DJ or disco jockeys are quite famous these days. Without DJ, parties seem breathless. DJs are treated like music producers and get name, fame, and money like any other artists. That’s why many youths are entering this field.
DJs like Daft Punk, Porter Robinson, Cassy, etc are treated as a superstar.
If you have just chosen DJ as your career then there are many things you should know about it including the equipment used in DJing. Especially, DJ controllers are the heart of any DJ setup.
In this article, I will talk all about that how to choose a DJ controller if you are just a beginner in DJing.
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BUT, first, let me give you a short description of DJ controllers.
What is a DJ Controller? – Short description
DJ controller a replace of the traditional DJ units of 2 decks and a mixer which was connected to form a DJ setup. Now, the modern DJ controllers have all these three pieces of equipment in one console that allows you to forget about connecting each piece of equipment to set up the DJ unit.
You can use modern DJ controllers to mix and scratch tracks and adjust EQs exactly like the old setups but in a much more handy way.
Some of the digital DJ controllers are completely stand-alone units. That means these DJ controller units when used with compatible software, will remove even the need of using your laptop mouse.
A standard digital DJ controller features two scratchers, one mixer, and a transport panel to make it very easy to operate. As you know, in DJing where speed matters, owning stand-alone DJ controllers allows you to operate very fast with accuracy.
SO, we can say stand-alone DJ controllers are all-in-one equipment for DJs. With just a DJ controller and a laptop, you can become a DJ now.
What does a DJ controller do?
DJ controllers are very similar to a normal DJ deck, however, they are far beyond the traditional decks when compared to the unique features given.
Common features found in both DJ controllers and traditional DJ setup
- Transport panel: The basic transport feature is the same in both DJ controllers and traditional setup. A button like play, pause, start, stop, etc are common.
- Jog wheels: Jog wheels in modern DJ controllers are the replacement of the platter of the old turntable but both work as same.
- Faders: As you use a mixer in a traditional DJ setup, a modern DJ controller will provide you the same in one system.
- Knobs and pan pots: Knobs and pan pots are the same as the traditional mixer.
- Ports: You will get a handful of input and output ports in both setups to channelize your sounds in the whole system.
Unique features of a DJ controller
- Pad switches: Pad switches allow you to trigger hot cues, FX, and samples during the performance.
- Software integration: You can integrate a digital DJ controller with computer software that helps you do things easily.
- USB connections: You will get USB connections to connect your DJ controller with your laptop and other digital devices.
- MIDI control: MIDI control allows you to connect other MIDI devices with your DJ controller.
- LCD screen and touch display: touch LCD is now common in modern DJ controllers.
How to choose the best DJ controller?
SO, the most important question is how to choose a good DJ controller that fulfills all your needs when there are countless models available in the market?
Well, this article will guide you in choosing the best DJ controllers under your budget.
All-In-One DJ Controllers or Modular Rig Controllers
First off, let us discuss the 2 types of DJ controllers, then we see what features and functions do you need in an ideal DJ controller.
Modular DJ Rig Controllers
Modular DJ rig controllers are the traditional approach of DJing. This setup combines a turntable, along with CD players and a mixer. Optionally an audio interface is used to connect your DJ gear with DJ software like Fruity Loops installed on your laptop.
However, the majority of DJs are now using digital all-in-one DJ controllers there are few people who love the traditional approach. They are still using Modular DJ rig controller setups.
A modular DJ rig controller doesn’t cost a big budget. With this approach, you can start your DJ journey with just a turntable, CD players, and a mixer.
You can also opt for digital vinyl systems that give you the physical scratching experience as well as the software control feature.
All-in-One DJ controllers
On the other hand, all-in-one DJ controllers are the combination of CD players, mixer, scratcher, audio interface (optional), and software connectivity in a single unit.
In an all-in-one DJ controller, you will get physical knobs, buttons, and sliders that you can connect with the DJ software or apps installed on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
With these types of DJ controllers, you will experience the combination of mouse and physical control. Once you experience the physical controls, you will start loving it as the process becomes very easy and speedy as compared to traditional DJ setups or software operated DJs.
An All-in-one DJ controller gives both the simplest setup and the greatest level of control.
