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Introduction to DJ Controllers
As your music collection has evolved from records on turntables to digital files on your laptop DJ software, an essential piece of gear known as the DJ controller has emerged to help you take full advantage of DJ software features like scratching, looping, triggering samples and mixing. You can think of a DJ controller or hardware controller as a device that brings the music back into your hands, providing knobs, faders, pads and decks for tangible interaction with your DJ software. Unlike a DJ mixer which mixes two analog sources, a hardware controller works by sending MIDI messages that communicate your physical actions to the DJ software.
Before these controllers, you would have needed a lot of DJ equipment like DJMP3 Media Players, or turntables that require components like cartridges, styli, and direct boxes for matching audio levels. Hardware controllers provide instant plug-and-play solutions so you can quickly access your favorite tracks for cueing, looping, and beat slicing. Many controllers provide you with useful tools for getting started with DJ fundamentals. For example, the sync and quantize features found on many of them help train you on the crucial art of beat matching tracks. These controllers also have jog wheels that can be calibrated within the DJ software, saving you even more setup time.
DJ Controllers with DJ Software
When deciding what type of controller you should buy, you first need to decide what DJ software you prefer. Most beginner models like the Numark Mix Track will include light or LE versions of simple DJ software so they can be used immediately out of the box. Other controllers are mapped or ready to work immediately with specific DJ software that is included. For example, Native Instruments Kontrol DJ controllers are meant to be used specifically with Native Instruments' own Traktor DJ software. Pioneer DJ controllers like the popular Pioneer DDJ series are laid out primarily for Serato DJ, but can be adapted to other titles like Virtual DJ and Algoriddim.
Choosing The Right Controller
These controllers make it much more affordable for you to get started with DJing. Depending on your goals and aspirations, we are here to help you select the best DJ controller for you. We have budget models for less than $200 like the Numark Mix Track series. We also have great moderately priced controllers in the $200 to $500 price range like the Pioneer DJ DDJ series. Unlike sub $200 budget models, controllers in the $200 to $500 range provide an audio interface so you can play your mixes live through PA speakers and prepare tracks in your DJ headphones. If you can spend more than $500, consider a 4-channel controller to take advantage of the latest software innovations. For example, Native Instruments Kontrol S4 is great for exploring the remix decks in Traktor. We also offer premium controllers that range from $1000 to $1500. High-end controllers in this range like the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 and Numark NS7III provide you with screens so you can use them without a laptop.
The latest versions of the best DJ software like Traktor Pro, Serato DJ, and Virtual DJ provide so many features and options that DJs can customize their workflow. This has inspired many of our top manufacturers to release modular controllers. You would use a modular controller to give you more control over a specific function like mixing, scratching, and beat slicing. For example, certain models may provide extra pads for DJs that use Traktor remix decks for triggering samples. The drawback of modular controllers is that you need to be familiar with midi mapping of your software. That is why all-in-one controllers are a great solution if you're just starting out with your new DJ software. When choosing your all-in-one controller, you should know if you need a two deck or four deck controller. You should also consider an all-in-one controller that has a built-in DJ soundcard with separate outputs for your main mix and monitoring with your DJ headphones. The most advanced versions have built-in monitoring screens for live performance, which helps eliminate the need for a laptop.
Want to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need? Give us a call at 1-800-4-SAMASH (1-800-472-6274) and one of our musical experts will help you find the equipment most suited to your needs.