Your Questions: Should I Buy CDJs & A Mixer For A Better “Feel”?

The Pioneer CDJ-2000 - a great piece of kit if you want to use CDs, but overkill for controlling Serato Scratch Live.

The Pioneer CDJ-2000 - a great piece of kit if you want to use CDs, but overkill for controlling Serato Scratch Live.

Reader FireAs writes: "I am currently on a Mixtrack Pro with Virtual DJ 6 and I want to change my DJ gear. I was thinking about getting some CDJs and a "real" 2-channel mixer; it gives a more "real" feel for the music... well, for me personally. But I really love the VDJ / Traktor / Serato Scratch Live route and I prefer using MP3s in my computer over playing CDs. Therefore I'm thinking about buying a couple of good CDJs and a good mixer with built-in software support, like the Rane TTM57. (Are there others you've heard about that you can recommend? Not too expensive though... :) ) What are your thoughts about this? Any recommendations or tips?

Digital DJ Tips says:

The Mixtrack Pro is a great solution, but as you know of course, it doesn't feel like using what you call "real" gear. This is not a bother to most people, but I understand why you may want the old school "feel" for your DJing. However, I would not recommend buying CDJs simply to use them to control Scratch Live - it is not necessary and it's a very expensive route to get decent ones. You simply need a better controller/mixer set-up - especially as you clearly don't want to bother with CDs as a medium. CDJs don't feel anything like vinyl anyway, so are no more "real" than good digital DJ jogwheels.

Numark X5 review - with 2 x V7s

Numark X5 with 2 V7\'s - a great set-up for the traditional DJ who wants to use digital.

The more expensive controllers like the Vestax VCI-300, the new Pioneers, the Denon DN-MC6000 and the Traktor Kontrol S4 are all a joy to use, however they're still "all-in-one" controllers, so if it's that you don't like, a take on the modular route as you describe but using 100% digital gear is what I'd recommend.

The most genuine-feeling set-up I have ever used for digital is 2 Numark V7's and an X5 mixer. This feels as close to playing with vinyl as I think it is possible to with pure digital kit. It uses Serato ITCH software. As this is a "separate" mixer with 2 control units, it really does feel like old school DJing.

There are plenty of variations, of course - many manufacturers make stand-alone digital control units (you can see some of them on our 2 round-ups, both - with sound cards and without sound cards).

If you chose to go for 2 controllers with sound cards, you could plug them in to a "normal" analogue mixer so your mixing would be done the old-school way. Alternatively, you could buy a mixer with built-in audio interface, and then use 2 controllers without sound cards built-in, but still mix the "old" way. Finally, you could just have an external sound card too.

The short of it is that with today's digital kit, you can approximate any feel you like - you don't need to revert to CDJs of you don't want to.

Comments

  1. There is a deffinite sense of connection when you use serious, high quality gear, such as a CDJ. They are nice, well built, high quality units. Same with a nice mixer.

    But i would suggest trying out some really high quality controllers, like the NS7. That is also a real joy to use.

  2. I would suggest two technics mk1200,
    traktor scractch pro, one rane mixer
    and one control x1 :)

  3. Epiphenomenon says:

    Remember, your ultimate goal is to play music. I think that it makes sense for anyone who considers themselves a serious DJ to learn to use CDJs and a DJM-series mixer. If your laptop craps out or you lose connection to your controller, you’ll still be able to play music.

    If your local venue is equipped with CDJ-850s, -900s, or -2000, you can throw two USB drives in your bag and have an instant backup. You still have to know how to beatmatch by ear, but you should be able to do this anyway.

    I’ve moved on from a Vestax VCI-100 to a CDJ- and DJM- based kit. The four-channel mixer easily allows me to use my old audio interface and Traktor to pump sound to the two additional channels, and I can use other MIDI devices (Akai MPK-25/Korg PadKontrol) to be creative in a hybrid setting. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Epiphenomenon says:

      I should mention that I say this because most venues use these pieces of equipment unless you’re bringing your own. I’m not going to get into a debate about equipment, but knowing how to use CDJs and, say, a DJM-700/800 or a Xone will take you a long way in a professional setting.

