The One Big Mistake Nearly Every New Digital DJ Makes

vci-100 real vinyl

You can DJ on any old controller, but the software you choose will probably stay with you for life. Pic: Peter Kirn, courtesy of Create Digital Music

There's one mistake that nearly every new digital DJ makes. Sometimes, there's not much harm done. Sometimes (by fluke rather than by design), the DJ gets it right without realising it. But too often, this mistake adds a big delay to the new DJ actually starting to enjoy their DJing - or worse, it costs them a lot of money. It all starts innocently enough. The number one question we get asked here at Digital DJ Tips is this: "What DJ controller should I buy?" Crazily, though, most times the hapless new DJ has, at this point, already made the mistake! So what the hell is it?

"It's about the software, stupid!"

The mistake is starting with a question about hardware, not software. Because as a digital DJ, you're basically a laptop (ie software) DJ. That hardware? Just a box of knobs plugged into your laptop to make the software easier to control. Forget this at your peril.Digital DJing is simply not primarily about your DJ controller. The question you should be asking is: "What software should I choose?"

Now hold on, you might say, that can't be right! Hell, hasn't Digital DJ Tips got a DJ controllers guide of its own? (Yes, we have - and you can get it here... ;)) But it is right - software is far more important than hardware when you're getting your first digital DJ set-up.

DJ controllers are almost as disposable as mobile phones

Like it or not, nowadays it's true. They're not bought for the long-term any more (manufacturers told me over and over at Musikmesse 2012 that they have to recover their research and development in 12 months not three years as used to be the case, because in 12 months' time any DJ controller that's new now will be becoming old hat).

Apple iPhone 1

The first iPhone: Chances are if you had one of these, the phone in your pocket right now is still iOS...

But more than that, of the hundreds of controllers out there, they all run one of just a few pieces of software. Just as you can buy an Android, iOS, Blackberry or Windows mobile, so you can buy Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, djay etc DJ controllers. Loads of controller, just a few software packages.

When it comes to time to change your mobile, I'll bet you stick to the same OS. Nowadays your settings, contacts and so on can follow you from mobile phone to mobile phone. Plus you're used to all the ins and outs of iOS, Android or whatever. Changing would mean learning again from scratch.

Why it's crucial to get the software right

It's the same with DJ controllers. If you start with a Traktor controller, it's my betting you'll feel tied to that platform. Your hardware may get out of date, but while software is constantly updated, stuff remains compatible. I wager you won't want to re-cue, loop and BPM your whole collection next time you get a new controller; you'll just buy another controller that uses the software you have settled on and move your collection across.

Furthermore, all software is not the same. There are DJs who swear by all of the major packages, and DJs who won't touch one or more of them. None of them are right. All DJ software does some things well and some things not so well, and all software is naturally more suited to some types of DJs than others.

What's worse, some DJ controllers come with "full strength" software (ie the same as if you bought the software on its own), but others come with LE, "light edition", or "cut down" software that you'll eventually (probably sooner rather than later) want to upgrade. So you should also be asking "what flavour of software comes with the controller I'm interested in?"

How this makes choosing a controller easier, not harder

Difficult right? Well no, actually it can be a lot easier if you approach it like this: First, you have to choose your software (that's the hard bit, but we try to make it as easy as we can for you; read the software articles here or ask other DJs on the Digital DJ Tips forum. That should keep you going for a weekend!).


Once you've got your software clear in your head you should start researching your hardware - and only then!

Once you've done that, your choice of DJ controller is immediately cut down, and you can then start weighing up features safe in the knowledge that the chosen model is going to work fine with the software you prefer (if it comes with an LE version, you now also know to factor in the price of the upgrade. Trust us, you'll want it).

Now is the time to look at the reviews of hardware, to get our DJ Controllers: The Ultimate Buyer's Guide (which also has a useful software section in it, right at the front), and to hit the websites looking for deals on your new hardware. Because while a DJ controller may only be for Christmas, your choice of software will probably be for life.

Don't make the wrong choice and live to regret it!

Did you buy a controller only to regret your purchase due to the software that came with it? Or do you think software ins't so important? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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  1. Great article, this is spot on advice for beginners. I use Traktor Pro which took some getting used to, isn't very intuitive & lacks in-depth instruction but, now that I've found my way around the software I haven't looked back & love using it as it has great functionality & a lot of professional applications.

    • dennis parrott says:

      Ben, I second that! This article is what I needed when I started out. Luckily, my mistake only cost me about $170...

      Yes, new young DJ, Uncle Phil is preaching the Truth. PICK THE SOFTWARE YOU WANT TO USE -- and then pick the hardware.

