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DJ Equipment Guide: How to Build a Beginner DJ Setup

Written by on 05/04/2018

DJ Equipment Guide: How to Build a Beginner DJ Setup

DJ Equipment
Building your first professional DJ setup can be a daunting task, especially if you are simply starting out as a DJ. To start on your journey to great beat mixes, it is important to consider numerous components before making any gear purchases.

With so many options for DJ equipment and software platforms nowadays, making informed decisions on which equipment to spend your hard-earned money on is a key step to building a professional DJ setup fit for your budget and skills. In this guide we walk you through what equipment you’ll need for your dj setup so you can feel confident in your purchases.

What are Different Types of DJ Setups?
There are several types of DJ setups you can choose from when first starting out. Some are streamlined and require less equipment than others. For the smallest possible setup, you can get started with just a laptop and the right software. Other simple options include using only two turntables (vinyl or CD) and a mixer.

You can upgrade either of those setups by adding a laptop with a DJ interface package for additional effects and options. For even greater flexibility, consider adding a DJ controller to your kit for built-in turntables, sliders, pads, and other controls. If you plan to work from MP3s rather than CDs or vinyl, you can get away with a small kit that features a laptop, a controller, an audio interface, and software.

What Types of Equipment Do You Need for Your DJ Setup
While the choice of equipment combinations differ among DJs, an essential setup for every DJ usually includes

Monitor speakers
Mixer
Turntables
Headphones
Vinyl records or a laptop computer
DJ software
One setup may not fit a certain style, so it is important to mix and match gear to find what works best for your musical selection and DJing style.

The amount of DJ equipment options can be somewhat overwhelming for a beginner, especially since choosing the equipment is crucial to creating quality sounds. There are however a number of essential gear that a DJ needs to make killer playlists and provide your audience with enjoyment.

Pioneer Electronics PL-30-K Audiophile Stereo Turntable with Dual-Layered Chassis and Built-In Phono Equalizer

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1. Input devices
Putting tunes together requires at least two input devices, which can either be turntables or CD decks. You can choose from a wide range of input devices that will allow you to mix tunes and mashup tracks without a pause in music.

Pros and Cons of Turntables
Vinyl turntables are the classic choice for a DJ setup, letting you incorporate plenty of classic tracks and achieve that authentic scratch sound. But vinyl is bulky and more expensive than the other options.

Pros and Cons of CD Decks
Most DJs already have plenty of CDs in their collection. Using CD decks can be a less expensive option, though you’ll lose the authentic scratch effect.

Best Input Devices for Beginner DJs
Stanton T.92 M2 USB Direct-Drive S-Arm USB Turntable ($299.00) is a professional-quality turntable that features a direct-drive motor and built-in USB connectivity. The turntable’s USB port allows for easy transferring of vinyl recordings to your Mac or PC. With features such as Pitch Control Fader with DSP Key Lock, you can control tempo without affecting pitch.

Another advanced feature of this turntable is its S-Shaped tone arm, which lowers distortion and reduces record wear.

Other recommended products:

Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System ($99.00)
Numark TT250USB Professional DJ Direct Drive Turntable ($299.00)
Reloop RP-8000 Advanced Hybrid Torque Turntable with MIDI Control ($699.00)
Pioneer Electronics DJM-S9 2 Channel Battle Mixer for Serato DJ, Black

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2. Mixer
The mixer is the core part of any professional DJ setup. It is a type of audio mixing console that allows DJs to perform different effects and tricks. DJs use the mixer to make smooth transitions between different recordings while they are spinning a set. It can also be used to play record players.

The Pioneer Electronics DJM-2000 ($2,499.00) is a four-channel DJ mixer that features built-in instrument effects including Noise, Jet, Zip, Crush, HPF and LPF. It has a 5.8″ LCD touchscreen display that allows you to create new track slices through the mixer’s Beat Slice function.

Best Mixers for Beginner DJs
The mixer has four channels located on the sides of the center LCD which you can use to connect your turntables to other analog players. Each channel features a fader that allows you to adjust the channel volume, a trim control to adjust input level, and a CUE button dedicated to the pre-listen function in your headphones. The unit also features Delay, Multi-Tap Delay, Roll, Reverse Roll, and Filter and Phaser effects.

Other recommended products:

Pioneer Electronics DJM-S9 2 Channel Battle Mixer for Serato ($1,699.00)
Behringer DDM4000 Ultimate 5-Channel Digital DJ Mixer ($349.99)
Allen & Heath High Performance 2+2 Channel DJ Mixer ($299.00)
Sennheiser HD 25 Plus Closed-Back Monitor Headphones with Set of Ear Cushions

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3. Headphones
High-quality headphones allow DJs to listen, cue, and mix tunes with precision. It is one of the most important tools for determining the right timing to play songs rhythmically. The equipment you use is based on your preference, but it is important to consider comfort as one of the main factors in choosing your headphones. You’re going to be wearing headphones for hours on end, so you want to use a pair that not only reproduces sounds accurately, but is also comfortable to wear.

Another important factor to consider is flexibility. A good pair of DJ headphones does not easily break even when bended in different positions.

Best Headphones for DJs
Sennheiser HD 25 Plus Closed-Back Monitor Headphones ($199.95) is a lightweight headphone that provides high-quality audio. Its closed back design provides effective noise cancellation, making it ideal for use even in loud environments. It also features a rotatable ear cup for single-ear listening. The HD 25 Plus is capable of handling high sound pressure levels of up to 120 decibels, which allows it to perform well in loud environments.

