Deck the halls
You might assume that all DJs are multimillionaire jet-setters who'll spend the holiday season cruising around aimlessly in their speedboat, chugging champagne and scoffing caviar to a soundtrack of endless bass drops.
Yet despite what Swedish House Mafia promo videos may have led you to believe, the reality of life for the vast majority of DJs isn't quite so decadent. We're not all Tiesto*. The majority of DJs are just cash-strapped musicians who'll appreciate a stocking-filler and a mince pie as much as the next person.
So, with Christmas now tantalisingly (terrifyingly?) close, MusicRadar is here to help you find the perfect gift the DJ(s) in your life.
*[NOTE: If you do actually know Tiesto, and came here specifically looking for gift ideas for him, that's probably a little beyond our area of expertise. Maybe socks? Even Tiesto needs socks.]
Sennheiser HD25 Aluminium
Headphones are always a good DJ gift option, as they’re something that any DJ - be they digital, CD or vinyl-focussed - is undoubtedly going to need. The problem with this suggestion, however, is that there’s now such a huge morass of DJ headphones on the market that picking the right set can be a daunting challenge.
Broadly speaking, Sennheiser’s HD25-IIs are the safest bet. They’re so widely used amongst professional DJs that they’ve effectively become an industry standard (although that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other decent options available.)
These HD25 Aluminium headphones are Sennheiser’s latest addition to the range, launched to mark the line’s 25th anniversary. Spec-wise they’re very similar to their iconic siblings, but with the addition of a sturdy and rather smart-looking aluminium outer casing.
The downside, however, is that these headphones don’t come particularly cheap, with a street price of around £199/$300. Sennheiser’s HD205-II make a good alternative for those on a tighter budget, offering quality that punches above their £40/$60 street price.
It might sound like the dullest possible suggestion for a gift (and perhaps it is) but any DJ that regularly plays out in clubs will thank you in the long run.
Here’s the issue at hand: for some unfathomable reason, which it seems that nobody is able to fully explain, pretty much every mixer or DJ controller on the market features a 6.35mm (jack) headphone socket, while almost every popular set of DJ headphones comes with a 3.5mm (mini jack) connector attached. Sure, most decent DJ headphones will come with an adapter supplied, but those things absolutely love to go AWOL just when you need them.
Chances are that any DJ who has played in a club more than twice will be able to identify with the devastating feeling of panic brought on by turning up to begin a set and realising that this crucial link between the music and your ears has inexplicably gone walkabout. So if you love a DJ, buy them a headphone adapter. In fact, buy ten, or 30 - fill their pockets with adapters and save them from this frustrating fate.
Numark’s wireless handheld controller Orbit is certainly one of the more unique DJ devices on the market. Complete with backlit pads, shoulder buttons, a touch-sensitive control wheel and built-in 2-axis accelerometer, it resembles a games console controller more than a traditional DJ unit.
The Orbit is fully MIDI-mappable, so can be programmed to control almost any bit of music-making software. It also comes with its own MIDI editor and software DJ application.
It’s worth noting that the Orbit isn’t likely to suit every DJ’s tastes. Before picking one up it’s worth considering if the DJ in question is likely to enjoy waving their arms about whilst performing, and using exaggerated gestures to control aspects of their DJ set (ie, not one for the reclusive, eyes-down techno fans.)
The Orbit’s unique design, bright colours and inherently fun method of operation is likely to go down well on Christmas morning, though. Fun for all the family; you’ll have grandma waving in massive filter sweeps in no time.
The past year has seen the concept of iOS DJing come on in leaps and bounds. Sure, we’re not quite at the point where iPads are replacing CDJs and turntables in clubs yet, but whereas a mere 18 months ago the vast majority of iPad and iPhone DJ apps were novelty affairs with little real world usefulness, there are now a number of notable, genuinely appealing iOS tools out there for DJs.
In terms of great apps to gift someone, Native Instruments’ Traktor DJ is our pick of the bunch. It’s a stripped-back version of its Mac/PC counterpart, which makes excellent use of the device’s touchscreen interface as a means for controlling filters and effects. It can sync track info and cue points with its bigger sibling, too, which makes it a fantastic tool for planning and preparing DJ sets on the go.
Elsewhere, version two of algoriddim’s djay 2 for iPad is also excellent. It features an easy-to-navigate and adaptable interface, which will probably make more sense to the old school ‘two turntables and a mixer’ generation of DJs.
There are plenty of other, more idiosyncratic or specific apps out there that may appeal to DJs, too. touchAble and LiveControl 2 are both excellent controller apps worth checking out for those who perform using Ableton Live. Jungulator is a fun little loop-mixing app for the DnB heads. Meanwhile, some of the more niche controller apps, such as the motion controlled Tangible FX iMoov, could provide inspiration for the more creative performers out there.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1
Sitting perfectly alongside Traktor DJ for iPad, the Z1 is undoubtedly the best iOS DJing peripheral currently available.
It might not pack the sorts of features you’d expect from a pro-level controller - you only get control over two mixer channels, each with a single filter/effect rotary - but with its built-in audio interface, and paired-up with the touchscreen features of Traktor DJ, it’s a surprisingly flexible and very usable solution for DJing on the go. It works as a controller for Traktor on a Mac or PC, too, which makes it an excellent gateway into the world of digital DJing.
The one aspect of the Z1 that may prove unappealing to some, however, is its lack of jog wheels. For a more traditional DJing experience for iOS, Numark’s iDJ Pro, Reloop’s Beatpad and Vestax’s Spin 2 are worth a look.
Similarly, at a slightly higher price point, Native Instruments’ flagship Traktor controllers the S2 and the S4 are now iPad compatible, too, which only adds to their already impressive usability.
Replica Daft Punk helmet/Deadmau5 head
Want to experience what it’s like to be a world-dominating DJ but can’t be bothered to invest an afternoon in learning how to beat-match? EDM-themed, novelty headwear might just be the perfect solution.
Knock-off headgear doesn’t come cheap, however. Unofficial recreations of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s famous helmets start at around $200 on eBay, whilst a set of Deadmau5 ears will set you back upwards of $150.
After a budget option? Buying a cheap Morticia Addams wig and chopping half the hair off makes for a functional Skrillex impersonator's kit.
The UDJ6 is one of the most powerful of the compact DJ interfaces on the market.
It’s small enough to fit in your hand, yet packs six outputs for DJ software like Traktor, Djay or Ableton Live, with two RCA outs per channel and a stereo 1/4-inch jack for headphone cueing.
On the downside, it lacks any input or a volume control for the headphone cue. Still, with so many outputs for the price, it’s a great device for anyone looking to create a laptop DJing setup.