Are CDJs Better Than Midi Controllers?


Are CDJs better then Midi controllers? As we find out today, it all depends...

Many a new digital DJ asks that question. It pops up on the Digital DJ Tips Forum time and again. After all, goes the argument, CDJs are in all the clubs, and it seems nearly all the top DJs continue to use them rather than controllers. What is it that's better about CDJs, people ask?

Well, often CDJ DJs (which includes DJs who play using CDs from music on USB) will give you a whole list of reasons why they feel CDJ DJing is the "real thing", and equally unhelpfully, digital (or I guess more accurately, "software") DJs will counter with their own list of reasons why they feel "digital" is where it's at. None of which really helps to answer the question.

So today I thought we'd take a look at what a CD DJ would tell you, then what a digital DJ would tell you - and then try and move the debate forward with some middle-ground truths.

The argument for CDJs...

A CDJ DJ would tell you that CDJs are more flexible (being able to play all music formats, as well as work as Midi controllers for DJ software). They'll say that as CDJs are in the clubs, that's what you should learn on. They'll also likely add that laptops have no place in nightclubs, unlike pro-built CDJs that are made for that environment.

CDJ DJs may also use the opportunity to have a little pop at the way DJs who use software and controllers actually DJ: They'll say many digital DJs tend to spend more time looking at the screen that the crowd making for boring performances, and that the sync button is "cheating". They'll probably round off by saying that software and controllers are bedroom gear - and that "real" DJs in the real world all still use CDJs - and for a reason.

The argument for controllers...

On the other hand, controller DJs will tell you that CDJs are a relic, a stopping-off post between vinyl (which is what they essentially replicate), and the all-digital age. They'll point out that Midi control in such devices is basically a tack-on, and that if you want to use CDJs to control DJ software, you may as well buy a controller instead, because there's an awful lot built in to CDJs that a digital DJ really doesn't need.

Traktor Kontrol F1

The Traktor Kontrol F1 and its Remix Decks - show me a CDJ that can do this, a digital DJ might ask.

Digital DJs will point out that far from cheating, sync is automating a tedious part of DJing (and that as CDJs have a BPM counter on them anyway, unless you don't look at it, you're also cheating when beatmatching on CDJs when compared to vinyl).

They'll say that the only reason CDJs dominate is that most DJs on the scene (who started 10 or 20 years ago) learned on them - and that things are changing fast. They'll probably end by saying you can do so much more with software than CDJs, and a good laptop will do just fine in a DJ booth (after all, Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Scratch demand a laptop, nobody says that's not real DJing).

So who's right? Are CDJs "better" than controllers?

It won't surprise you to discover that there's no easy answer. So instead of giving you a definitive yes/no, here are some discussion points:

  1. CDJs are more at home in DJ booths than controllers - No denying that. They are already there, after all. If you can turn up with some CDs or a USB stick and just play, then that's the "path of least resistance". Bringing any extra gear into the CD booth is thus by definition less convenient. Nobody kits a DJ booth out with built-in DJ controllers
  2. You can do more on controllers than CDJs - Look at the stuff you can do with Ableton Live, or the new Traktor Kontrol F1/Pro 2.5 with clips, or using video and samples in Serato Scratch Live or ITCH. You need dedicated controllers to power this exciting stuff - CDJs can't do it, period
  3. Laptop DJs can look boring - If you spend all your time in "email checking mode", you will look dull. Software and controllers demand that you think about organising your music and mastering your gear so you're doing what DJs ought to do - playing great music and interacting with the crowd. However, to say that laptop/controller DJing causes boring stage presence is a step too far - there are many exceedingly boring-to-watch (and boring to listen to, come to that) vinyl and CD DJs out there too!
  4. Good DJs should be able to DJ on anything - That means that even if you're a controller DJ, it pays to be able to DJ on CDJs too, and to respect the fact that this is where DJing came from (and vinyl before that). But likewise, CDJ DJs shouldn't close themselves off to what's possible on laptops and controllers
  5. CDJ DJs tend to look down on controller DJs - Sadly this is still often true. But they have short memories. Ten years ago, vinyl DJs behaved in exactly the same way towards CDJ DJs. People often mock what they don't know. But if you want to DJ with controllers, it's up to you to educate those who have decided what you're doing is somehow inferior - and not to get too upset by it
  6. Controllers are undeniably making their way into DJ booths - Digital DJs are finding ways to do this. Using slimline controllers like the Traktor Kontrol X1 or the Allen & Heath Xone:K2 to DJ, digital DJs are realising they can map complex software to do great things, while needing just a tiny space in the DJ booth to set up. By using such controllers with in-house mixers (and maybe even with in-house CDJs as timecode control), such DJs are bringing themselves the "best of both worlds"

It's clear that this debate will roll on - and with CDJs getting more Midi friendly (look at the new Denon DJ SC3900, for instance) and Midi controllers coming out that are designed to squeeze into DJ booths, the lines will continue to blur. The truth is there's no simgle, right answer to this question.

As log as we keep our focus on the music, though, there's no reason why they can't exist happily alongside each other.

What do you think? Do controller DJs tend to feel inferior against CDJ DJs? Do CDJ DJs look down on controller DJs? Is it important for controller DJs to learn CDJs (and vice versa)? Is DJing better or worse for having a laptop involved rather than a USB drive or a bunch of CDs? Please share your thoughts on this debate in the comments.

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  1. Probably because of my age, I've always thought of CDJs as an odd halfway house. If you want to DJ in the most tactile, traditional way possible, use vinyl (I suppose I see DVS as a subset of this). If you want to take advantage of everything technology has to offer, use software. And if you're genuinely interested in the artform, or intending to play out professionally, you really ought to be able to use either.

    CDJs, for me, are just a weird middle-of-the-spectrum idea that means you don't have access to the full benefits of working at either end. I understand why the compromise must be attractive to some though.

    • That's exactly how I feel. It is of course possible to see CDJs as the "best of both worlds", but I actually see them as the "worst of both worlds" - big, bulky, expensive, and nowhere near as elegant to use as vinyl. But I agree with you that it could be an age thing... I still love my decks, but I also love my laptop. Thus CDs, and CD players, have never caught my imagination - except when they get used as Midi controllers! 😉

      • As I come from vinyl I must say that I never liked that format. It is heavy, bulky, needles that break and jump. bad soundquality and so on....
        CDJs is more than just Pioneer CDJ1000.
        As far as the CDJ1000 I think they are very booring
        But the Denon S37000/SC3900 they really are the best of all worlds. They have direct drive TT vinyl refcord so that you can work as on vinyl. The can play from USB/HDD/CD Mp3CD and MIDI or DVS.
        That is not possible on vinyl or MIDI controller!

    • Weird, I come from Vinyl too, but I started making the transition to CDJ halfway the 00's and have just recently moved towards Traktor (the slimline version: Reloop Contour and soon the Xone K2 alongside with it.).
      I'd say each format has it's pro's and con's.
      Vinyl is tactile, looks good, the records are easy to sort and find (big, 1 track per unit) and are the most pleasurable (also, digging!). However LP's are heavy and vulnerable, you always need to bring a pair of spare needles and you have very little control (either you go for the long beatmix, or you're a turntablist, which I'm not, sad to say.)
      I went to CD because it gave me some of the stuff that digital does better: sorting your collection the way you like (for me, BPM), having everything with you always, hotcues and loops so you can start editing. Since then my CD bags have become very dear to me indeed.
      However, the added features of CDJ's are now indeed relics. I always found the BPM counter cheating, but hell, they are usefull. Finding the exact same setup as you have at home at home is pretty convenient also, but since they started to replace the CDJ 1000's for these sluggish, plastic 900/2000s that won't even eat my SD cards with 5 years worth of Hotcues and loops, I'm liking my Traktor setup that easily slides in between of two CDJs and a mixer.
      Hybrid, boys, that's my preference.

