Beginners’ Buyer Guides
For most people visiting the website, you’re probably already clued up on all there is to know about DJing – but for the people interested in starting out, or thinking of buying a gift for a DJ you know – we’ve written some handy product guides below for you to follow.
- Computer Software
- Midi Controllers
- CD Players
- Turntable Parts
- DVS Systems
- Monitor Speakers
- Equipment Bags, Workstations and Flightcases
- Used Equipment
This will be cheapest option, and a good place to start - just install software – such as Traktor, VirtualDJ, Ableton etc. However, only having your keyboard and mouse for the controls can prove to be very difficult, so it would be advisable to invest in a DJ controller, which you can read about below.
Before buying, make sure the software is compatible with your operating system.
A solution to the problem encountered by only using your keyboard/mouse/MPC/pad controller would be to buy a DJ controller to go with your DJ computer software. These normally come all set up and ready to go with two virtual decks and a mixer. Make sure your DJ Controller comes with an extra soundcard though; otherwise you’ll have to buy an external multi-channel USB soundcard. This is because you need two soundcard outputs for the headphone channel and the speaker channel. It’s also important that the soundcard the controller uses is good quality – bad quality soundcards can cause latency, lack clarity or punch and cause humming or hissing.
Controllers combine two separate decks on each side and a mixer in the middle, and these all integrate with your computer software. The software is normally included with the controller when you buy it. With cheaper controllers this will be a ‘Lite’ or ‘LE’ version of the software, a sort of introductor version, but you can usually download the full version from the manufacturer’s website with a discount, using your controller’s serial number.
One major setback with this set up is that you do not get a choice of what mixer you’d like. Different controllers will come with different amounts of channels on their mixers. You’re not going to be able to change the mixer if you start to get fed up with only having 2 channels, so make sure the DJ controller you choose has the right amount of channels and other features on it to meet your needs.
However, it is a great platform on which to start out. If you are a beginner, make sure you buy a controller that you can develop some tangible skills on, that you can transfer to, eventually, what is most likely to be today’s standard setup, the CD decks.
These are for DJs wishing to use CDs. They’re the most versatile option you can choose as they’ve got similarities with both vinyl decks and digital controllers, but also tend to be the most expensive. It is perfect for DJs that are wishing to integrate their physical CD set-up with their digital set-up.
CD decks normally support many different types of media, so you can also burn your tracks to DVDs, or plug in your hard drive or USB stick if you don’t fancy taking your laptop to a gig. Most companies that design and manufacture CD decks also release computer software, which allows you to easily manage your library, and you can sort it according to BPM or genre, or anything you like.
This is a popular choice for DJs who want to transfer to CDs and mp3s from vinyl. Most modern ones will play CDs, CD-Rs and CD-RWs, and file types .wav, .aiff and .mp3. More modern ones will also be able to control DJ software, just be sure to check that it’s compatible with whatever software you want to use before you buy it. Some CD decks and controllers will have pre-made MIDI mapping for certain software.
You may want to go for a cheaper option than today's club-standard decks if you’re on a budget or just starting out. The cheaper CD decks on the market have the basic controls you need for starting out – such as pitch bend buttons (which slow down and speed up a track).
The CD deck's jog wheel will allow you to ‘scratch’ your CDs like they are vinyl. Larger jog wheels tend to be easier to use. Some other features that most modern CD players have are:
- Seamless loops
- Hot Cues
- Other platter effects
- On-board effects
- Digital sampling
- Key lock
You might want to look into which of these features are most important to you, and choose a deck that includes all of these features.
Some DJs choose to use Timecoded CDs in CD decks with software such as Serato Scratch Live. Some CDJs have something called HID mode, which will allow you to use the decks with software without having to use the timecode CDs.
For the classic vinyl DJ setup, you will need two Turntables and a mixer. This can prove to be the most expensive option, especially as vinyl DJs tend to spend a lot of money collecting the vinyl. It is also the bulkiest option, which makes it hard to transport. However, since DVS systems have come out, vinyl DJing has become less bulky with DJs still able to use their decks, but keeping all of their music on their laptop, eliminating the need to carry around their bag of records.
