Your Questions: Why Won’t My DJ Splitter Cable Work?

djcable

DJ splitter cables are a useful way of duping single stereo output gear (laptops, iOS devices...) into behaving like a real DJ mixer, giving both a headphones and a speakers output to enable 'real' DJing using them.

Our reader's letter today is from Gerald, who writes: "I have an Ion Discover DJ controller. I like it a lot. I used the tips I found about a DJ splitter cable (stereo - going out to two mono) but I am struggling with the software. I do not understand the routing nor how to set up the supplied MixVibes Cross LE software to allow me to use my splitter cables. I have a gig coming up and am trying to get all my gear set up. Can you help?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

For those of you just starting out with very cheap DJ gear, or an iPad, iPhone or even Android DJ program, you may be having great fun with your DJ program or basic controller, but wondering how the hell you get your headphones and your speakers plugged in and working independently. This ability to "cue" (to listen "secretly" to the other music source, the one that's not playing) is fundamental to DJing, and cheap laptop controllers and all iOS/Android software doesn't have it built-in.

If you've dug a bit deeper, you may have found out - like Gerald - that a DJ splitter cable can be your saviour. This semi-legendary "hack" works by splitting the stereo signal into two independent mono signals, one for each of your required outputs. Sure, you're now playing in mono - as you plug your speakers into one of these outputs, and your headphones into the other - but it's a little-known fact that most "real" club sound systems are in mono anyway, and it's a very small price to pay to be able to DJ with the gear in front of you in exactly the same way all DJs do.

wiring

They're easy enough to make, or hack together from cables you already own - this diagram explains the principle, and shows why standard audio splitter cables won't work for DJing.

Trouble is, getting any old splitter cable and plugging it in and hooking up your speakers and headphones isn't enough. Firstly, you need a DJ splitter cable (the one we recommend is here). This genuinely puts the left channel to one pseudo-stereo output and the right to the other. Having the kind of splitter cable sold to share a single headphones output on an iPod, for instance, won't work because it sends the same thing down each of its outputs.

Secondly, you need to tell your software that's what you're doing. You have to find the audio output, audio routing or audio configuration settings and look for "mono split", "split mono" or "DJ splitter" setting - the one that shows all audio going through the single PC/iOS headphones output and also shows both the speakers and headphones plugging into this. In your case, Gerald, MixVibes has a page here that tells you exactly how to do it.

And don't forget, you have to plug the speakers and headphones into the correct sockets on your cable! If things aren't behaving how you feel they should (eg the "cue" buttons are turning the main audio on or off, or the crossfader is affecting your headphones) try swapping the headphones and speakers over at the cable.

One final thing that sometimes confuses people about all of this is a question that goes something like: "But I've got four decks and a sampler, don't I need five outputs, not two?" The reason the answer to this is "no" is that even if you had 99 decks (and Virtual DJ 7 can, folks!), the mixer section of your software mixes all of these inputs into just two - one for your headphones,a dn one for the speakers - so however complex your software audio is, you only ever need two outputs - and if you can't afford, or simply don't currently have, a pro DJ audio interface (or a controller with one built in), an audio splitter cable is a great way to get going, or a sensible backup to have too. I've had one kicking around in my gig bag for 10 years.

virtual dj split

Here are the settings in Virtual DJ to do this. There is a similar panel in nearly all DJ software where you can make this setting.

• Our recommended splitter cable is here; we also have an article and video that goes into this in a lot more detail here: All You Need To Know About DJ Splitter Cables

Comments

  1. Just buy a griffin splitter cheap and available almost everywhere

  2. you can also do it with just a basic 3.5mm jack splitter (1 male stereo jack and 2 female stereo sockets at other end), and a pair of 3.5mm jack to phono/rca cables. just make sure the left of each rca cables are pair together as one “channel” and the rights are paired together for the other channel. a jack splitter and the jack to rca cables can all be had off ebay for 99p delivered! total of £2.97!! plus you can still use them for their original purpose – as opposed to “special” splitter cables that may be dearer and only serve one purpose.

