Rusty Microphone

How to Become a DJ on a Shoe String Budget


How to Become a Disk Jockey on a Shoe String

If you are interested in becoming a DJ and have very little money to work with, you may want to see how I did it. The total price is around $400 dollars and the equipment can service about 75 to 100 people. (See the picture)

My amplifier is a Pioneer surround sound XV-HTD520, which is 500 watts. I paid $75.00 for it on Craig's List. The mixer is a run-of-the-mill Behringer UB-1204P-PRO, which cost me $100.00 on Craig's List. And, I have two used netbook computers to run all my software and library of music on. The entire set-up is worth about $400.00. You have to purchase some XLR cables, and at least one cheap dynamic microphone for around $20.00

The Amplifier

Most professionals say you should use expensive PA amps and speakers. If you visit a music store you will see all sorts of powered and passive speaker systems. They range in price from around $500.00 to several thousand dollars. Why did I decide to use a consumer grade “surround sound” amplifier to do a party with 75 people? Because I'm cheap; and I also know something about sound. Five hundred watts is plenty of power for most small venues. The problem is that most DJ's don't want to run wires all over the hall. So they would rather have massive speaker systems on stage. This is usually a problem for people sitting close to the speakers – they get blasted. By using a consumer grade PA amplifier, you must place the speakers in various locations around the room. Therefore you have to run wires and you must make sure they are duct taped to carpets so people don't trip over them. In most cases you have to check the manual for the amplifier to see if there is a mode that uses all of the speakers. In the case of the Pioneer XV-HDT520, I had to use the “virtual surround 2” mode. This means that full audio comes through only four of the five speakers. The center speaker is not connected. I could not find a mode that worked in such a way that the center speaker was activated at the same time with this particular amplifier. Maybe yours will be better. The fronts are 115Watts, and the rears are 52 watts. Therefore (115 x 2) + (52 x 2) = 334 watts. The sub-woofer is another 114 watts. That brings the total power to (334 + 114) = 448 watts. In my case the center channel was only worth 52 watts. In terms of decibels the 448 watts is not much different from the full 500 watts. That's plenty loud.

On one occasion a person grabbed a microphone and screamed into it at the top of his lungs. I had set the level for a reasonable range and was surprised to find that the sub-woofer speaker was distorted after that nice little event. When I went shopping for a replacement, I just happened to find a store that had a variety of sub-woofer speakers. I purchased a nice cylindrical one rated at 130 watts for only $15.00. The amp could pump 114 watts, so this speaker was perfect. See the picture – Bottom Left. I think the new speaker works even better than the original. The room was saturated in low frequencies. This system worked very well. But watch your levels and don't let anyone shout into a mic without somehow limiting the level. You should be able to use any decent consumer grade amplifier for use in a PA setting. Just make sure the manual says that you can get all of the speakers going with pure audio. You don't want effects on the rear channels. You want full spectrum audio. What good is a nice echo delay on the rear channels, when you need lots of power, not effects.

The Mixer

The Behringer UB -1204-PRO mixer is a 5 microphone, 2 line input mixer. Virtually any mixer will do, so don't go spending a lot of money on this. I needed 3 mic inputs because I had a floor mic, a DJ's mic and a wireless mic. The two line inputs are from the two netbook computers. I take the headphone jack output of each computer and run that into the input terminals of the mixer. The software volume settings on the computers are adjusted for max and the level on the board is controlled by the slider for each channel. The output of the mixer goes directly into the AUX input of the surround sound amplifier. You will need a kit of adapter plugs for your mixer. Go to Radio Shack and get some. I use a lot of  “one quarter inch, phone to RCA” adapters.