DJ'ing as a Hobby – Fun and Affordable
Below are five exciting ways to DJ on an entry-level budget. The primary difference between the following solutions relates to how your media is stored and referenced. For decades, DJs did both with 12" vinyl disks. The vinyl standard gave way to the CD about five years ago, though the workflow remained essentially the same. The DJ would use the CDJ ("CD-turntable") to regulate elements like tempo and transport actions, and would subsequently send that signal to a mixer to be modified in volume—both "track" and "frequency/EQing". From there it was time to dance. Let's first look at two current takes on this tradition:
The first is the Gemini CDM-3600, which replicates the experience of having two CDJs feeding a mixer simultaneously from a single device. As a result the Gemini is far more compact than 2 CDJs and one mixer connected by RCA cables. The 3600's further degree of integration ultimately means greater portability.
This unit reads CDs and CD-Rs with standard 44.1k/16 bit audio. It does not however support MP3 playback. Along these same lines, another attractive feature on the CDM-3600 is the ability to connect external media players such as MP3 players, turntables and CD players. There are also ¼" and XLR mic inputs for communicating with your adoring fans.
Otherwise, the 3600 features most all of the functions you would expect on standard mixers and CDJ, as does the Numark CD MIX-3.
The main difference between the Numark CD Mix-3 and the Gemini is the ability to play MP3s from CDs. As noted, the Gemini only permits standard 44.1k/16 bit audio files. This can be a crucial difference for DJs with large MP3 collections. And while the Gemini permits hooking up an external MP3 player, it does not guarantee that the connected external MP3 device offers functions like tempo control.
The next three affordable and compact units feature traditional control surfaces almost identical to the aforementioned Gemini and Numark models. They are different, first and foremost, in terms of where they stream their media from—a drive, not a record or CD. Next consider that 'drives' include thumb-drives, external hard-drives, and iPods, though iPhones, iPod-Touches and certain iPod Classics have limited-to-no-compatibility with this kind of DJ hardware. This makes for convenient and flexible DJing. Finally, these units also offer the possibility to connect external CD players, MP3 players and turntables, and of course a microphone, for even more source options.
The most modestly priced (and most modestly capable) of these is the original Numark IDJ. Think of it as a 'toy', but not necessarily in a bad way—it simply is what it is and was meant to be: limited. Specifically, you must have two iPods to DJ, one for each channel. (Or you could connect external media sources).
You also cannot connect additional external storage devices such as external hard-drives and thumb drives, nor can you modify tempo/pitch. This means you cannot "beatmatch". Instead, you must rely on un-synched transitions, which can be fine for a house party with friends, but you wouldn't really want to "play-out" without this capability. There is also no visual readout of any kind, no 'looping', nor is there a jog wheel for scratching.
Conversely, the lack of those features can actually add to the fun factor of this unit in that it can be unexpectedly nice to have only a few simple options: hit 'play', perform some basic EQing and cross-fade into the next song; repeat process. The Numark IDJ is also incredibly compact and lightweight.
Should you wish to DJ from your iPod, thumb drive, or external hard-drive with all the just-mentioned features – including the ability to play two songs from only one iPod – then consider the Cortex DMIX 300. It is highly capable and is perhaps the best all around point of entry in this review, as it offers significant power and flexibility at a competitive price point.
Finally, should you love the Cortex DMIX 300, but still demand a few advanced features such as looping (a visual beat-matching aide, very handy for the beginner) and the ability to stream your iPod's S-video feed, then the Numark IDJ's impressive big brother—the Numark's IDJ2—may be the best option for you.
The most important message here, though, is that DJing can be for you no matter what your experience or budget. HAVE FUN.