      But as for lacking in-depth instruction for Traktor, I would suggest some sources:

      1) Rainer G. Haselier, Traktor 2 Bible. He sells it on the net, it is worth every penny. (but it isn't a tutorial... more like an advanced software manual. but he explains stuff IN DEPTH.)

      2) Dubspot Academy offers a Traktor-centric DJing class. It is tailored toward "electronic dance music" but significant time is spent on how to configure and use Traktor WITHOUT a controller as well as on how to program the buttons, sliders and knobs yourself...

      3) Well, there is that other DJ site that some fairly famous controllerist DJ runs who has put out a lot of Traktor-centric videos...

      4) YouTube FTW! There are tons of videos on YouTube where people do stuff with Traktor. Some are great, some are complete swampwater... (Hint: you know you are starting to understand Traktor at a reasonably high level when you start to go "OH B.S.!" to somebody else's video!)

      It is true that there really isn't a "textbook" style instruction manual that takes you from knowing nothing about Traktor to being a controllerist (it would be a BIG textbook though). There is a DVD intro to Traktor 2 out there that introduces things but doesn't really put them into a context or workflow for you. During the Dubspot class the instructors made a point of telling us that you need to understand the basics of how it works and how to control it and then build your workflow -- remap the buttons and such to suit the way you work.

      And my story: I wanted some simple 2 deck software that would talk to the controller I had picked (Hercules RMX) and then fought my way through interfacing that RMX to it. (I knew NOTHING of MIDI) It was a painful learning experience. Eventually, I got it all working but it was "fiddley" -- one thing goes wrong at the start and nothing would work -- due largely to hardware issues, the RMX is a notorious USB power drain. One night I was prepping for a wedding and everything went kablooey (a Mac OS X upgrade renedered the software inoperable!) and I made a rash decision (but ultimately a good one), bought Traktor over the web and never looked back.

      During my Dubspot class I realized that you really need to understand how you want to DJ and get software that will allow you to achieve that. What new-to-digital DJs need to understand is that software alone will only get part of the way there...the rest is on you to figure out and remap the bejeepers out of that software and hardware so that it is an extension of you...

      Hope that helps a bit...

  2. My first controller was a very expensive mistake.
    After using a friend's Vestax VCI-300 with Serato Itch while he was vacationing in Europe, I decided that the new Allen & Heath Xone DX would be amazing since you could do 4 decks.
    WRONG. I'd type the word WRONG in a font size of 32 on here if I could.
    I paid full price, $1200 at that time for this piece of junk from a company with an amazing reputation.
    While keylock/pitch wasn't an issue on the VCI-300, for some reason Serato couldn't get it right with a particular controller. I didn't give up on it immediately, and I checked on their forum, submitted files for them to analyze, and after 6 months of correspondence with the staff at Serato all I got was a "Hey, we're sorry we are aware of this problem and doing our best to fix it"

  3. Funkybro says:

    Great article, and one I've come to experience myself having switched from a SPIN + DJAY (my first DDJ setup) to a NS6 + Serato ITCH in the last few months.

    I had assumed (having never really tried Serato outside of a couple of quick tries) that moving to ITCH would be a "step up" and a more pro DJ experience when coupled with a more sophisticated controller. But I have to say I'm not sold on it (and to some degree that goes for the controller too!). I quite liked the relative simplicity of DJAY and the fact it still demanded you beat match by ear (personally I avoid using the SYNC feature). ITCH feels like its doing all the work for me, and I've thats less fun for me! I'm now starting to dabble with DJAY again with my NS6 (the mapping seems OK) and if they can improve the performance reliability I could well go back to it to play out with too.

    The point about wanting to stick with the software you first get used to has definitely arisen for this DDJ!

    • dennis parrott says:

      Funkybro sez:

      "ITCH feels like its doing all the work for me, and I’ve thats less fun for me!"

      I would offer a different interpretation.

      Try this: ITCH is doing this work for me and by doing so it frees me to add new features to my performance.

      By letting a bit of software do things for you, you have more space and time to add other things into your performance that were not possible when you constrained to doing that manually. To me, this idea that you have to do it by ear is rooted in the whole "if it ain't vinyl, you aren't a DJ" nonsense. Everybody who learned the earlier technique thinks we all have to walk uphill, both ways, to school!

      When they start giving out Grammys in the category of "Best Manual Beatmatch using a Digital DJ Software", I might care about who does the beatmatch.

      Learning how to beatmatch manually is great training for the ear. It just clutters up the performance on stage and the dancers don't care so long as the groove is flowing.

