Purpose Of This Review Of DJ Speakers and Suggesting Set Ups
In this article I will give you my professional advice on what I think are the best DJ speakers and subwoofers. But this isn’t just a review roundup and buying guide…
It’s also an act of rebellion.
To give you a bit of context I’m a professional audio engineer of 10 years. Recently I’ve been checking out what kind of information comes up for people looking to purchase sound systems. Specifically articles outlining the best speakers for DJs and other live musicians for use in performances…
To say I’m not a fan of the articles that I found would be an understatement.
The articles look like they were written by someone who’s never touched a speaker in their life, never sourced sound equipment for a live event, and spent maybe 15 minutes googling terms. Some of the products they review don’t even have the specs the article says they do.
That’s why I’m writing this article, to cut through the disinformation, and to help you make an actual informed purchasing decision. You’re about to get a free consultation from an audio professional. You can find that information after my recommendations.
Quick Recommendations: The Best DJ Speaker and Subwoofer Set Ups
I want to save some people time. So before I get into how to understand specs and how they impact the performance; I want to quickly recommend some of the best DJ speaker and subwoofer set ups that I could come up with. My recommendations fully depend on intended usage.
I’m not going to overload my recommendations with random specifications. You can find those on the product pages or in their data sheets. These DJ set ups are sound for their usage. If you want to understand how to read the specs, and see how I make an informed decision, definitely check out my guide below.
Amplifiers will not be included in this guide. All the suggested speakers will be powered. This is to reduce the amount of complexity in a set up. It saves you time, and reduces the amount of things that can go wrong in a live show.
This list is also intended for live DJ performances where you will be using high quality headphones. Studio monitor speakers won’t be included in these recommendations. If that’s what you’re looking for check out my guide on the best speakers for DJ studios for my opinion. Spoiler: it’s these ones.
Low Budget House Party, Room Inside House
Recommended Equipment List:
If you’re just looking for house parties or planning to do some impromptu and intimate performances this option is for you. To maximize a limited budget you’ll have to make do with an all in one solution. All you need is an outlet.
This speaker will sound absolutely amazing as long as you use this household DJ staple for its intended use, house parties. This is a single channel setup with no amplifier required.
You will be sacrificing low end and power, but it doesn’t matter much when you’re playing inside a house. This speaker has more than enough power for a non-commercial space. Plus the room size itself will bring out the low-end.
It’s got a basic mixer on the back end, and allows for standard 1/4 jack or XLR. It also has an output impacted by the mixer, so you can daisy-chain it to some other gear. Why you’d actually do that is another story.
A single B210D will sound significantly worse if you move it outside, or the venue is larger than a Starbucks. If you find yourself playing shows in venues like these, I highly suggest getting two of them. Unless you’re getting paid for your shows and want great reviews, in which case I suggest checking out the next section for larger events.
Weddings, Small Outdoor Parties and School Dances, Average Sized Venues
To maintain quality of sound in larger venues you will need to move to a multiple speaker set up. You’re going to want a minimum of 2 mid range speakers and a subwoofer if the focus of the event is the music.
Throw on some audio and take some time to walk the room before the show starts. A slight angle change can make a world of difference. Speaker stands for the mid-range are also suggested for proper sound propagation. Try to use equal cable lengths to prevent a time delay causing the audio signals to be out of sync.
Recommended Inexpensive Speaker List:
For my low cost suggestions I’m recommending Yamaha DBRs in the mid range. These are a punchy inexpensive speaker and great to break into live shows with. They’re very light and easy to move around. They sound great, and will throw far. Two can fill an auditorium. These speakers are all you’ll need if you’re DJing a small wedding reception.
DBRs are extremely adaptable as well. These speakers can cover the full frequency spectrum. But they also have build in filters, allowing you to attenuate the low end and make room for a subwoofer. Their amplifier is smart, and will maximize wattage to fit the set up.
The VQ1800D will add greatly to the sound, and turn the show from background music to a live event. The subwoofer is well made and won’t break the bank. You might need a dolly and a helping hand to move it though.
