ICredit: Amazon.comt was over twenty years ago when I started DJing, then the choices were limited, a pair of turntables, a mixer, a pair of headphones and a hi-fi system with line in auxiliary connections so I could hear what I was playing.
Then came Pioneer with their CDJ decks, which vinyl DJs at first turned their noses up at, but slowly they made inroads into club installations and bedrooms around the world. Now dedicated CD only players are themselves being replaced by Laptops running software tools and digital multimedia players take over.
However, does that mean the beginner should ignore the past and jump straight in with one of the latest devices? Not necessarily! Hopefully this DJ equipment for beginner's article, highlighting some of the best DJ equipment will help you make the right choice for you.
The Best DJ Turntables
The venerable Technics 1200 and 1210 were really the best DJ decks and the only contenders, sure there were cheaper belt driven options from Vestax and Numark, but they were pretty horrible to play on.
Pros: Technologically simply, very hands on and tactile, huge back catalogue of music available at very reasonable price (indeed some historical music is still only available on this format, although this is slowly diminishing as people digitise old tracks), reasonable setup cost, looks great to some people, teaches the fundamentals of DJing such as beat and key matching, has the air of a performance about it.
Cons: Equipment and music is bulky and heavy, not all music is issued on vinyl any more, needles wear out and need replacing, vinyl damages easily, looks old fashioned to some people, can take time to master.
Overall: Still a great option for the beginner, especially one who has access to a library of vinyl or enjoys hunting out classic tracks on vinyl, as they teach the skills that will then transfer onto the more technologically advanced equipment.
DJ equipment for beginners Best Buy:
Technics 1200 or 1210
Amazon Price: $699.99 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 13, 2016)
How about CD players for DJs?
Pros: Compact, equipment lightweight and reasonably robust, can be picked up very cheaply – especially earlier models, easy to create your own CDs of music and create multiple copies of same track to play, lots of music released on CD, some decks have advanced sonic manipulation capabilities, generally simpler than Multimedia players, feel on newer models provides great feedback.
Cons: Can be fragile and unless cared for disc skipping can ruin a set, music can be bulky unless organised carefully, CDs are not as robust as first thought, CD releases are more commercial in nature, “feel” on older models not up to vinyl.
Overall: With the advent of Multimedia Players my view is that stretching to one of those that includes the ability to play CDs is a better option now, however a pair of CD decks such as the CDJ1000 mk2 could be a consideration if the DJ will only ever play music from CD.
DJ equipment for beginners Best Buy: 2 x Pioneer CDJ 1000 Mk2
Laptops for DJing
People have been djing with laptops for years, but reliability concerns and the robustness of equipment in the night club environment has always been a concern. There is also the ongoing debate as to which is the best DJ software, my advice there is to play around with as many as possible.
Pros: Amazing capabilities, vast array of software plug-ins, can integrate with own productions and live music, a hard disc can hold an almost infinitesimal amount of music
Cons: Reliability can be concern, lack of any tactile feedback unless an additional DJ controller is added, cost can be high, not generally found in nightclubs.
Overall: While you can create sets and mixes using Serato, Ableton etc (basic version of which come with many soundcards) you really need a controller such as the Pioneer DDJ-S1 DJ Controller or the Vestax Typhoon to enable you to perform live, this adds cost, but they can be very good value for money especially if you already own a reasonably powerful laptop.
DJ equipment for beginners Best Buy: Numark Mixtrack Pro
Amazon Price: $349.00 $239.95 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 13, 2016)
Professional Digital DJ Multi Players
Digital Multi Media players give the Digital DJ the ability to play music from all digital formats and sources available, and can read data files on CD, memory sticks and hard disc drives. This is provides a convenient and flexible way to access and mix your music.
Building on the very capable interfaces developed for the DJ CD players these devices can emulate the vinyl mixing experience very well, but also provide assistance with beat matching, looping, scratching and time stretching.
With interfaces including midi, as well as connections allowing devices to be connected together and to your laptop and even to lighting controllers these devices bring together a huge amount of control over your music and performance.
Pros: Very powerful and flexible, compact and portable, what the pros are using, look amazing with the lights and displays, almost all formats covered (other than vinyl!), can be connected together and synchronised easily, cheaper ipod compatible models available for the beginner, reliable, does a lot for you.
Cons: Pioneer really the only player in the nightclub industry, expensive, cheaper models not robust or compatible with club installations, complex, does a lot (some would say too much) for you
Overall: If you want to jump in here then go for it, the learning curve can be steep but there is plenty of advice on youtube and on forums to help get you started, cost is going to be high but if you are determined then why not?
DJ equipment for beginners Best Buy: The CDJ-350 Digital Multi Player
Beginner DJ equipment packages
A plethora of devices that look similar to the CD and Professional Multimedia players but that are aimed at the bedroom or beginner DJ have appeared over the last few years, the majority utilise tracks stored on an iPod or iPhone which makes them a great replacement for house parties where people bring their devices with them to dock or plug into the hi-fi, instead they can dock with the DJ set and get mixing! There is even the Numark iDJ PRO Premium DJ Controller which incorporates your iPad into the control surface!
Pros: Simple to operate, very good value for money, surprisingly well built and responsive, some are incredibly full featured for the money.
Cons: Some are limited to working with an iPod, avoid really cheap no-brand items or anything with non-replaceable cross fader, limited effects and beat syncing facilities.
DJ equipment for beginners Best Buy: Numark iDJ3
Secondhand DJ Equipment
Remember: Don’t overlook second hand DJ equipment either, now you have some information it will be easier for you to research eBay and classified adverts, people are always looking to sell DJ gear as they upgrade to the lastest DJ equipment, afterall we were all beginners once!