      Funkybro, ponder that idea for a while and consider it an opportunity instead of problem!

      • Hi Dennis Parrot,

        Fair point.
        I have a couple of points i'd like to hear your take on.

        Firstly, I can beatmatch using my head, so i can dj on my turntables kicking back at home, on the CD decks in the local club, an on the dj controller/laptop round my mates and on your setup too if you were ever kind enough to invite me over.
        Whereas one not practised in beatmatching would be hard pressed to DJ on my turntables, or on the CD decks in the local club or on anything other than the software/hardware one was specifically used to.

        I understand what you're saying and yeah lots of time is wasted keeping tunes in the mix on the old turntables but the feeling you get when you get them perfect far surpasses the apathy you feel when pressing the sync button.
        If you've got a good ear you can easily get tunes in within a couple of bars, it just takes a bit of application and getting your senses tuned in!

        I'm not trying to start an argument over which is better or anything like that. I will readily agree that the digital expansion into djing has opened up a whole new crazy dimension into the art of playing music at people. However it is just that - an extra dimension.

        You WILL be a better dj by learning the fundamental tools of the trade.

        Lemme know what you think dude

  4. I agree here...and even try to preach it on the questions.

    It's like when you get into Photography. Canon, Sony, Nikon? You have to pick a PLATFORM and then go from there.

  5. Been saying the exact same thing for the past 2 years. Great article.

  6. I got it the first time 😉

    Started with Virtual DJ and my Keyboard, moved to Traktor and my keyboard, got familiar with both, then FINALLY got a legitimate DJ controller.

    I'll attest to this article, it has paid off a ton, compared to a few friends who did make the mistake.

    • hey dude, just switched from VDJ to Traktor....main reason to be honest was that all of the pro djs I know swear by it and i just felt VDJ was doing everything for me (a lot by sight) but I am seriously struggling with Traktor Pro 2....particularly having to beatgrid every single track and then when i do hit the sync button not being able to adjust with the jog wheels in the mix when the beat grid is slightly simply jumps back to the sync that is out....any thoughts or advise would be most welcome.


      • Rank, you know that you can change the settings in VDJ-you can have everything turned off, sync, beatmatch etc.

        I have always said digital software is a great tool to use.
        I still use turn tables a lot. I have way more vinyls than digital tunes. I have been taking my vinyls and recording tracks on to an external hard drive,etc.

        I am just now, getting a little more comfortable with VDJ. I am still experimenting with it, I do not use a controller as if yet, just use my mouse, and an extra sound card for the headphones.

        I looked at Trakor, so far I do not like it, does not recognize a lot of hardware stuff. Seroto, I have not looked at yet.

  7. i startd ddj with a RMX+vdj i like the wave forms on top

    now i am trying to switch to traktor pro and its very nice and all but still alota work

  8. Dj Roc Noizy says:

    Do Not, I repeat, Do Not get LE software. LE= Lite Edition is the scaled back version of regular software. Save your self the head ache and get regular software. Your dj life will be simplified. You midi device should have a sound card also.

    • Disagree. Because you say DO-NOT but there is no WHY-NOT.
      There is no need for integrated soundcard unless you lack USB ports. Integrated soundcards usually fail in terms of stability/quality/loudness.
      There is nothing bad in buying LE software bundled with hardware, or if the vendor does offer upgrade solution which is similar in price once expense is summed.

  9. It's posts like this that make me love this blog. Even though it doesn't really apply to me since I use CDJs, you have a consistently great writing style. Solid article as usual.

  10. Varshan says:

    This article is awesome.

    I am new to the DJ scene and after looking at the demo versions of all the software's out there I decided to go with CROSS and the U MIX Control DJ controller. This proved the perfect combo to learn on. I am only now starting to play around with Traktor Pro after 4 months and have mapped the U MIX controller to Traktor, which means I have saved on the cost of buying another controller......

  11. antiMACtax says:

    I agree with the article, picking the software first then hardware is the best strategy. I highly recommend budgeting tutorials via books, or videos to help clarify how to correctly use the software/hardware. This can make or break the first timers' experience. DigitalDJtips is perfect for getting a solid foundation on DJing (check right side of website). All Traktor users should have a physical copy of Traktor Bible 2; this really has been a lifesaver. Also, I really enjoy when it comes to Ableton, Max4live, and the very hard to find Native Instruments Komplete video tutorials. I find without the proper sensei, my gear lust gets out of control, and my actual skill with said software/hardware become stagnant.

