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Home DJ Set-Up: Essential Gear Guide For Beginners

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Home DJ Set-Up: Essential Gear Guide For Beginners

Everybody wants to be the DJ...

...As Soulwax put it in their classic tune "Too Many DJs" - and they should know, they've been known to dabble in a bit of DJing here and there. Even if you don't have aspirations of tearing it up on a festival stage, there isn't any harm in creating a space at home to do a spot of mixing is there? We take a look through some essential gear for those who want to create a home DJ setup without breaking the bank.

A Bit of Background Knowledge: Types of DJ Setup

When we say, "types of setup", what we're referring to is whether you're going down the turntable, CDJ, DJ controller or all computer-based route. We're not gonna say what is right or what is wrong for you, there are plenty of DJ forums and YouTube video comments for that sort of thing. However, it is worth bearing in mind that as with any instrument, it is all down to personal preference. After, the legend that is Carl Cox has gone from vinyl to embracing digital - and back again - and it hasn't done him any harm.

A basic setup is generally going to involve two audio sources (more than likely turntables) to playback audio tracks, a mixer to switch back and forth between audio sources, headphones to monitor your mix, speakers to playback the audio to an adoring crowd, and cables galore to connect everything together. The more elaborate the setup, the more gear you're going to need - but we'll get to that.

Kickin' It Old School: Turntables

Since the dawn of time - maybe not that long ago but we are talking decades -, the humble turntable has been at the heart DJ setups. The introduction of the legendary Technics SL-1200 back in the 1970s was a gamechanger and lent the perfect platform on which experimental DJs could develop and perfect elaborate techniques. From beatmatching to scratching to some astonishing feats of turntablism, many a DJ have cut their teeth on a pair of 1200s or 1210s. The direct-drive mechanism enabled consistent movement of the deck, enabling tweaking of the vinyl without throwing the platter into chaos. Anyone who has tried to scratch on a belt-drive turntable for a laugh will know exactly what we're talking about.

The New School: DJ Controllers

In recent years there has been a huge rise in all-in-one DJ controllers that feature a pair of decks, a built-in mixer, FX controllers, more knobs and dials than you'd find in an aeroplane cockpit, and connections to plug into virtually anything and everything. If getting down with some vinyl turntables doesn't float your boat, then we've got just the stuff for your home DJ setup.

Controllers range in size from the diminutive Numark DJGO2 Portable Serato DJ Controller to the monster Pioneer DDJ-RZX 4-Channel Rekordbox DJ Controller. Whether you opt for large or small, most will converse happily with any operating system and DJ software including Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ, etc. Something to consider here is which software you elect to choose. Luckily, there are downloadable demo or free versions of most DJ software packages, so you can get a feel for the interface before you dive headfirst into making a commitment.

The standard of quality from the likes of Numark, Pioneer, Roland, Akai, Denon, and Native Instruments is ludicrously high, so whatever you go for, you are guaranteed an outstanding product. One thing that we'd suggest is trying out some controllers in your local Dawsons store.

DJ Headphones

Whether you're mixing at home in the privacy of your bedroom or performing in a packed-out club, the right headphones are crucial. Ranging from affordable options such as the Numark HF150 DJ headphones to the more elaborate Sennheiser HD280 Pro DJ and beyond, you want a decent closed-back design that allows you to hear your reference beat whilst cutting out external noise. You can spend a serious amount of money depending on the brand, but as long as you find a pair that fits, provides excellent response and above all feels comfortable, then you're laughing. There are plenty to choose from in our DJ Headphones section on the Dawsons' website.

Monitors/Speakers

If you want to hear you mix with full effect, then a pair of monitor speakers are the way forward. As with headphones, there's a vast range to choose from that cover the gamut from portable to heavyweight, affordable to eye-watering. For the sake of a home setup though, you can get away with a solid pair of all-rounders such as the KRK Rokit RP5 G3s. Boasting a built-in bi-amped class A/D amp for a smooth response at ear-splitting levels, the generous frequency range covers you from 45Hz to 35kHz.

There are those who swear by including a subwoofer in your setup, especially if you're trying to achieve dense sub-bass in your mixes. Another argument is that you can more accurately get a sense of how your mix feels, before heading into a club setting. If you're simply kicking back and mixing at home or want a decent rig to test out your skills on, then a pair of Presonus Eris E4.5 or other Full Range Monitors are more than adequate. Unless you're recreating Creamfields in your living (which we don't advise unless you want to fall out with your neighbours), then you should be sweet.

Don't forget the cables!

The least glamourous yet undeniably crucial components are your cables. Whatever your setup, you're going to need a cable of some description to make things work. If you're going down the analogue route, then you're going to come across RCA plugs without a doubt, especially if you're using a DJ Mixer. XLR cables are a must for mics if you fancy getting a bit of MCing on the go and are also crucial on larger controllers for master outputs to larger sound systems.

TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) connectors are used for balanced connections from mixers and audio interfaces, and as booth outputs on higher-spec controllers. They come in 1/4- and 1/8-inch sizes are bear a striking resemblance to unbalanced TS connectors. One way to tell them apart is that TRS has two rings near the tip, whereas TS only has one (bingo).

For all-in-one controllers and home use it is pretty likely that you're going to be using the USB connection to connect directly to your computer.

Conclusions

Hopefully, we've given you a flavour of what's available and what you'll need to get your home DJ setup off the ground. The main things to consider are whether you want to hit the ground running with vinyl or fancy opting for a digital setup. Budget is going to dictate but if you've already got a laptop or home PC, then at the very least you need a DJ controller, DJ software, headphones and a USB cable.

If you've got any questions at all then don't hesitate to get in touch with our Customer Service team on 01925 582420.

As always you can check out the Dawsons website to search our full selection of DJ Gear.