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Getting To Know Your Gear

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PART 1 - Setting Up Your Decks And Mixer



How To Hook Up A Headshell
Fitting The Headshell To The Tone Arm
Fitting The Stylus
Balancing The Tone Arm

Don’t Blow It
White Left Red Right
Turn It On Right



THE SET UP - AT A PARTY Arrow graphic


It may seem obvious but a badly organised set up can hinder you quite a bit when it comes to learning to mix. There are a few simple rules to follow;

1. Get hold of, or build yourself a solid table to hold your DJ Equipment. It needs to be wide and long enough to take two turntables and a mixer and it can be very handy if it’s also got some extra space to put CD players, records, drinks etc on. Most importantly it should not wobble when you knock it. If the table rocks around all over the show every time you touch the platter, you will have serious difficulty mixing.

2. It should be at a sensible height for you to reach the decks from a standing position without stooping forward.

3. Put your mixer between your decks, it stops you having to think about which is the left or right deck.

4. You will need somewhere to put your amplifier. Most people end up with the amp’ under the table, or on a shelf, but wherever you decide to put it, the audio cable form the mixer is going to need to be long enough to reach it.

5. You need somewhere to put your speakers. Ideally they should be at least six feet apart, at least six feet away from you, either side of your decks at eye height and you should be facing the speakers. This is rarely achieved. The important thing is that you can clearly hear the sound of your main mix. In a proper DJ Booth you will often be confronted with a single monitor (if you are lucky enough to have a monitor at all).

DON'T put your speakers on the same table as your decks and mixer. The vibration of the bass from the speakers will cause what we call ‘feedback’. Extreme feedback sounds like a loud, bass frequency howling sound, mild feedback will add an extra mushy ‘boom’ to all of the bass elements in your music. As long as your speakers are a few feet away from your decks you will probably not be listening to your music loud enough to cause feedback at home.

It is this unreliability of monitoring systems that lead to the development of the ‘split cue’ monitoring facilities on many DJ mixers.

6. Unfortunately this is not an ideal world. It’s quite likely that in your career as a DJ you will encounter any number of iffy set ups. You will need to learn to adapt quickly and concentrate on your job, but that doesn’t stop you getting set up properly at home.

To find out more about setting up a small PA in a bar or at a party read our ‘Amplifiers & Speakers’ section.

Unpack your decks carefully. You’ll probably find a strip of wide sticky tape sealing your box closed. Instead of just ripping it off (which will tear off great hunks of the rest of the box with it), gently run a knife along between the two flaps of the lid. Don’t push the knife in too far, you definitely don’t want to damage your nice new decks, just carefully cut the tape.

Keep that packaging. At some point you are going to want to transport your decks. The most common cause of damage to turntables is knocks taken by un-cased (or un-boxed) decks during transit. Unless you’ve gone straight for getting a set of ‘flight cases’ for your set up, you will find that the packaging that the decks (and mixer) first arrived in is the best protective option.

Sit your decks on your table. Slip the hole on the middle of the platter in to place over the spindle. You may need to rotate the platter a little before it slides down to fit snugly without rocking about.

You may find that the hinges for the lid come separately. Fit the hinges to the lid, then fit the lid to the deck.

There are two basic types of Headshell.

The simplest solution is the all in one Headshell and Cartridge combination like the classic Stanton Trackmaster. These do not require any user assembly other than fitting or replacing the stylus. They tend to provide superior sound quality and stability and are obviously more convenient but come with a proportionately higher price tag.

This is by far the most common solution and where most people on a budget start off. The Headshell itself is supplied with your turntable. When you buy a Cartridge you get the body of the Cartridge, four wires, two small bolts, a couple of little square nuts and a Stylus.

1. The two little nuts have slots in their side and they slide in to place on the two brackets on top of the Cartridge. They can only go on the correct way around.
2. Offer up the Cartridge to the Headshell so that the screw holes in the nuts line up with the slots in the top of the Headshell.
3. Slide the screws through the slots and screw them in. Ensure that the Cartridge is sitting straight in the Headshell and tighten up with a small screwdriver.
4. On the back of the Cartridge you’ll find four little colour coded pins. The wires have clips which slide snugly over these pins. Push each appropriately coloured wire in to place. Be gentle, both the little clips and the pins are fairly easily bent... just line it up carefully, make sure you’re pushing the clip on straight rather than at an angle and slide firmly in to place.

1. Hold the Headshell the right way up and the right way round. You should find two small locating pins sticking out of either side of the shaft of the arm.
2. Carefully slide the shaft in to the socket on the end of the tone arm until it is snug.
3. Screw the little ring on the end of the tone arm clockwise and you should feel it tighten up. It only needs to be tight enough to hold the Headshell firmly in place so don’t over tighten it.
Fit the stylus and look at the Tone Arm from the front. Make sure it’s sitting upright. If it isn’t, loosen the tightening ring and adjust it.