  12. I looked around for what the software that would allow me to do the goals that I wanted. I don't just want a start/stop software, and I definitely don't want the software to do all of the work for me, but at the same time gives me flexibility to do live performance stuff with other gear and do loops and trigger samples, make beats on the fly and live remix applications. I found that Traktor Pro2 does all of this for me. I got the software first, then learned about it a little bit, then bought a simple little controller to do the dj'ing with, and got another keyboard controller for my vst's. I figure since I won't be too involved with the beat matching anymore (been dj;ing for 12 year, I have nothing left to prove with beat matching), that the controller itself can be very basic and simple, as I will be primarily focusing on other live aspects of the performance.
    The point being, that the article is dead-on right about searching for your software first. Just because a group of dj's use "x" program, doesn't mean that is what is going to suit you.
    Although, learning a variety of different programs just adds to your versatility as a dj. It only raises your value. So don't be fooled by the fancy looking controllers, because by themselves they are useless. Look at the program then find the controller that is best suited to your needs.


  13. Agree too! My first controller was a Behringer 3000 with VDJ.
    Then I got the Xponent with Torq, but soon whent back to VDJ.
    Then I got the NS7 with Serato Itch, but soon whent back to VDJ.
    Then I got the Denon MC6000 with Traktor, but soon whent back to VDJ.

    Now I have the Numark N4 while waiting for the perfect controller, but I never quit VDJ!

    • Out of curiosity, why so many different controllers? What made you upgrade? The Behringer is extremely outdated, so I can understand that, but the others?

      I have a VCI-100mk2. I've been using Torq 2, and have mapped the VCI to it extensively. With a separate sound card (Connectiv - the Xponent's DVS cousin), I don't think I'll need to upgrade hardware for many years. My only iffy bit is the software, since Torq's future is unknown.

  14. Felsation says:

    I agree with the fact that software is very important, but so as the controller-also you should also know how to use turntables becasue in most clubs they will want you to use that often enough without laptops. You should also stick with the software that works for you, and learn the most popular ones (Traktor-Serato) because wherever you perform others will most likely be using it-then you can just plug and play and blend your set in easy.. I also think a good controller is a must-spend the money-but do research and find what you like, eg; more hands on with actual jogwheels or ones meant only for ableton (and such) for live production and performance. I started with turntables went to cdj s then traktor, now just use the S4 with X1, KaossPad 3 and Maschine and my soon to arrive QuNeo 😀

  15. A bedroom dj, i started with pcdj then Tacktile DJ then Tracktor then Atomix. I failed when i ordered my first controller Mixtrack just because it was the cheapest (as i thought) only for the Pro version to be released few months after. Am saving to get my hands on mortarised platters controller.

    • Motorized platters are mostly useful only with the software they are designed for (right now, seems only ITCH).
      Traktor does not support fully (nor properly) motorized platters of NS7, V7 or SC system 1. Could be the same with SSL.

      • I have been using a pair of motorized Numark V7's with Virtual DJ for a year now and it's an awesome setup. I actually started with VDJ because I spin a lot of video, and I've stuck with it because you can customize the snot out of every aspect of it from the skin to the controller interface to the individual features.

  16. IMHO there is one big problem with the "choose your software" at the moment if you think about going Serato:
    The only cheap controller with Itch is the twitch (say that fast 3 times!), which me for example, cannot do without jogs, sorry kinda need the jogwheel safety net (and scratching in itch seems really cool).
    But all other real cool itch controlers cost a fortune, while I agree I kinda dig the upcoming Vextax 380.
    However you cannot do it like with other software, buy a controller and then upgrade. Like buy one of the new reloops for DJ Intro and then upgrade to itch, currently impossible.
    This is kinda frustrating on the Serato front of things...

    • I picked up an ns7 for $500 off craigslist. It was nice to know I got the software included in that price so the second hand controller market for Itch is pretty cheap.

      It makes me very curious where serato is going with their software map in the the next few years. They've dipped a toe in the water with DJ Intro for cheaper controllers and midi mapping. Itch has also gotten plugin capability with the SP-6 and now video from SSL. I guess I'd like to see SSL and ITCH merge with the hardware either a rane box or serato controller and DJ intro as an upgrade path. I'd really like some of the mapping from SSL to be in ITCH.

    • I expect that to change at some point soon.

