DJ controllers come with lots of confusing connectors. How to connect a DJ controller to a mixer? What cable is needed? Everything is detailed in this article.
To connect a DJ controller with a mixer use a male to male RCA cable. Connect the RCA plug into the connector named “master” of the controller with one of the “line” input channels of the mixer. Phono inputs and XLR outputs are not recommended to connect a DJ controller.
This solution works for many DJ mixers out there. Just keep in mind that the length of RCA cables should not be over 15-20 feet. Otherwise, it may lower the audio quality due to interferences. If you are looking for the best cable, I recommend using the ones from UGREEN. What if you want to connect to a recording mixer for streaming? A club mixer? What about XLR? Do you need an amplifier? Keep reading to know all the answers with useful illustrations.
How to connect a DJ controller to a club mixer
First, you need a male-to-male RCA cable like this one. Then you need to identify the “master out” connectors of your DJ controller. They are often located at the back of the unit. The following pictures show where to locate the master on different controllers, from different price ranges and brands.
How to connect a Pioneer DDJ-400 or DDJ-SB3 to a mixer:
How to connect a Pioneer DDJ-1000 or DDJ-SZ2 to a mixer:
How to connect a Denon Prime 4 to a mixer:
After you have identified the master connector, plug the male RCA into it. White with white and red with red. The white socket corresponds to the left speaker and the red one to the right speaker. If after setup you feel like the speakers are inverted, just swap the cables. Please note that sometimes, RCA cables are black and red instead of white and red. That’s not a problem, it is just a color convention.
Then do the same procedure on the mixer. Connect the male RCA into one of the “line” inputs of one of the channels. Please make sure not to connect it to a “phono” input. These are dedicated to turntables that need additional amplification. Using them with a DJ controller would degrade the sound quality.
The “line” inputs are located at the back of almost every club mixer. Below are some pictures showing where to find these on popular mixers of different brands.
How to connect a DJ controller to a Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus 2 or DJM 750 MK2:
The Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus 2 is the most popular DJ mixer you will find in clubs. Knowing where to locate these inputs will probably be useful in your DJ career. Most DJ mixers from Pioneer have a similar layout with the line input just next to the phono inputs.
How to connect a DJ controller to a Numark M2 mixer:
The Numark M2 mixer has switches to transform its phono inputs into line inputs. Therefore, if the line input is already used you can use the phono input instead as long as you don’t forget to put the switch on “line”. Many mixers have these useful switches.
Then plug the USB cable provided with your DJ controller to the unit and to your computer. Start the computer first, then the controller, then the mixer, and afterward only switch on the speakers. This is important to follow this order, to avoid damaging the speakers. When you shut everything down, do it in the opposite order: speakers, mixer, controller, and finally the computer. For the same reason, only plug while everything is switched off.
That’s it, the setup is finished. You can now enjoy your time mixing!
How to connect a DJ controller to a streaming mixer
Streaming has become very popular nowadays. As such, many of you may consider using compact mixers such as the Behringer Xenyx Q502USB. These mixers are really useful for streaming as you have volume controls for different channels in a compact size. You can for instance control the volume balance between a microphone, a controller, and the computer sound, all at the same time. Some of them also have a USB port to send the resulting mix directly to your favorite streaming software.
If you are looking for a good mixer to stream, I highly recommend this recording mixer. It has great mic preamps and a compressor. In other words, it has everything to make your microphone sounds great. It also doubles as an audio interface thanks to the USB. You can therefore directly send the results to your streaming software. It really is the best at this price! Many mixers do not have a USB although sometimes more expensive.
How to connect a DJ controller to a Behringer Xenyx Q502USB:
As you may have noticed, the “line in” on recording mixers are mostly 1/4″ jacks and not RCAs. In that case, you will need a cable with an RCA plug at one end and a 1/4″ TS jacks (unbalanced) at the other end. I recommend this one (buy here):
You can then connect everything as below:
That’s it, the setup is finished. You can now stream your DJ sets!
Can I connect a DJ controller with a mixer by XLR or 1/4″ jack?
You may have noticed that some controllers propose other outputs such as XLR or 1/4″ (TRS) connectors:
Basically, the “booth” output (1/4″ here) is for connecting monitor speakers close to the DJ. The XLR outputs are mainly used to connect PA speakers, the loudspeakers you see in clubs or concerts. XLR cables can be run over long distances, a big advantage over RCAs.