Most people go for Technics turntables as they are the industry standard. If you decide you do want to buy a Technics Turntable, you would have to buy second hand as they are not in production anymore. Here at Bop DJ we specialize in restoring Technics Turntables and have them in stock here…
There are two types of turntables – direct and belt drive. Belt drives are cheaper, but will stop when the record is touched, so they’re not recommended for scratching - only for basic mixing. They’re really only recommended for beginners.
Top-end decks come with digital outputs with are useful for connecting a deck to a digital recorder (CD or MD) or a computer for mastering. These decks also have line outputs, which means you don’t need a phono connection to connect to.
Top-end decks also tend to have little extra features on them, such as a 78 RPM setting (which is rarely needed really), and an LCD display which can display the BPM of the record you’re playing (although it’s not always that accurate).
When you buy a turntable it’ll more than likely come with a slipmat or rubber mat. A slipmat goes between your platter and your record and allows you to stop the record and move it backwards and forwards for scratching, without restricting the platter from rotating. A rubber mat is designed for DJs that don’t want to scratch, and want the record to sit more firmly in place.
Here are the slipmats we sell…
It’ll also come with a headshell, which is the device that goes on to the end of the tone arm and connects the tone arm and the cartridge. The stylus, which you connect to the cartridge, is your ‘needle’. This will need to be replaced at least every year depending on how much you use your turntable and whether you do a lot of scratching.
Most styli are spherical-tipped, although you can also buy elliptical styli. Elliptical sound better and wear the records less, but don’t track as well. They’re also more expensive.
Higher-end cartridges can give better sound quality and tracking ability. Some are designed for scratching, such as the Shure M447. Others are designed more for dance music, such as the Ortofon Elektro, which give you a brilliant sound quality.
A cartridge will always be sold with a stylus, but styli are also available separately. Styli will wear and tear more if they’re not looked after. Scratch DJs will wear styli out much quicker.
You can also buy different-sized headshell weights – different ones are manufacturer recommended for different styli. You might want a larger weight than recommended if you want better tracking, but this can wear out your records quicker.
When buying a cartridge, the instructions supplied with it will tell you how to wire it up to the headshell. Once it’s attached, readjust and rebalance your deck to suit the new cartridge and stylus using the counterweight and tone arm height adjustment.
Fitting a more expensive cartridge to a cheaper stylus will only give the performance of the cheaper stylus, so make sure you use an appropriate cartridge for your stylus.
It is recommended to change your stylus once a year, or twice if you do a lot of scratching.
You should change both of your styli at the same time; one sounding better than the other will make the worse quality one stick out in the mix.
Here are the Headshells, Cartridges and Styli we sell…
Your turntable will come with a lid as well, so you can protect your turntable from dust and other dangers when it’s not being used. You may need a replacement eventually if it gets cracked or scratched or breaks.
Over time your turntable will become subject to wear and tear, and some parts of it will need replacing. Some of these parts will need to be installed by a professional, others you’ll probably be able to do yourself. Make sure you know whether you can install a part yourself before you attempt to, otherwise you could end up causing your turntable damage. Parts can also not be returned to us once they’ve been installed, so make sure you’ve ordered the right one. For all of the parts we sell, we have advised on whether you should get a professional to install them or not. Here’s a handy list of turntable parts and what they do:
- Platter: the part that sits on the spindle and rotates the vinyl
- Reverse switch: the switch that makes the platter spin backwards
- Start/Stop switch: Stops and starts the platter from spinning.
- Motor: drives the platter. (More expensive = higher torque – 1-2 -4.5 kg/cm)
- Spindle: Spoke that keeps the record in place.
- Target light: lights up the vinyl so it is easier to see where you are placing the stylus on the record
- Speed selection button: normally 33 and 45 RPM.
- Display: can indicate the speed, pitch, direction or BPM of the record
- Pitch control: varies playing speed of the record. The pitch range of a turntable decides by how much percent it can increase or decrease the speed of a track. Technics Turntables go to +/-8%. (You’ll rarely need more than that, generally if you go over 8% your record will start to sound very unusual).
- Power switch: Turns the deck on/off, and can create a wind down effect.
- Height adjust: Raises/Lowers the tone arm (so you can adjust it to the perfect height when giving it a new cartridge or stylus).
- Headshell: the unit that is put at the end of the tone arm, and cartridge is mounted onto.
- Tone arm: Come as S-shaped and straight. Some DJs believe certain types of tone arm are better than others, but there’s no proof to any of the theories people come out with, it’ll just be down to your own taste. Most turntables are sold with an S-shaped tone arm.
