Ever thought it might be useful to physically wire your phone or tablet into your DJ controller or mixer, to use as an extra music source? This article will help you to achieve this.
So why would you want to do this? Well, three good reasons are:
- To use as an extra music source (for instance, to take requests via a streaming service, or to use as a backup music source)
- To run a complete DJ app on your phone or tablet as a full backup system
- To use as a sampler with a sampler app, for DJ indents/drops
Watch the show
Prefer me to talk you through this? In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I talk you through everything in this article, and we take questions from our community too on the subject.
What do I need?
Obviously you’re going to need a phone or tablet running the music software (Spotify, a DJ app, a sampler app, whatever) that you want to “feed” into your DJ system.
Your mixer or controller will need to have a spare Aux In or Line In input, to plug into.
Plus as a minimum you’ll need the correct audio cable – and potentially you’ll need an adaptor or audio interface too.
What are the methods?
There are basically three ways to get audio out of your device. The easiest way is to plug an audio cable in directly – assuming your device has a headphones out. Most phones nowadays don’t, of course, although tablets often do.
If you don’t have a headphones out socket, your first solution is to obtain an adaptor cable. These are small and relatively cheap. For Apple it’ll be a Lightning to 3.5mm headphones adaptor, or a USB-C to 3.5mm headphones adaptor. For Android phones, you’ll probably be looking at a USB-C to 3.5mm headphones adaptor, for instance the Samsung USB-C to 3.5mm headphones adaptor.
Your other option if you don’t want to use either of the above is to use an audio interface – any “class compliant two-out audio interface” will work – for example, the PreSonus AudioBox iOne. This should come with a cable to plug it into your phone, but again, do check.
Learn to set up and use your DJ gear like a pro: The Complete DJ Course
Which method is best?
Both the direct method and the adaptor method use your phone’s internal audio interface, whereas the audio interface method uses the interface’s own circuitry. The latter is usually higher quality, but the downside is an extra box to carry around.
Usually, you’ll only go the audio interface route if you already own a suitable one (for instance to use as an input device to the phone for mobile music making). If not, the direct or adaptor methods are fine. Note that many audio interfaces are only “in” – ie they only let you put audio into your device. Any audio interface you need has to be at least “2-out”.
Which audio cable will I need to get?
Once you’ve chosen one of the methods above, you’ll still need an audio cable to go from that into your DJ controller or mixer.
The trick is to get a cable that fits your phone/adaptor (it will be a 3.5mm stereo jack) or audio interface (usually 2 x RCA plugs or 2 x TRS jack sockets) on one end, and that also fits the Aux In or Line In on your controller or mixer on the other end (usually a “2 x RCA”, but sometimes a 3.5mm stereo jack).
You can just search on Amazon, for instance, for such a cable – make sure you buy one that’s long enough for all possible uses – we’d say 1.5m minimum to be sure.
What are the limitations of adding an extra music source this way?
Aux Ins on DJ gear usually have limited mixing controls, and limited or no EQ, so be aware you may have to play around to get them to sound good. It’ll be hard or impossible to beatmix out of, and definitely into, music played this way.
Also, on many controllers/mixers, the Aux In isn’t routed to any attached laptop, only to the speaker outputs – so while your audience will hear what you play this way, the audio won’t be recorded if you’ve hit “record” in your software or on your laptop, and won’t be audible on livestreams that are taking the audio directly from that source, either.
My controller only has a mic socket – can I use that instead of an aux?
Possibly, although it’s not ideal. You’ll need to find a lead that “sums” the stereo output to your mic input’s mono 1/4″ jack, which means your audio from your phone will only ever be in mono. Also, mic inputs take much lower volume signals than Aux or Line inputs, so you’ll have to turn your output levels right down on your phone or audio interface -even then it may not sound good.
Worth experimenting with, but not really recommended. In this instance, instead you’d probably be best investing in a small additional mixer (see this article).
- Shut down notifications or anything else that can interrupt the audio on your phone – you don’t want that audio interrupting any music you’re playing (make sure you test this!)
- You may need to turn the volume all the way up on your device to hear it properly, and also disable any volume safety features that limit headphone volume
Read this next: 7 Extras & Accessories Every New DJ Needs
Adding your phone or tablet as an extra music source is a useful addition to your DJ set-up, but ultimately a limited one.
It’s best used for the purposes stated at the start of this article: For the odd request via a streaming service or local music player app, as a backup to quickly get music playing again if your system goes down, or to use your phone as a simple sampler for quick DJ idents/drops.