For Tango music, all you need is a notebook and this can be any notebook, provided it has enough speed to drive a sound device and enough memory to carry the music collection. I personally don´t believe in external memory, because an external harddisk can break and sometimes DJ software is not amused, if an external device is not present. So please use them as backup, but do not play from an external device.
So for simple playing, a notebook is fine, but how about DJing. The difference here is, that a DJ not just lets a playlist run. He must be able to change his playlist and to react on things happening at the dancefloor. For this, a way to prelisten is absolutely necessary.
Professional DJs from other music styles have found out, that dealing with software on a small screen and using a little mouse is not a way to guarantee a fast workflow and I totally agree. The trend is to make no (or almost no) use of the mouse while DJing. So the so called controllers are an important help to handle your tasks with real knobs and sliders. Controllers may have their own soundcard included, typically these are of the better quality and they come in all sizes and for different tasks.
So let us have a look at different configurations.
1. Notebook and external sound devices
A beautiful notebook and a cheap external Sounddevice with cheap headphones for prelistening. This is the real minimalism, but it works – provided your software can handle the internal and external sound devices.
If you want to spend another 20$, use a multichanel Soundcard, which typically works with most of the software. Using a touchpad is difficult and slow, so a mouse for another 20$ is definitively a good idea.
2. Small DJ Controllers
If you want to have a better controll, use an external sound device with a controller for the internal mixer. This is the controller Z1 from Native Instruments (around 250$), which I can highly recommend. With this configuration, I have DJed really big Milongas. The Z1 is able to play with other software than Traktor, but please check the compatibility before you buy. It comes bundeled with Traktor 2 LE software.
An additional controller helps to control the playlist and the decks. This one (X1 from Native Instruments) can be added just using another USB port.
3. A big DJ-Controller
Usig a real DJ-Controller is overkill for Tango DJing. Sometimes you can get them cheap if the next generation of controllers is launched. I bought this one (Native Instruments, S4) mainly because of the software license that came with it. Having everything in a case makes the setup easy and keeps everything tidy and structured. Generally I think, buying a case for your equipment is not a bad thing. It makes things faster and protects the equipment.
4. An external Mixer
For real big events, I like to have my own Mixer, which can combine the output of my DJ console with other sources (Microphone, Ipod, second PC). This is typically not necessary, but sometimes it is a “nice to have”.
Generally I carry my notebook and the DJ controller in a stable case with the usual cables, headphones and power supplies. Additionally, I carry a smaller case with additional cabling for emergencies (which stays in the car).
With this setup, I just open one box, attach that to a power point and connect the line out to the house mixer. Additionally, I carry a printout of my intended playlist, and a small flashlight. A pencil and some adhesive notes for music requests also come handy.
Some years ago, I was really late for a Milonga (normally, I try to be there 30 minutes before the Milonga starts). Ten minutes before start, I noticed, that the computer had deleted all my music databases. This is the worst case apart from a full crash of the computer. It took me 15 minutes to restore the databases from an internal backup so the Milonga started late.
Now what happens just in case of ? I personally always try to have a plan B in case my computer crashes. For big Milongas, this is a second notebook with software and collection mirrored on the harddisk. For smaller milongas, I have the music and a playlist on my tablet computer, which I use nowadays instead of the printout. If the computer crashes, I still can start that playlist as an admittedly bad (because there are no options for last minute changes and adjustments to the dancefloor) plan B.
-Richard (DJ Ricardo)