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DJ Equipment Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

DJ performing with DJ equipment in a club

From parties to clubs to weddings and more, the DJ can be the center of the action, if not at least the center of the music. Whether you're an aspiring professional DJ or an enthusiastic audiophile, you'll need to have the right DJ equipment to achieve powerful audio and impressive light effects. This DJ equipment buying guide will help you get started assembling your own audio equipment and DJ lighting.

Buying DJ Equipment:

  1. DJ mixers: A DJ mixer is the heart of your sound system, giving you control over all of your audio sources. No DJ equipment collection is complete without a mixer. A DJ mixer brings audio signals from your laptop, turntables, CD players, microphones and other audio sources into one control system. You'll use the mixer's controls to balance DJ equipment audio levels to your preference. Then the DJ mixer sends that audio stream to your speakers.

  2. Inputs: A basic mixer will have at least a few inputs with volume and tonal controls for each. More advanced DJ mixers feature multiple sets of inputs, effects and audio controls that give you fine control of different audio channels.

  3. Gain: Output and master gain controls set the overall volume.

  4. Graphical displays: Level indicators let you make sure you're not putting out a distorted signal.

  5. Turntables: Turntables are included in most DJ equipment checklists because of the high-quality audio that you can get from vinyl records. Dual-record turntables are great for mixing multiple tracks together, performing on-the-spot sampling and producing record-scratching effects. A turntable with a USB connection will allow you to plug directly into your computer or other digital DJ equipment.

  6. CD players: CD players can be a great alternative to turntables, especially since CDs are more portable. Dual-CD players with a separate jog wheel for each will give you great flexibility in transitioning between songs. Larger CD changers can be a great addition to your DJ equipment setup.

  7. Laptops and MP3 audio: If you have a large amount of digital music in MP3, you can take advantage of it with DJ equipment that's compatible with MP3, WAV and other digital audio formats. While most mixers have USB ports for your MP3 player, you can also use a computer as your MP3 audio source. In fact, with the right software, you could even use your computer as both MP3 player and mixer. A powerful laptop can give you enough computing power to replace several DJ equipment components.

  8. Speakers: All of the rest of your DJ equipment is only as good as the speakers that plug into them. Here are some considerations when it comes to speakers for your sound system.

  9. Loudspeakers: When you're performing at outdoor venues or a larger space, dedicated loudspeakers will help carry the sound to every corner of the place. High-wattage speakers will help faithfully reproduce sound from your DJ equipment throughout the entire room.

  10. Speaker size: It takes large drivers, often twelve inches or larger, to reproduce powerful bass. You'll need powerful bass to carry across large areas with lots of people. Large subwoofers can add to the texture of sound from your DJ equipment.

  11. Amps: While you may find some loudspeakers that are internally powered, other DJ equipment will require a separate pre-amplifier. Make sure they match the RMS power (given in watts) and the resistance (given in ohms) of the speakers with those of the amplifier.

  12. Two-way and three-way speakers: You'll often see speakers labeled as two-way or three-way speakers. These speakers feature two or three different speaker drivers, each reproducing different high, medium or low frequencies from your audio equipment. These speakers will produce more faithful audio quality while still maintaining power. Good speakers are the foundation of any DJ equipment rig.

  13. DJ headphones: Headphones are the DJ's way to monitor what the audience should be hearing. You want the headphones and sound system to sound similar. By hearing what your DJ equipment actually sounds like, you can make needed adjustments for the best sound. Look for a pair of noise-canceling headphones to help shield your ears from external sounds. Your DJ equipment may even allow you to set the headphones to a different audio channel, so you can queue up a track on your headphones without stopping the music.

  14. Microphone: If you'll be doing announcing while you're performing, a microphone is an indispensible piece of DJ equipment. When it comes to how your microphone is powered, match the microphone with your mixer's input. Some microphones are self-powered and some require power from your DJ equipment. Pair your quality microphone with a pop filter and compressor to prevent annoying breath sounds. For even greater freedom, try a wireless microphone.

  15. Transportation: DJ equipment is much like other electrical equipment; it doesn't respond well to dust, heat, moisture or jarring movement. If some of your DJ equipment is rack-mountable, you can find a portable rack-mount case that provides excellent shock protection for your equipment. Even if your DJ equipment isn't rack-mountable, you can find anti-shock carrying cases for your equipment that will also keep out dust and moisture between jobs.

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