      • Maximus Moretta says:

        This Is Very true! I own two Denon S3700 & X1700 mixer just cause I like the feel of the Denon Equipment better. not to say Pioneer Equiptment isn’t awesome!, cause it is, but Damn! way to many poeple own CDJ for my liking!, but I know how important it is to stay up on your knowledge Pioneer DJ equiptment. I don’t own any CDJs/DJMs but my friends do :0). So I’m over at there houses getting my pratice on very often!

      • Phil Morse says:

        It certainly helps to be confident in using the equipment you’re likely to find in the venue you’ll be playing in. But for creative DJing, I don’t think CD decks is the way forward. Good DJs should aim over time to be proficient in all gear then choose to use that which allows them to express themselves the best.

    • Paul Cook says:

      @the laptop dying out, im part of a DJ duo, so if one laptop crashes during play time, theres always the backup one so no need for us to bring spare CD’s (still involves us having to beatmatch tho), you have a good point though :) Should be always be confident in CDJs before you move into a club situation :)

  4. Nice question. I am actually going through a similar dilemna. I currently use the numark mixtrack and an X1 and am looking to upgrade to cdj’s and a mixer, that is, a cdj that has the capability of using a memory stick to play music off of. One of the main reasons for me, is that computers are unreliable. I had a very important gig a week ago, and my computer crashed 2wice before my set started, Traktor worked fine throughout the night, but I was scared shitless it was going to crash during my set, result is I djed like crap. I dnt ever want to feel that way again, and i believe cdj’s will be more reliable. I do like the controllability of traktor, and could still use the cdj as a controller and if computer fails as a media player.
    What do you guys think?

    • Belgian Jungle Sound says:

      I recently got a 4 chan mixer and two really cheap cdjs (kam kcd 450s which can take memory sticks) to replace my midi controller so i could play on 3 decks (ive also got a turntable which i use with vinyl) and im telling you, stick with software. unless you get pioneer cdjs, (which don’t even have hot cues or anything remotely creative on the lower end of the scale) you’re going to have loads of annoying things getting in the way of your mixing such as file formats, having to update your memory sticks every time you get a new song etc etc. while software allows you to be much more creative and its so much easier to use on a day to day basis. coming back to your question of reliability, its true that cdjs come out on top (my first ever gig if it could be called that my computer crashed, but luckily there were two of us on 2 computers) but if i could turn back the clock id almost definitely get the s4 or another 4 channel midi controller, as it allows for so much more creativity and it’s so much easier to use. hope this helped.

    • Phil Morse says:

      Properly set up digital gear shouldn’t crash on you… after all, air traffic control is done on computers nowadays, for instance! Plus, always have a backup ready (CD, iPod etc) in case you do have an issue.

  5. Belgian Jungle Sound says:

    Try out the reloop digital jockey 2 interface edition: i would go out of my way to recommend it. It feels sturdy, well built and professional despite being small enough to be put in a shopping bag(i got mine for 300 euros and the price is only going to go down since they unveiled the RDJ3). Almost sad I sold it for cdjs now…

  6. Maximus Moretta says:

    In My Opinion Flexibility is key. So a question you should ask your self. What are you planning to do with your new Gear!like for example what venues are you planning to play at; Club/ wedding/ House party/ sweet six-teen are you planning to take request, if anybody come up to you with a CD, etc. I’ve been in the same position your in right now; Upgrade but to what…ummm?

    If I where to recommend a midi controller I say go with the NS7 it comes with Serato ITCH! and with recent maps and firmware upgrades it works great with VDJ Pro 7. But if your heart is set on getting CJ Players I would recommend DN-S3700, a Cross between a Turntable and a CDJ and now with the Hybrid-Midi mode; a builded-in time code option. That’s 2X tighter time code than reguler Serato time code, you don’t need any time code CD. Thus resulting in better DVS (SSL/TS/VDJ) software Control and feed back!

    As Far as Mixer go! any high end mixer (Pioneer/ Denon/ A&H etc.) with USB interface would work great! But for this I put my own twist to it too. I use My DN-MC6000 as my mixer! with my S3700. and I have a DN-X1700 for my back-up! and with a similar rig to this it doesn’t limit you to just one DVS software or DJ Program!

  7. Classy Fluffer says:

    You might want to look at those new Pioneer controllers also, they look like they’re made for people playing digital, but still wanting to feel like they’re using CDJs.