Other recommended products:

Sony MDR-Z7 High-Resolution Stereo Closed Dynamic Headphones ($699.99)
Sennheiser HD 600 Audiophile Dynamic Hi-Fi Professional Stereo Headphone ($288.00)
Samson SR850 Professional Studio Reference Headphones ($49.99)
JBL 2x 305P MkII Powered 5 Dual 41W Two-Way Studio Monitor W:2x 8mm XLR Cable

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4. Sound system
Using studio monitor speakers is a great way for beginner DJs to hear their mixes with clarity. While Hi-Fi speakers produce high-quality sounds compared with inexpensive audio equipment, they also amplify certain frequencies that can make it difficult for beginner DJs to hear what the mix actually sounds like.

Keep in mind, however, that this is an optional element of the ideal basic DJ setup. When you start playing gigs, you’ll find that most venues will have their own sound system that you can use. However, if you’re still learning and you want a good sound system for your home DJ setup, go ahead and invest in your own.

Best Sound System for your DJ Setup
Mackie CR4 4″ Woofer Creative Reference Multimedia Monitor ($149.99) delivers studio-quality audio performance ideal for multimedia creation and entertainment. It features 50 watts of articulate stereo sound, as well as premium and high-performing components such as sound-enhancing waveguide system.

The Mackie CR4 features a front panel volume knob, and auxiliary input for easier access.

Other recommended products:

KRK Rokit 5 G3 5″ Two-Way Active Studio Monitor Speaker ($149.50)
JBL 5″ Two-Way Powered Studio Monitor ($149.00)
Behringer MS16 2-Way Active Nearfield Multimedia Monitor System ($79.99)
Roland DJ-202 2-Channel 4-Deck Serato DJ Controller W:Behringer Headphones:Cable

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5. Controller
Most modern DJs opt for a simpler (and easier) digital setup composed of a controller and a laptop. If you no longer use vinyl records or CDs, then purchasing a controller is really the only step you need to take to create a viable DJ setup.

Controllers essentially mimic the function of turntables and mixers. They allow for easier manipulation of their chosen DJ software. It allows you to mix music through the software with the use of knobs, encoders, jog wheels, faders, assignable backlit buttons, touch strips, and other control components.

The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 DJ Controller ($599.00) is a portable, all-in-one option for digital DJs who want high functionality and usability along with ease of use. Its components include silicone-damped jog wheels with premium aluminum plates, a built-in 24 bit/96 kHz soundcard, two customizable FX units with over 30 DJ effects, brightly colored RGB triggers, and a 4-channel mixer with faders, Flux Mode, and Loop Recorder controls. It also comes with the Traktor Pro 2 software.

Other recommended products:

Pioneer Electronics DDJ-SX2 4-Channel Performance Serato DJ Controller ($997.00)
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ Controller ($199.99)
Novation Dicer Cue Point & Looping Digital DJ Controller ($99.99)
How Much Does a Beginner DJ Setup Cost?
The cost of beginner DJ setups can range from just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars. The price of your kit depends on the type of equipment you choose. If you already own a laptop and plan to use a simplified computer-based setup, you can get away with purchasing only a basic controller and some headphones for less than $500. If you start from scratch, prepare to spend a bit more to build out your kit.

Check out some of the preferred equipment below for a specific idea of how much you can expect to spend.

Sample DJ Setups For Beginners Based on Cost
Setups vary widely among DJs. The equipment comprising a complete setup depends on each DJ’s personal preference and musical style.

Here is a sample setup for beginners who want the classic turntable setup:

Two turntables (with built-in slipmats)
DJ mixer
Headphones
USB/audio interface (optional)
Monitor speakers (optional)
1. Numark PT01USB Turntable ($99.00)
The Numark PT01USB is a portable, AC or battery-powered turntable that converts vinyl to WAV or MP3. It makes recording and importing audio simple through the EZ Vinyl Converter 2 for PC and Audio Converter for Mac software that is included in the turntable.

Features:

USB connection and USB cable
Belt-drive motor
Protective dust cover with carrying handle
AC adapter
Built-in speaker
RCA connector and headphone jacks
45 RPM adapter
DJ cartridges
2. Behringer DJX750 Professional 5-Channel DJ Mixer ($199.99)
With its fairly affordable price point, the Behringer DJX-750 is an attractive option for beginners who are building their first DJ setups. But don’t let the price fool you—this 5-channel mixer has the features and functions required to serve the needs of professionals as well.

Features:

24-Bit effects processor
Tactile effects control
Two automatic BPM counters with time and beat sync display
45mm VCA-controlled crossfader
3-way frequency kill switches
Adjustable XPQ stereo surround effect
3. Sennheiser HD 600 ($288.00)
The Sennheiser HD 600 is an audiophile-grade headphone that features a dynamic design. It is one of the best headphones for DJs (and even professional sound engineers) as it features advanced technology that allows it to reproduce accurate, high-quality sound, allowing you to hear notes in perfect clarity.

Features:

Open metal mesh grilles
Magnet systems that reduce harmonic and intermodulation distortion
Lightweight aluminum voice coils
Neodymium magnet material for excellent dynamic response
Oxygen-free copper cable
Detachable headphone cord
Rent or Buy?
Renting a wide range of DJ equipment is the best option for DJs who do not have the budget to purchase all the gear they need. This is particularly advantageous for those who are just starting out in developing their skills as a DJ and may not want to invest a large amount on professional equipment until they feel more confident in their skills and are ready to start booking gigs.

Aside from saving on the cost of purchasing new gear, you won’t have to worry about performing regular maintenance on the equipment. Another advantage of renting is that you will be able to try out different brands (for a fraction of the cost) and see which ones you like best before taking the plunge and buying the gear you want.

On the other hand, buying brand new decks and mixers has its advantages. Aside from allowing you to create a fully customized DJ setup that suits your needs, most equipment usually come with manufacturer’s warranties. The obvious downside is the price, but if you are serious about your craft, it is definitely a worthwhile investment.