Whether you’re just getting introduced to the world of DJing or you were born to spin, there’s a lot of gear you need to consider when investing in a DJ setup. Will you buy a controller that houses everything you need in an all-in-one system? Or will you buy bits and pieces that you’ll fit together into a modular system? Depending on your workflow, these are two important questions to consider. Let’s take a look at the best DJ controllers, whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been DJing professionally for years.
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Location is Important
Do you plan on mixing mostly in your basement and at a couple house parties? Or are you advanced enough that you’re going to be playing mostly at clubs? Where you’re going to be using your gear most often is an important factor to consider when purchasing a DJ controller. In most cases, if you’ll be using your gear mainly for smaller crowds, an all-in-one controller will be your best bet. If you’re planning on doing slightly more complex mixes for clubs and larger crowds, you may want to consider a modular setup. Let’s review the differences.
DJ setups are no joke. You’ll need a controller, sound card, and particular software that can be used with your laptop to create your mixes and beats. When you purchase an all-in-one controller, you don’t need to spend hours and hours figuring out every single piece of your system – it’s already included! This type of controller is especially good for beginners who are looking for a setup that’s clear and easy to understand. All of the controls are housed on one surface, so it’s easy to get to know where they are and what they do.
- Numark Mixtrack Pro 2: Works with both Mac and PC, connecting with your computer to give you ease of mixing at your fingertips. Upload all of your music to your computer for easy access, and then the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 supplies easy hot cues, effects controls, looping and Serato DJ Intro – which can be easily updated to its full version for a small fee. It only weighs 1.45 lbs, so you can easily transport it from home to party. Priced around $250, it’s an easy way for new DJs to dip their does in the water while still working with professional equipment.
- Traktor Kontrol S2: Compatible with both Mac and PC, Traktor Kontrol S2 provides two decks and remix decks. It comes with Traktor Pro 2, which allows you to make professional mixes, use easy cue and loop functions, and integrate over 30 effects. The good news is that Traktor Pro 2 is the full version, so you won’t need to pay an extra fee to update your software. And if you keep a lot of your music on your iPad or iPhone, Traktor Kontrol S2 works seamlessly with Traktor DJ for easy mobile mixing. Priced around $500, this is a mid-range controller for those who are looking to upgrade their introductory deck.
- Pioneer XDJ-R1: On the more professional end of the spectrum, Pioneer’s XDJ-R1 is a wireless controller that offers the ability to control mixing even when away from the system. You can use your iPod or iPhone to control your mixing using the remotebox application. This controller also includes Reckordbox software and the option to download VirtualDJ software for free. The XDJ-R1 also includes two CD players along with a USB port for multiple ways of playing music. It features three different hot cue points, a handful of different samples and sound effects, as well as noise reduction for cleaner mixing. Priced around $900, it’s geared towards those who know what they’re looking for in a controller.
For those who want to have a bit more control over their equipment, a modular setup is the perfect choice. In many cases, all-in-one controllers contain sound cards that aren’t as top quality as sound cards you can purchase separately. If you’re spinning for large crowds and want the best sound quality possible, you’ll want to consider a modular setup where you can purchase a more expensive – but more reliable – sound card. Modular setups are also more versatile, meaning you can mix and match pieces at will. If you feel as though you need an upgrade, you can upgrade one part of your setup for less than you’d spend upgrading an entire all-in-one controller.
- Behringer CMD-DV 1: The Behringer CMD-DV 1 is compatible with professional DJ programs such as Traktor, Ableton Live and Serato Scratch Live, so there’s no need to be restricted to one particular program. Its midi controls mean that you don’t need to be focusing on your computer the entire time, and it allows you to have control over four different effects decks at a time. Priced at $150, you can’t go wrong.
- Traktor Kontrol 1: The Traktor Kontrol 1 allows you to switch between 64 different tracks, samples and loops at the touch of a button. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC and offers four different faders. It comes pre-programmed with 2GB of sound, but you can import your own sounds or even capture sounds from the audience as you’re DJing. Its slim body allows it to fit easily into your modular system, and priced at $200 it’s cheap enough to justify the purchase.
- Reloop Contour Interface: This Reloop controller is programmed for use with Traktor Pro 2 software, yet offers the ability to be used as a MIDI controller for other software. With this controller, you are able to control up to four different decks at once. You can control all four decks with one controller, or you can use a separate controller for each. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC, and has a total of 45 different controls on 4 different banks. Priced at $300, it’s pricier than the previous two yet still affordable.
Make it Count
While your first (or second, or third) DJ controller may not be the one you’re stuck with for the rest of your life, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of all-in-one controllers vs. modular controllers and determine which is best for you. Careful review of your options will help you make an educated decision. Once you’ve made the decision, it’s all fun from here on out! Let’s party!