DJ Monitors vs PA Speakers- Which Ones To Use For Mixing?


As I am just starting out on my journey of learning how to DJ, I have been continuously researching on the kind of equipment a beginner like me can buy.  Today, I spent my time researching on the different kinds of speakers.

Which is why, this post is about DJ monitors Vs PA speakers,  what they mean and whether you should use them or not.

DJ monitors are only meant for the recording studio.  they are made to provide an exact representation of the song or mix, i.e:  the song get played as is. P A speakers are made for providing the same mix at much higher volume levels without a lot of distortion.

Can you use PA speakers as DJ/ Studio monitors?

No, PA speakers can’t be used as studio monitors. In fact, doing so could make your mixes sound pretty bad.

The reason is simple. PA speakers, even really expensive ones have the simple aim of producing high volume outputs. Due to this, there are always bound to be nuances in the mix that will be lost on a PA speaker.

In other words, you won’t get as accurate representation of the music, even if you try to listen to your mix on a PA speaker at low volumes.

Two types of PA speakers: Passive vs Active speakers

Passive speakers

Passive speakers don’t have an amplifier set up inside them. Also, they aren’t battery operated like some active speakers.

So, they need to be connected to a power source, as well as an amplifier to provide the correct volume output.

The good thing about passive PA speakers is that you can put multiple channel outputs- one to a woofer(bass frequencies), another to a tweeter(high frequencies only) and leave the mid-range frequencies to the main speaker. This greatly enhances the sound experience.

In fact, it is due to this customizability that passive speakers are considered great for live sets.

Secondly, they’re lightweight because they don’t have a built in amplifier like an active speaker.

Thirdly, once you’ve set up your passive speakers in an arrangement, you can then control everything from a control room, and don’t need to run around makes changes in every speaker’s setting.

Also- servicing PA speakers is much easier because of the fact that all the sub components are broken up- amplifier, woofer, etc. You can easily locate what’s not working, and get it replaced(assuming you have the money, of course!)

The technicality with passive speakers is that any other component needs to be impedance and power matched with the speaker. If you’re looking to buy one, it might be worth going to a store and getting someone to help you with this.

Active Speakers

These contain the amplifier within, and can be connected to a battery or power source. Much more portable than passive speakers.

They’re much more suited for newbies than professionals, who’ll probably always end up going with passive speakers. These are made as a plug and play solutions. You don’t need to worry about technicalities like impedance and power matching.

Also, you can make changes to the sound output yourself with controls present at the back of the speaker.

The main issue with active speakers is that you need a professional to diagnose the issue, everytime there is a problem. Also- if something needs to be changed, you pretty much can’t use the system till it’s repaired.

DJ/ Studio monitors vs Computer speakers

This isn’t even a debate. Computer speakers are far from ideal for you to listen to your mixes on. They hardly stack up against studio monitors.

However, if you are starting off, like I am and can’t afford a good studio monitor(anywhere in the $300 plus price range), you’ll have to make do with what you have.

In this case, I’ll recommend you buy a pair of DJ headphones.  

Another Alternative to DJ Monitors- Headphones

Headphones are great because they solve the problem of environmental noises and effect.

Even if you have a great pair of monitor speakers, the fact is that the right ear hears the right speaker first and the left speaker after a small gap in time. Similarly, for the left ear- it hears the left speaker first and the right one after a small gap.

While this isn’t a big deal in most cases, sometimes, it can be a hindrance.

Otherwise also, noise from outside your room, your flatmates, etc can be irritating while you’re mixing.

A good pair of DJ headphones solves both these problems because it provides the right ear and left ear input almost instantaneously, and also blocks outside noises.

A few problems that you may face with DJ headphones:

  • Everything is too detailed while listening on headphones, and you have to adjust the track to get the same level of details to be picked up on the monitors
  • It can be very hard to judge the stereo width of a track on headphones

Conclusion

There are no hard and fast rules that you only have to buy monitor speakers to be able to mix well at home. If you’re starting out, you can easily use a decent pair of DJ headphones and cheap PC speakers to make your mixes.

To make up for this, you should listen to your mix on as many different sources as possible- laptop speakers, car speakers, etc. Maybe even ask your friend with the expensive monitor speakers for a favor.

Whatever you have to do to ensure that the mix really sounds good. If you’re able to pick up the nuances to even a fair degree on your cheap PC speakers, it will come out when you’re at the gig.

Also- PA speakers aren’t very useful if you want to mix with them. Monitor speakers would be a much better investment. Also, most clubs will have their own PA speakers anyway, so you won’t need to get one along.

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