- Anti-skate control: this prevents the tone arm from scratching the record as it returns to the centre by reducing the pressure.
- Counterweight: adjusts the weight and stylus pressure for the cart.
Here are the Turntable parts we have in stock…
A DVS system lets you control any DJ software on your computer with either a vinyl or CD player setup. This is handy for DJs who like to use vinyl and CD but don’t want to bring all their CDs and vinyls with them everywhere – instead you can keep them all stored on your laptop and only take your two timecoded CDs or vinyls, which will come with the pack. The CDs/vinyls will communicate with your computer via your player, then via an interface - which will also come with the pack.
Remember to always check whether software is compatible with your operating system before buying.
There are many different types of mixers on the market. There are ones which are more suited for Mobile DJS, and ones which are suited for scratch DJs, and so on. Mixers for scratch DJs have features which allow you to adjust the crossfader, choosing whether it fader between the channels sharply or smoothly. They’d also get more use out of a hamster switch, which will be explained below.
Some mixers have USB connection and some don’t, so it’s important that it does have this feature if you’re a laptop DJ. You will also want to be able to integrate it with your software, so make sure that it’s compatible with the software you have.
The most important factor you need to think about before buying a mixer is the amount of channels you need. Mixers with fewer channels on them tend to be cheaper, but obviously there will be limitations. A mixer with two channels will only allow you to control two devices, such as two turntables or two CD players. If you buy a mixer with more channels, you can add more devices to your setup.
Your standard mixer will have these basic functions on each channel:
- Gain Control: sets the level, so you can play music from both your sources at the same volume
- EQ control: Different mixers will have different numbers of bands for EQ. Some will have 2 – which will let you control the level of the low and high frequencies in the track, and others will have 3, which lets you control the mid frequencies as well. Some will also have a ‘Kill Switch’, which cuts off certain frequencies completely.
- Curve control: this controls how you want your crossfader to work. If you’re a scratch DJ, you’ll want it short and sharp so you can switch between the two sources quickly. If you’re more into mixing your tracks, you’ll want the crossfader to work more smoothly.
- Hamster switch/Crossfader reverse switch: This reverses the position of the channels across the mixer. It’s usually found on mixers for scratch DJs, as it allows them to scratch using their preferred hand, for example if they’re right handed, they can scratch on the right hand turntable, and when they want to switch to scratching on the left turntable, but with their right hand, they can still use the crossfader with their left hand.
Beware of BPM counters on low-end mixers as they are not always totally accurate. They are not normally included on higher-end professional ones.
The more high-end mixers on the market will include features such as these:
- Effects send and return: This connects an external effects unit to your mixer
- Built-in effects (which will sync using auto BPM detection or a tap tempo key)
- Mic input
- VCA/Optical/Digital crossfaders: This passes audio through a crossfader by using a separate voltage supply or a light. This will make it last longer than a normal crossfader.
Crossfaders will wear easily, especially if you’re using it a lot to scratch. Replacement crossfaders are usually available on the Internet for the more expensive mixers.
Firstly, when buying monitor speakers you need to decide whether you want active or passive ones. Passive ones are cheaper but will require buying an external amp. This can be advantageous if you’d prefer to choose your own amp, however with active speakers, having an in-built amp can be advantageous as it is matched to the driver, allowing the speaker to be more stable and better protected.
Passive speakers need an external amplifier to convert the electrical current into loud sound through the speaker cone. The wire from the external amplifier can be prone to interference and compromise the sound quality. Once the signal is amplified, it is then split into two, and both sent to different speaker cones. The higher frequency signals are sent to the tweeter (the smaller cone), and the lower frequencies to the woofer (the bigger cone).
Active speakers are better for use in studios, as they give a clearer, uncoloured sound. The difference is they split the signal before it is amplified. This allows it to split the signal much more accurately. They can also match the EQ to a room’s characteristics.
Monitor speakers differ from your average Hifi speakers because they give a flat response, which means they do not emphasise any frequencies. If you’re producing music and you mix your track using these, you’ve got the best bet of them sounding good on all other speakers too, such as old car speakers that sometimes have hardly any bass response, or Hifi/Computer speakers which sometimes emphasise the bass.
Some high-end monitor speakers split the signal into 3 frequency bands and have 3 speaker cones – a tweeter, mid range cone and a woofer.
