USB Hub Essentials For DJs and Performers: Powered or Unpowered?

Many people are now carrying a wide range of gear with them on the road or in the studio, and this brings up the common question: what is the right way to set it up? All of your devices including controllers, sound cards, and DJ consoles have different power demands so it’s critical to know the right and wrong way to use USB hubs when connecting them all to the computer.

Understanding USB Ports And Controllers

Before looking at USB hubs, there are some important things to know about USB ports. USB 2.0 ports are capable of outputting 450 – 500mA (Milliamps) for peripherals such as external hard drives, sound cards, and DJ controllers. 450 – 500mA is enough to power most controllers, including large one’s such as the Kontrol S4 (with compromises to the sound levels and LED brightness).

For really large controllers such as the Traktor Kontrol S8 and Pioneer DDJ SX2, they require their own power supply. Here is a general rule of thumb on power requirements.

  • Small DJ controllers (Kontrol X1, Midi Fighter Twister): around 100mA
  • Large all in one controllers with built in soundcards (Kontrol S2/S4): 450 – 500mA
  • Small Soundcards (Audio 4 DJ): 200mA
  • Large Soundcards (Audio 10): 500mA and more

Knowing how much power your controller draws will come in handy when it comes time to choose either a powered or unpowered USB hub.

Why Do You Need A USB Hub?

If your computer only has 2 USB ports, this setup isn’t possible.

Most computers have 2 or 3 USB ports. This is fine for DJs that are running an all in one controller with a built in soundcard. But for DJs that have a modular setup: external soundcard, multiple controllers, or 4 CDJs it’s easy to run out of ports.

Enter the USB hub. A USB hub will expand the number of available USB ports allowing more devices. The problem is that all the devices are now sharing one source of power. For example, you could use a common un-powered USB hub with 4 ports. This enables you to plug in 4 devices into a single port, but the power available is still a low 450 ma. Here is one example of four units connected to one port that would cause a problem.

  1. X1 (150 mA)
  2. X1 (150 mA)
  3. Midi Fighter (100 mA)
  4. Audio 4 (200 mA)

The power demands would well exceed the available 450 total mili amps so everything will shut down or at least act very erratic. If you need more than a single port can provide then you need the 2nd type of USB hub.

USB hubs are available in 2 varieties: unpowered and powered.

Unpowered USB Hub

Unpowered USB hubs are bus powered. This means that it doesn’t include it’s own power supply, and it’s powered solely by the USB port on the computer. These are great for expanding the number of available ports and makes for an easier setup since they don’t require a power supply. With an unpowered hub, the power from the port (500mA) is divided amongst the ports.

For simplicity sake lets assume you have a 4 port hub. This means there is 125mA (500mA / 4ports) available to each port. For DJ’s with lots of small controllers these are great. One thing to watch out for is using large controllers on an unpowered hub. If the controllers are drawing too much power it can result in response issues on the controllers and error messages on your computer.

This image may appear on your Mac if an unpowered USB hub is drawing too much power. Might be time to check out a powered USB hub.

DJTT Unpowered Hub Recommendations

Ports:  4
Type: USB 2.0
Price: $7.99

Ports:  4
Type: USB 2.0
Price: $15.50

Powered USB Hub

Powered USB hubs ships with their own power supply. When the power supply is connected, each port on the hub is capable of outputting the full 500mA on each port, rather then dividing 500mA amongst the ports. This is great if you’re using a large controller or a controller that has lots of LED’s such as Ableton Push.

So in theory you could run 4 Kontrol S4s on a powered hub and not run into any power issues (but bandwidth could cause issues). Most powered hubs will run without the power supply connected, but the 500mA will be split amongst the 4 ports.

DJTT Powered Hub Recommendations

Name: D-Link DUB-H7
Ports:  7
Type: USB 2.0
Price: $29.49

Ports:  7
Type: USB 2.0
Price: $19.39

Ports:  7
Type: USB 3.0
Price: $44.99
Further Reading: USB Hubs for Studio and Mobile DJs

A Special Note On Soundcards

Soundcards use a lot of bandwidth. Always connect them directly to the computer for the best performance.
Even though most sound cards can be powered on a USB hub, it’s not wise to do so. The reason is sound cards use a lot more data and bandwidth than a midi controller. Connecting a soundcard to a USB hub could result in increased latency and even audio dropouts since it’s competing with other devices on the USB hub.

