Introduction: Semi Automated DJ Station
The goal of this instructable is to show you how to setup a fully functional DJ booth sans turntables instead of paying for a possibly unreliable DJ. You will most likely save some money and can score a new set of speakers. This instructable works well with weddings and I know this because it worked for me. So parts of this instructable are geared towards weddings but can work with parties also.
Anyone who has had to hire a DJ before knows that they can be very expensive. I was married about a year ago and I realized that the cost of a DJ for us was about the same price as buying and owning a really good near 5.1 set of new speakers(sub woofer included). I have heard too many horror stories about DJ's walking away from a wedding because they were annoyed, drunk, otherworldly inebriated by substance X, etc. I knew there was a better system and I wanted a sweet new set of speakers for my Playstation 3.
After annoying my then soon to be wife to the point of her near domestically abusing me, she decided to let me rig up the DJ booth myself instead of hiring someone. Conditions were provided that I would be gruesomely murdered if it failed.
Keep in mind that we already owned a basic computer, monitor and stereo receiver. Many people will already have these so they are not figured into the price.
Don't mention that the speakers are secretly for use with video games and keep a straight face.
Step 1: Determine What You Need
Do a little research and find a brand you like. Polk speakers worked great for us and they were phasing out older models so the price was awesome. For your own benefit shop around first.
Here is the list:
Subwoofer-Amazon had good deals on these. I went for the big guns with PolkPSW505. The elderly had to constantly adjust their hearing aids. You could probably get something less powerful. Amazon link. $100-250 dollars. You may also need a sub woofer cable.
Center Speaker- CS1 or CS2 model Amazon $80-150 dollars
Two Front speakers- Monitor 50 or R50-Amazon $100-140 dollars multiply by 2
Speaker wire- Acquire from hardware store and get heavy gauge. Around $20.
Surge protector- Possibly the most important purchase. $10.
Toslink Optical cables- If your computer and receiver supports this, they are really good to use. They look like this.
Microphone- You may want to ask to borrow a speaker and mic system from a church, old folks home, elks club, etc. It might be wise to keep this system separate from the sound system. The reason for this is if you hook a mic into the receiver it could require a channel/input to be changed and could cut out music but maybe not. A good karaoke machine may suffice also.
Things that most people will already own:
Computer with monitor, keyboard, mouse and cables or laptop. I would recommend having a backup laptop just in case if this is used for a wedding or important event.
Stereo receiver- This is the hub where music comes in from the computer and goes out to the speakers. If you don't have one shop around. They look like this. Good brands are Onyko, Sony, Harmon Kardon and many more. Also, make sure to get 5.1 or 7.1 so it has enough speaker out connections.
Good websites to find deals or equipment:
Craigslist if you can deal with used stuff
Newegg sometimes has free shipping
Tech Digger has random stuff but killer prices
Lifehacker and Gizmodo deals of the day has stuff you may need sometimes.
Order what you need and maybe play some Team Fortress 2 while you wait. You could also start getting music together and make play lists on your computer.
Check out Tunespro.com......Trust me on this one. Don't use itunes unless you're rich.
Step 2: Everything Arrived
If you're like me, all the stuff arrives and you laugh like a maniac on Valium due to the sheer amount of audio bliss you are about to experience. The next step is to hook everything up and see if anything is missing.
I am not Mr. Super audio guru and I'm going to guess the majority of people reading this are not hardcore audiophiles either so for the sake of simplicity I will attempt to make this easy.
The back of the receiver has enough connections to turn even the most tech savvy of people into alcoholics. See the hopefully simplified drawing below to remedy this. Match up the connections noted and forget about all the others. If your receiver looks drastically different, I'm sorry to say you may have to read the manual.
The picture can describe it better but essentially you cut the length of wire you need for the two front speakers and center speaker(be generous). Strip off a little bit of plastic from each end of the wire and connect one end of each wire to a speaker but not the sub, it has a special cable. Note the wire has two wires inside it with a line on one side of the plastic outer shield that I usually hook to black connectors on both the speaker and same wire to the receiver. Using this method keeps colors the same. Red on the back of the speaker goes to red/white/green on the receiver the same way. If these are crossed i.e. the black connector on the speaker is wired to red/white/green on the receiver, it will not work. Some receiver might have just black and red connectors to make it easy.
The two front speakers connect to front left and right although they may have to be switched depending on the setup if the speakers aim backwards from receiver. This can be easily fixed by swapping location of left and right speaker. Center connects to center on receiver. If there are extra connectors on these speakers ignore them. As long as black and red/white/green are hooked up respectively you are fine.
Plug the sub woofer cable into sub out on the receiver and connect it to the sub itself.
If using an Optical cable, connect it to the computer and the other end plugs into Optical digital audio input on the receiver. Otherwise use the headphone jack from computer to audio in on receiver.
Please see diagram below. Try to use common sense to hook these up correctly since different manufacturers might use different colors.
Step 3: Ready for a Test Run
Alright, time to try it out. I named my system Bessie but you can call it whatever you like.
Plug everything in.
Do not have the receiver turned up all the way unless you are wearing rubber pants. Same with the sub.
