Over To You: What Type Of Gear Should I Start On?

Girl DJ

Is it it better to start out learning on CDJs, or is it OK to learn on DJ controllers? Do you ‘miss’ anything learning on controllers and software? That’s what our new DJ wants to know in this week’s ‘Over To You’.

Digital DJ Tips reader Noah writes: “So, I’m a start up female DJ and I have been going through your videos and other stuff online and comparing DJ equipment and asking my DJ friends what to do or buy for my first time. I’m getting mixed opinions and now I’m confused. Some tell me avoid controllers when you’re starting up because you don’t get to learn the tough yet fun tricks of a normal mixer and CDJ and others tell me it’s the digital age now just forget old school and go for controllers. What do you recommend? I will not use CDs ever for sure.”

“But my other question is, why do I need CDJs if I wont use CDs? Can I not hook a mixer to the laptop and Traktor software like the controllers and ditch buying CDJs?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Controllers are cheaper, smaller, give you more flexibility and because they work with DJ software, give you lots of features you can’t get on CDJ equipment. And yes, you can hook up to a laptop and software and never need to use CDs. The “tough yet fun tricks” basically means manual beatmatching (not using the sync features of the DJ software), which you can easily teach yourself on a controller anyway by simply turning the sync feature off.

However, most clubs will expect you to use their equipment, which is still usually CDJs. The advantage of having CDJs at home, therefore, is that you get the chance to practise on them. By the way, you don’t actually have to use CDs in CDJs; most modern ones let you play from USB stick, so you can arrange your music at home on your laptop and just take the USBs along. Apart from not having to carry a CD wallet, though, this is exactly the same as DJing with CDs; none of the advantages of controllers and DJ software.

There is also the option of using “digital vinyl systems” (Traktor Scratch and Serato Scratch Live) where you can control your DJ software using special “timecode” CDs in the club’s CD players, so effectively you’re using their gear but with your laptop and software. These are good for pros but you still need a full CDJ/mixer setup at home like a club, plus the outlay on a special digital audio interface and software, timecode CDs etc, so the cost is high.

Whichever route you take, eventually you’ll end up playing/learning on other routes too; most good DJs can play on anything! I’d always recommend a controller to start with as software DJing to me is simply more fun, and a smaller financial outlay.”

What would your advice be to someone just starting out? Did you learn on a controller then switch to CDJs, or learn on CDJs as well? If you want to be a “pro”, is it better to have a full CDJ set-up at home? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. I learnt on a controller (mixtrack pro) and at first I was just using the sync button so I could get straight in to mixing but after a while I realised how important a skill manual beatmatching is and simply didn’t use the sync button any longer. The other issue with controller and software is that having the waveforms makes things a bit easier so I would usually have a different screen open once I’d selected a song so I could practice beatmatching and mixing without the waveforms in front of me.

    • Jason R says:

      Ditto on all your points! :D

    • Thats my story too. Yeah now I can play on any player, no matter Pioneer , denon , numark or whatever player or controller.

      But yeah learn to beatmatch even though u got sync.

    • The only thing though is I feel, due to human error and imperfection, you’ll almost never get as good of a sync with manual beatmatching as using the sync button. I can understand the usefulness of knowing how to do both, but I just don’t really see the need to not use the sync button if its there, other than to look like a hot shot because you don’t need it.

  2. I started out with a set of twin cd decks, similar to the old Denon units around the millenium, but very quickly set up with some Gemini PT direct drive turntables, then upgraded to some cracking Stanton Str9-100s :-) You can’t beat the feel of playing with vinyl. Downside of that is you are totally limited by availability of music, so without something like Final Scratch (or whatever it’s called today!) you’re very restricted…. Therefore, as controllers have advanced I’ve owned several and I have to say they’re amazing. Totally versatile, endless choice when it comes to the style of music you’re going to play (that’s the absolute killer for me!). I can go to a house party and play anything, I can add new tracks to my collection from online retailers while I’m playing out…. Hard to do that with vinyl or CDs!

    Get a controller! You can learn to mix, scratch, and get real creative using a decent £400 controller…. I play for fun and don’t go out anymore, but I can think of nothing better to use :) Compact, light, no need to carry stacks of media out with you. Just turn up with a laptop and a deck in your rucksack and start playing :-)

    I swear by the Vestax VCi controllers for quality, although the software isn’t the best (Itch is unreliable at best!) however the replacement Serato DJ looks to be ok…

    NS6 & NS7 are absolute killers too…. :-)

    • Michael L says:

      Sorry to hear you’ve had trouble with Serato Itch. It’s been rock solid on my Vestax VCI-300mkii and MacBook Pro, and I suspect I’m not alone.

      • I started off w/a Numark idj2 & my ipod about 5 years ago for 8 months. I actually used it at a small wedding, brought it to a club & did countless house parties. I then found a NS7 for a good price & bought a 13″ Mac. Now I have a NS6 (for mobile) & 1200’s to practice at home. The NS6 & Mac are the only gear I bought new, everything else used on Craigslist. Whatever you can afford. But I’m a fan of Serato (Serato DJ/Scratch Live) & Numark.