Both these connectors do send the output signal of the controller, as the RCA does. So why did I recommend using the RCA output and not the others? Well, this is because the XLR and 1/4″ are “balanced” outputs whereas most mixers’ inputs are “unbalanced”. Sending a balanced signal into a mixer that receives only unbalanced signals is not very useful.
Balanced vs unbalanced
- Unbalanced outputs allow you to plug unbalanced cables. They are prone to interferences and noises. You are fine using unbalanced cables as long as they are short. Try not to go above 15-20 feet long.
- Balanced outputs allow you to plug both balanced and unbalanced cables. Used with balanced cables, they have less tendency to noise and allow for longer cables.
Balanced cables have 3 wires instead of 2. The 2 standard wires work like this: one for the ground and one for the signal. The additional wire on balanced cables is a duplication of the”signal” but with an inverted phase. I won’t enter in the technical details, but having identical signals but with inverted phase allows to remove potential “noises”.
Note that RCAs are always unbalanced and XLRs always balanced. That’s why you do not see the mention “balanced” or “unbalanced” on the Pioneer RCA and XLR outputs. On the other hand, ¼” cables can be both balanced (TRS) or unbalanced (TS).
Noises are less likely to happen on short cables, that’s why it is totally fine to use RCAs with short cables. In fact, you won’t hear any difference with a balanced cable, such as XLR, with short cables.
RCAs vs XLR & 1/4″
As RCAs are always unbalanced, it makes more sense to use these to connect a controller with a mixer. Moreover, as there are always unbalanced, it is less confusing for people and more straightforward. The 1/4″ connectors, though most of the time balanced, can be unbalanced. Because of that, there is a lot of confusion about the right cable to buy for 1/4″ connectors. RCAs do not have this problem.
Please note, you can connect an unbalanced cable into a balanced input. The most common application is having an RCA output going into a 1/4″ input with a TS jack. The 1/4″ input connectors can either be balanced or unbalanced in this case. This cable would perfectly do the job. That’s the cable you need to connect a Dj controller to a recording mixer for streaming.
You can also connect an unbalanced cable into a balanced output. The most common application is to use an unbalanced cable with 1/4″ TS jack at both ends, like this one. You can use this type of cable to connect the booth output of a DJ controller with a mixer or audio interface used for streaming.
As you have noticed, 1/4″ connectors can accept both balanced and unbalanced cables. Indeed, it exists both TRS (balanced) and TS (unbalanced) cables that can be identified thanks to the number of rings (see image aside). XLR cables on the other hand are always balanced.
In short, XLR connectors should not be used to connect a DJ controller with a mixer. That’s not the intended use and it might be difficult to find the right cable. 1/4″ connectors can be used as long as you make sure you use the appropriate cable according to your situation: balanced (TRS) or unbalanced (TS). RCA connectors would never be an issue since they are always unbalanced.
Would a mixer amplify the sound from my controller?
A DJ mixer is not an amplifier. If you have passive speakers you still need an amplifier between your mixer and your speakers. However, If for whatever reason the signal of your DJ controller is too low, you may use the “phono” input of your mixer. Phono inputs do have a “pre-amplification” normally used to amplify vinyl signals. Please note it is not recommended because DJ mixers are supposed to deliver a “line-level” signal (around 1 or 2 vrms). Putting a pre-amplification, normally used for vinyl, maybe too strong and distort the signal. Therefore I would recommend using a “phono” input with caution, otherwise, you may damage your material.
In other words, amplifying the sound of your DJ controller should normally not be necessary. If the sound is too low that means you have a problem somewhere else or that you need an amplifier before your speakers. For more information, please read this other article of mine.
Do I really need a mixer with my DJ controller?
For most applications, you don’t need a mixer with a DJ controller. If what you want is only to connect your speakers, then a mixer is not necessary. Especially, the output level between a DJ mixer and a DJ controller is often the same. What you may need however is an amplifier if your speakers are not “powered” or “active” ones. For more information about how to connect a controller with speakers, please read my article “How to connect DJ controller to speakers”. It also covers the need or not for an amplifier.
Another article that may be interesting for you is the one I made about accessories every DJ should have. It covers the cables and adapters you may need to come across various situations in your DJ life.