Turn it all on including sub woofer.
Boot up computer and play a song on any media player.
Does sound come out? If not don't be discouraged.
Personal anecdote: I had everything setup and powered on. I had a bunch of people standing around waiting for the maiden voyage. I played a song and heard nothing. Double checked connections, volume, everything and heard nothing. It was lame. Everyone laughed at me and left. I changed sound settings on the computer and all of the sudden.....BOOM!!!!! Social Distortion was melting faces three blocks over in all it's glory. Pictures were vibrating off the wall and everything was right with the world. Don't be discouraged. It might be something simple.
One major cause of failure is probably sound settings on the computer or input select on the receiver explained below. The last fix you try usually works.
I can only help so much here but...
No sound comes out
Make sure your computer is configured for Optical out in control panel, sound settings. You may have to change settings from speakers to Digital Audio S/PDIF(Windows 7) and click "set as default" not just OK. If using Linux you can probably figure this out.
Try a different optical cable. Yes they do break like any other cable.
Is volume turned up on receiver and computer?
The receiver may have to be changed from Optical in 2 to Optical in 1. Is it turned on/placed in standby?
Individual speakers do not work
Reverse cables on one end or switch red with black. Yes I know you definitely hooked them up correctly but try it anyway. Also, try replacing the cable with a different run.
Try any old speaker in place of the new one. It is not unheard of for them to be broken upon arrival.
If the sub woofer does not work make sure it is turned on since some have a power switch and also turn volume up slowly on the sub itself.
I hope this helps. Otherwise jump on the forums for the related trouble product and ask people there.
Step 4: Time to Grovel
Someone needs to play the songs for your ceremony. I would do it but I will probably have an appointment that day.
Realize that many guys are not partial to weddings.........until beer is involved. Men like to have a job to do instead of gossiping with their significant other about why so and so's dress is ridiculously short. Having said this, many guys will be more than willing to help DJ.
Required characteristics of the pick up DJ:
Not in the immediate wedding party but will have to come to rehearsals.
Very responsible. There is usually lots of free booze at weddings.
Not attractive. DJ's attract the opposite sex or maybe even the same sex.....dunno. This leads to distraction and lack of performance. It can also trick not so good looking people into taking the job so double edged sword here.
Somewhat tech savvy if something does not work they can possibly fix it without too much worry.
Non rogue. You don't want Wu Tang clan played during the first dance song. See responsible.
Step 5: Additional Tips
Here are a few notes about what helped in the success of our homemade DJ booth and what I would do differently.
Do as much planning and preemptive damage control as possible. Don't make critical wires accessible to children since they will likely be bored out of their skulls.
Have a backup DJ.
Organize, organize, organize music. Make folders, play-lists, sort them, test songs, etc. Make sure songs don't have swear words in them. Make sure you have plenty of music. My wife wanted stupid club dance music to dance with her girls. I had to sort through and find it which took a while. Ask the other person what they want played. Have some Johnny Cash or Billie Holiday ready for the old decrepit folks if their hearing still works.
Have a backup computer and possibly a backup receiver(borrow one). I was a little paranoid so I had two of almost everything.
For special songs during the main ceremony it might be easier to have icons for them on the computer desktop and arrange them in chronological order so there is less confusion. You could even name them accordingly e.g. walking down the isle. Make a play-list of the same songs just in case. The DJ can turn the volume up or down with the receiver if needed for fade in or out.
We had some problems with the mic and music being on the same channel so if the mic is separate from the main system it will be much easier. I will leave the mic part up to you.
Step 6: Advanced Configurations
I am a computer guy by trade so I had some extra ideas that might work well.
If you have access to Internet through wireless card or whatever, there is an awesome site called Tunespro which sells individual songs and albums for ten cents or a few dollars respectively. If someone wants to make a request for any specific song, have an account beforehand and log in to this site. Search for the song or musician and download the song. This would be a nice touch for a few dollars.
Bluetooth or bridge
Some receivers have connections on the back for direct connections with iPods and mp3 devices. Some may have Bluetooth capability integrated or it may require an add on device so you could be eating dinner and could change the song from your table with your phone's media player. There's an app for that. You could also use a PC remote to change the song from farther away.
There is DJ software available that a person could use if so inclined. I think there is a learning curve with these so I opted out.
Since you have a perfectly capable computer in place you could attach a web cam with recording software and record parts of the wedding from the DJ booth. I thought this would be really cool but did not do it myself.
Step 7: For the Grand Finale
Now for the best part.
The wedding is over and everyone is exhausted. Not you though. Now it's time to take your shiny new barely used speakers home. Then you hook them up in conjunction with the new LED TV you got since the now wife's damn cats broke off the HDMI connections on your perfectly good older TV. Start up the Playstation, crack a beer, turn the sound system up and play Just Cause 2 with the sub woofer booming. Valhalla can't compare to this majestical haven of paradise you have just created.
Also be prepared for your wife to tell you to constantly turn it down while you tell her to turn her volume down under your breath. Yes the below picture looks a fraction as cool as it sounds on good quality speakers.
Hope you enjoyed my instructable. It's my first one ever. I will try to answer questions if anyone cares.