If you are living with roommates, it can be tough to practice your mixing without disturbing them. Wouldn’t it be great if they understood why you need to have the volume turned up on your speakers? Or maybe you just can’t afford proper monitor speakers right now- whatever your circumstance, it is relevant to lots of people to know how to mix without speakers
I am in the second category. Just starting out and want to minimize my costs as much as possible. Here’s how to practice deejaying without speakers
- You will need to use headphones. Open back ones are most preferable and are not very expensive either
- Next, blend the current and cued tracks using the cue mix knob on your controller to be able to mix the two perfectly
- If you have a split cue option on your controller, that’s easier to work with, as you can simultaneously hear each track in one ear
If you don’t know how this works exactly- don’t worry. Let’s see what this means in detail.
Are DJ headphones any different from normal ones?
Yes DJ headphones are different from normal headphones. First off, they are flexibly made.
Ever noticed a DJ only listening with one ear through his headphone? That’s because they are listening to the cue track( or the track to be played next) and simultaneously listening into the track currently playing on the dance floor through the PA Speakers.
If you use a standard headphone this way, it is bound to break sooner rather than later.
Alternatively, some djs keep their headphones on throughout the entire gig. That’s because they are able to listen to the current and cue track both inside their headphones. This is because DJ headphones allow split audio inputs, such that one side only plays one track.
I suggest that if you’re looking for a pair of DJ headphones, you go for an open back pair. Open back headphones are basically those that allow flow of air, which means you hear the audio crystal clear. they also don’t cover your ear entirely.
The drawback with these is that you can pretty much only use them for practicing your mixing. If you plan on using them while working in the office or during your commute, you might just annoy the people around you as the sound leaks through these headphones.
Closed back headphones, even though they insulate sound around you and create a soundproof environment, are have their disadvantages which it comes to mixing, because they trap air which creates reverbs or echoes
What does the cue mix knob do?
Cue mix knob on your controller is used to blend the current track with the next track to be played- also called as the cue track.
You can hear the master track by turning the knob all the way to the ‘master’ side and the cue track by turning the knob all the way to the ‘cue’ side. You’ll hear a blend of both if it’s anywhere in between- the intensity of each track, of course, will depend on how close the dial is to either side of the knob.
It will probably take some getting used to, in order to mix this way with the headphones and cue controls.
If you have a controller with the split cue option, that might be easier to mix with. The split cue button will essentially provide an audio input to your headphones. This means that you will hear one track in one ear, and the other track in the other ear. Mixing tracks this way becomes much easier.
Sadly though, very few controllers offer this option. If you haven’t bought a controller yet, you may consider getting a Denon or Numark- these are one of the few brands that have a split cue option on their controller decks.
Drawbacks of mixing with headphones
#1 Extremely clear stereo spread
In layman’s terms this means that you hear audio much more clearly through your headphones than through the actual speakers at a club. So, it can happen that the effects you were hoping for showcasing go unnoticed because they were too subtle.
#2 Phasing issues
This is dictated by the shape of your sound wave plotted over time. Two audio tracks maybe out of phase which means that they will negate each other. In practical terms, the base won’t sound bassy enough and the highs want sound as nice.
Phasing issues can still be caught when listening through monitor speakers, but if you don’t have those, play your tracks in mono over your headphones. that should do the trick.
#3 Ear fatigue
Having music blasted into your ears the entire time can be a bit disorienting and uncomfortable. Take enough breaks in between if you find yourself getting tired for frustrated. Ear fatigue is a real thing
Since you don’t have the luxury of monitor speakers, you need to play or mix on every speaker you can lay your hands on: car, TV, PC, mobile, etc. Basically cross checking your mix on every speaker you can use. If you can roughly make out the nuances that you want to show through your car speaker, you can rest assured that it will come to nicely while playing on a high def speaker at the club.
Consider saving a few bucks and getting that monitor speaker
If noise control is the big issue then you can look into getting some low powered monitor speakers for mixing at home. You don’t necessarily have to get the big booming ones.
Also monitor speakers aren’t as expensive as you might think. The starting price for these is about $100, as much as a mid range pair of DJ headphones.
Technically speaking, getting monitor speakers is bound to reduce the amount of time you spend mixing, because they give an accurate representation of all frequencies- there is no artificial boost to the bass, for instance, which normal speakers provide. you won’t need to spend a ton of time listening to your mix from different sources, as I suggested earlier for mixing with headphones.