    • DJ Vintage says:

      Uhm, did someone click the “our favorite cable here” link? The one that shows that this cable totally suited for the purpose, all in one piece, costs 11 bucks? So, why would you like to use a splitter and two cables to save 8 bucks? Also since headphones don’t connect to rca, you’d need another adapter 2x female rca to female 3.5mm to hook up your headphone.

      I’d say listen to the advice given here and spend the 11 bucks :-D

      • Well I already had these cables lying around so actually saved 11 “bucks” ;)
        Also you use the mixer headphone socket, which can go much louder than the 3.5mm output of a laptop.

        • Also, the sound setup above shows left as channel 1 and right as channel 2, not left as main out and right as headphone out as you are alluding to. So in that configuration above you would still need 2x 3.5mm jack to phono/RCA to connect to a mixer. If you’re doing mixing internally to the software then the some output needs changing from the config pictured above

  3. You can take any ordinary headphone splitter and make a DJ splinter out of it. Separate the internals of each cable and cut the red on one side and the white on the other (or whatever color they are). Easy way to have a functional splitter for those who have one laying around and want to try an iPad (or similar) DJ software with the ablitity to cue.

    • Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

      Not gonna work, you need a DOUBLE mono output or you’ll get spund oit of only one speaker. Unless you have a mono PA of course.

      Still curious why everyone seems desperate tovgo out with all kinds of makeshift (and in case of cut wires probably real shabby looking) splitter cables to prevent having to spend 11 bucks on a good purpose built splitter cable :D

  4. James Green says:

    What if you are going from an iPad onto xlr inputs on your DJ console?

    • You can get 1/4″ to XL adapters pretty easily. I’ve never used them for DJing, but we use them to run unpowered mics into a mixer and have never had a problem. Just drop some 1/4″-1/8″ adapters into those, and some male – male cords to get you into the adapters.

    • James Green says:

      Thanks very much Jason. I’ll give it a go.

  5. Funny mine came in today. It’s really handy to have if you don’t want/need to bring a full controller.

  6. Is there a difference between the cable that’s linked and this one?
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0056XAWOU/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3GK6ZSUCB0RNS&coliid=I3KXPTVBVV79B5

    I only ask because they’re made by the same company, they appear to essentially be the same, although this one is gray, has a different name, and is available with free shipping from Amazon Prime.

  7. [email protected] says:

    When required to connect to two headphone to one unit, I use splitter keyring. Having them with you while traveling is an added advantage. There is also a simple set of steps required to make convert simple headphone splitter to DJ splitter. Learn more about splitter keyring here. http://www.danniishop.com/

  8. [email protected] says:

    Shit! i just bought a normal (common type) splitter cable for Djing with my iPad, now i know why I can’t split the signals :(

    • But you can!
      As long as the software allows you to have, say LEFT as channel 1 and RIGHT as channel 2 (or LEFT as mixer output, RIGHT as cue/headphone output) then you can just use a splitter, with 2 splitters in each of it’s end to effectively give you 2x lefts and 2x rights.

      • DJ Vintage says:

        Nope, not gonna work. A regular splitter doesn’t split that way. If you do it the way you say, you end up with cue in BOTH output RIGHT and mixer in BOTH output LEFT.

        What the splitter does is give you a L+R copy of the original in both outputs.

        What the DJ splitter does is give you the L-signal on one output (usually in such a way that the L+R of the output give the same (mono) signal) and the R-signal on the other output.

        What you describe as the setting in software on iPad apps is usally already labelled split audio. And you do need to set that to make a DJ splitter work. There is no way to make a regular splitter work as it effectively just copies one output to two identical ones (great for listening to your iPhone/iPod with a friend, totally unsuited for DJ-ing with)

  9. On VirtualDJ, without an external mixer, better go into advanced config mode and set Master to Left chan and Headphones to Right chan.

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