DJ Equipment for Beginners
The Vinyl Revival
So, want to be a DJ? Like any musical pursuit, practice makes perfect. And if you’d like to practice regularly, you’re going to need a solid set-up or rig to hone those technical turntable skills. Even Annie Mac started out in her bedroom.
Now, if you’re into your dance or hip hop, you’ll most likely want to kick it old school by spinning vinyl. There’s nothing like the crackle of a record, after all.
In recent years the vinyl has made a massive resurgence. In fact, in 2014, vinyl record sales (both 12-inch and 7-inch) in the UK reached one million units – their highest figure since 1996. This vinyl record sales a £20 million a year business once again.
The vinyl record is here to stay and if you want to really learn the ropes as a DJ, you should get yourself a proper pair of vinyl record decks, or turntables. Today, we’re going to help you get started…
When it comes to a pair of starter decks, striking the perfect balance between price and versatility is key. You don’t want to buy bargain basement turntables. If you do, beat-matching will be a nightmare – all you’ll get is muffled sounding beats that will be impossible to match. You’ll never progress.
With that said, here are three solid starter options:
Numark NTX 1000 DJ turntable
Not only do Numark turntables look amazing, the company’s direct-drive range will withstand a lot of battering. The user-friendly design and stable pitch adjusters are perfect for beginners and intermediates, meaning you can enjoy these bad boys for years to come. Excellent value for money.
Pioneer PLX-500 High Torque direct-drive turntable
These turntables look slick and come in two additional colour options if you want to get fancy. The best thing about these Pioneer entry level offerings is their durability. For home recording, there is an easy to locate USB port that can plug directly into your laptop or hardware, and the rubber-insulated tone arm ensures crystal clear playback.
Denon VL12 turntable
Now, if you’re looking to dive right into the top end, but you’re looking for something smooth to handle, these Denon’s are the pair for you. The sound generated from these turntables is incredible, and the S-shaped tone arms make for superior tracking. These are decks that will go the distance.
The mixer is the device that sits in between the turntables. It works as the control centre, allowing you to fade tracks in and out, add real-time effects and EQ the sounds of your records. Choosing the right mixer is important, but when you’re a beginner, generally speaking, the simpler the better. A mixer with lots of pots and pans to tweak will only serve as a distraction. Here are our three top beginner picks…
Roland DJ-99 2 channel mixer
A nod to the legendary TR-909, this mixer is solid, robust, easy to navigate and has everything you need to get your DJing journey off the ground. This Roland doesn’t bust the bank, it looks authentic, and its master, as well as booth outputs, are excellent for monitoring your records in the mix.
Allen and Heath Xone 23 DJ mixer
These folks are known for making robust hardware. And when you’re a beginner, that’s exactly what you’ll need. While it might not quite match up to the overall functionality of the Roland, this nifty little mixer more than makes up for it with its smooth channel faders and crystal clear output.
Pioneer DJM-250 MK2 2-channel DJ mixer
This slim-line mixer from Pioneer has a crystal clear decibel monitor for accurate levelling and if you’re looking to get into your scratching techniques (eventually), the new and improved Magvel faders are about as smooth as it gets.
Headphones and Speakers
When you’re learning to DJ, having top of the range speakers isn’t vital. All you need is your average mid-range hi-fi with an auxiliary input. But, when it comes to monitoring your progress and mixing accurately, it pays to have a decent pair of headphones. Again, you don’t have to clean out your bank account, but you don’t want a pair of cans you get free with a Happy Meal either. Check these out…
Sennheiser HD 205 headphones
Not only do these headphones have rotatable ear cups, but they are damn comfy. If you’re going to churn out the practice hours, comfort really is king. For the price, the sound isolation is excellent, meaning you can listen to every groove in the record and get fully immersed in the music.
Audio Technica ATH-M40X headphones
Another comfy audio option, these cans are like sofas for the ears. They are a little more expensive than the Sennheisers, but, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones with a superior frequency response while lasting you years, these are a worthwhile investment.
If a regular hi-fi doesn’t quite float your boat and you are looking for something a little more specialist to run through your amp, this pair of speakers will without a doubt, do the trick…
KRK Rokit RP4 G3 monitoring speakers
Not only will these headphones make a handsome addition to your set-up, but this lovely pair also has an incredible sonic range, making them excellent for monitoring your progress, and one day, even recording your mixes.
Once you’ve assembled your DJ rig, picked a table or platform at the appropriate disc-spinning height and built up a tasty library of records, you’ll want to make some noise. And boy will you make some.
To ensure your partner, kids, neighbours or flatmates don’t strangle you, soundproofing is essential. To successfully soundproof your DJ space here are a few top tips…
Place a trimmed to measure offcut of carpet underneath your decks and mixer. Doing this will absorb some of the residual sounds coming from your rig.
Seal any gaps around electrical outlets by carefully removing the cover and filling them with acoustical caulk.
Turn off the lights and shut the curtains. Anywhere you can see beams of light seeping into the room, cover them up with blankets or sheets while you’re DJing to prevent extra sound escaping.
Top tip: If you’re looking for savvy storage solutions for your vinyl and you don’t want to buy a job load of record boxes, check out these clever hacks.
Oh, and if you are still in the process of building up your vinyl connection but you want to start mixing from a big selection of sounds, it’s possible. The Denon DS1 Serato is an audio interface that will allow you to connect turntables or CD decks to your computer and pull from your digital library. Clever stuff indeed.
Once you’re all set up and ready to rock, you might want to know how to get started. One can only take so many galloping beats and audio train wrecks, after all.
To help kickstart your career as a budding superstar DJ, check out our full How to DJ series and learn how to mix like a master.
We wish you the very best of luck.