  8. Phil Morse says:

    There’s nothing wrong with having different kit at home and when you play out, either. Sometimes you can take your controller to DJ out, sometimes you may have to use the gear that’s there. CDs are limiting – no doubt about it. Many “big” DJs have a small controller at home and love it because it’s undeniably more creative. But times and gear change all the time – what IS increasingly important is to be able to rock a party on all sorts of gear, from 1210s to CDs to modern controllers. But controllers must be the future. And one way or another, the DJ box will catch up with what is happening around the forward-thinking fringes right now.

  9. Wow thanks for all the responses! it deff helps, will rethink getting cdj’s alot more. But another thing to keep in mind is that I am a club dj. If i were a mobile dj I would hands down get a controller like the S4 or the new Pioneer controllers. the only issue is, that most of the time, clubs have other dj’s either opening or headlining, and a lot of dj booths are just too small for a dedicated controller, and two cdj’s and a djm 800.

  10. A timely discussion for me, as I have just returned two CDJ 400s and DJM mixer having borrowed them for a fortnight from a pal. I wanted to familiarise myself with something akin to club standard gear.
    I have only ever used a controller, and have to say the CDJs were great fun to play with, especially the excellent platters.
    However I missed the flexibility of my controller, the range of effects in Traktor and the ability to access my entire music collection almost instantaneously.
    Solid and reliable as they are, I think the days of the CDJ are numbered, especially now the likes of Pioneer and Denon have entered the controller market.
    The conclusion of my experience with CDJs is that I can use them if necessary, but really should be thinking about an upgrade to my controller to include good platters!

  11. If you are doing clubs I would recomend taking your laptop and a small controller, the clubs will have cdjs and a decent mixer, take a small wallet of cds then you have best of both worlds, you can use the cdjs or software.
    By the way I love cdjs I have two cdj 1000s hardley use em these days[though I use the ones in venues]. There is no way in the world I would shell out for the cdj2000s apart from the price you would have to carry them to every gig then find space to set them up, I dont know about you but dj booths seem to be getting smaller these day!

  12. Boney Collins says:

    I just love this topic, this is part of my great question of which is better, external mixer o internal.

    Now @home i have 1200mkII, cdjs1000mk3 and cdj400k all of this equipment i don’t use cause i play with controllers from time to time i use DVS but i always use the club mixer, i have been always a club dj and my main gear is to nanopads and the audio 8. or 4 xone 1d. Everything is different and one should know how to use all the gear, but controllers with external mixer i think is the best solution for me.

    Greets from Mexico

  13. i’ve never used it but what about the Numark CDX? i think it’s a discontinued product however. i’ve used the Vestax Typhoon and the similar Vestax Spin. they aren’t quite as accurate as the Vestax VCI-100. i can see why people are pushing vestax to make a controller to compete with the NS6/7, and V7 because numark suffers from reliability issues.

  14. In my honest opinion, i feel in love with the ecler evo-5 mixer, yes it is rather pricey, but you can hook that thing up to anything and it will work beautifully. =]

  15. great question, i was thinking along the same lines too.

    i recently got myself a Mixtrack Pro after reading the articles about it on here :)

    i wanted it so i could practise my sets at home if i was playing out on the weekend and seeing as i had alot of CD’s burned already from my past sets any additional tune(s) i thought would work i could easily burn them beforehand

    but shelling out close to £1K on each CDJ didnt see seem like a viable option for me

    my Mixtrack Pro more then satisfies my needs and to be honest as long as i have the feeling of a “real” jog wheel at home im good to go.

    thats not to say i wouldnt want a pair of CDJ’s in the future as i feel you can never have enough equipment ;) but i agree with others that if you just want that “real” jog wheel feel then alot of the more expensive controllers mentioned will do the job.

  16. Chris Argueta says:

    There are plenty of high end, all in one controllers that are solidly made and will give you that “real” feel that you are looking for.

    The MixTrack Pro is nice and great for the beginner and/or the backyard DJ, but it is not really meant for the nightclub. Numark has other equipment to fit that market/clientele.

    Personally, I’ve outgrown my Hercules RMX. I needed a solid, economic controller to get me through the growing pains of digital DJing and the RMX fit the bill perfectly. After two years of rockin’ a laptop, hard drive and this all in one controller, it was time to upgrade. So, instead of looking at the plethora of “all-in-one” controllers out there, I’ve decided to put together a more customized rig.

