Today we’ll discuss the best DJ setups for beginners and why it’s crucial to pick the right one. Building your first setup is never easy and often overwhelming – but don’t worry! My DJ equipment guide will make your job a lot easier – especially if you are a beginner and have no idea what to do.
Even a cheap DJ setup for beginners will cost you a fortune if you are on a budget – so getting the best bang for the buck is something you should be striving for! No worries – go through the guide point by point and you’ll soon find yourself very comfortable with picking the best DJ setup for beginners out there!
Types Of DJ Setups
Think of a turntable system as a core of your setup – that’s the input device that you need to plug-in other DJ gear, mix tracks, and a lot more! There is a huge variety of these beginner DJ setup cores of all different kinds, sizes, and features – DJing has been around for over 70 years after all.
Let’s look at 5 most popular DJ setups for beginners and professionals that DJs love all around the world.
1) CDJ Setup – Easiest DJ Setup
Developed by Pioneer, this setup is the simplest is made of 2 multi-players and a mixer in between. Pioneer has been dominating the market of budget DJ setups for years and has a lot to offer to those with little to no experience in DJing.
Even though the company makes professional controllers and turntables for decades, they’ve only recently gotten into the budget DJ gear market. Luckily, the quality of the controllers and setups for beginners is fantastic. You can’t possibly find a more reliable product in the same price range.
Another reason why it would be appealing for upcoming DJs is the fact that Pioneer DJ Rekordbox is often included with their products as well – so you can start mixing and mashing right away, without spending an extra penny.
You can use almost any external input to connect to the DJ setup – besides the Rekordbox DJ software, CDJs also accept CD and USB as external drivers. Considering the fact that most beginners don’t have a lot of funds to invest in a library of tracks, that’s a fantastic feature.
With intuitive workflow and easy set-up – CDJs are the most popular controllers among beginners due to how easy they are to use!
2) Controller Setup – Most Popular DJ Setup
While the CDJ turntables above look very appealing to beginners, most amateur DJs prefer controller setup. It’s more flexible and is connected directly to your laptop. You can’t really use a USB stick or a CD disk. Instead, you are going to be playing the tracks directly from your DJ software – Serato DJ, Rekordbox, Traktor, or another one.
On top of that, you can edit the samples directly from your computer, or add effects and plugins to change the sound up to your liking. These software programs are very similar to digital audio workstations that music producers use to make beats and record tracks. If you have any experience with DAWs, getting into DJing should be a lot easier as you’ll know your way around.
Some DJ controllers already come with a sound card – plug-and-play function at its finest. You just need to plug the MIDI into your laptop, and you are ready to go! My piece of advice is – don’t go for the cheapest DJ controller even if you are on a budget. Stick to reputable brands like Pioneer, Numark, Audio-Technica, Roland, etc.
Saving pennies can cost you dollars in the long run – so be smart about it. Usually, there is hardly ever anything to worry about – most controllers for beginner DJ setups are good quality and come with a warranty – don’t want to scare you for no reason. If you want the most flexible DJ setup for beginners – go with controller setup.
3) Classic Turntable Setup – Original DJ Setup
This setup is where it’s all started – and it’s been the most popular for decades before digital controllers have taken over the industry. The DJ setup for beginners is very similar to the CDJ setup, but you can’t use CDs or USB sticks. With classic turntable setup – you have to use vinyl records!
Do you see why it’s not the most popular beginner DJ setup anymore? Instead of downloading digital files and dropping them into your DJ software, you have to go to the store or order expensive and fragile vinyl records! If you have a few already – excellent. If you don’t – there is a perfect alternative with digital vinyl for you down the list!
4) Digital Vinyl System Setup – New Age Vinyl DJ Setup
The main feature of this DJ setup is timecode vinyls – now you are able to play music from your laptop. You can also purchase timecode CDs (sometimes they are included). Now you can get the authentic feel of DJing without having to spend too much on expensive vinyl records!
