DJs need to be armed to the teeth with gear these days. The pressure is on to own your own stuff. It makes you more independent, more flexible and better able to take performance opportunities whether they’re small house parties or larger events.
DJ speakers are a vital component of any DJ’s arsenal. Yes, sometimes you’ll be able to plugin your decks into a house system or borrow speakers off someone else but owning your own is ideal. So, DJ speakers – the term covers a pretty broad range of speaker types! Do you need accurate monitors for mixing and practice? A party system for portable gigs? Or maybe a more serious system for gigs?
There’s a ton of choice when it comes to speakers these days, you have everything from the very tiniest Lexon Mino mini-speakers to multi-driver bi-amped full-range PA speakers that are suitable for everything from parties to larger events.
What are the Fundamental Specs of Speakers?
All speakers have some things in common. Obviously, their function is to take an input sound and play it back at a greater volume. Some speakers have built-in amplifiers and are thus known as powered speakers whereas others require additional amplifiers and are known as passive speakers.
Today, powered speakers that have their own built-in amps are becoming more popular. They’re louder, more advanced and more reliable than ever before. Powered speakers also keep costs down as amplifiers are very expensive, often as expensive as the speakers themselves, if not more!
For the very biggest sound systems, though, passive speakers are still king as you can feed in more power than a typical powered speaker can produce.
For DJ speakers as a general category, let’s concentrate on powered speakers.
A common figure you’ll see when you shop for speakers is their wattage. Small speakers might just a few watts whereas the biggest powered speakers around might exceed 1000w. Generally, more watts means greater potential volume but this isn’t always the case. Also, you’ll generally see two wattage measurements. One is called RMS whereas the other is peak. RMS is the average operating power of a speaker and is a far more important measurement than peak, however, manufacturers might market the peak rating instead of RMS so watch out!
Speaker Cone Size
Speakers come in different sizes ranging from just an inch or so to 21” at the other extreme. Bigger speakers don’t always mean louder speakers but it is true that the bigger a speaker is, the better it will be at producing bass. Smaller speakers can still produce bass with the assistance of some extra technology and a well-designed speaker enclosure but for producing higher levels of bass, you’ll need a speaker system with larger speaker cones.
Not every speaker has the same purpose. Most common speakers are ‘full-range’, this means they produce all frequencies ranging from highs to sub-bass. Often, doing this properly requires a speaker system to have multiple speakers.
Tweeters: Tweeters are small speakers that excel at producing higher frequencies. They’re usually placed at the top of a speaker system to point more directly towards the ears.
Mids: Mid-range speakers deal with the majority of the frequency spectrum. They’re often fairly large and sit in the middle of a speaker system.
Lows/Sub: Low-end speakers are designed for one thing only: bass! They’re the largest speakers physically and will sit at the bottom of a speaker system.
Of course, not every speaker system has all 3 of these speaker types and they’re not always necessary. Modern speakers are pretty good at achieving ‘full-range’ with just two speakers or even one speaker.
Monitor speakers mean one of two things:
Speakers behind DJ decks that enable you to ‘monitor’ (and check) the sound
A type of studio speaker that allows you to ‘monitor’ and check your audio, e.g. when you’re producing a track and want to accurately hear what’s going on
Monitor speakers aren’t a ‘type’ of speakers at all, then, ‘monitor’ simply describes what you’re doing with the speaker.
PreSonus Eris Range
The PreSonus Eris range offers 3 exceptionally good models of studio monitor that are perfect for a multitude of DJ uses. They’re also great speakers for general use around the house whether you’re hooking them up to a HiFI, TV or other media devices. Compact, efficient, punchy and powerful enough to give some good juice to your favorite tunes, the Eris range are awesome for DJs at any level.
All of the PreSonus Eris range share the same base technology. They all have thick woven woofers which are designed to absorb reflections and prevent interference. The high-end tweeters are accurate and loud enough to cut through and give life to hi-hats and percussion.
The PreSonus Eris E3.5s features a 3.5-inch woofer which isn’t huge but will still pack a good punch. The size of these speakers means they’re very portable without being too weighty, you can quite easily sling them into a bag and take them out with you to small parties. The 3.5” speaker won’t provide a huge amount of bass but these speakers still have a degree of low-end.
The PreSonus Eris E4.5s features a 4.5-inch woofer that gives it extra bass, volume and depth. It isn’t a huge difference but still, it’s enough of a jump to make these speakers a fair bit larger and heavier.
Both the PreSonus Eris E3.5 and E4.5 have rear ¼-inch TRS and RCA inputs and front-panel 1/8” stereo input and aux-in which makes it extremely easy to plug these speakers into portable audio devices, e.g. a phone. The volume control is also mounted on the front which is very convenient. They also each have two tone controls for altering the high end and bass of each speaker.
These are slightly pricier and feature 5-inch woofers that provide even greater volumes and added bass. They’re a little older than the E3.5s and E4.5s but they’ve long been considered the key rival to the KRK Rokit studio monitor and they’re exceptionally good quality. The back panels are switchable between 3 modes suited to different studio layouts and have RCA, TRS and XLR inputs for connection to pretty much any source.
