Your Guide to DJ Gear
Navigating the diverse world of DJ gear can be a daunting task, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a fresh face in the DJ scene. Our team has over 60 years of DJ experience and toured the world playing underground clubs to mainline festivals. Having personally DJ’d across Asia, North America and the UK I can safely say that there is a lot more to DJ Gear than meets the eye. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the history of DJing and its timeline to what it has become today. Looking at everything from the DJ gear to scene and its rise to popularity.
History Of DJ’ing
The Genesis in the 1940s and 1950s
Okay so you may not think of the early years of DJ’ing as what you think of today. But DJ’ing, at its core, sprang to life in the 1940s and 1950s, in the era where radio hosts curating and broadcasting a flow of music intertwined with their unique announcements, comments, or ads. The birth of disc jockeying, painting the airwaves with diverse tunes carefully selected to resonate with the eager audience, keeping their spirits high and their radios tuned in.
The Evolution into Clubs and Dance Halls
Post second world war and into the 1960s and 1970s was a gradual yet revolutionary transformation in the DJ world. No longer confined to the airwaves, DJs started making a significant impact on clubs and dance halls. The likes of Larry Levan who was hailed as the Worlds Greatest by many started something that would continue to expand both fiancially and finatically. Technics release the SL-1200 in October of 1972 which only fuels the DJ popularity and verstality. Vinyl records became the gold standard, providing richer sound and allowing for new techniques like scratching and beat juggling, further enhancing the DJ’s ability to interact with the crowd and influence the dance vibe.
The Technological Leap
In roll the 1980s and 90s, and you’d find the DJ landscape irrevocably changed with the advent of technology. Vinyl continues to dominate with massive a booming nightclub scene. No longer are nightclubs warehouses but now legal venues filled from Thursday to Monday. Ibiza is in its full stride with venues all across the world looking to stand out as the #1 DJ venue. CDJs enter in 1992 with the CDJ 300 two years before Pioneer push the CDJ 500 their official launch of its compact disc dj turntable. Allowing DJs to utilize compact discs for a more portable and versatile DJing experience. This period also saw the emergence of DJing software, enabling DJs to mix and manipulate music digitally, ushering in an era of unprecedented creative freedom and innovation.
The Modern Era
The millenium bug didnt scare off the growing popularity of DJs as eclectic artists and performers, seamlessly now blending tracks, creating remixes, and producing original music that echoes their unique style. Brands other than Technics and Pioneer start to see the value in manufacturing DJ gear. Brands like Denon DJ, Numark and Stanton all establish a piece of the market. Vinyl starts to die out unless you were an OG warrior (cd’s suck lol) as new media options arise such as USB and SD cards, technology continues to diversify the DJ world. Mid 2000’s there is a shift towards electronic music being mainstream and the Super Star DJ is born.
In 2014 Pioneer DJ is born as its corporation notices an oppurtunity to diversify further. The DJ booths are now equipped with state-of-the-art gear, from advanced digital controllers and mixers to powerful software that offers endless possibilities for music manipulation and creation. Media formats are essentially dead by 2017 with the CDJ now a discless player (yeah still doesnt make sense). DJ’s are selling out Wembley and Madison Square Garden. Festivals of 100’s of thousands of people are now a regular and the underground limps on through its few die hard supporters. As of 2023 technology continues to push DJ’ing and its audience further forward – where this ends no-one knows.
DJ Gear Timeline
The Turntables Era – 1970s
While we mentioned DJ’ing started in the 40’s and 50’s focused DJ Gear didnt take place officially until Technics launched the SL-1200. The birth of Classic turntables and vinyl records. The SL-1200 was the direct-drive turntable that became a quintessential tool for early hip-hop and dance music DJs. Its robust build, pitch control, and reliable motor made it a favorite for scratching and beatmatching, establishing a solid foundation for the world of DJing.
Emergence of CDJs – 1980s and 1990s
As we journeyed into the 1980s and 1990s, the DJ gear scene was set for a seismic shift. Technology paved the way for the introduction of Compact Disc players, or CDJs. The Pioneer CDJ-500, released in 1994, revolutionized the DJ booth by providing an alternative to vinyl, offering new possibilities for mixing and scratching without the limitations of a vinyl record, and effectively expanding the DJ’s creative palette.