  17. Phil,
    Another great and timely article. As someone who came up on real vinyl and no software back in the day, I am somewhat new to the DDJ world. That said, I am in the process of upgrading from my “beginner purchase” of a Hercules DJ 4Set to the Numark N4, for the main reason of software flexibility. While I currently have VDJ/LE as well as DJAY-4 running on my controller, I like the fact that I can try out Serato (Intro) on the N4 (all be it, basically an LE version). But I can also run VDJ-Pro and DJAY (not natively supported at this time, but DJAY’s midi-learn is pretty simple. I also like the fact that with the new cost of Tracktor and mappings for the N4, it gives me the flexibility to try and learn all the major software players with this device. My other reason for leaning towards the N4 is the ability to use with timecodes or just stand alone TT’s. As well as, XLR and booth outs, etc.
    That said, I will ask yourself and the FORUM community the following:
    • With software as the main focus here, is there any other controller I should be looking at in the $500+/- range that would give me the same flexibility with S/W manufactures, as well as controller options? (BTW, Phil – It is from your great work on the 160 page Controller Buyer Guide and the above criteria that pointed towards the N4).
    • Is there word that Serato will provide an ability to upgrade to “Itch” for “Intro” users? (My guess is that may have a lot to do with agreements with the H/W manufactures and other related devices).
    Thanks to all for your feedback and input.

    • Regarding the Serato issue, I expect an upgrade path from Intro to be announced soon, everything they've done recently points towards it.

      • I've been looking at the N4 myself.
        I have a Mixtrack Pro now that I've beat to hell
        over the last year and think it's the way to go.
        It's pretty much Numark's version of the Traktor S4
        minus $300 to $400 in cost.
        I've been using VDJ for a while now and
        despite every other dj I know using traktor,
        I just can't make the switch.
        You have to take tutorials just to use the friggin thing?
        I've looked at how to remap the controls in traktor and
        it makes my head spin. Sure you can use the "learn" feature... but adding in modifiers is where I lose my bearings. Plus I love the effects in vdj.
        traktor is a bit limited in that department.
        Downloading new effects from the vdj forum has
        been a nice experience to try them out and add to my
        arsenal. I guess I'll just keep getting funny looks when people ask what I use!
        Most important, do what you feel is right for you.
        Of course be open to new ideas and don't be afraid to try them, but when you know what's right, don't let peer pressure mess up what works for you.

  18. The reason I chose Traktor Scratch Pro DVS over Serato was because I knew I would eventually go the controller route. I remember having to connect my Audio 8 before every set. Got some strange looks from the Serato faithful but my performance killed. I use a Pioneer DDJ-T1 now.

  19. I hear you in regards to not working on beat matching opening up possibilities to be more 'creative' in the mix - it's a oft repeated point from those who've fully embraced what DDJing can offer.

    However, I'm pretty happy just playing great tunes back to back with the odd enhancement via EQ or FX and, if I'm feeling bold, an acapella or two! I've got no great interest in DJing / performing in the sense of music creation on the fly. TBH I'm not talented musically and at best seem to have found my (limited) calling in the form of spinning a few tunes in half decent fashion.

    Maybe its my vinyl DJing background, and again, to Phil's original point "what I'm used to" but since adopting ITCH I've found my enthusiasm for mixing (and practicing) has dropped away a lot.

    DJAY does at least emulate some aspects of playing on vinyl and maybe what I enjoy about DJing is the work involved in pulling my mixes together by ear? Moving to ITCH has at least shown me that much I guess!

  20. Shishdisma says:

    I disagree with this, to an extent, if only because it encourages bad habits in product choice. If all you were going off of is product testimonial and manufacturer fluff, you'd probably arrive at a conclusion of Traktor's "more features" vs Serato's "ease of use." this can get pretty misleading to a newcomer, as a longer feature list often means a superior product to someone who has no hands on experience. They won't realize that Traktor's track manager is absolute tripe, that the laundry list of effects are for the most part moot, or that you can't play without hardware with Serato. Not until theyre a grand into a system at least.

    Whereas, if you look at the hardware strengths, accurate, tight integration and rock solid controllers with a more organic or connected feel in Serato, or more lightweight, laggy, but flexible hardware with a more laptop centric feel in Traktor (sorry guys, the S series hasn't a quarter the build quality the Numark controllers have). You begin to see the software's style flourish in the build of the hardware, right from the moment you touch it to the day it dies, rather than realizing the features you really wanted and the features on the list weren't one in the same.

  21. Djtavi77 says:

    Yes this happened to me, I used to use M-audio xponent with torq 2.0 (which is my software of preference) but wanting something more pro, I decided to get the denon 6000 caus since its a midi controller I could map it to torq but until now I couldn't map it and make it work since i'm not a mapping genious and even when there are mappings available for it I can't make them work... so I'm stuck with vdj7 (which I owned for 7 years and works perfect with the denon 6000) but yet not my prefered software as fx suck and I'm huge with fxs, so I was thinking in switching to traktor cause of the fx and native support for the denon 6000... so the dilemma is that vdj8 is around the corner with many interesting improvements so will have to wait until is out and decide...

