Generator Size Guide for DJ Equipment – Portable Power Supply


Let’s talk generators! I love power. It’s so fun because it’s straightforward. Unlike the lighting…

Whether you’re organizing a house party, setting a stage in the woods, or bringing the equipment to a beach, as a DJ, you need to know what size generator you need.

The naive approach to this is to take the rated wattage of the speakers, sum it up, and get a slightly larger generator.

“So, if my speakers are 400 watts each and my subwoofer is 800 watts, then it’d be 1600 watts total, and I should probably take a generator rated for 2,000 or so. Right?”

No. You want to check the power consumption watts, not rated output watts. Watts isn’t watts in this scenario.

Most generators are rated on their peak output (starting watts), but you might need to read the fine print to attain their running watts.

I run all my gear through a PDU (this one) that measures the real-time amp load of the complete system, so I monitor the exact power draw throughout the gig.

But more of that later, let’s dive right in.

What Size Generator to Power DJ Equipment?

The math is easy. Add up the gear (amps) peak load and assure that rate is less than 75% of the measured generator’s continuous power.

You can run the most standard DJ equipment with a generator rated at 2,000 to 2,800 watts. These include things like speakers, a laptop and controller, and monitors. A generator with around 2500 running watts can run all these at once. For a private party, a 2000 – 4000-watt generator would be ideal.

generator for dj equipment

For example, this is what I ran smoothly on a Honda 2200W generator:

– Speaker 1 JBL PRX525 – 650W RMS/1300W peak
– Speaker 2 JBL PRX525 – 650W RMS/1300W peak
– Subwoofer JBL PRX815XLFW – 1500W
– 60 meters of LED strips
– Controller, small monitors, a limiter, and a few other items

The Honda EU2200i runs for 9 hours on a gallon of gas when working at 1/4 load (~600 watts continuous). Ten gallons = 10 days, 9 hours a day.

If you’re running speakers, note that a 2000W sound system only draws that at peak. In my experience, a 2000W sound system cranked loud will average under 600w continuous as well.

In the rare event, you’re using the whole 1800w output of the generator continuously – say you’re running a large bank of LEDs constantly or powering an RV AC unit – you’ll barely get about 4 hours on a gallon.

With those speakers I have, 2000W with 1.5 gallon gets me through the night comfortably, running sound and light for beach or woods party.

Understand that most generators are there for the RV market. That implies they need to power 30A – 50A for an entire camper. That covers the fridge and A/C – high power appliances, and those things are hungry

>> Check the price for Honda EU2200i <<


Larger generators

In contrast, on 7000-watt Honda, my friend ran 3 QSC subs, 2X153, and 2 K8’s for monitors, and the entire Nexus setup DJM 2 CDj’s on their Art car for Burning Man.

It also included 10 American DJ led pars, and approximately 5,000 individual-led programmable pixels, plus a laptop, and a few flashlight chargers.

One time I rent one of those for $65 per day. It’s pleasantly quiet, burns clean, and puts out great power. But it doesn’t make sense buying it, except you plan on working with it more than a dozen times a year.

Calculating Generator Size for DJ Equipment

The primary thing you’ll want to do is calculate how much power your equipment consumes.

Find exact requirements

Power specifications are usually written on the back of the gear near the power outlet and in the manual. You can also find it by looking up the model specs online.

What you’re looking for isn’t the output, but the power draw. It’s often in watts, other times in volts and amps (power = volts * amps). Sometimes the power is given as a peak value rather than RMS (i.e., an average). 

When talking about speakers running (continuous) watts and starting (peak) watts will be the same – this is also the case for equipment such as DJ controllers, Laptops.

In some cases (i.e., appliances with electric motors or heating elements), the starting wattage can be multiplied (3-4 times or more) by the running/continuous wattage.

If you have difficulty getting an exact consumption measurement, you can employ a Kill-A-Watt power meter or similar.

Ensure the power is expressed in Watts (W)

If your equipment power information is written in Amps (A), Kilowatts (kW, kVA), then you will want to convert these numbers to Watts (W).

Use this Power Reference if needed;

power(W) = volts(V) * amps(A), 1 x Amp = 240 watts, 1 x kW = 1000 watts

Sum up the hunger level of every piece of equipment

And this will instruct you how much to feed them.

