I Wanna Be A DJ! Equipment Essentials: Powered Speakers (And Earplugs)

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, DJs are now the new rock stars.  The DJ industry has seeped into every aspect of pop culture, and now learning to become a DJ has become what becoming a rock guitarist was in the 80’s.  From TV advertisements to reality shows, DJing has clawed its way into the mainstream and is here to stay.

Because of the rising popularity in EDM, the numbers of people wanting to learn the secret art-of-making-booties-shake is also on the rise.  From beatmatching (synchronizing different BPMs) to mixing (because when you just hit stop on one track and play on another, it’s called Paris Hiltoning), there is quite a lot to learn about this craft.  But most importantly, getting the right gear can save you a good deal of time and money.

Over six weeks, we’ll take a tour through the business, checking out all the major players in the DJ gear industry today.  We’ll be providing a comprehensive review of the major categories, from headphones to MIDI controllers. We will cover it all so you can make the most informed decision kitting out your DJ arsenal.

Catching up:

Week 1: All-In-One-Controllers

Week 2: DJ Software

Week 3: Media Players

Week 4: Headphones

Week 5: Monitors

And now, onto this week’s edition…

Week 6: Powered Speaker Systems (And Earplugs)

In last week’s article, we discussed the different types of monitors (the speakers you as a DJ are hearing when you play) you can use for DJing and their appropriate applications.  We also touched on basic powered monitor/subwoofer combinations that can be used to provide adequate sound for a small party or venue.  This week we will be elaborating further on these powered speaker systems (the ones the crowd you’re rocking for will be listening to); from brands to setup we will give you what you need to know when selecting a powered speaker system.

Powered SpeakersMilan M12 Series

When buying speakers, you will usually encounter two versions of the speaker you are looking at, active and passive.  Active speakers feature an amplifier in the speaker enclosure, which powers the speaker it is paired with.  Passive speakers are just the speakers, without amplifier in the enclosure.  Active speakers normally have amplifiers, which are paired to the specifications of the speaker to ensure the best performance of the speaker.

In addition to the amplifier, many powered speakers have on-board DSP, which can add functionality such as equalization to tune the speaker according to the venue or situation.  One speaker family that I feel does this well is the Milan Series by Turbosound.  I’ve had a chance to work with these speakers and was even able to take them to power a club night.  I must say that they are the best sounding active speaker series on the market.  The on-board DSP allowed me to keep the sound at a loud volume, but still audible without distortion.

Milan M18B Series

Milan M18B Series

What to Buy?

Buying the correct setup can be a bit confusing.  Knowing the appropriate amount sound to fill a room can be a daunting task.  Believe me, you don’t want to be the guy showing up to the party with too little sound.  When you have a good deal of people in a room with a sound system, the mass of the bodies will eat up the sound and will result in a lower overall volume.  You will find that people will ask you to keep turning the volume up to compensate for the amount of bodies in the room.  This can be a dangerous situation for your speakers, for if they are turned up to the point of distortion, 1 of 2 things may happen: either a blown speaker or an overheated amplifier.

To compensate for this, you will want to have more speakers and watts pushing those speakers.  It is ideal to have a system which only has to run at 40% or below of it’s capacity to adequately power the room.  If your amplifiers or speakers are working too hard, only bad things can happen.  The main way to increase your sound is to add more speakers.  To assist in making the correct purchase, I have included a link to the Sweetwater Powered Speaker Buying Guide.  I have used this guide many times to help select the right speaker for the right setup.  It gives a thorough description of everything from Bi-Amplification to Crossovers.

Tips for Setup and Use

Once you have selected and purchased your appropriate powered speaker setup, you will need to know how to set it up for optimal use.  There are a few tips you can use to achieve optimal use of your powered setup.

Use high quality cables and take care of them.  I can’t stress this enough!  Your speakers are only as good as the cables that are connecting them.  Normally with a powered setup, you will be using XLR cables.  Make sure there is no damage to the cables you are using and take extra steps to protect your cables from being snagged or tripped on by people around you.  You can use straps, duct tape, or cable ties, but the best defense is using a mat or carpet to cover the cables completely.

Learn how to use your crossover.  If you are buying a powered speaker Sub/Top combo, most likely your subwoofer has a crossover inside.  A crossover allows you divide your audio signals by frequency and then send them to different speakers.  For instance, a crossover set at 80Hz for the speaker/sub combo would mean that all frequencies 80Hz and above would be sent to the main speaker and only the lower frequencies would be sent to the subwoofer.  This allows each speaker to operate more efficiently giving more clarity to each.


Sensaphone ER Series

Sensaphone ER Series

Lastly, if you are purchasing a large sound system, make sure and invest in a high quality pair of earplugs.  Hearing loss is no joke and after suffering from tinnitus for over 10 years, I have to say it isn’t fun and doesn’t go away.  It can interrupt the calmest, quietest moments of your life and can be just plain annoying.  Musicians’ earplugs allow you to turn down the volume without sacrificing the frequency range like you do with normal earplugs.  The two main brands I recommend are Sensaphonics and Westone.  With both brands you will need to see a local audiologist to be custom fitted for your plugs, but once you do they will send you a custom pair that will fit your ears better than any other plug on the market.  Be safe and invest in your hearing.

Westone ES 50 Series


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