    • I love this article! ultimately at the end of the day its all about the sounds being delivered to an audience. how you convey that sound is really irrelevant. music is music no matter what device it comes from. DjPS

    • This is an interesting argument , and a bit like football supporters , DJ's will argue that there's is the best irrespective of any facts.
      I am 45 years old, I first DJ's back in the mid 80's with turntables and a basic mixer. All was good and you had to know your stuff, no technical aids of any sort. Anyway done this for a several years back then and then I gave it all up. Despite this I all sways carried on collecting music , Vinyl where I could , otherwise cd and strke me down with lighting and very reluctantly I got the odd mp3 download (only as last resort).
      Anyway I'm waffling now so straight to the point I decided to get back into DJing a couple of years ago and it didn't take long to decide that midi was the way forward . After all back it the 80's if I brought 200 vinyls to a session it would've been enough, and very often a request would be answered by 'I got that one at home '. With midi all I need is the controller and a laptop with more than 4000 tunes ready to play on it.
      As for dull performance's you couldn't be further from the truth, yes midi does make life easier and why not, so how do I spend my spare time at a session , well I get on the booze and enjoy it like I never did before. The crowd love it too as I'm a legend for using the mic a lot .
      You see CDJ crew I agree that you have to be able to mix manually to call yourself a DJ, I'd hate to see some spotty school kid with a laptop and software calling himself a dj when he couldn't do it for real (vinyl) , but on the other hand there's nothing wrong with relying on technology to make your life easier . I don't use the sync button but I do allow the software to analyse bpm and match it. I just choose my own cue points .
      As a final asside , a few of my mates are DJ's , one of them is older than me and uses CDJs , one is the same age and uses CDJ's too, another one is 30years old and strangely enough he's a strictly vinyl man and spits fire at the mere thought of going digital. So am I a proper dj, well the end result sounds the part, but in reality the only real dj in my eyes is the vinyl man ,

  2. Because I'm mixing from 15 years right now, I have passed through Vinyls, CDJ's and Controllers.

    I started whit "raw" vinyls, then Serato Scratch Live.
    Then I go with Numark Axis 9, then CDJ's.
    next I worked with Traktor and "classic" DJ's Controllers.
    And now I'm Playing With Ableton Live and a APC40 for performance mixing.

    I'm always playing on CD's and Traktor when I'm not carrying my APC40 stuff.

    The fact is than now I'm taking more pleasure to play with Ableton and my Custom Set Up, because the effects and the remixing possibilities are just crazy.

    But I've tested itch and traktor with "custom" mappings on some controllers, and I really appreciate the efforts they are doing to change the "simple" way of Beatmatching track to the "hard" way of remixing tracks in Live.

    I think this is the future of DJing => performance.

    I usually play in Clubs and Bars in France, they have CD's in 90% of cases, but If it doesn't mind the "employer", I bring my gears for a better DJing experience.

    I think that when you can mix on "raw" vinyls system, you can easily mix on CDJ's, or in Traktor and Serato.

    But with Ableton, it's totally another manner to mix, and requires some organisation, midi knowledge, and of course Ableton's tricks and tips.

    But it's soooooOOOO GooooOOOod to play with...

  3. Has anyone ever had a CDJ crash? Even if it did, i'd imagine the reboot process to be much simpler and quicker than a laptop crash.

    • Sometimes, if their default gear in a club they de-calbriate after long (and probably ill-advised) use, but the example i gave in my comment was on a CDJ1000 the newer CDJ'S ive never had a problem with.

    • I Already had in a Bar a pair of CDJ-1000MK3 that have issues with one of my TWO USB sticks...

      Sometimes the playback stopped. And because the CDJ's were linked with a ethernet cable, it locked the other CDJ too ! (can't change the tempo)

      It's because they have never done any Firmware update on the CDJ's.

      And it's particularly insane to have to restart a CDJ, then the other one in a DJ Set...

      And for controlling a Software, being on a "clean" Mac with original softwares make me safer nowadays.
      I didn't have any crash for 2 years right now with my Mac, with a huge setup on Ableton Live.

    • When cdj crash it´s most often hardware failur, then there is no reboot 😉

      I´ve had to reboot my laptop twice in four years, but I always got a backup mix ready to play on my iphone.

      • Amen! 2 that flyer. I think Phil should recommend that 2 everyone in his course. EVRY1 needs a "By-Pass" to Phone or MP3 player button :) will save a show in the event of an emergency. With the phone though, make sure it's in airplane mode so your ex-doesn't try blowing you up and all we hear is MARIMBA during the peak of your meltdown! p.s. DIGI CONTROLLER's ALL THE WAY, GIVE ME 20 OF THEM, I'LL HAVE A BUFFET OF LOOP'S, FX, AND PUMP MIDI's. :) EDM4LYFE

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      Worse than crash, I've used house rigs that are straight ruined... the crossfader works poorly (cutting out at certain spots on the slider), dials and buttons that don't work and CDJs often break/fail in strange ways including not playing past track 3 (no matter what) long (2 beat) delays from pressing start to playing and scratching disks (so nothing will play and will permanently ruin your CDs)... ever see Computer scratch an MP3? The recommended process is always to have a backup source just in case things fail.

  4. In ten years people will say "what's a C.D.?". It will be cooler to pull out your old records if you have them. It is the same old story of technology and time. We don't fight wars with knights in armor but it's still fun to watch a jousting contest at tournament of kings at excalibur hotel.

  5. Cybertrash says:

    I'd say that the major thing CDJs have got going for them is convenience, it's a lot easier to show up to the club with a couple of USB drives and your headphones, rather than having to drag along a heavy laptop, control records, sound card, extra controllers, power adapters, cables, etc. Not to mention having to fiddle around behind the mixer when switching DJs.

    • ,with controllers you have to carry a laptop and the unit itself (which has soundcards onboard and it is usb powered so there is no need for most of the things you said),however these things are mobile you can do an afternoon beach mix then go to a club and do a mix there and after that go to an afterparty at your place and do an another mix, with cdj or vinyls. to me that's more important cause i can perform 3 times per day without caring about equipment,with the cdjs you can be mobile so you have to use the one that the club has

  6. I have to say at this day and age that in order to stand out as a DJ you really need to bring something different to the table. I shared a Headline spot this Saturday at a local bar that in my city is known for EDM DJs. I was given a lot of respect for my setup (i use an S4 and a Midifighter Beatmasher) and did not get insulted or any negative comments about what i used. When i came for me to play...I murdered the floor. All the DJs were like WTF how are you making those sounds and effects? 1/2 way through the show i had 1/2 the crowd watching intently on what i was doing while the other 1/2 was dancing like crazy!

    I pre-plan most of my sets as i do a lot of live remixing and mashups. At the end of the night i was asked a few times what remix of this song or that song were you playing...and when i told them it was the original with my own loops and mashups i was given a lot of credit for my set.

    The way i see it is...I can do everything you can do on CDJs or Vinyl...but can you do everything i can do on my S4 and midi fighter?

    The Answer is NO you cant...does that mean my setup is better? no it doesnt...we all express our styles differently...and its appreciating our interpretation of the music and how we mix it.

  7. That's crazy, just this weekend i was hanging out with some fellow DJ's at a club, one who was frustrated during his ENTIRE set because the CDJ'S were not calibrated correctly, so he found himself having to make up for it than focus on any showmanship, which is what you should do..

    Later, a tech house DJ showed up with Pioneer T1 and hooked into the mixer alone, and had a relaxed smooth set throughout the night.

    the crowd didnt notice the difference, but when crunch time comes, the controller turned out to be the better option, i'll leave the rest up to you.

  8. I think main takeaway is point 4 -- Good DJs should be able to DJ on anything

    I think CDJs work better in club DJ booths because it's a universal piece of gear that anyone can walk in and use. As much as I love Torq and my midi gear, I still stand by the idea that I won't bring out my laptop and controller for any set that's less than 60 minutes.

    If you're being booked for 30-45 minute guest're better off burning some CDs over dragging out your setup, unless you're doing something special like Ean Golden, Deadmau5, or GirlTalk.

    I also think ANY DJ out there should know how to use CDJs and should know how to manually beatmatch. No excuses. Your laptop might fail or something goes wrong, and it's worse to say you can't play over playing a simple set that might be bland compared to your normal laptop set.