  22. I'm a big fan of They have always organized their digital controllers by software and only carry Serato, Traktor and Ableton software. This is a big favor to their customers because they avoid selling products that are a waste of money.

    I'm an Itch and Live user. I've found that all I need is Itch at home to prepare and play but I can easily use Scratch Live at a show. In San Francisco, Serato is ubiquitous. Ableton is also more commonly used than Traktor.

    I bought a VCI 300 mk 1 new and upgraded to a Twitch. Both are great controllers to buy used inexpensively but be sure to buy a VCI 300 mk II because it has slightly better sound quality.

    First, jog wheels are overrated in importance but nice to have. The jog wheel response is perceptibly worse on Numark's controllers as compared to Vestax. Pioneer and Vestax are about equally responsive; the Pioneer is more CDJ like and the Vestax is more akin to vinyl. Pioneer controllers are overpriced but have better resale value than other controllers.

    Avoid Numark and Allen & Heath Serato controllers because the Itch drivers affect the response of the controller. Neither the VCI 300, the Twitch or the DDJ s1 require a special driver. The DJ's I know who use Allen & Heath controllers use Ableton - there is a great sound card in there.

    If you like to customize your controller, Serato won't accommodate that. However it you want to play video, Serato is the only integrated audio and visual software product.

    With the Traktor price cuts, there is really no reason not to purchase software that software if it is the standard in clubs in your particular area.

  23. I'm a total newb to digital DJing and want to buy software and hardware in the near future. Although i was aware of the fact that i need hardware and software, the first thing i did was looking thru the 162 page midi controller guide that this side provides. This article woke me up and the first thing im gonna do is figuring out which software i most likely want to use.

    I've downloaded VJD, serato and a demo of traktor. Have used the VJD a bit and it feels pretty good. I believe I cant really use serato because u need hardware right? (only see offline mode, remember im a total newb..) Havent yet used the traktor demo.

    Im going to read the articles in the software section. Anyone that can suggest a good article that ables me to make the right decision about what software i should choose?

    hope someone can help me out here so i can make a good decision! :)

    offtopic: lol, its funny when i read that people are mapping and stuff. I REALLY HAVE NO CLUE haha. Mennn... i have the feeling it's a long road ahead of me. 😉

    • Yes, Serato's business model is that you nee their hardware. But you can get an idea. You've already got the good stuff re choosing software :)

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      Regarding the long road: Yep, it's a long road, but the only important part is the part you're on. So what if there's something hard to do in the future, you need to deal with your challenges right now, otherwise you won't get there to make those decisions.

      Regarding your software: Honestly, as a beginner, you really shouldn't be making this decision. You really *SHOULD* go out there and try to find a cheap, used Serato Scratch Live controller (in good working condition) and try it out, then get the Traktor TSI maps and see what the differences are. Try Virtual DJ and Torq... Hell, try PCDJ and whatever else is out there. The important part is that you simply learn and don't consider one package the be-all, end-all of DJing.

      The fact of the matter is, unless you can find a cheap Serato Controller (Itch and Scratch Live are both made by Serato), you'll probably pick up Traktor (I do recommend getting a better "used piece of gear" over a less-good "new piece of gear"). You'll probably fall in love with whatever software you start out with and become religiously zealous regarding it. To this I say, "Keep an open mind, and an eye on the Industry." This is a Profession and no professional chooses to do something that takes longer and is harder to do just because "they learned that way when they started" unless they're paid for it.

      Does this make sense to you?

      • Flamieee says:

        Thank you for your comment! Really helps out a lot and makes a whole lot of sense. Maybe it is a long road, but I love doing research, getting feedback from others and don't want to make a mistake with being to much in a hurry in order to have my software and my equipment so i can get going as quickly as possible and blow up some money. For now im just playing with traktor and VDJ on my laptop and i have to say i think my choice will be traktor. I've also had the chance to practice at a friend house who has a decent set up with traktor as software. I'm already doing some research for good bargins for a Kontrol s2, because (obviously) its a perfect match for the traktor software. Thx again for your comment!

  24. DJ Forced Hand says:

    I still stand by my choice: the Novation Twitch. I haven't found anything better than it, but I found that the Vestax VCI-380 is close. Both come with a sound card, Serato Itch, are compatible with Traktor Pro and both are very much upwardly scalar (you can customize it to meet new demands). While nothing is perfect, you could do a lot worse than these two controllers while paying a lot more.