Equipment Peek Power
Speaker 1 500 watts
Speaker 2 500 watts
Controller 120 watts
Laptop 120 watts
Subwoofer 550 watts
Total 1790 watts

For this setup, you need a generator that can comfortably work 1800 watts. I recommend you go for one with 2200W.

And you could go even lower. Some people are exaggerating with power, not understanding the basics.

Not too long ago at one gathering the combo of a cheap Wen generator and 240Wh battery ran:

Two moving headlights, light bar, controller, laptop, a wireless mic, controller, two 1200W speakers, and 1300W subwoofer. All that barely draws 7.5 Amps (900W).

Everything was cranked up loud as neighbors were coming to see what the hell are we doing.

Tips for Using a Generator for DJ Equipment

(1) Generators need to be set like 60-100 feet away from the speakers and subwoofer; otherwise, you will mostly hear the generator. Even the quiet, high-end Honda whisper-light ones are noisy and unpleasant to be around.

(2) Use a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) within the generator and equipment. It protects equipment from power spikes, but it also gives the crew time to refuel and restart the generator, and other gear that requires continuous power. It’s just one more thing people should think about when playing music somewhere without electricity.

(3) Surge protector! Understand, all surge protectors are power strips, but not all power strips are surge protectors. Ensure what you buy is without a doubt marketed as a surge protector.

(4) Watch your maintenance cycle. There’s a set period that the manufacturer suggests you change the oil. Stick with it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself at a gig, and the oil pressure warning light will come on, and you know the rest of the story…

(5) If you’re purchasing a Honda brand-new, there’s an essential burn-in procedure you need to follow to maximize endurance. Run it for <20 hours (about 15 hours is good) on its first Honda oil batch. Ideally, use Honda’s regular, non-synthetic oil. Then replenish the oil. It’ll be muddy and black. From here on, you can work with Mobile 1, completely synthetic oil. Your generator will last for many events.

Why wiring is important

The generator won’t mind that five things are plugged into one power strip. It will care about undersized cables running long distances. So, a 16ga (only rated for 10-13A) orange extension cord going 100′ could have a 3.35% drop in voltage over the wiring run.

Free voltage drop calculator

Starving your equipment of voltage can decrease their performance.

How to Choose a Generator for DJ Equipment?

Despite what you use, determine

  • whether you need this generator consistently for events
  • or if it’s enough to rent one for the day.

Proper generators normally don’t come at a low cost, so if it is a one-time gig, it might prove profitable to use one for the gig and include the rental cost in your expenses.

For traveling with a portable power supply often, try to get a small-sized generator. A smaller one will make it simpler for you to move and carry.

If you’re in the DJ business game, be upfront with your customers on what you can deliver and determine the value of renting vs. owning a portable power source.

Talking about clients, the last thing you want is your generator to be heard over the music, as it could ruin your customers’ experience. It would be best if you tried to buy the quietest one out there.

Besides that, it would help if you bought long cables to install a generator in a place where it does not disrupt the party.

Other Power Supply Options

Batteries

2-4 deep cycle batteries, the sort you would use for RV or the trolley motor in a boat. They would run through a pure sine wave type inverter, which provides cleaner power than the low-end inverters. Much more like the power from a regular outlet.
That would run through a UPS and then to the equipment.

I’ve noticed that most of the buskers use batteries. Generators are too loud for that purpose. The car battery and inverter system are quite standard and absolutely safe. Buskers recharge the battery at home afterward using a usual car battery charger. Just ensure you do it somewhere well ventilated, like your garage.

This is the battery most buskers use – Jackery Power Station Explorer 500.

Jump Starter with 12V DC output/USB Portable Power Port

This can be useful for small events in the outdoor areas, which are too far from the power to use extension cords securely.

I knew a guy who ran several smaller gigs using this Schumacher 2200 Peak Amp jump starter.

This won’t run a huge PA (at least not for long), but it has powered a small PA (Fender Passport) at a moderate volume, a laptop, and a USB soundcard (Native Instruments Audio2 DJ) for 4-5 hours. I’d always leave early, so I never saw how long it could run until running dry, but I estimated 7-8 hours.

A good option if you’re going to keep the system as small as possible to minimize the power-draw and maximize battery duration.

It’s also like Godsend when you have to travel by bus and then move it over a mile to the gig.

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and throwing parties around the town. Tray has over 10 years experience of DJing at home and events.

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