DJ controller features & functions your controller should have
As a DJ controller is the combination of a turntable, decks, and mixer, it should have all the features of all the 3 equipment.
Plus, a DJ controller should have some extra functionalities such as a touch screen, laptop connection, software compatibility, etc.
Let us see the common DJ controller features and functionalities
- Scratcher – The very common feature of a DJ controller is scratchers which is the main ingredient of DJ performance. Scratcher is the replacement of the turntable. Generally, a DJ controller should have 2 scratchers.
- Mixer section – The mixer section is the replacement of a traditional DJ mixer. The mixer section has pan buttons, track volume faders, crossfade faders, etc. These things are used to crossfade between two songs as well as adding FX effects to the track.
- Transport panels – An ideal DJ controller has 1 transport panels for each scratcher. That means you will get 2 transport panels in the console. This feature is the replacement of traditional CD players. Transport panels are used to play, pause, loop-in songs, and adding effects to the tracks. Another common feature in the DJ controller transport panels you will get is tempo change fader or knob. This feature is very helpful in crossfading between two songs of different speeds.
- Software connectivity (USB) – ALmost all the DJ controllers are compatible with major DJ software that is used to perform the show with the help of a laptop. This feature is also used to load and save songs in the controller.
- MIDI connectivity – However, this feature is optional in any DJ controller, but it can be used to connect and play any MIDI instrument with the DJ controller.
Before choosing a DJ controller you should check out which DJ software it is compatible with so that you could use that for any computer-related operation.
As a music producer, I know and want to clear out that without proper software support any pro music hardware is useless.
SO, first, search about the software your DJ controller comes with. If the packaged software is good then you can go with the DJ controller otherwise search for another one.
Most of the first liner DJ controllers come with popular software like Traktor Pro, Serato DJ, Rekordbox DJ, or Virtual DJ.
If your DJ controller comes with any of the above software then it’s good to choose that.
In my future articles, I will review all the above software so that you can evaluate which one you should go with. However, all the software mentioned above are top-class DJ software so if your DJ controller supports them then it’s a great combination.
Now come to the very important thing ie; budget.
Beginners don’t want to spend much on equipment at the start of their career. Once, they established their career then they could invest more without wandering about their budget.
SO, at the beginning phase of your career, I want to suggest you go with budget DJ controllers.
There are many budget controllers in the market from $100 to $1000. You can buy any of them if the features I have mentioned above are provided on them.
Let’s take a look at popular budget DJ controllers in the next section.
Best DJ Controllers for you
In this section, I will share with you the 3 best DJ controllers under your budget.
The first one is,
1. Pioneer DDJ 400 DJ Controller
Pioneer DDJ 400 is an entry-level USB powered DJ controller with almost all the features needed in a DJ setup. It’s compatible with Pioneer’s in-house DJ software Rekordbox.
You can connect this DJ controller to any Windows and Mac-based computer with the given USB port. Pioneer DDJ 400 is a 2 channel DJ controller.
However, there is no touchscreen or other type of display available in this DJ controller.
If you are a beginner then I would recommend this DJ controller to you as it doesn’t cost a lot and the performance is good.
2. Numark Party Mix
Numark Party Mix is another great DJ controller for beginners. It’s very cheap in price however provides much more features as compared to its price.
Numark party mix is also a 2 channel DJ controller that allows you to serve great sounding experience to your listeners.
This is a USB bus-powered DJ controller so you don’t need an extra power source for it. It supports the well known Serato DJ software.
3. Numark NV II
Numark NV II is another great DJ controller by Numark. However, it cost above $500 you will get some extra features with it. The first feature it provides is two separate displays for scratchers.
It’s a four-deck DJ controller that supports Serato DJ software.
It’s a standalone DJ controller that doesn’t need you to look at the computer screen and focus on your music with the given displays.
Conclusion: How to Choose DJ Controllers
Well, in this article you have learned how to choose a DJ controller as a beginner. As well as I have introduced you to the 3 best DJ controllers that are so popular among beginners.
DJ controller is the heart of any DJ setup so choosing the one that provides all your needs is a must. I hope this article helped you with that.
If you have any questions that I have not covered in this article, please write your question in the comment section below.
And share this article in your social circle to help others.
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Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.