Over To You: Should I Sell My Controller & Buy A Digital Vinyl System?

Serato Scratch

Should James sell his controller and buy a DVS system in order to break into his local bar scene?

Reader James Perez in Dublin, California writes: "I have a question about my equipment. I've been spinning for about five years now, and I recently bought the Numark NS7. It's great, but I'm now at the age of trying to break into the bar scene, and most DJs are telling me I won't be able to use it and should try to get familiar with vinyl players. I'm now wondering if I should sell my NS7 and just invest in some Stantons or Technics, just to get familar with the equipment that's at the bars."

Digital DJ Tips says:

It's not clear if you mean switch to a DVS system like Serato Scratch or Traktor Scratch, or just switch to vinyl full stop. I am presuming you mean switch to a DVS system. So the question is: Do you switch to Serato Scratch or Traktor Scratch just because that's what they use in bars around where you live, or do you stick with a controller?

The first thing to say is that the NS7 is an awfully large controller, and your friends are probably right in that you'll struggle to set it up in most venues. But that's not true of many DJ controllers. Have you thought of just getting a smaller control surface?

Also, the NS7 is a straight "two decks" controller - there's little you can do on this that you couldn't do on a DVS. However, some controllers allow you to be much more expressive. Are you excited by the looping, sampling and extra decks afforded by, say, the Traktor Kontrol S4? Have you ever thought you may want to DJ with Ableton Live? Your answers to these questions will have a bearing on what you do next.

You're at a crossroads here and your choice will determine not only where you can DJ, but how your style and technique develop. So rather than try to give you definitive advice, I'd like our readers to help out:

So Digital DJ Tips community, it's over to you. If you've faced this dilemma, or you are a bar DJ who uses a controller, or you decided to switch to DVS, please help James out by offering your advice below.

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  1. I dont see why they wont allow you to use the system... all they need is a line into any mixer. But... i use Ableton with the APC40 and for me... i am going to be going onto Traktor and time coded vinyl again.... i am old tho and im used to handling and djing with vinyl lol.

  2. Paul Cruz says:

    I'm a resident at a bar that has a Behringer mixer with two technics turntables. Every Friday I just unplug one of the turntables and move it to make room for my setup then put it back at the end of the night. I will say my midi controller is much smaller than yours.

  3. Get 1200s and serato. Best DVS system by far. But I suggest CDJs for playing out live.
    I've used them all and you won't waste your set troubleshooting with CDs.

  4. Also, the NS7 is a straight “two decks” controller – there’s little you can do on this that you couldn’t do on a DVS --- however there is a lot you can do with both. I dont know your personal area but in my area more and more people are having to bring their turntables with them to gigs. for for a pure set up aspect of things the ns7 wins. About dj booth space i have used controllers for years and it isn't as taboo as some may think to show up early and 're-arrange' the booth... just be sure to stay late and put stuff back. Another option is to bring a dj table and set up elsewhere out side of the both . just be sure to bring extra cables you may need.
    Now nothing is wrong with getting used to a dvs. I usually show up to open turntable nights or hand with friends. If using ITCH like you are with the ns7, transitioning to SCRATCHLIVE is not a big jump--- just get use to the software. Getting your own set of control vinyls and needs is a good start that way you can jump in where needed. But like i tell my clients i practice with my controller. for optimum performance you need to allow me the space to do so.

  5. If you were using somthing tiny or cheaper, i would say maybe, but the ns7 is a pretty respectable beast. I'd keep it.

  6. st.villanus says:

    Software is just as important as the hardware issue discussed above. What software are you using with the NS7? I'm assuming Icth, but I could be wrong. From my experience of DJing for the past 10 years, you can be creative with anything. I have used Scratchlive, Torq, Traktor, records, and CDs. I had no trouble pulling off a good set with any of the above. But, I do always long for that one mixture of equipment that I used years ago, and I am moving back in that direction. I realized shortly after selling my kit (Scratchlive, old rane mixer, and two beat up technics) that I was most inspired with the simplest of setups. My point is: don't abandon what you have with the assumption "the grass is greener on the other side." And, if you do change your kit, stay with a compatible software program. The biggest headache of playing with different DJ systems is migrating that beautiful library of tunes you worked so hard to organize.