  3. First things first, you need to set a budget. Once you know how much you have to spend, then you can determine what equipment to purchase. Learning the foundation (manual beat matching), is important, this can be done on a good quality controller, as well as CDJ’s. turntables are a different beast all together. If your budget only allows for a controller, make sure that you have the ability to add additional gear, you can get a pair of CDJ’s cheap or even rent a pair from time to time. Learning on a pair of CDJ’s will come in handy if your lap top takes a dump on you. There is nothing worse than your equipment failing and not having a backup plan. So, if you budget allows for it, I would suggest a traditional mixer, CDJ/turntable setup. If the budget is restricted, then a controller like the S4 or the DDJ-SX will give you the flexibility you need to add additional gear later on. In terms of a quality lap top, get what you can afford. I use both MAC and PC, and it really comes down to which operating system you like better, the actual hardware is the same.
    Whatever direction you go, make sure you practice as much as possible. Know your gear inside and out, be prepared to troubleshoot at a moments notice.
    Good luck.

  4. Kenneth Gammelmark says:

    Look at the equipment and ask yourself “what do i want to play on?”

    but in my opinion you should either go for something like the Pioneer DDJ-Sx or a Traktor Z2 mixer and turntables…

    i love to DJ on Controller’s but for me Turntables just win!

    If you buy a Traktor Z2 and Turntables, you will get software and timecodes with the mixer and you will have a fun and impressive setup.

    But again it’s all just preference ;)

  5. This is my harsh opinion:

    Learning with controllers is the best. A good controller with a decent software easily outperforms the best CDJ, even the most expensive Pioneer setup with all bells and whistles.

    Turntables are an all-time classic, but not needed for most DJs at all. Please note, there are some genres/scenes, where vinyl (DVS or pure) is a must. Otherwise it has a nice endless nostalgic feeling.

    CDJs are the industry standard technology of the last decade. Don’t eat the hype, it’s slowly fading away. Burning CDs in 2013 is weird, makes sense only if you’ve an old model not supporting USB.

    USB sticks are good, and using them with a CDJ very robust, as you don’t need a laptop this way, which is the fragile component of the controller setup. Or connect an iOS device to solve this, and you don’t need to worry.

    There are some decent iOS DJing software too, not just to learn the basics, but some of them are already outperforming a Pioneer setup as well! There is a small, but growing iOS DJ scene with many DJs switching from laptops and CDJs.

    So i’d definitely not invest in CDJs yet. Some clubs still require you to use them, so maybe later you’ll need to learn them, but it will be easy after you mastered DJing.

    • Jason R says:

      Have to disagree with you on this one bud, it is much harder to go from first learning laptop controller DJing to then mastering ‘trad’ separate CDJ/MIXER skills. For many who think the move will be easy they tend to get a right bloody shock! Not to diss controllers (I use one myself), it is simply a fact that they either do automatically, or make much easier a whole raft of tasks that require a lot of practice to master. Eg. gain levels. Traktor and many other software solutions offer’autogain’. The old school CDJ/MIXER approach, you are constantly monitoring your master output volume and both (or more) ‘deck’ channels. If you are using any CDJ in a club that ISN’T a 900 or 2000NEXUS, you won’t have a visual waveform to show you the breaks/sections of a track. Again more time required to find your CUE point and it is done aurally, not vusially. Lot’s of little things software does for you
      that hardware does not, and I haven’t even mentioned the obvious sync vs. manual beatmatching. I have seen so many controller DJs (inc me ;) ) Think they can just stroll up and knock a set out on a slightly aging DJM-600 with 2xCDJ-1000 mk2s or similar, and it has been an absolute car crash to watch… and as I say, I have been one of those car crashes! I learnt on CDJs and a mixer, after several years of just Traktor and a controller, when I went back to CDJs/Mixer the first time in ages, it was NOT just like riding a bike. ;)

      • You choose the wrong software to learn DJing: Traktor. If you’d start with Serato, DJay or my software, you could prepare much better.

      • I learned to mix on CDJs + mixer, and use both Traktor & Serato. Timecode vinyl can be a pain in the arse because of the lack of transport controls.

      • Just to say that Auto-Gain is not a killer feature for deciding to use DJ software / controller, versus CDJ’s (the ones that can read digital file formats), because you can analyse your music files with a program like Mixed in Key “platinum notes” which will run a batch of improvements, including Auto-Gain, so that when you’re mixing with a classic CDJ/DJM setup, you don’t need to worry so much about the levels.

      • dennis parrott says:

        WOW.

        this whole string of replies reads like a medieval argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!

        no offense, but trying to argue that one software is better than another at “learning to DJ” is redonkulous. ALL DJ SOFTWARE will allow you to the basic acts of DJing — cueing a record to play, playing it, modifying the EQ, and cueing up the next record, period. pick Serato, Traktor, VDJ, Mixxx, etc. as they can all do those kinds of things.

