Remember that “DJ wale babu mera gana chala de” song!! It had something about it which would make your legs go all in haywire mode. All those local DJ songs in marriages, especially DJ Bhojpuri, all-time favourite DJ Nagin song and many other DJ Hindi songs, they all pull you towards the dance floor.
I always use to wonder about the art called DJ-ing, or for that, a personality called a DJ. I mean my logic was, DJ-ing is all about changing the existing song and giving it a new look. So I must admit, I use to downplay the music made by them or the whole art of DJ-ing. Now, this is where I underestimated this art, and I am so very sorry about that.
I had the privilege to enter one of the most elite clubhouses and meet DJs here in Gurgaon, FYI that was by invitation only. I can never afford such a place; it was like a DJ party. These DJs in Gurgaon (or for that matter any successful ones) happen to be very famous in the club circles. I saw his gadgets; it was like a mini air force one!!
All those equipments, damn, it was so cool to see it in the first place. Since then, we wanted to write an informative blog about all the apparatus used by DJ’s. What an excellent way to start with a review of the DJ controller. We have also marked certain words by *, you will find its meaning in the abbreviation section of this blog.
This blog is not just about the DJ controller per se; it intends to give anyone whether a starter or a professional some guidance. I am thankful to my team for such a beautiful piece. So if you are looking for an entry-level DJ controller, I think you must read reviews of top 6 products. Rest of five the listed reviews are for a professional level DJ controller are for people looking to make a jump from mid-level DJ controller to a professional level DJ controller.
1. Hercules DJ Controller Universal
This DJ controller Hercules brand exceeded our expectations. Though it is made from plastics, the benchmark of finish is something which genuinely surprised us. Two words, TOP NOTCH! Great DJ controller for beginner.
This DJ controller has three-band EQ with 16 performance pads with a slew of effects. It has sample and loop capability, what else would you look for at this price range. Some of its top features are:
1. You could easily control it from your laptop, tablet. Part of the multi-screen mode, read the 3 mode below to know more.
2. It has an app, and this is where it gets interesting. We used the DJUCED app on our phone (kind of DJ app) with entirely different software on our laptop. Imagine you controlling while you are on the dance floor dancing to the tune of DJ new song 2019. How cool is that??
3. You have effects on the mobile app, you can do anything you like and that too when you are right on the dance floor.
4. The kind of scratching you can do on this DJ controller is impressive. It is so easy to hone your skill on this one.
5. You can, off course, be able to manipulate the pitch and the tempo more with the jog wheels to help you with mixing if you don’t want to scratch.
6. You could also take the vinyl mode off this DJ controller Hercules one. Not many starting range controllers have that luxury.
This piece of equipment has all the features you could imagine at a beginner level DJ controller. There is no shortage of features on this controller. What blew us away was the mobile app; you are controlling the controller!! Hercules did a great job there.
This is controlled by three modes:
1. Laptop mode:
This is the regular part of DJing, where you connect your DJ controller to your laptop, you get a tactile interface to interact with and do your stuff.
2. Multi-screen mode:
This is where its bar of performance starts increasing steadily; it uses both your laptop and your mobile device.
3. Tablet mode:
This is where your DJ controller goes into a USB charges (which is not provided with this controller, so good luck finding it!) and also connect to a DJ app on your tablet wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Now let us talk about its anatomy. It feels rigid, robust, substantial body. Buttons are superbly placed, with huge browse knob right there in the middle. On the front side, it has a quarter-inch headphone jack with volume controller.
At the back end, you can connect to the speakers and aux-in for connecting an external source like a CD, USB player or a Bluetooth device and comes with a mode switch button too.
2. Pioneer DJ Controller Jingweite 2-Channel
This DJ controller Pioneer DDJ 400 one of the top beginner level controllers. It Comes with the Rekordbox* DJ license too. It seems pioneer wants to standardize the club-style layout of the CDJ set up, even for DJs starting out on their journey of DJing.
DDJ-400 is a two-channel controller, meant to be used with rekordbox DJ which also comes bundled with the controller. It has got three-band EQs, trim, filters, volume faders, pots and a crossfader in the mixer section, of course along with browse and track load buttons.
There are all in all two decks on this DJ controller having a five-inch jog wheels, eight small performance pads buttons, “Hot Cue”, Beat Loop”, “Beat Jump” and “Sampler” and also “PAD FX1”, “PAD FX2” and “Key Shift”.
