There has never been a better time to get into the art of DJing. Technology has brought a once expensive hobby/profession to the mass market for beginners. All major manufacturers of high-end DJ equipment now offer affordable digital DJ controllers.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on choosing the perfect DJ controller! Whether you are a seasoned DJ or just starting out, selecting the right DJ controller is crucial for your performance. In this article, we will walk you through the important factors to consider when choosing a DJ controller, ensuring you make an informed decision.
Let’s dive in and explore the world of DJ controllers!
Which DJ controller to buy to get started? Buying guide
- Understanding DJ Controllers
- Key Features to Look for
- Software Compatibility
- Budget Considerations
- Ergonomics and Build Quality
Understanding DJ Controllers
A DJ controller is a device that allows DJs to control music files and manipulate sound using software on a computer. It typically consists of a hardware unit with various knobs, sliders, and buttons, designed to emulate the traditional setup of turntables and mixers. DJ controllers offer a wide range of functionalities, including mixing, scratching, looping, effects, and more.
Key Features to Look for
When selecting a DJ controller, several key features should be taken into account:
1. Software Compatibility
The compatibility between the DJ controller and the software you intend to use is crucial. Different controllers are designed to work with specific DJ software, such as Serato DJ, Traktor, or rekordbox. Make sure to check the compatibility list provided by the manufacturer to ensure seamless integration between the controller and your preferred software.
2. Number and Type of Channels
Consider the number of channels you require for your DJ setup. Most DJ controllers offer two channels, allowing you to mix two tracks simultaneously. However, if you plan to expand your setup or perform more complex mixes, controllers with four or more channels might be a better choice.
3. Size and Portability
Think about where you will be using your DJ controller. If you frequently travel or perform at different venues, a compact and lightweight controller would be more convenient. On the other hand, if you have a dedicated DJ booth to stream your DJ sets, you can opt for a larger controller with additional features.
4. Connectivity Options
Consider the connectivity options provided by the DJ controller. Look for USB ports, audio inputs/outputs, and compatibility with external devices like turntables or CDJs. Having flexible connectivity options allows you to expand your setup and integrate other equipment seamlessly.
One of the most critical factors when choosing a DJ controller is its compatibility with the software you prefer to use. It is essential to ensure that the controller you select is specifically designed to work with your preferred DJ software. This compatibility ensures that all the features are fully supported and that you can take full advantage of the software’s capabilities.
Before making a purchase, check the manufacturer’s website or product documentation for a list of supported software. This will help you determine whether the DJ controller is compatible with popular software like Serato DJ, Traktor, rekordbox, Virtual DJ, or others. It’s worth noting that some controllers may offer compatibility with multiple software options, providing you with flexibility in choosing your preferred DJ platform.
Additionally, consider the level of integration between the DJ controller and the software. Look for features like automatic mapping, which allows the controller’s knobs, sliders, and buttons to be pre-configured to control specific software functions. This saves you time and effort in manually mapping controls and ensures a seamless workflow during your DJ performances.
Another aspect to consider is the availability of software updates and ongoing support from both the DJ controller manufacturer and the software developer. Regular updates can bring new features, bug fixes, and improved performance, ensuring your DJ controller remains up-to-date and compatible with the latest software versions.
Setting a budget is an important step when choosing a DJ controller. These devices can range from entry-level options to high-end professional-grade controllers. It’s essential to find the right balance between your budget and the features you require for your DJ setup.
Consider the following factors when determining your budget:
1. Skill Level and Future Growth
If you’re a beginner or just starting out as a DJ, investing in an entry-level controller might be a more sensible choice. These controllers offer essential features at a more affordable price point. As you gain experience and your skills progress, you can consider upgrading to a more advanced controller with additional features.
On the other hand, if you’re an experienced DJ or plan to perform in professional settings, investing in a higher-end controller with advanced features and build quality is recommended. These controllers often offer better durability, enhanced performance capabilities, and more precise control over your mixes.
2. Essential Features
Identify the essential features you need for your DJ performances. This will help you narrow down your options and choose a controller that fits your requirements within your budget. Prioritize the features that align with your style and the type of music you play.
For example, if you focus on scratching and turntablism, look for controllers with responsive jog wheels and dedicated performance pads. If you heavily rely on effects and remixing, controllers with extensive effects controls and remix decks might be more suitable.
3. Brand and Build Quality
Consider the reputation and build quality of the brand. Established brands often offer reliable products with better build quality and customer support. While they may come with a higher price tag, the investment is often worth it in terms of durability and long-term satisfaction.
That said, there are also lesser-known brands that offer great value for the price. Do thorough research, read reviews from trusted sources, and consider user feedback to gauge the reliability and build quality of a DJ controller before making your final decision.
Known Brands for DJ Controller
- Pioneer DJ
- Native Instruments
- Denon DJ
- Allen & Heath
Unknown Brands for DJ Controller
- Rane DJ
- DJ Tech
- American Audio
- Akai Professional
4. Second-hand Options
If you’re on a tight budget, consider exploring the market for second-hand DJ controllers. Many DJs upgrade their equipment regularly, which means you can find quality controllers at a lower price.
