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.
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.