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Let us talk about its rear section now, it has got RCA* master output jacks, quarter-inch mic input with a volume knob and a USB jack. The front of the unit has an eight-inch headphone jack.
The jog wheel is highly responsive, the polished top provides more traction, with rubber rim is offers a high level of grip. Pitch faders* allows you to make more precise BPM adjustments when tempo matching two tracks.
The one feature which stands out in our assessment in this DJ controller, is the looping feature, right there at the top. “Loop in” button doubles as “4 Beat Auto Loop” button. “Loop out” is right next of “Reloop” or “Exit” button, which are used for either exiting or engaging the loop section.
Now coming to the beat FX section*, found on the right side of the mixer. Fx select button lets you to cycle down the list of available effects or one could hold down the “Shift” button and press it, you could cycle up that list. We think a knob could have been much better than a button.
It also has got a special tutorial section, designed for new DJs to quickly get to understand the nuances of DJing on this DJ controller. It also has got basic mixing tutorials link to an archive of other pioneer DJ tutorials.
3. PIONEER DJ Controller DDJ-SB3
This DJ controller is a Serato* DJ light enabled. It is an entry-level controller but got great features in it.
At the back end, there is a USB port which goes straight into a laptop. There is an RCA master out that you can plug into speakers, there is also a microphone with its level knob. At the front, there is an eight-inch headphone jack.
Now let us talk about the basic features of this Pioneer DJ Controller. The buttons come with rubber on top of them, which is useful, especially for doing DJ-ing for long hours. Jog wheel is just like any other entry-level controller. There is also vinyl mode, so when it is ON, you can use the touch-sensitive platter on the top of the jog wheel.
The tempo button * is small but still worth it and responsive. Underneath each channel, we have three-band EQ* with filter for each channel.
There is a headphone cue* with the channel cue available in this Pioneer DJ controller. You also have crossfader and channel fader* just like any other controller in this equipment as well.
Let us check the performance features on this one; it has got the option of loop right below the jog wheels. You choose how much you want one beat, two-beat, four-beat or eight beats. You also select half and two times button to choose the beat length and could also press the auto loop button right above it as well.
Right at the top, you have buttons for effects. Six different effects to choose from, useful when starting your DJ-ing career. There is also an option of having third and fourth deck, but we would not have recommended you to do that. This is because there are only two channels and would massively increase the complexity.
Let us talk about the performance pad, “hot cue” which allow you to jump different points saved within the track. The next pad effect is “FX Fade”. It is useful when transitioning from one track to another. “Echo Out” it loops the track by one beat and then fades it back out, “Pad Scratch” so that you could listen how exactly pad scratch sounds like, “Sampler*” which essentially means playing a track.
4. Numark DJ Controller MixTrack Pro III
This Numark DJ Controller is the latest version of Pro 2 and upgraded one. It is useful for the entry-level controller.
The upgrades include, brand new metal platters with LED rings, performance pads are shifted from the top to the bottom, so manoeuvring becomes secure with this upgrade. It also has strips search, so one can search for tracks or tweak effects. There are pitch sliders which you can use to beat match your tracks. They have also added in a dedicated filter knob for each channel.
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The central strip is the main control strip of this Numark DJ controller. It has master gain* with cue* mix (which decides if a song is going to come through right or left deck via my headphones). It also has cue gain, which is basically a headphone volume.
In the centre, this Numark DJ Controller has two-channel mixer and have basic controls like 3 band EQ*, with treble, mids and bass. It also got filter knob, which essentially a high pass and low pass filter built into one knob and this is going to help with rises transitions.
5. Numark DJ Controller With Built-in Sound Card Light Show
This is entry-level controllers only. We do not think having expectations from these Numark DJ controller would do justice. At this price, Numark has done everything possible.
It has got lights that chase the song you play. It has got build quality that may not be up to the mark, but hey we cannot complain about something available at a very reasonable price. Buttons do feel nice, though the plastic feelings is there when you touch it.
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It has got basic features like “hot cues”, pretty messed up sync but you would find it not being such a huge issue. But it would match at least the BPM*. It has got built-in effects too. Overall it is super functional, so do not go on its size.
You could do everything basic about the DJing. At such a great price, it is a must-buy for someone who wants to enter the world of DJ-ing, even suitable for kids as well.