  25. Great article Phil!
    It's true. I have the chance to put my hands on so many different controllers quite often, and try to change of controller depending on the style of the gig. BUT I will never change the software. Whenever I Dj with a piece of plastic or the high end weapon on the market, it makes no difference to the way I feel the crowed.
    At the time of analog Djing, a good Dj HAD to make the deal whatever the mixer or the turntables settled in the booth. Djing is about crates and the way you manage it, and your sense of music. It's not about the size of the cooking device you're cooking with. This is extra.

  26. harvee b says:

    Again, great advice for aspiring beginners Phil!
    However, my experience in the digital DJing world seems to stray far from the peril mentioned in this article.

    I remember the first ever DJ software i ever played around with was the original PCDJ, some years back. For me, it was the software that started it all. And it got me hooked!
    As i couldn't afford buying actual decks and a mixer back in high school, i ended up playing around on the software with just a mouse and a keyboard; on my 200MHz Time desktop PC (it was the absolute bee's knees at the time!). In fact, im pretty certain i learnt the clear-cut basics of DJing without the use of actual hardware; just my pc and a pair of Sony headphones.
    I then ventured out to try the Mixmeister software, who's interface didn't tickle my fancy too much. Experimentation with a few other DJ software (trials/free demo's) over those years disinterested me, until i stumbled on Virtual DJ, which to me, was utterly revolutionary; with the flexibility and complex ease of use.
    Being quite happy with the software, i decided to buy a controller about two/three years later to compliment it. Hercules DJ Control was the chosen gear. And it did me very well for a good while. Also, it greatly increased my attention and interest towards DJing. I had intentions of buying a much more serious (and expensive) piece of gear for VDJ, but (thankfully) never did. However, a very modestly priced Numark Mixtrack Pro did get purchased, as the reviews seemed to show no flaws at all, especially for the price point.
    With my Mixtrack, i suddenly had the urge to use more of its potential by re-mapping some controls. But for some reason i never felt content with what could be achieved with it on VDJ.
    And so thats when i moved on to Traktor...

    With the aid of youtube clips and rummaging through Traktor mappings for my Mixtrack, i made the quantum leap of following the professionals, and adapting to what they all seem to use. The critical decision of buying a Traktor Kontrol X1 cemented Traktor as my favourite digital DJing software. And in doing long and hard research on traktor compatible controllers, it ultimately convinced me into the purchase of a Traktor Kontrol S4. In which i can dare to say; the rest is history..

    I guess my point here is that just like picking mobile phones, DJ software is a trial & error learning process. The lesser known/used brands of digital DJing software helped show me the basics of DJing without the steep learning curve more professionally executed softwares exhibit. Despite eventually accepting Traktor as the software for me, all of the previous have contributed in providing me with a more digestible learning course to the world of digital DJing. So i somewhat worry that for any new DJs trying out Traktor for the first time, it may be a hugely intimidating and overwhelming experience which could result in a steeper learning curve.

  27. I really like and enjoy your articles but I honestly don't agree with this. I think the controller is the most important choice for a beginner! As a beginner I look at the design of the controller, the easy of reaching the buttons, the size of the jog weels. As long as it does well the basic functions needed for djing, the sw is not that important for me. If I start with an ugly, small controller I would just get bored before learning all the feautures of it and give up DJing. Luckily many controllers work with different DJ softwares. I think many begginers start Djing with controllers in order to learn and successively if they love DJing move to professional (laptop-less!) hardware..

    • Fair enough, although the other way is that you can DJ fine without any controller at all. DJing is about music selection and programming, and you can learn all you need to know on anything. But if you decide to stick with DJing using software, you may well regret a wrong choice.

  28. DJ Ammunition says:

    Awesome article. Now while I wish I had read something like this when I was first getting into the DJ world, it would have been greatly appreciated. I currently use a Hercules DJ 4 Set controller, now while the controller itself is awesome, I believe that even the Virtual DJ Pro 7.0.5 lacks potential. I still use it and make dew tho.

  29. DJ Forced Hand says:

    If you're a One Package Person, you're a Biggot!

    While I hear some open-mindedness here, I don't think we can justify some open-mindedness clearing the way for us to feel all self-righteous for the remaining closed-mindedness.

    I hear a lot of "learn which (ONE) package you want to play with and THEN buy a controller." That's great if you only want to use that controller with your software, but it doesn't "complete the puzzle." Why is no one offering the solution "Find out what you want to do, try a few things and then build with it?"

