Being a DJ of any kind is, almost indisputably, more about your performance skills, personality and music knowledge than it is about the equipment you use. However, there are still certain bits of gear that you simply can’t be without as a DJ. If you’re a club DJ then your headphones and microphone are likely to be, after music, the most important purchase you make. For mobile DJs, however, there are more things to consider. In this article, written by an experienced mobile DJ of many years, we look at ten vital pieces of equipment we don’t think you should be without.
In the first part of this guide we look at the role of back-up or ‘spare’ gear. You will hear any experienced mobile DJ hark on about the importance of carrying ‘spare’ equipment. Unfortunately, this advice inevitably comes off the back of painful experience featuring a mid-event equipment failure WITHOUT contingency. Certain items you can live without a spare, lighting and effects (unless you only have a really small selection) you can generally live without one or two fixtures if the worst happens. If you’re using an active PA system then the failure of one speaker or subwoofer isn’t necessarily critical as you can often make it to the end of a gig with a reduced system. It’s all about common sense; Can you run without a smoke machine? Of course you can but running without your laptop full of music (if you’re a digital DJ) is going to be pretty tricky (and could spell an early night, a loss of earnings and a very unhappy client) so it’s important to know where to invest money in ‘spares’.
There are various pieces of equipment that it is highly-recommended you carry a spare of. If you are using a passive PA system then a spare power amplifier is a must. In an ideal world we would all carry two identical setups so you have a spare of everything you use. However, in the real world where load-space and budget may be limited, this isn’t always possible but that doesn’t mean you have to run the risk of being without backup. Imagine you are running your whole PA system from a single amplifier; Why not invest in a spare amp that will power enough of your system to see you through to the end of most gigs. For example, if you were running a pair of top cabinets with a pair of subwoofers then, if your budget is limited, why not buy a backup power amp that will run just the top speakers (it won’t sound as good but WILL get you to the end of the night).
Often the most difficult part of any mobile disco system to carry a spare for is the music source. A lot of DJs (particularly those who are making the transition from CDs to a digital setup) will already have multiple playback sources available to them. You may be using a DJ controller and laptop but still have all the music on CD and a pair of CD players that you can leave in the van ‘just in case’. Macbooks are seen by many DJs as the safest option for digital playback but, contrary to common belief, they CAN crash (just ask Skrillex or Deadmau5) so it’s still important to have a contingency plan. If your budget allows then I would recommend investing in a second laptop a cloned hard disk ready to take over should the first one ‘give up the ghost’. If you are a CD DJ then why not use your personal laptop (if you have one) to backup your music and invest in a budget DJ controller such as the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 or even the MIXiT SG-1 for less than £30 and have an instant backup solution.
It’s been said before but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, a mobile DJs microphone is one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal and, for this reason, it’s always worth carrying a spare. It doesn’t matter whether you use a Shure SM58 or a budget alternative, no microphone is indestructible and, seeing it’s the most handled item in your setup (and therefore the most likely to get dropped) it’s always worth carrying a spare. Once again, you don’t necessarily need to spend as much on your backup as you did on the original. It would be great to have a spare Shure or AKG mic but, if your budget won’t stretch then check out models like the WM200 from Numark which are perfectly adequate for most applications and come in at an incredibly affordable price. If you use a wireless system then why not invest in a replacement microphone on the same frequency or perhaps a wired mic that can be used in the event of a failure.
Sometimes you may need spares for reasons other than unexpected electronic failures. Sometimes small components may go missing or get broken in transit. I would recommend carrying a spare of any lead you use in your setup. The wear and tear of plugging and unplugging leads can take its toll and a dodgy connection of broken cable can cause intermittent cut-out or crackling. Leads and cables can be easily left behind at venues and you will only discover they are missing when setting up for the next gig, when such an inexpensive part can make such a huge difference to your rig it makes sense to always carry a spare. Lamps are not as common as they used to be as more and more people are using LED lighting BUT if you still have any fixtures that use traditional-style lamps and bulbs then don’t forget to carry spare bulbs to every event.
So there we have it, a brief run-down of the items I would recommend carrying a spare of (just in case). As I wrote above, in an ideal world we would all carry 2 complete systems but when that’s not possible just make sure you have enough for the show to go on.
In the next part of our guide to the 10 things a mobile DJ shouldn’t be without we look at other gear that you should carry to EVERY gig…
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