How to Select the Right Audio Equipment

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How to Select the Right Audio Equipment

People just starting out on the path to becoming a professional DJ often find that selecting the right audio equipment can be a tough chore. They understand that the right equipment is essential to success, but are uncertain how to choose amongst the many items available on the market today. There are so many types, brands, features, and conditions to sift through that making a selection can be extremely difficult. Many people simply need help evaluating each item and fitting them all together.

Essentially, the decision can be boiled down to just a few major factors users must consider when evaluating audio equipment. The first step users must take is to decide whether their DJ media should consist primarily of physical discs or digital music. Next, they must consider each of the following categories of equipment: mixers, speakers and headphones. Finally, once these items have been chosen, they must be purchased at a reasonable price. This last step requires an understanding of the audio equipment market, and knowing how and where to find good quality equipment at a cost that does not bankrupt the DJ's business before it even gets started.

Choose a Medium Carefully

Before starting to evaluate audio equipment, buyers should choose a medium in which to operate. Most professional DJs choose a library of digital music over physical CDs, but this is a matter of individual preference. However, this choice profoundly affects the type and amount of equipment one needs, and impacts the expense and quality of the music one can offer. The following sections examine both options.

Physical Disc DJing

DJs who use physical discs (usually CDs, but sometimes vinyl records) are a dying breed. Not only are discs bulky, cumbersome, and hard to organise, it is not cost effective to buy hundreds of CDs that feature unwanted songs, just to capture a few Top 40 hits. However, there are some advantages to going "old school" and spinning discs. First, the sound quality of CDs is often considerably better and more reliable than that of MP3 audio files. Also, since physical DJ equipment is considered "outdated" technology, the audio equipment needed for a physical disc setup can often be bought on the cheap, especially compared to the price of their state-of-the-art, digital cousins.

Digital DJing

On the flip side, a digital setup places DJs on the cusp of technology. It allows for a much less-cluttered performance space, and makes managing and mixing music much easier. Also, it makes transporting a music library a breeze. No longer must the DJ cart around a hundred pounds of CDs or vinyl records.

However, there are distinct disadvantages to choosing this medium, as well. These stem primarily from the inferior quality of MP3 files over the WAV files found on CDs. DJs willing to purchase CDs for their superior sound can remedy this, but it increases the cost of being a digital DJ. Also, as mentioned above, digital equipment, because it is new and innovative, is generally more expensive than a physical disc setup.

Selecting the Right Equipment

After DJs have taken the time to carefully consider and choose their music medium, the actual acquisition of audio equipment can begin. There are three major subgroups of audio equipment that users must evaluate carefully: mixers, speakers, and headphones. The following subsections discuss each of these in detail.

Mixers: The Source of a DJ's Control

The difference between a true DJ and some random guy with an iPod is found in the mixer. Mixers give DJs control over the sounds of the room by combining inputs and manipulating recorded sound. Mixers are the heart and soul of a DJs performance.

Choosing the right mixer is about combining personal style and artistry with what is available on the market. There are basically two choices: controllers, or traditional mixers. The main difference lies in the addition of a turntable. DJs using a controller can "scratch out" tunes, like an old school vinyl DJ. Mixers, on the other hand, simply supply amps and knobs.

The quality and price of mixers on the market today vary depending on the manufacturer, the model, and the number of inputs and outputs the unit supports. Additionally, whether or not there is a built-in soundcard affects the final price.

Speakers: Getting the Sound to the Audience

The next most important factor DJs must consider is which speakers to buy. This might be the most complex decision a DJ has to make, considering the huge variety of speakers and speaker systems that are out there. However, to simplify matters, to begin choosing speakers, users must select between two basic types: passive speakers (which require separate amplifiers) or powered speakers.

Passive Speaker Systems

Most professional DJs use passive speakers because their use (along with separate amps) allows for an easy mix-and-match approach to a sound environment. DJs can purchase individual passive speakers and amplifiers and set them up in a way that fits both their professional style and the performance space. The only real issue with using passive speakers is that users must match the power output of the amp with the power capacity of the speaker, or else risk blowing the speaker during a performance.

Powered Speaker Systems

Powered (or active) speakers are more expensive than passive speakers, but do not require separate amps. However, they are far easier to use, as there is no need to match power between the speaker and amp. Users simply plug the powered speakers into mains power and get started. The only real disadvantage is that, if the built-in amp blows, the entire speaker must sometimes be replaced.

Headphones: Making Sure It All Works

The final tools DJs need to evaluate are headphones. The purpose of headphones for DJs is to help them make smooth transitions between songs. By playing the cued song in one's headphones while the current song is playing over speakers, DJs can make sure that the quality, volume, and atmosphere of the songs are complementary.

Buyers should look for a few key elements in a good set of headphones. First, look for a swivel feature that lets the user listen to both the cued song and the sound in the room. Headphones should also be comfortable, meaning that, even if purchased online, they should be tried on before buying. Headphone durability is also important, since they undergo a lot of use in hectic situations. This makes them prone to breakage. Coiled cables are also a nice feature; they help keep down the clutter on stage.

Buying Audio Equipment

Once you have considered the medium and the three main categories of equipment, the next step is to go out and buy a mixer, some speakers, and a set of headphones. These can all be found at DJ specialty equipment stores and professional audio retailers. You can also find them online at electronics and audio websites, and at online marketplaces like eBay.

Using eBay to Select the Right Audio Equipment

Armed with the information provided in the sections above, buyers can use eBay to quickly and easily select the right audio equipment. The search process on eBay is simple, and can start from any page on the site. Start by typing a relevant keyword into the search bar, such as "DJ speakers". eBay then returns dozens or hundreds of results, which you can further narrowed down using factors such as price, brand, and condition (whether new or used).

If you are a user new to eBay, you should take the time to become familiar with the site and how it works to become a better buyer. Always carefully read product descriptions and evaluate each seller you are considering buying from. A great deal of positive feedback on a seller's profile indicates that they have satisfied buyers in the past. This makes them a good bet, and suggests that there is a good chance they are able to provide you with a smooth and satisfactory transaction.

Conclusion

Becoming a professional DJ is a lot of work. As much of an art as singing or songwriting, DJing is something that is partly learned and partly innate skill. A big part of being a great DJ, however, is having the right audio equipment. For those just starting out, this can seem nearly impossible. However the key to selecting the right audio equipment is knowing one's medium and then evaluating the three key equipment categories.

These important categories start with the "heart" of any DJ's performance, the audio mixer. Next, DJs must evaluate speakers, and to do that they must examine both passive and powered speaker systems to determine which works best for them. Finally, a good DJ also needs good headphones. All of these elements combine to produce the best audio setup for each individual DJ.

Finally, when ready to make a purchase, DJs can shop in several retail locations, both brick and mortar and online. One great option is to use eBay for both the selection and purchase process. eBay combines convenience with variety, making the process of selecting the right audio equipment easy and fun.

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