        DJing is about your ability to choose and interact with music in a way that creates a musical experience of value for your audience. nobody thinks “oh wow, he’s a Traktor DJ!” or “gosh he’s no good, he uses Virtual DJ.” THEY DON’T CARE WHAT SOFTWARE YOU USE! (the direct corollary is they don’t care about what hardware you use either!)

        No, the audience cares about you making them feel happy or want to dance or that they feel like you just gave them the best hug ever. None of those things come from the software or hardware. They come from what you play, how you play it, when you play it, …

        these sorts of arguments; which software or controller is better or whether you can be called a “real DJ” (whatever THAT means) if you don’t use vinyl or CDJs, just leave me cold and sad. None of these arguments illuminate the real questions about DJing — did you make your audience happy? did they want you to keep playing all night? were they coming up to you raving about your song choices?

        worry about the music, not the technology.

        • There’s a specific issue here, though, Dennis, which is about choosing home / practice gear and a route that best reflects what a DJ is likely to wish to play on / be asked to play on ” in the wild”. This website certainly shares your opinion that the audience doesn’t care.

  6. Best thing to start on,absolutely the best in my opinion is the thing i started on,a simple 2 channel mixer that just had EQs,gain knobs,a filter and the crossfader with the upfaders,no mic input or anything fancy and second hand turntables.When you master that anything else is just addons.

  7. In my opinion the best thing to start on these days, if you want to be playing gigs in the future, is CDJ’s and a mixer. If you want to be playing at clubs, like it says in the article, the club will expect you to use their equipment, and in my experience, most club’s turntables have problems these days. It is much more likely they will have a working pair of decent CDJ’s. Also if you take a controller into a club and start trying to set it up, most other DJ’s will look at you with slightly less respect, unless you are already an established DJ/ producer or have other reasons.

  8. Who cares what the club “expects” a DJ to play on? That’s the DJ’s choice, not the club’s.

    It’s nuts to go the CDJ route, which is a fading tech which contrary to vinyl doesn’t have the appeal of charm, just because clubs would “expect” you to use their CDJ’s. YOU’re in charge of your mixing world, not them. Don’t loose time and energy with such considerations.

    With a small controller like the Novation Twitch and a laptop, you can play in any club. ANY. Recently I played with my usal portable Twitch setup, in a club where there was no room around the Pioneer CDJ gear, well I just put my stuff ON TOP of the Pioneer gear. No problem…

    As a DJ you first need to learn to program, to feel the dancefloor and react to it, to be creative and organic with your musical flow, to be fluid and musical with your mixes. Advanced mixing skills come second and if you ask me, they’re not even necessary in most instances. In my opinion DJs simply put too much emphasis on these advanced skills. My point being that to learn what’s really important first, it’s great to have a lightweight, easy to use setup that you can take anywhere with you, so you can concentrate on what matters the most.

    Personally I learned on vinyl back in the 80’s, but I feel that controllerism is waaay better in all aspects, except for the lack of charm.

    I recommend the controller route, hands down.

    • Jason R says:

      Dude, I think you’ve nailed it completely with your later comments about programming and reading a dance floor, etc but as a DJ starting out you will have to kowtow a little to the clubs you want to play in. If they say “you play on CDJs” and you give them attitude about ‘dead tech, I’m in charge of my mixing’, many will move swiftly on to the next ‘keen to get on’ DJ!

      You may well be right about CDs dying out, but now its all about USB/Rekordbox, and the reality is the Pioneer domination of the booth of medium size to big venues is NOT going to end anytime soon. As another poster has I think correctly mentioned elsewhere on this thread, unless you are established and known a little, if you cannot use their installation equipment, they will think a little less of you. Regardless of right or wrong, that, for the moment at least, is still the case.

      • Quote: “If they say “you play on CDJs” and you give them attitude about ‘dead tech, I’m in charge of my mixing’, many will move swiftly on to the next ‘keen to get on’ DJ!”

        Then, too bad for them! Another skill to learn as a budding DJ, is to be bold and not let people who are not DJs, tell you how to do your work (as in mobile DJing) or your art (as in producing DJing) or both (as in club DJing).

        It’s not an “attitude” problem. Actually, those with an “attitude” problem are the ones who tell a DJ he/she must work with thje club’s gear or nothing. They’re being authoritarian and frankly, a little stupid.

        You don’t get more respect (or more work) in the business from doing what you’re told. You’re getting more respect from being good at what you’re doing.

        It’s only natural. It’s like a musician, really. Or a hairdresser. You just bring your own instrument, your own scissors. If a club owner tells you “no mate, don’t bring your guitar and effects, you will play on OUR guitar and effects”, or a salon goes “you’ll cut people’s hair with OUR scissors”, that’s just being silly and counterproductive.

        Don’t work for silly and couterproductive people. It won’t get you far.

        Now you can *choose* to work with CDJs, there’s nothing wrong about that (though carrying your CDs around is a real bitch so you’d better use USB sticks – just use filesk MP with the highest quality you can get, not 128k MP3s.. ;-)).