However, exercise caution when buying second-hand, as you’ll need to inspect the condition of the controller and ensure that all essential features are working properly. Ask the seller for detailed information about the controller’s usage history and any potential issues it may have. It’s also a good idea to meet in person and test the controller before making the purchase, if possible.
Remember, while buying second-hand can be a cost-effective option, always prioritize the condition and functionality of the controller over its price. It’s better to invest in a slightly higher-priced controller in good condition than to purchase a cheaper one that may require repairs or replacement parts.
Ergonomics and Build Quality
The ergonomics and build quality of a DJ controller play a significant role in your overall performance experience. It’s important to choose a controller that feels comfortable to use, offers intuitive controls, and is built to withstand the demands of regular DJing.
1. Layout and Interface
Take a close look at the layout and interface of the DJ controller. The arrangement of knobs, sliders, buttons, and other controls should be logical and intuitive, allowing you to navigate and access functions effortlessly during your DJ sets. Consider the size and spacing of the controls to ensure comfortable handling and precise adjustments.
2. Jog Wheels and Faders
The quality of jog wheels and faders is crucial for accurate control and smooth transitions. Jog wheels should have a good touch sensitivity and responsiveness, allowing you to perform precise scratching and beatmatching. Faders should provide smooth and precise control over volume, EQ, and crossfading. Look for controllers with high-quality components to ensure a satisfying tactile experience.
3. Durability and Construction
A DJ controller should be built to withstand the rigors of DJ performances, including transportation, heavy use, and occasional bumps or knocks. Look for controllers made from sturdy materials, such as metal or high-quality plastic, that can handle the demands of regular DJing. Reinforced corners and a robust chassis can provide additional protection.
Reading user reviews and seeking recommendations from experienced DJs can give you insights into the durability of different controllers.
4. Size and Weight
Consider the size and weight of the DJ controller, especially if you travel frequently or need to transport it to different venues. A compact and lightweight controller is more convenient for DJs on the go. However, if you have a fixed DJ setup or prioritize additional features and controls, a larger and heavier controller may be more suitable.
5. Additional Features
Some DJ controllers come with extra features that can enhance your performance. These may include built-in audio interfaces, sample pads, touchstrips, or dedicated effects controls. Consider whether these additional features align with your DJing style and if they would add value to your performances.
In summary, when evaluating the ergonomics and build quality of a DJ controller:
- Ensure the layout and interface are intuitive for seamless control.
- Assess the quality of jog wheels and faders for precise manipulation.
- Choose a controller with durable construction and materials.
- Consider the size and weight based on your portability needs.
- Evaluate additional features that can enhance your DJing experience.
Before getting your first DJ controller, you will need to ask also few key questions. These initial answers will help you select something appropriate for your needs.
- Do you plan on scratching?
- Is the mixer section fully equipped?
- Which DJ software to use?
- How often will you use the controller?
- Do you have a built-in sound card?
- What features does the driver offer?
Do you plan on scratching?
If you want to incorporate scratching into your DJ performance, you’ll want to make sure that whatever you buy has solid jog wheels. Small jog wheels will make it difficult for you to have the control you’ll need to scratch effectively. Low quality jog wheels will also make scratching quite difficult.
Is the mixer section fully equipped?
The DJ controller should have a solid mixer section with all the controls you need to alter music and play with effects. Having access to a good EQ will help you learn the subtleties of mixing. All good beginner controllers should also have a proper cue/master output for your headphones. This is what will allow you to preview and prepare your mix.
Which DJ software to use?
There are many choices of DJ software, but not all are equal. When selecting a controller, you should know if it comes bundled with DJ software. It also is worth knowing if the software is a trial or full version. To get the most out of your purchase, you’ll want full version software, which may mean having to spend a bit more.
Many controllers are designed to be used with certain software. But if you already have DJ software, you’ll want to check to see if it’s compatible.
How often will you use the controller?
Build quality is important when it comes to choosing the best DJ controller for beginners. Many controllers designed for beginners can be made with inexpensive materials. If you plan on using decks on a regular basis, you’ll want something that can handle the job. This becomes even more important if you plan to take your DJ setup to a friend’s house or parties.
Entry-level controllers are usually compact, but they must connect to a laptop or PC.
Do you have a built-in sound card?
A dedicated sound card is a nice feature. It will allow you to plug and play without having to rely on the capabilities of your computer or laptop. It also allows you to send sound directly to your sound system.
What features does the driver offer?
While most controllers follow the same general design philosophy, there are many differences in features. Overlaying multiple effects will require something that has many options and effect controls built in.Most entry-level DJ controllers support two channels, but some have some solutions for four-channel mixing.
It’s important to know how likely you are to use these features. It will help you get a setup that allows you to fully explore the side of DJing that you are most passionate about.