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DJ Equipment Basics

From your fingers to their ears. Here’s a list of common DJ equipment and how it all works.

Turntables, CD Decks, and Laptops


DJs use all types of audio controllers. Many still use whatever they first used when they started out as a DJ. Others stay current with whatever the digital age brings. If you ask around, you’ll receive many different opinions on which of these is best, but my advice is to go to your local pro audio store and try out various controllers and see what you like. Make sure you’ve mastered your tool before ever performing at a live event. Music comes in many formats, but the most popular are vinyl records, CDs, and MP3.

Mixers With and Without Controllers


In order to play two tracks at the same time, especially for mixing songs together, you need at least two separate audio sources playing at once. In order to control the volume and effects of these 2 sources individually, you need separate channels. Mixers are used to manipulate and control different sources of music. You’ll notice that the left side and the right side of mixers are almost identical, since you’re given the same buttons for each channel.

Over recent years, the mixers and controllers have merged. DJ controllers can now connect directly to your computer running your favorite DJ software via USB, giving you all the features of a mixer and audio control platter in one. DJ controller platters come in various forms, catering to both the vinyl DJs as well as those accustomed to the modern-day platter styles of digital turntables. Not all DJs scratch, so not all DJs have controllers. Some DJs work off their laptop keyboard, which isn’t a bad place to start for mixing, but you won’t have the control over scratch effects like with a turntable controller.

Amplifiers And Speakers


The signal of most electronic audio sources are very small. Whether it’s from a microphone or the auxiliary output of your laptop, an amplifier is what magnifies the signal to be delivered to the speakers. The speakers reproduce the electronic signal, translating the electronic signal into sound vibrations. If you plug your laptop directly into a speaker (without an amp) you’ll hear very little sound if any. Powered speakers are speakers that come with an amplifier already in the speaker cabinet. The only downside to powered speakers is that if your speaker and amp are married, so if one goes, the other is out of commission. Speakers even come wireless with bluetooth, allowing you to send the signal through low-power radio waves, from your audio source to the bluetooth powered speaker.

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