For this reason it’s always best to connect a soundcard or controllers with built in sound cards (Kontrol S2/S4) to a USB port on the computer. Then connect the USB hub to the other open port. You could always get a sound card with a USB hub built in, like the Novation Audiohub.

There are an insane amount of USB hubs out in the market, both powered and unpowered. It’s impossible to to try them all, so the best thing to do is check out review’s before you buy. We’ve put together a few recommendations.

What USB hubs do you rely on? Powered or unpowered? 

Let us know in the comments below!

Dj Tipsean goldenMidi ControllersNovation Audiohubpowered usb hubssoundcardsunpowered usb hubsUSB hubs
Comments (86)
Add Comment
  • Gianni Di Bernardo (Joshua)

    or the x1 and f1 controller on a usb port that hubs use? while on the other computer port, use an audio box a6

  • Scott Frost

    I still think djtt should make one.

  • Carl Lavender

    I have a MacBook Pro, connected to two xdj1000’s. I’m looking to add in an X1, how do you recommend me going about this?

  • Dilan Ortega

    Please help me my Dj setup is just an iPad Mini 2 and a DDJ-SB with Dj Player App, it needs a Hub USB cause “it drains too much power” it has many LEDs so I bought a Hub USB 2.0 I think it’s powered but it didn’t work then I bought a Targus USB Hub 3.0 Sync Powered mod.ACH124US But also didn’t work!

  • Duncan Meulema

    Nice video, 2 Questions :
    1. If i connect 3 CDJS’s through HID mode but also want to connect either a X1 or K2 controller, can this be done with one USB hub? I do it now with a powered USB hub but would much rather use a unpowered one. Any set up possible with only 2 usb ports?

    2. The Elektron Overhub has 7 ports, is unpowered, has MTT (Multi Transaction Translators) on every port, could this guy handle it? And are there cheaper alternatives.

    Hope someone can help 🙂

  • Cheng Sammy


    Adapts to U-Disk/ Reader/Small Disk etc for mass product /test and full-load continue test;

    This USB-HUB adapts to U-Disk/ Reader/Small Disk etc for mass product /test and full-load continue test. It’s perfect product for USB.

  • Usb Soundcard For Djing | Computer DJ Equipment

    […] USB Hub Essentials For DJs and … – Powered USB Hub. Powered USB hubs ships with their own power supply. When the power supply is connected, each port on the hub is capable of outputting the … […]

  • Indranil Dey

    My controller has same power problem …
    Not working with USB HUB (powered) ..
    plz help me

    • Michael K

      Actually it happens with both firmware just confirmed.

  • Dj Monk

    positive 2015 everyone, can dj techtools please do a video on this usb powered/or not topic.
    what type of faders r in d traktor kontrol s8? n.i. does not say.
    dj techtools can u do a video with a scratch dj using d traktor s8 with turntables. the software that comes with d s8, is it scratch dj friendly? highlight this in d video please.
    or do u have to buy d traktor scratch a10 software instead?

  • Fernando Recalt

    That Hub Powered D Link DUB H7 burn my Maschine mk II , so be ware 🙁

    • Michael K

      It burnt your Maschine ? how so explain it seems very strange ….

    • Quenepas

      Adding more details to this would help many. There can be like a billion other variables…

  • vibot

    Anyone experience with belkin thunderbolt dock? Should have enough power and bandwidth right?

  • ilias

    the multi hub with power helps a lot i think because it is more safier to perfome live!

