In this series we explore what is on the market in terms of music production software & hardware and DJ equipment. Each time will aim to provide you with all the information needed to be confident in your next purchase. Join our e-mail list here to keep posted on future articles.
SUMMER 2018 Review
ENTRY LEVEL DJ CONTROLLERS
Buying your first DJ controller can be a daunting prospect with so much choice out there. Not only is it important to decide on the right brand of controller but you also need to consider the software that it will control. For the most part all the DJ softwares out there do essentially the same job, but there might be extra features that may or may not be of use to you. Most companies offer free trials or preparation modes, so it might be worth trying these out and seeing how you get on with the user interface and track analysis capabilities before making your purchase. It’s also important to note that different programs have varying minimum system requirements and these should always be considered so that your computer or laptop will be able run the programs smoothly. This article includes the versions of programs that come free with the controller. It’s usually possible to upgrade to the full versions or even get mapping for different programs altogether, so it is rare that you're completely pigeon holed after making your purchase. All prices in the article are correct regarding to www.bopdj.com July 2108.
To add value to your purchase here at Decloak we offer DJ courses in any of the listed DJ controllers below. Check out our DJ courses available here.
NUMARK PARTY MIX
£77.54 - Virtual DJ LE
The Numark Partymix is the cheapest of the options provided in this article, and you get a fair amount of bang for not so much buck. The hardware unit is small and compact and weighs just under 1kg, so will be perfect for house parties, especially as it has built in LEDs which sync to your music and give an extra dimension to your sets, that none of the other controllers in this price range offer. The Party Mix runs Virtual DJ and you get the activation code with the product. The unit features four performance pads on each side of the mixer section which can be utilised for cueing tracks, FX and even sampler mode to give your sets that unique edge. Such a compact unit does have some drawbacks though. The pitch faders are small, meaning beatmatching can be tricky and there is just two EQ controls - bass and treble, as opposed the traditional three band EQ found on most DJ mixers and controllers. All in all this is a great product for the price point, but might be lacking in features for those aspiring to get into clubs anytime soon.
For more info on the Numark Party Mix click here
Roland DJ-202 -
£219 - Serato DJ Intro
Roland are fairly new to the DJ controller game, but this should not mean they are overlooked in anyway. The main things to note here is that unlike its bigger brothers the DJ-505 and DJ-808 it does not include Roland’s now famous TR style drum sequencer, however it does still have sequencing capability. This is done by using the performance pads, which have eight modes, we won’t go into all of these right now, but they do provide sequencing capability to layer extra drum patterns over DJ sets. Roland have even included samples from there classic drum machines so you can lay beats down from the get-go. Another thing that makes this controller stand out is the MIDI out on the rear of the unit, meaning you can feasibly connect a drum machine or synthesizer and have this synced up seamlessly with the music you are playing on the controller. All of the controllers in Roland’s range boast the lowest possible latency platters meaning this product must be a serious consideration if scratching is going to be in any way incorporated into your sets. Another attractive feature for the DJ/MC is the Mic input that has studio-grade echo, gate and ducking effects.
For more info on the Roland DJ-202 click here
£229 - Serato DJ Intro
The DDJ-SB3 is the latest controller in Pioneer’s Serato Controller range. It is very similar in layout to the DJ-202, but where the DJ-202 boasts the drum sequencer, the DDJ-SB3 has the innovative Jazzy Jeff endorsed ‘Pad Scratch’ mode. This is a new feature that allows users to recreate scratch sounds just by pressing a pad. These sounds are synced to the tempo of the music so will always sound natural. Although there has been some backlash from scratch purists, this feature actually allows budding scratch DJ’s to realise the importance of timing and sample selection when it comes to scratching. So for those wanting to start out but without the money and or space for turntables this is a great way to begin to learn the art of turntablism. Furthermore, the Jog Wheels on this controller are aluminium (most in this price range are plastic) and super responsive so will handle genuine scratch routines with ease when in Vinyl Mode. Amongst other improvement from the previous models in the DDJ-SB range, this latest incarnation has larger pitch faders at 45mm. Other cool features on the SB3 include auto loop, key lock, FX fade, filter per channel, slip mode, ¼” jack mic input and four deck mixing.
For more info on the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 click here
Numark Mixtrack Platinum
£203 - Serato DJ Intro
The second Numark controller to feature, the Mixtrack Platinum is the latest in the mixtrack range. The main selling point here that the other controllers in this price range are lacking is the dual 1.75” LCD display screens in the centre of each jog wheel. This is a feature that will attract those that are conscious of staring at a laptop whilst mixing. There’s that now old adage of DJ’s looking like they’re checking their emails mid set, which can now be minimised with this controller as you can see information such as BPM, playhead position, key lock on/off, slip mode on/off and the time elapsed or remaining for the playing track. This can also help speed up your workflow and allow more time for actually mixing the tracks. A general gripe of controllers at this price range is the truncated length of pitch faders compared to industry standard kit. Not so with the Mixtrack platinum - the pitch faders are super long and even the more finicky DJ’s would be satisfied with them. The Mixtrack platinum also features a three band EQ, a bidirectional filter per-channel, 4 deck mixing and a strip for needle search so you can quickly and easily preview tracks.