    I don't think midi controls will be easily installed in the clubs because there ins't still a clear winner on Serato VS you have outliers like myself on Torq and other software. How about the VDJ users?

    With CDJs...anyone who can DJ can play on them, thus it's an easier investment for a club. That's why everyone should know how to use them, and they should remain the backup plan in most cases for a midi DJ.

  9. With the introduction of software used to set cue points, set tempo or anything else you would do "pre gig" cdj's are pretty much controllers now.

  10. With the introduction of software used to set cue points, set tempo or anything else you would do "pre gig" cdj's are pretty much controllers now.

  11. robert lucas says:

    its totally personal preference, there are things you can do with CDJ's that you cant with controllers, and likewise with controllers. what you choose to play on is part of your style and who you are as a dj! You can make different sounds with every different part of equipment, and what you choose, and learn to play on is your choice. People should stop hating on each others hardware, and spend more time enjoying the music! , thats why we dj anyways, to live and love and create the music!

    • Rob Anthony says:

      +1 Who cares what you're mixing on; the music should be the main focus! You could be scratching and mixing on pots and pans, for all I care for. If the beats and rhythms you're creating or are putting together are on point; that's all that matters.

  12. soulguru says:

    I love both, I use traktor tccd with an x1, but still get grief from other dj's.
    Software has a lot of ways to (cheat).
    1. Sync
    2. Wave Riding
    3. Tempo meters.

    I found my self struggling playing on regular cds.

  13. Interesting debate. We'll never hear the end of it.
    At the end of the day is about preference and your environment.

    I started on 2 turntables and a mixer back in the day, took a break and came back using controllers. I always disliked CDJs or using CDs. That's just me.

    Where I play there was an S4 and a Mac using Traktor. I just bring my USB and good to go. Now it's Pioneer T1. No need to bring my entire gear.

  14. DJ B-LEVE says:

    I started on vinyl. I've used CDJ's. I now use a controller. If I need to I'll play on whatever. If you give me my choice it's my controller all the way. It just gives me more creative control.

    If all you do is mix without doing any tricks you'll look(and sound)boring no matter what your gear is.

    Anyone other DJ that I've let come over and jam out on my controller falls in love with it. They always point out that it's not the same as vinyl of course. I guess they're still stuck the vinyl purist debate from 10 years ago. I disagree with them, and since I've used all options and they haven't I trust my view more than theirs. To me the only difference is that you get more ways to get creative control as you get move from vinyl to CDJ and ultimately to software, and DVS is nothing more than a ridiculously large and expensive way to make a controller.

    • Rob Anthony says:

      I agree. It's all about creative control. If you were given the option to be able to move in, say, 8 directions versus 4...which would you pick? I'm a vinyl lover at heart, but this day in age, it's easier (and cheaper) to find great music in a digital format versus vinyl. Add the ability to manipulate, said music, in a way that vinyl, nor CDJ's allow and one can see why controllers start to rise to the top.

  15. I have to say a few things because there are so many elements brought in to one huge debate that won't end, people will just get sick of this, so I guess we have to stop pushing these discussions and accept things for that they are.

    I started out as a software DJ because I wanted to DJ and I had no gear and I had touched no gear. I learned to play with cd's (flawlessly) and after with vinyls (expensive stuff, decks and vinyls), which lead me to continue with cd's.

    The reason for that is because I love to work with the tracks and the pitch. Also because while other dj's connect their stuff and startup their things, I just put a cd into the player and get started, all I need is my cd-case and my headphones. Wherever I go to play I know I will deliver a high quality set because:
    1. I have practiced and practiced and practiced, which lead to great mixing technique, I never fail a transition, always on the beat no matter the cdj's.
    2. I know my tracks and I read the crowd!

    Nowadays I have traktor scratch pro 2 with an X1 controller, because: I know I can mix on vinyl, cdj's and using only the X1. This gives me total freedom to play what I want, how I want, without limitations, I can easily play timecoded cd's or vinyls, using the x1 as an effectrig or
    to continue using the X1 for loops and samples and so on....

    To understand and appreciate the power and potential of softwares I believe you HAVE to be an expert in vinyls and cdj's before going all software.. and the main reason for this I believe is that I have heard so many DJ's using traktor or serato, watching the screen, never looking at the crowd..but the biggest pain of them all:

    Digital DJ's with ALL that potential at their fingertips who still don't know how to mix, and by this I mean DJ's who do not know how to beatmatch .. playing tracks that are in sync but not matched.. snare on kick, the upbeats match, but obviously these digital dj's don't know or don't have any musical theory in their backgrounds not understanding the disappointment of backbeat mixing ... and it makes me ... sick ... they SEE the track .. but they don't feel it ...they don't hear it ..

    My opinion is: as long as it sounds good play with whatever you want, I tend to blend everything, some old tracks from cd's, some new tracks on timecoded, and if I am lucky enough to come to a place that has cd's AND vinyl decks ... I am in heaven!

    The most important things, no matter how and what you play, will still remain the same:

    Have the skills and knowledge about mixing and your style of music to be able to build a superfantastic dynamic set, read the crowd, LOVE MUSIC, and have respect...

    • You have a very good point except:
      "Digital DJ’s with ALL that potential at their fingertips who still don’t know how to mix, and by this I mean DJ’s who do not know how to beatmatch .. playing tracks that are in sync but not matched.. snare on kick, the upbeats match, but obviously these digital dj’s don’t know or don’t have any musical theory in their backgrounds not understanding the disappointment of backbeat mixing … and it makes me … sick … they SEE the track .. but they don’t feel it …they don’t hear it .."
      This is NOT only with Digital DJ's

  16. DJs should be able to perform and mix with anything...end of argument

  17. Shishdisma says:

    There can be a case made for CDJs, because you aren't chained to the laptop excessively. Every controller jockey on the internet will fly into a rage that controllers "allow for creativity" and that "Traktor just has more features." Does it really?

    Effects? There are plenty wired onto a DJM, and there's a S/R loop to patch in more.

    Sample decks? Please, plug in a little MPC 500 or a sampler, and you've got 10 times the sampling power, and none of the frustration of Traktor's loading system. Even that new effects box Pioneer announced that Traktorites make fun of has more flexibility than them.

    The only real, non redundant, purpose of a DVS like Traktor or SSL is library management, which SSL does extremely well, and Traktor falls on it's face so hard I can't even comprehend. Seriously, how on earth does anyone get their libraries, let alone their sets, organized in any way?! And may God have mercy on you if you don't have your next track right there, it's literally impossible to find anything without walking over to you laptop, and grabbing the keyboard and mouse.

    It really comes down to cost effectiveness, which I hand to controllers firmly, hardware equipment is expensive, software relatively isn't, and despite it's masive shortcomings, a budget is a budget, and controllers take the cake for power per dollar.

  18. There needs to be a way for DJs who have never used a CDJ and have no access to them to be able to learn them.

  19. I learned the basics of DJ-ing with various CD players and then got to know the proper CDJ's in the venues where I played. But I never owned a CDJ set myself.

    And that's one of the main reasons I like my Reloop III, I can practice with it at home and know that it's the same gear that I'll be using at my next gig, 'cause I'll bring it along.. I might have become a CDJ DJ if a complete CDJ set was affordable (which for me, it is not).. I guess it's the same for any other kind of music prof. You don't want to play a guitar live you don't know inside out and haven't rehearsed with in the comfort of your own space where you can mess around with it and experiment.. You want your own trusted equipment, which works as it should, of which you know it's abilities & limitations and which you can check is ok before you go out there.

    I have experienced DJM800's on location with a bad headphone input, or old CDJ's with badly responding play & cue buttons or doggy rca inputs, or worse a doggy power cable input, that made it switch off in the middle of a gig.

    The one thing I'm worried about compared to my controller is the output.. I'm not 100% sure yet but I seem to notice that the sound coming from my controller is not quite as beefy as from the CDJ's. They'll both be connected to a DJM mixer and I'll be playing WAV, Apple Lossless or MP3 320kbs files, connected through decent cables and the Reloop III has a 24bit/96 kHZ soundcard.. Still I feel the sound coming from the CDJ's has more body if I play a cd track after a controller track.

