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Yes! There are many ways to DJ without a laptop. You can use a USB-compatible DJ setup, a phone, or IPAD, and even for the true analog nerds, you can spin some vinyl. Using a laptop as your music source is just one method of DJing.
If you’ve ever watched a DJ perform and seen them using a laptop, you may have wondered, do you need one for DJing? If not, what are the other options?
There are plenty of other ways you can DJ that I’m going to discuss in this article. I’ll describe a few ways that don’t require a laptop, including DJ Apps, Mobile DJ Controllers, all-in-one controllers, CDJs, Midi Controllers, and Vinyl.
I will also touch on a few of the benefits and drawbacks of some of these options.
Let’s dive in!
What Kind Of Equipment Can I Use Instead Of A Laptop?
DJ APP- Great For Beginners
Suppose you are a friend with excellent music taste and want to elevate your home party playlist transitions. In that case, a virtual DJ app might be the best solution for you.
DJ apps are great for beginners because you learn the basics of mixing music, looping, crossfading, and more. It is a way to get into the art without substantial financial commitment before you are ready.
I recommend downloading one of these apps for your phone before you buy any equipment.
The software will teach you the fundamental basics of what it means to mix music. There is quite a bit you can do with some of these apps if you take the time to learn the features.
Some great options include Virtual DJ and djay. Other DJ apps, including Pacemaker, Pyro, and Cross DJ, are often available on the IOS app store or Google Play.
Mobile DJ Controllers (Phone & Ipad Compatible) -Perfect For Beginners & Intermediate
DJ equipment and, specifically, a full club setup are costly.
If you want to dip your toe in and see if you like mixing music before shelling out some serious cash, you might want to try a DJ controller.
These range from fantastic entry-level units right up to fully-fledged professional DJ controllers.
A friend of mine picked up DJing during COVID as a hobby and started with the Numark DJ2GO2. Another great option is the Pioneer DDJ WeGO mixer.
These both have jog wheels similar to a more expensive club setup.
This is an excellent option for personal exploration into DJing. The downfall of this is that it is not compatible with USBs. If anyone else wants to play on your setup, they will be limited to using your phone or IPAD and the virtual DJ software.
I have used both the Numark DJ2GO2 and the Pioneer DDJ WeGO mixers in combination with the djay app on my phone and Ipad. I created loops, used beat fx, and more, which is excellent to learn the basics of mixing.
DJ Mixers – A Good Option For Beginners Or Casual Uses
On some DJ mixers, you can use your phone and stream music from Spotify. You don’t need any equipment in addition to the mixer. You can then link the mixer to speakers, and you’re ready to play. Check out our top DJ mixers.
All In One Controller- Great For Intermediate & Advanced Level DJs
Another option without being a laptop DJ is an all-in-one setup. This is a popular option for experienced DJs who play at smaller events or house parties. All you need for these controllers is a USB with tracks formatted for the controller and a pair of headphones.
If you are looking for a mid-level controller with plenty of bells and whistles, check out the XDJ-RX2
This is a fantastic option for a mid-level controller. The screen on this controller displays all your track information, so you don’t need to use a laptop while you mix.
Using USBs to DJ is becoming one of the most popular ways to perform across the industry.
However, it would help if you had a laptop or computer to access Rekordbox or Serato beforehand. This is so you can access software and analyze your tracks so that the controller can read them and display all the associated track data.
Whether you will need Rekordbox, Serato DJ Pro, Traktor DJ, or other software depends on the type of controller you get.
I do recommend going with Rekordbox if you are using a Pioneer DJ Controller. Rekorbox compatible equipment is becoming more of the industry standard, with most nightclubs hosting a pair of CDJs.
You can use your formatted USB to play in other all-in-one setups and CDJs. I recommend that every DJ have a USB on hand at all times because you never know when you might have the opportunity to take over the USB port and play your music.
Please note – Not all standalone controllers allow USB and require the use of a laptop. Click here for our complete DJ controllers guides.
