to 4 channels but can have many more, with each channel allowing more input devices such as 2 x CDJs and 2 x Turntables which can greatly enhance your creativity as you can have anything up to 4 tracks or more playing simultaneously.
A DJ mixer consists of volume faders, a crossfader, EQ controls, trim and gain controls and a master volume control, and again depending on the mixer you purchase will depend on how many channels and FX options are available.
Professional mixers such as the Pioneer DJM900 offer extensive FX capabilities which are extremely fun to use and play around with and when mastered can take your mixing and sound to a completely new level.
Below we will run through two of the most common pieces of equipment that are used in conjunction with a standalone DJ mixer.
Unlike a DJ controller, CDJs do NOT require a laptop to work, you can load your music onto SD cards or USB flash drives which can then be plugged into an external DJ mixer.
Your library can then be seen on the display screen along with vital information such as waveforms, BPM and track times. This display can be edited to suit your preference.
CDJs are the industry standard setup and can be found in all the best clubs, festivals and venues around the world.
CDJs are a great choice for any level of DJ, they are perfectly designed and learning on this setup will make the transition to clubs and festivals effortless, that being said a full CDJ setup can cost a pretty buck!
Traditional Vinyl Turntables
Since its foundation, DJing has changed dramatically with the introduction of digital equipment.
Originally all that a DJ had was 2 x turntables and an external DJ mixer that would play vinyl records, over the years this way of DJing has faded out and is hardly used anymore.
Of course, there are many aspiring and beginner DJs that still want to learn the traditional art of DJing, and technology has made that possible with a digital vinyl system (DVS).
Digital Vinyl System (DVS)
A digital vinyl system consists of a DJ mixer, two turntables and two digital timecoded vinyl records.
Let us explain how this wizardry works, DVS systems use timecoded vinyl and a soundcard that reads the manipulated sound and then translates this information to your DJ software on your computer which in turn sends the signal back to your mixer which then plays out of the speaker.
Traktor, Serato and Rekordbox all offer great software that is DVS compatible, using a DVS setup allows you to buy and use digital music as well as vinyl.
This setup is used by some of the biggest and best DJs from around the world and is great for someone who wants to pay homage to the original craft with a digital twist.
The Essential DJ Equipment
A vital piece of equipment for a DJ is their headphones for a multitude of reasons.
You will see DJs with one headphone over one ear listening to one track whilst the other ear will be out of the headphone listening to the track playing out of the speakers, this allows the DJ to listen to both tracks separately in order to mix both together and transition between tracks.
When purchasing your headphones, ensure they are of good quality and feel comfortable to wear as they will be on your head for the majority of the time you are mixing and could become uncomfortable after long use.
Speakers are of course another essential part of your setup. For a beginner DJ creating and mixing at home a good set of monitor or pre amp speakers will be the perfect addition to your setup.
It’s important to have good speakers in order to get the best sound out of them which in turn helps you in the mix, luckily there’s no need to spend a lot of money on speakers as there are good sets out there for pretty cheap.
- RCA Cables – Allow you to connect different devices together for example the audio interface to the mixer or mixer to speakers.
- XLR Cable – Usually used as the master output from mixers and controllers.
- TRS/TS – They come in two sizes 1/8″ or 1/4″ jack, and are most commonly found on headphones.
- USB – Commonly used to connect devices to eachother and transfer data over the cables. Many DJ controllers will plug into a laptop via a USB.
- Mains Power Leads – Will plug into your main electrics and power your devices.
Many of these cables will come included with your equipment with diagrams and instructions on exactly how to set everything up correctly.
Laptop & Software
Most people own a laptop or computer these days and if you don’t that’s not a problem, there is no need to spend thousands on a laptop, a simple cheap laptop is perfectly fine to run DJ software.
From DJ controllers to DVS setups, much of the DJ equipment on the market today work with DJ software installed on a laptop.
There are many great software programmes out there from Serato to Rekordbox all offering unique capabilities, features and functions.
Related Read: Check Out Our Guide To DJ Software Here
So What Shall I Pick?
When it comes to choosing your setup, ultimately this decision will be down to you, your budget and the type of DJ you aspire to be.
Equipment can always be upgraded, you can sell old equipment and buy new equipment in the future.
Essential equipment like speakers and headphones can last you for long periods of time without the need to upgrade but the music players and controllers are what cost the bulk of money and it’s important to make the best decision for you at the time.
You will not be disappointed with an external mixer and CDJs/turntables, this is a great setup and is used by many DJs across the globe, for that reason assembling this setup can be costly.
For that reason as well as others as a beginner DJ, we would recommend a DJ controller. They come in various levels at a range of prices with one to suit everyone. DJ controllers are fantastic to learn on, can be transported easily and require minimal space to use.
No matter what setup you choose you will not regret it, DJing is a fun and creative hobby that can also lead to a full-time profession with hard work and dedication.
Thanks for reading, we hope this article has helped make things a little clearer and will assist you in making your final decision.