    At heart, I am an old school, vinyl DJ; but I’m not going to lug my turntables around anymore. What I realized is that I want the vinyl “feel”. To me, that is long pitch faders and large jog wheels for accurate pitch bending.

    Enter a pair of Denon DN-SC2000 controllers that are not even a week old. They are sturdy, big enough and responsive enough to almost emulate SL1200s. I will be using these with a Rane MP2016A mixer. I’m still gonna rock the Virtual DJ, still gonna use digital controllers; but with one of my many analog mixers.

    In response to your question; I think buying CDJs might be a disservice to you. I don’t think the “real” feel you are looking for is worth that price tag. Plus, CDs are quickly becoming obsolete. Why invest in equipment that will soon be irrelevant?

    One thing I want to say considering Time Code: It’s days are numbered. It IS digital, but it is limited. Limited in that you must still use conventional decks (very expensive, heavy and fragile). And it is not what a new digital DJ should be looking to use.

    Like the Joker says in the ’89 Batman flick, “Think about the future!”.

  17. Im a returning hobby dj that built his first decks and worked up to 1210s in the d&b heyday … but sold everything, got married etc and didnt pay any attention to dj gear till recent years. One of my friends has a CDJ setup and another has a studio with all 3 setups (digi, vinyl & djm700 + behringers).

    Honestly I find CDJs bulky and awkward to use, funnily enough vinyl is no better, i was all thumbs and wondered how i ever managed, but using the smaller non mechanical platter of the behringer and the digital kit with finger jogs and a sync button, oh joy of joys… why would anyone need to tie themselves down to all this bulky old kit like DJMs for much longer? Does the psudo-vinyl co-digital platter really make any difference to non turntablist djs (the majority that seem to use them)?

    My CDJ experience didnt make me impressed enough to want one, but after playing with the newer equipment, getting away from the mechanical component, I was sold. I now have a mixtrack pro and am having more fun than I ever did humping vinyl …. play, sync, twiddle, slide, oh yes, what a mix, who needs mechanical interfaces like turntables or djms any more? Seems to be more about the status, like if you have them youve made it :)

  18. Correction: tie themselves down to all this bulky old kit like *CDJs* for much longer

  19. I am an “old skool” DJ. I started out with Technic 1200’s and a two channel mixer. Since then I’ve used about everything. When CD’s first came along they were only dual deck CD players and I rocked those things right along side my Technic 1200’s (even though CD’s were considered CHEATING back then). When the Pioneer CDJ’s came along, I bought those and used those with a nice Pioneer Mixer. Eventually Serato came along and I used Serato’s control with either my Technic 1200’s or my CDJ 1000’s (depending on what tickled my fancy at the moment. Let me reassure you that every one of these interfaces required REAL DJing.

    Now, along comes things like Serato Itch, Traktor, Virtual DJ, etc. and so forth. Once again people are complaining that it’s “not real DJing” or “CHEATING.” My response is simple…. BS! It’s still just as real as rocking my technic 1200’s. I will say this however, all the different versions I mentioned before Serato/Traktor came along could be considered like driving an Stick Shift Car, whereas these other controllers (that beatmatch for you) are like driving an Automatic. Either way, you still need to know how to ride a car. Yes, they make certain parts of the craft easier (NO QUESTION)… however, it also allows you to focus on other parts of the performance and in the end it’s the performance that matters, NOT HOW IT LOOKS.

    All that being said, I now use Serato ITCH and the pioneer DDJ-S1. NOTHING COMPARES TO VINYL LIKE ACTUAL VINYL, however, the DDJ-S1 is the closest match I’ve ever felt to the Pioneer CDJ’s (the industry standard for roughly a decade). The reason why???? Simple, they’re made by the same manufacturing company.

    So my suggestion is as follows:

    1. If you want to look “old skool” and have some credibility with the “old skool” crowd, find some actual turntables, a two channel mixer, and get serato scratch with their control records.

    2. If you’re more concerned with your performance (which I think is more important), then do yourself a favor and go the controller route. From there it’s a question of preference…

    If you want to do video, plan on staying close to original BPM’s, and want more “nifty” stuff to play with in the software, then I’d get a nice controller that works with virtual DJ.

    If you don’t care as much about video then I’d get Serato ITCH with the DDJ-S1 controller.

    ….and this is coming from a truly OLD SKOOL DJ who still gets gigs in the club.

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