The KRK Rokit range are world-famous and rate as some of the best monitor speakers ever produced. The range has been further modernized with the groundbreaking G4 range which comes in sizes from 5” to 10”.
The Classic 5 is the KRK Rokit that started it all off. It is what it says on the tin, a basic 5-inch monitor speaker with very similar connectivity and features as the Eris E5. The KRK Rokit Classic 5 was always famed for its super-punchy bass, it really gives kick drums and bass lines some serious attitude. The clarity is superb and overall, the KRK Rokit deserves its status as one of the best speakers for DJs and producers.
- Built-in limiter makes it extremely hard to break these speakers at high volumes
- XLR, TRS and RCA inputs for connection to virtually all audio devices and DJ mixers
- Punchy trademark tone great for electronic music
The G4 range is KRK’s newest innovation. They’re packed with all the same tried-and-tested successes of the Classic 5 with some awesome improvements. Best of all, these speakers feature an LCD rear display that lets users customize the EQ of the speaker across 25 bands. This allows for unprecedented tuning to any audio environment. This digital speaker control can also be controlled with a phone app which is very cool and incredibly useful for altering the speaker’s tone depending on the room you’re in.
- Excellent KRK Rokit engineering
- DSP system with a highly customisable EQ
- Controllable via a mobile app
- Superb punchy full-range tone
The 2nd type of DJ speakers we’ll be overviewing are PA speakers. PA speakers are larger powered speakers generally designed for performances and live events. PA speakers are more expensive than smaller studio monitors but they work in largely the same way.
QSC K Range
The QSC K range comes in sizes ranging from the more compact K8.2 with an 8-inch driver to the much larger K12.2 with a 12-inch driver. The K10.2 falls between the two. They all rate at 1000w RMS but the larger drivers still produce greater volumes and more bass for the same wattage.
Each speaker also has a 1.75” compression driver for the higher frequencies. These speakers are probably the best in their class as two-way PA speakers. They’re loud, rich, deep and punchy, perfect all-rounders for all music.
These speakers are also known for their superb durability. Tough ABS plastic is both strong and light, the K10.1 weighs in at 14kg which is quite light for a larger PA speaker.
- Built-in limiters make it very hard to overload the speakers and break them
- EQ settings allow you to tune the highs and lows
- A ‘DEEP’ setting allows you to artificially boost bass levels using an intelligent algorithm, perfect for electronic music
- Feature two XLR and two TRS jack inputs
Mackie Thump Range
The Mackie Thump range includes both the 12a with a 12” driver and the 15a with a 15” driver. They’re both spectacularly powerful and engineered for bass-driven modern music. Thick and thumpy, these speakers have built a big reputation in the DJ world. Both Mackie Thump speakers have 1.45” titanium compression drivers to deal with high end and the woofers are tuned with dynamic bass technology to make them as subby as possible.
- 3-band EQs
- XLR and TRS inputs
- Light-weight at around 13kg
- Excellent tone for electronic music.
Portable Full-Range Speakers
Lastly, we have portable full-range speakers which are designed to be transported. They’re ideal for many types of users including DJs who are looking for all-in-one solutions for partying and practice.
This Sony speaker is super portable but very powerful and it packs some superb extra features. Also, it’s battery-powered and can run for a mighty 14 hours!
This makes it an excellent speaker for outdoor gatherings or parties and events which are lacking power outlets. This speaker works with the Sony Music Centre app which allows you to customize the EQ as well as trigger one of many built-in light shows which sync with the music.
- 14 to 16 hours of playback time including 3.5 hours at max volume
- Extra bass feature juices up basslines and kick drums
- 3 tweeters and 2 woofers for full-range power
- Can be chained to other speakers via Bluetooth
- Perfect for travelling DJs, small events and house parties
Another portable speaker, this awesomely powerful Bluetooth 2-way speaker is IPX7 waterproof and dustproof. This means it can actually be totally submerged in water repeatedly without coming under risk! It’s the perfect speaker for pool parties or gatherings in rainy outdoor situations, camping, etc. It can also be linked to other JBL speakers via Bluetooth and runs for up to 15-hours on a single charge.
- Waterproof and dustproof
- Powerful 2-way speaker system
- 15 hours of battery life
- Excellent for DJs on the move or DJs who perform outside
Plenty of awesome speakers on show here from 3 distinct categories.
- Studio monitor speakers
The Eris and Rokit ranges go head to head and it’s very hard to pick a winner. Both pack excellent audio quality, connectivity and features and available in many sizes, there’s something to suit any DJ at any level.
- PA speakers
PA speakers are bigger, louder and better suited to events use. Two decent PA speakers will easily cater to events numbering 100 to 300 people or more. Both the QSC K range and Mackie Thump range provide great value powerful speakers which are perfect for DJs looking to add a substantial speaker system to their arsenal.
- Portable Speakers
Portable Bluetooth-style speakers are easily connected to decks and allow DJs to spin in any location without numerous power outlets. They’re tough and superbly well built, perfect for parties and impromptu outdoor gatherings.
Whichever you choose, you’ll be happy! Professional studio monitors suit DJ practice and other general studio use including music production. PA speakers suit events and parties, they’re the go-to for DJs looking to up their mobile events game. Portable speakers bridge a gap, they’re durable and flexible with surprising volume and audio quality.