  7. James , stop listening people - specially a djs.

    Use what you can use - the way you want to use.

    NS7 - do you like it ? have it ? fine what else.

    I`ve heard a same when i started with my vci-300 , but a feedback was a really amazing from a crowd .

    @ what a cool sampler @
    @ Man , how it works? @
    @ It`s all what you need to make us dancing @

    Believe me nobody cares what you use - but everyone cares .. HOW

    P.S Size - you can do a DYI NS7 stander made from pipes


    and set your NS7 on top of Technics or whatever they have there.

    • Calitron says:

      I like what you wrote up, this is true, it's about making sure you rock the dancefloor. Some DJ's, although thinking that they are cutting edge and original, usually act sheep like. This is probably why you are thinking about a DVS system. Remember, a DVS system means more cable messing than your current controller.

  8. You should weigh up whether your current style of DJing is more suited to you and your needs than DVS, rather than making a decision based on the popularity of one system over another.

    As long at you use whatever lets you play your best, then its small differences in the big scheme of things.

  9. My opinions:

    The NS7 is kind of huge, you'd struggle to fit it into most booths. I use the Kontrol S4, which has the same issue.

    However, I also keep a Kontrol X1, which I use with an Audio 8 DJ and the house mixer when space or portability matter to me. You need to beatgrid with this setup: but it's very capable for a DJ at the techno end of things.

    If you want to add jogwheels or beatmatch oldschool, get Traktor Scratch and use the house CDJs for DVS.

    I would strongly recommend not getting turntables. Most venues don't have them anymore. If you're going to practice using DVS, buy CDJs instead.

    I think this is the best setup because A: you can DJ properly on a basic 2-channel mixer with just your X1, but B: you can plug in CDJs/turntables and move to a 4-channel setup if the venue has all the necessary gear.

  10. Buy an Apc20,
    Hack your vci300 to allow turntable control (soon more infor into this).

    Do your own setup and enjoy tooltablism new era.


  11. James,

    In my opinion getting a DVS system will only set you back instead of moving forward. I think the NS7 is great when you get the gig that is not in the bar and you need to impress folks with your setup, in say broad day light or photo opportunities. However, for your bar gig you may need to get an alternative smaller controller to suit that situation.

    I personally have the same situation. I have two residences and one has Pioneers and Technics, the other has nothing at all. I preferred to get a smaller controller(VCI-100SE, previously a Mixtrack) and set up next to the Pioneers/Technics and/or move them. In the very near future I suspect bars and clubs will not have any equipment(except for house sound of course) and expect the DJ to bring them. I just chose not to deal with possibly malfunctioning equipment and the like.

    I have fellow DJs who show up to the club to relieve me only to find that once they are ready to set up the turntables are either missing, not working, only one works, etc. That is the most inefficient way to work especially if you have two gigs a night and you need to leave. I'm often the DJ who need to go and its easy for me to setup and breakdown but the DJ who doesnt use controllers and expect the club to provide them are frustrated by the surprises.

    Sorry for the rant. Hope this helps your decision.

    • At a basic level I would expect a venue to provide a 4-channel mixer (DJM600 at minimum, preferably an 800 or a Xone) and a pair of CDJ1000s. If they're not doing that, it might be worth considering a new venue.

      Digital gear is awesome, but if you're doing gigs with multiple DJs (I run gigs with several DJs fairly frequently, have learned this the hard way), analog mixers are still the only good option for handling changeovers smoothly.

      Typically I provide an analog mixer (Xone 92), a pair of CDJ1000s, a laptop stand and space for a large controller. Many of the DJs will run DVS through the mixer (we install an Audio 8 card for Traktor), but others will bring their own controller. There are a couple who use CDs as well, but we make fun of them.

      We looked into the logistics of skipping the mixer and running all the DJs through my S4 (CDJs on the outside channels). It turned out to be a mediocre solution: as the S4 depends on a connected laptop to function (this is a deal-killer when you're regularly switching DJs with their own digital rig).

      So, I don't think we'll be losing the analog mixers any time soon. They fill a niche that digital setups currently cannot: an independent mixer that is shared, doesn't need a computer to work and is always switched on.

