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The basic process is to connect the controller to the computer using a USB cable. Software for the controller needs to be installed as well. If you’re on a Mac, installing LineIn and routing the audio through it is an additional step. Also, ensure your controller is connected to your speakers.
Connecting Speakers To A DJ Controller
The excitement from getting your first DJ controller can almost be overwhelming. Amid the hype, it’s not uncommon to incorrectly connect something or forget a cable or setting. Even seasoned DJs can get wrapped up in the moment when setting up new gear and get something wrong.
Before we run through each step, remember taking a slow, methodical approach will help. Take a step back, breathe and enjoy the moment.
The main thing to remember is to trace the path of the audio signal. Where does the sound originate from, and where do you want it to play through? Identifying this path early will seriously help you. Following the IN and OUT labels on the equipment should help guide you to proper setup.
For a DJ Controller, the sound will originate from your computer and then play through the speaker connected to it. The DJ Controller will send MIDI messages to the computer to manipulate the audio played.
So the signal flow is really just from the computer to the speakers. The DJ Controller is part of the control flow but not the audio signal because it doesn’t produce any sound of its own.
The core steps you learn here will transfer to many types of gear and hopefully serve you well into your DJing career.
Step By Step Instructions for Connecting DJ Controller to Speakers
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
- DJ Controller
- DJ Controller Software (such as Serato DJ Lite)
- USB Cable
- Audio Cable (RCA Cable / XLR Cable)
Step 1. Do An Inventory Check Of Gear And Cables
The first step is to take that step back and think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. After you’ve resolved that clearly in your mind, you should understand the overall flow of the desired path of the audio signal.
Once you’ve got the picture in your mind of what needs to happen, look through the DJ gear and make sure you have everything you’re going to need.
In this case, you’ll need audio cables going from the computer to the external speakers. You’ll need another USB cable going from the DJ Controller to the computer.
This might seem obvious and easy but as more gear is added and if you’re out setting up for a live show, easily evaporates, quick! Problems can pop up frequently, even for seasoned DJs.
Once you’re satisfied that you have all of the cables and gear you need, you can begin attaining the software for the DJ Controller.
Step 2. Download and Install DJ Controller Software
Each DJ Controller has a different software application provided by the manufacturer. Most of the time, it’s Serato or a version of (Serato DJ Lite / Serato DJ pro). One thing to note here is you can upgrade to other applications for the most part if you don’t like the one that came with the controller.
Read through the documentation for the DJ Controller and identify the software you’ll need. There should be a link to enter into a web browser to download the software. If you don’t have the product documentation, you can search the web for the name of your controller and then something like “manufacturer DJ software.”
Install the DJ Controller software using the instructions provided on-screen. It’s usually pretty straightforward and a series of click Next buttons.
If you’re a PC user, you can skip to the next step. For Mac users, we’ll need an additional piece of software.
The Mac OS and hardware are a strange combo. Another application is required to play audio through a Mac, as we are with the DJ Controller. It’s a small, free app, and there isn’t much to it. The software is called LineIn, and you can download it here.
We’ll see how to use LineIn in a moment. For now, just ensure that you’ve correctly downloaded and installed the application.
Step 3. Restart the Computer
It’s generally a good idea and practice to get into restarting your computer after installing applications. It’s not always needed, but I do it to save any trouble before it has a chance to start.
Audio changes to computers hardware and software configurations often require a complete restart. After you’ve restarted the computer, you should be good to go.
The following steps are going to be where the rubber hits the road.
Step 4. Test Computer Audio First to Ensure That It Is Functional
There’s something I like to call a sanity check that comes in handy for setting up and routing audio gear. What I mean by this is testing things in isolation to ensure they work one piece at a time. Play a song or even just produce a system sound. The goal is to double-check to ensure that piece is working correctly.
In large setups, this will be crucial, so it’s just a good practice to get into.
Connect Speakers To Computer Or Controller
If the speakers aren’t connected to your computer or controller yet, you’ll need to do that now.
The most common approach for computers directly a speaker is to use a 1/8 inch to 1/8 inch audio cable. Two other standard connection types are 1/8 inch to RCA and Bluetooth. It’s also possible to connect DJ controllers to the speakers using either balanced RCA to XLR or TRS connection type.
The type of cable you need is dependent on how you plan connect your setup.
The speakers will have an input connection on them. This connection type will dictate the cable used. Hopefully, you’ve already got the cable you need. If not, you might be taking a trip to the store or Amazon.
If you are connecting directly from your computer, you will have a headphone output jack on it. Connect one end of the 1/8 inch cable to the computer headphone output jack.
If you’re routing the controller to the speakers, connect the RCA end of the cables to the controller and the other end to the speakers.
Some speakers require an external power source such as an amplifier. If your speakers don’t have an internal power source connect the amplifier to the speakers. You’ll need to route the cable from the speakers to the amp. Then run a cable from the amp to the controller.
If you are using an amp, the audio signal has a step added to it. The flow is computer or controller > amp > speakers.
It might seem basic, but in real, live show setup situations, this can get very complicated very quickly! Large audio systems in clubs are far more complex than a bedroom DJ environment.
Make sure to connect the speakers to a power source and turn them on.
Connect the other end of the cable to the input on your speakers. This will differ depending on the connection type on your speakers.
Bluetooth speakers need to be paired to the host computer. Bluetooth pairing usually involves:
- Pushing a specific button on the speakers.
- Telling the computer to find them.
- Connecting them.
