It’s 2021, and the typical DJ setup continues to change! These days, most DJs have turned their backs on the traditional turntable setup, with DJ Controllers the weapon of choice for most. Offering convenience, versatility, and the ability to take them pretty much anywhere; even die-hard turntablists are beginning to convert!
No longer just a toy, these DJ Controllers pack in a massive amount of features while still boasting incredible value for money. Combining decks and a mixer into one, even the most advanced DJ Controllers will cost a fraction of the price of a club-standard CDJ & DJM or turntable setup. Therefore, giving you massive value for money and allowing you to take complete control over your sets!
So whether you’re just starting out, offering your services as a mobile DJ, or traveling the world on the main stage; there’s an option for you! But, with so many options available, it can be hard to know exactly which one to choose. So, in this article, we’ll go over a few of the best current DJ Controllers in 2021. Covering DJ controllers for beginners, all-rounders, pocket controllers, and of course the premium choices!
What To Consider Before Buying A DJ Controller
Before choosing a DJ Controller, there are a few variables you need to consider. With most controllers, your laptop acts as the processor while your controller acts as a sophisticated peripheral device, similar to your mouse or keyboard. Therefore, being that your DJ Controllers’ primary function is to control the DJ software on your laptop or tablet, the first thing you need to consider is your software!
The DJ software you use or intend to use with your DJ controller is extremely important, therefore it’s going to play a large part in choosing your next controller. That’s because most DJ Controllers on the market come tailor-made for specific software.
And although there are a few which are cross-compatible; generally speaking, each DJ Controller comes tailored to a specific piece of DJ Software. So if you’re just getting started, picking a controller that comes equipped with the software you intend to use in the long run will not only make the learning curve easier but save you money as well!
To put it simply:
- Pioneer Controllers mostly use their native software in RekordBox. With some Serato options also available.
- Native Instruments Controllers uses their native software Traktor.
- Most other manufacturers default to Serato
- Alternatively, programs such as DJay, Virtual DJ, Mixxx, and even Ableton Live are also commonly used by DJs.
Originally using Serato with their DJ controllers, Pioneer DJ has greatly expanded their native RekordBox software. And given that Pioneer DJ manufactures the most popular controllers; RekordBox is now industry-standard. Packing all the features you’ll need from DJ Software. Including time-stretching, great effects, track suggestion, full-customization and integration with other equipment such as the Pioneer CDJs.
Native Instruments original DJ software Traktor has been designed specifically for NI hardware. Notable features include the innovative remix deck feature; turning a deck into a 64-slot remix deck for mashing loops and samples. Boasting a range of external peripherals for Traktor, it’s commonly the favoured software by producers.
Quite possibly the most popular and widely used DJ software, with support for over 90 pieces of hardware from the industry leaders. You’ll find Serato is generally supplied with most controllers that aren’t made by either Native Instruments or Pioneer DJ. Unlock your DJing potential with Serato’s innovative features such as sampling, beat jump, cues, loops, and loop rolls. While smoothing every mix off with its high-quality FX. You can even organize your music using their intuitive virtual crates, and use streaming services to access a wide range of music from underground sounds to classic hits!
I/O and Features
DJ Controllers vary with their included features and it’s up to you to decide which ones are going to be important to your setup! Whether its how many channels you need; LCD Screens on the jog wheels; LED performance Pads for triggering loops, hot cues and FX; or just the amount of knobs and faders available.
Also important to consider is the inputs and outputs on your DJ Controller. Inputs allow you to connect other DJ decks to your controller, essentially allowing your controller to double up as a mixer as well. With extra inputs onboard you can then even connect your CDJs or vinyl decks. Outputs usually offer either 16-bit or 24-bit. 24-bit outputs are considered the pro benchmark and deliver higher quality sound when listening through large-scale sound systems.
Looks, Size, Build Quality and Price
When choosing your DJ Controller, I’d highly recommend choosing something that resonates with you upon the first impression. If it looks good, its also likely to offer intuitive controls, inspiring you to pick up your DJ Controller and continue to learn.
On top of that, you’ll also need to consider the size of the controller. Whether you have the room to accommodate for a large-sized, pro-level control unit or you’re looking for something more portable to take to your mobile DJ gigs. You’ll even find pocket-sized DJ Controllers for the ultimate portability, perfect for bedroom DJs!
Finally, price and budget is something you’ll have to consider as well. If you’re just starting out, you’ll likely not want to drop thousands on a professional controller. While if you’re an intermediate level DJ and looking to upgrade, that might be on the cards.