The best types of headphones for DJs are closed-back. This means the back of the earcup is closed, which help to eliminate all background noise, allowing you to make your mix in your headphones without the PA speakers distracting you.
There are different factors to think about when buying a set of headphones – different DJs will have different needs.
Some will want a longer cable, some a shorter one. Cables also come as straight or coiled. The coiled type can last longer as if it’s yanked the cables inside it or the plugs on either end are less likely to break. Good headphones will come with a detachable cable so you can change them if you don’t like them or if they break. Headphones with a 90-degree angle on the jack are designed so that they’re harder to bend and break than the straight version. Some headphones will come with replaceable earpads too, as this is another part that can get worn easily. Replacement ear pads for some headphones can also be bought online.
The general rule of thumb with headphones is you’ll get what you pay for. It’s advisable to check online reviews of different models as well, to make sure you make the right choice. There are lots of specifications to look out for when buying a pair of headphones:
- Driver: Normally expressed in mm for the diameter - the bigger the driver the more bass response it’ll have.
- Driver type: DJ headphones use dynamic drivers, eg a mini-speaker. This gives you clarity, high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) and good bass response.
- Frequency range: a human can hear between frequencies of 20Hz and 20kHz. This number will be in kHz and will tell you the frequency response range of the headphones.
- Connector type: this will be a jack plug. Jack plugs can come as ¼” or 3.5mm. Larger ones will be for equipment, smaller ones for devices such as iPods. DJ headphones will normally come with an adapter so you can use both.
- Max input: The higher this number is, the less distortion the headphones will suffer at high volumes. High-end headphones come in at about 3000mW.
- Sensitivity: The higher this number is, the greater volume level the headphones will get to. Normally shown in dB or mW.
- Swiveling ear cups: frees up DJs hands while they beat match using their headphones on one ear.
- Weight: Lighter headphones can be easier on the head for long sets; however heavier ones can be sturdier and long lasting. It’s best to find a pair of headphones with a good balance between the two.
- Folding design: Headphones with a folding design are easier to store in places like DJ bags and take up less space.
- Stereo/Mono switch: switching your headphones to Mono will make both left and right channels play out of both headphone speakers. This feature is mainly for people who are hard of hearing or deaf in one ear. DJs might also want to use this feature for mixing when only using their headphones on one ear.
- Impedance (ohms): the higher the impedance, the less current and more voltage the headphones will need to power the drivers. The loudness of the headphones for a given voltage also decreases.
Make sure the bag/workstation/flight case you buy is compatible for your particular model.
Workstations are designed to hold a full DJ setup – for example, two CD players, a Mixer and a Laptop, or a USB controller and Laptop. Your equipment does not need to be removed from the workstation to be used, and this makes DJing on the go much easier.
‘Coffin’ flightcases come in a long, rectangular shape, and normally hold two CD players/decks and a mixer. They can also be used as a stand for your set up at a gig.
When buying a stand for your equipment, consider whether you’ll need room for things such as external hard drives, and whether it’s height adjustable. If you’re planning on moving your equipment around a lot, it is advisable to get one that’s lightweight, easy to set up and can be flat-packed.
A decksaver has been made for pretty much any model of Turntable, Mixer, DJ Controller, Effects Unit and CD Player. All you need to do is find the one that’s compatible with your equipment. The decksaver will protect it when it isn’t being used, should it be subject to any kind of incoming missiles and/or liquids in a busy gig environment, or simply keep the dust off it when you’re keeping it at home. It’ll also allow you to keep your cables and leads intact while it’s on.
Used equipment is always a great alternative for people who are looking for high quality products for a cheaper price. Used equipment we sell here at Bop DJ is always accurately described, and detailed pictures of the product are always available, making any cosmetic marks clearly visible. We are experts in restoring used equipment, so anything we sell is always in 100% working order. However if you receive a product you are not pleased with the condition of it, you can always send it back to us for a refund, or to get it fixed, free of charge.
The advantages of buying something from Bop, rather than from an independent seller on eBay or any other site, is you’ll get either a 1-year or 90-day warranty with us (depending on the product), so you’re covered if it breaks. We’re also always on the other end of the phone should you have any questions about your new purchase. We’ve been refurbishing and selling used equipment for years so we’ve got the knowledge and the experience.