How to Connect a DJ Controller to an Audio Interface

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Many people have begun to really dive into their hobbies as of late, and one may well lead to a much more substantial career. There are a lot of people out there that look to exercise their musical tastes and skills by becoming a DJ. But to do that, you have to understand all the tools and equipment that goes with it and how they interact with each other. One of the most important aspects is properly connecting your DJ controller to your audio interface.

There are, of course, a multitude of input and output capabilities regarding the DJ controller and audio interface. Still, we’re going to take a quick look at the most important components. From the right cables to understanding your system and the sound input and output to the actual setup, this quick guide will give you everything you need to know about how to connect your DJ controller to your audio interface.

Cables: Which One Is the Best?

Many pieces of equipment that should be utilized when doing your DJ work will require cables. Choosing the right cable is important as it will affect the overall sound and performance of the controller and the audio interface. Here are the three main cable types that you will be dealing with:

  • XLR cable – These cables offer less interference for longer periods of time. They do cost more, but they are a balanced option that helps create a better signal.
  • RCA cable – These may be the most budget-friendly options and compatible with older equipment. However, they can pick up interference and there is a bit of noise.
  • ¼” cable – This cable is very simple and budget-friendly. But much like the RCA cable, it could pick up interference and noise.

When dealing with cables, you will be looking at either balanced or unbalanced in understanding the terminology that may help you set up your DJ controller more effectively to your audio interface. So let’s take a quick look at a balanced and unbalanced cable.

Balanced Cables

Balanced cables like an XLR are created using two wires that carry the signal, meaning it offers a stereo output. This allows the cable itself to reverse the signal throughout the process and reduce distortion that may occur. If you’re looking to execute a long DJ session, an XLR cable may be a better and more worthwhile option. This type of cable is because balanced cables often offer better long-term capability and a more professional sound.

Unbalanced Cables

RCA cables and ¼” cables are unbalanced. This means they utilize one wire to carry this signal from the mixer to the audio interface. Because of this, it doesn’t allow any of the interference or noise to be removed through the process, giving it a more independent and natural sound. If you’re using an older DJ controller, these may be the only options that will work for you.

Know Your System

There are only a couple of things you must understand before diving into how to connect your DJ controller to your interface. Other than understanding cables, maybe the biggest part of being able to set your system up effectively is understanding the components that go with it.

That being said, we’ll take a look at each of the four major components so that you can better understand and be ready to hook your mix board up and get started DJing. Here are the four main components of your system.

  • Audio Input – An input is what you are connecting your board to. There are different types of audio inputs. Everything from microphones to instruments can be an input into your control mixer.
  • Sound Mixer/Board – The mixer board itself is what the input will be connected to be able to play with the sounds that come from the main source.
  • Interface – The audio interface is the thing that connects your computer via a FireWire or even a USB cable to your mix board itself.
  • Computer – The last component is your computer, where you will utilize software that allows you to manipulate music to create your own sound digitally.

Types of Connections

The important thing to understand when looking at the types of connections you utilize to hook up your DJ controller to their interface is that a DJ controller is a line-level source. This means you cannot connect it to a phono cable input. If you do this, the signal will be too loud and it could potentially damage your speakers and other components of your setup.

So we thought we’d take a look at some of the different types of connections so that you understand how to choose the right audio output to hook up your DJ controller.

Booth Output

These are another set of outputs that will allow you to monitor both systems’ signals coming in and out. The closer you are to the mains, the more likely you are to have a delay when deejaying. When setting up your system, it might be good to make sure that if this is the case, you set up a speaker attached to the booth output so you can get rid of the delay.

Mic/Headphones

Microphones seem pretty common, so we’re not going to talk about that too much. The only thing you have to make sure of is that the units you are using have the right output jack. However, when you’re looking to set your levels for your headphones, you really have to pay attention to how you set up your controller to your interface. This is going to take a little time, but you want to hear through your headphones and adjust accordingly.

Mixer Board

If you are a DJ playing a live gig, you will hook yourself up to a sound mixer. Understanding how to set up your mixer board to your DI box or interface is vital in order to create a balanced input so that you have the crispest quality possible when it comes to your sound. Once you have this running, you will play with setting up your system from the master volume to the channel volume.

PA Speaker

The last type of connection would be hooking up your DJ controller and mix board to a PA speaker. There is a wide range of speaker types, from powered speakers to passive speakers. You will have some sort of them that you need to add to your system. Most of the time, this will be done with an unbalanced cable, meaning you need to invest in the best quality cable possible.

Cable to connect professional DJ midi controller to audio mixer

How to Connect your DJ Controller

Now that you understand all the types of cables’ connections and the system components, we can dive into how to connect your DJ controller to that interface.

To Speakers

If you are setting up your DJ system at home, maybe one of the best ways to do this is by using a speaker. With this type of setup, you must connect an RCA output or a quarter-inch cable to your controller and input your computer speaker, and you’ll have a system set up. For those with a computer speaker that doesn’t have an RCA input, you might need to get an adapter to connect your speakers to your laptop.

To Computer

It’s quite simple to connect your DJ controller to a computer. All you simply need is a USB cable. You’ll have to launch the controller’s software and then work to configure it to your specifications. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to set up more drivers and maybe even update your firmware to ensure you’re getting the best possible sound. Once you’ve done that, you will connect via cable to your audio interface of choice.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of types of equipment that you can invest in if you want to start DJing or enhance your DJ game. Understanding the components that go into a DJ system is crucial to everything. This goes for everything from the type of cable to what output ports are available to you to the type of speaker you will utilize. Most of the time, connecting your computer to the actual controller is via a USB port.

Still, the different understanding of cable connections and all of that will make your setup even better. We hope that this look at how to set up your DJ controller to your audio interface has helped you and that you’re going to get out there and make some amazing music.

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