    Having played with ITCH and Traktor, I find that they both have their strengths and weaknesses (along with CDs and LPs). I will not choose just ONE. I choose to use the package which best expresses how I want to DJ that night. If it's a lot of Glitch, I'm going with ITCH... if there's a lot of Track-over-track(-over-track-over-track), I'm going with Traktor (since that's the only option for 4 tracks with the Twitch). If my stuff doesn't work or fit in the space, I *KNOW* I'll have the ability to DJ a good set with whatever's there (CDs, LPs... an iPod, etc).

    I have other controllers as well and I bring them into the mix (through Ableton). Thankfully, software companies keep pushing for "the next newest, greatest thing" which is actually pushing the users to get comfortable with a "Core" DJ hardware system and "Breakout" hardware parts (such as the Akai APC 20/40, Novation Launchpad, Native Instruments F1 and the Maschine etc.). They're telling us "It's an adaptive game out there, stop falling for the one-tool-for-everything (or as I've heard it called "one-tool-for-one-fool") approach."

    Most people make their Software decisions when they start out and that's the worst time to make a decision regarding skills you don't quite have yet. I think it's a horrible to try a package one time and determine that it is either "Good" or "Bad" for you and not take the time to figure out 1) How to use the equipment in case you have to at an event 2) What the differences are (both good and bad) and 3) How to keep pushing your limits (and learning how to do things with your equipment that someone else can do with theirs... just in a different way).

    If you're going to dislike something, at least dislike it for valid reasons that get in the way of workflow, not something unrelated to the value like "I didn't like the knob placement" or "I didn't like the button color"... that's what biggots do.

  30. DJ Evictor says:

    I use Traktor Pro 2 since Traktors MAJOR revision back in the Summer of 2010. I never ever beatgrid my tracks, with I was using my Numark OMNI Control, if it wasn't beatgrid properly, I just wouldn't use the track. Then I went out and got a Traktor S4, and I haven't touched the sync button since! The CDJ like jog wheels helped me lean to beatmatch. As a bedroom DJ or in an environment where you get to pick and choose your track selection, beatmatching isn't an issue. But I do all my mixing in a "freestyle" format. I don't choose the next track, the energy of the floor does. That with my request scribbler, I'm a lot more versatile than when I was on my OMNI Control, spinnin better, and most importantly, getting a better response from fans. It opened more doors for me, it's next to impossible, well, it pretty much is to throw down a breaks or dubstep break in the middle of a bomb set just to pull the last hardcore peeps from the back to the front, and Promoters love it when a Digi DJ can Battle a CDJ or Vinyl DJ. You can't do that with the Sync Button. While it did help me learn in the beginning, to only rely on it is a major set back and will keep you from hitting your potential.

    My advice, learn as much about everything as you can if you want to be a DJ, what you think is useless today will be the thing dropping jaws in your sets tomorrow.

    Versatility is the key to being the best DJ 😉

    DJ Evictor. Look me up on Facebook to see what I mean.

  31. Great article. I moved from 1200s and a radio shack mixer to the spin a nd djay.
    After 2 years of that, I just got the ns6 and im tryingg to get used to itch, but I think
    Djay is gonna win if they can fix a few mapping issues. I love in itch being able to play with 4 decks at the same time. I could never do that with my 1200s. I guess moving to ddj is more fun with experimenting.

  32. Very good article, i like the writing style and agree to an extend. This is definitely true when things get serious and a lot is demanded from the software and hardware. For a beginner however it shouldnt matter that much.

    Thing is most popular software support most popular controllers so to an extend it doesnt really matter unless someone chooses a more obscure/unusual controller or wants to use a program that only supports its own branded controllers.

    The above of course only applies to standard regular use. if special features are requiered from the software (like video, certain effects etc) then more limitations come into the game and then the controllers get more limited but for general use then it shouldnt be an issue.

    At the end of the day a cd/vinyl dj should be able to use lots of different standard issue mixers. the same should apply to the digital dj.

    Imagine having to buy a different controller to every different pc game you bought?

  33. The best DDJ software for less than $50. No stinking controller needed!

    LOL, I hope you guys get a kick out of that. But on a serious note, that's where it all started for me... been "controlling" since 1998.

    Any veterans here remember this? I don't think* PCDJ was even conceived yet. LOL

  34. Great article, I most recently became interested in buying a Traktor Kontrol S4 that comes with the full version of Traktor 2.6 and I'm loving it, and I'm only 14! Thanks for the great tips :)

  35. Reading your article, please let me know in your opinion, which is/are the best controller (for club Djing) for someone who use, most of the time - sorry to say - DJAY (mac) or DJAY2 (ipad)?

    Thank you,

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