6. Hercules DJControl Instinct S Series
It is small, lightweight, made up of plastic but hey at this price, I do not think it is wise to complain much about it. This Hercules Dj Controller is an entry-level controller. Heads up, first you would have to install the drivers, and then you would have to install the software; not written anywhere, but that how it works.
From a control perspective, it does not offer much relief there; it has almost 30-35 buttons on it. There are only six knobs, but for doing basic DJ-ing, we don’t think that’s going to be an uphill task.
But there is a perk for buying this DJ controller too, the software version you get with it, is a full version. Which means you do not get anything which is disabled or something which is not available to you in the software.
It only works if connected to your computer for the software to work. You get everything available in software for a DJ Controller at this price, so no more buying those extra stuff by spending extra bucks.
7. Pioneer DJ Controller Pro DJ DDJ-SB2
It is an upgraded version of Pioneer DDJ SB which was entry-level pro controller. This DJ controller comes with Serato DJ Intro and is compatible with full-version Serato DJ through an upgrade. It also works with Pioneer’s rekordbox software.
It is a two-channel Pioneer DJ Controller, but it has got provision for third and fourth channel. Now, we would not recommend someone to use third and fourth channel, because one is going to struggle a lot to gain control for these channels. We know this because we had struggled a lot too.
There is not track search or strip search on this DJ controller, so you can press shift and rotate the job wheel throughout the song. It also has got four multi-function pad, that acts like “hot cue”, “auto loop”, “manual loop”, “sampler” pads. You also have four transport pads here just below the above pads, for play/pause/sync.
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It has got an inbuilt sound card, the backside has a single pair of RCA* jacks for the master output and a USB socket for connecting to the laptop. On sideways, it has got a quarter-inch mic input with volume control along with quarter-inch and eight-inch jacks for headphones.
There are 3 on and off buttons for switching the effects, in Serato DJ. The mixer section consists of the three EQ controls and a filter. It is not an actual EQ control or a real filter. They just control the MIDI* data to Serato DJ, so it’s the software that is doing all the EQ and filtering.
It also has a new feature which is the five-segment LED Channel level meter, which shows the level of channels 1 & 2, so one knows if he/she is peaking a bit too much.
8. Denon DJ Controller MC6000MK2
As per one customer, “This DJ controller is the right intersection of price and performance; it’s also tank-like and has a very pro feel,
We couldn’t agree more. This DJ controller from Denon is many notches above the entry-level controller, could easily be used by professional people. Suitable for people who want to make a considerable jump from entry-level to professional-grade controller.
The mixer section is four-channel four dec digital mixer allowing to switch between analog sources and USB audio. It has 45 mm crossfader with channel faders. Above that, it has three-band EQs. At the top, each channel has its individual rotary input switch allowing to select analog source or PC source.
Now, let us talk about the rear panel. Starting from the left, it has higher retention USB port 2.0 a three-way to route USB audio; to its right, it has to record out with a microphone. Then it has quarter-inch boundless boot outputs. Moving right it has XLR* balanced and RCA unbalanced output with stereo to mono switch.
A grounding terminal for phonon level devices such as turntables. Four line-level inputs with lines 3 & 4 switchable to phone lines. Microphone 2 is a quarter-inch connection, and finally microphone one is a combination jack that will accept either quarter-inch or XLR inputs.
Going to the front panel, it has a quarter-inch headphone output with knobs for level pan as well as a split cue switch. Moving right it has dedicated three-band EQ for both mic 1 & 2 & mic level adjustment. Lastly, on the front panel, it has crossfaders switches for all four channels.
Now for the software part, this DJ controller has Serato DJ’s professional DJ software, which is a four-deck solution.
9. Pioneer DJ Controller Club Standard
Pure professional player equipment, it is Great White Shark in the world of DJ controller. It has got a matt finish, and silver band surrounding the jog wheels adds to the luxury feeling. On the pack it says 300 gms weight, but it felt quite heavy though.
This Pioneer DJ controller is an upgrade over its predecessor. There are now Hot cue buttons on the extreme left side of the controller. USB port at the top left side has now LED surrounding it. At the backside, this DJ controller does not have the control port for the fader (which its predecessor had).
The screen is more prominent and with much higher resolution, and the surprise is that it has a touch interface. This Pioneer DJ controller also has something called needle countdown, to count the number of beats and bars to the drop (set it before using it).
This is especially useful when someone is playing back to back and do not know what is coming up! It now supports flack, and Apple lassless bring compressed lossless audio to CDJ at last.
