DJ Equipment: 5 Creative Tools To Mix Up Your DJ Set

“Anyone can DJ.” Ever heard the saying before? Today’s DJ equipment makes it easier then ever to get started. While technology and media may be making DJ’ing more accessible to the wider community, DJ’s who play unique sets and have different playing styles are progressively becoming the minority. They’re drowned out by the noise of Top 40 DJ’s who simply just fade one track into the next. You can show up to the club with a USB in hand and rock it, but then again, there are thousands of people who could do the exact same thing. But DJ equipment and technology has so much to offer, that in actual fact, it can help us put a unique edge on our sets. Here are 5 tools that , when combined with talent, could help you achieve that.

We have looked at 5 tools that can help mix up your set:

  • Apple iPad – (9.7″ multi touch tablet, tons of apps)  – $499
  • Native Instruments Maschine – (Groove production system, MIDI mappable)  – $599 in the DJTT Store
  • Pioneer RMX-1000 – (Remix Station/Effects unit) – $799 in the DJTT Store
  • DJTT Midi Fighter 3D – (Responsive arcade buttons, motion sensor built in) – $219 in the DJTT Store
  • Live Instruments – Guitar, brass, live drums, or a cowbell. Experiment!

1. Apple iPad

The iPad is a tablet, with a large range of applications catering for many different needs, including DJ’ing. Many DJ’s, like James Zabiela, have picked up on this device’s capabilities and have begun to use it in their own sets, whether as a sampler, a controller or an FX processor.

Some notable apps are: Lemur, Traktor DJ, iMaschine, WOW2, iKaossilator (anything by Korg), and touchable 2 (check out our review). To use it for music, you may have to purchase some external equipment such as the iPad Camera Connection Kit or an iRig. However, it can be used wirelessly as a controller, using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The new iPad Air 2 (from $499 USD)  and iPad Mini 3 (from $399 USD) are reasonably priced, but some applications will cost money on top of that, usually up to $30.

2. Native Instruments Maschine

Native Instruments Maschine has become a standard for performance of electronic and hip-hop music, allowing the user to trigger samples on a 4×4 grid of pads. Coming bundled with it’s own software, its feature packed and has heaps of content and capabilities to get you started. It’s also compatible with Native Instruments own plugins like Massive, meaning you can even play synths live.

Bass Kleph is an example of someone who is using this device in his DJ sets to play parts of songs live, by chopping up songs into different samples and jamming out. If you need inspiration, see how he slices his samples. It can seem daunting at first, but as they say, practice makes perfect. Maschine does have quite a price point, the MK2 costing usually around $600-$700, but on eBay you can find it for as low $300-$400. The Maschine MK2 ($599) is also available in the DJTT store.

3. Pioneer RMX-1000

Released back into 2012, this incredible piece of gear gave DJ’s whole new possibilities for FX and live remixing tracks. Its main features are: isolator effects on three different bands, low, mid and high, as well as beat rolls, sample triggering and a vinyl braking/back spining switch. Simply by plugging your mixer’s output into this piece of gear, you can get some crazy sounds and effects out of it.

Many artists are now curating it, such as James Zabiela, Laidback Luke & Chuckie. More clubs are also starting to introduce this piece of gear, but it’s still not permanent at some venues. For an in depth look at the RMX-1000, check out Ean’s review. The Pioneer RMX 1000 is available in the DJTT store for $799.

4. Midi Fighter 3D

This little controller was born here at DJ Techtools, with the aim of making DJ’ing more expressive, enjoyable and interesting. It is now well-respected and used around the world by artists like Shawn Wasabi, even Linkin Park’s Mr. Hahn. It features a 4×4 grid of Sanwa arcade buttons, which are tactile and super responsive. One of the least ubiquitous features, is the use of motion-tracking to add motion-controlled MIDI commands, which can be used for FX Sweeps, filters or anything!

The buttons can be customised with an on and off color setting and it can be used with Traktor, Ableton, Serato or any software. You can also quickly change how the Midi Fighter works by downloading a new MIDI mapping from DJTT Maps.

It is very affordable, compact and durable, making this controller very ideal, and it is available on the DJTT Store ($219) to purchase.

5. Live Instruments

This last ‘tool’ strays from technology and goes back to the roots: live instrumentation. Some of the most standout DJ acts like Goldfish, GRiZ and Gramatik all incorporate live instruments into their sets, and this gets people excited. Whether it be electric guitar, saxaphone, piano, anything, adding an instrument to a DJ set gives it a fresh edge, makes it a memorable set and creates a name for yourself as a performer. If you ever played one or still do, why not whip it back out and jam with it over some beats? If you have never played an instrument, it can be quite a valuable skill to pick up.

Hopefully these tools give you some ideas as to how you can put a creative and fresh edge on your set.

Next Steps

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Comments (23)
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  • Aaron Slatton

    I like the idea of using live instruments when playing shows. How many DJ’s do you think actually do that? I would definitely like to see one of those shows.