    But this might also be something which can be adjusted in the software? I'm just started to get to know traktor really.

    Has anyone else experienced this using CDJ's next to a controller?

  20. The one huge elephant in the room that hasn't been discussed is the difference in sound quality between the two. I use Traktor and control by midi but when I takeover a set with a DJ who goes CD, there seems to be a noticeable drop in quality. Even between Traktor MIDI vs Serato DVS, I feel a drop in quality.

    Traktor software compresses the tracks when loaded where there's is opportunity for a drop in quality. Then the fact that I plug my controller/sound card in the house mixer means that it goes from laptop, controller/card, mixer (usually a DJM), main board/amp. Going from the card by RCA into DJM mixer allows for another drop in quality.

    When rocking a huge sound system, a little drop in quality can be a major impact on the crowd. Any thoughts? This is what's been making me lean toward CDJs.

  21. At this moment in time I think CDJS are the most solid and reliable piece of equipment around let's face it there practically in every club in the world. Now people who say cd djing is boring I disagree I know you might say well with software you can do multiple effects use sample decks and of course play 4 tracks at the same time but if I'm not mistaken I'm pretty sure you can do that on cdjs and a mixer without looking at a screen I do actually own an s4 aswell as cdjs these controllers at the moment are just not going to take every day life in a club week in week out the cdjs are designed to take a beating unlike the controllers I'm know means heavy handed with my s4 but found knobs buttons don't last long and it's not just me that's found this I know I few other guys who have had these problems!! :(

  22. Another great article Phil.

    I started out as CD DJ, switched over to digital (Traktor, Traktor 2) for about 3 years, and recently switched back to CDJs. I prefer CDJs over digital, mainly because I feel more engaged in the music and I also hate switching out setups between DJs (who really likes to get in the other DJs way by unplugging RCAs out the back of the mixer).

    Of all the very valid points you laid out here, the one that trumps them all is "Good DJs should be able to DJ on anything." I completely agree with this. Sure you might be better (maybe more comfortable) playing on vinyl rather than CDJs or digital setups, but being able to lay down a great set on any medium is a true testament to not only a DJs ability, but also his/her passion for DJing.

    I've always felt somewhat handicapped because I never learned to DJ using vinyl, but that's all changed now as I've been lucky to get a set of turntables and a DVS set up. Learning vinyl has been challenging, but I think its also going to make me a better overall DJ.

    Bottom line, if you're truly passionate about the artform of DJing, you're going to try to learn all the way to DJs out there (otherwise how do you know what best suits your style?). Yes money is a constraint, but adapting with the times is also a tenant of a DJ that will last.

  23. I really don't think it matters...rock the party with midi controller, CDJ, Vinyl, 8 track..its all good. The more you can work with the better you will be. The only person that is really going to care or point out what playback source your using is probably going to be another DJ.

    From an audience point of of view most won't even be able to see the what the DJ is playing on.

    Now that there are several of videos of superstar DJs "faking it" the only people that seemed to really be pissed where other DJs.



  24. IMO anything you can do with a controller can be done with CDJs.
    The new SC3900 from Denon that comes with Engine and Pioneer CDJ2000 that has Recordbox alows you to pre set loops and hotcues.
    Denon X1700 has 2xbuilt in efx so you can pull 2 effects at the same time. You can use a Laptop as a screen or a iPad on SC3900.
    The new efx box from Pio alows you to do anything effectwise + more than you can do in Traktor. But you need a DVS system to have a spinning platter as you do not need on SC3900 with USB or CD!
    If you want 3/4 decks at the same time (how many % do that??)
    Then get an extra CDJ or two!
    If you do maschups/remixes of tracks using Ableton then just record them and take on a usb stick.....

    Now tell me what you can not do on CDJs that you can do on DDJ??

    • Agreed

    • Well you can type in the next song you like to play and load it within a few seconds.
      But I do agree on it's easier to just bring a couple of cd's or USB sticks if you play at a club that has a CDJ setup.
      wow the Denon can use 2 FX at a time In Traktor I could use 12 FX simulationly (But why would I)
      Just think about it would it not be bad if you could not do at least most of the same on a €5000 CDJ setup compaired to a €500 DDJ setup? maybe thats why CDJ's feel so bad about these controllerists ? Because someone who only payed €500 on his setup can do more then the one who payed €5000+ on his

      • @ DJ Hessler don't know why I can't replay to your post. If I were to compare cheep CDJ then the whole thing of being able to the same thing falls flat on the floor. Many of them don't even have hot cues. The point being you could buy a descent controller and cheep laptop with a Pro version of any DJ SW and be able to do most if not more then you can to on a CDJ2000 DJM900/2000 setup.

    • lordamercy says:

      sounds expensive, is rather spend a couple of hundred on a controller and buy a car.............

      • That is a very bad argument IMO!

        If you buy a top of the line controller + sw + Macbook pro 17" i7 that is comparable with top of the line Denon CDJs and Mixer it will be cheaper with CDJs.

        If you compare a not top of the line cheap controller you have to compare with a cheap CDJ ánd then it is still cheaper with CDJs

        Do your math and do not compare apples with pears as we say in sweden 😉

      • lordamercy says:

        You mentioned cdj 2000s pioneer fx unit and more how is that a bad argument that's 1000s of pounds worth of equipment. My set up of a 2008 macbook and S2 cost me 625 UK pounds. Anywhere I play I unplug the clubs cdj 1000 which is quite standard in the UK bar scene and play. Dats full library of music and traktors fx. What Uv suggested would cost 1000z and not really get that much more from what I do so I ask again how is that a bad argument?

      • Phil, No you do not need a 17" Macbook pro to DJ.
        But You do not need a Pio CDJ2000 eather

        What I meant was, If you compare the absiolute most expencive CDJ setup that money can buy, You need to compare it to the absolute most expencive DDJ set up.
        In that I find that a Macbook Pro 17" i7 is the most expensive laptop that I could find. Can you find a computer that is more expensive??

        I stll states that it is not cheaper with DDJ!!!!


        I have answered that already!

  25. Jayce_147 says:

    I suppose no one can really blame any dj using a controller rather than a cdj or viceversa. Is a real dj someone who uses only turntables? I have never heard anyone arguying that contemporary movie directors are not artists because they now use digital cameras and shoot movies that require less people to work with or less time to prepare effects or less money to produce. Take into consideration my personal experience. Not enought money to spend on records, turntables, mixers, but enough for a controller and songs via beatport. A few years ago this would have been impossibile even to conceive. Controllers are simply one way to dj. There are other ones and all of them are legitimate and useful. The sync button is a problem for some? What about BPM locks on new Pioneer cjd 350? And what about Rekordbox users? Technology only facilitate the way we dj but it cannot create a dj. Real djs should simply be able to use different tools to create music and entertain people. I have never blamed the cinema round the corner for switching to digital projectors, why should I believe that controllers are for kids or hot shots? Djing with them is as fun as djing with cdjs or turntables. I personally do not understand people talking about bedroom djs as something negative, even Grandmasterflash said that "It all starts in the bedroom, it's like studying,if you wanna really be serious about this, you need to cut out all the fun activities, get to your room lock the door and do it!"

    • Once again I do not understand your math??

      CDJs are not that expensive!

      If you are going to buy a cheap controller you can not compare the price to a top of the line CDJ!

      If you compare a top of the line controller (MC6000 S4 NS6) + sw + macbook pro 17" i7 to a top of the line CDJ Denon S3700 + X600 mixer. I tell you that you will have more money left with CDJs at least in my country!

      There are cheap CDJs as well that IMO is cheaper than a chep controller + sw + laptop....

      IMO it is like comparing a Vespa (Numark mixtrak) to a BMW M5 (Denon SC3900/Pio CDJ2000)

      • Buy a S4 and you don't need to buy SW and who ever said you need a Macbook pro 17" i7 to DJ ? whoever thinks that would also think you need a set of Pioneers top line CDJ/DJM to DJ. Yes it would be nice to have top of the line Macbook but it's not required to be able to take full advantage of a DJ SW just like Pioneer are not required to use CD's.
        The whole point again is you can do almost everything on a cheep DDJ setup that you can on an expensive CDJ setup.

