best dj setup for beginners

When you’re starting out in DJ’ing, and before you shell out any hard earned cash on flashy DJ equipment, it’s well worth spending a little bit of time figuring out exactly which DJ setup is the right one for you.

The great thing these day’s, is that there’s a few different DJ setup options for you to choose from.

Your choice will partly depend on the style of DJ’ing you’re looking to get into of course. Some styles lend themselves to having the pick of almost any setup, while others are much more suited to one particular setup type.

To try and help you on your way, let’s take a look at some of the most popular and best DJ setup for beginners.

Turntable Setup (Vinyl)

Old skool!

Yeah, and still beautiful.

If this is the road you want to go down, far be it for me to stop you. This is the setup I learnt on some 19 years ago, and without doubt learning with this setup will give you rock solid DJ foundations.

If you can beatmatch on turntables, you’ll never have a problem beatmatching on any other setup. The same is definitely not true the other way around.

The only potential downside I can think of, is that you may find yourself getting a bit jealous, the first time you DJ out and the DJ coming on after you has got their entire digital record collection at their finger tips, while you’ve just got your box full that you lugged in with you.

But even that’s no biggie because you can easily upgrade this setup to the digital vinyl system when the time is right.

The setup:

  • 2 x DJ Turntables
  • 2 x DJ Cartridges
  • DJ Mixer
  • 2 x Slipmats
  • DJ Headphones
  • Vinyl Records

dj vinyl setup

There are two massive positives with this setup:

First, as mentioned earlier, you’ll learn to DJ properly right from day one;

Second, it’s pretty easy to upgrade to the digital vinyl system further down the line.

If I was starting out today, this is still the setup I would go for…solid foundations! Once my skills were developing, and my bank balance was recovering, I’d upgrade to the next setup on the list.

Digital Vinyl System (DVS)

My current personal favourite DJ setup.

Quite simply, it is absolute genius!

All the convenience and incredible functionality of digital, with all of the beautiful tactile feel of vinyl.

Very basically, DVS allows you to DJ using DJ software and digital music files, but with turntables (or CDJ players).

No need for vinyl DJ’s to drag two record boxes from venue to venue with this baby.

All the sexiness of DJ’ing with vinyl…with none of the hassle. What could be better?

The Setup:

  • 2 x DJ Turntables
  • 2 x DJ Cartridges
  • DJ Mixer
  • 2 x Slipmats
  • DJ Headphones
  • Laptop Computer
  • DJ Interface Package such as Serato, Traktor etc.

dj digital vinyl setup

DJ Interface Package usually includes:

  • Interface (connects your DJ equipment to your computer)
  • DJ Software
  • Control Vinyl
  • RCA cables, USB cable
  • Important Note: Some DJ Mixers have the interface built-in

The big plus points for this setup:

Gives you the option of playing both vinyl as well as digital music files;

You can play digital music files with the feel and touch of vinyl;

Easily expandable from the vinyl setup to full digital vinyl setup.

This is a really popular setup with DJ’s and some of the most popular software systems are from Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ and Rekordbox.

If you really don’t fancy vinyl, in either of it’s forms, maybe the next DJ setup, the CDJ setup, will be of more interest?

CDJ’s

This is a pretty simple and straightforward setup.

And it’s a very popular one currently favoured by an awful lot of DJ’s.

Very similar to the turntable setup, but you’re just using CDJ’s rather than turntables.

Without doubt this system offers more control and a lot more features than the turntable setup. Doesn’t have the beautiful feel though…just saying.

The two CDJ’s play your music and the mixer is used to transition between the two.

The Setup:

  • 2 x CDJ’s
  • DJ Mixer
  • DJ Headphones
  • CDs or MP3s

dj cdj setup

Major plus points for this setup:

CDJ’s with USB inputs can also play digital files from USB sticks, hard drives, etc.;

Easy to upgrade for using with DJ software like Serato and Traktor.

For one reason or another, the next DJ setup is probably the one that I’ve used the least.

DJ Controller

This is probably the most budget friendly DJ setup for beginners, as well as being one of the most straightforward.

This setup uses a laptop, software and a DJ controller.

Your music is played from your computer via software and mixed by use of the controller.

I know it looks like there would be, but don’t be fooled, controllers do not have CD playback functionality. They play digital music files via DJ software.

The setup:

  • DJ Controller
  • Laptop Computer
  • DJ Software
  • DJ Headphones

dj controller setup

Within the software you drag and drop music to the on-screen virtual decks. You then control the music by use of the controller.

And once you get the hang of it, you can easily start adding effects and samples to your sets! But hopefully not too many if you’re playing in public, ‘cos that get’s really tedious.

The DJ setup is a popular choice because:

It comes bundled with software and sound-card, allowing you to simply plug and play via your computer;

It offers great  control over DJ software thereby making extensive music manipulation easily possible;

Extremely compact and portable, meaning that this is a really popular choice for mobile DJ’s.

