Reasons to get a DJ controller for beginners
If you are an aspiring DJ and are just starting out, or are purchasing a gift for a beginner DJ, then having a beginner DJ controller is just a good idea. It will give you a solid foundation to learn basic skills necessary to mixing a proper set, while also allowing you the opportunity and room to improve upon your skills. A beginner controller has the basic controls, while occasionally throwing in some extras, however, it doesn’t have so many features that it will intimidate you, which can actually discourage you from practicing.
Features to consider when choosing a starter-level DJ controller
There are quite a few features to consider when choosing a starter-level controller. First, you’ll want to look at software and compatibility with various devices, which we’ll cover in-depth in the next section. Next up, make sure the controller is well-built. As you’re just learning, you’re probably going to be pretty hard on it, covering hundreds of hours practicing and learning. Ideally, the pitch fader will be long so you can learn how to beatmatch without relying on visual aids. Jog wheels should be durable, yet responsive to your touch. It’s a bonus if you can also use them for scratching or scrubbing quickly through tracks. We’d recommend making sure your controller features a 3-band EQ so you can learn how to EQ mix properly, to make progressing to pro-level equipment more natural.
Included software and compatibility
Software and compatibility is the biggest thing to consider when making your purchase. If your new controller isn’t compatible with your laptop, for example, then you’re out of luck. In contrast, there are plenty of controllers on our list that are compatible with just about anything you can think of. There are some that even work with iPhones, iPads, Android, PC, and more! Back to software, make sure your controller works with your preferred software, and that the software works on your selected device.
Most controllers can be MIDI-mapped to virtually any DJ software, even if it doesn’t come with the program – it’s better to make sure that’s the case, rather than find out once you’ve taken it home, that it isn’t compatible.
Number of channels
Most entry-level DJ controllers are going to come with 2 channels. Each channel can play one track, sample, vocal, etcetera. Two channels are more than enough to get you started with mixing and honing your skills with EQing, using effects, and more. However, some controllers offer 2+1 decks so you can remix a track, or even 4 decks, where you can really start advancing, mixing up to four tracks, vocals, and samples at once. If the controller you want has 4 decks, don’t feel intimidated. You don’t have to use all four, but it is nice to have the option is you do want to advance to that many.
Inputs and Outputs
It’s important to make sure your controller has the proper inputs and outputs you require to accomplish what you want. Ideally, make sure that it has at least a USB port so you can easily connect it to your laptop.
USB and Internal Memory
You’ll also want to take into consideration how your controller saves cue points. This is important, because if it the controller does not have the internal memory to do so, you’ll have to save it to a USB, and if you for some reason forget your USB, then you’ll be without your cue/loop points. In addition, take into consideration how many USB ports your controller has. Most at this level only have one to directly connect to a laptop, but more means you can hook up extra equipment or even charge your phone!
You’ll want jog wheels to be good-sized, responsive, but not too touchy. Ideally, the jogs will be made out of aluminum, or another type of metal that’s durable. You’ll want to be able to beatmatch, scrub through tracks, and even pitch songs up and down with the jogs.
Extra accessories with your controller are never a bad thing! However, let’s look at both sides of the coin, here. Free is always good, and it’s great that with a package like the DDJ-RB, you have your laptop stand and headphones with your controller, so that’s quite a bit less money you’d have to spend aside from that. However, you may prefer other headphones to the ones that the bundle comes with. They’re usually not going to be as high-quality as your regular DJ headphones, so keep that in mind when thinking that this may be a hot deal.
What are your (or the person you’re buying for) DJ goals? Are you looking to be the next Armin van Buuren or are you just planning on doing it as a hobby at home? This matters because if it’s just going to be for fun, then you don’t really need features that are going to make it helpful with advancing your skills. If you want to do this seriously, then you’ll want to get a controller that makes it easy to move onto pro-level gear more easily.
If you’re planning on using your controller for gigs, you’ll definitely want to think about how convenient and easy it is to carry.
If it’s awkward, heavy, or bulky, then it’s going to be a hassle to take with you. If you’re just going to leave it at home, this isn’t as important.
This is pretty much in the same vein as the last point, but if you’re going to be traveling with your controller, make sure it’s at least under 5 pounds, preferably.