Basic Gear

The basics - what you need

This stuff is covered a lot fuller in the book!

Check out pretty much the first 150 pages of the book for everything related to equipment

This is another of those pages which can get me into trouble. Nearly half the book is dedicated to what equipment is most suitable for the DJ, how to connect it, what not to get, etc etc - and not only will I cause problems if I just put up a verbatim version of those pages up here - but I just plain don't have the time to write all that out again! So, this page still covers what the book covers, but just doesn't go into as massive detail as the book.

I'm unsure if I'll get the page up in time for this update, but to accompany this 'Basic Gear' page, I'll put up a 'Better Gear' page, which will have reviews and some guides on the better, more expensive equipment.

The core basics!

The thing about buying your first set of gear is that everyone will have an opinion on what to get, what not to get, what to do before you buy it, and what to do once you get it. I'm like everyone else. I have my thoughts and ideas as to things you should look out for when buying stuff. It's not the only way, but I personally think it's the safer way.

One of the first things you should try to do when you think of getting into this DJing lark is to have a go on someone else's equipment before you put your hard earned money into buying your own kit. FANTASTIC idea, but it does rely on you knowing someone who has a DJ setup (which isn't as unlikely as it may sound). However, if you know no one, and you can't think of anywhere that you can go to use a DJ setup, you're going to need to think of buying some DJ equipment.

When you make your list out for stuff to buy - this is what to go shopping for:-

  • 2 x Input devices (Turntables, CD decks, Mp3 players, or some DJ Software (only 1 needed)
  • 2 x SlipMats (for turntables only)
  • 2 x Cartridges and Needles for the Turntables (normally included)
  • 1 x Mixer
  • 1 x Pair of Headphones
  • Something to amplify the signal (Stereo, Amplifier + Speakers etc.)

And apart from some tunes, some furniture to stick it all on and some really friendly neighbours, that should hold you for a while.

If you want advice on how to connect everything together once you get it, then click HERE .

Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

I read that line as a reply to someone on a DJ forum a while ago. And it really does make a lot of sense. If you just go for really cheap equipment, you'll eventually tire of its limitations, and upgrade it a few months down the line - spending a lot more money in total than you would if you'd gone out and bought good equipment in the first place. Ok, I know it's easy for me to say 'Spend £1,000 on two SL1210's and DJM400' - it is unfeasible in most cases - but be aware that, like the man said, if you buy cheap - and you do really take to DJing - you'll end up buying twice - the second time so you can get equipment that'll let you be the DJ you should (or could) be.

Basic Doesn't Mean Terrible

The one thing I'll say though before I go into each of this lot is that it's a good idea to spend as much as you can on the turntables or CD decks, then whatever you have left on the mixer. You can use a bad mixer with good decks without too much problems, but not even the best of mixers is going to compensate for bad decks. Plus, it's a lot cheaper to upgrade a mixer when you get round to that point than it is to upgrade your turntables.


The first thing you really have to make sure of is that there is a control on the turntable which allows you to adjust the pitch (the pace at which the record will be played at) of the record. Just a 33 or 45rpm setting is not enough. You're looking for something that will allow the pitch to be adjusted by AT LEAST + or - 8%. The larger the pitch control, the better. One that takes up most of the length of the right hand side of the turntable is preferred and is the industry standard for pitch control. The length allows more fine adjustments than just a small control on the front of the unit (see the Gemini XL-100 as the method you DON'T want to get.)

The next, and biggest choice you have to make when you are on a shoestring budget is whether to buy DIRECT DRIVE or BELT DRIVEN decks (deck is another word for Turntable or CD unit).

Suffice to say, direct drive decks are by far the preferred means of powering the deck. Simply, because the Belt Driven decks use a rubber band as an intermediate to drive the deck, a lot of the power and accuracy is lost through the transfer of that power. This means that the pitch settings that you choose might not be held for long enough, meaning the tempo of the song you are playing will change while in use, causing havoc when trying to beat match. It also means that the deck does not have the power (or TORQUE) to withstand the vigours of scratching, and has a poor start up time.

