Classic Battle Set up
These set ups are what may come to the mind of most people when they think of a DJ. As Beck said “I need two turntables and a microphone.” Since the introduction of the crossfader DJ’s have been spinning vinyl records to compose dance mixes. Traditionally found in the roots of early hip-hop performances DJ would play continues loops of dance breaks from popular music genres and blending them together to create totally new mixes. The turntables are often rotaded 90 degrees from the standard turntable in order to consaladate space and help with smoother transitions.
A traditional “battle” set up consists of two turntables usually techniques 1200 series and a 10 inch mixer equipped with a cross fader. The mixer often incorporated a microphone preamp for an MC to rap over. DJ turntables are classified by the configuration of their drive motor. Direct drive turntables have a motor mounted directly under the platter and as a result generate more torque, this is a desired feature for DJs to ensure optimum performance.
The less expensive option for turntables is the belt driven variety where the motor is mounted off to the side and connects to the platter via a rubber belt and pulley system. Belt driven turntables are considered an entry-level DJ setup and are great for practicing your skills until you invest into a more pro system.
The down side to traditionally spinning vinyl is the impracticality of lugging around crates full of LPs, although despite the inconvenience there is a sect of DJs that swear by the analog craft liken to a photographer who still shoots to film.
In recent years CD players such as the Pioneer CDJ2000 are being used in place of the turn tables but in very similar battle mixer setups but by incorperating the digital source units many more features can be explored.
Controller Based Set ups
Today Club DJs are more often operating computer based set ups. The main advantage to this set up is not lugging around your record collection to venues but instead using a Laptop with an external hard drive with virtually every song in audio history a mouse click away. This gives todays DJ the power to set up an entire show using play lists and preprogrammed cues enabling the performer to seamlessly transition, beat match, and incorporate many other sources into the mix.
The minimum set up consist of a controller, software, and a computer. The mixer and turntable functionality are replaced with digital rotary and fader encoders that send MIDI Machine Control (MMC) signals to the software on a computer via USB.
For performance purposes the set up will require an audio interface. On higher end controllers such as the Numark NS6 the sound card is built into unit itself can be used as a stand alone mixer.
Some of the more entry level controllers may require an external audio interface such as the DJio. The interface will serve as the computers sound card and all AD and DA conversions of the digital audio will be handled by the interface. Unfortunately this can lead to some advanced signal routing for the entry level DJ so there is a bit of a learning curve involved with working in the digital realm.
For the real OG DJs out there who still swear by their turn tables but require the easy set up and convenience of a digitally controlled system Serato is the perfect solution. The system consists of a standard battle pack DJ set up with the addition of a proprietary computer interface as well as two very special vinyl records.
The included records are printed with a timecode very similar to SMPTE time code that has been used in audio production for film and TV for years. The time coded disks are played like any standard record into the interface, then the code is interpreted by the software and is used to control the playback of digital music. All physical manipulation of the turntables and vinyl is synced and reproduced in real-time by the software with virtually zero latency making Serato systems the prefered choice for many of the world’s top DJs.