DJ Equipment Review

Cheap DJ Equipment For Beginners

DJ Equipment Review
February 4, 2017

When you’re just starting out in the DJ field you don’t want to go all out on equipment before you know if you’ll enjoy it. You should pick up a cheap introductory DJ controller to find out if it’s for you first. In this article I’ll go over some of the cheaper options for beginners. Each one of these DJ decks is chosen with the novice in mind, ease of use, and the best bang for your buck. If you’re willing to expand your price range a bit you can check out this full list of beginner controllers here.



The Best Cheap Beginner DJ Controller

Numark Mixtrack 3 All-In-One Controller

Out of all of the controllers on this list this is probably the best one for a beginner DJ striving towards professional play within this price range. The Mixtrack 3 is a cheaper alternative to the Mixtrack 3 Pro but has most of the controls and functionality. Learning how to mix, play and perform on this deck will allow you to play on anything. It’s surprisingly high quality for it’s price range. Some of the major advantages you’ll get learning on this piece of gear include: Loops, samples, hot cues, sensitive metal jogwheels and high precision audio adjustments (100mm Fader). I’ve done a full review of this fabulous piece of gear so definitely check it out.

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Kid Friendly Cheap DJ Controller

The Numark Party Mix

Out of the cheap DJ controllers in this list this one has the most features and is the best one for setting up your own dance parties. The controller itself is very user friendly and comes with all the features you’d need if you wanted to make DJing a major hobby in your life. It has an extremely simple interface that will let you learn how to beat match, mix tunes, and play around with cue sampling. If this is a little over your head right now you can also use the controllers auto-sync which gives a helping hand to make smooth transitions and guide your understanding. One of it’s surprisingly fun features is the light show. It actually has an LED array that allows for you to create some basic audio-visual displays for your DJ performance. This one is probably the most teen friendly as well.numarkpartymix

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The Best Speakers for DJ Studios

DJ Equipment Review
February 1, 2017

Why You Need Specialized Studio Speakers

When working in a studio environment you can’t take shortcuts. There are so many acoustical nuances that get left behind in the every day world. Mixing in a studio is just like mixing in a lab. you need precision and crystal clear perfection. Every beat needs to be measured with perfect timing. You can’t create amazing art without the right set up. These are all reasons you want to get good studio speakers. Regular speakers just won’t cut it in this environment because frequencies will be lost. Quality will take a hit as the sharpness of your highs and the bass of the lows will be distorted.



When it comes to a DJ studio, you need a special type of speaker called a monitor speaker. These speakers are designed with clarity, wide frequency ranges, and as close to signal reproduction as possible. Radio stations, recording studios, and DJ booths all require these speakers as a bare minimum. This allows the person in charge to make the changes they need without worrying if the sounds coming out of the speakers are the real sound of the song, recording or mix. Monitor speakers have an even gain and distribution of power along frequencies. So bass, mid range and highs are all treated equal.

dj studio speakersThe Speakers I’ve Seen in Every Studio I’ve Worked In

With that out of the way it’s time to let you in on a trade secret. I’ve worked across the country maintaining television studios, radio stations, and recording studios. Worked with clients on installation projects and got to see other sound engineer’s recommendations. Whether I walked into a studio, or got the new gear shipment I always ended up seeing the same brand and product line of monitor speakers. They were always some form of KRK Rokit Monitor Speakers.

Rokit is a line of speakers done by KRK. There are multiple different kinds of models based on how pure you need the sound in your studio. These are hands down the best and most consistent speakers I’ve found. Whenever I had to worry about monitors it was always because we went with a different brand. To save the trouble of worrying about nonlinear gain/distortions in our recordings I’ve pretty much moved to only KRK Rokit Speakers.

The speakers have a naming convention with Rokit X. Where x is a number, and the higher the number the higher the crisp perfection of the sound quality. You can buy them either one speaker at a time or in a pair. If you’re looking to get started doing in house production I’d probably go with a pair of Rokit 5 Speakers. If I had any aspirations of going full time professional I’d take the dive and go straight to some Rokit 8s. That said they do have a Rokit 6, but the sound quality jump isn’t quite as noticeable.

The Easiest DJ Controller

DJ Equipment Review
February 1, 2017

So you’re looking for a simple and easy to learn DJ controller. Perhaps you’re just getting into DJing and want to test it out, or trying to a find a great gift for a music lover in your life. Whatever your reasons you should look into the Hercules DJ Control Compact.  It’s one of my favorite controllers for ease of use and one the best choices for a first controller. You can see my full review here which goes into all the features, strengths and weaknesses of the controller.