        Just don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have a choice. Club owner or not. Abiding to such unreasonable demands is even, in my view, being a part of the problem!

    • thumbs up on that….the future is digital ! maybe dj’s will be called ‘performers’ soon…

    • The advance skills are what separates the men from the boys. When you talk to anyone passionate about any field of creativity you can tell the real ones by the fakers – they know the history, techniques, and (arguably) most important – they yearn to learn on all mediums.

      Film makers can shoot on digital, film, even phone cameras. Artists know how to use different kinds of paint, brushes, can use pencil, ink, whatever, and they even know the difference between good and bad paper.

      I think it’s a huge mistake to turn down gigs because of equipment, when you can simply take the time and be more versatile, therefore have more value. Anyone can program but its those moments of advance skill that elevate an experience into what most others can’t do. We do our best with the skills and knowledge we have but it’s never enough, there’s always something new to learn.

      • There is lots of truth in what you wrote. All of these things get us to the same goal… The music we hear our heads coming out of the speakers. Who wouldn’t want to know all the different ways that that’s possible and be able to do so with lots of different gear and different situations?

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      +1 on everything you said.

    • dennis parrott says:

      as for the comments on programming, +3.

      as for the “drop your controller on top of their stuff”, well, that can get a little hairy in practice. there are lots of opinions on what “real DJs” should use.

    • djrizki says:

      “Don’t work for silly and couterproductive people. It won’t get you far.”

      Sadly, this is how i have to face being live in the third world country and all…
      If you don’t abide with the club rules, they just look for the next DJ’s in line ( as its 10000000 of em) and all of em dying to play
      Its same thing like this, the club wont let you play Genre A, but you only play Genre A, so you gonna tell that club to go f themselves cuz you play genre A so you will get respect ?
      The club just LOL’ed in yur face and say “NEXT ???”

    • I wholeheartedly agree with Wizzu I learnt on belt drive turntables in the very early 90’s and currently own Pioneer cdjs Stanton str8 150 turntables and a numark mixer which i am selling for a controller I think the easiest thing about DJ’ing is beat-mixing ,reading the crowd the creative side and sounding different are the real skills

  9. Jason R says:

    Take a look at the just released Pioneer XDJ-R1. You really do get (well, almost), the best of all worlds. It ships able to run a laptop midi controller for Virtual DJ, but it also has two CD decks which will play standard CDs, or CDs burned with MP3, WAV, or AIFF files, AND you can load up a single usb stick with up to 10,000 tracks on it that have been previously analysed and quantised by Pioneer’s Rekordbox music management software, this is an amazing feature at this pricepoint as the only other hardware to offer this ‘single USB’ feature are the CDJ900/2000 Nexus’ connected by LAN! For the price it’s a bloody amazeballs piece of kit. You could simply rotate your practice sessions using it both as a laptop controller, and also ‘traditional’ DJing (the CDJ/MIXER) setup which, as Phil says, is still the standard expectation of a DJ in a larger club!

  10. I’ve started with vinyl…then changed to CD’s, and I am now using controllers. Btw, latest Pioneer CDJ’s are also capable of reading all kinds of digital formats and some can even read files over WiFi from remote tablets or smartphones too… Well, for starters, presumably on a budget, I would personally go with an iPad and a controller. In terms of software, best options currently available are (in my opinion) algoriddim Djay & Vjay, Mixvibes Cross-DJ and Traktor DJ. In terms of hardware, it really depends on which software you choose. Vestax and Numark have some interesting options. For traktor DJ, go with Traktor Kontrol Z1 and the yet to be announced Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2.

  11. DJ’s saying to start on CDJ’s because you need to learn the basic first, are usealy DJ’s that have not or are afraid of trying software. I would say get a controller that you like and a software that will let you use the “Standard” club setup without to much problems. I use Mixvibes Cross it has HID suport for all Pioneer CDJ from 350 -> 2000 nexus can use timecode with any 4 in 4 out soundcards. It’s latest version is designed to work as the CDJ 2000 Nexus workflow.
    but what ever you do don’t get anything just because someone else says you should. Fyrst find what software you like to use then chooseing controller/CDJ’s mixer will be much easier.

  12. Brendan Wrixon says:

    Although before I really “learned” I played around on various controllers/cdjs/vinyls/DVS systems. When I finally got around to getting my own rig and learning, I used traktor scratch with a two channel. The lack of MIDI control over software forced me to learn manual beatmatching, unique vinyl cue tricks, and a lot of cool EQ/fader work. once I was comfortable with the bare minimum I added an x1 midi controller and allowed myself to really use everything the software allowed me to use. I feel like when starting you should try to use software as little as possible then slowly add in the digital advantages as you climb the learning curve. A little backwards but it can pay off

  13. My question would be what have you got to start with? Do you have a laptop or an ipad or even an iPhone? Use what you have. Buy yourself a basic, no frills controller for peanuts learn to mix (not just beatmatching but all the facets of mixing – track selection, blending, even scratching if you want to get into that). You can always upgrade your equipment later as you get better.