      • lordamercy says:

        but Hessler U'll still need the laptop regardless plus on top of the cdjs you'll need a mixer wid fx unit or an fx unit built in.

        I'm not sayin one is better than the other but one can't compare to the other on bang for ur buck. Money no object I'd blatantly have the top of the range pioneer stuff but I haven't so I make do wid a solution Dats not just good on price but great for creativity as well.

        I'm not a big room DJ but I went through vinyl and cdjs. My macbook has serato in just incase I have to use some1z timecodes. Rekordbox wid a usb stick incase I'm lucky enough to be at a venue wid 2ks but my first choice is my macbook and S2. Bein able to play on anything seems to be the consensus of this article, can't argue wid dat one x

      • Jayce_147 says:

        Man, show me the place where they sell a couple of Pioneer CDJ 200 plus a djm ( any ) at the same price of a Denon MC6000 plus a laptop and then I will run to get a couple of those and a mixer! A controller is the cheapest way to start djing, usually peole already own a Pc so all they need is a controller.Now, even from scratch, an average good pc is around 600 euros, a Denon MC 6000 one of the best controllers on the market is 700 euros...A Pioneer CDJ 2000 costs more than 1750 euros a piece! You need two of them plus a mixer ( say the Pioneer djm 900 Nexus, for example that is worth something like 1800 euros). Even the cheapest Pioneer CDJ line, the cdj 350 is 1.649,00 euros...So how in the world is that cheaper or on the same price range? I own a Pioneer DDJ ERGO and I use the MacBook I bought two years ago, if I wanted any cdj, even a Denon 3900, I have to spend much more than that!

  26. I have a simple theory, which is, the same way 1210's still resist the "invasion" of CDJ's, CDJ's will also keep resisting as long as they can to Controllers, and so on... 😉

  27. Shane V! says:

    All i'm gonna say is embrace technology, but respect the heritage from which it comes. I have cd decks that I use as both cd players AND as software controllers. Yet, I still break out my turntables and vinyl...I feel much more connected to the culture when I go back to my roots and blow the bust off the needle!

  28. CDJ or controller this is only important to other Dis At the end of the day does the dancer really care what piece of gear you use.
    here is a funny funny story I went to a small club and the DJ was killing it no tran wrecks nice blends, beat juggling a very cool set so I go to the booth just to tell the guy I enjoyed his set and when I get to the booth he was rocking all Gemini gear ..LOLOLOL

  29. Young DJs are learning with controllers - so eventually CDJs and turntables will be phased out. May not happen for 10 years or so, but it will happen.

    • I do not think so.
      Because CDJs will develop and I think we will se other solutions than the controllers that are out there now.
      Solutions like the Stanton with built in software and solutions like the Denon Engine.
      The all in one packages that a controller is will be there but also the solution like CDJs.
      But CDJs will most likely not have a CD slot in them in ten years or so......That is what I think anyway.

      • lordamercy says:

        A CDJ without a CD slot hmmmmmmmm. No one I've seen hates cdj here apart from maybe the vinyl guys which back in the day I was and yes I slated cdjs. Times change I grew up and I've embraced all technology. For beatmatching cdjs are still miles ahead of MIDI controllers and for platter control too. Agreeing to disagree is fine too 😀

  30. charless says:

    Great article. Being a digital DJ I've always wondered what's the attraction with CDJs. So thanks. This kind of debate so common when there is a great shift in technology. Controllers and other new emerging tools will create a better show in the long run once more DJs learn to get creative with them. It's just a matter of time.

  31. You're on point with this comment! I'm on exactly the same page as you, but take a slightly different approach... I simply use my ns7 with the nsfx effects bar.. I love being able to scratch over beats and into transitions, then feed the buildup with my loops and effects...

    on a side note, when it comes to cds it takes only a minute to load the cd into my laptop and drag the files over to serato.. I feel that i have the best of not both worlds, but all three worlds with this simple setup..

    The only problem with my setup is that it is a bitch to haul around, but not near as bad as two decks, a mixer and a truckload of cables.. even though it's a large midi controller, it's still a midi controller and still has the simplicity in setup to just plug and play...

    I love when I see another dj bring in a tiny controller and kill it! It's all about style and what you do with what you have, not what you have and don't do with it..

  32. This debate indeed reminds me of the prior debate of CDJs versus vinyl, with CDJs viewed as a form of "cheating" from the true artist's tool of the turntable. I enjoy performing on vinyl, CDJs and Midi Controllers, and guests really do not care what I play on so long as the party is rocking!

    Another important consideration is stability/reliability, and I give the CDJ a distinct edge versus the laptop/controller combo. Any DJ who's been doing this long enough has experienced the frozen screen of death.

    Finally, Midi Controllers are more portable, an important consideration for mobile DJs.

  33. I think it would be nice to just use usb or a sd card and not have to bring along the laptop. I currently use a Traktor Kontrol S2

  34. If cost were not an issue I think most digital guys would gladly have a set up that included CDJ's/Mixer/Controller maybe even TT's, but for most CDJ/DJM is just prohibitively expensive to justify the cost. The animosity & hostility seems very one sided and mostly coming from the CDJ advocates. I'm not even mentioning vinyl (time code or otherwise) because I havn't seen any DJ use it at a club or festival in over 6 years ! I think people need to chill and stop hating.

    • elbowshalds says:

      Really? I still see dj's smash it up with DVS - watch Mr Troxler at any festival on youtube and you'll see the vinyl emulation going strong and the crowd rocking...

  35. I've got a foot in pretty much every camp. I started off on vinyl 12 years ago then moved on to CDJs about 6 years ago. I sold my CDJs last November and bouhgt a Traktor S2. I also purchased a Traktor Audio 6 and upgraded to TSP2.

    I currently have two residencies, one is a bar where I have to provide my own decks and the other is a night club with CDJs installed.

    My current set-up is: DVS with vinyl at home (more fun), the S2 as a stand-alone controller for the bar gigs (easier to transport) and DVS with CDJs in the club (it fits in the booth!).

    In my opinion people should just use what suits them and let others do the same, all this hating's beggining to sound like a broken record (or a skipping CD, or a crashing laptop stuck in a loop, whatever floats your boat haha)

  36. It's All About Music regardless of your equipment!!
    I find that all this talk about what equipment is better is just like a pissing contest really.
    If you put the time and effort in and build your skill set up you can make the most out of any set up.
    I've been DJing for 27 years started with Vinyl and 1200's now I use CD and CDJ 1000mkIII's.
    I don't have a problem with PC DJ's the biggest problem is THE SYNC BUTTON and bedroom DJ whom think they can mix and call them selves DJ's just by using said button!! Rather than learn to mix without it.
    Like all technology PC DJing is in it's infancy and will like ohter tech will get better and more reliable as time goes on but for now I think CDJ's are still the best bit of kit out there for reliability.

  37. Zameer Hassim says:

    You can do more with software/midi controllers. It's not hard to carry around my APC40/Laptop and much easier than a turntable. Nuff said.

  38. CDJs all the way, feel way better than controllers and give more satisfaction.

  39. Great article and commentary. Based on my reading thus far, there's no clear answer. I do, however, have a testimony that is pro midi controllers. I starting mixing less than a year ago by purchasing a $70 Hercules MP3 e2 -- that is all. How else would I have discovered that I love to DJ if I had to buy two CDJs and a mixer? Fast forward to today and I'm working with a Denon MC3000 and Traktor Pro 2 -- still more bang for the buck.

    I'll admit that I've never touched vinyl or CDJs. That doesn't mean that I don't respect those who have or the roots/history of DJing. It also doesn't mean that I don't have the right to be a great DJ. There are too many factors to a "good" DJ to write someone off because he doesn't/haven't used CDJ/vinyl. There's amount of practice, popularity, the scene, etc. I'm sure you've read the articles from here. The people that really dislike controllers are similar to the people that hate advances in technology in other aspects of life. Some analogies that come to mind:
    Those who'd rather make a phone call than text.
    Those who hate the cars with paddle shifters because it does all the work for you so you're really not "driving".

