The 10 Best DJ Controllers
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in February of 2015. There are some environments where plugging an auxiliary cord into your phone is enough to keep the party going. But in situations where you need serious equipment to keep a room jumping, you'll need one of these sophisticated, high-tech DJ controllers. They're packed with innovative features, including powerful mixing and playback effects, so you can turn mere playlists into musical works of art. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best dj controller on Amazon.
June 25, 2019:
A great deal of the controllers in our previous ranking have gotten a little long in the tooth, and with increases in the quality of displays and the speed of interfaces, we wanted to bring a more current collection with this version. Interestingly, Pioneer maintained its supremacy with a total of four models included in the ranking, though its previous number one selection dropped to number four. That has less to do with anything lacking in its abilities and more to do with a pair of exceptional models released by Denon. Their Prime 4 in particular is one of the most forward-looking controllers we've seen, with an integrated 10-inch HD display and outstanding 24-bit audio.
Their MCX8000, a serious upgrade to the 7000 on our previous list, boasts a pair of slightly smaller screens, but still offers all the functionality and responsiveness the brand has become known for. A new model from Hercules has come along to replace the company's Instinct, which has suffered from availability issues and a lack of gain control. We also see a pair of entries from Numark, the tenth-ranked of which is only slotted so poorly for its limited controls. It's a remarkably portable device that's great for roving DJs who want to be able to set up a party just about anywhere, so long as you have a laptop handy.
Getting To Know The DJ Controller
The first noticeable features of a DJ controller are the many buttons and knobs on its surface.
On some models, there are buttons or dials to control nearly every aspect of the input.
A DJ controller can be a shocking sight to the unfamiliar eye, but it is important not to be intimidated. One needs to familiarize oneself with all the components as quickly as possible in order to be able to use a DJ controller effectively. The first noticeable features of a DJ controller are the many buttons and knobs on its surface. On some models, there are buttons or dials to control nearly every aspect of the input. When first starting out, the best approach would be to ignore the kill switches and equalization knobs on the top of the board. Instead, focus on the simple features like the crossfader and volume controls, as these are the most basic functions every DJ needs to know how to use.
A DJ controller can receive many different types of input signals. Common input methods are devices like CDs, turntables, microphones, MP3 players, and computers. One may assign each input to a specific input channel on the board. Each input channel has its own controls for adjusting the way the track sounds, ensuring uniform level and tones across all input signals. Hitting the cue button on an input channel assigns it to the controller deck, where live editing takes place. Cueing a channel without turning the volume up allows the user to hear how the sound will match up with what is being played, as well as test out adjustments before the audience hears them live. From there, the crossfader allows the user to switch between the two cued channels. This is the most basic function of a DJ controller.
Things To Consider Before Buying A DJ Controller
Before buying a DJ controller, a few important questions must be considered. Firstly, how intuitive is the device? Most DJ controllers have a similar layout. The EQ controls for each channel are on top, and the fader controls are below everything else. This makes it easy for an experienced DJ switch to a new mixer without much of a learning curve, as many of the regularly used controls are in a familiar location. If the controller is not set up this way, it may mean a lot of unnecessary reaching and awkward positioning while trying to edit tracks live.
Having designated monitor speakers or headphones to hear what is coming out of the master channel is also very important.
Another important consideration is whether or not the device supports the user's audio preferences? If the DJ prefers to mix from a CD, a controller that directly accepts CDs should be chosen. While most controllers accept audio input from a standard auxiliary jack, control capabilities are sometimes severely limited while using them. It is best to have direct access to the file.
Also consider what sound features one needs in a DJ controller. Some may feature built in effects, loop recorders, EQ kill switches, and even allow for beat slicing live from the controller. Knowing how much control is appropriate for your needs will help you choose the right model.
Having designated monitor speakers or headphones to hear what is coming out of the master channel is also very important. In the beginning, it may go unnoticed. As one progresses as a DJ, the necessity for a method to preview the audio track before playing it live becomes clear. In large venues or stadiums, there can be a delay in timing from what is actually coming out and what the DJ hears coming out. This is affected by the speed of sound and the acoustics of the venue. If the music is timed to what is heard coming out of the house speakers, it is a recipe for disaster.
The Evolution Of The DJ
While the original Disc Jockeys like Christopher Stone paved the way for the DJs of today, their style was worlds away. Early DJs would simply play different songs from vinyl records in whichever order they chose. This meant that a DJ with a large library could become very popular simply for how much music they had. For example, Christopher Stone was said to have over 12,000 records in the 1930s.
In the 1960s, the first DJ mixer was invented. It was a simple machine that included a fader, and was meant to allow for the quick switching between two records, in order to power the all-night discoteques of the 1960s. As DJs progressed through the years, so did their focus. The belt drive turntables couldn't keep up with the demands of many DJs, and soon gave way to the sturdy direct drive turntable. The importance of a direct drive turntable became apparent in the 1990s. Hip Hop was enjoying a surge in popularity, and with it came a boost in the art of turntablism. While many DJs today choose to use the MP3 or digital versions of audio files, there are still many purist vinyl DJs out there who believe turntablism to be an art that can’t be properly digitized. The concept of a DJ has evolved rapidly in a short period of time and is sure to continue to do so in the future.
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