CDJs – The Industry Standard In DJing – Fantastic For All DJs
The most common way to mix without a DJ laptop is using a set of CDJs. Simply plug in your USB stick, and you are good to go.
You can’t go to a nightclub anywhere on the planet without seeing a set of CDJs in the DJ booth. This means if you learn to mix on a set of these, you are pretty much good to DJ anywhere.
The downside is the cost. You will need two CDJs, plus a DJ Mixer, so the price can seriously add up if you want a couple of Pioneer CDJ-3000s you’d see in a club. However, there are cheaper alternatives like the XDJ-700 or CDJ-900 if you’re going to stick with Pioneer.
If you are happy to look at other brands, you could check out offerings from Dennon or Numark.
As for mixers, the options are vast, ranging from under $100 to several thousand bucks. Some are as basic as having two channels with basic EQs and a crossfader, to mixers with more than six channels, built-in DVS (digital vinyl systems), and every effect you could ever dream of.
MIDI Controllers- Ideal For Advanced Level DJs
MIDI controllers are a great accessory to any setup. A MIDI controller is more geared towards music production. Still, I know many DJs who use them as a component in their mixing, especially when playing a live set.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. These devices allow you to create your own beats and add a little more personalization to your mixes. For example, the AKAI MPD218 is a great tool for adding beats on top of the music as it has a drum pad.
Vinyl Turntables- Great For Advanced Level DJs
Vinyl mixing is the more traditional way of mixing music. It requires a lot of practice because you need to use your ear to match tempos. This is not an easy task, but using a turntable, it’s an art form and is well respected in the music industry.
I can already hear you saying –
Is Vinyl DJing Dead?
No, there is still a large community of vinyl purists. However, most clubs are moving away from vinyl setups and transitioning to CD/USB decks only.
The technology on a Pioneer mixer is evolving super rapidly. Still, there’s no bigger flex than being able to manually beatmatch with vinyl.
In some scenes, such as the minimal techno/ microhouse scene, vinyl is preferred. This is because the music is minimal in style. The analog setups carry the music so much better.
While it is super cool to mix vinyl, most clubs will not have vinyl setups. As such, it’s probably better to learn how to mix on a CDJ USB set up and then pick up vinyl mixing later down the line if you are still interested.
Get your hands on our top pick Allen & Heath mixer and some turntables if you go down this route.
Can you use Rekordbox without a laptop?
Yes, you can use Rekordbox with most Pioneer mixers and controllers. However, you first need to analyze and format your music through the software on a laptop, Macbook, or desktop computer.
Do you get Rekordbox for free with DDJ 400?
Yes, the Rekordbox software is bundled with the hardware once you purchase the DDJ 400. The Rekordbox license is included.
How much does it cost to become a DJ?
It varies by a significant amount. You can get started DJing for free, but purchasing a full club-standard setup will cost upwards of $5,000. Luckily, there are so many different options available; there should be something for all budgets.
What makes DJ headphones different?
DJ headphones are constructed to be easily worn on one or both ears. They have higher levels of noise isolation and bigger drivers to be able to hear the beat of two different tracks separately and match them.
DJ headphones also are built to be super durable and wearable in different configurations on your head.
Can a DJ controller be used for events?
Yes, definitely! I have been to many events where standalone DJ controllers were used. My advice would be to check with the promoter or venue beforehand, to check it’s ok.
What are different types of DJ setups?
As we have discussed in this article, there are many different DJ setups. From vinyl setups (complete analog), USB CDJ deck setups, and all-in-one controller setups, we have only really scratched the surface of the number of combinations you can use.
Can you use Spotify with a DJ controller?
Yes, there are specific DJ controllers (mostly beginner and intermediate level) that are mobile device compatible. These allow you to use the music in your Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple music libraries to mix with.
There are a TON of ways to DJ without a laptop. It’s becoming the preferred way to play at home and events or gigs.
As technology advances, more options will be available on the market for DJs to play with or without a laptop. It really is an exciting time to be a DJ.
The type of equipment you will want to go with depends on your style of music, experience level, and desire to learn different pieces of equipment.