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The Hercules Compact is interesting because it’s jam packed with features but has such a simple design. It also comes with a full set of software which is rare for most controllers. The reason I chose this as my pick for easiest controller is because of it’s size and interface complexity. The controller itself is pretty small, meaning it’s easy to manage and you don’t have to shift your focus much to mix your beats. On top of that it’s extremely streamlined in its interface with only the necessities. It doesn’t have a lot of buttons to overwhelm newer DJs who are first starting out. For novices and intermediates it’s not much of a problem and you won’t feel restrained. Here’s a video of the controller in action.

The controller itself is plug and play and comes with it’s own computer software. All you need to do is unbox the controller, install the program, plug in the USB cable, upload your music into the library, and start mixing. It’s also one of the cheaper controllers on the market and definitely blows the competition out of the water when it comes to features for it’s price. If you master this piece of gear you’ll be able to move on to a full professional controller without any issue. You won’t find yourself restricted very often with this controller and it can even be used for small shows. Its portability is really nice for setting something up on the go. It’s portable and packed with the necessities; all while being easy to learn.

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If you’re looking for an easy controller and looking to learn, this is the perfect fit for you. If you’re looking for something a little more complicated you can check out my guide on beginner DJ controller options.

 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Review

DJ Equipment Review
December 12, 2016

Pioneer DDJ-SB2 2-channel Controller Review

When you want to up your game you need to find a piece of gear that can bring you to the next level. Pioneer does just that with the entry level professional DDJ-SB2 controller. It’s very beginner friendly but the features quickly set it apart as a professional DJ controller. As you get used to the device you’ll quickly find out that it’s above it’s price point. To take an audio term, it’s essentially a prosumer model. If I was interested in a high end professional controller I would take a look at the DDJ SR. With exceptional sound quality and an easy to accustom to layout you’ll quickly learn to use it to it’s fullest potential. The quality of the materials is to be expected of a mid tier controller. It’s made of plastic but has a feel of Pioneer quality and feels more like a portable piece of equipment than a permanent install.

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Deck Swapping and other Features

The DDJ-SB2 is a four deck controller and two decks share real estate on the device. It has two buttons on it to switch between the first and second deck on each side. This allows you to Cue up three different tracks and manage four at once. This alone pulls it out of beginner territory as it essentially doubles the complexity but also triples the capabilities of the controllers ability to create. With the four deck control it heavily outclasses competition at the price point.

DDJ SB2 ReviewThis isn’t totally unrestrained control though. The only issue found with this feature is that you can’t adjust both deck 1 and deck 3 (Or decks 2&4) at the same time because they share the same jogwheel, library, transport and mixer interface. The only thing you can adjust separately is the volume levels of each deck. Meaning you have to do some juggling and this adds a bit of a learning curve for new users. The real art happens once this toggle is mastered.

Another interesting feature is the pad trans. This is a decent feature for the price point but common. Hot Cue lets you set PADs to a point and returns the track to that point, you get up to 8 on a deck. Auto loop lets you set a seamless auto loop for different beat amounts. Roll which allows you a momentary loop while held down. You can also set up a manual loop. You can also set up a sample bank for easy access to 8 samples. Letting you create and experiment with new beats in the moment.

Included Software

The DDJ-SB2 comes with the Serato DJ intro software which is a trial/limited capability software intended to get you started. This is one of the most important aspects of this purchase for customers. The software itself is a light software and an additional cost is found here. So in addition to the device you’ll need to buy an upgrade to get the most out of the hardware.

In order to get the full use and capabilities of the SB2 controller you’re required to do paid upgrade to full functionality software. At the time of writing the full upgrade to Serato is $129 USD. This full upgrade solely works with the DDJ-SB2. Or you can opt for a subscription of $10 a month. Another option is the Serato DJ Suite which works with all supported hardware that’s a controller that can be mapped. This is the premiere program of the company and it costs $299 or 14.99 a month. So if you’re intending to do a more complex studio or show build you’re going to want to go for a full license multiple hardware program, whether that’s Serato or another one.

It’s highly recommended to use Serato and Pioneer with the device because it’s difficult to map to another program but if you have the technical skill you can easily do so and the SB2 integrates with DJay Pro (Mac), Licensed Vitual DJ8, Deckadance, Tracktor Pro 2, Algoriddim, Rekordbox. Most DJ programs can be mapped and have their own mapping templates set up for the DDJ-SB2 because it’s so popular. You have to download drivers for your laptop to integrate with the device allowing you to connect.



