Choosing the right equipment is one of the toughest decisions for any mobile disc jockey – especially with so many options in the marketplace. While there are no right or wrong answers, there are selections you can make that will best serve your talents as a DJ, the types of events at which you entertain, the type of media you use, and your budget. Let’s break it down.
Your Talents as a DJ
Are you savvy or do you want to become savvy at beat mixing, scratching, and using all of the “bells and whistles” available on today’s media players and music controllers? If so, this will greatly impact the choice you make. If you are a mobile who prefers to be more of a music programmer with just a basic ability to beat mix, then this does also.
The best way to determine if a product is a good fit for you is to access your wants, needs and talents and then try it out. This is why DJ conventions are so great. The expo floor offers a wide variety of gear from different manufacturers where you can learn about the features of a particular unit and have a hands-on experience using it.
The Types of Events You Do
If you entertain at school events, the music you play will be almost exclusively current, clean edit versions of songs. The youth demographic likes DJs who use full-range speakers with big sub-woofers, who can beat mix, and who can create “cool” sound effects like looping and flange. If you want to do these types of events but don’t want to learn these types of skills, I have one word for you: “Remix.” If multi-generational events such as adult parties and weddings are more of your mainstay, then being a great music programmer is most important, and a media player with lots of features is not generally necessary (Unless you’re DJ Jason Jani).
There are pro-audio equipment manufacturers that offer basically the same type of gear but at vastly different price points. Why? Quality and reliability are the #1 reason. Another factor has to do with features. If you want to use equipment that affords you the latest technology and a multitude of useful features, you are going to pay more for it.
For the newbie who is just starting out and learning about his/her preferences, less expensive equipment may be the way to go. In general, my personal philosophy is to decide what you want and then find a way to afford it rather than buying what you can “afford.” What you can afford depends on the value you place on the items you need. For example, in the same way that we sell clients based on our value, in my opinion, the same philosophy hold true for equipment.
Media & Media Players/Controllers
Simply put, media is the format of your music. Do you strictly use CDs, MP3s, MP3 CDs or a combination of one or more of these?
Media players vary greatly in terms of the music control they offer you as a DJ. Nearly all have exceptionally fast cueing and start-up, and pitch control. Some offer features such echo, flanger, filter, beat counting, and seamless looping that allow you to mix from one song into another without missing a beat. There are other players that remember specific songs and will cue them automatically to hot buttons. Truly the list of features available on today’s gear goes on and on…
Some media players allow you to only use CDs, others allow you to use a combination of CDs and MP3CDs. Yet other controllers allow you to play MP3s through two or more USB ports built in to a hard drive. And, last but certainly not least, let’s not forget about laptops and computer software.
Some Facebook friends of Pro Mobile DJ Publisher, Stacy Zemon, have some sound ideas they are willing to share with you.
Ranjit Bidwal – Dj Ranj: If someone prefers a table-top unit, I recommend a pair of Pioneer CDJ-2000s for a more advanced DJ or a pair of CDJ 400s for their USB/MIDI feature. For a rack mounted unit, I suggest a Denon DN-HC4500 with Serato.
Brady Mikesell: I recommend a laptop and software with a really good organized/searchable database. If you want to mix manually but have the option of going automatic, the Virtual DJ software is a good option. For Midi control, American Audio’s VMS4 is an excellent choice. No matter which platform is chosen, I have one word of advice: BACKUP! Have a back-up playback unit and a second hard drive that is mirrored to your primary.
Eric R. Smith: I have nothing but positive things to say about my Numark NS-7. This unit will allow you to become an expert at beat mixing and scratching very, very quickly. I also use a Mac laptop for solid, dependable performance.
Stu Chisholm: I suggest using a computer with Virtual DJ software and Easy CD-DA Extractor to rip CDs to MP3. Another option is to use the Denon HDC-2500 media player with the Easy CD-DA Extractor. As far as external hard drives go, I’ve had good luck with Western Digital and Maxtor (Now Seagate). My friend swears by his LaCie 1.5 TB. I have the one-space American Audio Media Operator that uses SD cards and flash drives.
Bri Swatek: I finally sold my CD players this year and began using the Denon DN-HD2500 and a hard drive, mainly to begin thinking in terms of play lists. Eventually I got more creative and wanted more flexibility, so I added a laptop with Serato. By now I had finally ripped all my music to 320, which I did mainly using Audiograbber. I’ve hooked the laptop and Serato up to the Denon DN-HD 2500 as a midi controller because I like being able to tap the bigger buttons on the Denon unit, rather than clicking around on my laptop so much.
Mark Taylor: I have an American Audio SDJ1 in my rack that I use as a back-up for my laptop. It plays MP3s and you can fit a lot of tracks on an SD card.
Jasper Ibe: If coming from a 19″ dual, rack mounted CD player set-up, I suggest a Denon rack mounted media controller using either using the internal hard drive or an external USB hard drive. You can use i-Tunes to rip/convert your CD music library into digital media.
Still stumped and want more info. About media players and controllers? Check out gear reviews here and on DJ industry websites and chat sites (See our Blogroll). Also, DJ Times and Mobile Beat magazines are great sources for learning more about all kinds of gear. Talk with other DJs. If someone you know owns a piece of gear you think you might like, ask to try it out.
When you finally decide what gear you want to buy, compare retail and online pricing and remember to take servicing into consideration when making your choice. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a company’s “best deal.”
Feel free to “continue the conversation” by adding your comment to this post!