If you’re new to the DJ scene, or you’re just not very tech-savvy, then learning how to set up DJ controller to speakers probably sounds really complicated.
But if you know something about the main types of cables used in any DJ setup, and how to properly position the speakers once you’ve hooked them up to your controller, then quickly setting up and breaking down your equipment will feel like second nature in no time.
How to set up DJ controller to speakers is as simple as connecting the controller to your speakers via the master booth or rec out. The controller’s channel ports are the inputs. This is a simple setup that’s self-explanatory, even if you don’t have much experience hooking up a sound system. Most controllers will include instructions regarding how to connect speakers, mixers, and amps. However, the instructions can vary from model to model and will depend on the type of speakers you use, in addition to whether or not you also need to hook up other external gear such as turntables or a dedicated mixer.
Hooking up a DJ controller to speakers is a straightforward process. Most models of controllers will come with very basic, easy to follow instructions regarding which ports to use to connect your sound system. But if you’re not familiar with the different cables and ports that you’ll find on a controller, then setting it up may seem complex.
Read on to learn more about how controllers and speakers work together, which ports to use, and the common cables that come with controllers and speakers.
Setting Up a Sound System
For several years, stereo systems were mainly component based gear that required a higher level of know-how and understanding regarding how to get a sound system up and running using a variety of components to send signals to each other.
There were separate DJ controllers, turntables, CD players, and decks, each of which had to connect directly to each other in order to get the sound from the controller or turntables to the speakers.
But in the last fifteen years, the way we listen to music and the manner in which the DJ spins has changed significantly. No longer is the home stereo the source of music. Instead, smartphones and computers have taken their place and the industry has now focused more on creating electronics that are specifically devoted to them. Most home audio setups don’t need to use anything more than a 1/8 cable, phono dock, or a USB cable.
But PA and DJing systems still tend to firmly remain entrenched in the more traditional use of cables that connect to different components in a setup, which is why many new DJs are not very familiar with the different types of cables commonly used and the purpose of each one.
With that being said, my guide on how to set up your speakers to your controller, mixer, and other gear, will walk you through the process so you can quickly set your gear up on the fly, in a matter of minutes.
Audio is very linear, and that’s the first thing the newbie needs to understand before they attempt to try and tackle a major DJ system. In terms of audio connections, the output refers to the sound that comes out of the output ports. Input refers to the port that receives the sound.
This is a process known as a signal chain, or more commonly, the signal flow. The outputs will be connected to the inputs along each of the devices, creating a type of chain.
As an example, when you connect a controller to your speakers or even a mixer, you want the output of the controller to send an audio signal to the speaker’s inputs for their respective channels. On a standard controller, the rec out and master booth will be the outputs, while the channel ports will work as the inputs.
And that’s how simple it is to connect your speakers to your DJ controller. Of course, this can also vary from model to model of controller, or even the speakers themselves, but in most cases, this is the standard connection method.
Left and Right Audio
Most audio cables are colored white and red in order to help the DJ track them easily in terms of which channel is connected to which side.
The tracks you’re spinning with are almost always going to be produced on the stereo field, which means the signals for the right and left speakers will differ. With most audio equipment, this can mean separate cables and ports will be needed for the right and left side of the signal.
Usually, the left side of the port will be black or white, while the right side of the port will be red. This makes it simple to keep track of where everything is plugged in.
Female and Male Plugs and Connectors
In regards to ports and cables, the terms female and male will refer to the type of cable’s connectors. The female connector will have things plugged into them, while the male connector will plug into things. Most of the types of cables that are used in DJing will have a male end on each side. The female connections are the ports on the hardware. XLR cables will usually have female and male ends with outputs on the hardware usually being male, while the inputs are female.
Unbalanced and Balanced
The unbalanced cables are usually the type of cables that are the most prone to added noise and interference once they get beyond fifteen to twenty feet.
The balanced cables are much more stable, allowing for a longer length without the fear of added noise or interference. The hardware must have balanced outputs in order to use balanced cables. This should be labeled clearly on the controller. If you must use long cables, always try to use balanced outputs and cables.
The most commonly used DJ cables include:
- XLR: Balanced
- RCA: Unbalanced
- ¼: Balanced or unbalanced
Obviously, amps work to amplify power. In the case of audio, they amplify sound. The audio outputs from a DJ controller, PC, or another type of non-analog device is what’s referred to as a line level audio. There are certain types of devices that output much weaker or quieter signals that will require more amplification to output more volume. Mics and turntables are the two most common pieces of DJ gear that have this need.