  • Reif

    Brought a thinkpad X1 carbon instead of a MacBook this time around (needed built in 4g, & has the bonus of being as powerful as a MBP but in a air’s size body). However the best feature for DJ’ing with my serato setup is the onelink dock (optional extra to the laptop). It’s been amazing. 4x extra USB ports all powered all connected separately as if they are hard wired to the motherboard. My power brick connects directly to the onelink dock, all the usb devices go into it, the only 1x cable to the laptop giving full power and extra ports. It’s alot more neat cable wise, uses 1x less ac plug than a powered usb hub, never had a dropout with multiple midi controllers and USB hard drives, dicers & etc

  • Friday Roundup: Is Underground Dance The New Mainstream?

    […] Everything You Need To Know About USB Hubs – We've all had hub trouble at one point in the past. DJ Techtools explains the difference between a powered and an unpowered USB hub, and when you should choose one over the other Read more […]

  • technicaltitch

    Powered Inateck Mini Portable USB 3.0 4-Port Hub successfully connects my Audio 8 and Denon MC3000 (and a mouse) to Traktor Scratch running two deck DVS for scratching on my 2014 Mac laptop I’d emphasise in the article the advantages of getting a USB3 hub a little more strongly myself – surely at least as important as connecting your soundcard direct to a laptop socket. Interesting to see P Boer’s MTT (Multi Transaction Translators) comment.

  • zuicune

    What do you recommend for my dj mouse?

  • Athinira

    Another great USB-hubmaker that got missed here IMO is Anker.

    One of the great things about their hubs is that you get a reliable power supply. I’ve seen plenty of USB-hubs who are powered, but the power supply is too low to power all the ports if you’re running a big setup, so they cancel out. My 9 port USB 3.0 hub (+1 charger port) from Anker comes with a powerful 60 watt (12 volts 5 amps) power adapter. Since the maximum draw on the hub is 51½ watts, it will always be enough.

    Know a lot of DJ’s that use Anker hubs, even here in Denmark where you can’t order them (you have to use ShopUSA or a similar service). They’re great and reliable.

  • P Boer

    You missed a very important facet of USB hubs: Multi Transaction Translators. If a USB hub has MTT, each port has it’s own transaction translator and won’t be slowed by mixing USB versions. That is, if a USB 1.1 device and USB 2.0 device are on the same hub, the MTT hub will perform better.,677-3.html and I don’t think any of the hubs you recommend have MTT, and, as a result, I wouldn’t recommend them. They might be ok, but if you put a keyboard in there, or an old memory stick, you could have problems.

    • Quenepas

      Relevant for people with really old controllers… like 10+ years old?

      • Thomas Frössman

        Most USB midi devices are USB 1.1 since 12mbps is plenty enough to support midi streams.

  • Dough boy

    Does a Maschine MK2 classify as a smaller controller ?

    • Quenepas

      Yes. Even with dual MONOCHROMATIC screens it is just a few led’s so the mA use should be very low. On the other hand, Maschine Studio uses a power supply probably due to the two extra-large, high-resolution color (480 x 272 pixel) displays which are pretty much what those old Garmin/TomTom GPS use.

  • Patrick Ijsselstein

    play more bongo…

  • VJ James T

    What about external hard drives are they ok in a non powered or powered hub. I’m asking as I usually keep my mp4’s on an external

  • gammagoblin

    What i really can recomend: ExSys USB Hubs

    Made with a metal housing,that has ears to screw it to something (e.g. a case) and provides up to 900mA on every output. Up to 5Gbps and a 350W surge protector on every port.
    I am using the EX-1188HMS now for several years and won’t buy any other hub anymore. They are Bombproof not like that plastic homeoffice toys.

    Its a swiss manufacture that also distributes in Germany, so it’s more
    interessting for people Living in the EU. For people overseas it would
    cost a lot to ship and they would have to buy another power suply (110V).

  • ChriZ

    I use the mentioned D-Link active hub on the road as a mobile DJ, works like a charm

  • Needlenose

    What’s my best solution if I’m using limited USB ports with multiple sound cards? For example: I’m using an S2 MK2 and an MAudio Fast Track Pro, with a couple of other USB devices, including an external HDD, and an Akai LPD. Which should utilize the hub and which should be used on the two on-board USB ports?

    • Quenepas

      Are you using both s2 and Maudio soundcards at the same time?