    • MrChippa says:

      Totally agree with this. And from what I’m reading and seeing all around me, it is becoming more and more important to be different, and have your own style. So learn the basics cheap and then find yourself equipment you are comfortable with.

      I bought myself a m-audio xsession pro couple years back, came with torq software. Cost me 50 euro’s and was perfect for getting the basics and more important, making certain to myself that I really enjoy DJ-ing.

    • dennis parrott says:

      Noah – there is some real merit to this approach.

      my daughter wanted to start DJing in some bars and she tried to get going on Traktor with an old controller of mine. the controller had USB power issues and was a bit fiddly to get going every night so that Traktor (or any other software!) would “see” it and be able to use it.

      we ditched that for Djay. she used the keyboard and mouse to DJ. added an NI Audio 2 DJ sound card and the bars were amazed at the sound quality.

      spending $20 for Traktor DJ on your iPhone or iPad could be a great way to dip your toes in the water.

      you really don’t have to spend a bunch of cash for gear to start…

  14. The best advice I can give is to make a decision on some gear, maybe buy used gear, practice with it, and keep in mind you can sell your gear online if you decide to try something else.

    It seems most people suggest software and a controller. I use Denon SC2900 players and prefer players to using software. Denon DN-S1200 players are great to start with, you can use a usb stick for music (not CDs), and they can also control software.

  15. DJ SpecializED says:

    Imho try to buy something that you can grow with. Dont get me wrong cheap gear has its purpose and you can get some really good bang for the buck stuff. But you actually spend MORE MONEY if you dont buy something that you can put to use once you get better at this craft.

    • Agreed that you will spend more in the long run if you buy something cheap and cheerful to start with but if you are just starting out and finding out if djing is for you or not, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot up front. It should also be said that even the most basic controller can do more than you’ll need as a beginner – plus buying higher grade stuff with more features can be overwhelming if you’re learning the basics and can mean that you don’t focus on the important parts of djing.

  16. One important aspect of buying gear is that, well, YOU enjoy it. Not that it’s the standard. Not that it’s the “main” brand.

    But that you want it and/or love it. It’s common to ask advice when you’re first starting out, but only you know what gear is best (because you’re going to be the one loving/hating it, not anyone else).

  17. Fischer says:

    I personally think the best thing you can do starting out is to invest into a good 4 channel mixer with a built in sound card. It might be an up front expense, but it is the most important piece of kit. once yo have that, you can use Controllers with software like the X1, F1, K2. You can also use Turntables or CJDs with or with out software. you can really use anything on the market.
    A good mixer will give you the most flexibility, and you will not find your self needing to upgrade after a few months. I personally love Vinyl, that is what i learned on, and what i use now. I tried the controller route, but after using turntables for many years, the controller just felt and looked like a toy. I couldn’t get past it and i missed the feel, and sound quality of a good mixer and some decks. Plus i cant play all my favorite vinyls with out a turntable, and we all know you cant beat that warm sound you get from a real record.

  18. DJ Forced Hand says:

    I strongly disagree that clubs will insist that you use their gear. They might not want you put anything on top of the house gear, but as long as you respect the in-house gear, the club should be more than willing to help you use your gear over theirs almost every time.

    When Noah asked: “Can I not hook a mixer to the laptop and Traktor software like the controllers and ditch buying CDJs?” Well, that’s a qualified “Yes” because Native Instruments uses audio cards Audio DJ 4,6,8, or 10 that interact with time-coded vinyl alongside a specially-modified version of Traktor called Scratch Pro. Serato also makes a similar interface called Serato Scratch Live and works almost exactly the same way. Be fore-warned that you will have to bring Timecode Vinyl along with your laptop to every gig because that’s how Traktor Scratch/ Scratch Live calibrates everything. I’d recommend bringing my own cartridges (with needles) as well… just for the sake of having something there when you need it.

    So, if Noah wants to use a controller that isn’t Vinyl-based, it’s important to know what kind of music Noah wants to play. If she’s playing track after track, with little-to-no manipulation of the songs (such as indie-rock, ’80s, or even Disco), she doesn’t need a controller. If anything, she should get a laptop with whatever program she likes and a sound card, plus some headphones and maybe a mouse and she’s good to go. There’s a tendency to push controllers on people, but she really shouldn’t feel like she has to simply because most of what she’s doing is easy enough to handle inside the computer already.

    At some point, Noah might try-out a controller and see how it might improve her play-style, but she shouldn’t feel compelled to get one right out of the gate. If she’s playing more complex, DJ manipulation-heavy music (such as Scratching, Techno, Glitch, or anything with live effects), she should consider a controller simply because the manipulation is easier with a controller (note I didn’t say impossible, just harder without a controller).

