Whether or not you need a hardware controller to help with your MP3 DJing depends upon how often you use MP3s, whether you’re a ‘guest’ DJ or a resident, or indeed a mobile DJ setting up your own gear wherever you go. It also depends upon your DJing style – do you wish to manipulate your MP3s, or just play them as they are?
There’s an awful lot of hardware out there. A cursory search of the Internet conjures up dozens of weird and wonderful products from manufacturers worldwide. Whether it’s advisable to pay a small untried company a whack of cash for a new piece of equipment is highly debatable, though! Also, there’s every chance that what you think you’re looking for simply isn’t available, in which case, hold fire: things will undoubtedly look different this time next year.
Consider carefully what you are trying to do, and then source your hardware from a reputable UK company who can offer not only advice but also the all-important guarantee should things go wrong (as they often do, especially with new technology).
So, what’s out there? Well, firstly, your computer is a piece of hardware! By tapping the keys, you are using it like you would any other MP3 controller. If you are a mobile DJ, you can easily plug your microphone into the mic in, and mix an MP3 playlist with existing software out of the line-out, straight into a PA system. You can do a whole gig from your laptop.
Chances are, though, you’ll want to use an external mixer, if only for headphone cueing. If you want to use MP3s exclusively, you might consider D-Vinyl’s Soundgraph 2020 system. This is a hardware controller which is unique in offering not only dual MP3 use, but a crossfader too, so you can put one unit in front of you and DJ to your heart’s content without ever touching the PC. It has to be said that in use, I’ve heard mixed reports of this system. It also has a curious vertical crossfader, so try before you buy.
But say you want to use record decks or CDs too. Or you are playing in clubs which already have a mixer, but you want to use your MP3s there. Here, you’ll probably want to take your laptop along and plug in on the night. There are interfaces available which allow you to do just that – they give you line outs for both your virtual MP3 ‘decks’, which can be given spare channels, so you can headphone cue and the like. You still have to do everything else on the keyboard, though. Most MP3 DJ software recommends a compatible multiple line-out soundcard to do the job.