How to Connect a Laptop to a DJ System?

Last updated Aug 15, 2020

Over the past decade, DJing has undergone massive transformations, both in technology as well as the process. We have seen new styles of DJing, and some have also had huge impacts on the dance-music culture. 

In 2010, software like Traktor and Serato had already produced a generation of laptop DJs; however, with faster and reliable USB technology emerging, many DJs started carrying their entire record collections on a keyring. Importantly, that also made DJing cheaper, opening a world of opportunities to newbies. There were times when critics passed comments like “anyone can now become a DJ,” as they do not have to own any records. For USB-toting DJs, Rekordbox has drastically altered the DJing mindset by enabling track organizations in increasingly complex systems.

In 2020, a DJ can show up at parties with a record collection in their pocket, inscribed with metadata that enables them to select tracks by genre, BPM, or artist. So many things have drastically changed now, and with the emergence of technology, a lot can change in the future.

DJs often use laptops to create or play digital playlists. Over the years, DJs have also started using digital turntables that allow them to scratch music digitally, without having to use vinyl records. The setup provides audio from the laptop to be directed through the turntable’s sound card and manipulated before going through the mixing board and speakers.

This blog is mainly for aspiring DJs or newbies who want to understand or learn the set-up process. If you are not sure about how to set up your turntables, DJ controller, or other sound hardware accessory to your laptop, this article is for you.

Note – The below-mentioned process is exclusively for Mac

How to Connect DJ Mixers to a Laptop?

  1. Assemble all the necessary assets (hardware and cables). Plug-in your mixer into a power outlet if needed. It is important to note that the mixers or controllers require an external source of power, and it may run off your laptop’s power supply. Therefore, you need to make sure that your laptop is fully charged, or plugged in. It is good to use a power conditioner, if you have one, to minimize the signal noise. 
  1. Connect the box-end of your USB cable to the mixer, and the other end to a USB port on your laptop. Do not use a USB splitter or hub. It is better always to use your laptop’s USB ports, as a lot of data can get jammed if you try to chain too many devices on the same port. Use USB 3.0 if you can, as the data transfer rate is high, and the glitches are less likely.
  1. You can now open your DJ software and navigate to the main settings window. In the “audio device” tab, make sure to select the USB audio codec, or whatever it is termed in your system. It is quite easily recognizable once you are there. If you do not see the USB option, then go to – System Preferences -> Sound -> Input -> click the USB Audio Codec option-> close the system preferences. Your device will now show up inside your DJ software. In case you still do not see it, you can reboot your system and reopen the software again, and you will find it.
  1. You must keep in mind that most of the controllers that come with built-in sound cards offer outputs on the mixer. To use this, you need to repeat the steps above but set the output device to USB. This way, your laptop does not have to process the audio on its own chip. It can instead utilize the mixers built in the sound card, thereby freeing up the system resources. It will also be able to communicate with the controller directly.

I hope you found this quick-setup guide helpful. Once you have all the things set-up, you can start your musical journey and rock the world.

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