Laptops ideal for Dj'ing question

BGeezied

Distinguished
Jun 22, 2008
3
0
18,510
0
I am relatively knowledgeable when it comes to building computers for gaming and general home use, however my brother recently began dj'ing and requested that I customize a laptop for him. I was wondering if anyone has any experience building computers for dj'ing purposes and if you have any recommendations.

Specifically, how important is a good sound card generally, and I've read that a lot of people tend to us an internal and an external sound card (since you can't put two in a laptop) so that they can play one song, and listen to other songs in a headset in order to create a queue.

Any advice, or experience to pass along would be greatly appreciated.

-Bryan

(In summary, what to look for in a laptop for dj'ing, lets assume price is no object)

 

frozenlead

Distinguished
I've built several DJ machines and recommended notebooks, along with building audio workstations.

Really though, DJing is a simple task. I recommend PC-DJ (though it only runs on windows XP) to actually cue up music.

A good sound card, though, is not really important - the quality of audio files you have matters much more. You won't be doing anything complex with the card - other than outputting the stereo line to an external mixer.
I'm not sure how you would get two audio devices to work under Windows and have them be able to both output audio, but with the right software, it can be done.

Pretty much any decent notebook will do for DJing. It doesn't really require that much power. A 7200RPM hard disk would be beneficial, but not necessary.

The best setup, IMO, is a notebook and a professional dual CD player hooked to a mixer. You can play songs on the CD player while listening to ones you may play over the notebook, and switch between the two. The biggest plus, though, is when the notebook fails - and it will. Sometime, the software will crash, and you'll have little time to get it back up and running. Being able to run off the CD player alone is an incredible feature.
Of course, that doesn't help if your music collection is all digital.
 

BGeezied

Distinguished
Jun 22, 2008
3
0
18,510
0
Thanks, great info. I'll look into a dual cd player.




 

djThomasMason

Distinguished
Oct 12, 2009
1
0
18,510
0
Hello Bryan,

As a DJ/Producer who's recently gone professional, this is exactly the same question that I was wrestling with about a year ago.

The clearest answer I can give you is to think beyond customizing a PC laptop, and that beyond question the Apple MacBook Pro is the industry standard for laptop DJing.
Overall, the Mac OS X operating system is more stable, and squarely aimed at creative professionals. The MacBook Pro also has great build quality (it's solid aluminium) and they look cool out in the clubs.
It is possible to DJ using a PC, but as you rightly note, what is more important is the software and external soundcard.
I don't know of any laptop where you can listen to the 'cue' track without interrupting the master output to the mixer, until you add some form of external soundcard.

I personally went down the 'money no object' route. I got the 15-inch top-of-the-range MacBook Pro, which size-wise is the best compromise between screen real-estate and portability. Indeed get the largest and fastest hard-disk drive you can, otherwise your brother will need to start carrying round an external hard drive.

The external sound card does make a difference to the quality of the audio going to the club's mixer and soundcard; although the previous post is correct that good quality sound files (aim for MP3 files at 320kbps) are also very important.
The sound card that was personally recommended to me by DJ legend Sasha at the Miami Winter Music Conference is the Fireface 400. This is pretty expensive (about $1000+) but is the best possible in terms of sound quality and flexible audio connections. Bear in mind that this uses the laptop's Firewire connection, rather than the usual USB connection.
However, something more basic, such as the Native Instruments Audio 8 DJ (or even the Audio 4 DJ), is less expensive, more portable and is still a 24-bit sound card and more than fit for the purpose.
Unless your brother is envisaging some complex live future setup, you're right that the only thing this soundcard will be used for is connecting the cue headphones and feeding to the mixer.

You then need to think about DJ software. Personally I use Ableton Live 8, which is the choice of the real pro DJs who want absolute control, however it does have quite a steep learning curve and each individual track requires a degree of preparation ("warping") before it can be played out live. Ableton is also a professional production software that's great for recording DJ mixes and creating 'mashups'/bootlegs.
Otherwise, the clear choice is Traktor (Scratch) Pro, which is intuitive, powerful and enables beat syncing.

Finally, your brother might want to consider some sort of 'control surface', so that he can't be accused of "checking his emails" when DJing on the laptop! These provide a more tactile experience, since what he can do on the club mixer will be limited by the fact that you're only feeding one single master input to it.
Personally I use the Vestax VCM 600 (another $1000!), which is a solid beast and great for Ableton Live. There are lots of cheaper options (such as the Vestax VCI-100), which will fit the bill if, rather than running several tracks at once, he's simply cross-fading from laptop "deck A" to laptop "deck B".

Well, apologies for such a long-winded response, but my experience has involved quite a lot of painful trial-and-error, so I certainly hope this helps!

I would also encourage you and your brother to check out my free DJ mixes at:
http://www.MaceCast.com

Good luck and let me know how you get on - I'd love to hear the results!
Thomas Mason, London
thomas.mason@gmail.com
 

frozenlead

Distinguished
Just a note: The fireface 400 is overkill (though an exceptional unit!) for DJing - it's really more of a recording component anyway. If money is no object, then the RME unit will do quite nicely (for a PC or a Mac), but you can forgo the cost and get most of quality (since the I/O doesn't really matter in this instance) with an M-Audio or Mackie unit.
 

BGeezied

Distinguished
Jun 22, 2008
3
0
18,510
0
Thank you so much for taking the time to pass along what you've learned. Very helpful, and we really appreciate it.

-Bryan


 

sgarrett

Distinguished
Oct 15, 2009
3
0
18,510
0
I have been in the digital dj business for 8 years and i use a basic Dell laptop with Traktor dj studio and a Echo Indigo dj soundcard. This plugs into your Type II Cardbus and basically gives you 2 soundcards. You can search ebay as there are tons of them for sale.
 
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
S Laptop Tech Support 3
B Laptop Tech Support 1
G Laptop Tech Support 4
YeetBoy Laptop Tech Support 8
A Laptop Tech Support 0
Anyounmous Laptop Tech Support 0
P Laptop Tech Support 1
H Laptop Tech Support 1
Dracorpius Laptop Tech Support 1
Lucaskp4 Laptop Tech Support 1
J Laptop Tech Support 4
C Laptop Tech Support 2
C Laptop Tech Support 13
C Laptop Tech Support 3
S Laptop Tech Support 7
C Laptop Tech Support 3
A Laptop Tech Support 2
C Laptop Tech Support 3
H Laptop Tech Support 8
D Laptop Tech Support 1

ASK THE COMMUNITY