Unfortunately, the really cheap Direct Drive decks will still have similar problems, though not to the same extremes that the Belt driven decks will have. The power to the deck is still somewhat lacking compared to the better quality (and more expensive) models, and they can still have a tendency to lose their pitch settings slightly.

As I said before, I DO urge you NOT to get belt driven decks, but as so many people have hardly any money when they start, combined with a yearning to be a Dj, it might be something you settle for. Just be aware that belt driven decks do have some rather extreme limitations when it comes to beatmatching!!!

So, there are decks like Soundlab's DLP30's (I think), Numark's TT-1700's (think they're now 1500's), Gemini's XL-400's, Kam's BDX range which are built to emulate a Technics deck, but don't quite have the power or pitch accuracy to be that much use after you've learnt to beat match. If you MUST go out and spend as little as you can, then look at these decks. I really would like it if this is the last I have to mention not using them, I'm getting ready to punch my computer the next time I get a mail asking me about them. I was pretty sure that I'd plastered "Don't use belt decks" enough over my site already!! :-)

BUT, the thing I will stress, no matter how shoe-string your budget is, no matter how unserious you are about dj'ing (unserious? someone get me a thesaurus) no matter how long you'll be using them before you know you'll buy better decks, DO NOT, I REPEAT


Use the Gemini XL-100 or the Soundlab DLP-1600 decks. They're now quite old, and not really about these days, but in case you do manage to stumble upon them, these decks are NOT meant to be used as Dj decks. Yes, people like Sapphires advertise them as decks you can use, but you'd be better pissing off your cat so it'd stick out its claw, then making it run round the record, caterwauling as if to reproduce the tune you're playing. You'll have better power, pitch control and care for your records with the cat than you would with the XL-100 or DLP-1600. I can not stress enough NOT to use these decks. If you're cheap, go for the ones above, don't be fooled by the "Yeah, these are Dj decks" and the price tag. You'd be better getting "I'm a cheap twat" tattood on your head BACKWARDS for the money, rather than buying these.

Gemini, Numark, Stanton, American DJ, Kam, Sherwood, Sony - nearly all makes of DJ equipment do a couple of really low level decks for the beginner DJ. There will only be about £30 difference between the belt and direct driven versions of their decks - please spend that extra £30 - it really will make a lot of difference. However, here's where I put in a disclaimer. These budget decks will just about do for normal beat mixing styles (trance, house etc) but if you're thinking of doing ANY scratching at all, then you're wasting your time and money considering anything cheaper that about £250 a deck. For start, belt driven decks are RIGHT out of the question. The other decks in the lower price range, though direct drive, just don't have the power to the deck plate to make scratching a viable option on them, they just aren't made to cope with the vigours of scratching.


The purpose of the slip mat is to reduce the friction between the record and the turntable to the point where you can hold the record still, and the turntable will still turn underneath it (which is yet ANOTHER problem with basic, cheap decks, their power is so weak that this won't happen). The setup should go like this:- At the very bottom, is the deck plate (the part with the bumps on the side). Make sure to take off the removable rubber mat that comes with the deck (NOT the rubber coating, the rubber mat). On top of that goes the slipmat, and on top of that goes your finest record.

As mentioned, there can sometimes be problems with the decks that cause it to come to a grinding halt when you are trying to cue up the record. The way to try to get around this is to reduce the friction further between the deckplate and the slipmat. This can be done by either cutting a six inch diameter circle piece of cardboard out, punching a hole in the middle, then sitting this between the slipmat and the deck plate or by cutting out a piece of wax paper (some inlays in record sleeves are wax paper) to the size of your slipmat, and putting THAT inbetween the plate and the slipmat. The second option there is by far preferred, by putting the piece of cardboard between the two, the friction IS reduced, but so is the stability of the record, so you may find the needle jumps a lot. Go for the wax paper if you're having issues.

CD Decks

CD decks are available as twin units or single decks, so you have two pieces of equipment to fit into your DJ space. Twin units normally come in two halfs, linked by a control cable. One half is the two CD trays (so you can play two different CD's) and the other half is the controller, with individual sets of controls (buttons/jog wheels/displays) to control each CD deck

The Numark CDNIII CD deckNumark CDN22 MkIII

An example of a twin CD deck

Two CD decks and controllers in one unit is a very convinient (and often cost effective) approach to starting out as a CD DJ - it's not the best for scratch DJ's - but is a great first step for the beat mixing DJ.

