Usually, a beginner DJ invests in an All-in-one controller at a comparatively lower cost and starts DJ by connecting to a laptop.
But the additional costs of a laptop and the related software may overshadow the savings on a controller setup. You may be wondering if it is possible to DJ without a laptop. Let us try to find out.
First of all, we need to understand why don’t we need a laptop. One reason was savings in costs.
Another idea may be that DJs don’t want to carry it along for safety reasons, or they may not be able to find a powerful laptop at a budget price. Some DJs don’t like the complexity of software or stuff related to the laptops.
Whatever the reasons are, it may be personal or commercial reasons. Well, it is possible to design a DJ setup without a laptop. Let us explore how to do it.
Why Choose to DJ Without Laptop?
Well, it’s a personal choice but is usually guided by several factors ranging from money to convenience, portability to life goals. Let us see a summary of possible reasons.
1) Commercial Reasons
The powerful laptops are not available quickly at a reasonable price. “I don’t have enough money to invest in an expensive laptop as I have already put so much money into expensive DJ gear, and I still have to buy more equipment.”
“I don’t want to carry my laptop to every gig. Sometimes it is not feasible. It is such a hassle to carry it everywhere. It means I don’t need to carry one more piece of equipment.”
3) Safety and Security
In the great moments of the DJ party, people will be sweating out and dancing to their hearts often with glasses of wine. “They may spill the drinks on my expensive Mac or may fall on it. There is so much dust, humidity, sweat, and whatnot.”
4) Traditional Setup
“Hey! I want to position my DJ brand as a traditional DJ. There is no place for a laptop. After all, the traditional touch will be required in everything I do.”
It is my personal preference. “I don’t like complex screens and too many options. I feel lost in a pile of digital files and technical terms and never-ending screens and options. It is not my cup of tea.”
6) Small Gathering
It is just a house party. “I can do it without a laptop. In a small gathering, I don’t need a laptop.” There may be a small gathering where you may not need an elaborate setup.
7) Club Restriction
Some clubs have limitations and do not allow DJs to carry their laptops with them for some unknown reasons. It is rare, but you need to keep yourself ready with any eventuality. An experience in laptop less DJing comes handy here.
8) My Goals
“My ultimate goals do not sync with a laptop. I want to DJ with a controller and don’t visualize myself as a superstar DJ with endless gathering. It is my hobby, and that is it. I can easily earn my living without a Lappy.”
Possible Setup or Layouts without a laptop
You need to discover the best setup as per your personal needs. The best set up depends on several factors mentioned earlier, but we will help you choose the best configuration. Before that, you need to understand various setup options with their merits and demerits.
1) Traditional Setups
In a traditional setup, you have a mixer and a turntable with speakers. You pick up the choice of vinyl and start mixing, beatmatching, and scratching manually. However, it is costly to maintain a traditional setup due to the prohibitive cost of buying vinyl records regularly.
The regular price of vinyl records is much higher than a decent laptop. Of course, you have the option of buying vinyl in bulk to reduce the per head costs.
If it is your way of branding your DJ or money is not an issue, then it is acceptable; otherwise, it is not an option to go just because you cannot afford a laptop.
2) CDJ option
This is the next logical option. The CDJ, or maybe a multi-player, will take the place of a turntable. You will need active speakers for the output. There is a USB port on a multi-player, and you can play from your music collection using a pen drive or portable external hard disk storage media.
But, mind you, you will still need some device like a laptop to manage your music collection on the thumb drive or the portable hard disks. In some multi-players, you can play music from CDs also.
You can mix digital tracks with this option without the need for a laptop. Overall, this option comes out cheaper, especially when it avoids the cost of maintaining a turntable with the latest vinyl records over some time.
3) The controller option as All-in-one
It is the most versatile option to go with an all-in-one DJ controller. There is no need for a laptop, as the latest technology has provided controllers to display many options on the screen of controllers itself, and you don’t need to refer to a laptop.
Higher-end controllers let you do almost everything that you do with a laptop. Although such functions depend on the model of the controller, you can manage to do it without a laptop if you choose your controller carefully.
Some controller has built-in software and small screens. You get regular updates to the software of the controller and can be updated by USB stick or wifi depending upon the model.
That is not true for a traditional or similar setup where you are stuck with the original software of the unit like mixer or turntables.
Later on, if you change your mind and buy a laptop, you can continue to use the same controller with a laptop.
Another option is to occasionally use a laptop in some gigs and avoid it at the others or maybe use it with a laptop at home and without a laptop in live performance.
