Ever want to have your own DJ Setup? Technology today has really opened up the ability for anyone to have a good DJ set up regardless of budget.

You have the option of buying and using vinyl, using turntables, CDJs (as the name suggests is a digital music player designed to play music from cds, but can also play music from USB drives too), outboard controllers or you can DJ straight out of your laptop. I’ll avoid the usual argument over which is better and simply go over the basics of getting your DJ Setup at home. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on turntables as that is my primary choice for DJing. You can easily swap in a pair of CDJs in place of the turntables for the set ups. The biggest benefit of having a digital set up is having the ability to play and mix any type of music without having to go out and purchase the hardcopy version, which can be costly!

The Components That Make Up A System May Include:
  • Two turntables / cdj / outboard controller
  • A mixer
  • Amplifier and speakers / studio monitors
  • A laptop and software
  • Various cables.

Let’s start with the traditional DJ Equipment Setup.

For the uninitiated, the traditional Dj Set up includes two turntables and a mixer. The turntables used for Djing differ from regular home turntables as they include pitch control allowing you to increase or decrease the speed of the record allowing you to match the tempos of one song to the other. The industry standard was the legendary Technics 1200 (which had since been reissued with a much heftier price tag), but many other budget friendly and capable brands exist. The mixer, as the name suggests allows you to blend the audio from your turntables and outputs it to your speakers. In most cases the mixers include bass, treble and midrange controls helping you shape your mix and make the transitions sound better.

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I have two Technics SL1210’s paired with my trusty old Rane TTM52 Mojo Performance mixer. The basic connection set up is as follows:

  • Fig 1. A) Connect each turntable to the corresponding input on the mixer.
  • Fig 1. B) Be sure to connect the ground wire to the mixer.
  • Fig 1. C) Connect a pair of active monitors via the master out (Booth), or alternatively, to an amp via the audio (Master) out.
  • a laptop and software

Fig. 1

The Digital DJ Software Setup.

There are lots of options for DJ software these days. One of the more popular DJ software applications is Serato, which has revolutionized Djing, as DJs can bring their entire collection with them, instead of a small curated selection.

The software also allows you to record your set. How does it work? The records that are included with the software are imprinted with a control signal that is picked up by the needle and routed into the box via RCA connections. This audio signal is then decoded by the hardware and sent to the computer via USB, telling the computer how fast the record is spinning, where on the record the needle is located, and the direction the record is spinning. Pretty neat! I use the oldest model named the Rane SL2. The SL1 has since been discontinued in favor of the SL2, SL3, and SL4. The Rane SL2 is an upgraded version of the SL1, it outputs a 24bit/48khz signal vs 16bit/44.1khz on the SL1 and it uses USB 2.0 vs USB 1.1. The SL3 and 4 allow for additional decks to be used with the interface denoted by the number. In case you’re wondering, you can also play regular vinyl with a flick of a switch.

SL2 Package

What You’ll Need:
  • A laptop with Serato Dj Software installed.
  • All necessary Cables (usually included the purchase of the Rane SL package).
  • Control discs (records) for your turntables.

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The Set Up:
  • Fig 2. A) First, the signal from the turntables needs to go to the box. Connect your turntables to the Deck inputs on the box.
  • Fig 1. B) Connect the ground wires to the mixer as you did on the traditional set up.
  • Fig 2. B) Now you need to make sure the sound can get back from the laptop to the mixer. Be sure to connect the line outputs
  • Fig 1. A) From the Rane to the LINE inputs of your mixer.
  • Fig 2. C) Lastly using a USB cable (supplied), connect the box to your computer making sure it goes directly and not through a hub.
  • Fig 2. D) Set the switch to your desired setting, phono or CDs.

Fig. 2

The Next Step Up

Mixers have been heavily upgraded to include DJ software in the box, which makes setup much simpler. Keep in mind DJ Music Mixers with this functionality, all within the box, are much more expensive than those without. Using the Pioneer DJMS9 for example:

pioneer-djms9

  1. Simply connect the turntables to the mixer as you would in a traditional DJ setup. See fig. 1
  2. Connect the USB from the mixer to your laptop and you’re off to the races! The mixer has built-in functionality that allows you to switch between actual vinyl and digital music so you can easily switch between the two on the fly!

Fig. 3

What’s my Alternative?

If you don’t own turntables or CDJs you can still use DJ software right off your laptop or purchase an outboard controller like the Pioneer DJ DDJ‑SB2 which mimics the tactile nature of DJing and adds a whole slew of functionality too. So go ahead and get your DJ setup at home; it’s another great way to enjoy your music!

pioneer-ddj

  • kevon27

    Make sure all of your cables are from AudioQuest to get the best sound quality. You must buy vinyl cleaners and have your Technics 1200 tone arm replaced with a $8000 tone arm.

  • Jeff Rock

    Very well thought out and well explained article, however as a professional DJ of over 25 years I feel compelled to point out that the vast majority of DJ’ing at every level has gone to computer based digital file systems since the days of carrying milk crates full of albums or those ugly gray pro cd cases gig to gig is long gone.