The Denon DNS3500Denon DNS 3500

An example of a single CD deck

This takes up a lot more space (as you need two of them) - but the greater real-estate means more functions, more controllability, and a hell of a lot more fun!

Twin CD decks tend to be cheaper than single CD decks. Looking at Numark for example, the cheapest Twin CD they sell is currently £130 (the CDN22mk4) whereas the cheapest single CD deck they have is the Axis 4 (£140 each - so you need to spend £280). However, look at the functions on the items you're looking at rather than just the price tag.

If you're going for budget equipment, your choice will most likely be governed by how much money you have - just make sure that the CD decks have a pitch control, a clear time-display so you know where you are in the music, and most importantly, a pitch bend function, which lets you temporarily speed up or slow down the tune if your bass beats start to play out of time.


A DJ Mixer is the central hub for all DJs, whether you are DJing in a club, at a wedding, or in your bedroom. The mixer connects many different input sources (CD/Vinyl/PC/Mp3 players etc) together and allows you to change from one to another (or hear many at the same time) and send the resulting 'mix' of sound to an amplifer and speakers so people on the dancefloor (etc) can hear the music.

The purpose of the mixer is to change the sound you can hear from one output to another one, without having a break in sound. Typically, this means that deck 1 is in Channel 1 and deck 2 is in Channel 2. To change from one channel to another, a cross fader is normally included on the mixer, which, as you move it, moves the sound you can hear through the speakers from one deck to the other.

When you're starting off, with very little money, you are going to be faced with a choice to buy a really basic mixer like the Numark DM950. This goes back to the buy cheap, buy twice thing - you'll want to upgrade it soon after you get your beatmatching skills sorted - but if getting this mixer means you could get better turntables, that's maybe something you're ok with. I know I would be. Just start saving now!

The problems that you'll encounter with a very basic mixer should only add up to sound quality issues. There will be some important functions missing (the most important being a means to measure the strength of the music coming INTO the mixer, not just out of the mixer) but while you're beatmatching, developing your skills, and on your first steps to becoming a DJ, this isn't quite as important as being able to afford better decks.

Features to consider

A number of features are extremely useful and may help you when deciding which mixer to buy. The following features are universally considered as a must - and should be what you're looking for in even the most basic, cheapest mixer:

  • At LEAST 2 input channels, switchable from Line to Phono - so you can connect two CD decks, (or 2 Mp3 players/laptops etc) or 2 turntables (
  • 3 band equaliser to help you mix be reducing the amount of bass, mid or high sound frequencies
  • Cross fader - The cross fader allows you mix the levels of sound from different channels. Sliding it to one side will allow you to use 100% of one channel and none of the other and vice versa. Moving it to the middle will provide you with a 50/50 mix. This is an excellent `must have` feature which makes combining 2 music sources a lot easier when starting out. Think of a cross-fader as a temperature mix on a shower control. All the way to the left - you're shivering. All the way to the right - you're burning. Put it in the middle - a mix of both.
  • Headphone Output with PFL (pre fade listen) - This is exceptionally important for you to be able to hear the next tune you want to play while the other one is still playing out of the speakers. It's also nice to hear the cued record and bring in the live one very slightly using something called a 'Headphone Mix'. This allows you to be more precise when it comes to matching the beats.
  • Cross-fader curve Control - By no means a neccessity, but if you're looking a becoming a scratch DJ, you might want to pick a mixer which lets you adjust the cross-fader curve. It allows you to adjust the way in which the cross fade works. Scratch DJ`s prefer the fade to be a short and sharp switch whereas others may want a smooth transition. This can be easily selected by setting the curve control.
  • Gain controls to allow you to adjust the strength of the incoming signal
  • Multiple outputs - so you can send the mix to an amplifier, but also to a recording device (tape deck/computer etc)

Hercules DJ Mixer and the Digital DJ

Hercules DJ console

This is slightly different to a tranditional DJ mixer, as it relates more to the Computer DJ than the CD and vinyl DJ (though you can still connect Vinyl and CD decks to it).