You can also use Rekordbox software on the laptop (If you use a Pioneer product), do your homework, and then transfer all your playlist files to a USB or hard disk by using the export option.
4) Controller with a phone or tablet
All of us almost always carry a mobile phone with us. It would be fun to do a DJ with your phone or your tablet or iPad. You need an app with new options for controlling a controller without a laptop.
You can configure the handheld devices of your choice on a sophisticated app.
Here, if the sound quality is an issue, you can route your output through an audio interface or sound card.
E.g., You can use the Traktor app of the popular laptop DJ software with only the disadvantage of a small screen where a few things may be challenging to control easily.
5) Only with a device
Yes, you can even skip the controller and use only your phone or iPad and speakers. It is appropriate in situations like small parties at home or backyard and is a quick fix without the need for a laptop.
If you travel too much and do not have your equipment with you, this option is very handy. You will need a heavy-duty and mostly paid app to do the clean job of mixing, cueing and sampling.
There is one more option of using the ‘Spotify’ app if you do not want to do anything. Just put on the DJ Mode on ‘Spotify’ and it does the crossfading for you.
Which is the Best Setup Without Laptop
From above, it is clear that you have so many options for setup without a laptop. You have seen their pros and cons. Finally, it boils down to your personal choice.
According to us, the All-in-one controller provides the maximum mileage by providing you maximum versatility, and this is the set up which is close to a setup which is laptop-enabled.
Using a laptop may be the best and accessible way and discourages many budding DJs.
Still, if you have made up your mind to compromise by preceding the laptop option and exploring a setup without a laptop, a controller seems to be the best choice.
They provide you value for money options cost much less than traditional equipment.
Suggested products for Different types of Setups
|Type of Suggested Setup||Recommended equipment|
|Traditional Setup||Mixer and Turntables suggested in other posts should do the job. This setup is Laptop-Free setup by default|
|CDJ or Multi-Player||CDJ-350, CDJ-2000nxs|
|All in one controller||Pioneer XDJ-RX2, Denon MCX 8000|
|A handheld device with the controller||Reloop Beatpad-2, Reloop Mixon 4|
|A handheld Device without a controller||Algoriddim DJ app, Spotify app|
Benefits of DJ without Laptop
A laptop with DJ equipment is an industry-standard. But a setup without a laptop also provides some clear advantage in terms of manual beatmatching.
With the advent of the latest technology, the DJs effortlessly match the speed of tracks to ensure melodious mixing for the audience.
Some top-notch DJs may not be able to manually do the beatmatching if they are asked to do some on some down to earth instruments or without a laptop and essential software.
The push-button mentality is killing the real art of DJing, which took days of practice to master.
When you encounter a situation where the laptop is not working, or you end up in a club where the equipment is not up to the mark, your manual skills of DJ mixing come handy, and you don’t cut a sorry figure.
The manual DJing is known as DJing by the ear, and it invokes the real natural DJ in you.
Apart from that, you will save a decent amount of money which may be used to buy other DJ gear you may have postponed. A set up without a laptop is also more portable ideally suited for a beginner of mobile DJs who always prefer to travel light.
One need not carry an expensive laptop to a crowded place and save it from the daily grind.
This setup is also particularly useful for DJs who are not computer savvy and get terrified at the thought of sophisticated computer software and those trying to manage situations on a laptop that needs to be updated and settings configured.
The best part is that you will not be in a soup when asked to perform without a laptop since you will be mentally prepared to beat match by the ear.
It is a relief that once you decide to choose the ideal setup, you are one step closer to your dream.
Look before you leap
It is imperative to review your decisions. So, you must check what you may be missing
- You will be missing the DJ Ambience. A DJ looks complete with a pair of cans, let of DJ gear and a cool looking laptop (preferably a Mac) with a sophisticated screen
- All those advanced features of DJ Software will be gone. You will be left with only the basic features and that too on a tiny screen of a controller
- Your music collection may not be in easy reach. You may have to copy music to pen drive etc. and that takes quite some time.
- You may not be able to save, record, update, distribute music to social media
- You will have to learn manual beatmatching. Quite a mouthful!
Over a period of time, the DJ scenario has changed a lot. It is evolving and changing every day. In the earlier days of the DJ revolution, it was all done manually without digital aids.
Now, with the advent of modern technology, almost everything is going digital. You can still catch up with changing times by going for a set up without a laptop. Our recommendation is an All-in-one Controller.