    In this new laptop and tablet based era of DJ’ing, while Serato as mentioned in the article is a computer based program, I want to mention to readers not accustomed to this world of audio, that there’s many more programs, and ones to fit many different needs, not just Serato.

    All of the forthcoming information is for the new era and advancing quickly and being used for everything from weddings and corporate gigs, to dance club and studio work, so I’ll provide some short info about each one and what it’s best used for.

    The focus of the article was about Serato which when introduced changed the future of being a DJ, however it has a very steep learning curve, isn’t user friendly but has a lot of great features for the advanced user at large venues or shows (think 100,000 people on the lawn raving to your music). Mixing in all kinds of digital beats and sounds, making loops, creating custom sets and more all within the program. Was formerly used by every club in the nation but is being replaced by more open system programs; think Apple vs Android for programming and submitting apps for approval. Apple requires essentially a finished program submitted for approval, beta testing within the corporation and not allowed for public trial whereas Android is an open platform where you can submit a beta version and anything goes, like the Wild West.

    Traktor Pro – the most advanced program on the market right now. They are the creator of Stems, a system that takes a song and allows you to strip it apart into 4 individual sections; vocals, highs, bass, and rhythm for example. This is revolutionary in that you can now take any individual part of a song and different part of another song and so on to overlay them into your own amazing song creation which stores as an mp4 playable on any program like iTunes etc. Traktor is very user friendly, has massive amounts of hardware support from creator Native Instruments as well as offering thousands of digital files of every instrument recorded in High Rez to use to create anything you want.

    Traktor for iOS. They now offer an app for the iPad and iPhone that has made portable professional level DJ’ing so easy that the days of getting a backyard gig are long gone. This came out shortly after DJ Pro listed below but is a far more advanced program allowing the user to cut, splice, loop and mix on the fly during a set. Want to create that huge drop after a long build up that makes dance floors go crazy? You can mix that on the spot during your set, same as the older era of mixing in another turntable but without having to haul “the coffin” in and out of events. Imports iTunes playlists or uploaded files saved in Dropbox or others.

    Virtual DJ 8 – the favorite program of wedding DJ’s everywhere. So easy to learn, you’ll have it mastered in a weekend of prep for your gig. A fantastic professional learning program that with version 8 may never need to change to anything else. Works with iTunes as well as having a monthly paid program to instantly search and find any song needed on the spot. This is a fantastic program to learn on, as it’s user friendly, in use by most mobile DJ’s and some clubs.

    DJ Pro by Algoriddim. This was the first professional level DJ app that has turned the computer based program world on its head. Completely user friendly (it’s an app), no expensive program to buy for your laptop and is quickly becoming advanced enough to leave your laptop at home. You can access music through iTunes like many others but this is the first program to offer Spotify use meaning you’ll never do a gig again and tell a client you don’t have the song they request. That can be good and bad I’ve found ha. Well worth the small paid price to start building playlists and get comfortable in your home with your iPad and small monitors. Run it through a small mixer with a sound card and some powered monitors and you have a very portable professional set up for weddings, etc. Not really used for those 100k + people raves.

    Rekordbox – a new proprietary program by Pioneer that is used to prepare all your music at home, create playlists and take just a thumb drive to your gig, use a pioneer stand alone mixer with digital screen and keep your laptop closed. Interesting concept but far to new to judge yet.

    Ableton – the most advanced program used in virtually every studio in the world. Very difficult to learn, but endless possibilities to make mixes, record studio sessions and work with a pro mixer. Not really used portable on the road but the standard to make your session to record and download. Traktor has surpassed it temporarily as the go to studio program due to the introduction of Stems.

    This list is far from complete but I wanted the reader to have a few options to find a program that might fit their needs better than Serato if they don’t want to be a professional turntableist (YouTube that word and prepare to be blown away by the talent of the professional competitive mix artist).

    I will be more than happy to answer any questions about the above program if more information is desired or you have a program other than above you’re looking at. I’ve used them all of get the years and still use different ones depending on what my event is. I’m also sure the author of the article can jump in and add his professional opinion as well.

    Thank you again for a great write up.

    Jeff

  • Alex Alleyne

    I have…. (2) turntables , (1) mixer, (1) equalizer, (1) double cassette player/recorder, (1) cd player/recorder , (1) amplifier, (1) pre amplifier.
    I had a friend set up this system where I can play a lp and record it on a CD or cassette at the same time all through the Mixer. I moved and had to disconnect the units and now I am lost on how to reconnect all pieces. My friend has moved to another Country and so I am stranded. Will someone please help me.

  • Alex Alleyne

    For the turntables to play all I had to do is flip the AUX lever.

  • Hi Alex,

    Pardon the delayed response on my end. The connections should be pretty straight forward, connect the turntable to the mixer via the phono inputs. Connect the double cassette player into the line input of one of the channels where one of the turntables is connected. then connect the master out from the mixer into your preamplifier. Alternatively, the mixer acts as it’s own pre amp so you could connect directly into the amplifier and adjust the gain on the mixer and you’re set. I can give you a much better walk through if you supply me with the specific components in your set up.

    Thanks!
    Taps