Refer to the product documentation for information specific to your Bluetooth speakers.
The basic process for Bluetooth is to find the pairing button on the speaker and press it. Then make sure Bluetooth is enabled and active on the computer. The computer should see the device automatically. If it doesn’t work the first time, give it a couple more tries, Bluetooth can be finicky.
If the proper ends of the cables have been connected to the appropriate places on the speakers and computer, you should be functional.
Once you’ve tested the system audio and it’s working properly, fire up the DJ Controller software application.
DJ Software Settings
For Serato, it’s pretty easy to get a song playing. Find a song on your hard drive somewhere and drop it onto one of the graphical turntables in the Serato UI.
If you’re on a Mac and not hearing the audio, don’t fret. This is where LineIn comes into play. After you’ve got the controller software running, open up LineIn. It’s a straightforward app to use, and you really only need to ensure that you’ve selected the correct audio source for “Input from” and “Output to.” Use the drop-down menus to choose the sources and press the “Pass Thru” button.
Go ahead and click the play button to start the track in Serato. If things are working correctly, you should hear the track playing. You might need to locate and adjust the master volume on your computer and in the software to get a great sound quality.
You’re ready to connect the controller and move forward.
Step 5. Connect the DJ Controller to the Computer
At this point, you’re ready to connect your controller to the computer. For most controllers, it’s as simple as connecting with a USB cable. So, first, connect it to the controller and then the computer, unless your controller documentation specifies otherwise.
You should be able to control the songs that appear on the tracks loaded into each circle-shaped record graphic. In addition, the software will generally indicate a successful connection with a visual representation in the UI or a sound, or both.
Click here for a deep dive on How To Connect Serato To A Laptop.
Step 6. Load Tracks And Rock Your Set
Things should be set up and working correctly at this point. The next step is to load up a couple of tracks and experiment with the controller.
Generally, in Serato, and I assume other apps are similar, you’ll want to invest time into building out a library.
In Serato, they’re called crates, and they’re essentially the same thing as an iTunes Playlist.
You can drag directories or single songs from your operating systems file explorer application in the software. This, in essence, builds up the library. Think of these as virtual crates of records that you’d put together for your vinyl collection. You’ll also build smaller sets out of your library for performances over time.
Digital Djing is awesome. There are so many benefits over traditional vinyl in the digital domain. Some things are lost, but it’s a really cool proposition. And it can make an easy entry for people interested in exploring what DJing is all about.
If you intend to make a run at DJing, I can’t recommend MixedInKey enough. It will really make the difference between a good-sounding set and an AMAZING one. MixedInKey is an app that you run your MP3s through for analysis.
The software will read each file and determine the root note or key of the song. There is a component alongside MixedInKey called the Camelot Mixing System. Using these together to build your sets will produce amazing results.
If you’ve ever heard a mix that just sounded horrible, it could be because the songs being mixed together weren’t correctly keyed. In music, specific notes and chords go together well and sound great. Others do not sound well together and produce an offsetting sound.
Check out MixedInKey and see what you think. If you start mixing in key from the beginning of your DJ career, you’ll be ahead of the pack by miles.
Click here for our guide on How To mix In Harmony.
Why Is My DJ Controller Making No Sound?
DJ Controllers themselves don’t generally make any sounds. They need to be routed to a computer with software compatible with the controller. The sound will originate in the software and then play through the speakers connected to the computer.
What Is a DJ Controller?
A DJ Controller is a digital device modeled after a real-world set of turntables. DJs use them to perform live shows the same way regular turntables would be used. The DJ Controller is usually a single unit with two discs similar to records and a built-in DJ mixer.
Click here for our Best DJ Controller guide.
Does A DJ Controller Require Cables?
Most DJ controllers connect to the computer you use via a USB cable. The cable is generally provided with the unit when you purchase it. The units are usually powered by the same USB cable, so no additional cords are required.
Do I Need a Vinyl Record Collection for a DJ Controller?
DJ Controllers are essentially meant to mock or replace a traditional DJ setup. DJ Controllers do not require vinyl records to function. DJ Controllers play digital audio files such as an MP3.
The digital music played by DJ Controllers is added to software provided by the controller manufacturer. The music is played on the app of the host computer and through its speakers.DJ Controllers are essentially meant to mock or replace a traditional DJ setup. DJ Controllers do not require vinyl records to function. DJ Controllers play digital audio files such as an MP3.
The digital music played by DJ Controllers is added to software provided by the controller manufacturer. The music is played on the app of the host computer and through its speakers.
Do DJ Controllers Have Special DJ Software?
Yes, DJ Controllers are paired with DJ software generally provided by the manufacturer. The software will be where the songs are selected by the DJ. Most of the DJ software looks and functions similar to each other. These include; Serato DJ, Virtual DJ, Rekordbox, and Traktor.
There are other options available. It’s a good idea to test with and make sure everything works with the manufacturers’ software before using something else.
What Is An Audio Signal?
An audio signal is the direction audio is traveling through a sound system. So in a basic situation, this could simply be the audio signal from your smartphone to your ears. It’s one connection, headphones, and the audio signal travels from the smartphone through the cable to your ears.
When sound systems and gear for live performances begin to mount up, quickly and accurately assessing an audio signal is paramount. The best thing to do to figure it out is to work slowly and methodically. Drawing a diagram out on paper isn’t a terrible idea if you need to tear down and set up DJ equipment often.
Looking to upgrade your setup? Check out our pick of the best DJ speakers