DJ Equipment Buyer’s Guide
DJing doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. To get set up and started you only need a controller and a laptop. But the higher your budget, the higher the quality of the equipment you can buy. In this section of the guide I’ll point out the best options for DJ equipment to suit budgets of all sizes, from the best low price equipment, all the way up to industry standard. However, before we look at budgets, it’s useful to know the differences between different types of equipment, as there is quite a bit of variation available. This way you can weight out the pros and cons of each set up and pick the one that would suit your needs and wants best.
One more thing I want to mention is something that a lot of people are unaware of. That is that if you are DJing in popular venues and clubs, the venues provide you with their own equipment, so you only have to show up with your tracks in a USB stick, plug in and you’re good to go. Therefore, when considering what equipment to buy for use at home, consider that unless you are planning on being hired as a wedding DJ, you will almost never have to take your equipment with you to any venue.
Controllers are not considered industry standard, however they are the best value option, as you can get all of the features found in industry standard equipment, as well as a very similar button layout. This means that when you do end up playing in a popular venue (or becoming a famous touring DJ), you will be very familiar with the features and buttons on industry standard equipment. In some cases, you will even find more features than the industry standard equipment (CDJs), at a fraction of the price. The downside is that they require a laptop to be connected to them at all time. Also, the way the waveform is viewed, as well as certain functions can be slightly different. therefore if you own a controller and are not comfortable using industry standard equipment, it would be a good idea to get some practice on such equipment. You can book one to one lessons at Soundflow Music Academy if you want to learn all the ins and outs of industry standard equipment!
Standalone Players and Mixers
On the other hand, you have players (Also known as decks) and mixers. Less bang-for-your-buck, but they do not require a laptop connected to them in order to be used. This type of equipment is also considered industry standard. Most venues buy their own set of equipment which is then used by any DJ they hire. The most commonly used type of player is the Pioneer CDJ, therefore, If you practice on these at home, you’ll feel completely comfortable in any club you ever get to play in.
All In One Units
Finally, there are All-In-One systems. These are the players and mixer bundled together in one unit. Even though they sound similar to controllers, the difference is that these do not required laptops to be connected to them in order to work. Therefore, they are in fact more similar to stand alone players and mixers. Additionally, most all-in-one units have almost exactly the same layout as the standalone club players and mixers, but cost around 1/3 of the price.
Mixers – 2 vs 4 Channels
Quick summary: Four channels are better (they allow you to connect and mix up to four decks at the same time, instead of two). If you can afford a set up with four channels, and you plan on utilising advanced DJ techniques, then you won’t regret buying it. Otherwise, gear with two channels is completely fine and much more affordable.
How many channels you have determines how many tracks you can have playing at the same time. A two channel mixer limits you as you’ll have to use one of the two channels to load the next track. This means that you can never have two tracks playing at the same time while mixing in a third.
Here are some ideas for utilising a four channel mixer:
A four channel mixer allows you to load vocal snippets, additional tracks that you may only use for a small sections, or even have four tracks loaded at the same time, all beatmatched, which you can then use to play at the same time, or quickly switch between them for a more interesting mix. On the third channel you can add scratch samples, vocal ad-libs and other interesting pieces of audio that you could mix in whenever you like as an effect. You can only do this on a four channel mixer because at least two of your channels have to be reserved for your normal track to track mixing.
If you are serious about DJing and can afford it, four channels are better. They allow for many more possibilities while performing and it shouldn’t take too long before you have the skill to use them. The problem is that they can be much more expensive. If a four channel mixer is too expensive, don’t worry as with two channels you can still achieve a lot!
All the gear that is recommended below is Rekordbox compatible. Currently, this seems to be the best option because the standard equipment used all over the world utilise Rekordbox for all of the track analysis and playlist preparation. If you have used different DJ programs, you would have to use Rekordbox to reanalyse all of your tracks, remake your create your playlists and export them all through Rekordbox if you wanted to keep your playlist organisation, cue points, hot cues and memory cues when DJing on Pioneer CDJs. Even if it wasn’t the industry standard, Rekordbox has all the features you would ever need in a DJ software (including DVS for those who love turntables). It’s also constantly evolving.
After extensive research and personal testing of the equipment, we created the list you find below. On this list you will find the best equipment set ups to suit various different budgets.
Controllers are by far the best-value option for DJ gear. They’re great for starting out and have so many of the features found in industry professional set ups. At the highest-end, you get all the features you would ever need at a small fraction of the price when compared to standalone CDJs and mixers.
Pioneer DDJ 400 – Usually goes for £249
The best controller you can buy below £800, and considering if normally goes for £249, it’s almost a steal! The DDJ 400 is so great because the layout of the features it has mimics that of club standard CDJs, so going form the 400 to a 6 grand club set up feels surprisingly easy.
Pioneer DDJ 800 – Usually goes for £800
Similar to the DDJ 400, however it contains a few more features/ In my opinion, if you are going to spend £800, it may be worth saving up a little more for the DDJ 1000 as it provides you with a four channel mixer!
Pioneer DDJ 1000 – Usually goes for £1019
This is the best value controller you can get as it mimics the layout of club standard CDJs (just like the above two controllers), however it features a 4 channel mixer which is very useful for learning more advanced mixing techniques.