If you love you’re tech, have cash burning a whole in your pocket and none of this is seeming quite complicated enough for you, why not go straight in at the deep end with the following setup?

DJ Controller And Turntable Combo

Now this is going to involve an awful lot of kit.

Possibly it’s a bit too complicated for the average beginner to sensibly get involved with on day one…but hey, this is DJ’ing and there’s nothing sensible about it anyway!..And if there is you’re probably doing it wrong!

While this setup is more complicated than any of the others previously mentioned, it does also introduce a ton of extra functionality and top-level features.

Possible the best thing about this particular setup, is that you can start by learning to beatmatch on the beautifully cool turntables.

Once you have nailed beatmatching and mixing with vinyl, you can then move on and start bringing the controller in on the action. Take it easy though, learn in steps, pick a function and really get to grips with how to use it before moving on to the next one.

DJ’ing is one of those things where having deep skills in a small number of techniques far outstrips having shallow skills in a load of techniques.

I know it’s really tempting to keep moving on to the next thing to learn, but perfecting your skills at every stage will pay off for you in the long run, time and time again.

The Setup:

  • 2 x DJ Turntables
  • 2 x DJ Cartridges
  • 2 x Slipmats
  • Vinyl Records
  • DJ Controller
  • Laptop Computer
  • DJ Software
  • DJ Headphones

dj controller turntable combo setup

To be fair, if you can’t have fun with all this lot there’s probably not a lot of hope for you! Maybe shoelace collecting might be more your sort of thing?

You’ve probably realised that in this setup, your controller is going to act as the mixer for your turntables. Because of this, just make sure when you are buying that that the controller has 2 phono inputs as these are the points that you’ll be plugging your turntables in to.

Try and make sure you get a controller with a built-in soundcard (most do have one) so that you can plug it straight into your computer.

This setup also lends itself to easily swapping out the two turntables for CDJ’s, should you’d prefer to go down that road.

An awful lot to get on day one of your DJ’ing journey, but you’d be pretty well kitted out for ten years or more with this lot, that’s for sure.

Now, from one extreme to the other…

Computer/Device Only

I wouldn’t say this is the best option…

…but;

If you’re tight for space, and/or money but really don’t want to wait any longer to start getting into DJ’ing, this is an option worth looking into.

Whether you’re looking to use your home computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, all you’ll need to add is some appropriate DJ software and you’re good to go.

The Setup:

  • Computer
  • DJ Software
  • Headphones

Yeah, that’s it!

All you’re mixing will be done on your chosen device within the DJ software…weird…but kind of cool as well.

The obvious plus points for this DJ setup are the following:

Assuming you already have a compatible device of some sort, this is easily the least expensive option.

It’s also easily the most compact and portable of all the setups. You will however be giving up some ability to be creative.

It’s not about what the equipment does, it’s about what you can do through that equipment. That’s where the soul is.

Ritchie Hawtin

Whichever of the above six DJ setups you decide to go for, you’re going to need to get some sound out of it, and into the room.

So now we’ll take a quick look at the sound-system…or, speakers and amplifier.

Sound-System

When it comes to my sound-system, personally I’ve always used speakers with an amplifier, but increasingly people tend to be going for active/powered speakers for their home setups.

Active/powered speakers or powered have an amplifier built-in, so they plug directly in to your mixer without needing to go via an amplifier. This makes it really convenient as it’s one less bit of kit to to buy, and to have to make space for. You won’t find many bars or clubs running with this system though, they tend to all have an amplifier, speakers and sub-woofer.

All the DJ equipment mentioned above will connect into an amplifier, or active/powered speakers via the master output on either the dedicated mixer or the controller.

My favourite speakers have always been JBL’s as they’ve got crisp and punchy sound, they’re robust and they last for years.

Best DJ Setups For Beginners – Rounding It Up

I remember well when I was buying my first DJ setup, it seemed like an awful lot of money to be shelling out.

Especially as at the time I was pretty skint, so I had to tighten my belt in a lot of other areas to stand any chance of raising the cash I needed to get my hands on the kit I wanted.

Looking back, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

Not only has being able to DJ contributed endless great nights out to my life, but the kit proved to be of massive quality itself.

That was nearly twenty years ago, and I still have the same pair of Technics 1210’s.

That’s quite remarkable given that I’ve used them almost every day, sometimes for hours and hours at a time, they’ve been driven around for miles in the back of my car, on route to bars that didn’t have a set of their own, at some of which places, they’ve had drinks spilt on them and lashed-up people fall on them.

After all of this, they still spark-up every single time like they’re boxfresh.

So I know it’s a lot of money to spend, but a decent DJ setup will pay you back many, many times over.

Got Something To Add?

I’d really love to hear from you.

Jump in to the comments below and let me know what DJ setup you’re thinking of going for.

Or if you’ve already got your hands on your new DJ kit, how are you getting on with it? Any big positives or negatives you’d like to point out that could help others out in making their buying decision?