Controller Hardware

The DDJ-SB2 hardware is excellent for it’s price range. At these ranges you’ll usually find hard plastic buttons. But this piece of gear has rubber pads which are much more responsive, quiet and durable than the hard plastic buttons found on cheaper controllers. High durability aluminum jog wheels mean it won’t break from overuse. These jog wheels are low latency and high accuracy, a perfect combination. They’re very easy to scratch with and they work great. The software and hardware communication is next level, meaning that even back-spinning and beat juggling sound professional.  This also sports high and low pass EQ filters to filter out frequency bands on inputs. Allowing you to filter fade and easily control the volume and bass filters for mixing. The Numark Mixtrack 3 is comparable in these regards, but the SB2 keeps the crown.

You can monitor and make transitions in your headphones with LED level indicators. It has tempo controls, and trim/gain controls. Has on controller metering for levels. While these may seem like trivial additions, they make for an extremely easier time. Trim pots allow you to set the level of the loaded track. Sometimes DJ software gets this wrong and this lets you fix that issue before it even hits the board. With the LED metering you’re capable of seeing exactly where your tracks sit and most controllers at this price point don’t have this capability. Note that these are for inputs and the songs running on their own. This doesn’t relate to the master output through the RCA ports on the back. That said it’s a huge plus and fixes the clipping problem before it starts.

This controller is USB MIDI. The only issue with this is you need to be careful if using a USB hub because of Power Splitting. But as far as region compatibility this means it can work in both 110 and 220v power regions as long as you have a laptop because it just plugs into the laptop USB. This device only communicates with the computer through the USB, there are no ports to stick flash drives to bring portable media solutions.

ddj-sb22The onboard soundcard is an excessively high quality high bitrate 24 bit 44.1kHz sampling card. It has a standard 20-20kHz frequency range and a very impressive 90dB SNR. With an almost imperceptible distortion. The only thing that limits your sound quality on this piece of equipment is your recording software and the quality of the files input into the computer. It has a mic input but it’s a balanced 1/4 inch input over a standard XLR connection meaning you need an XLR to 1/4″ Cable. This means you can have one input into the device. You won’t be able to use it like a sound mixer with multiple channels. The mic input itself has trouble balancing without reaching feedback, so proper speaker placement is a must. For output it uses an unbalanced RCA. The main RCA output is for the signal. These cables are not included and need to be purchased separately. It has two headphone monitors, a 1/4 jack and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Only one output can be used at once disabling the second port. There is no master output volume on this guy which is difficult for gain staging and adjusting to the right output level.

Bottom Line

Pioneer did a home run with the DDJ-SB2 at every metric. The price point alone for the quality and the features makes this the top choice for controllers in it’s price range.

Pros

  • An outstanding top of the line soundcard, only limited by files and sources.
  • User friendly and good introduction to professional DJ controllers
  • Trim Pots and metering for media ingest
  • Four Deck capabilities

Cons

  • Mic input is not standard XLR? Also hard to control to not create feedback.
  • Requires a software upgrade for integration with most software.
  • No USB Data Stick integration.
  • No metering on master output.

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Numark Mixtrack 3 In Depth Review

DJ Equipment Review
December 10, 2016

All aspiring DJs will need to give themselves freedom to spread their wings. Their equipment may be restrictive or it may provide them with an endless amount of freedom to experiment and manipulate their music. The Numark Mixtrack 3 is certainly an excellent DJ Controller that does just that. It will give the DJ the ability to ply their trade with very few restrictions, if any. This is Numark’s mid range model, they also have a premium version of this controller called the Numark Mixtrack Platinum. For the price, the DJ controller is a great bargain, but additional purchases may be necessary. Below, you will learn about the pros and cons of this device.

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Numark Mixtrack 3 Review

It should come as no secret that beginners will be better suited with a more user-friendly DJ controller, while veterans will want something a little more advanced. This right here is the best of both worlds. The Numark Mixtrack 3 will prove to be a great investment for beginners, who do not mind making a few additional purchases. Also, their computer will need to be compatible with the controller. In order to utilize this device with your laptop or PC, you will need access to two USB ports. The controller does not include a sound card. Therefore, the buyer will also need to be willing to invest in an external audio interface.