  • Francisco Moreano

    If you use an external soundcard with integrated USB hub (Arturia Audiofuse, Novation Audiohub, Akai EIE, M-Audio M-Track Quad, Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z2, or cheap all in one DJ mixers like the DJ-Tech X10) it will be like you connect the external soundcard to a USB hub. It will not degrade communication speed per se, it will depend on how many devices you connect to the hub and how bandwidth hungry they are.

  • djsicknarf

    what about the amazon powered usb?

  • Scott Frost

    I still think you guys should make one – it’s one accessory that no DJ company has gotten into.

    • CUSP

      Maybe DJTT should partner with a sound card company and make a MIDI fighter mixer… With a powered USB hub?

    • Paul Muller

      Crane do make a 4-port unpowered one that clips onto the bottom of the Crane stand and works great, highly recommended.

  • DJ Peeti-V

    Can a powered usb hub increase the usb bandwidth if only one device is connected to it?

    • Comme Erçial


      • DJ Peeti-V

        Ok. Sometimes when using my Vestax VCI 380 or Akai AMX, I get a pop in the sound and then all sound cuts off but the song is still playing in serato and is showing on the led meters. I am just trying to isolate what could be causing the problem.

        • CUSP

          When you unplug the USB cable and plug it back in does the sound come back?

          • DJ Peeti-V


          • CUSP

            Sounds like the audio card is dipping below the minimum power limit. Is it plugged into a powered hub?

          • DJ Peeti-V

            No directly into my 2012 MBP

          • CUSP

            Check your drivers, and cables, make sure you don’t have any loose connectors. I’ve also had this happen to me when the computer went into sleep mode.

          • DJ Peeti-V

            Thank you. It has been a headache and really weird how it only happens with serato dj and not scratch live or itch

          • CUSP

            When I “spin”, I only have the programs I use open, I even turn off wifi because it’s a system resource that *could* (talking VooDoo magic here) cause problems. Have you checked the forums on your controller manufacturer’s website?

          • DJ Peeti-V

            Yeah same here with no wifi and no other programs running. I think I have sleep mode enabled after 3 hours. I have also posted on the serato forums but can’t isolate what is going on yet. I will probably try akai next

          • CUSP

            Oh, I’ve got one more piece of voodoo for you, try the other USB port on your Mac… sometimes this helps.

  • jimmyv

    I have the newest MBP retina, and I bought a 3.0 powered USB hub recently… It works like a champ. I have my Kontrol S4 and F1 plugged into it. I don’t use the S4’s sound card… I use a MOTU sound card plugged in to my Thunderbolt port. I can even charge my phone and iPad on it. The only issue I have is, it does not recognize my external hard drive (WD Passport Mac).

  • Oddie O'Phyle

    To all of those that are asking about their audio interface/digital controller with integrated soundcard, best practice is to have it plugged as close to the bus lines on your motherboard as possible.
    With USB 2.0 the bus line from your motherboard is 480 Mb/sec. shared between the amount of ports from that trace. Eg. 2 bus lines from your motherboard means that you have 2 ports at 480Mb/sec. Where as if you have 1 bus from the mobo. and 2 ports from it, the 2 ports run at 240Mb/sec. per port. A 4 port hub on one of these would divide the speed on that port again by 4 again.
    If you have to run a hub, use it for controllers that are MIDI only as MIDI information is not as rich as audio.
    USB 3.0 is another story all together as the bus speed is just over 3Gb/sec.

  • Bart

    That’s the reason why I chose A&H db4 + 2x K2 … 1 USB connection and the K2s are powered with the UTP kabels from the mixer.
    USB to DMX on the 2nd USB connector.
    Easy peasy …

  • abits

    I work in the retail industry and part of my job is to certify new hardware that comes in as the world moves to everything being USB more and more devices such as scanners payment pinpad customer displays etc even some displays are becoming USB
    not to mention the 12v USB devices we get

    when we pick new hardware tons of vendors send us all there new gear to evaluate we have tried so many USB ports of the years and found even powered hubs dont always supply a true 5v to each port

    the only one that does the trick is this one

    will be cheaper else where in the world, I’m now using one of these in my rig running Maschine, UC33e, Push, Launchpad, and a S4 and external HDD all of the same HUB no drop outs

  • CUSP

    I got the D-Link hub featured in this article about 2 months ago, and it does the job for me. I have a Novation Twitch, Maschine Mikro mk2, a Novation Remote 25SL mk2, and a USB 2 external hard drive. I only have to turn off the keyboard to get enough power for the USB hard drive, but that’s it, everything works fine the rest of the time.