For more info on the Numark Mixtrack Platinum click here
£249 - Rekordbox
This is the latest in the Pioneer DDJ range, and an eagerly awaited update for its predecessor the DDJ-RB. There are many improvements, most notably the increased length of the pitch faders. The layout is also improved, with the effects section mimicking that of Pioneers DJM range. This means that those looking to get into the clubs ASAP might benefit from this layout as it shouldn’t be too dissimilar to what you might expect to see in DJ booths across the world. The same goes for the loop function buttons being located at the top left of the jog wheels, which have indents on. Both of these features are inherited from the CDJ-2000NXS2 flagship player. Unlike most the controllers featured thus far that have a ‘mirrored’ layout, the DDJ-400’s deck sections are identical in that you will find the pitch faders to the right of both jog wheels, again giving the feel of a more professional club set up. This controller also features eight performance pads which can be used for beat jump, beat loop, slip loop pad FX (which are really cool) and can also utilise Rekordbox’s sampler feature. It should be noted these pads are quite small, even smaller than that of the DDJ-RB. Like other units in this price bracket there is the 3 band EQ and HPF/LPF on each channel. It should be noted that only two channel mixing is possible with the DDJ-400.
For more info on the DDJ-400 click here
Pioneer WeGo4 - £269
Rekordbox/Virtual DJ LE
You might think this controller looks a little different to some of the others. This particular unit makes DJing very accessible. It comes with licences for Rekordbox and Virtual DJ LE, however it is also compatible with Algoriddim DJ Pro. With this, all you need is an iPhone or iPad with an iTunes or Spotify Premium account (plus a half decent Wi-Fi connection) and you you will have millions of songs at your fingertips. There is no compromise for convenience here, with Algoriddim DJ Pro allowing you to manipulate tracks from iTunes or Spotify in exactly the same way you would with your own library in Serato or Rekordbox. Beat sync, key sync, looping, fx etc. are all possible, meaning hours of fun with hours of music. It must be said the unit itself feels more plasticky and less professional than it’s cousin the DDJ-400, and the layout is maybe less intuitive for some with the loop and fx being on clicky buttons around the jog wheels unlike the nice, soft tactile pads seen on most controllers. However, it is compact and portable and definitely a great choice for house party and hobbyist DJs that might not have the time to go searching for music to download or already have a large collection behind them. This is even more so with the connectivity. It works with iPhone or iPad plus Mac OS and Windows Laptops. There is a two band EQ with filter however this can be changed to a 3 band EQ within the Rekordbox settings if this is your program of choice.
For more info on the DDJ-WeGo4 click here
£359 - Serato DJ Intro
This is a two deck Serato MIDI controller for the professional DJ. Most notable about the hardware is that it is in a steel chassis so will give peace of mind to those gigging out and about regularly - the build feels as solid as a tank. Plus the pitch faders are described by Denon as ‘long throw’ and measure in at 100mm, wiping out any concerns that many people have about fiddly pitch faders often seen on the more compact all in one units. Another plus for the mobile DJ is the dual mic input with studio-grade echo effect, and “ducking” feature allowing DJs or MCs to effortlessly lay vocals to the top of the mix without having to ride the faders. The overall layout also feels professional with the full complement of three band EQ, bi-directional filter, three Serato FX on/off pads with depth knob, looping section and four performance pads, making this a contender for most comprehensive controller at this price range. It is also compatible with Traktor 2 and Virtual DJ.
For more info on the Denton MC4000 click here
Reloop Beatpad 2
£445 - Algoriddim DJay 2
The Beatpad is the most expensive controller in these reviews. It too utilises the power of modern technology with Algoriddim DJay 2, plus you get the program included in the price, along with eight performance pads that the WeGo4 dearly misses. These are however, rather strangely located above the jog wheels, braking tradition with most other controllers. Despite this, the overall build quality certainly lives up to the rugged Reloop name. The slick low profile jogs, large tempo fader, rugged fader, selector and EQ pots all have a nice, professional feel. And like many others in the list, mapping for Traktor 2 and Virtual DJ are also available so your not stuck with one program. The pads have eight different modes such as hot cues, loops, sampler and touch or jog FX, all of which will work seamlessly well with your own library or tracks loaded from iTunes or Spotify, as do the beat sync and key sync to allow harmonic mixing. This controller comes with cables to connect iPad or Android tablet to the controller and a nifty slot to hold your tablet so you can see exactly what is going on with your performance and makes viewing and loading playlists and tracks really simple. The Beatpad 2 is the king of connectivity, as it also supports iPhone, and other android system, Mac OS and Windows, making this one of the most versatile controllers on the market.
For more info on the Reloop Beatpad 2 click here