      • I totally agree with you and wish this was the case always. A quality analog mixer should be the minimum specs of a venue but it varies greatly in my area. I guess it would need to be conversation and request from the rotating DJs. There are an increasing number of controllers that provide standalone mixer functions, like the NS6 and Reloop Jockey 3.

        • It varies here as well. A lot of smaller venues have mixers with dead faders or missing fader caps. What we usually do is hire a Xone 92 and bill the venue for the cost (it's only $80 to hire, so no big deal). For big (competent) venues I do expect a choice of mixers in guaranteed working order (at least 1 scratch mixer, 1 Xone and 1 Pioneer).

          The issue I have with controllers that include analog mixers is that you end up with your personal equipment "stuck" in the DJ booth until the gig ends. All the equipment ends up plugged into the mixer, so you have to stay around until the end of the gig to collect it. Been there. It sucks.

          That said, I've been in situations where the only good option was to unplug the mixer and connect my S4 directly to the house PA (balanced outputs ++).

          In an ideal world, your gigs will have a sound tech who asks the DJs what they need provided. I usually fill this role myself, but if you haven't got someone doing this life can be tricky.

      • Wish that was the minimum spec over here. In the uk your lucky if the mixer works even more lucky if it still has fader tops and knobs getting cdjs is a luxury and I cant remember the last time I saw a pair of sl 1210s in a venue.anything bigger than a kontrol x1 wont fit in the booth,if you use cds you have to hunt out a couple of stools to place the cd wallets on.
        Genrally not enough room to swing a cat in most of these booths!

  12. i agree with Will!!!

    i was facing the dilemma before i bought my Mixtrack Pro and i came to the conclusion that you should not trade in Digital music software for another.

    the grass is not always greener on the other side (as someone else already pointed out) and plus its always better to familiarize yourself with a range of digital music equipment rather then binning one for the other.

    so keep your NS7 and by a set of turntables + serato if you really want too. learn how to master them both simultaneously and show up at any given gig with the skill set to combat whatever the venue might throw at you!

  13. i sold my Serato and bought a VCI-100 to use with Traktor precisely because playing on decks in bars was such a pain in the arse. the equipment was either missing, broken or just of a low quality. i can now rely on the quality of it equipment that i play on because it's my own. my VCI fits in a small shoulder bag and does everything i need. it cost £215 second hand.

    after 12 years playing in bars i would say taking their equipment out of the equation is only a good thing. stick with a small controller or see if you can use your Numark NS7. it's worth an ask anyway.

    • A lot of this does seem to come down to "can you trust the equipment in the venue?".

      If you can't, a standalone controller and a sound-card with balanced outputs is the best option.

      If you can, then a more modular setup that lets you hook into the existing mixer/CDJS/blah is more portable and lets you use the fancy gear.

      (I have both, and bring different setups depending on the gig/venue)

  14. my opinion, im pretty sure u have dj friends that use turn tables, so go to them and learn and if u know then practice with the turn tables and then you are gonna be able to play any where ,if u going to the bar use the turn tables and anywhere else take your ns7 with u, don`t pay atentions to djs , maybe the djs in that bar , are afraid of u jajaja, so keep going.

    ps: if you still thinking on switch , wait until summer time for the ns6 like me.

  15. Hi James

    I heard a very similar thing when I moved to LA from England 4 years ago. I learnt years ago on 1210's and went digital with a VCI-100 just before I moved to the US.

    I stupidly went out and bought Serato Scratch Live and dusted off my 1210's. After a couple of gigs playing back on turntables I realized I had gone backwards.

    I say sod the other DJ's who are saying you cant play unless you're using turntables. Yes, the majority of places I have played here in California use Serato but the actual venue shouldn't care.

    The people on the floor certainly don't. The NS7 is a big beast, you may struggle getting it in the booth, maybe a Kontrol X1 or something smaller but if your comfortable and competent on your controller, don't let some bloke tell you otherwise.

    From my experience here it's all about how much money the bar takes the night you are playing and/or how many people you bring in with you. The owner couldn't give a toss what you're using.

    Just for the record I sold my Serato and went back to Traktor.


