We’ve all done it, or at least been tempted. It could just happen because you’ve got a few people back at yours and it sort of… you know… takes off. Or it could be more premeditated, kidding yourself that all will be fine if you just take your music system from home to the party venue. Saves hassling about a PA system, right? Plus it’d be great to show off your new [insert trendy DJ brand here] monitors.
But however it happens, it is almost always a huge mistake. What am I talking about? DJing at a party using your home music system, that’s what. It doesn’t matter if it’s a decently loud boombox, an all-in-one stereo system, separates, a proper “hi fi”, or even professional studio monitors or DJ monitors – read it slowly and out loud: It’s going to go horribly wrong. It’s never a question of “if” – just “when”. Wanna play Russian Roulette with your expensive sound system? Then go ahead. But please read this first to find out why it’s such a big mistake…
Why you should never use home speakers at parties…
1. Your speakers won’t go loud enough
…and by “speakers”, I mean your amp/speakers, or your powered speakers, or whatever you use. In nine cases out of ten, this is true. Sure you may have KRK Rokit 10-3s and only be playing to a party of 10 people, in which case you may be OK (only on this point though), but for most people, it’s a different story. It’s incredible how much noise a roomful of people actually makes, and how much volume you really need to fill that room to party levels. Trust me, your speakers simply won’t sound good enough – it’s the truth and you’ll find out the first time you try it – if you’re silly enough to try it, that is.
2. You really need a subwoofer
You’ve not got one, right? If you have you can skip this point (but none of the others). Here’s the ugly truth: People absorb bass. The one area you need a LOT of power is in the bass frequencies. Do your puny little speakers really have the ability to cope with delivering sufficient bass for a public space or a group of more than six people? Be honest. Because if they don’t, you’re going to fall into the next big trap…
3. You will turn everything into the red, and if you don’t, someone else will
Your puny speakers aren’t loud enough, and there’s no bass as the room is full of people making their own noise, and letting their bodies absorb all the bass frequencies (how dare they?). So what’s a self-respecting DJ to do? Well, you personally will probably resist the inevitable. It’s your system, right?
So you try and keep everything out of the red. You try and position the speakers in better places (probably balancing them dangerously at head height – see the next point – which by the way also ruins the bass further), but it’s like trying to stop the tide with your hands. As the party picks up, it’s blatantly clear your music ain’t going to cut it with “best practice”. And you’re not the only person DJing, right? Do you think anyone else is going to employ your restraint? No way José!
So the levels creep up. First the amp levels. Then the controller/mixer line levels. Then the gains. Then the bass, mid, treble all creep until they’re on full, all the time. Then someone turns off Traktor’s limiter, or Serato’s dB ceiling. Result? It gets a bit louder, sure. But there’s terrible sound quality, and next – hopefully – just blown fuses. Sue, the sound goes off – but actually, this is the best case scenario. Permanent damage is the worst scenario, but this makes it sound like it’s not common. Actually, in my experience, at any decent party that goes on for any decent length of time, this last outcome is the most common. Blown home speakers at parties, or smoking amps, are so common you’d be shocked. Don’t let it be yours.
4. Home speakers aren’t designed for public use
I’m talking about the physical design here. Why on earth would anyone consider DJing in public, where people are getting typically more and more animated and/or intoxicated, with speakers that have no protection on the front of them at all? The reason home speakers don’t have grills on the front is that they don’t need them. In public they so need them that it hurts! All PA speakers have grills – this is for a very good reason and this point alone should be enough to convince any sane person that their expensive studio monitors are an AWFUL choice for party DJing. Yet it doesn’t, so often!
Also, if you want to position your speakers correctly, proper PA speakers have mounting holes underneath them so they can be put on decent stands that are safe to use on or near to dancefloors. No home speakers have this. Putting your speakers on the floor is ridiculous, but on chairs and tables is also not cool, yet these are your alternatives without professional stands.
5. You’re going to look like a muppet
OK, we’ve covered sound quality (gonna sound terrible), damage (your amps will probably trip, you may even blow the speakers) and safety (they may topple onto someone, or just get a bottle through one of the cones by accident or something similar). What we haven’t covered is what a dork you’re going to look turning up to DJ anywhere more than your living room using the speakers you bought for your DJ practice sessions. There’s something funny happens when you take home stuff and plonk it in a public/commercial environment: It looks rubbish.
Now, I’ve left this one to the end because it shouldn’t matter, but even if for some miracle reason your home speakers/subwoofer were loud enough, well made enough, sturdy enough, and could be positioned on proper, safe stands to play a party… you’re still gonna look like a bit of a prat DJing like this at a cool party. Let’s face it, wedding photographers don’t turn up with iPhones to shoot weddings, and you shouldn’t turn up to play at any respectable party with a home system of any kind at all.
What to do instead…
The purpose of this post is to save you trouble, money and a ruined party when the sound goes off – but mainly money. I speak from experience: Having a pile of blown up speakers (and sometimes amps) in the corner was almost the mark of a good party when I was younger. But we were indeed young – and stupid. And our parties often sounded awful. What we finally learned was to either throw the party somewhere where they’ve got a sound system you can plug into (best) or find a hire shop that’ll loan you a PA system for the night for a reasonable fee.
Now you’ve got bass, volume, you look the part, and it’ll all run smoothly from the second you turn it on to the second the last person leaves, without question or stress. It’s a no brainer really: And if you want to care for your home speakers, you’ll take the lesson on board and put any idea of using your home speakers at a parties out of your mind. And if you choose to go ahead anyway – well, we’ve done our best to warn you…
Have you got any horror stories about you or anyone else blowing up their sound system at parties that got out of control? Or do you think that it’s all scaremongering and it’s not a problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments…