As an 'experienced' DJ, I get very nostalgic over the use of vinyl and still think of CDs as a modern format. However, with more and more DJ's are choosing to abandon these traditional formats in favour of a digital alternative it seems that CDs are likely to be relegated to the history books and that the DJ controller is here to stay.
The benefits of DJ'ing from a digital format are obvious, heavy Boxes of records and bulky CD wallets can be left at home and your entire music library can be taken to a gig on a single harddrive , USB stick or SD card. Whereas a DJs record collection could previously dominate a fair size room, with advancements in digital storage, a library of thousands of tracks can be stored and played back from a laptop and controller which fits conveniently in a DJ bag.
Because of these obvious benefits, the decision to switch to a digital format is often an easy one, choosing the best controller for you, however, can prove more of a challenge. There are dozens of popular DJ controller models available on the market today but which one do you go for? Hopefully, with the help of this simple guide we will make this decision a whole load easier by helping to determine which features will be essential and which you can live without.
Firstly, it’s important to consider where you’re going to use the controller. Is it for bedroom use and the occasional house party? Will you be using it in bars and clubs? Or will you be taking it on the road with a mobile disco? It’s also worth considering at this stage where you see yourself as a DJ in one, two or three years time.
If you’re a hobby/bedroom DJ with no plans to move into mobile or club work then you may set a lower budget and purchase something more basic than, say, a beginner who plans to ‘go professional’ within a couple of years and won’t want to ‘buy twice’.
How many channels do you need? This is another point to consider. Most DJ controllers will offer either 2 or 4 channels. This is the equivalent of having 2 or 4 decks/turntables to mix on (providing 4-deck mixing is supported by the software you are using). Mobile DJ’s typically use 2 channels while some club DJ’s may prefer to use 4 decks to give them more scope to be creative in their mixes.
Will you be still be using other formats? It is worth noting that a lot of 4-channel controllers, such as the Traktor Kontrol S4 [left] and Numark N4, allow for external audio sources (such as CD decks and turntables) to be connected directly the mixer section on the controller. This feature is also present on some 2-channel controllers (such as the American Audio VMS2 [below, right]) but is a lot less common).
What software do you plan to use? Although the majority of modern DJ controllers can be ‘mapped’ to work with most popular DJ software it is still worth considering what software you plan to use. Some controllers are designed with certain software in mind and nearly all come with some DJ software packaged with the controller.
Many of the less-expensive controllers will come with a scaled down (or ‘light’) version of popular software, for example, Pioneers entry-level controller the DDJ-WeGo comes with Virtual DJ LE, a reduced-feature version of Virtual DJ 7. Meanwhile, top-end controllers often come with full, professional versions of the software such as the inclusion of Serato DJ with the new Pioneer DDJ-SX.
What music do you plan to play? Although you can technically play any music on any controller certain controllers house additional features which lend themselves to certain genres. For example the new Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 features MPC pads that can be used to trigger samples and effects making it perfect for certain genres of dance music. Meanwhile some controllers such as the DDJ-Ergo from Pioneer have touch-sensitive jog wheels which make them ideal for scratching. It is worth having a close look to make sure the controller you’re considering does what you will need it to do. If in doubt or you feel you could benefit from some advice then never hesitate to give our friendly and knowledgeable sales team a call.
What’s your budget? In an ideal world this question wouldn’t be featured but, in the real world, we all have a budget to work to. It’s all well and good harping on about top-end gear but most people live in the real-world where budget is a prime consideration. Fortunately, whether you are ‘going digital’ or whether you are new to DJ’ing altogether, buying a DJ controller needn’t be expensive and is certainly cheaper than it ever was buying 2 turntables and a mixer. DJ controllers start at less than £50 and top out at just over £1000. Again, do your research and ask advice from one of our expert team, you may be surprised at just how little it might cost.
So there you have a brief overview of what to look for when buying a DJ controller. The choice is huge and there are new models being released all the time so, if in doubt, speak to the experts in our sales team (01206 845125) who will be delighted to assist you in your enquiry. Alternatively, check out the controller section on our website. Thanks for reading…
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