When To Upgrade Your Gear (And When To Wait)

Last updated 28 September, 2021

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It’s one of the biggest things we hear our students saying: “I want to buy the [insert name of piece of gear here], but I’m scared they’ll make another one soon and mine will be out of date. Should I wait?”

The fear is for many reasons. Regarding the possibility of “replacement” kit coming out for something under consideration, students ask us:

  • Won’t the “old” one become obsolete, and need replacing soon (like older phones not running the latest OS, for instance)?
  • Won’t a “new” one have great new features my old one doesn’t have?
  • Won’t my current one drop in price as soon as a new one comes out, making it harder to sell it for decent money?

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It’s no wonder people want to make sure that when they invest in a piece of gear, it’ll remain the “latest” version for at least a while.

But is this the right way of thinking? For instance, looking at the above:

  • “Old” gear does become obsolete, sure, but usually not for many, many years, and so this isn’t really a big consideration – DJ gear isn’t like mobile phones, which stop working after a few years due to OS updates
  • Gear manufacturers are coming up with “new” features all the time (they have to to stay in business) – but DJing changes very slowly. Most pro DJs actually prefer their gear NOT to change
  • Whether or not a piece of DJ gear is worth more or less on the second-hand market when you come to sell it should be a small consideration. You’re buying it to keep it and use it, not to make money on it!

Lifecycle of DJ gear

There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when there was a lot of change in DJ gear – digital DJing was just coming to the fore, the “controller revolution” was happening, and things were moving pretty quickly.

But nowadays, the gear market is pretty much “mature”. New features tend to be in software, or music distribution (think streaming), not in hardware.

Instead of making drastic changes to hardware, DJ gear brands are more concerned with implementing software and streaming innovations.

There has also been a lot of consolidation, with just the three big brands driving nearly all sales of digital hardware: Pioneer DJ (high and low-end gear), Denon DJ (a challenger to Pioneer DJ in the high end), and Numark (very popular lower-end gear). Let’s consider all three:

  • Numark’s kit really doesn’t change much. It all works with Serato DJ, and all of that gear will do so for many years to come
  • Pioneer DJ’s club and club-style systems are highly conservative in layout and features by design, so as not to alienate pro DJs, and so don’t tend to date quickly. The lower-end systems all copy this, sometimes with gimmicky features (you can take or leave those, anyway)
  • Denon DJ is innovating fast, but seems to have realised that in order to gain market share, it has to support its older gear, something it has not always done well in the past. We expect all modern “Denon DJ Prime” gear to work well for many years to come.

And as far as other types of gear goes – turntables, mixers, headphones, speakers and so on – these things really never change. You can happily mix on 20-year-old equipment of these types, so no worries there.

Figuring out how old gear is

Still, you probably don’t want to buy gear only for it to be “replaced” the next day.

To get a sense of how old the piece of gear you’re interested in is, use our reviews. We always add a “released” date to our reviews, so when you’re playing with our gear chooser, just keep an eye on that.

With our interactive tool, you can filter through specifics such as type, software, platform, and price. You can then click into any gear review to find the release date.

If it was launched within the last two or three years, you’re fine – and often, even longer is cool too (I’d buy a Pioneer DDJ-1000 brand new today, for instance, and that is already a relatively old controller.)

You could also search for the gear you’re interested in on Amazon, and the big stores in your country. If it is hard to find, it is either very new, or very old and no longer widely available. If it seems in plentiful supply, you can be pretty sure the manufacturer is treating it as “current”.

Want more help? Grab your free download: The Digital DJ Gear Buyer’s Guide

And finally, check the manufacturer’s website to see how much they are pushing that item. Is it already listed as “legacy”? Or is it front and centre?

Turning gear age to your advantage

Instead of worrying about whether what you’re about to buy will shortly be replaced, use any knowledge you have to your advantage! Keep an eye on the Digital DJ Tips news pages to see when new models are announced. As soon as you get an idea a piece of equipment is to be superseded, use that information as a bargaining tool to get a discount on it.

Read this next: What DJ Gear Is Worth Spending Extra Money On?

And remember, you could always buy second-hand: If you do this, you can probably sell the gear for what you paid for it if it isn’t for you or you just fancy a change, and so you take a lot of the worry away. “Last year’s model” second-hand is often a smart way to buy DJ gear.

Finally…

I think it’s worthwhile remembering that in truth, DJing is not about the gear. It is about what you do with it. (Remember what I said at the beginning about how most pro DJs DO NOT want to change their gear?)

Any gear you buy that’s up-to-date today will serve you well for the next five years, minimum. And the gear you’ve got now, whatever it is, will probably continue to serve you tomorrow just as well as it did today.

Buying a new piece of gear to replace your nearly new piece of gear is not going to improve your DJing, get you more gigs, or improve your music taste. Resist it!

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Instead, we recommend DJs buy a small controller when starting out (we don’t recommend spending too much for your first device). Then, when you’re ready, upgrade to something “pro”.

Forget timings. Sure, do the research using the ideas above. But then, get what you need, when you need it.

And once you’re done, double-down on learning the skills, collecting the music, improving your performances and having fun! The gear is just a tool to get you there.

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