5 Tips For Buying Your First DJ Setup

Focus: Getting Started

Tags: gear tutorial

Buying your first DJ setup may seem daunting because of all the options available to you. Traktor vs Serato. Pioneer vs Allen & Heath. Numark vs Vestax. Just because there are a lot of options doesn’t mean that is has to be difficult or expensive. Here are our tips for saving money and headache when buying your first DJ setup:

Start with what you already have

Traktor DJ

The cheapest way to start DJing is with free software, like VirtualDJ Home, that provide all the functions and controls need for you to learn the basics. For just a few bucks you can turn the touchscreen device that you already own into the cheapest MIDI controller available. There are a handful of apps for iOS and Android, like Cross Remote, that give you more control over the software running on your computer if you find using a mouse and keyboard less than ideal.

If you want to detach yourself from your computer, and own an iOS device, there are a plethora of apps that put a complete DJ setup in your pocket. Traktor DJ is one of my favorite apps, as it can sync track data between the iOS app and the more advanced Traktor Pro 2 running on your computer. One of advantages to using an iOS app is that the ability to use multi-touch controls to change the software parameters instead of a mouse and keyboard. Some MIDI controllers, like the Native Instruments Kontrol Z1, are designed to work specifically with iOS devices and apps. Buying an inexpensive iOS app is a great way to start DJing and allows you to practice mixing wherever you are.

Set a budget and stick to it

At the end of the day what you buy will depend on how much money you can afford to spend, not how much you want to spend. The distinction is important because it is easy to spend a lot of money on DJ gear. A traditional three piece setup using the latest Pioneer CDJs and DJM mixer costs thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to spend that much for your first setup. Thanks to the advances in software like Traktor Pro 2 and rise in popularity of MIDI controllers, you can find a way to start DJing with any budget. The key is to set a budget and find the best gear that fits. Remember that you can always upgrade later on.

Consider buying used gear

My DJ setup in 2009 consisting entirely of used equipment

DJ gear is designed to be withstand regular use in club and festival environments. Bring it into a home or studio and it can keep working forever. My first setup consisted of all used gear. Not only did I save a ton of money, but it all worked perfectly. The Pioneer DJM-500 that I purchased in 2005 was manufactured in 1997 and still worked flawlessly when I sold it in 2010. The best deals on used gear will be a generation or two behind the current model. Depending on what kind of setup you’re buying this may or may not affect you. Let’s say that the mixer you want to buy doesn’t have all of the latest effects on it. You may be able to make up the loss in features by using newer software like Traktor Pro 2.

Ideally you would want to buy used gear locally so you could make sure that is in good condition. Depending on where you live, that option may not be available to you. I’ve had good luck buying used gear on eBay, but your experiences may differ. If you decide to buy used gear on a website like eBay, be sure to look at the 5 important auction details before placing your bid.

Think about space

You need to consider where you will put your DJ setup before you buy it as you may not realize just how much space it can take up. Many DJs, myself included, have a table or desk that is solely used for their DJ gear. The more hardware that you have, the more space that you’ll need. If you live in a large house with a lot of space, this may not be a problem. However, if you’re living in a dorm room or small apartment this may influence your decision on what to buy. In an environment with a lot of space, you won’t have to worry about the footprint of multiple pieces of physical hardware. When space is an issue, you may want to consider buying a controller like the Native Instruments Kontrol S4 that has a mixer, controller, and soundcard built into one unit.

Don’t forget the little things

No matter what kind of setup you decide to buy, whether it is new or used, there will probably be some extras that you end up having to buy. This could include extra cables to hook up your speakers, USB drives for the latest Pioneer CDJs, or a 1/8 to 1/4 inch adapter for your headphones. Even though these may not be expensive, you should still fit them into your budget. It’s not just about the money though. Your setup may not work correctly without them. You don’t want to order everything and find out after it arrives that you’re missing something. With a little bit of research you’ll be able to order your first DJ setup and have exactly what you need when it arrives.