    I also am trying to keep up to date on this information. I have my own blog over at if anybody has some suggestions. I am a big fan of DJ tech tools, and hope to be able to help as many people as you guys do. Great work!

  • Mechanical Vein

    I’m working on a new live setup where I have synth lines chopped up into individual note samples, and I’m triggering them off e-drum pads. It’s working great so far! This pic is from a Mechanical Vein show back in December, but I was only using them to play taiko drum samples then.

  • Ryan Moyer

    yes please bring back the midi fighter 3d ,or a new model of it would be amazing

  • Dj Weatherman

    Does anybody use the ableton push controller with their existing dj setups? like with technics or some cd-js?

  • SINLess

    I use Roland’s MC909 in my sets. It was designed for the DJ/Producer but was ahead of it’s time in my opinion. It adds seasoning to my mixes and gives me live playing freedom outside of a computer. I am going to add an Akai mpk249 to my setup and then I’ll be complete but solo this thing can handle it’s own! It’s also a beast in the studio and can easily be the center of a hardware based studio. Just looking at it can be overwhelming but when you dig in trust me…you will be impressed. Check out this well written review written in 2003…yes over a decade ago! lol!

  • DJ PJ

    Mixing the set up below with piano works like a charm.. For home recording that is..
    Midi fighter would nicely there????

  • Mechanical Vein

    For my electronic act Mechanical Vein, we just upgraded the core of our setup to a Kontrol S4 + Midi Fighter 3d. The main parts of our songs are chopped up into samples triggered on remix decks via the MF3d. Lovin’ it.

    I also just added some Roland PD-9 drum pads to the setup, mainly so I can play some deep ‘n’ hard taiko drum samples live. Def helps to make the show more dramatic. I might also load up the sampler with some synth samples from our tracks, to play more than supplemental percussion on the pads.

    We have lots of live vocals too, and I’m running a TC Helicon VoiceTone Synth for vocoder FX + distortion, and a VoiceLive 2 for processing on the cleaner stuff.

    Oh, and the LED mic stand is important as well.

  • Moises Hernandez

    I would like to see the original Midi Fighter back on the store. The new ones are nice and everything but what about the people that don’t want or need everything that’s on the 3d? Or that just plain want a classic? I personally would like a Midi Fighter classic for drums and loops. Seems like they just abandoned all the other Midi Fighter models.

    I don’t know… just saying these still look really good and I’d definitely would love to have one or two.

    • EFS

      Totally agree! Especially now that apparently the Spectra has been discontinued…

      Would be amazing to see a 4×4 grid like on the MF3D , but a separate 4-channel loop controller section with 1×4 arcade buttons (to trigger/hot cue) layered over with 3 twister knobs (for L/M/H) and faders (for volume )

      • Zaxxar

        Yeah bro I agree with both of you. As tantalizing as the Midi Fighter 3D is, they would probably be making a good call of at least putting it’s predecessors back on the line. DJTT’s next project could be a culmination of all the best features of all the Midi Fighter series. They could call it like “Midi Fighter: Ultimate” or “Midi Fighter: Turbo” or something like that. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

        • Moises Hernandez

          See, you guys get it. I knew I wasn’t the only one. I think they should have a contest maybe get some new designs inn and see what the community wants. I say expand the design explore the possibilities.

    • muska

      Dj mosdm i have midi fighter pro only used it once you can buy it if u like

      • muska

        There it is

        • dj Mos dm

          do you still have it? and are you still willing to sale it? if so whats your price?

      • Nicola Bianchi

        I’m intereste, could you please contact me?

  • Dean Zulueta

    Using the iPad with TouchOSC has always been my favorite. Whether I make it an effects unit or use it as a back up controller, I am always finding myself using it in my sets.

    Traktor DJ is pretty cool as well although I haven’t been able to fit it into my workflow yet.

  • Prof_Strangeman

    I cannot speak enough good for the RMX-1000! I run it on my master chain with Traktor and it. is. incredible.

    • freak

      but how do you get the accurate BPM information?

      • Prof_Strangeman

        All under the hood! It nails it every time. Once ina blue moon it’ll struggle with 100-110 BPM but its only songs with daft percussion bits.

  • Micha

    Pretty confusion price indications. Only the iPad and live instruments (hardly) don’t need any hardware to function. The other options all need other hardware that are relatively pricey!

    • Meta

      It’s actually the opposite. The RMX-1000 can be utilized as simply as a intermediary device between whatever output is going to front of house and front of house, or as complex as a send and return or multiple units on each channel. The Maschine and 3D are as simple as plug n play (with learning curve of software of course) but do not need any additional hardware to operate.

      On the other hand, from personal experience I have found that the best utilization of an iPad (in regards to midi latency and audio routing options) would require the additional purchase of an interface (such as and of course with live instrumentation there is a whole load of additional equipment needed such as mics, additional mixers, additional midi controllers, interfaces, power conditioners. The list goes on (again all learned through personal experience). The 3D, Maschine and RMX are actually relatively simple and cost affective considering their capabilities.