Reader Stafford H writes: “I am a beginner and will shortly be getting the ION iCue 3 Discover DJ controller. While I realise that this piece of equipment is VERY amateur, I would just like to learn the basics of DJing. Plus it is very cheap ($100), and from what I have heard it is a pretty good controller to start on. It comes with MixVibes Cross LE. The only problem is that it doesn’t have a headphone jack, which makes it difficult to cue up the next song if you can’t hear it before everyone else hears it. I read that there are sound cards you can buy to make up for this.”
“Could you please recommend to me a cheap sound card and how to set it up? Or an alternative solution? I am really interested in learning how to DJ and this would be a HUGE help.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
You can learn to DJ on anything – even your computer keyboard – and the ION will be fine for getting the basics. You’re going to have a lot of fun!
You’re right, though – to DJ “properly” you need to be able to hear the next song in your headphones while the current one is playing, and while you’re mixing it in. For that you need 2 separate sound outputs, and the problem is that most computers only have one. As the ION has no built-in sound card to get around this (in common with many cheap controllers), you need to somehow add that functionality separately. There are 4 ways you can do this:
- Use an external sound card – This is the most usual way. Find out all about DJ sound cards, and when you’ve grasped the basics, head over to our DJ Sound Cards Under $130: Top Models Reviewed & Rated article to see your choices
- Buy some USB headphones – These plug in to a spare USB socket on your computer (make sure you have one), giving you a second output that way – an elegant solution especially if you get some that can also be used as normal headphones such as the Numark PHX (US$51 / £39 / €39). A disadvantage is that you’re stuck with the headphones you choose
- Use a simple USB sound card for your headphones – There are cheap sound cards available that plug into your USB socket and give you a headphones output (and a microphone input), and one of these could allow you to plug a normal pair of headphones in, basically meaning you’d have the same setup as described for USB headphones above. One of our readers has tried this and reports that it works well
- Use a splitter cable – It is possible to split your laptop’s one stereo output into two mono outputs, the first of which you use as your main output, the second for your headphones. This technique requires the correct cable (like one of these; a normal headphone splitter cable won’t do it), and also needs your software to be able to split the sound output up this way, which Mixvibes Cross luckily allows you to do
The most preferable is the first option it’s most flexible for the future and is likely to sound best, but plenty of DJs get by on the other two as well, especially amateurs for whom absolute top performance isn’t the big deal it is for professionals.
To set up, you install the drivers (if provided) for your hardware, then in the sound settings on your software, select where you’d like the master output to go to, and where you’d like the headphones output to go to.
More info in your instruction manual or if you get stuck, on the Mixvibes forum.
Have you ever used USB headphones or a splitter cable to DJ with? Got any experiences you’d like to share to help Stafford to make his choice? Please feel free to add your feedback in the comments below.