Buyers Guides

5 Tips for Selecting DJ Equipment


Want to become a DJ? Then it's time to get some gear. Here are five quick tips from Yousif Hazboun that will help you buy the right stuff.

Tip 1: Choose a Medium Wisely

For most intents and purposes, digital DJing is the most convenient way to go. As far as quality goes, it is true that MP3s can make some people cringe, but remember that you’re not limited to MP3s (or any lossy digital audio format, for that matter); especially if you have a physical CD copy of the songs you intend to play.

Virtually all DJ equipment and software on the market today will support WAV file playback, so in that case, the biggest problem you’d need to worry about is having enough hard disk drive space to accommodate your digital library. You will need your computer to run fast and reliably, so invest in a fast, high-capacity hard disk drive, a fast processor and as much RAM as your computer can handle (or as much as it can actually utilize).

And for heaven’s sake, close all unnecessary programs to prevent lagging and/or crashing.

Tip 2: Control Your Medium Well

The choice of controllers vs. mixers is really just a matter of preference. Usually, controllers have turntable-style rotary wheels that enable users to “scratch” the way vinyl DJs do; mixers generally have only faders and knobs. It really just depends on your style, your audience and what you want to do with the music you play.

Some important things to keep in consideration are the variety of inputs and outputs, whether or not the unit has a built-in soundcard, and how well the controller or mixer works with whatever software you want to use.

A few good entry-level controllers would be the ION Discover DJ and the Numark iDJ Live (for iPad, iPhone and/or iPod Touch). A few good entry-level mixers would be things like the Gemini iTRAX-BLK that has dual iPod docking stations, or the Numark M1010USB.

Tip 3: Headphones

Ideally, you want headphones that swivel easily so you can quickly compare the sound in the room to the sound of the next track you’re cueing up. Comfort (on your ears and around your neck), coiled cables, loudness and durability are also important things to consider. Also, depending on where you DJ (specifically, whether or not your audience cares about this sort of thing) the style you choose can serve to establish an image for you.

The company AERIAL7 makes a variety of flashy-looking DJ headphones. Kicker’s HP541 headphones are also a great choice as they’re not just well-made; you can also customize them with a vast selection of skins.

Tip 4: Light Up Your Act

Laser lighting looks really fantastic by itself; even more so when paired with a fog machine. Again, though, selections like these depend on where you’re DJing and what you want your act to be. Some lighting units out there have sound activated programs that will considerably accentuate your performances with visuals.

As far as manufacturers worth mentioning, American DJ is a pretty reputable company that makes an enormous selection of lighting effects units, controllers, and fog machines. I’d recommend their products as a good starting point.

Tip 5: Know Your PA System

This is primarily a concern of house party and wedding DJs, as club DJs will most likely hook into the house system; probably using the clubs’ controllers/mixers, too. This is where you’ll need to consider active vs. passive (built-in amplifier vs. no built-in amplifier) speakers, amplifiers, outboard effects units and racks in which to put them, speaker stands, and placement with regards to environmental acoustics.

Although this tip seems complicated, it’s really not that bad, and if you’re DJing at a club, you probably won’t have to worry too much about that stuff. If you’re insatiably hungry for knowledge like I am, however, it would definitely benefit you to learn about those things. The full details of all that are way beyond the scope of this tut, but I will say that Gemini and Marathon make some good, affordable PA gear.

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