The stylus is a small plastic thing with a diamond tipped needle sticking out of one side and a small shaft sticking out of the other. On the end of the body of the Cartridge you’ll find a small hole or socket. Carefully pick up the Stylus, ensuring not to damage the needle, with the needle pointing downwards, gently slide the shaft in to the socket. It should just slide in there with a small amount of resistance. The plastic part of the Stylus should end up sitting snugly against the body of the Cartridge.

Once you have The Cartridge fitted to the Headshell and the whole lot attached to the Tone Arm, it’s time to get the Tone Arm set up properly. There are many opinions on this subject, probably as many opinions as there are DJ techniques. Different uses will inevitably require different settings but what follows is a decent all round set up.

1. Clip the Tone Arm on the Arm Rest.
2. Unlock and set the Height Adjust ring to zero.
3. Push the Counter Weight on to the shaft at the back of the tone arm with the numbers facing forward.
4. Unclip the Arm from the Rest and gradually screw the Counter Weight forwards until the Tone Arm “floats” horizontally. Be careful not to let the stylus hit the Platter whilst doing this.
5. Clip the Arm back on to the rest. Gently hold the Counter Weight without turning it, turn the ring with the numbers on it (known as a ‘Pressure Ring’) until the ‘zero’ is lined up with the line along the top of the shaft of the Arm.
6A. At this point you are supposed to gently turn the Counter Weight clockwise (without touching the Pressure Ring) until it reaches the value specified by the manufacturer for your particular Cartridge. You will find this information on the instructions supplied with the Cartridge.
7A. Set the Anti Skate Ring to the same value as the Pressure Ring.
8A. Set the Height Adjustment Ring to the value specified by the manufacturer. For Stanton Cartridges you can also find this information at; http://www.stantonmagnetics.com/alpha44/pc_settings.asp

If you do not have the information for steps 6, 7 & 8 available to you, the following steps are workable all round settings.

6B. Turn the Weight clockwise until the ‘3.5’ mark on the Pressure Ring lines up with the line on the Arm.
7B. Set the Anti Skate Ring to the same value as the Pressure Ring.
8B. Set the Height Adjustment Ring to 2 for a standard Cartridge or ‘0’ for an All In One Cartridge.

This set up should work ok for standard mixing and back cueing.

Alternative method for those who wish to ‘scratch’.
A popular, somewhat luddite, alternative method employed by many scratchers who feel the need to have a stylus which will stay in the groove when they decide to jump up and down on the platter or scratch with their elbows or knees or whatever...

Clip the arm on the rest.
2. Remove the counterweight, turn it around so that the Pressure Ring is facing away from the stylus and push it as far as it will go on to the arm.
3. Turn the Anti Skate up to maximum.
4. Turn the Height Ring up to about 4.
5. If you try to scratch and your cartridge (which now weighs about ten tonnes) jumps back out of the groove, reduce the anti skate by stages until the cartridge merely shakes about all over the place.

All of these methods apply only to turntables with standard S-Shaped Tone Arms. Turntable assemblies with Straight Tone Arms do not have Anti Skate Rings.


If you’re going to use a deck for DJing it is absolutely essential that you can hold the actual record still whilst the platter below continues to spin. What make this possible is the Slipmat. Usually a piece of felt like material that’s a little bigger than a 12” with a (spindle sized) round hole in the middle. It is placed on to the platter so that it sits between the platter and the vinyl. It’s smooth surfaces cut down the friction between the platter and your vinyl. Brand new Slipmats sometimes don’t perform the task quite as well as they should, they’re best when a little ‘worn in’. If you find that even the slightest finger pressure on a spinning record stops both the vinyl and the platter there is a solution. If you get a piece of paper, cut it to size, poke a (spindle sized) hole in the middle and place it between the platter and the mat, things should then slip for you nicely. The plastic inner sleeves you sometimes get with imported pressings are absolutely ideal for this purpose.


Hanging off the back of each deck you’ll find 2 cables. One is the mains lead. The other should have a couple of phono connectors (two little plugs, one red, one white - which carry the audio signals) and a wire with a little flat, fork like thing on the end - which is what we call an ‘earth’ or ‘ground’ wire.

Round the back of your mixer you’ll find a load of phono sockets. How many sockets you’ll find, and how they will be labeled will obviously depend on your particular mixer. We’ll explain all about your mixer and how to connect up any other equipment you may have in a while, but for now we’ll stick to decks.

1. Switch off your decks, your mixer and your amplifier.
2. Connect the mains cables for both decks, then the mixer, then your amplifier.
3. Grab the audio cable from the left hand deck. Find the sockets labeled ‘channel 1’ and ‘phono input’ on your mixer. Connect the white phono plug to the socket marked ‘L’. Connect the red phono plug to the socket marked ‘R’.
4. Grab the audio cable from the right hand deck. Find the sockets labeled ‘channel 2’ and ‘phono input’ on your mixer. Connect the white phono plug to the socket marked ‘L’. Connect the red phono plug to the socket marked ‘R’.
5. Somewhere on the back of your mixer you’ll find a little threaded post with a plastic nut on it. This is a ‘ground’ post. Unscrew it a few mm, grab both of the ‘ground’ wires (the forks), hold both forks together and slide them under the plastic nut of the ground post. Screw them down finger tight.