    To continue, I’d like to know what kind of money Noah is thinking about spending (and what platform she’s using for the DJ app) because this tends to matter if she thinks she wants a controller. 2 channel controllers tend to be least expensive, but a 2+2 controller (slightly more expensive) will give her most of the abilities of a 4 channel mixer for less cost than a genuine 4 channel controller (with the only real downside of having to hit a button to toggle deck control from A/C or B/D). Having 4 channels of control is important for a minimal house DJ because of the layering involved in this style.

    Lastly, I recommend Noah go to a music store that sells controllers and trying them out for herself. Ultimately, this is what matters most, what “feels right” to her. I personally use a Novation Twitch (a 2+2 controller in Traktor) because I get a lot of bang for the buck and it’s very capable of handling everything from Glitch/Real-Time Remix to Indie Rock and it’s one of the few controllers that comes with Serato ITCH (very soon to be be upgraded to Serato DJ for free) works well with Traktor Pro and other DJ software (even if it has to use a helper program to manage the “jog controls” (because of the touch strips).

    A safe bet for Noah would be the Native Instruments, Kontrol S2, 2 channel controller if she’s just mixing in a more traditional fashion (while also having a lot of the perks of modern controllerism) because it’s Native for Traktor Pro… just plug in and go.

    Phil has a wonderful buyers guide for controllers on this site; http://www.digitaldjtips.com/dj-controllers-guide-2013/ but I strongly recommend Noah tries before she buys her controller.

    The last words of advice I can give on this topic is to hone your sense of when to listen to your gut/others and when others are giving you bad advice. Just as there are many different controllers out there, there are many different ways to be a DJ and no one can tell you your path… we can only give you our experiences and best guesses for you.

    • Excellent advice.

      Just keep in mind that going the PC only route forbids the use of a microphone if you’re not plugged into a mixer (not a problem in most cases), but also means no physical faders.

      I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea that someone would learn DJ’ing without using physical faders. The way I see it, using faders is one of the very basic technical skills of Djing.

      Then again, even though I’ve became a 100% digital “controllerist” and would never look back, I’m very old school at the core. :-) So maybe it’s only the old hat talking, lol.

      • DJ Forced Hand says:

        I was able to use my computer’s microphone plug with a “meeting microphone” (it had a micro-switch to turn it on and off) when I did voice overs with just the PC… the computer handled it quite well.

  19. What ever you decide to use Mastered.If you’re good, you will be call to play don’t matter what you use.

  20. mynameisbrent says:

    In my opinion, the best way to start? Is to start! You can argue till the cows come home on the advantages of CDJ’s vs controllers, that argument will never die (look at the number of old school vinyl DJ’s that still bemoan the advent of CDJ’s even though they’ve been around for decades).
    The important thing is to start DJing so that you can begin to think like a DJ. You can buy the absolute most expensive, most elaborate equipment Pioneer puts out but until you’ve adopted a DJ mindset when getting on the decks, you’ll be useless.
    So again, the important thing isn’t where to start but to start, period and, in that regard, a midi controller is the cheapest and most accessible way to begin.
    Do not misunderstand me though, controllers and CDJ’s do feel different to play on (personally, I absolutely love the tactile feel of vinyl) but the transition will be much easier once you’re able to think like a DJ. To put it into an analogy: It’s like choosing between a manual transmission and automatic transmission car. While both have differences, they both require that you know how to drive.
    Good luck with your search.

  21. The art of being a DJ…

    Well I started with two turntables, then moved on to twin CD, then CDJ’s , now I use the laptop and controller.

    but these are just the tools, yes we all like to use good equipment, but the art is understanding the underlying technique, I am sure a this can be achieved regardless of the type of equipment you have.

    As you progress you will need to learn different aspects and don’t forget that a lot of this is reading the crowd or situation.

    will you be doing a gig were you only mix? I hear so many great Dj’s who can seamlessly mix, but give them a microphone and it all falls apart!

    unless your at a gig that is a limit to one music style , its very important to be able to read the crowd, the type of music that fills the dance floor may not keep it full , people will dance for a while then will flake out , when the floor is rocking you should be looking at the next genre that you think will keep it full.

    and a lot of this you will only learn out in the real world, gig for free at friend parties, or maybe there is a local pub you could offer your services for free on a slow mid week night, this experience will serve you well.

    equipment : your choice, but we are in a digital world and for me its a controller and lappy

    Microphone : yep your going to need it at some point, shure sm58 its the industry standard, don’t bother with a cheap mic when one of these will only set you back about £70, some cheaper controllers have poor mic support

    experience : no substitute, you need to go out and get it

    Above all have fun, and good luck

  22. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Wow, everybody is up and about on this one. Surely has nothing to do with the fact that today we are aiding a FEMALE DJ?

    As always good points are being made here.

    One thing that struck me was your commment “I will not use CDs ever …”

    If you intend on playing out, one of your great lifesaves might be that double 10-CD kit that you put together yourself that allows you to play when all else fails.

    You may not always be able to bring your own digital gear, the club might not always have USB ready CDJ’s for you to play on and even if they do, a USB stick can be faulty (more common than you think to stick it in and the display telling you “no drive found”). A zillion things can go wrong.

