An Introduction to DJ Controllers
Some people joke that anyone who can press "play" can be a DJ. Anyone who's ever picked up a DJ controller, though, will quickly realize that it's far more complicated. Indeed, controllers have become so advanced that their knobs, faders, blinking lights, and buttons might seem better suited for a spaceship. A DJ controller is a highly-interactive interface which gives DJ's a tangible way to play their DJ software in real time. In other words, a DJ controller represents the hands-on, hardware version of virtual DJ software. As such, DJ controllers require a computer connection, and compatible DJ software. Most controllers combine a DJ mixer, platter turntable(s), and playable pads into a single unit.
DJ Controllers vs. DJ Mixers
So what's the difference between a DJ controller and a DJ mixer? DJ controllers rely on a computer or tablet connection to work; a DJ's laptop will house all his songs, and his DJ software. The controller is just a more comprehensive, efficient way to operate DJ software. Alternatively, DJ mixers and turntables don't need to be plugged into a computer. Mixers, for example, allow DJ's to mix external analog or digital sources; mixers can also be plugged into a computer to fade between MIDI sources. But a mixer can work without a computer connection and software - controllers can't.
A Few Notable Examples
Sweetwater carries a variety of top DJ controllers across a wide spectrum of budget, portability, and power. Pioneer's legendary DDJ series, for example, is optimized to work with Serato DJ software - but these controllers can work with other software programs as well. The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR model is a 4-deck controller with two aluminum platters (jog wheels), a 2-channel mixer, and sixteen playable rubber pads. The Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX All-in-one Digital DJ Sytem is even heftier: with a 7" color LCD screen, dual USB inputs, and powerful features like Slip Mode, Loop Slice, and Sound Color FX. At less than five pounds, Pioneer's DDJ-SB2 is an especially portable 2-deck option.
Check out Native Instruments' Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 controller, designed to plug and play with Traktor Pro 2 software and the Traktor DJ iOS app. The S4 MK2 is a 4-deck controller suited for both live shows and studio recording, built so that DJ's don't need to look at their computers. On the other hand, Traktor's two-deck Kontrol X1 Mk2 is one of the smallest controllers we carry. While it lacks jog wheels, its space-saving design includes backlit trigger buttons, two Traktor FX units, and the ability to combine with other Traktor controllers for more control. Ableton, Akai, and Denon also offer their own unique variations.
If you're looking to upgrade your rig, or start from scratch, Sweetwater has the perfect DJ controller for your needs - so call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer today!
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.