    At the end of the day, nothing really matters except your passion for music and the audience. There's no guarantee that you're better than the other guy because you use a controller and vice versa.

  40. Phil I think being able to DJ with anything is good but really the next step in djing is automation. At some point theres gonna be a softwhere that syncs and allows you to tweak tunes and match the beats how you want. I have a friend who DJs his name is NO LEFT TURN.
    He uses two midifighters one for each deck. He uses that and a mixer. I mean fact is sync and automation is the next step for djing.

    oh and YES i can rip it on CDJ Vinyl or Midi.

  41. Another BMW vs Merc argument.

    The answer : Whatever floats your boat

    I think before people answer questions they should always say what kinda music or club they play.

    I cant see someone using 12FX in Traktor 2.5 in a Wedding gig or an Hip Hop club. Not everyone here is a deadMau5 lol.

    My €0.02 :

    1. Most new starters now will 99% of the time buy a Controller cos its cheaper and that's what is being pushed all over the internet.

    2. Once the money start rolling in (or you get a better job) and they haven't bitten the "Producer Bug" yet they will be most likely seek Turntables just to be able to be more "complete"

    3. Now they didn't get to be the super-dj or producer they initially thought of becoming and they are getting more weddings and corporate functions than normal (plus the bar gigs) then they will have to get CDJs or at least know how to use em.

    Well back to the original post. I have everything TT, CDJ and a Controller and i use either as i deem fit. #EndOf

  42. I dont understand how the sync button in considered cheating? you still have to beatmatch "by ear" to the click while beatgridding your tracks. only difference is you only do it once. now the people that just rely on the software to beatgridd everything, thats not cheating, thats just amature. some of these kids today have never seen a turntable let alone use one. i learned on turntables and a mixer and never used a cdj because i couldnt let go of vinyl.

  43. Good discussion. I'm in Northern California, so being able to trek to the desert for Burning Man (and smaller festivals on the summer circuit) is an important consideration here.

    For outdoor parties, CDJs really reduce the complexity and hassle that lugging your laptop and controller do. CDJs are also only useful to other DJs, while a Mac Book Pro is useful to almost anyone willing to walk away with it.

    I suppose the Stanton SCS 4 DJ could work as well, but in that situation a Pioneer CDJ is much, much cooler.

  44. Bikram aditya says:

    I've been djing for almost 20 yrs,started with cassette decks & philips home turn tables followed by technics 1200s then denon 2000 twin cdplayers then kam twin cdplayers with jog,then denon 2500 ,2600,pioneer 100S,now pioneer 200S+ 1210 pair+djm 600 mixer pioneer since 5yrs are in my dj booth hooked up with OHM Sound system (9yrs).
    Now in the mean time I came to know about digital djing from dj mag ,so I baught my first controller Bcd 2000 in 2005 which I didn't like coz I could not understand it ,it freezed in the middle of the mix,I got scared ,I thought this thing is a nightmare for me so I never took it out for any shows ,but I never dumped it coz I knew it very well that this thing is future ,so I studied about it more & in a couple of weeks it became my best piece of kit.
    Now I'm completely into digi djing,I've got now Hercules rmx,mixtrack,dj2go,ns7,serato & of cors bcd2000.However controllers don't sound powerful like cd players or LP's except bcd2000 which sounds better as compared to controllers like rmx & mixtrack but I know the day is not far when they all will sound very powerful without an extra sound card or an extra mixer as the dj software enginers understand the dj needs better now eg.ABELTON which sounds great without any controller or even an extra soundcard.
    In the end I'd say I seriously took to digital djing when I could'nt find my favourite LP's any more in the market ,and my cd suddenly stopped / skipped in the middle of the mix ,as they were getting worn out due to prolong use

  45. Hi all,

    Interesting debate.

    I played only vinyl out from 1984 until 2004, I was a vinyl nut close to 5,000 records.

    I switched from playing Drum and Bass to experimental Electronica in 2004. Unfortunately the labels that published my music did not produce vinyl it was far to expensive to produce, so I had to use C.D. for the first time.... which to be honest took about an hour max and within a half day I was a master of them.

    In 2006 I started using Trakor and still do to this day. Every month I get about 30 Minimal,Techno eps to review from various labels around the world so this is why I'm digital.

    Some fellow producer friends use c.ds as they can burn off their latest studio tracks and play to a crowd, its less to carry compaired to a full laptop system etc.

    If I was getting 40 plus free vinyls a month like back in the 90's I would still be a vinyl dj I guess, but times have changed thank God.

    I have played out quite a lot as you can all imagine in my professional career, but more importantly since switching to digital not one of my paying guests has complained that I'm using a c.d ... or now a laptop.

    They are quite frankly too busy dancing and having a good time to really give a toss about what medium I'm using.

    Just have fun with whatever you use, it is all good. Your guests are the most important thing as they work hard and are paying you to be entertained.

  46. Soo many options... okay maybe you guys can help.. I just turned 18 and I'm a dj.. Some of my mixes have appeared on goodhope.. I've got asked to play in clubs but had to decline because I don't use cdj's...but the stuff is soo expensive!! I want to start of as cheap as possible. so in the future what would you recommend for me.. Dj controller( mixtrack pro) or cdj( cdj 200's)

    Please e-mail me on


    • A DJ controller is the cheapest and most practical way to learn the skills, and as long as you teach yourself to manual beatmatch on it the transition to CDJs isn't massive.

    • I have a mixtrack pro running serato intro. to be honest there are better controllers out there, mixtrack pro doesnt have any trims and when you fire the thing up you have to move faders about because when the fader is on the left deck or vice versa you can hear the track on the right deck or vice versa playing. when you move fader side to side it sorts it out. I only bought Mixtrack Pro so i dont have to carry my 1210's about when i put on parties etc.
      You prob better of saving for a pioneer ddj s1 or t1 or a vestax controller.

  47. I have no problem with either but the reason I went controller vs cdj is that CDJ's and mixers are super pricey compared to controllers (in my case the S4) and you get basically the same function. I would love to get a pair of cdjs and mixer tho to learn on!

  48. I haven't read this entire post so If someone has already covered this one off, please forgive. What I most notice is the difference in sound quality between an installation in a club and the digital gear. I have an Audio4DJ and a vestax vci and everytime I rig it up to he club's mixer it sounds boggy muffled. When you play on the CDJ 1000's it is wholly much better. I don't think this anything to do with controller but I do think has everything to do with the audiocard and the mixer. Would love to know if anyone else has has this experience to?

  49. I've gone from 1210's and vinyl to vci300 and now back to 1210's with scratch live and rane ttm57sl (after my VCI300 and laptop was stolen). I also recently purchased a Numark Mixtrack Pro running serato Intro, just for ease of not having to carry my 1210's to gigs or parties that i put on.
    To be honest i preffer the feel of mixing on a controller than i do with 1210's. This has got me thinking about purchasing a set of cdj's. As you can now use Cdj's as a controller as well as using usb and cd's. If i can mix well using all 3 of these modes than i think more doors will opened up to me gig wise. As most places have CDJ's. Ive never used cdj's before in my life so i wouldnt mind trying them out. At the moment to me cdj's are looking like a good all rounder. But what cdj's do i buy? Im looking at CDJ350 or CDJ850. Any recommendations????

  50. freshar says:

    i've used vinyl(the roots of it all, but records very costly), cdj(cd players costly, but cd burning cheap), and controllers(get what you pay for, but need very little extra equip to perform). im actually back in the search for a set of cdj, for the fact that i see most clubs use them as the house set, in combination with serato. and i want to get back into the feel of using something bigger. but after reading some of the post im seeing that most people that use cdj carry the cd case or usb drives but no laptop. with the development of traktor and serator wouldnt it be less hassle to just bring your laptop and connect to the house set? and the djs that use serato with vinyl or cdj, what category do you consider them to be in? because, now the TT or cdj just became a bigger controller. thats just my opinion. i do feel that if you can do what the next dj is doing but a little easier then why not? but do know and respect how and where it all originated, and where it is going...

