Powered LOUDspeakers. My speakers are loud. Do they count?

No.  Your speakers that happen to be loud are likely not “dynamic powered loudspeakers”.

“Dynamic Powered Loudspeakers” are specifically built speakers that are amplified and capable of being tuned per channel, for use with other components on the back panel of the speaker.  They also accept one or various cable types including XLR, 1/4 TRS input and possibly thru channels as well.  Their construction provides for excellent amplified sound from the speaker box meant for small to medium sized crowds.

Investing in a  loudspeaker setup means you are investing in your (DJ) business.  Investing in yourself to be able to play anywhere you want.  Anywhere that has power that is.  We’ll talk more about power preparation in a later blog post.

Let’s get down to brass tacks (the essentials).  

Today we’re going to examine my Mackie SRM450 loudspeaker.  I bought my pair of 450s used off of craigslist.  Risky, sure, but they are an amazing quality and have held up perfectly for me.  I would recommend you buy new to get a warranty with them.   For me, I love taking stuff apart and fixing it so I was willing to buy used.

It’s 1000 watts of amplified excellence with an integrated 2 channel mixer in the speaker.  I rarely use the mixer in the speaker since I typically put my microphone input thru my MultiMix mixer board or my DJ Controller board.  However, it makes this purchase very versatile.  I could plug my acoustic guitar into this loudspeaker directly as well as plug in my microphone to this speaker directly and play to a crowd.  Versatility means extended value…..I could rent this asset out to local artists and make money off of my equipment when I’m not using it.

In the photo below, you can see each channel has its own amplification ‘gain’ knob.  Mostly you’ll want to just start at the line level input signal from your mixer board or your DJ Controller board.  Then ….pump up the volume… from that source and test (well ahead of time!) the limitations of either distortion on the top end or a decibel reader to make sure you don’t cause any type of ear drum damage at the party.  Thankfully, these speakers also have “automatic feedback destroyer” technology built into the circuitry.  That isn’t standard on all speakers and may be hard to identify for other brands.   A very excellent feature !!!

Most any smart phone these days (android / IOS (apple) / Samsung) has an available decible reader that you can use to guage what is acceptable for setting your loudness limits with the gain knob.  These are important for being able to comply with city noise ordinances.  Check with local authorities to know what to expect.

If the volume or tuning isn’t what you like, add some gain and try again.  Remember, start at line level or ‘low’, depending on your knob reading — add volume to max (testing it) from the source (mixer board, DJ Controller board, etc) and then try increasing the gain – only if needed!

You can also purchase higher quality and more accurate decibel readers, which are what the police will likely use if they are called.

Here are 3 well recommended decibel readers.  They’re very affordable and great to have for other applications as well.   nudge, nudge…  you can use this for your car stereo system too to make sure you’re not going to get a ticket for bumping your ride in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

     

Alright now, focus…  back to it.    >   The channel 1 and channel 2 inputs shown in the image above accept both types of cables (XLR male or 1/4″ TRS).  These two types of cables are the standard types of cables you’ll be using in the DJ life.   The THRU port is to either daisy chain the same circuit to another speaker (maybe you want 2 left channel speakers) or to a powered bass speaker for extra POUNDING bass.  This THRU output sends the unobstructed line level signal thru the speaker to the other cable.

If you’re not interested in purchasing loudspeakers, it means you’re planning to work your DJ skills at home and either stay in that mode of fun / just for kicks DJ skills or you’re hoping to hop the fence of working hired gigs and go straight to the varsity league of playing clubs (clubs that already have their own setup).

Here’s a link to the Mackies that I bought:

Don’t forget your headphones!

DJ Controller Price Ranges

Budget $200

This style of DJ controller is an extension of whatever hardware you are going to run it with.  It will enable you to perform the core essentials of being a DJ:

–   Mixing a song into another with a smooth transition

–   Microphone plug-in to be able to communicate to your audience thru the speaker outputs

–   Headphones jack to be able to queue up additional songs and prepare a transition

The controller is typically USB powered and can usually connect to a smart phone, tablet or laptop.  It is really only an input device for software on the device you will be using it with.  Think of a computer keyboard in a similar way.  It sends signals and data to your computer, is interpreted by the software (keyboard driver) on your computer and then does something.

I personally had the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 and found it to be a great starter kit to get going and see if I liked playing with DJ stuff.   The controller board typically needs a software license upgrade (you usually get a trial) if you are going to be using it on a laptop.   I’ve heard of people getting them to work on an iPad and will research that more if you want.   Leave a comment below if you are interested in using this with an iPad or other tablet and I’ll check into it and post a blog update.

