This style of DJ controller is an extension of whatever hardware you are going to run it with. It will enable you to perform the core essentials of being a DJ:
– Mixing a song into another with a smooth transition
– Microphone plug-in to be able to communicate to your audience thru the speaker outputs
– Headphones jack to be able to queue up additional songs and prepare a transition
The controller is typically USB powered and can usually connect to a smart phone, tablet or laptop. It is really only an input device for software on the device you will be using it with. Think of a computer keyboard in a similar way. It sends signals and data to your computer, is interpreted by the software (keyboard driver) on your computer and then does something.
I personally had the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 and found it to be a great starter kit to get going and see if I liked playing with DJ stuff. The controller board typically needs a software license upgrade (you usually get a trial) if you are going to be using it on a laptop. I’ve heard of people getting them to work on an iPad and will research that more if you want. Leave a comment below if you are interested in using this with an iPad or other tablet and I’ll check into it and post a blog update.
Budget – $300
DJ controllers within this budget are geared towards laptop DJ’s. The controller board is effectively a precision piece of hardware built to let you control your music collection on your laptop. In general it allows for better inputs and outputs to the DJ board (headphones jack sizes, microphone inputs, phantom mic options, XLR outputs to jack into professional speakers, line level inputs, etc.). The controller requires software on your laptop in order to function. Normally the controller is bundled with intro software. The two best versions of software I have seen are Serato DJ and Rekordbox. It makes sense that rekordbox will reign supreme since Pioneer has some of the top DJ controllers on the market and this is their software, launched around 2015 and receiving several updates since then.
This price range of DJ Controller boards includes the best of the best for still being an input device for a laptop or other type of software interface. The features are very rich, add travel convenience for overall needed gear and allow for excellent performance, control and timing. One of my favorite features is the on-board track hot spots that I can mark ahead of time including marking a looping section. If a looping section is marked, it is depicted by a yellow pad instead of other colors. Additionally, the sampling features are nice to have and quickly accessible from the hardware.
I know what you’re thinking. Why is the RR controller about $100 more? The out-of-the-box licensed Rekordbox software package and the controller board have more features. In the end, I upgraded to the DDJ-RR from my Numark MixTrack Pro 2. It is a very solid piece of equipment. One of the main benefits I like is having XLR outputs on the back of it so I don’t need to bring an audio interface with me to run my speakers with. The DDJ-RR does it all for me and acts as the sound card for my laptop as well.
Budget Under $2000
All-in-One DJ Controllers. This type of DJ controller does not require any laptop or other device in order to use. However, you can if you want to. Typically, you can use a computer to help configure the controller, playlists, scratch settings and various other tweaks to your planned events. The music media is primarily loaded onto USB flash drives keeping your luggage very lightweight and easily manageable.
Either you are a rich kid, aspiring enthusiast or a pro that wants to make it big in the DJ world. Professional DJs can make a TON of money playing gigs around the world and feeling like they live the life of a rock star. The hardware in this price range is the best of the best in the industry. It requires considerable time to master but in large part the functionality on these controllers can translate very well from lower price ranges. To be clear, if you’re using another lower level controller board and want to upgrade to this level, several features will be similar. Having said that, additional features on higher end models like LCD screens help you navigate your set list without needing a laptop.
Now lets get to that upper level. Where the big boys play. Where 100’s or 1000’s of people are commanded to feel music from one amazing controller. The CDJ, which has a long history in the DJ world and the newer platform the DDJ-RZX. The idea that you have everything you need on board of the DJ Controller and no need whatsoever of a laptop at the gig. You can still utilize a laptop if you want. There are actually several benefits to preparing your gig with a laptop on the CDJ. You can export your entire playlist to a USB or CD disk. You gain features here like being able to use or import CD’s, use SD cards, better (longer) throw slider controls for more precise beat mixing.
If you’re not convinced, I’ll be diving deep on these two in an upcoming blog post!