What are they?
DJ speakers are in fact ‘monitors’. In common parlance, You plug speakers into electronic devices like a laptop or iPod. By design, speakers amplify the signal that the audio chip in the system processes depending on its type. A ‘monitor’ in contrast is an entirely different equipment. Monitors are designed to deliver sound in a dynamic range from the devices that have an inbuilt ability to amplify the output. Similarly, the ‘monitors’ do not have a ‘sound’. Instead, an amplifier or a mixer shapes the ‘sound’ before the monitor receives it. When you speak to a sound engineer or audiophile, they will describe ‘the monitor’ as a ‘true’ monitor denoting that the particular monitor has delivered the sound without any significant change. The best DJ speaker would thus be one that is capable of delivering sound true to the original tracks. In other words, the mixes and tracks you make and play back on your own speakers will remain the same or close to the same sound when it is played by someone at home or in their car.
Choosing your DJ speakers
Some of the major characteristics that will influence your choice of DJ speakers to include:-
Sub or no sub
This is perhaps the most important feature that you should consider because a sub will bring more bass that what is actually available in the mix. For DJs looking to set up a full-fledged studio or set up a club, subwoofers will be important for the playback. But, if you are only monitoring the mixes privately and more so, as a DJ, then you are better off avoiding the subwoofers. You can simply choose a good pair of monitors for all the bass that you may need.
Quality of sound
The varied, dynamic and controlled sound is what you should expect from good quality studio monitors. But, how do we define these further?
Dynamic sound delivers across the whole range, from the deep bass through mid and higher registers. This would mean strong bass lines and kick drums clear hi -hats and snares that cut across the mix. Most DJs would want the ability to discern the positioning of instruments within the mix, without undue strain. A controlled sound would avoid the loss of sound. You also need a undistorted deep bass, punchy or muddy. High frequency sounds like horns or cymbals also should not cause distorti and on. High-quality monitors also allow you to hear frequencies and instruments that you may not hear in lower grade devices like the ear buds on an Apple iPod.
One thing to remember while choosing the wattage is that if you are looking for higher volume, the quality of sound would deteriorate. For jamming and home practice, a mid- segment speaker system is adequate. 100 watts should be more than enough for living/bedroom DJs. You can even think of 40 watts for each speaker when they are of good quality.
Size of the speaker
While the general norm is an 8″ woofer, the tweeters can vary from one manufacturer to the other, both in relation to the configuration and size. A 8″ speaker is ideal for mixing in medium or small size rooms and can deliver an impressive range and volume without overpowering things around it. When you seek a bit more, an 8″ woofer can push a decent level of volume.
The industry standard today is powered studio monitors. This would mean that the monitor gets its power from a source outside and not your USB or bus-powered source. It helps in maximising the signal output. Another advantage of external power is that your desktop or laptop does not get stressed.
While there are numerous brands of DJ speakers, JBL, Yamaha, KRK, Mackie and Pioneer are among the top selling brands. While the price of JBL and KRK is around the $300 mark, Yamaha is cheaper by about $100. Pioneer is a bit pricier in comparison.
When we consider the overall market for DJ speakers or studio monitors, it is crowded and fiercely competitive. But for the discerning DJ, the digital world has made the buying process pretty much easier by providing exhaustive specifications of a wide range of offerings from multiple brands. The best way, therefore, would be to spend quality time examining these brands focusing on your specific needs and position yourself as an informed buyer before activating the ‘buy’ button.