    • Indeed - young people don't expect you to play on turntables these days, just the old farts. I remember when playing on Ableton was considered cheating. That's not the case at all these days. It's the music that talks.

  16. James Perez in Dublin, California writes: I’ve been spinning for about five years now, and I recently bought the Numark NS7. It’s great, but I’m now at the age of trying to break into the bar scene.

    James, since you've been playing for 5 years I'm going to assume that you played on turntables. My opinion is this if you know how to beat match you should not have any problems using the clubs equipment. CD players or turntable should not be a problem for you.

    If you want to get a program that's compatible with the clubs gear then you should consider Serato or Traktor. Both work with turntable, cdj and midi. I'm not a serato fan so I can't give you much insight there. I am a hard core Traktor Skratch Pro fan. I've been using Traktor since version 2.

    Remember one thing that this is not the only place you will mix at. Once you start playing you'll want to go and play at other clubs. Visit the clubs you would like to play at and find out what gear they have and if they will allow you to mix with your own gear before you make an investment.

    My 2 cents. If you're not required to bring gear to the club I don't see why you should buy new gear. You could do more with your NS7 then a turntable or cdj. If you use midi buttons at home and want to use it at the club consider the Dicers or the x1 controller.


  17. Maximus Moretta says:

    What's up James,

    "To DVS or To Not DVS that is the question!"This is one of the Digital DJs age old question. Like my Mother always use to say just becasue every body else is jumping off the brigde doesn't mean you need to jump of the brigde too...LOL!

    I'm a resident DJ @ multiple venues, and if it one thing I can say about most people; DJs included, if you're not doing every the status quo is doing then your not rite. I speak from 10 years personal DJ experience, I've DJ with midi controllers and Virtual DJ for past 4 years and I hear it all. "you ain't a real DJ if you don't use Serato/ Turntable" , "Only Bedroom DJs use Virtual DJ" etc. etc. They say that up until, the hear me play and see the crowd react! and then they're turning around asking me for tips and tricks.

    But I would say using the NS7 first hand it's pretty big for a midi controller. I would say if you were to change to truntable the only big change you're gonna make is in weight! carrying a lot more gear than you already heavy NS7...LOL!

    It all comes down to what are you comfortable with it not what you use (Hardware/ software) but how you use it!

    cause you can have 1000s of dallors in equipment but if the DJ isn't worth a damn! and doesn't know the ins and outs of of his gear (Hardware/ software)

    I'm also sorry for the rant...but it said something when multiple thinking the way I do. talk less about DVS systems.

    Maximus Moretta Making the Crowed move!

    P.S. I use a DN-MC6000 w/ Virtual DJ and my 13" i7 Macbook Pro 526SSD and 8GB of ram! LOL!

  18. Lo.Definition says:

    I think your time would be better spent learning how to incorporate your controller into the existing systems. Imagine a worst case scenario (booth is tiny, built to handle to turntables, mixer, period) and try to figure out a workaround. The truth is your stepping backwards to use a control surface standardized over twenty years ago because some of your locals are telling you to/recommending it.

    With that in mind, why not try and turn them. Run an all controller night or play with people that understand and respect your equipment and will accomodate it. It helps to learn everything but why spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to learn a new way of DJing. You will also need to learn CDs, straight vinyl, ableton, and even piano/synths while you're at it. If you really have to, modularize your setup and have a mini and a full size rig to perform with.

  19. I think you should keep your NS7 if you like it. If venues are saying they don't have room in the booth to accommodate the NS7, then you should have alternative means to play.

    In all honesty, I only bring out a digital setup when I know I'm playing more than an hour. Most gigs I've encountered are usually an hour or less, because the night is made up of guest DJs and the hope is each guy will bring some people. In those cases I just burn audio CDs and use them. If the venue has no equipment or no CD players, then I'll just bring my Xponent and laptop.

    NOW...if I'm playing a longer set, then I'll bring out the Xponent, MPD24, Laptop, external hard drive, etc. I just see it as it's more trouble to set it all up and take it down for a short set. I get astounded at the guys who drag out Serato or Traktor Scratch just for a 30-60 min set. Seems like a waste of time.