It has got a track filter button (brand new one), filter by BPM/Key/Rating/Color. A more interesting feature is the key you mix in the track. Now let us talk about the “Hot Cues”, this Pioneer DJ controller has two banks of four “hot cues.” You can jump between them, very smoothly. You also assign hot cues with different colours, for example, vocals on green, bases on blue and you could do that all through rekordbox.
10. Pioneer DJ Controller DJM-900NXS2
This Pioneer Dj controller is an excellent upgrade over its predecessor. It is bulkier, and the size has increased too, impressive build quality and is for professional use. It is quite heavy, which gives it more sturdy looks.
The control surface has been made larger, to accommodate the few extra controls on it. The fader section was as it was before, but the difference is an addition of a crossfader using Pioneer DJs Magvel technology.
There is an addition of eight-inch headphone socket; there is still two mic input on the nexus 2. Right now this Pioneer DJ controller is useful only for rekordbox DJ, so the whole system is less flexible.
The sound quality of the mixer has improved in an obvious way. There is also a clip light above the channel and the master.
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Talking about the effects, the level of control over it is so responsive. This Pioneer DJ Controller has all-important frequency divider buttons to the right. This essentially means that you could choose to apply an effect to bass mid or treble frequencies individually or in any combination. This allows for much more creative results.
The display screen has been updated too, as has the section where you could select the beat lengths now with individual buttons meant for different beat length.
Now, there is another exciting development with the FX loop, which is the ability to connect to iPad via USB and use an app like Pioneers own software. A great concept with high usage in practicality.
11. Pioneer DJ Controller Pro DJ XDJ-R1
This Pioneer DJ controller is not an entry-level one but is for professional use. It can play CDs, a USB drive, it can also play computer music as it is a MIDI* controller.
It has got a standalone mixer so that you can play CDs and decks. There is a two-channel mixer. It has got an extra auxiliary input.
It can form its wireless network, with an iPad or an iPhone running remote box software, a pioneer product. The beat effect, right above the jog wheels, is pretty awesome one. It has options like Trans/Flanger/Echo/Roll just like club standardized DJ controller. But it cannot work with the external input.
Just below the jog wheel, there is an option of “Hot Cue” button, with four beats sampler. Such kinds of stuff you see in very high-end systems.
In the bottom right of each deck, we have a master and sync button. So one has to run the tracks through the rekordbox first so that it can analyze where are the beat grids. After this Pioneer DJ Controller would automatically detect that there is beat grid information, then one can press the master button or sync button to match it with the tempo of two tracks.
This DJ controller also has colour effects, usually seen in high-end controller. Below that, we have two standard channel faders which have a nice adhesive weight to them.
What is the world of DJ all about
DJ equipments involve tones of hardware and software. We are going to limit our discussion within the scope of the DJ controller. Below are the four central pillar of the world of DJ-ing:
1. Computer software (which is usually free, but do not get your hopes high as it is not worth much): These are great for someone, who is trying to enter in the world of DJing. It’s kind of free software available all over the internet, you can go through it and have some idea of what is that you are getting into. But please note that there are not a whole lot of things that you can do with this option.
2. Software with a controller (varying from DJ controller Hercules to DJ controller pioneer, different prices ranges.): This is the one with which you always need a computer. You have software on this computer, you can control this software with the buttons on the DJ controller.
But now the question is, why the mix of software with the hardware?? The reason being, it is much easy to control music with all the buttons on the DJ controller than it is with the mouse of the computer!! You also have many options with the former one.
I would also suggest all the beginners out there, to slowly graduate from a beginner to the professional ones. So go with a DJ controller which is not too costly then you can navigate your way upwards. It is perfect for all those DJ party.
3. Standalone controller (not this is where it all gets interesting, because it is damn expensive!! But you do not need a computer with this kind of a device, off course more money means less hassle right!!). Meant for professionals one, has all the songs saved in it.
4. Standalone players with standalone mixer (these are elite, also known as club-standard because some elite clubs only allow some particular kind of DJ controller)
A DJ controller has a player, mixer and then a player; it is the basic underlying fundamental of any DJ controller; all these three things acting as a single unit. But in a professional DJ controller, you have a different player, different mixer and then again one more different player and primarily rely on a software called REKORDBOX.
It is a kind of management software; it manages your entire song library, your favourite tracks, making sure your beat grid is ok. Now there is one more thing called rekordbox DJ, usually for live performances.
