by Adam Douglas | 4,8 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
Hybrid DJ lead

Hybrid DJ  ·  Source: Allen & Heath, Erica Synths

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The hybrid DJ blurs the lines between spinning and live performance. These drum machines, effects and controllers can help take your rig to new heights of creativity.

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Hybrid DJ: The Best Gear For Electronic Music

There’s never been a better time to be a DJ. From classic, vinyl-oriented setups to ultra-modern ones that straddle the line between DJing and live performance, the perfect rig is just waiting for you to find it. For the adventurous electronic music DJ, whether your genre of choice be techno, EDM, bass or whatever, a hybrid configuration can offer you flexibility, creativity and – naturally – fun.

What Is A Hybrid DJ?

It’s hard to define just what a hybrid DJ is as there are so many different avenues to rock down. Essentially, if you’re blending elements of live performance into a rig that involves playing other peoples’ records, you could be a hybrid DJ. Even if you consider yourself a live act, incorporating traditionally DJ-oriented gear is also a possibility.

If you’re still not sure what I’m on about, read on and all will become clear.

Hybrid DJ: Bang The Drum Machine

From the very beginning, DJs have been incorporating additional sound-making equipment into their setups. Some forward-thinking jocks in the 1980s used drum machines like the Roland TR-909 to add extra thump, matching tempos of records by hand. These days, you can still beat match by ear if you want, or you can make use of MIDI and BPM sync to keep things aligned.

Roland TR-8S
Roland TR-8S · Source: Roland

One popular drum machine for hybrid DJs is Roland’s TR-8S. This is because it’s got models of all the classic 707, 808 and 909 sounds you could want. It’s also a snap to reprogram on the fly. You can also import your own samples, making it very flexible. 

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Elektron Digitakt E25 Remix Edition
Elektron Digitakt E25 Remix Edition · Source: Elektron

If you want something a little more unique but no less techno, try the Digitakt from Elektron. You’ll have to prepare your beats ahead of time but the sheer sound of the Digitakt could be worth it, especially if you lean more towards IDM or other left-field genres. 

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Roland TR-8S
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Elektron Digitakt II
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Hybrid DJ: Decks And Effects

One way to transform your hybrid DJ set is with effects. If you have a decent DJ mixer you may have some built-in effects already but going with a separate effects unit will give you more control and probably better sound quality. There are a number of options available, from a dedicated DJ effects unit like the Pioneer DJ RMX-1000 to a custom modular setup to one of these below.

Eventide H9 Max Harmonizer - Great Deal Blue and Dark limited editions
Eventide H9 Max Harmonizer – Great Deal Blue and Dark limited editions · Source: Eventide

If you have the budget, it’s hard to do better than the Eventide Audio H9 Max. Housed in a sturdy box like a guitar pedal, it contains most of Eventide’s most beloved algorithms. Reverb, chorus, delay, modulation, pitch-shifting, distortion – it’s all there.

Korg NTS-3 Kaoss Pad Kit
Korg NTS-3 Kaoss Pad Kit · Source: Korg

For the more budget-conscious performer, take a look at Korg’s recently released Nu:Tekt NTS-3 Kaoss Pad Kit. The Kaoss series has been a DJ favourite for years. The latest puts the beloved effects unit into a programmable DIY kit with up to four effects playable at the same time.

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Eventide H9 Max Blue Harmonizer
Eventide H9 Max Blue Harmonizer
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Korg Nu:Tekt NTS-3
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Hybrid DJ: Fix It In The Mixer

Whether you’re a DJ adding live performance elements or a performer wanting DJ-like controls over your gear, a DJ mixer is a must for hybrid electronic music performances. With EQ, isolators and often filters on every channel plus even the main out, there are plenty of ways to tweak out your sound. Faders and knobs add to the fun as well.

PlayDifferently Model 1
PlayDifferently Model 1 · Source: PlayDifferently

Richie Hawtin, who knows a thing or two about hybrid DJing, helped develop the two offerings from PlayDifferently: Model 1 and the more affordable Model 1.4. With more performance options than you can shake a glowstick at plus phenomenal sound, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without the analogue mixer.

Allen & Heath Xone:96
Allen & Heath Xone:96 · Source: Allen & Heath

Mention Allen & Heath’s Xone series and your favourite DJ’s eyes are sure to light up. Packed with the things that make DJing fun like filters, EQ and even MIDI in some, they’re a solid option for a hybrid setup. Check out Xone:96 if you’re really serious.

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PlayDifferently Model 1
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Allen & Heath Xone 96
Allen & Heath Xone 96
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Hybrid DJ: DJs Take Controller

Unless you’re going old-school with record players or even CDJs, you’ll need some kind of a controller to trigger audio files. These can be as simple as something with a few buttons to a full, all-in-one affair that combines platter and mixer functionality. 

Native Instruments Traktor X1 MK3
Native Instruments Traktor X1 MK3 · Source: Native Instruments

For the hybrid DJ wanting to trigger audio files from a laptop, Native InstrumentsTraktor X1 MK3 comes highly recommended. Made with techno in mind, it’s a cinch to loop and launch effects. For something more involved, check out NI’s flagship four-channel Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3.

Novation Launchpad Pro MK3
Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 · Source: Novation

If your set involves Ableton Live, a controller with buttons to launch clips is the way to go. There’s Ableton’s own Push – now a standalone instrument like Maschine+ – as well as the launchpad controllers from Novation. Launchpad Pro MK3 is the company’s top-of-the-line launcher, packing in functionality like a dedicated sequencer that make it a production and performance tool.

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Native Instruments Traktor X1 MK3
Native Instruments Traktor X1 MK3
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Novation Launchpad Pro MK3
Novation Launchpad Pro MK3
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Hybrid DJ: Sample DJing

Being a hybrid DJ doesn’t have to mean triggering clips or songs from a laptop. There’s a relatively new alternative born from the world of phrase samplers: sample DJing.

Roland SP-404 MKII
Roland SP-404 MKII · Source: Roland

Roland’s SP-404 MKII includes DJ Mode, which codifies how many adventurous beatmakers had been using their SPs in live performances. DJ Mode allows you to add cue points to samples, adjust fader curves, sync external MIDI instruments, and more.

For a sample player that’s actually a dedicated performance machine, consider Korg’s Kaoss Replay. With its touchscreen, built-in Kaoss Pad for live effects manipulation and sample hot cues, it’s an all-in-one live gig machine.

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Roland SP-404MKII
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Korg Kaoss Replay
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