setup

a more modern vinyl record player

On a recent trip to Japan I was walking through one of their many old-school shopping arcades when I stumbled upon a quaint little music store. I walked in to check it out and found they were selling hundreds of different turntables. And I’m not talking about the DJ kind of turntables. I’m talking about record players. You know, the ones that play those ancient vinyl discs. And there are some cool players in Japan.

an old turntable record player
This looks like the record player we had growing up. By Hellbus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Actually, I  hadn’t seen one of those in many years. My dad had one growing up, since at the time cassette players were the only alternative and they were far below vinyl in terms of quality. Unfortunately, all the records we had back then were crap. My dad and I definitely do not have the same taste in music and I did not have enough money to buy my own records at the time. By the time I started to buy music, CDs were the medium of choice. I did buy a few cassettes before CDs came out, so I owned a couple of those, but only a few.

During my high school and University days I amassed a collection of over 500 CDs. Nowadays they’re all gone. Everything is digital these days and by digital I mean MP3s and other files like that.

But through it all, vinyl somehow held onto a small piece of the market. Of course there were always the collectors, but there are also quite a few others who still prefer the sound of vinyl. Personally, I’m not really one of them, but I do see the appeal.

And I definitely saw the appeal on this day, walking into this record store. Actually I should say music store. They didn’t sell any actual records, they only sold the players. They ranged from incredibly intricately and elaborately designed players to ones that were quite cheap and basically looked like what my dad had when I was growing up. The prices weren’t too bad either. Basically they were what you would expect, ranging from under $100 to many thousand dollars (obviously actual prices were in Japanese yen).

a more modern vinyl record player
Another style of record player.

I talked to the shop owner for a while and learned that there is actually a huge subculture of vinyl collectors in Japan. And not just the DJs. Obviously DJs collect vinyl everywhere in the world. But in Japan there are a lot of music lovers who have returned to vinyl. Also many who never left. I found that quite interesting. It sounded like there were definitely more people in Japan percentage-wise who own a vinyl record player than there are in the US.

I can kind of guess why this might be. The Japanese have always had a love for tradition. It is a very traditional culture and they hang onto many traditions. That creates a lot of problems for them in the modern world, actually, but it also makes the country one of the most fascinating on earth. Given all this, it only makes sense that they would continue to have this love for vinyl.

You are probably thinking or wondering: did I buy one? No, I didn’t. I travel a lot and I have learned not to buy anything overseas, because you have to carry it back with you in the plane and it ends up costing you four times what you paid for them due to the baggage fees.

But I am thinking of buying a turntable record player the next time I’m back home. The only thing that’s holding me back is that I don’t have any actual vinyl records. I would have to start a collection and that would get expensive. It’s something I really don’t need and probably shouldn’t buy, but somehow it is just alluring, especially after seeing that record store. In the end, I imagine I will probably get one.

Breaking into DJing is difficult. Whenever somebody asks me how to become a DJ, I make sure to make clear just how hard that path will be. It will take hours of practice to get good enough to play in clubs—and not good clubs mind you—and once you’re in those clubs, it will take years before you get into the good ones. But more than the time, probably the most prohibitive aspect of breaking into the industry is the equipment cost.

DJ equipment
A common DJ setup

That’s why it’s absolutely vital you do your research and you buy all the correct equipment from the beginning. You don’t want to have to buy things again, because you bought something substandard. You also don’t want to end up buying superfluous equipment. So make sure you buy exactly what you need and only what you need right from the beginning. Here’s a quick rundown of the essentials every DJ will need:

 

Input Devices

You’ll need a minimum of two input devices: either two turntables, two CD decks or whatever. You can get more but you need at least two to mix tunes.

 

A Mixer

You’ll need a mixer with at least two input channels, so that you can mix your two input devices into each other.

 

Headphones

Without headphones, you can’t DJ. You need them to hear the next to you will be mixing into the current one, to cue it up and to do all this without everyone else hearing it. Make sure you get a good pair of headphones with a good sound quality.

 

A Sound System

By sound system, I mean speakers and an amplifier. You will need these for obvious reasons. These days many people opt for powered speakers, which could save some money and is also easier to transport. Personally I prefer a separate amplifier, but this is just a matter of personal preference. Do what is right for you.

And that’s it (although I might add a microphone to the list, if you do any singing as a DJ and a hammock if you need to travel a lot and are on a budget). That’s really all the equipment you need. Of course, just this equipment will run you quite a bit of money. That’s what I would say don’t discount secondhand equipment. If you can find good quality stuff that’s been used but not abused, go for it. It’s a great way to save some money.

One thing you want to avoid in your quest to save money, though, are the boxed sets. You know the ones: DJ in a box, DJ kit, etc.. Stay away from these. They’re often substandard quality and they don’t always include all of the equipment you’ll need. I can also pretty much guarantee that you have to replace everything as you get better and demand more from your set up.

As for brands, Pioneer and Technics are probably two of the best. These are also the two that I would recommend buying secondhand, since they’re built to last and there’s not a huge chance you’re buying crap. If you can’t afford the best equipment, I suppose you have to buy something cheaper. Just know that you’ll probably want to upgrade eventually so it does make sense to buy the best from the beginning. Of course, that’s only possible if you have the money to spend. There you have it: that’s the equipment you need and a few tips for getting it. The rest is up to you. Make sure you do plenty of research and know exactly what you’re getting and why you’re getting it. And once you have it play some music. Then play some more music and then some more. Never stop practicing…