Recommended Professional Grade Speaker List:
It’s not hard to guess that QSC is my preferred premium loudspeaker brand for DJs. If you have even more budget go for the K12 12″ instead. QSC products run at peak performance and are excellent quality. The speakers are also extremely rugged and perfect for transporting to gigs. There’s even a rumor the company tests their loudspeaker durability by dropping them off the roof of their building.
This recommended setup will DOMINATE a gymnasium or club with sound waves if it needs to. There’s no breaks in the frequency response coverage, and all frequencies of the audio signal will come through crystal clear. You WILL need a trolley and assistants for this set up. Specifically for this bad boy:
QSC does offer a CP line at a lower price point, but they’re a downgrade from the Yamaha DBR mentioned above for coverage. Plus Yamaha’s warranty is better. But it’s rare to even need to use QSC’s warranty.
Stadiums and Outdoor Music Festivals
My professional grade DJ speaker set up that I recommended above will cover an outdoor area of about 100 ft with QSC K12s. You can always add more speakers to increase range and coverage.
However, I can’t help you find a speaker set up if you want to go bigger for your outdoor music festival. You should be consulting audio engineers. Most of the equipment required is special order line arrays, and you’ll need to do some heavy math to figure out speaker placement, cable lengths, amplifiers, etc. Anything further than 100 ft needs exponentially more oomph and you’re edging into $XX,XXX sound system set ups.
How To Choose The Best DJ Speakers For Your Set Up
First A Rant – Reviews Are Misleading, How Understanding Saves You Money
I felt I had to write this article after reading a few review pages online. There was just a lot of fluff and it didn’t seem like the authors knew what they were talking about at all. I feel really bad for people making purchases thanks to their advice. Here’s a hypothetical of how lack of info can leave you dissatisfied with your purchase.
A lot of DJ speaker reviews I found had paragraphs like this in them:
Thanks to the array of switches which will facilitate the required settings for live events. Once you’re connecting everything, the Truesonic’s twin XLR/combo inputs produce easy work of your setup and each speaker’s independent level controls give you the pliability to dial everything in your approach in seconds.
–Actual “Review” of a TS310
Nothing about that differentiates this speaker from another. There’s no talk of the frequency response. Figuring out what kind of set up it works in. What it would clash with. Someone just rewrote the amazon page without knowing what they were saying.
Let me give you an example of how this can lead to poor purchasing decisions. The Alto TS310 is similar in price range to the Yamaha DBR 10″ Speaker. It beats the DBR 10 in Wattage. It outputs 1000W for the DBRs 700W. Whoa, 300 more Watts for the same price? Sign me up. But if you get two TS310s and set them up with a subwoofer, they will sound worse than a pair of DBRs. Your mid range will be weak, and your sound will be bass heavy. Worse yet, it’s intrinsic to the DJ’s speaker set up. It just can’t be fixed. Your set sucks and you’re a sad panda.
This is because the TS310 are 2 channel with a simple amplifier. The wattage is divided between the two channels. The specifications say 650W lf + 350W hf. That means the mid range is maxing out at a little over 350W and there’s an additional 650W woofer in the system.
Without a subwoofer, both TS310s and DBRs will have a fuller sound. TS310s can handle a gig on their own. This is where they have the advantage. DBRs are quieter and can’t quite fill a venue the same way that TS310s can. But with a pair of DBR you can add in a subwoofer and blow the TS310 pair out of the water.
All in all TS310s are excellent on their own as a pair without a subwoofer, and a great budget solution for small venues. Great information to know, but unfortunately the review I quoted above only mentioned the price benefits.
The Frequency Spectrum And How Speakers Fit Into It
After that example I’m sure you see the value in understanding the various specs and how speakers fit into your set up. You’re probably rearing to go so let’s get into it.
You’re probably aware that sounds have different frequencies. The size of a speaker’s driver assembly determines the speakers ability to create these frequencies. It’s physically impossible for one driver to transmit all frequencies equally efficiently. So depending on the size of the driver, the range of sound changes. A speaker can house multiple drivers to even out the frequency response ranges.