Depending on your DJ setup, your mixer may or may not support DVS. If it does – you are set – start mixing and mashing already. If it doesn’t – you’ll have to either upgrade the mixer itself or purchase a soundcard for it – that’s completely up to you. If you buy one, you just need to plug it into your laptop USB port and connect it to the beginner DJ setup – simple as that!
5) Classic Turntable + DVS Combined Setup – Best DJ Setup for Beginners and Pros
As you could’ve guessed already – this DJ setup is pretty much everything you asked for. It’s simple to understand for beginners, but you can also grow with it for years! It’s a more considerable investment than the previous setups, but it pays off in the long run! The best part of this setup is that you don’t have to buy everything right away.
Get a classic turntable setup and learn all of its ins-and-outs – until you feel like you need another challenge. Then invest in a better mixer and DVS to test yourself and learn new skills. Slowly but surely, you’ll end up with a fantastic DJ setup – and you’ll know how to use it.
You’d much rather build it piece by piece while learning everything about it very slowly instead of getting everything at once and feeling overwhelmed by a billion of features, tweaks, and settings you’ve never heard of.
If you are confident you’ll be using it to its full extent and have at least some knowledge and experience in both music production and DJing – classic turntable setup with DVS addon will help you expand your creativity and develop new DJing essential skills!
Clearly, for every DJ setup besides the classic turntable one you'll need some kind of computer to connect the DJ gear to. Considering you'll likely be playing at gigs and events outside of your DJ home studio, getting a DJ laptop is your best bet.
- CPU – at least an i5 Intel Core
- RAM – at least 8GB
- Drive – preferably an SSD with 128GB – 256GB
Like most products from Apple, MacBook Pro does a great job as a laptop for DJing – you can't really go wrong here – if the price tag doesn't scare you. You can see top DJs all over the world using one when playing not only at clubs, but even the biggest music festivals like Coachella and Tomorrowland. Why is it so popular? Let's find out.
MacBook Pro is one of the highest-quality built laptops with great and DJing suitable specs – powerful CPU, plenty of RAM, and a light-speed SSD – everything to make your mixing and mashing sessions smoother and more comfortable than ever. If you have a hard drive as opposed to a solid state drive – you'll notice a decent bump in speed the second you press the power button.
As I said before, most of the time the only drawback that may keep you from getting one is the MacBook's price tag – it's not the cheapest DJ laptop on the market but definitely one of the most reliable ones. It will never crash on you if you don't abuse its resources to an absurd – no DJ software can do that.
It's also made of metal as opposed to plastic so expect it to be very durable. It works wonders when doing video and photo editing as well, so if you ever decide on creating a DJ tutorials YouTube channel or designing another album cover – you are set.
2) DJ Software
Alright, you've bought a nice DJ laptop – what's now? Clearly, you need a DJ software to run everything smoothly. Well, you may also use vinyl and CDs, but at this day and age having one installed on your computer is a must if you want to DJ competitively. It's hard to pick one for a beginner because there are so many – all with different features.
Staying with the biggest DJ software and gear developers like Serato and Pioneer is usually the best bet – they are reliable, used by millions of users worldwide and tend to have the best customer support and forums fan base. Therefore, you'll always find a lot of educational material to master your skills and troubleshooting guides to fix any issues that may arise along the way.
Serato DJ Pro is the most popular DJ software in the world with millions and millions of followers and fans. Hip-hop, EDM, dance, pop – Serato DJ works seamlessly with every genre. If you haven't purchased your DJ gear yet – a lot of it is designed specifically to be used with Serato DJ. If you are looking for something that delivers limitless performance – you've found the DJ software that will let you unleash your creativity and potential.
Like I've mentioned earlier, you won't need CDs or vinyls again – everything is in the cloud now. You can stream every track of your choice from the major music distributors – SoundCloud and Tidal. While they do require a monthly subscription, your library is now unlimited – play songs on demand whenever and wherever and go all-in – the sky is the limit!
The only drawback is the fact that you can't create sets with these streaming services – the feature is being developed by it's really complicated when it comes to royalties and legal use – hold on tight, and in a couple of years you may be able to do so. Lastly, make sure you have a good internet connection – you can't save the tracks to use them offline for now. Other than that, it's a superior feature that should definitely be adopted by more DJ software developers.