Other Controllers – There are other controllers that are available, however non of them mimic the button layout of club standard CDJs, therefore, it will feel a bit alien to you if you aim to perform in clubs and popular events.
Quote me – “all-in-one systems are essentially the same as buying 2 standalone CDJs, a mixer, and gluing them together and selling it as one unit”. They are amazing value for money compared to buying two CDJ’s and a DJM mixer separately, however the fact that you’re stuck with a two channel mixer for life is the downside. If the two channel mixer doesn’t bother you, considering the almost identical layout to the pro equipment, the price, and the portability that having it all as one unit gives you, makes this one of the best options by far.
Note – It can either be used as a standalone unit with a usb stick and no laptop, or as a controller controlling with Rekordbox DJ running on a laptop connected to the equipment. However, if used as a controller, you will not have all the functionality you would have on a dedicated controller of the same price.
Pioneer XDJ RR – Usually goes for £1000
Even though this is cheaper than the XDJ RX2 listed below, I would recommend you purchase this one instead as it still provides you with all the features you need for home practice.
Pioneer XDJ RX2 – Usually goes for £1529.00
The XDJ RX2 is more aimed at people who want a club standard layout, but also want to use it for professional events. This is because it contains professional microphone inputs, external outputs for the mixer channels, as well as multiple master outputs.
Standalone Players & Mixers
Standalone players and mixers are the industry standard equipment used in venues and clubs all over the world. If you’re comfortable using them, you can walk into pretty much any club in the world, with your tracks on a usb stick and start DJing. They are the most expensive option, and with the current line-up of controllers and all-in-one units, I cannot recommend stand alone decks as anything more than a novelty. However if you can comfortably afford them, no one can argue the fact that they are above controllers and stand alone units in class.
Pioneer XDJ 700 – Usually goes for £599.00
The cheapest player by Pioneer. It has almost all the features of the highest-end player (the CDJ-2000NXS2) at about 1/3 of the price. It’s just slightly less convenient to use because many of the features are accessed via a touchscreen. For all intents and purposes, a great product for the price.
XDJ 1000MK2 – £1129
This player contains all the features that the top of the range player, the CDJ 2000NXS2, but costs almost half the price! Keep in mind, however, just like the XDJ 700, some of the features are accessed via the touchscreen rather than physical buttons.
CDJ 2000 NXS2 – £1959
Top of the range player by Pioneer. This will be found in the best clubs and bars around the world. It’s expensive, and my personal opinion is that it isn’t worth the money over the XDJ 1000MK2. However, if you want the very best, this is definitely the one to go for.
Behringer DJX900 Pro USB DJ Mixer – Usually goes for £200.00
This is the cheapest four channel mixer I would recommend. The sound quality and features aren’t quite on par with the high end Pioneer mixers, but for home use, it’s perfectly capable, especially when you consider that it has a similar layout to the top mixers by Pioneer! If you definitely want four channels, but don’t have the budget for anything more expensive, this is the one to go for!
Reloop RMX 90 – Usually goes for £700
This mixer is extremely good considering the price. It contains a four channel mixer with which you can connect either digital decks or turntables. It also comes equipped with EQs and filters for every channel, as well as Beat Effects. Finally, it resembles the layout of the top of the range Pioneer DJM 900 mixer (commonly found in clubs) very closely. Truly he only downside then is the fact that it’s not an officially branded Pioneer mixer, however don’t let that fool you. Reloop have been making DJ equipment for years and its showcased with this mixer.
Pioneer DJM 750MK2– £1069
While this may seem like a lot of money, it is absolutely incredible value for money compared to the top of the range DJM 900NXS2. It has almost all of the bells and whistles of it’s more expensive sibling but at almost half the cost! By far the best value for money if you’re looking for a Pioneer mixer with four channels!
Pioneer DJM 900NXS2 – £1959
The top of the range mixer by Pioneer. It has the most features compared to the rest of the mixers on this list, however it costs a lot more! Keep in mind that the 750MK2 four channel mixer has all the bells and whistles you need to DJ at a completely professional level, but if you have the money and truly want the very best on offer, this is it.
Pioneer DJM-450 DJ Mixer £599.00
The two channel version of the top of the range four channel mixer by Pioneer. It has almost all the features of the DJM-900NXS2 at 1/3 of the price, however it is only equipped with two channels.
Price Disclaimer: Please double check the price before buying as they frequency change, and this blog post may not list the most up to date prices!
About Soundflow Music Academy
We offer one to one audio engineering, music production & DJ courses. Taught by experienced and accredited tutors in studios utilising only top of the range equipment such as Pioneer CDJ 2000nxs2 and DJM900nxs2. Our goal is to provide the best possible music production and DJ tuition, as well as incredible real world opportunities for our students such as club gigs, label releases, industry meet ups and more.
If you want to learn how to DJ from scratch or simply hone your skills, you can enrol on the Intro to DJ or Complete DJ course. If you want to learn how to produce music at the highest standard, you can enrol on our Intro to Music Production, Music Production & Sound Engineering or the Mixing & Mastering courses!
A Soundflow Music Academy publication,
Written by Nikos Argalias
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