    If you fancy ever finding yourself in a club or other venue, rest assured that whatever else they have, they will (for the foreseeable future) have a mixer and some kind of CD player.

    I see where you are coming from, but invest the time to have that silver disc backup, so you will never have to worry about not being able to do your thing.

    Greetinx,
    C.

  23. To start you can use most software with just key strokes on you computer. If you are good at that, you can rock any system. It is an inexpensive way to find out if this is what you really want to do. Start broadcasting on Mixlr or similar sites. Find out how much you love it then sink the big $ for good gear.

    Knowing the music & how to read & play to the crowd is key. I’ve done the turntable, CD thing long before Time Code came to DJing. Now I’m on a Denon-MC6000 with Traktor. It is pricey but you get a lot for your $. As a few of you know I just played Sutra, 2 nigths later I played the sister club Avec, big clubs in So Cal. Neither had a problem with me bringing my controller. I set up, plugged into the mixer and off I went.

    Seeing a waveform & understanding what it is telling you is important. Once you can read the wave, it opens up so much more. You can find Que Points faster, play wiht the effects knowing when to drop in and out, you can even read the mix points. The DJ after me was enthralled by Traktor and the Wave Form. He was on the house CDJs which didn’t have it. I was at 125 he wanted to meet at 126, a push of the tempo slider and the hand off was smooth.

    Knowing why the parts work will help you in the long run. At Avec they had CDJ-2000s & DMJ-900. Knowing my gear let me learn theirs that much faster. Running through the mixer essentially added effects options for me. I didn’t touch the CDJs.

    I’m with DJ Exl, start with a budget. Look where you want to go. NI offers lots of bits and pieces for $200 each, but you can get it all in the S2 or S4 or anohter controller. Do your homework. Make sure the controller will last. Cheap & dead in a year is expensive. How comitted are you? Are you playing just for friends, simple gear. Do you want into the Clubs, Durable & Reliable gear.

    CDJs aren’t a must anymore & if you have a good controller, CDJs & a Mixer should just look like a big version of what you have.

  24. DJ Stygma says:

    This opens up the world of iOS DJing even more, making space restrictions way less restrictive.

    • dennis parrott says:

      do you have one of those GoFlex gadgets?

      i bought one. took it back a few days later. it had real troubles when you would drop the connection and try to get back in. the only way i could get it to do that was to reboot the device (which in my case meant running the battery down to zero and recharging since the reboot switch would not work…)

      i would be very careful with it. i would favor copying the songs to my iPad and playing them from the iPad memory rather than streaming them over… i would really fear that something would happen to that stream while playing it to the crowd.

      • DJ Stygma says:

        I have this as a backup, in case I can’t get WiFi or 3G/LTE at the venue, however, my main set-up uses the 128GB iPad, so I have a lot of room and songs already on it, then I subscribe to iTunes Match, so as long as there is internet available, WiFi or Cellular, then I can just download any song I own unto the iPad as they are all in the cloud thanks to iTunes Match. But this is my backup in case no WiFi / 3G/LTE.

  25. I recommend MixVibes CROSS, this software would fit nicely your requirements to start off with an affordable MIDI controller solution, and then move on to a more professional Pioneer club setup if things get more serious.

    I’ve used CROSS for few years now, i switch back and forth from a controller setup (Umix Control) for small events, to CDJ-2000s or 900s in clubs, which i control in HID mode.

    The software works perfectly for my needs of flexibility. You should give it a shot. :-) Hope you find your match soon !

  26. Get what ever you can afford and have fun as that is what it is all about!!! Start off with a free copy of Mixxx and work your way up to what ever you like to play on. I started off on CDJs (well an old skool Vestax CDX-12) and traded up to the original CDJ800s then went to Numark HDXs and now a Macbook and my Umix Control Pro. BUt I also will show up to a party with just my ipad and usb sound card. Try everything you can and then make your decision. But remember to have fun and love what ever you do (and what you do it with).

  27. DaMelloOne says:

    Maybe start with something like the Numark MixDeck Quad so you can touch all bases (except vinyl, which you can add later if you wish as it works as a stand alone mixer as well.) Also, I recommend you start looking at the software side first. It will be easier to choose the controller once you pick the software you’re most comfortable with.

  28. Paasolo22 says:

    Get your self a Numark Quad. It can perform as a CDJ and a controller. As a beginner, you can learn djing manually from the quad and also digitally from the software it comes with.

  29. DJ Knight One says:

    As a beginer i don’t beleive you have lots of money to spend.The best advice to begin with a controller of your choice . The
    controller is best to start with as a bigginer After you have perfected then you can buy the rane sl3 soundcard. You can use the rane sl3 to connect to any CDJ or turntable when you get to the club. As time goes you then buy your CDJ’s or tuntables and use your rane sl3 soundcard.

  30. Ashley Shantelle says:

    Hi, I’m a beginner DJ and confused what to buy.. I ask some of my friends for a good buy, some of them said I should get the numark mixtrack pro II and the other said I should get pioneer DJ wego.. Quite confusing because both parties gave good testimony for the both controller. So guys what d you think i should get?