One of the easiest and therefore commonest ways to damage a DJ mixer is to connect the wrong equipment to the wrong input. The rules are very simple;

The audio signal from a turntable is really small. We call it a ‘phono level’ signal. Your Mixer has a little ‘pre-amplifier’ inside it which increases the signal a lot so that it works for the rest of your equipment - like your amplifier.

The audio signal from a CD Player, Tape Deck, MiniDisc Player or DAT Player etc is much bigger. We call it a ‘line level’ signal and it does not need to be amplified before your mixer or amplifier can use it. If you feed the BIG signal from a ‘line level’ machine in to a ‘phono’ input, designed for small signals, you overload the ‘pre-amplifier’. At best it will sound really distorted and be unusable, at worst you will break the preamp’. It happens far too often.

Your average domestic Hi Fi has just two speakers and almost all records are recorded with two ‘channels’ of sound to feed those two speakers. Same with the average small PA. So it is important to follow the same policy concerning connecting stereo cables throughout your system. Connect L to L and R to R. Left to Left Right to Right.

With most domestic equipment we use what most people call ‘phono’ plugs and sockets. Phono plugs are colour coded. The universal rule is that you use the red plug for the right hand side and the white plug for the left hand side. With other connection systems used by PA systems you need to use a little more initiative but the principles are the same.

Useless information... The correct name for ‘phono’ is RCA. The reason why we call them ‘phono’ plugs & sockets is that they were first widely used for turntables, known at the time as ‘phonographs’. Now we use this type of plug for CD players, tape decks and all sorts of things. The cables we use to carry sound from one place to the other in a stereo system (‘stereo’ of course simply means ‘two’) tend to have three wires inside them. One for each side of our two speaker system and another to carry away unwanted electricity and discharge it to the ground.

Always follow this procedure, in this order, when switching on your equipment.

1. Check that everything is switched off. That’s, decks, CD Player, mixer, amplifier, the lot.
2. Turn the master output volume controls on your amplifier to zero.
3. Turn the master output volume control of your mixer to zero.
4. Turn on the power to your decks and CD player.
5. Turn on the power on your mixer.
6. Turn on the power on your amplifier.
7. Turn the volume control on your amplifier to a normal operating level. A ‘normal operating level’ is a very subjective thing that depends on your particular set up. With a professional PA system, some Power Amplifiers do not have a volume control at all. Many Professional PA Amplifiers are designed to be run with their volume controls set to maximum. The reasoning behind this is that the DJ is supposed to control the subjective volume of the system from the mixer. As a DJ it is part of your job to make sure that the volume of the music is appropriate for your audience and is not distorted. This doesn’t necessarily mean simply turning it up as loud as possible. Our idea of a ‘normal operating level’ comes from this professional approach to the issue. If you’re using a Hi Fi set up as a monitoring system at home, you’ll often find that you can simply set the master volume to about 30% or 40% and then use the master volume control on your DJ mixer to control the listening level. But there can be no simple line of advice here. You will have to use your common sense and decide what is an appropriate setting.
8. So step 8 is simply to set the appropriate listening level using the volume controls on your mixer.


1. On the back of your mixer you’ll find a set of sockets marked either ‘main out’, ‘master out’ or something very similar. The sockets will also be marked ‘L’ & ‘R’.

2. Get a phono cable, connect one end of it to the mixer ensuring that you get them the right way around.

3. Grab the other end of your phono cable. You will need to locate the appropriate input sockets on the back of your amplifier, which will be labeled ‘input’ and connect (again, ensuring you get the plugs the right way around).

If you are connecting to a domestic hi fi amplifier it will probably have ‘phono’ type input sockets. If you are connecting to a PA style power amplifier, it will probably have either 1/4” jack or XLR type input sockets - which will mean you’ll need a cable with phono plugs at one end and the correct plug to suit your amplifier on the other. Any decent specialist Equipment Retailer will be able to supply you with the correct cable. You will find guidance on professional connection types in our ‘Amplifiers And Speakers’ section below.

Right next to the ‘main out’ phono sockets on the back of your mixer you’ll find another set of sockets labeled ‘Rec Out’. Get a phono cable and connect one end of it to these. Connect the other end to the sockets labeled either ‘Line In’ or ‘Rec In’ on your cassette, DAT or MD recorder. If you’re using a portable MD recorder you may find that it has a ‘minijack’ type single socket instead of ‘phono’ sockets.

THE SET UP - AT A PARTY Arrow graphic


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