You can get it on the Serato DJ Pro official website.
After we’ve decided on our DJ setup that will suit your needs, let’s look at the second most essential element every DJ uses, which is a mixer – a core element of any beginner DJ setup. Essentially, all a mixer does is makes a smooth transition in between tracks so the music can go on non-stop for hours.
Clearly, it does a lot more than that, but that’s the most simple explanation of what a mixer does as a part of a beginner DJ setup. Most of them come with a ton of knobs, switches, faders, and pads that are either customizable or control a certain parameter. Once you get a hold of setting and understand what function they control in your mix, things will get easier.
After you know one mixer’s ins-and-outs, mastering a bigger, more flexible, and more advanced one will be easy!
It’s a low noise and high-quality built professional mixer with 3 channels. The best part about it is its phono preamps which can boost the signal a ton without any loss of sound quality and its BPM counter, which is helpful not only for beginners but even pros – smooth transition between tracks is a must when playing at gigs after all.
The PFL signal option lets you preview music without having to make any changes to the master track. That’s convenient if you ever play at a club and take orders from people coming in your booth – you can search for a track, see if it fits the vibe, and choose to play it.
Coming with a ton of features, this DJ mixer is also incredibly durable and future-proof – don’t worry about taking your mixer to DJ gigs no more! You won’t have any issues with it for a long time unless you happen to spill something on it and mess up the internal components.
The built quality is fairly good, and all the knobs, faders, and switches often survive even years of extensive use. It also works wonders when podcasting and adding effects to the master while in the process.
Similar to a music producer who needs studio headphones for beatmaking, mixing, and mastering – every DJ needs a pair to precisely mix and cue his tracks. A good pair of DJ headphones is one of the essential tools that lets you easily monitor and set the timing of the set, seamlessly mix two tracks together, and a million other things.
It’s essential for every DJ to invest in a good pair of headphones for their DJ setup – and take both comfort and sound quality into consideration. While the clear and cold response of your headphones is a must, you also have to realize that you may be wearing them for hours. That’s why you should think of comfort as well.
While the sound quality is important – never overlook comfort!
If you haven’t read my guide about the best budget studio headphones for music production, I’ve picked Sennheiser as the best pair of budget headphones for DJs. In general, HD 25 deliver great sound and are very light – the weight of your headphones is crucial if you happen to play gigs for hours at a time.
The built is durable and will last you forever if you don’t constantly drop them. The sound they deliver is crystal clear and suitable not only for DJing but even mixing and mastering, which require a lot higher precision. They are closed back, so you shouldn’t worry about them “bleeding” a lot and can wear them anywhere – not only to DJ gigs but when travelling and taking the subway – the sound isolation is excellent.
If you are worried about too much bass – worry no longer. It’s crucial for a DJ to be able to clear the sound the way it’s meant to be, so the response is neutral. If you are able to EQ the input signal with your DJ setup, make sure to do that – while the response if fairly neutral, you can still hear amplification in the higher frequencies.
One of the main factors for every DJ is comfort. Sennheiser HD 25 come with comfy earcups and padded headband for those long mixing sessions when you just have to keep them on. You can also rotate the capsule if you need both to listen to the master track and preview the new tracks for the set.
5) Studio Monitors
If you already play at gigs and festivals, owning a pair of studio monitors isn’t something you should worry about – all venues have their own sound system. If you are hosting a small party at home or mixing a few tracks and getting ready for a set in your spare time – you’ll need a pair of reference monitors.
Luckily to those starting now, sound systems are cheaper than ever, and you can buy a pair of reference monitors for just over $100. Even though some of them go into $1000s, you don’t need overkill. All you need to hear is how the mix actually sounds like – without any amplification or equalization added! Studio monitors are a must-have for a home DJ setup!
While they are not the best studio monitors for mixing and mastering in the industry, they are worth every penny. For just over $100 you are getting a great piece of equipment added to your home DJ setup to prepare sets before gigs or just play around with your DJ software.