  51. Hello,

    Nice topic, I was Started Djing since 2010, I have my own controller Pioneer DDJ-T1, but I'm still learn how use CDJ, be cause one day may be we Djing by using CDJ and CDJ can be connect to our laptop.

  52. Scott Blizzard says:

    I started with vinyl and used to hate CDJs.....10 years later i actually get used to CDJs and think "Hey this is better than vinyl!" I have the DDJ-T1 which is NOWHERE near as fun to use as vinyl or CDJ but is ALOT more powerful in terms of features.

    My opinion on the matter is use whatever you prefer and feel free to move with the times but remember if you don't learn to manually beatmatch and you turn up to a club with CDJs + no're F*CKED :)

  53. nathaniel says:

    i use a traktor kontrol s4 and its farkin sick i also use cdjs but there is just so much more potential with my s4 theres no comparason but thats just my opinion cdj DJs just need to look at what else is out there

  54. I'm a Mobile DJ and depending on the type of event that I'm DJ'ing, I would usually bring my CDJ-2000's to make sure that I have a readily available backup system just in case my laptop catches a hiccup. If the software ever acts up and becomes unresponsive, I can immediately pull out my CD's to keep the music playing seamlessly without the crowd ever knowing that I almost had a heart attack for a split second behind the booth while I'm rebooting my laptop (never happened yet - knock on wood - but I would not want to be caught with my "pants down"). Using the CDJ's also allows me to have the flexibility to accommodate the clients if they were to bring their own music for a performance they were to do during the event. If the event was going to be straightforward, I would just bring my VCI which is more compact and easier on the back.

  55. I've experienced first hand the snobbery of CD DJs. You get this look like "Oh here's another guy who bought a £200 controller and thinks he's a DJ". Apart from the fact that I've been DJing for 20 odd years, this whole attitude of 'CDJ is REAL DJing' makes me laugh. As soon as you leave the world of vinyl, you're in the digital realm. What do people think a modern CD deck is? It's a controller that manipulates digital files. CDs are a digital medium. Whether you're moving a jog wheel, swiping a touchstrip, or pressing buttons, it doesn't matter, you're doing the same thing. Of course, the sync button is another story..

    Yes there are advantages and disadvantages to both technologies, and CDJs certainly have a stronghold in the pro world, so if you're looking to play in these sorts of places, you've got to learn how to mix on CDs. But I also believe that any forward-thinking club should make available the space in a DJ booth to allow for laptops and controllers. Like them or not they're here to stay, and I bet given the vast differences in cost, the chances are that tomorrows DJs are already learning their craft on controllers.

  56. animosity says:

    Look its like trying to change a old persons ways when they've been doing something for 20+ years no matter how sick or better it is older DJs r going to stick with CDJ n of course hate on the younger generation who figured out the unlimited possibilitys of midi you still can get both tho I use a ndx900 apc40 n a djx900

  57. I started DJing on 1200s in 1993 and am now teaching some kids (I'm a school teacher) how to DJ using Traktor. We are in the mix of this exact debate now as a few of the kids have been convinced by other DJs they've met who are just a little older than them that it is CDJ or your cheating, the "they're in all the clubs" stuff, etc. I really liked the article which expressed eloquently my thoughts on the matter.

  58. Its just like learning to drive.. You have a manual and you have an automatic. But as long as you can get from A-B safely in the auto then your fine it doesn't mean you can't drive. its the same as djing if you can make a crowed rock in your time up there whether you have a cdj or digital then you are safe.
    I use my laptop and a 2 channel midi board but i'm learning to use a cdj as well not that its hard but at the end of the day it doesn't matter.

  59. I'm new to DJ'ing & was thinking of buying a Traktor S2 or S4. Thinking further down the line, will I be frowned upon turning up to a venue with these controllers if I am asked to bring my own kit?

  60. It's interesting, I started with Traktor because of my age and how technology has progressed... When I was younger all that was around were cdj's but when I actually was able to afford to start djing, the S4 was the best option to go for, price/convenience...

    The main point of my response is to outline the fact that it depends on what music you play... Trance for instance is relatively easy to mix well, long intros and outros, that are normally just kicks and snares... I dj dubstep, trap and glitch hop, which is very difficult just to mix on the beats alone... I reply on drops and build ups, and the controller allows me to implement this technique very well, using effects etc, something that would be hard to achieve on cdj's... I can transition between tracks much faster than a dj using CDs could...

    I guess it depends on your skill level, much of what I have said can be discounted when listening to highly skilled Dj's at the pinnacle of the art... I was blown away when I heard Excision's 'Shambhala 2012 Mix', but even more gobsmacked when I heard he did it on cdj's (even if some of it might have been pre mixed)

    I think that people should use what is best for them and not put each other down for their choices... I have had very good cdj DJ's look at Traktor with a completely blank expression, it's all about refining your own technology of choice...

  61. I read most of these comments but no one seems to mention the controller DJs who look at their laptop the whole time making sure those waveforms and beat meters match. Hell I even know S4 DJs who just sync master and just drop random tracks all day thinking their the shit.

    I say if you are going to use a controller then do something that you can't do on a CDJ. Make your own mashups, use 4 decks, use loops, and be different. The only problem I have is with new DJs who whip out a laptop and shove their face in the whole time calling themselves DJs.

    Also accept it or not it's not the CDJs that killed the art of DJing it's the softwares that did. It's just plain old to damn easy to mix with Traktor. I can eat my dinner, text my friend, and play a video game and still sound like I am Markus Schulz on the decks.

    So there for as I said before if you want to use a controller do something more then just matching waves or beat bars. If you don't then learn how to use your ears and invest in CDJs or else don't DJ at all.

  62. Well ive used both professionally and yes with dj controller and lets say traktor pro can be use to pull off fantastic sets byt in reality its so full of effects that it can disguise your mistakes quite easily as with say a set of 1000s mk3s its you and the decks!! its still a skill that wil stay around while we guys stil use cdjs in clubs!!

  63. Ive used both cdj's and controllers. i wont lie i gave stick to all the younger dj's using controllers when they first came out, but after trying them out i wont deny that they are as good as cdj's ... except that sync button which i still believe is taking away from the skill in dj'ing. Controllers in a sense are better than cdj's especially as they arent limited, software is growing and so are there capbilities, on the other hand if you think you can dj better on a cdj then by all means do that, kinda like your grandmother prefers to write and mail letters rather than email, its slightly older than whats available but comes across as more meaninfull when you get it :) as long as the club is going crazy you can do what ever you feel like

  64. Only DJ's would fight about what gear is the "right" way to play other people's music.

  65. I've never used CDJs but it seems to me that they are very inflexible creatures. I use two Behringer BCR2000s and a Novation Launchpad; the programmability of these is basically unbelievable. With CDJs you are confined to a pre-set workflow, whereas with generic programmable controllers you are able to push the boundaries by way of custom maps, which translates to new unique sound.

    In addition, CDJs are overpriced, considering how limited they are functionally speaking. An S4 or similar controller effortlessly kicks CDJ butt for much less money.

    My impression is that CDJs have become something of a de facto "industry standard" and a status symbol, meaning that clubs will buy it only because it looks "pro", even though it's merely an unfortunate, oversized, clunky and expensive piece of gear.

  66. says:

    Hi, i have gone through many forums on the subject of Digital Djing & realised this is the next step for a newer age of Dj's out there.

    I am a beginner and having learned on CDJ's. I'm new to this format & have a couple of basic questions which may hopefully give aspiring DJ's some insight into both the worlds of CDJ's & DJ Controllers.

    1. I learned mixing on Pioneer CDJ 800 without looking at BPM's to beatmatch manually (your ears, sense of rhythm, jogwheels, and tempo/pitch faders come into effect). Im very comfortable doing this as it gives me a different high to get my beats in sync. Can a similar approach be adopted with DJ Controllers?

    2. What about jogwheel and tempo/pitch fader accuracy? CDJ's have bigger jogwheels with long tempo/pitch faders hence their accuracy seems unmatched (thats one of the reasons Dj's who manually beatmatch prefer them). Can DJ controllers offer the same kind of fine tuning as their big brothers (i.e. A 0.5% change in BPM can cause the beats to go off especially when two tracks are being played at the same time. This is for DJ's who consider Sync button as cheating)?

