Music is and has always been one of the most soul-touching forms of art. It is also one of the most unrestrained artistic outlets. Whether you play an instrument, produce music, or love DJaying, working with music can be a fantastic experience.
If you are just starting and working out how to set up a DJ studio at home, this article might be for you. Setting up a home DJ studio can feel overwhelming, especially when you are on a budget. But thankfully, we live in an era of internet and technology.
And not only does it help you find all the relevant information you need to formulate viable home studio DJ ideas, but it also means that there are plenty of choices regarding DJ equipment. So no matter how limited your budget is, the chances are that there would be equipment available to suit your needs.
But as it always is with money, the more of it you have, the merrier you will be. Let’s get started.
DJ Setup Types
The first question you need to ask yourself is; why am I doing this? Do you want to set up a home DJ studio just as a hobby? Are you a professional DJ who needs their own space to work in? Or are you aspiring to become one? When you have identified your intent for setting up a home DJ studio, you will find it easy to justify and manage the money you spend.
If it’s work or business, your expenses can be classified as investments. If it’s just a hobby, then you may look for affordable gear that you can have fun with, instead of the top of the line equipment that costs a fortune.
There are four typical DJ setups:
- Turntable (Old School Vinyl or DVS)
- CDJ (A Setup now commonly seen in DJ clubs)
- DJ Controller (Affordable entry into DJing)
- All-computer DJ Setup (DJ software)
It’s essential to make up your mind regarding the setup first because that will impact the rest of the setup and what other equipment you need for your home DJ studio.
Read this article on How to DJ with a Laptop
Turntables are the classic DJ setup. Turntables that play vinyl records are how first DJs started out, and many people believe it’s still the only true way to mix music as a DJ; though there is no denying the old school class of vinyl records had its limitations. And unless you have a sizeable collection of vinyl records lying around, a better idea might be to go with DVS – Digital Vinyl System.
It lets you DJ in the old school style i.e. using a turntable, but instead of a physical record, you use vinyl emulation software that allows you to play and mix digital soundtracks from a computer.
Whether you choose physical records or DVS, the choice of the turntable is more about the feel of it. There is a certain level of raw control that turntable offer when you are scratching or beat matching, that other setups can’t quite mimic. On the flipside, turntables can be relatively large and expensive (less than CDJ but more than DJ controllers).
CDJs employ the same technology that was used in CD and DVD readers. They are more elaborate, tech-heavy, and offer much finer control. You will have to invest in a pair that works in tandem with a DJ mixer. Newer CDJs come with a lot of great features that offer more control and options when you are DJaying.
CDJs are what you see in most clubs and parties right now. They are relatively smaller, more comfortable to set up, and easy to carry around. But they are also more expensive. If you are setting up a home DJ studio just as a hobby, it’s better to shop around for a cheaper (but functional) second-hand pair. If you are turning pro, it might be a good idea to invest in a decent CDJ set up, so you can get a feel for it.
A DJ controller is affordable (mostly) home studio DJ equipment, which packs the whole DJ setup in one place. It usually has two turntables and a mixer, and all the knobs and buttons to achieve finer control. The best thing about DJ controllers is that they provide good value for the money, and there is a huge variety of DJ controllers to choose from.
You can select a budget DJ controller to get you started and familiarize yourself with DJaying practices. Expensive high-end DJ controllers can be even more potent than a traditional setup. You typically need a laptop or a computer to work with DJ controllers.
Read this article on Best DJ Controllers for Beginners
All-Computer DJ Setup
If you are on a very limited budget, then all you need is a computer and the right software to start DJing. Though it might not feel like mixing music at all, since you won’t be working on any DJ instruments, it will help you learn and mix some basic beats.
A few tips: Invest in a good laptop, capable of supporting your DJ software and speakers/monitors. Also, learn the shortcuts and finer control over software features, so that you can work on it seamlessly, even when you are DJaying in a rave.
Other necessary equipment you’ll need:
While a computer will do fine, a laptop will be better for mobility. If you move around for gigs instead of just mixing tracks in your home studio, it’s better if you choose a laptop. Tablets or smartphones are good alternatives, but they often have compatibility issues with software and other equipment.
This is one piece of equipment you don’t want to skimp on. Buy a pair of decent, sturdy, and specialized DJ headphones. If you also take up gigs or DJ in clubs, you may need headphones that go with your whole ensemble. But if it’s just for a home studio, buy something that fits comfortably over your head, and the sound quality is exquisite enough to help you pick up even minor variations.
Speakers or monitors will help you listen to music from your audience’s “auditory” perspective. Make sure they are placed for optimal acoustics in the studio. Home studio speakers are different to ‘DJ speakers‘. They are more compact and ideal for a home setup.
If you have decided to go with turntables or CDJs, you will need a mixer to compliment them. You have to consider features like built-in DVS and a number of channels. Mostly, 2-channel mixers are fine for home DJ studios, but for more elaborate setups, you may need a 4-channel one.
If you prefer talking to your audience like a DJ, a good quality microphone is essential for your setup.
Some other items you will need to arrange are high-quality cables (especially if you have turntable/CDJ and mixer), USBs, accessories, DJ desk, and soundproofing, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The best DJ controllers for beginners are:
Yes, you can! But it is not recommended for a large audience. Studio monitors are generally small, low power (output) speakers. While they can be fine in a small setting, like a house party, playing in a larger venue or hall with lots of people, the crowd would struggle to hear the music well. There are some affordable DJ Speakers you can use instead of monitors.
A DJ Producer would generally use a DAW - Digital Audio Workstation. It is an alternative to expensive and large studio equipment. DAW is a piece of computer software used to create music using samples and virtual or real instruments. The popular ones are Ableton Live, Cubase, Reason, Logic and GarageBand.
Some of the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to produce music with are;
- Ableton Live
- Steinberg Cubase
- Studio One Artist
- Image Line FL Studio
Planning and hunting down the gear, especially if you are buying a few things used will take up most of your time. It’s essential that you do your research regarding the equipment and also look for potential compatibility issues. The exact process of hooking everything up and fine-tuning your set up will be a breeze if you have chosen the right home studio DJ equipment.