At Priceonomics, we’ve built price guides for over a million used products across the Internet. Given the number of consumer products out there, we can’t always provide valuable insights into every market. Occasionally, however, our firsthand experience proves valuable. Turns out, Omar, one of our co-founders, has extensive experience DJing.
“I started DJing in 2006 during my first year at UVA. I bought a set of CD turntables (Stanton C.314's) and a mixer (Gemini PS-676) online and practiced for a few hours every day for a few months. A lot of people start off as bedroom DJ’s. I had a late start as a dorm-room DJ.”
-DJ Omar, Priceonomics co-founder.
At college he performed at local clubs and parties. According to Omar, international student parties proved the most exciting because attendees showed the best taste in music. Over the years, DJing has remained a hobby for him.
Omar's first setup prominently placed next to a print-out of Paul Graham's How to Start a Startup.
Although Omar bought his original equipment new online, the Priceonomics team wonders if he could’ve found any worthwhile discounts buying used. In order to investigate this topic we pulled price data across three categories of used DJ equipment: vinyl turntables, CD table top players, and pad style MIDI controllers. Turns out, vinyl players offer an impressive discount on secondary used markets. In contrast, the benefits associated with new digital players outweigh the discount offered by used marketplaces.
Which Style is the Best Fit?
Before we dive into the data, it’s probably best to get an understanding of what each category offers to aspiring DJs. Here’s a quick rundown of what Omar has found:
Vinyl Turntables: Many hardcore DJs consider vinyl the most authentic way to mix music. When you choose it, you want quality over quantity. You’re not concerned with having thousands of tracks you’ll never even play; instead, you own your music and know it well. In addition, you can’t beat the sound of a grooved record. However, in today’s digital age, vinyl might seem old school and outdated for those who want to burst ontp the scene. Records are not only expensive but also cumbersome to carry to gigs.
CD Table Top Players: Despite the emergence of DJ software, CD players remain the most traditional manner in which to ease into the art. Although most similar quality CD and vinyl players are similarly priced, vinyl records are significantly more expensive than CDs. As result, a CD player will prove cheaper for you in the long run. Unlike MIDI controllers, CD mixers do not require a computer to function, though some allow USB output to hook one up. Despite these positive features, the CD player limits the tactile aspects of DJing. In addition, you still need to burn your own CDs before gigs and carry them around.
MIDI Controllers: This type of equipment offers a more cutting edge solution. MIDI devices sync with mixing software through a computer. This setup makes MIDI controllers extremely portable because you have access to any number of songs on your computer. Most DJs also praise the flexibility to change sets at any time that comes with a MIDI system. Unfortunately, a steep learning curve exists for the mixing software. As evidenced by the shot below, the DJ software isn’t automatically intuitive. In addition, you lack the tactile response that comes with physical turntables.
Ableton music software. A screenshot alone is evidence of its complexity.
All in all, much like a computer or a car, your choice of DJ equipment comes to down to personal preference and budget. While digital might make you a more dynamic DJ, vinyl offers phenomenal sound quality and tactile response. But do you necessarily have to buy brand new equipment? How much can you save on the used market?
The Used Market for DJ Equipment
Once you’ve decided what style best suits your needs, you’ll likely wonder how much money you’ll need to drop to kickstart your hobby, and in some cases, career. Depending on the level of quality you want, vinyl and CD players range from $100 to $1,000+ new on Amazon. We also found that aspiring DJs can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500+ for a new MIDI controller. Given this wide range of prices, when does it make sense to test the used market?
For each segment we analyzed high end and low end models on used markets like eBay. Here’s what we found:
Vinyl Turntables: If you’re in the market for vinyl, buy it used. On average, you save 47% when choosing to buy used over new. Sure it might prove time-consuming to deal with Craigslist sellers and arrange pickup or shipping, but, let’s be honest, you’re getting a player at half price. Most importantly, Panasonic discontinued the legendary Technics SL1200 in 2010. Regarded as perhaps the single best vinyl turntable of all time, it'd be a shame not to land one at a 60% discount.
CD Table Top Players: CD players sit at the other extreme. On average, you only save 17% on the used market. In this case, we recommend go ahead and spending the extra money to buy new. Why? Purchasing a device new not only guarantees the quality but also provides a warranty in the event anything happens. This long run security outweighs the short-term savings you receive on the used market. In addition, the higher end models such as the Pioneer CDJ-900 have held high resale value since their release in late 2009.
MIDI Controllers: These pads lie somewhere in between the two extremes. On average, you save 24% buying used versus new. Yet is this worth the risk of landing a defective item from Craigslist? In our search, we found most pad style MIDI controls like the Akai APC-40 priced between $200 and $300 dollars. At this price, you would be saving $48-$72 buying used. So the decision comes down to whether quality assurance and a warranty outweighs this. As in the case of CD Players, we lean toward buying new but we’ll let you decide.
Ultimately, your choice of DJ equipment is largely a matter of personal preference. As a result, we can’t advise you which configuration will best suit your needs. However, we hope our investigation into the used DJ equipment market will prove useful when you decide to purchase what’s on your wishlist. To recap, while vinyl is a far better deal on the used market, CD players are best purchased new with warranty. MIDI controllers are a bit close to call but we lean toward new because of the assurance of a quality product. Why is the market split in this manner?
It seems the prevalence of digital options has decreased demand for vinyl players to only a select crowd. This means manufacturers pay more to produce increasingly outdated players raising the price of new vinyl players. At the same time, a lower demand for vinyl forces sellers on used markets to part with their players at a reduced price. This is great news for buyers! Unfortunately, the high demand for digital options keeps prices for new and used models within a similar range to each other. In this case, sellers win because they can purchase a CD player and turn around and sell it for around the same value used.
Oh yeah, Priceonomics is hiring engineers!