There are a lot of things to consider when building out your Mobile DJ rig. I know personally since I have tried out a whole lot of options from controllers to coffins to big rolling cases. My brain is constantly working overtime to find better ways to store, transport, and setup for weddings. Through all the concepts, all the purchases, through all the doubting and reassurances; I have been most satisfied with keeping things modular.
And to make sure we are on the same page, being modular means keeping equipment in either individual or small groups of cases with a specific function in mind. This has allowed me the greatest flexibility to mix and match things for each event that I perform at. Even just as recent as a week before this post was made I was considering going back to a coffin for my mixer and decks but then remembered lugging around a >100 lb case is a challenge. I’ve considered big rolling rigs that with just a couple cable connections I am ready to go, but literally my last gig I performed at would have seen me regretting that decision.
So before we jump into this pretty lengthy article some ground rules are to be established. These are solutions that I have found that has worked best for me, a solo wedding DJ (and a rare corporate event DJ) that generally manages 30 or so events per year. Some of these weddings are in your typical building venue while others are in farms, barns, and tents. I use a 2011 Town and Country to transport my gear and there are more than a few places that would be difficult to accommodate a trailer. And even if I can accommodate a trailer at least 25-30% of my events ends up being in tight spots, navigating stairs, being set on a stage so a rolling rig would be more than a challenge.
I try to keep things as lightweight as possible and interchangeability is always in mind. I mainly use Serato (SDJ and SSL) but I do have the occasional all-vinyl event to work with. There are a few things where DIY has come into play to make my life easier and I will try to explain everything out as best as possible.
- Jump to Section 1 – The Mixer & Decks
- Jump to Section 2 – Down Below
- Jump to Section 3 – Microphone Check 1-2-1-2
- Jump to Section 4 – The Ceremony Conundrum
The Mixer & Decks
As a DJ there is something very visceral with a pair of decks and a battle mixer. To me it’s a real connection to the music I am playing. I’ve tried a number of controllers from the Traktor S2 to the Numark NS7ii, and while they were good units (the NS7ii in particular) there was still a little something lacking. When I made my first major investment for my business I jumped into my Denon SC3900s and Rane 62 inside a Odyssey FZGSLBM10WBL Black Label coffin. I loved the setup initially but had a few issues with it; the two biggest being the weight being well over 100lbs and fitting in a good laptop stand was a head-meets-table frustrating challenge. After an event where I had to hand carry that coffin up a couple flights of stairs I decided there has to be a better way. Add to that my investment into a nice pair of Reloop RP-8000 turntables and a Pioneer DJM-S9 mixer and taking the coffin out of play was even more critical than ever. (If you want to read my review of the SC3900s, Numark NS7ii, and Reloop RP-8000, check it out over here).
So I invested in three Odyssey case styles. The Odyssey FZ10MIX for my Rane 62 mixer, the Odyssey FZ10MIXXD for the Pioneer S9 mixer, the Odyssey FZ1200 for my Reloop RP-8000s, and the FZCDJ for my Denon SC3900. Now this was a departure from my all black look, but after using both the Odyssey coffin and a Odyssey folding stand, even with taking very good care of the cases scratches will show. The nickel/silver design visually holds up to more abuse.
Now some people notice that there are hardly any cables visible and that is part of the look I was going after. I didn’t want some facade just covering up things making both an inviting display where someone could walk up to me and not be mired in barriers and a cable mess and also showcasing my skills in an elegant but stealthy display.
So this meant some strategic management of power, cables, and adding some pass-through ports of the mixer cases which is as simple as getting a 2-1/8″ hole cutter and my trusty drill. I aligned the pass-through holes of the mixer case and cut away.
Inside the mixer case is a whole other beast. Trying to accommodate a laptop pole, a power strip, and a USB hub in a small cavity is really an exercise in near-futility. To make matters worse, new 10″ battle mixers like the Pioneer S9 take up even more space which means trying to find the biggest mixer case you can get depth wise. But with the right parts I was able to do just that. Each of my cases has the same parts minus the mixers themselves. The shopping list for this includes:
- FZ10MIX for my Rane 62 and FZ10MIXXD for my Pioneer S9
- Belkin 6-outlet power strip
- 1′ Power extension cables
- 6″ USB A/B cable
- Macally 7-port USB 2.0 hub
- Atdec laptop stand (with modifications)
To make use of either the FZ10MIX or FZ10MIXXD cases, the first thing to do is to take the 2-1/8″ hole cutter and find the furthest point before it touches the metal edges of the case, drill, and repeat on the other side. This will take a little bit since it has to go through the laminate, wood, and then dense foam.
The next step is to take your Atdec laptop stand and measure out 8″ on the pole and mark it. Time to take out your hacksaw and make a nice clean cut. Since a good portion of the pipe is hollow, and the pipe is aluminum, it does not take a ton of time to hack the piece off. You will also need to drill a hole on the bottom of your mixer case to allow the long machine screw through. Also don’t forget your wide flat washer on this since you want as much contact surface as possible to brace the stand. Finish the assembly and you should have about 1/8″ clearance to spare for the top of the cover to clear.