    3. Living in India CDJ's are unaffordable . I understand the versitality of DJ controllers in terms of softwares, effects, loops, hot cues, samples etc. These can be achieved with a CDJ setup too considering you have the space and a big wallet.

    If DJ Controllers can perform on the same lines (or better) compared to CDJ's on the above questions, imho i see no reason for the latter to exist.

    Your comments are highly appreciated, please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

  67. Wowww so much for what is better then the other,can you keep the crowd dancing or starring at you whilst you perform with turntables, cdj,controller or whatever u use,keep the beats flowing,whatever u use,dont wory about the next big thing, just keep playin your heart out,if you crowds enjoy your sets it will only be a jealous dj who will crit your gear, enough said

  68. Is everyone forgetting the real point here, i have been "mixing" since 1994 and when i say mixing i mean putting 2 tracks together on a set of Technics 1210s and making it work. On turntables you had an analog motor which got faster/slower in real time so you had to use your ear to mix, on CDJs, they have a digital motor, which only moves at its lowest rate, in increments of 0.02%, you still have to use your ear's but you have BPM to look at. On controllers/software its 0.01% which is the closest to real time digital can get but you have the sync button. For me its all about making the beats "POP" kinda like a phase effect from both Kick drums, to achieve this you have to mix a little bit ( i mean tiny) bit off and make it happen in real time, this is why Technics have always been the best because of its 0.00% increments. In the digital world i moved to CDJs 1000 MK3 in 2006 i had mastered the art of mixing by this stage so when mixing on CDJs its just so easy for me and can get quite boring at times, to make the beats pop just match them 1st with the bpm's then move the pitch 0.05% off press play then make it work simples. But controllers on the other hand with software( which i have used but not in a club) more people tend to sync the beats "perfectly" so everyone's sets just sound the same to me no movement in the mixes, its just spot on and this to me is the biggest problem with today's dj's they think the beats have to be spot on, it all ends up sounding the same with a slight BPM change in there sets, CDJs tend to do this aswell due to the bpm counters on them. Long live Vinyl mixing and Technics 1210s i say plus not everyone will have them same record collection as one another, with the digital DJ more often then not will have basically the same tune's as each other in the same genre

  69. TheBounce..

    Having had learned on vinyl, then going to a controller, settling on a DV system. I can appreciate all of the above. I think most people buy what they can afford, and some buy their equipment based on nostalgia. I can clearly state that besides nostalgia the turntable is history.

    There is simply no place for it in modern clubs as it has very limited features. Bouncing to DVS I can understand the desire for the tactile feel of vinyl over a usually very dead feeling multi player platter. I was also concerned with timecode/noisemap vinyl breaking as I discovered that it's not invulnerable to skipping. I would hate to arrive at a club and have broken vinyl or cds for my DVS setup.

    I really think that multi players (Pioneer's CDJ line for example) are here to stay. Pioneer is I assume keeping close watch over what DVS companies are doing, and copying that, but also receiving DJ/Producer input for what (much like Apple) people really want, and not some set of features to simply have more "our product can do all these things, bullet points", which sell products, but have no real useful advantage to people.

    Why are these devices so expensive? I imagine because Pioneer is a very well known brand, and they have to keep their prices high to appear high end. There's also a lot of R&D that goes into producing these, and engineers, marketing, sales, channel distro, etc., aren't free.

    The final reason really is popularity. Pioneer products are in almost every major club out there, and to become fluent with their devices, you need to practice on them which means buying your, or using a friends'. This puts demand very high, and even though Pioneer might have a lot of supply, they still have the devoted customer base.

    Another part is being an authorised retailer for the company. You have fixed pricing for products based on what the company states. Again, it's psychological for pricing. Make something which costs half the price, and people might think it's half the quality. Lower your price below the company's stated fixed price, and you risk losing your authorisation for reselling their products. Losing that means that your products don't come with a warranty. Big lose for pro DJs. Basically, go out, experiment with the equipment, see if you really want it as it's a large amount of money for a young DJ, and then purchase if all your requirements are met. You could say do your research, but when I was younger it was called do your homework.

    Talk to people, test things, etc.

  70. Onto the real answer to this question I guess. What's better? Depends on what you want to do. DJ in a club? Well, learn what most clubs have, and then buy a controller which emulates that, or what the club uses. Warning on the controller part, at first they're kind of heavy, and bulky, then they become really annoying as you'll see people walking out with headphones and CDs or Flash drives/ HDDs.

    I've also experienced that adding too many cool sounding to the dj effects might make the crowd dis interested in your performance. Much like seeing a movie with too many visual effects. You'll mud up the mix. Many times less is more. Yes you should put on some kind of performance, but that doesn't mean adding a flanger or phaser as hard as possible.

    You can buy a Pioneer controller for about a grand that will mimic the CDJ layout so you can then go to a club and if they use CDJs which they probably do, have a really good idea of how to use them. You can also always buy lower end CDJs, or used older ones and have a nearly identical layout.

    What I'm seeing in clubs though is I'm assuming Pioneer's next CDJ model will probably dis include a CD player as most of DJs today use flash drives, or bluetooth, but less on the bluetooth. Everything is becoming more computerised, and to me buying less and carrying less is always a nicer option if possible.

  71. Vinny Vincenzo says:

    I started mixing in the early 80s so Vinly was our only option. I didn't actually go over to cdjs until 2004 which if I'm honest found hard to get into. Not due to difficulty levels, but just found the cdjs no where near as enjoyable to mix on as I did my technics. I purchased a traktor z2 mixer when they first came out an found it an absolute god send. I'm back on Vinly, all be it dvs but it's still Vinly. I also still use the cdjs to keep in practice for playing out. Plus I also use the z2 as a controller so all in all I have all three systems. For me you can't beat the hands on mixing you get with Vinly, an there will be people out there screaming that the jog wheel is no different but it's just not the same. At the end of the day it's not about Vinly cdjs or controllers it's about playing music an playing it for the crowd, so which ever system makes you feel comfortable then go with it an enjoy. Just don't use the sync button an become a button presser like most the newbies out there.

  72. do you feel that thrumming pulse? CDJs mean you're serious. that is the zeitgeist. CDJs mean you're fkking serious. CDJ2000nexus means you really fkking care. make it happen. do it work. there it go. FINANCE THEM. get a credit card. if they're not paying you its because you don't love enough.

  73. John Fooman says:

    Well, while i agree to some point that it is good to know the roots of DJing, i would kindly ask the crowd how many of you are able to ride a horse or to hunt for food? These days it's enough if you can eat.

    The major asset of any DJ is not to perfectly do some low-level stuff like beat-matching. The major assets are taste and talent - and with talent i mean musical talent. Choosing the right tracks, mix them together, add samples, loops and fx is the essential part these days. If you are - as a plus - able to do this with classic turntables: Well! That's awesome - specially because you probably cutting you'r own records due to lack of physical available ones.

    Beside that the equipment is the equivalent to a set of tools. It doesn't matter if you pay roughly 6.000 USD for two CDJ 2000 NXS + DJM 900 NXS or just 1.000 USD for a nice set of controllers - what matters is how you use them. The fact, that many clubs still have CDJ-Devices and big mixers from Pioneer, Allen&Heath & Co., should not be seen as a limit. The reason for that is simply that most "old" DJs are using and requiring this equipment and that it is already available. It's more a challenge to convince more and more clubs to create space or add at least some stands for digital equipment.

    At the end there is one real annoying thing from a controller dj perspective: The controllers available on the market are mainly cheap plastic bombers and are not made for reliability or long lasting usage. And - sadly - it's often not just updating your software... If the software changes, add's new features, there's a good chance you need new or additional controllers to have access to these features without using the mouse or keyboard. This point absolutely goes to the "old school" fraction of CDJ users: You can use them for many years and they work - without any laptop or computer, if necessary.

    But learn on this old devices? Well... You need a big money bag for that. They are more or less worth the money - but how many people can spend roughly 6.000 USD to 'learn' DJing? That might be also a reason for newcomers to pay for the much cheaper controllers instead... Just a guess 😉

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