       

 

Budget – $300

DJ controllers within this budget are geared towards laptop DJ’s.  The controller board is effectively a precision piece of hardware built to let you control your music collection on your laptop.   In general it allows for better inputs and outputs to the DJ board (headphones jack sizes, microphone inputs, phantom mic options, XLR outputs to jack into professional speakers, line level inputs, etc.).    The controller requires software on your laptop in order to function.  Normally the controller is bundled with intro software.  The two best versions of software I have seen are Serato DJ and Rekordbox.  It makes sense that rekordbox will reign supreme since Pioneer has some of the top DJ controllers on the market and this is their software, launched around 2015 and receiving several updates since then.

   

 

 

Budget $800

This price range of DJ Controller boards includes the best of the best for still being an input device for a laptop or other type of software interface.  The features are very rich, add travel convenience for overall needed gear and allow for excellent performance, control and timing.  One of my favorite features is the on-board track hot spots that I can mark ahead of time including marking a looping section.  If a looping section is marked, it is depicted by a yellow pad instead of other colors.  Additionally, the sampling features are nice to have and quickly accessible from the hardware.

   

I know what you’re thinking.  Why is the RR controller about $100 more?    The out-of-the-box licensed Rekordbox software package and the controller board have more features.  In the end, I upgraded to the DDJ-RR from my Numark MixTrack Pro 2.  It is a very solid piece of equipment.  One of the main benefits I like is having XLR outputs on the back of it so I don’t need to bring an audio interface with me to run my speakers with.  The DDJ-RR does it all for me and acts as the sound card for my laptop as well.

 

 

Budget Under $2000

All-in-One DJ Controllers.  This type of DJ controller does not require any laptop or other device in order to use.  However, you can if you want to.  Typically, you can use a computer to help configure the controller, playlists, scratch settings and various other tweaks to your planned events.   The music media is primarily loaded onto USB flash drives keeping your luggage very lightweight and easily manageable.

Either you are a rich kid, aspiring enthusiast or a pro that wants to make it big in the DJ world.  Professional DJs can make a TON of money playing gigs around the world and feeling like they live the life of a rock star.    The hardware in this price range is the best of the best in the industry.  It requires considerable time to master but in large part the functionality on these controllers can translate very well from lower price ranges.   To be clear, if you’re using another lower level controller board and want to upgrade to this level, several features will be similar.  Having said that, additional features on higher end models like LCD screens help you navigate your set list without needing a laptop.

 

   

 

 

Now lets get to that upper level.  Where the big boys play.  Where 100’s or 1000’s of people are commanded to feel music from one amazing controller.  The CDJ, which has a long history in the DJ world and the newer platform the DDJ-RZX.  The idea that you have everything you need on board of the DJ Controller and no need whatsoever of a laptop at the gig.   You can still utilize a laptop if you want.  There are actually several benefits to preparing your gig with a laptop on the CDJ.  You can export your entire playlist to a USB or CD disk.  You gain features here like being able to use or import CD’s, use SD cards, better (longer) throw slider controls for more precise beat mixing.

   

If you’re not convinced, I’ll be diving deep on these two in an upcoming blog post!

 

A world of difference with a laptop stand!

It’s such a simple purchase.  This purchase makes life so much better.  SO MUCH BETTER!  Personally, I really recommend the PYLE-PRO PLPTS25.

Here’s why!

It’s very sturdy!  I use this on my desk at home when I’m not playing a gig and it helps to dual screen my macbook pro right next to my apple thunderbolt display.  It places your laptop at a great angle in case you want to use the keyboard or trackpad while working on beats.  It holds up to 8 lbs, which far exceeds any laptop I’ve heard of.

It will also hold other items quite nicely like a MultiChannel mixer, EFX Machines, lighting controllers, etc.

SUPER easy to put together and it has rubber grips to help grab ahold of whatever you choose to display/support on it.

Highly recommend!

I have my audio interface sitting on the base of this stand with my 15″ MacBook Pro on top of it.

What is a DJ Controller Board?

A DJ Controller board is a piece of hardware that allows you to interact with music in several ways.  There are different types of boards with different features but for the most part they allow you to access a music supply (USB stick, laptop harddrive, etc), queue music to play, set sync points, taper treble, bass and midrange frequencies, add effects to, sample and generally mix music.

What are all of the elements in the equation of being a DJ?

–    Hardware  (Classic Turntables, DJ Controller, iPad, iPhone, Speakers, Stands, Microphones, Headphones, Laptop, )

–    Software  (Organize music, playlists, songs by BPM, genre, etc, Operating Systems, Firmware)

–    Booking a venue or party, marketing your skills

–    Music collection!

We are going to focus on the most viable method of being a DJ.  Using a collection of music with a DJ Controller board.

This site does not speak to the allowance or dis-allowance of playing music in a public forum.  Please refer to your local laws as well as any copyright legality with the music you choose to play.  Most software that you may use will have terms and conditions of using the software as well.  Please read all pertinent verbiage at your discretion.

Having said that…   It is fairly easy to get off the ground and going with a DJ Controller board.  Get the appropriate hardware for you.  Get some acceptable speakers.  Import or access your approved music supply and start playing!