Common DJ controller features & functions
Today’s controllers typically include:
1. A control surface with knobs, buttons, jog wheels, pads or faders for tactile control over software functions and settings. Displays and multicoloured lights transmit system status, audio levels and many other parameters.
2. An interface that transmits audio and MIDI signals to laptops, effects processors and PA systems, depending on the type of connectors it has.
3. Apps or tablet can now control the newer DJ controller.
Mouse or keyboard can be used to navigate through many DJ software. But the process is labour-intensive: digging through layers of menus to find functions, entering values and otherwise messing with software instead of attending to your show is a performance-killer. That’s why most DJs use a hardware controller to operate and configure their software.
This point is always in consideration when making big decisions in life. So how come it is different for any DJ controller?? Please note budget here not only means the cost of the DJ controller but the kind of money that can get your job done.
These are an expensive piece of pieces of equipment, if you not well informed, you might end up doing mistake. We have free apps nowadays, which is suitable for someone who wants to enter the world of DJ-ing. I mean it is always advisable to have a free app first instead of an expensive DJ controller and then to decide that you are not cut out for that!!!
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2. Best DJ controller doesn’t mean best music:
There’s a famous line in the fast and furious movie, “It’s not about the ride, it’s about the rider!!” The same concept applies here, having the best piece of DJ controller does not make you the best DJ, it is all about hard work and practices.
3. Kind of music:
It also depends upon the sort of music that gets you. For example, if you are into hip hops, you might have to spend some more time on real turntables with tonearms and platters.
4. Decide if its decks or Dj controller
The controller would be controlling a piece of software. All the knobs, buttons on the DJ controller are just sending the signals to your computers. Decks and mixers, one is controlling the audio signals that come out from the decks into the mixers and is manipulated using faders and knobs.
Dj controllers are often cheaper than the decks and mixers.
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In this article, there are a lot of terms which are quite technical in nature. To understand the working of any DJ controller, it was essential to include these terms here in this blog. We have tried to explain those words in this section of the blog.
An equaliser (EQ) is simply a volume control that boosts/reduces the volumes of specific frequencies heard within a piece of audio. A typical DJ controller will have two or more channels, each fed by their audio input
Rekordbox is designed to pre-prepare your collections so that both you and the device are using spend less time searching for and analysing the music you want to play. Rekordbox is a management software only,
A crossfader on a DJ mixer primarily functions like two faders connected side-by-side but in opposite directions. … It allows a DJ to fade one source out while fading another source in at the same time.
4. Line faders
The line faders adjust the overall blend of tracks, assuming the crossfader is “in the middle”.
The gain knobs adjust the incoming volume of the track. They’re meant to be used to correct any slight volume differences between your tracks.
6. RCA (Radio Corporation Of America) connection
An analog audio connection for a stereo RCA plug looks like this. It will usually mark as an input or an output. An output is for sending the audio from this device to another. The RCA connectors are often coloured white for the left channel and red for the right channel.
7. XLR jack
It is connector is a type of electrical connector primarily used in professional audio/visual and stage lighting equipment. XLR stands for “External Line Return”.
MIDI is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It’s a way to connect devices that make and control sound — such as synthesizers, samplers, and computers — so that they can communicate with each other, using MIDI messages.
The BPM (Beat Per Minute) is a unit to measure the speed (tempo) of music
2. Pitch faders
It permanently adjust the BPM (beats per minute) of your tune. In other words, they alter the speed of the music. “Manual beatmatching” describes using this as a tool to help you to get two tunes to the same rate before mixing one into the other.
3. Serato DJ
It includes state of the art features and works with a range of mixers, Midi controllers and Official Serato Accessories made by the world’s best DJ hardware manufacturers. It’s the industry leader for high‑quality, innovative, and reliable DJ Software.
The cue button on a mixer is used to set the channel to go to your headphones PFL (pre-fade listen) meaning you are “cueing it” before introducing it into the mix by raising its volume.
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It refers to the speed at which a song is playing. It represents the time interval between beats in a song, and its unit is in beats per minute (BPM). Tempo is used by Transitions DJ to synchronise playback between songs.
The Sampler allows you to play up to four sources of audio, in addition to the tracks playing on the Virtual Decks.
I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed the blog. The information given in this article is the most exhaustive piece of content on the DJ controller in India. Please do leave your comment to help us to improve this article, if you have any questions, drop your message, and our team would get back to you.