DJ 101: Laptop DJ Setup – Intro

From vinyl to CD to laptop, with every evolution of DJ technology, purists have claimed that technology amounted to cheating and have sparked the “real DJs use vinyl” argument. I counter that the new technology opens new realms of creativity for live, unrehearsed musical expression, and superstar DJs using laptops (Paul Van Dyk, BT, Sasha, etc.) back that argument. Vinyl and CD DJs may add samplers and instruments to enhance their live performance, and with laptops there are effects, processors, samplers and loops — both audio and visual — to be triggered in real time. Laptop technology also eliminates the limits of physical media.


Here I’ll examine designing a portable laptop solution for DJing (beatmixing music) and VJing (beatmixing video) in a way that best suits your individual needs.

When I started laptop DJing in 2003, I used Native Instruments Traktor on an Apple PowerBook G4 with an external Western Digital FireWire 400 hard drive, Echo Indigo DJ soundcard and a Contour ShuttlePro controller. For the move to laptop VJing in 2007, I moved up to a MacBook Pro with Numark Cue/Virtual DJ software on Windows XP running through Bootcamp with an external FW800 Western Digital drive, M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB soundcard and the Numark Total Control controller. I’ve since upgraded to a LaCie 1 TB external drive and then to a smaller-size Newer Technologies 1 TB drive. I also added a Vestax VCI-100 controller, and I am currently testing the Stanton DaScratch and Numark Omni Control. Recently, I added a second MacBook Pro laptop with Arkaos Grand VJ software and an Akai LPK 25 & LPD 8controllers for additional effects and visuals.