If you’ve seen my guide about best studio monitors for beginners, you’d remember that I’ve named them the best budget reference monitors for DJs. Considering the fact that you must’ve already browsed around and read a few guides about DJ gear setups, Pioneer should sound familiar – they make equipment for DJs all around the world.
While there is debatable amplification in the lower end frequency response, this isn’t a big deal to a DJ who mixes tracks and prepares sets. Considering how bass-focused speakers at every nightclub and music event are – you shouldn’t worry about this at all.
A cool feature is their standby function when they turn off automatically after not getting any signal for a while and turn back on after you the playback function is back on. This makes the reference monitors last longer, which makes them a ton more future-proof.
6) DJ Controller
These days only a few producers still use vinyl and disks to play their music – technology has simply made things way too convenient. With just your laptop and controller you can do everything you need! If you don’t want to spend money on vinyl or extra hassle with CDs, then getting a controller might be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make!
Once you have a DJ controller, using a DJ software you can assign knobs, pads, switches, and faders specific functions from the program itself. Now you can mix music within your software using hardware equipment as opposed to a mouse or touchpad. With a DJ controller, you are getting all the hands-on action without spending too much money!
This DJ controller is one of the most popular ones in the world – and there are a few reasons for that. First of all, it offers you the best features for the price – you simply can’t find better built quality on the market. With all the features the DJ controller has to offer, you’ll have a hard time looking for competition.
The layout is familiar to other DJ controllers, so switching to DDJ-SB3 shouldn’t be an issue to anybody. Add a little bit of time learning and experimenting and the next thing you know you’ve mastered the controls. The unit itself is quality built and the faders, pads, and knobs feel doesn’t seem to disappoint. The only intuitive drawback when it comes to controls is that the pads all come in the same colour, which can be confusing if you are a beginner.
A lot of users, myself included, have noticed a fair amount of static noise due to the sound card quality. That’s okay when playing at a club on a full-blast, but is trouble if you were to perform at a more formal event when the music is only played from time to time.
The DJ controller comes with Serato DJ Lite, which isn’t nearly as good as a Pro version, so you’ll have to upgrade if you want to play at gigs and all. That’s an expense that is necessary if you're going to use the industry standard DJ software like Serato – but that’s entirely up to you.
Even though you've seen the review of the controller earlier on the list, let's look how you can use it to actually mix the tracks for your future gigs!
Things To Consider For a DJ Setup For Beginners
There are a few things every DJ should consider when getting their first budget DJ setup up – let's take a look at them!
Should I Rent Or Buy My DJ Equipment?
Well, this depends on what you are looking for and long-term you are thinking. If you want to see whether DJing is something you’d like and don’t feel like committing for too long – rent a home DJ setup for a month and try it out – maybe it’s not as much fun as it seems to you.
Moreover, you can try various setups, mixers, and controllers to see what suits your needs the best. It’s hard to have a rule of thumb about how many faders, knobs, pads, etc. you’ll need for your sets – it’s better to test it out before investing $100s and losing your interest shortly afterwards.
On the other hand, buying DJ gear will be some sort of commitment that will make you think twice before giving up completely after a week of playing around with your equipment. Also, when you buy a controller or mixer, you’ll try to learn every in-and-out of the piece of gear and try to utilize it to your full potential.
Moreover, you can customize your budget DJ setup the way you want it to look and perform. This will likely make you more committed to work harder and try DJing more. Lastly, you’ll feel comfortable with it – as opposed to using gear someone else has used and tweaked to their own liking.
Conclusion: Best Budget DJ Setup
I really hope you’ve learned a thing or two about what you need to become a successful DJ, play at gigs and get paid for doing something you love. You won’t become a sensation overnight but if you stay consistent and keep working hard and learning – you’ll get there!
This list of the best beginner DJ setups should help you learn the basics and fundamentals of DJing – the DJ gear you need to start the race. Once you are all set – it’s time to start learning everything you can about your setup and developing your workflow. If you stay persistent and don’t give up after your first fail in a month, you’ll find yourself getting places sooner than you think!
Last update on 2021-01-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API