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
- DJ Controllers
- CD/USB Players
- DVS Systems
- Monitor Speakers
- Equipment Bags, Workstations and Flightcases
- Used Equipment
Often the cheapest option, and a good place to start - just install software! The main ones are Serato, Rekordbox DJ, Traktor, VirtualDJ, and Ableton. However, only having your keyboard and mouse for the controls can prove to be very difficult, so it would be advisable to invest in an MPC - otherwise known as a sampler. This will still present you with restrictions however, but if you're thinking of starting out with a cheap option to get going, it can work, although eventually you may want to consider investing in a MIDI DJ controller, which you can read about below.
Before buying, make sure the software is compatible with your operating system. You can check this on the product pages.
A solution to the problem encountered by only using your keyboard/mouse/MPC would be to buy a MIDI 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 "DJ deck" controllers on each side, often in the form of a jog wheel which emulates the old school vinyl feel, 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. However, with cheaper controllers, this will sometimes be a 'Lite' or 'LE' 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.
CD & USB Decks
These are a more expensive option than DJ controllers, but they're the most versatile option, and also bypass the need for a laptop in your setup. Depending on which you get, the player may have a CD drive, may have a USB input, or an SD card input, or a combination of each. All modern models have USB inputs. The most recent models do not have a CD drive. This means more and more DJs in this day and age are moving away from using CDs and towards hard drives and USB sticks for storing their music.
Some DJs may require players with USB inputs and CD drives because they want to integrate their CD library with their digital files on USB, and are not yet ready to take the step to fully using USB drives. Most companies that design and manufacture CD/USB decks also release computer software. This allows you to organise your library on your computer, sort it according to BPM or genre, or anything you like, and then export the library onto your USB drive. Then when you plug that drive into the CD/USB deck, it will know all of your playlists, cue/loop points, have the tracks already analysed, and so on.
This is also 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. Most 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.
We have the top-of-the-range decks available in our stores and online, but you may want to go for a cheaper option 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 controls (which slow down and speed up a track) and cue buttons.
Some DJs choose to use Timecoded CDs in DJ CD decks with DVS software such as Serato Scratch Live. This can also be achieved by downloading an mp3 file of the timecode tone and putting it on a USB stick (although there is not much need to do that nowadays, as most modern decks with USB input will have the MIDI capability to talk to software anyway.)
The CD decks’s jog wheel will allow you to ‘scratch’ your CDs or USB files like they are vinyl. Larger jog wheels tend to be easier and nicer to use, although they normally come on the more expensive models in the range. Some other features that most modern CD/USB players have are:
- Seamless loops
- Slip mode
- 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.
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 digitally on their laptop, eliminating the need to carry around their bag of records.
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 or a computer for mastering. These decks also have line outputs, which means you don’t need a phone 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).
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.
It may or may not come with a headshell, which is the device that goes on to the end of the tonearm and connects the tonearm 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. It's always recommended to check the specifications of the turntable you're buying so that you're clear on which accessories are included, so then you know which ones you will need to buy separately. On the higher-end turntables you may find cartridges are not included, for the reason that these decks are for seasoned turntablists, and they are more than likely going to want to choose their own cartridge which is suited to their specific needs.
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.
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.
Your turntable may come with a lid, 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. If it doesn't come with a lid, there may be a decksaver cover for your turntable available.
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. (Generally, more expensive = higher torque)
- Spindle: Centre 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, sometimes 78 RPM.
- 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.
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 fades 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.
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
- High-end crossfader such as Magvel or Innofader.
Crossfaders will wear easily if you’re using it a lot to scratch. Replacement crossfaders are usually available on the internet for the more expensive mixers.
Most monitor speakers on the market nowadays are active. This means that they've got an in-built amp, unlike passive ones. You'd have to purchase a separate amp for passive speakers, but people only generally do this when they want a fully analogue sound, such as when setting up a hifi record player.
Active speakers are better for use in studios, as they give a clearer, uncoloured sound. The difference between active and powered is active speakers split the signal before it is amplified, and powered speakers before. This allows active speakers 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. Some monitor speakers will have more of a flat response than others, but that doesn't mean they're 'better' - it's down to personal preference. The best way to find the perfect speakers for you is to actually listen to them, in store or wherever you can. Some speakers will have a completely flat response, made for music production only, whereas others will be built for DJ practice too, and other speakers will be configured to sound the best for DJ practice. Whichever ones you go for, your ears will get used to the sound of your speakers in contrast to other ones, so you should be able to produce music on any kind of good quality monitor speaker, as long as you familiarise yourself with them.
If you’re producing music and you mix your track using flat monitor speakers, 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. Most will only have a tweeter and a woofer. You might wish to extend the low-end of your studio speaker setup by adding a subwoofer.
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 are also available.
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. This is different to frequency response, which tells you how loud the headphones are at different frequencies.
- Impedance: The lower the impedance, the less power they require to deliver high volume level in your ears. Most DJ headphones you will find have an impedance between 25 & 70 ohms. This makes them ideal for use with DJ mixers, allowing you to turn the headphone level up to the max without blowing them out (although this is not recommended for your ears and may still blow them out!). They'll also be able to work well with smaller portable devices like iPhones. Some higher-end studio headphones may have a much higher impedance, which means they need more power from the input to be able to deliver a high volume signal in your ears. This may leave you wondering why some people bother buying these headphones, but some studio equipment has a high amplifier power output, and in this case, high-impedance headphones will be protected against damage caused by overloading. You can connect up to 10 or more pairs to the same output. However, they may not be loud enough when plugged into a portable device.
- 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 portable devices such as iPods. DJ headphones will normally come with an adapter so you can use both.
- Swiveling ear cups: sometimes there is a joint in the headphone band which makes it easier for a DJ to turn an earcup around so it's not on his/her 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.
Equipment Bags, Workstations & Flight Cases
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. There is also room at the back for cables. Your equipment does not need to be removed from the workstation to be used, and this makes DJing on the go much easier.
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 will protect your equipment 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. Sometimes they'll also fit inside a case/bag as well, so it can provide extra protection for your equipment when you're on the go.
Used equipment is always a great alternative for people who are looking for high quality products for a cheaper price. 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.