At this point you will want to lay out your wall warts and excess wires underneath your mixer. I own MacBook Pros with 65w MagSafe 2 power adapters and it fits perfectly in the bottom cavity of the mixer foam area. At the top of the foam area where the mixer resides I found the USB hub that fits perfectly with a small removal of some foam.
A neat trick that I only recently learned is that you can keep the laptop base in your case. Previously I would take it off and carry it separately but if you bring the arm down to it’s lowest point, one bend of the arm should fit perfectly in the cavity. Use the big block of foam that comes with the mixer case, with a notch cut in the center/end, to help brace the remaining arm and stand against the mixer.
And there you have it. With your mixer in place, you just feed in your decks’ power, USB cable, and RCA cable and you are done. Now yes this takes more time to assemble versus a large coffin, and you typically have more room in the coffin to fit things in and you are putting a little bit less wear and tear on it. But with this I can now just grab which mixer I want to use and if I want to use my SC900s or my RP-8000. Literal mix and match!
As a wedding DJ I need a few things to be able to pull off a successful event beyond just playback of the dance segment. As I started to explore the options of digital mixers my wishlist of control came true. While I used a pair of Mackie DL806s for a while, new competitors came on the block and ultimately I have settled with the Soundcraft Ui16. But for a long while I was trying to decide what cases to put these in. I knew I wanted to be able to swap either of my Ui16s in case of equipment failure, and that under my reception setup is a pretty shallow area.
After much research I decided on the SKB 6U Shallow RotoRack. This gave me a very lightweight option to work with, and while it’s shallow design didn’t allow me to really build out on the back of the case, it fits comfortably inside my stand. Inside each rack is a PDU with front and back receptacles, my SoundCraft mixer, and for the moment my reception box has a Sennheiser G3 microphone and Sennheiser IEM-300 for wireless. Eventually the ceremony box will have those same pieces.
I did make a simple modification to both of these 6U racks. Inside the right handle cavity I installed a PowerCon receptacle so I can have a bit more sense of security knowing that my power cord is locked into place.
The 6U RotoRack lives on the very bottom which gives me the top area of the stand to either put my wire backs and emergency laptop in, or allows me to put my “mic box” inside if I have a ceremony at the same location as the reception, or have a need for more than one mic for general reception needs. Speaking of mics.
Microphone Check 1-2-1-2
The term “go big or go home” is rumored to have started in the 1990s as a sales pitch, but it can be applied in many more areas. In this case I take my ceremonies very seriously and in many instances I need to capture 1, 2, 3 or more sources during the ceremony. There are also many times that I will capture this sound and then pass it off to the videographers to use. So I opted to have three Sennheiser EW135 G3s mic receivers, Sennheiser EW112 G3s along with a Sennheiser ASA1/NT splitter antenna box.
So why keep these mics in a separate box instead of getting a bigger main box? Well this idea is not just born from mixing that between my two rigs but also cost. A Sennheiser G3 mic kit (receiver + mic or receiver + lac) is typically over $600, so multiply that by 3-4 times and it gets pretty expensive. Add the ASA1 splitter and you increase the cost an additional $500+.
So with this “mic box” I’ve combined 3 receivers and the splitter and it gives me room to expand even more mics. I’ve also added a GLS audio XLR panel that I riveted in my XLR connectors and a PowerCon end. I can connect my mic box to my Soundcraft in just a few seconds which makes this an easy choice.
I do keep a Sennheiser G3 mic in my reception box that covers most needs for toasts and my MCing. I’ll eventually put a single Sennheiser G3 mic in the ceremony box for uniformity and those times I just need to mic up the officiant.
The Ceremony Conundrum
One thing that almost every wedding DJ desires that captures ceremony sound is to make things as lightweight and as small of a footprint as possible so you are quickly in and out of the ceremony site. The topic is interesting enough that I wrote an entire article on it.
But as requirements grow so does that size and unfortunately my footprint is not as lightweight as some others. For some ceremonies I need to bring my 6U mixer box, 4U mic box, at least 1 DXR8 speaker, pole, sometimes even batteries. I’ve opted to keep things on my Rock and Roller cart in some instances which helps a little bit, but it is a lot to carry in.
But the end result is no compromise for ceremony sound and capture.
So what does modularity bring to the table? A few extra minutes of time to setup? Sure. Some places can shed weight while others can add it. But it provides for the ultimate in flexibility. Being able to mix and match pieces at a whim, if a piece of equipment fails there is a good chance you could swap out for another piece quickly. It’s served me well for quite a while now. And sure you would be foolish not to think about getting a rolling rack, or combining a couple cases into a larger case. But you should examine all these scenarios with your real world experiences and determine the best route for your business.
Author Biography: Lou Paris of Paris Creative
Lou Paris has been DJing since 1988 and has a deep passion for music of all styles and genres. Coincidentally Lou is also a successful 20+ year IT professional and has merged many technology concepts to ensure a successful night of entertainment. Click here to learn more about Lou's background.