The inputs on a controller will usually have a selectable line level input or phono preamp.
Turntables will require a phono preamp in order to get vinyl records at a volume that’s similar to that of a CDJ or the DJ controller. Most mixers will come with a built-in preamp, as will some modern models of turntables.
The phono inputs on a mixer and on some controllers with a dedicated mixing section are specifically designed for turntables only because they have a specific EQing layer, which is required to make vinyl sound like real music.
These cables are usually used for large PA systems. The controller doesn’t use the speak on connectors, these connectors are used to rack to passive speaker rigs. These cables provide a higher level of shielding that’s designed to prevent electrical shock and interference. Newer models of passive DJ speakers will come equipped with a speakon port.
Speaker wires are used to connect amps to passive speakers. The wires consist of negative and positive sides. The exposed ends of the wires are usually twisted and inserted into a binding post or clip connector. Some speakers may come with a special connector that can be attached to the wires to make set up simpler.
Positioning Your DJ Speakers
Positioning your speakers correctly is important, in order to ensure that the sound can reach clubgoers at the back and sides of the room, not just the dancers that are close to the DJ booth.
If you’re playing a new club or venue, do a dry run and test out the sound quality and range before your set begins. You may need to do this during the day, several hours before your appearance is scheduled. However, doing so is a surefire way to ensure that your set sounds as powerful and clear as it’s supposed to be. Once you’ve strategically placed your speakers around the room, power them up and connect your DJ controller and laptop using the appropriate USB ports.
Next, you’ll connect the amp to the speakers, if your speakers are passive. You may also need to use extension wires, depending on the size of the space. If so, I recommend labeling the extension wires to keep everything organized. This will help you to manage your setup in the event of malfunctions or delays.
Also, make sure that all of the cables are connected properly to the correct ports. Remember, white goes with white, black with black, and red with red. After you’ve done a sound check, where you’ll test out the speakers and adjust the volume, make sure all of the settings are optimized, so you’re ready to go when it’s time for your set.
How Do I Know My Speakers are Compatible with My Controller?
This can be as simple as knowing the type of ports you have on your controller and the speakers. Most speakers feature universal ports that will allow you to hook up your speakers to pretty much any type of equipment. However, some speakers are definitely more versatile than others. The Mackie C300Z 12″ DJ PA Speakers will work with most setups, are very beginner-friendly, and are available at a reasonable price.
What Type of Speakers Can I Use for DJing?
Speaker setups can be pricey, especially if you often play for larger crowds. Obviously, the more speakers you have in your setup, the louder the sound.
For most DJs, one to four twelve inch loudspeakers will work for small to large events. The number of speakers you need should be based on the venue and the size of the crowd. If you’re not sure what type of speakers will work for your setup or your upcoming gig, then click here to read my DJ speakers buyer’s guide, where you’ll find the top five models of DJ speakers on the market.
What Gear Do I Need to DJ?
Most modern DJs use a classic digital setup that includes a DJ controller with mixer capabilities. Additionally, if you want to scratch then you’ll need a couple of turntables. However, most DJ controllers feature jog wheels, which will also allow you to scratch, although they don’t offer the same tactile feel and rough sound that vinyl turntables do.
You’ll also need DJ speakers that can handle the size of the crowd you’ll be spinning for. Loudspeakers are powerful speakers that can handle medium to large crowds and are perfect for club environments. If you want to learn more about spinning in clubs like a pro, read the ultimate guide to DJing here.
No DJ set is complete without a set of DJ speakers. If you have a regular slot at a club, then the club will provide most of the gear, including the speakers. However, if you’re a mobile DJ or you play guest spots at clubs, then you’ll need your own dedicated speakers. Knowing how to set up your speakers to your controller and your other gear is essential if you want to look like a pro and get in and out quickly.
How to set up a DJ controller to speakers involves connecting the controller to the speakers via the master booth or rec out ports, then using the inputs to create a solid connection. The setup instructions can vary from model to model and may involve more cables and speaker wires, but generally, this is a very simple set up process and one that you can quickly accomplish quickly, once you’ve hooked up your system a few times.