DJ to go for less than £250

Back in the day, one of the biggest barriers to entry to DJing was the cost with even half decent set ups costing £1000 upwards. As well as the cost, the equipment was heavy, bulky and usually required massive crates of vinyl or weighty CD books to go along with them.

Nowadays, if you want to start, all you need is a laptop but it feels a little disappointing if you go to club and that’s all that the DJ is using … a controller definitely helps but it can still often look more like they’re checking their emails than banging out a great mix. In fact recently some clubs have banned laptops from their DJ booths altogether

I wanted to build something that was affordable, fun and extremely portable/easy to set up. So I can up with the idea of a full DJ set up inside a briefcase – just turn up, plug in power and sound and get mixing.

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I set a budget of £250 which is a good £100 cheaper than the cheapest all in one set ups on the market (e.g. the Gemini GMX drive or Numark Mixdecks). Also, as I’ve said when doing my other tech builds… I love  making things modular as it makes repairs and upgrades easy

Once I’d assembled the parts (full list at bottom) it was time to do the build…

As I wanted to make this a proof of concept I had to balance keeping things cheap while being sufficiently good quality to function well and reliably. Tablets are a great value option for tech builds both in terms of space and money. You get the computer and screen in one compact package. I decided to use a windows tablet so that I could use Mixxx to DJ, which is surprisingly easy to use and feature rich for open source DJing software (iPad would have been too expensive and android still has a lack of really good DJ software). When windows tablets first came out, they were generally expensive and required you to use windows 8 (ugh). Nowadays, even the low end ones have more than enough power to run something like Mixxx. Linx has a pretty solid reputation for build quality and even the second hand one I got on eBay has been working well through all the hours of mixing I’ve done so far. If you’re doing a build yourself and have less money, there are even cheaper windows tablets available starting at around £30 second hand.

As for the controller, it was definitely worth getting one that has a built in soundcard as this again this saved space and money. Although Hercules gets a lot of stick from people for being a n00b controller, they did pretty much invent the DJ controller/soundcard combo and their build quality has definitely got better over time. Having said this, I still have a mark I Hercules lying around somewhere that I got from getting my mates to spam a competition back in 2005, last time I plugged it in, it was still working. Even though the Hercules Instinct is perfectly functional, this is definitely the first part that I’ll be replacing… In fact I’ve already got a Korg KaossDJ in the post because the addition of a Kaoss Pad can only make things better.

This was my first proper mixing session on it …

After the main build, I realised that it was not nearly glowy enough to be a a true Dataphiles project (and also the controller was pretty difficult to see in a dark room, even with finger lights). This was easily solved with the addition of a USB powered LED strip and a tiny USB disco ball for good measure. I also added a tiny vibration speaker, just in case I want to practice somewhere which doesn’t have any audio set up or DJ someone’s bedroom. These additions came to about a an extra £15 overall so its still within my budget

Overall a really fun build and a great little set-up to start DJing with at the end of it. Also once the structure is built, its easily enhanced in the future as a tablet or controller upgrade would take literally seconds (well from a hardware perspective anyway). Either way, I’d highly recommend this as a highly entertaining and satisfying project.


Parts list

  • Alumaxxx case – £37
  • Linx 1010L tablet (2nd hand) – £63
  • Hercules Instinct – £71
  • Tablet mount – £24
  • Powered USB hub – £10
  • Extension lead – £6
  • Cable tidy – £6
  • USB lighting strip – £6
  • USB disco ball – £8
  • Vibration speaker – £12
  • Wires, fixings and other sundries – £5
  • Grand total – £248