Unfortunately, investing in an audio interface will increase the overall cost and this may make the product unreasonable for some newbie consumers. For established users who have the additional gear this device is a beast. The DJ controller does not offer headphone monitoring and therefore the user will need to monitor their beats through alternative audio sources. Nonetheless, the Numark Mixtrack 3 is undeniably fun to use and it is downright perfect for beginners, who are just getting into the hobby.

Plenty Of Features

While the Numark Mixtrack 3 is affordable in its own right, it still includes a wide assortment of features. In fact, the device’s features easily parallel those offered by a much more expensive DJ controllers. This is why it’s a perfect device for advanced users who want to add it to their setup. This specific device comes with 3 channel EQ filters. At this price range, it is nearly impossible to find another controller with this type of functionality. The Numark Mixtrack 3 also includes 100mm pitch sliders and convenient dedicated filter knobs for each channel. Many other affordable DJ controllers only offer a 50mm pitch slider. This may seem like a minor feature on the surface but it’s amazing. With more space to make adjustments it allows for fast, seamless and fine tuned adjustments you can never get with a 50mm slider.

Therefore, this device offers more mixing freedom, while also ensuring your beats will remain in perfect sync. The product also comes with sixteen multi-functional performance pads and a Prime Loops remix tool kit. On top of that, you’ll also be blessed with multiple FX manipulation possibilities. Truly, there is little you cannot do with the Mixtrack 3. The device is very versatile and you’ll really be able to let your imagination run wild.

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Additional Purchases

 

It is important to note that the Numark Mixtrack 3 does not come with a sound card, which means that it will require an additional external audio interface. The device will allow your laptop or computer to transmit audio data to a third-party device, such as speakers or headphones. Many DJ controllers are not embedded with a sound card, but they are a necessity for all professional DJs. You will need to purchase an additional sound card, be sure to invest in a reputable brand.

The DJ system’s sound quality will definitely depend on the quality of the sound card. This controller won’t change your sound quality due to this. The external sound card is embedded with audio ports, which are compatible with speakers, surround sound systems, CD players, headphones, microphones, MIDI keyboards and joysticks. Determine what you need to hook up to and check out our audio interface guide for more information.

Another thing to note is the Mixtrack 3 includes Virtual DJ LE software, which will suffice for mixing at home. This program is the bare minimum to get started on mixing beats. However, if you perform live in front of a large group, or make meaningful beats you may want to upgrade to the Virtual DJ Pro. This upgrade will provide you with more options, but it will require a bit of practice to perfect your skills and adapt to the updated version.

Surprisingly Durable

 

When utilizing the Numark Mixtrack 3 for the first time, you will likely feel of the plastic knobs and form the misconception that the device isn’t going to last. The truth of the matter is that this DJ controller is enormously sturdy. It is manufactured with the highest-quality plastic. The device weighs just a little over 4 pounds, but it is still built to last. The knobs and sliders feel plastic and slightly cheap, but they’re very durable and they can certainly take a beating. This is one of the main reasons the Numark is a good investment for beginners.

And of course, the jog wheels work exceptionally well. Scratching on the wheels can be immensely fun and the device is very responsive. Even the slightest moves will be translated to your computer and into your sound.

Some Limitations of the Numark Mixtrack 3

While the Numark Mixtrack 3 Controller is certainly a great product, it does have a few minor limitations. As mentioned above, the device does not include a soundcard. You have to fully rely on the connected computer for sound control and monitoring. You should also remember that this product will not work with tablets or phones. A USB input is still required for the external DJ interfaces. And finally, you need to know that this device is not compatible with audio streaming services, such as YouTube or Spotify. In order for you to play your beats, the audio files must be present on your computer’s hard drive.
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Notable Specifications

  • Weighs right around 4 pounds
  • Measures in at 9.1 by 21.7 by 1.2 inches
  • USB powered
  • Features dedicated filter knobs for each channel
  • Includes 16 performance pads
  • Metal jog wheels work exceptionally well
  • Offers numerous FX manipulations
  • Comes with a Prime Loops remix tool kit
  • Includes a multi-functional Touch strip

Overall Assessment

When it comes down to it, the Numark Mixtrack 3 USB DJ Controller will prove to be a great option for most beginners. However, it is essential to remember that this will not be the only purchase you’ll make. If you really wish to utilize this device to the fullest, you’ll need to buy more and spend more. As long as you’re willing to do that, this product will provide you with a fun and convenient way to learn how to DJ. If you want a more complete package, you should consider looking elsewhere.