Using Frequency Response To Plan Speaker Purchases
Above you’ll see specs for two loudspeakers I touted as the best for DJing. The top is the QSC K12 and below that is the QSC Subwoofer. The important spec is called a speakers frequency response. This shows what a speaker can and can’t do.
Anything below -10dB will be almost impossible to hear on the speaker. If you were to have the K12 and a KS118 setup, you’d be able to hear any frequency from 35Hz to 20kHz (human hearing is 20-20k). There is also very little crossover in this arrangement.
Now lets look at the Alto TS310 and Behringer VQ1800D for an example that clashes. Neither of these speakers have a visualized graph. You usually won’t find an actual graph unless the company wants to show it off.
The TS310’s frequency response is 54 – 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB) and its lower range dies out at 48Hz.
Behringer VQ1800D covers 60-150hz (+/- 3 dB) and has a range of 40-200Hz before dropping below -10dB.
This means all of the audio that the VQ1800D is pumping out is also being pumped out by the TS310. Having this subwoofer adds nothing substantial to the range of sound. This doesn’t mean it’s adding nothing, just that it’s adding nothing new. The TS310 is throwing 650W into the low end and the VQ1800D is adding another 500W into it.
When your low end is running at 1150W and your Mid-highs are running at 350W you can see why this combo would sound like trash. The easiest way to fix the sound is to just take the unnecessary sub out. Don’t even waste your energy hauling it to shows.
DJ Speakers With Built In Filters Are More Flexible
Now the quick learners among us may have went and checked out the frequency response of the DBR10 to see how it compares to the TS310. They may have noticed it’s almost exactly the same. Why don’t they sound equally garbage? Well the DBR10 have a built in high pass filter (HPC) to remove the frequencies we want the subwoofer to take care of. The amplifier is also smart and directs wattage wherever it is needed. Upping the power of the high ends and fixing a sound profile.
How Do Monitor Speakers Fit Into A DJ Set Up?
Studio monitor speakers are a special speakers engineered to have a frequency response that is flat as possible. The highs, the lows, all of it will be given equal weight so that people using the speaker can accurately assess the audio track that they are listening to or producing. Here’s my recommendation guide for studio monitors.
Monitor speakers during a live performance are different. They’re essentially just regular speakers with a wide frequency response. They are set up for vocalists and other performers to listen to the song as it’s being produced. This allows the artists to perform correctly along with the song. A DBR10 or TS310 would perfectly fulfill this role.
For the most part monitor speakers have no place in a DJ set up. Headphones should be used instead to minimize propagation delay and allow for smooth mixes. I’ve made a similar recommendation guide outlining the best DJ headphones if you’re interested.
What About Watts
A speaker’s SPL or sound pressure level is determined by it’s power output watts. More watts, more volume, more expensive. Here’s a quick rundown for bass heavy DJing.
House Rooms Or Starbucks: <250W
Gyms, Churches, Small Clubs: ~750W
Big Venues: ~1500W
Outdoors: 750W+ (Depending on range required, grows exponentially)
I’m Dead Set On Passive DJ Speakers
None of my recommendations in this article are passive speakers. The people who want to buy these types of speakers are probably a little disappointed. They’re cheaper and lighter after all.
Well you need an amplifier, they’re usually rack mounted. So you will also need a rack. You’ll need to monitor audio signal line levels. You’ll need to ensure you don’t mismatch power restrictions and destroy your speakers. You need to pay attention to cable runs, coils, and attenuation. You need to understand more points of connection mean more potential points of failure.
There is nothing inherently better or worse than the quality of passive speakers. When you plan ahead and build your inventory and systems it’s fine. But passives definitely add a lot of headache to the set up and tear down of the show. They also require a lot more technical knowledge to spec.
There is a lot of useful information in this guide for specing your passive speakers.
Thanks For Reading!
If this article helped you in any way, please consider purchasing off amazon through my affiliate links. Whatever speaker you settle on I hope I was able to help you find the right one for your needs! Thanks for taking the time to read this article!