It's actually quite funt to use - though not something I'd ever use professionally, and it also has the accolade of being reviwed by Pete Tong on 'The Gadget Show' on Channel 5...

Though by no means a slick, professinal device that would be found in a top club's DJ booth, their current model, the RMX DJ Console is a good, basic introduction for the Laptop DJ with a view to using a controller instead of a mouse click. Take a look at it at 3Wisemonkeys

If you're looking for more info about Digital DJing, check out the 'Digital DJ' page, which has more options, and more advanced connection options.


Headphones need to be given a lot more credit than they're normally given in a start out set of equipment. Your headphones are the link to how to mix. If you can't hear the tune in your headphones clearly while trying to beatmatch, you're going to have a lot of trouble.

Make sure when you pick yours, they sound great (a good solid bass drum, with crisp hi-frequencies, and a Mid range that doesn't make your ears quivver in pain!) are comfortable to wear and preferably have a closed back to the ear-cups in order to reduce external noise.

Cartridges and Needles

These are what transfer the vibrations caused by the grooves in the record to sound. The needle (Stylus) itself sits inside the groove of the record, and as the record passes through it, it vibrates. The cartridge hold the needle, which is either screwed onto a headshell or locked directly onto the tonearm - all of which translate the vibrations to an electrical signal which is turned into the music that you hear. But you don't need to know all that. Just don't hurt them!

There are MANY different kinds of Needle and cartridge (cart for short) out there, but the chances are the ones that you'll get included with the decks will be Stanton 500AL's. Check to see whether they are included with your decks or not, as there's nothing worse than taking all your stuff home, only to find that you can't use anything because of missing equipment.


For playback and monitoring, particularly when home mixing, it may also be worth investing in decent speakers and surround sound systems.

The signal that comes out of the mixer is barely strong enough to power your headphones, so you need something which will increase (amplify) this signal so that it will drive (make 'em work) a pair of speakers.

There's three choices (as far as I see it) to how to do this:-

1) Buy a separate amplifier and speakers.

This can be a bit costly, but it is a great way of doing it. When you're spending the money on this kind of kit, think about if you'll also ever use it 'live' - in a hall or something when trying to run your own night. If you're spending that money anyway, you might as well spend enough to give you the power you need, when you need it. Just don't turn it up too loud at home - your neighbours may never forgive you!

2) Plug the output cable into either the CD or AUX port in the back of your stereo (if you have one)


I prefer this method because it cuts down on the amount of equipment you need (and so money you'll have to spend) and it means that there's already a built in tape recorder, or MiniDisc recorder etc. to record your mixes. DON'T use the PHONO input though. The Phono inputs use a completely different means to process the signal, and are only meant for Turntables. Though you ARE using turntables, the signal you are using is from the mixer, which is known as a LINE signal and is far stronger than that of a turntable, and therefore can't go into the PHONO input.

3) Using POWERED speakers.

Powered speakers are just speakers with a built in amplifier, so you have to plug them into a power socket, but, provided they are powerful enough to let you hear the music loud enough, the will suffice. A few people I know actually use the powered speakers from their computers. For professional use, the JBL EON PWD 10 is great, I've used it a lot for the monitor in the DJ booth.

I used to use a pair of Roland powered speakers in the small room in the flat I used to live in, but as I've recently inherites a nice amp and speakers for the new house - I'm announcing my arrival to the neighbourhood in stlye! The Roland speakers were incredible though, they really did kick ass when I cranked 'em up!

You're good to go...

So apart from getting records and CDs to play, and having some nice understanding neighbours, that's the basics of what you need. Ok, there's stuff like something to keep your records in, and something to put your decks and mixer on (I've heard tales of people using ironing boards for this. I don't know if I'd trust an ironing board to support all that weight...) and all the cabling that you'd need - and where to position monitors etc, and a few other sundries - but, that's all in the book - and I want to move on to re-editing the rest of this site - so I'll leave that stuff for a while...

So once you've got the kit, you gotta connect it together. That's the next page.