  • James P

    Does it matter whether you use powered vs. unpowered if all you care about is the capability of sending data (audio and MIDI) and not actually powering the device with the hub? For example, what if you use an unpowered USB hub for an S4 but also use the S4 power supply? Is that fine?

    • Oddie O'Phyle

      USB 2.0 is 480 mb/sec shared between the amounts of port available. The S4 has an internal soundcard. You’ll want a direct line to your computer with your audio. try to split a usb port with units that just deal with MIDI, they send less information.

      • James P.

        Thanks for the response. I will definitely keep this in mind.

    • CUSP


  • Gio Alex (Tekit Izi)

    I feel like like all digital mixers these days should have at least one port that serves as a USB hub, similar to what the Z2 did. Should be standard.

  • Patrick Church

    This is an awesome article. My goal was to figure out what to do for a USB hub today, and voila. Thanks Ean

  • Robert Wulfman

    how do you find out how many amps your device uses?

    • deejae snafu

      its usually listed on a little tag somewhere on the back or bottom of the device, often where you plug in the power supply.

    • CUSP

      If you use a Mac, go into about this Mac, and check your usb settings. Anything plugged in will tell you.

  • deejae snafu

    so on mbp retina which have just 2 usb ports.. would u suggest using one as dedicated to the soundcard, and then using a powered usb hub for my external SSD, super drive, and (currently) 4 usb midi controllers ranging from MF to Kontrol 49 in power size?

    currently ive been breaking them up to usb 2 and 3 respectively..

    • CUSP

      USB 3 will handle backward compatibility with USB 2. Bottle necking can be a problem if you choke a USB 3 device on USB 2 (with that many devices used at once.

      • deejae snafu

        So dedicate a port to the sound card , or keep doing it the way I am :p

        • CUSP

          You can go either way (as long as you have a USB 3 powered hub). If you don’t have a USB 3 hub (like me because I have a slightly older Mac), just dedicate one port to the (controller with a) sound card. This isn’t normally a big deal, it just becomes a problem when you start running a lot of signals down the USB path and taxing your system.

        • CUSP

          I’malwsys going to suggest the sound card being in it’s own slot, but that’s a “best practices” suggestion. I know controllers with usb powered everything can be plugged in to a powered hub with little consequence, and you might need to do this if you have overly picky USB devices (like hard drives), that need a dedicated port.

  • Rob Ticho,Club mU

    Yes, I’ve been waiting for an article on this! Nice work.

  • Quinn Pulser

    I use powered usb hub with 7 ports that can be disabled individually, so only the devices i want to use are enabled. I have many devices that i need to hook up to my computer (2x xone k2, launchpad s, uc 33, midi keyboard, kp3, my mouse, my soundcard, etc.) so an unpowered hub would couse trouble. I also made the experience, that when i have a lot of controller led flashing going on, the leds are going to lose their brightness.

    • Rob Ticho,Club mU

      Do you ever have audio bandwidth issues with your soundcard on the shared hub?

  • Diego García

    My two cents, IMHO you missed one of the most reliable brands making USB hubs,

    They build their products around a good, well known, USB chip, support charging devices (up to 1.5A) and can be used powered or unpowered.

    Personally I use this model on a Macbook since long time (there’s also USB 3.0 models), powering a Kontrol S2MK2, Two Kontrol X1 and Launchad S (or Maschine). No problems so far, very good transfer speeds.

    I had another one which also powers and acts as hub simultaneously with. a Raspberry Pi.

    Highly recommended! 😉

    • Paul Muller

      awesome! also great if like me you like to integrate into your road-coffins