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I want to play music from my MacBook or Thinkpad. I have high quality mp3s that I can play.

I imagine, I need the following equipment:

  • DJ Software
  • Mixer
  • Speakers

Can I make this work, or will I need more equipment?

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2 Answers 2

You can make it work with that kit list if your mixer has a power amp.

But realistically you should plan for the following at gigs:

  • MacBook and Thinkpad (always prepare for a computer to die - which is very embarrassing if you don't have backup)
  • Software
  • Soundcard (you can get away without it, but a soundcard gives better quality)
  • Amplifier
  • Speakers
  • Audio cables (laptop to amp)
  • Speaker cables (amp to speakers)
  • Power cables (some stages don't run power to centre stage, so bring extension cables and adapters)

If you have a powered mixer, that is effectively your amplifier. For playing from a laptop you really only need two channels.

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First off, to be pedantic, you can "DJ" any way you can figure out how - even something simple like just playing track after track in iTunes. Now, most people (myself included) don't think this is nearly as interesting as cutting or blending tracks and keeping continuous music going, so I'm going to explain the common ways this is done.

The basic setup is something to play the records, something to mix them together, something to preview them yourself with (through headphones), and something to play them out for other people to listen to. In a traditional setup, these were turntables or CD players for playback, a "DJ mixer" with two inputs and a crossfader and usually EQs and a headphone cueing output, and then speakers. No computer necessary.

In a computer based setup, it's common to have everything from playback through mixing handled in software, using a software DJ program. The big names are Traktor and Serato, but there are many others such as Virtual DJ and the open source Mixxx. It's also very common for people to control these programs using some kind of dedicated controller (usually a MIDI controller of some kind), but this is not strictly necessary - I think all of these programs will let you your mouse and keyboard.

So your list is almost right - you'll definitely need DJ software and speakers, but you don't necessarily need a mixer unless you want one. You will, however, need some kind of sound hardware that will let you send separate signals to your speakers and headphones. In technical terms, this means you need two stereo outputs. There are several audio interfaces designed specifically for this purpose. Here's one example, although there are many.

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