    If anyone ever tells you they won't hire you as a DJ because you're not on turntables, move on. It's a gig not worth going after. I'm sure vinyl purists would scoff at my words, but I've been DJing since 1992 and have used vinyl, CD, and digital. It makes no difference other than to people who are clinging on to the media for the wrong reasons. Your set is all that matters. If you sound solid and can bring heads, then no one can dictate to you what you should use.

  20. I, for my part, who switched from a Midi-Controller to CDJ's, am able to say that I really learned a lot more about DJing in a short amount of time than in all the time I have used a Midi-Controller.
    But now I am at the point where I'm thinking about going back to digital because I think I have acquainted the skills to be able to DJ properly, no matter with what equipment.
    Using timecodes in the club in combination with a X1 would make sense to me but using timecodes at home would just be a waste of money for CDJ's if I don't even play CD's on them.

  21. Small controller that fits and laptop,,,,,,works in all venues
    Small controller laptop, wallet of cds,,,,,all venues and ones that have cdjs
    small controller,cds couple of memory sticks,,,,,,,all venues including ones that have cdj 2000s
    Job Done all options covered
    Ps in my humble opinion unless you are a turntablist the days of record decks are over and have been for over 10 years.
    Turntables to me are nice a bit like classic cars you wouldnt want to use them for everday practicle use!

  22. Chris Argueta says:

    Controllers are the future.

    It's 2011. At this stage of the game, moving to DVS is going backwards.

    James, "most DJs" are full of shit.

    No bar owner will come at you with a crucifix and holy water if you show up with your NS7.

    I don't know what bars your DJ acquaintances spin at, but in Los Angeles, for the last five years or so, most bars I've played at have turntables that are missing components, damaged or are nonexistent.

    Please note: I didn't say vinyl is dead. Many will misconstrue what I've written. I said DVS is quickly becoming outdated, which is not the same thing.

    James, keep the NS7, unless you don't like it anymore and want something smaller. Screw what them other guys say. They can't or won't see the future or the big picture.

    • Realistically, I agree that vinyl is dying, DVS is old-fashioned (but very convenient) and digital is the way forward.


      I don't think an NS7 is a realistic choice for club/bar DJing.

      I regularly do sound for gigs, which involves sorting out equipment for the DJs. I'm very much pro-digital, and make lots of space, USB cables, sound-cards, RCA cables and laptop stands available for the laptop users.

      Looking at the dimensions of the NS7 there's absolutely no way I'd let a DJ use it. The width (nearly 30 inches) is unmanageable in a DJ booth. The only way to fit it would be to remove the house mixer + CDJs, which is a terrible idea for reasons that I think are obvious.

      Don't get me wrong, I rather like the NS7 as a controller, but I think getting it into booths will be nothing but pain for you.

      • So, just to make that clear, I *would* turn you down for a set if you needed to use the NS7.

        However, I'd be happy to work with you to sort out a smaller setup if I thought you were a good DJ. No NS7, though.

  23. velveeta tease says:

    As a new digital dj, this article gives me hope :) Great article and replies

  24. Hey man!
    I have been contemplating the same thing, I have been playing at some clubs in Minneapolis over the last year with the NS7. as any set up it has it's disadvantages and it's advantages! My solution is selling my ns7 and buying a set of v7s, when I head out to the club i plug those in to the open channels of the house mixer(normally djm-800) at home I'm going to be using a rane 57, and I plan on picking up a used Cdj so I can get comfortable with both. Hope it helps

  25. Hi guys I see all deejays having similar problems and solutions.
    just a note -Technics have discontinued the SL1200/1210,Pioneer are also moving into controllers so not sure how long CDJ are going to last so instead of DJ trying to conform we need the bars to cater for the DJ.
    if want a smaller controller try the Behringer BCD3000 I connect my SL1200 to them use Virtual dj and Serato time coded vinyl to spin MP3 but it only takes one cdj
    Good luck

  26. Buy some soft thick foam and use to rest your controller on top of the existing mixer in the club. buy laptop stand or get a stand fabricated for your own needs. My friend has a DIY makeshift breakfast tray type stand that he uses. It stands over a turntable or mixer and keeps his controller clear of any equipment.