Advent of Digital Mixing Software – Late 1990s
The late 1990s bestowed another evolutionary leap in the form of digital mixing software. Platforms like Final Scratch appeared, allowing DJs to manipulate digital files with traditional turntables and a specially designed vinyl control record, marrying the analog and digital worlds. This technological marvel offered DJs more versatility, a vast library of digital music, and more convenience in transporting their music collection.
The 2000s and Beyond – DJ Controllers and Advanced Software
As the calendar flipped into the 2000s, the emergence of digital DJ controllers and sophisticated software such as Serato and Traktor further refined the art of DJing. These controllers, integrated with software, provided a comprehensive interface for DJs to mix, scratch, and manipulate audio and video files, offering a broad spectrum of effects and controls at their fingertips. The arrival of Pioneer’s XDJ-XZ in 2019 epitomized this era, offering a versatile all-in-one system with advanced features, echoing the evolution from the modest turntable to the multifaceted digital controller. While we continue to see Pioneer DJ dominate in both sales and technology in an almost monopoly of the market. Even taking aim at the vinyl market with the PLX-1000 a direct attempt at improvement to the SL-1200.
Todays DJ Gear
Where are we with today’s DJ gear? So many options and devices to choose from. You’re not just selecting devices; you’re choosing partners in your artistic journey, tools designed to amplify and accentuate every aspect of your performance. Newer cutting-edge digital controllers can merge, blend, and switch beats with unprecedented ease and precision. Is it cheating? Yeah you could say that (especially if youre a vinyl slinger like myself). But one thing technology has done well is bring new eyes to DJ’ing as an art form and there is nothing wrong with that.
The explosion of powerful DJ software in the past few years has taken so many by suprise especially those building catalogs of music. The software’s advanced features empower you to manipulate tracks and craft your unique sound all with ease.
Performance pads, FX and input options can make it all very overwhelming for a newcomer but as a seasoned DJ it opens doors. Products such as the Pioneer DJ XDJ XZ and Opus Quad push the boundaries with style and utility.
Leading brands like Pioneer DJ, Denon DJ, Native Instruments, and Numark understand the pulse of the DJing world. While their standards maybe a little off they consistently deliver gear that not only meets but exceeds our expectations.
So, embrace the innovation (even if I dont like it), the technology, and the limitless possibilities that today’s DJ gear brings to the table. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a budding DJ, this cutting-edge equipment is designed to elevate your performance and ignite your passion for music.
Pioneer DJ XDJ XZ
Pioneer DJ Opus Quad
Pioneer DJ CDJ 3000
Pioneer DJ DJM A9
Denon DJ Prime 4
Denon DJ SC6000
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4
Everyones a DJ these days right? Well not really. DJing is like anything creative you can make it what you want. You get out what you put in so practice is going to play a pivitol roll. At the onset it might seem overwhelming, but over time it will get easier. If you love music DJ’ing is one of the closest thing you can get to playing a real instrument and making music. But it has to start somewhere.
Choosing Your Gear
One of the first steps in your DJing expedition is selecting the appropriate gear. In this era, DJ equipment is more accessible and varied than ever before. You could opt for the traditional turntables, which allow you to experience the tactile feel of vinyl under your fingertips. Or you may decide to embrace the modern era with digital DJ controllers, coupled with powerful software to give you unmatched control over your mixes. Companies like Pioneer DJ, Denon DJ, Numark, and Native Instruments are leading the charge, offering top-notch gear that seamlessly blends functionality and innovation. Either way think about budget and how serious you want to take it. After all a club style setup can set you back close to $10,000.
Understanding the Basics
Getting acquainted with the fundamental aspects of DJing is paramount. Spend quality time familiarizing yourself with beat matching, phrasing, and equalization. Key matching can be done by ear or now through software but learn to blend tracks and be creative remember its a form of expression. Dive into various genres of music; a versatile DJ is always a crowd-pleaser!
Practice Makes Perfect
Remember, practice is the cornerstone of mastery. Set aside dedicated time to hone your skills, experiment with different styles, and refine your transitions. Make use of online platforms and communities where fellow DJs and enthusiasts share insights, tips, and feedback. Engaging with a supportive community will not only enhance your skills but also keep you abreast of the latest trends and innovations in the DJing world. Who knows maybe one day youll be play a club or festival. Trust me there is no feeling quite like it.
Missing anything else for your home studio?
We have an article that you can use as a checklist. Check it out here.