  31. I started out with just my laptop but i quickly got bored of that and when I had some cash I went and got a Hercules MK4. I was happy with it for a while but I found that learning to beat match was hard and I new that it is a very useful skill to have. I found it hard because using it I thought why bother if I can just press the sync button so to remove that urge I bought a pair of Numark NDX900s and plugged it into the MK4 and used CDs which forced me to learn to beat match. Of course using the MK4 as a mixer was a bit annoying so I got a Behringer DDM4000. This allows me to have an NDX 900 on each channel and plug in the MK4 to a channel leaving one channel free for iPods and stuff at house parties. Also some of the effects I chain and layer on the mixer, the NDX 900s and my laptop (I usually run Virtual DJ by the way but I sometimes use Traktor ) allow me to do some very creative things in my sets.
    basically I’m saying start small and as you master the techniques upgrade you gear so you can master more advanced techniques. You could dive in the deep end and get a set up that allows you to do everything but you run a risk of being over whelmed with everything at your disposal. I know if I got everything at once I would try to master everything at once and end up being frustrated as my progress would of been to slow for me to want to continue.

  32. Isaiah Furrow says:

    Lots of good info and good points… I got some tables and a mixer with an iPod dock from craigslist… intended to preserve some records… played with it too much, remembered DJ club in highschool (late 90s), got a better mixer and mixtrack pro 2, borrowed a CDJ800Mk2 from a friend, having lots of fun… I am looking at the Gemini CDJ700, and other entry level budget CDJs… I like CDs, would love to practice a club-like workflow, and will never give up totally on tangible music… but I love Serato, the things it’ll do, the fun it is… until CDJs can do what a laptop/controller can, I can’t see getting them… the Gemini ones and Pioneer Nexus 900/2000 are close, but in the “vehicle” price range…. NO WAY will I pay for a pair of CD players, what I pay for the family auto… I would suggest, research the softwares, then pick a controller to match your choice… it’s soo much fun, handy to take about, laptop, stand, controller, extension cable for power, RCA or ? cable, phones, mic? and you’re set for a small party or whatnot… I would say that, or CDJs and a mixer… Gemini worth trying again? let me know what you all think of the CDJ-700… Isaiah santacreekfurrows@gmail dot com

  33. My first controller/table was a traktor s4 and I honestly have never seen the need to switch. It does everything I need, has a lot of versatility in terms of cue points, effects, and mixing (love having 8 cue point buttons to mess with). The only reason I plan to buy anything else, would be to purchase CDJ’s so I can get used to using them. They’re just extremely expensive so I plan to hold out until my DJ’ing really takes off.

  34. Im new to Djing before i used to play with software only (only Atomix virtual dj) niw im starting going to Party’s so m thinking for taking new controller or turntable m confused and i was thinking about Denon MC3000 And last is my budget is around (400-500$).
    Please guide me to best.

  35. I think for someone starting the main issue will be the budget.
    In my case i went for a 4 months old Kontrol S2 bundle with Traktor Pro2 made a great team with my 17″ laptop, only thing i previously own was the Audio-Technica AT-M50 headphones. I use this basic setup to practice and record and the only downside is non-existent line-in’s on the S2. There is plenty i dont master yet but time will get me there.
    My suggestion, go for a used bundle of controller+software that fits ur needs and start from there.

  36. Well first of all, Noah is a peculiar name for a female DJ, but I like it! I am a new DJ too and I asked a similar question awhile back. I decided to go with the NOVATION Twitch controller because I already had a laptop and Ipod so why would I not want to use the resources I already had instead of investing $100s-$1000s more on buying more equipment and records/cds? I also would like to point out as some of the other commenters have that you should consider the software price when deciding on the controller. I am perfectly content with the software that came bundled with my controller right out of the box. Some of the other controllers will make you pay $300 more for a full version right after you just spent $600 on their controller! I am happy with my decision because this controller is light, versatile, and not too expensive. I think the first thing you should determine is your goal, ie Do you want to DJ in clubs or bars where you would be at the mercy of the owner to dictate what equipment you will use or do you want to DJ at small parties, weddings, reunions, bar mitzvahs, etc? If you want to DJ at the latter then you should get a controller in my opinion but if you want to be a full time club dj you might want to go with the CDJ set up, unless you found a club willing to be flexible. Also keep in mind if you choose the latter you are looking at investing even more money on speakers and lights, whereas in a club they would probably already have a sound and light system.

  37. just start with the hard way :The cdj players with their manual and mechanical feeling, great sound, will learn you in the tough way how to manage your time effectively : setting cue points, beat matching, mixing, controlling mixers, gain …etc.
    Its just like learning to driver with stick gear on cars,its more difficult,needs more time and money, BUT you have full control of the car, OPPOSITE to automatic gear shift which is more easy and funny, but you will not be a real driver yet unless you drive with stick gear.

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