  27. Chris Argueta knows what he is talking about. Taking advice from other DJ is like asking a group of used car sales people which vehicle is right for a specific trip - you'll get 1000 different answers and they are all correct or all wrong, depending on how you look at it.

    I used 1210s when I played 15+ years ago. I went away from the entire scene for more than a decade and just recently came back and purchased an S4. I am adding DVS to the mix but I am doing it for me - not for any club/bar/promoter or DJ's respect. If you learned on decks you will always want them around...

    I certainly wouldn't make ANY buying decisions based on what 'might' be the case. Learn to mix on decks if you have access to them, time to do it and you want to. Learn to balance Star Wars figures on platters and juggle macaroons at the same time if you want to but treat your investment like your taste in music, something that only you can decide on. Understand there may be the odd gig that doesn't pan out because of your setup but that's part of the game. As they kind of said in Wayne's World 2, "Bring it and they will come"

    That's all from me, off to see how long it takes to batter and deep fry an Ewok.

  28. A good analogy to DJ equipt is photography equipt. Are photographers still using film for taking pictures? Some but very few. Do they still take great pictures? of course. But these days they are limited to possibilities.
    Now with digital cameras, they have become simpler, cheaper, lighter to carry, and there are way more options. Do they still take great pictures? of course!!

    Like someone else pointed out, It's WHAT you use, but HOW you use it. If you are confident in your equipment, then have no fear. GO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY ON THE DANCEFLOOR!

  29. I've used a number of different setups: all the way from all-in-one controllers to CDJs, to Techs, and I've run into all the same gripe from local DJs who have the "serato or go home" mentality, so I feel I can offer a pretty good perspective on the matter.

    Like you, I started with a DJ controller. I did it mainly for reasons of cost: I didn't know if DJing was for me, so I didn't want to spend the big bucks on a big setup only to find out I didn't like it. I really took to DJing, and I got to the point where, like you, I was starting to get opportunities to play in clubs.

    I started with an M-Audio Xponent, and moved up to a pair of Numark V7s (the separate deck version of the NS7). I've played quite a few shows with them, and I'll tell you right now: they are a huge pain to get into a DJ booth, and a huge pain to set up. The Ns7 is even harder to get into a booth. And yes, you will get a lot of snickers from the local DJ peanut gallery (not that I cared).

    I loved the V7s, and to this day I prefer them to pioneer CDJs, but ultimately I sold them because they were too much of a pain. The club already has CD decks and vinyl, so I just couldn't justify lugging them around. I switched to Serato Scratch, which I used with CDJs or Vinyl that was already at the club.

    Let me just say: Serato can be a huge pain in the ass. There's a lot of messing with wires, and a lot of crossing of fingers hoping that you won't get something wrong or that the software won't take a shit and not recognize the club's audio interface (which happened to me right before a peak time set). It has a lot of headaches, and I never really felt safe with it. Whenever a strictly CDJ guy would play before me I'd have to frantically set up before my set, and hope nothing went wrong. On the vinyl side of things, you have a whole host of other issues like skipping and bad needles, as well as poorly maintained Technics at clubs (sometimes they don't work at all).

    So after that long winded post, here's my advice:

    1. If you like the traditional 2 deck set up, then learn strictly CDJs with no laptop. It has no fuss, and no panic moments when software and hardware go wonky. It just works, and you can count on it. As a bonus, the club will always have CDJs. No DJ will ever hassle you if you care about such things.

    2. If you really want to use a laptop (and I don't blame you), then get a smaller all in one controller like the Traktor Kontrol S4. Its one USB plug, and one audio out to the mixer: not a lot can go wrong and you can learn it like the back of your hand. This also more closely resembles what you are used to. However, it can sometimes be hard to get it into the booth, but you should have no problem, especially if you buy a stand for it that can position it over the CDJs.

    3. If you really want to go vinyl, then you are stuck with A DVS and all the problems associated with setup and skipping needles, and dirty control vinyl, and poorly maintained club turntables. I've done this, and it's a nightmare.

    4. (my personal choice) Try out an Ableton setup. A lot of DJs these days are doing it, and the possibilities are pretty much limitless with what you can do. It's really creative once you wrap your head around it. Of course, this isn't for everyone: it's a totally different bag than traditional DJing.

    Hope that helps.

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