Review: 6 Top Single Jogwheel DJ Midi Controllers
Modern DJ Midi controllers tend to be all-in-one units, with 2 “decks” and a mixer in the one box. But, of course, traditional DJ set-ups are separates – typically 2 decks for vinyl or CD, and a separate mixer. And while all-in-one units have revolutionised DJing, there’s still a demand for separate, modular digital DJ kit.
Single jogwheel DJ Midi controllers allow the laptop DJ to reintroduce elements of the traditional DJ set-up for whatever reason. Here we look at 6 single-jogwheel DJ midi controllers. (By the way, we’re calling them “single jogwheel” rather than “single deck” throughout this review for the sake of clarity, because many can actually control 2 or more decks for you.)
Why you might want one
With the ability to control digital audio like a real CDJ or turntable (hi-resolution jogwheels make scratching sound convincing, for instance), plus added buttons and faders for effects, loops, deck switching and so on, these units give you a lot of punch. You may want to add one of these to your setup for a number of reasons:
- Because you want to DJ the traditional “way” but with 100% digital equipment – whether because you want the layout to be more spread out, or because you just prefer to mix and match brands in your digital set-up
- Because you already own equipment you want to keep – If you have a great mixer, why not add a couple of digital decks and a sound card, and keep it? If you’re used to a high-end Pioneer or Allen & Heath mixer, you’re not going to get the same features from an all-in-one DJ controller
- Because you want to add digital to an existing analogue set-up – If you just want to add one or two channels of digital into your vinyl/CD DJ set-up, this is the way to go
- Because you want to use a powerful, modern digital DJ mixer – Some of the newest mixers like the Allen & Heath Xone:DB4 do things controllers just can’t. You can now assemble an awesome digital system with single jogwheel controllers and a new digital mixer at its heart
- Because you just want to add some deck control to your laptop DJ set-up – You can DJ perfectly well on just a laptop. If you DJ from your netbook and don’t want to buy any bulky equipment at all, yet crave some real jogwheel action and a few useful extra buttons and knobs, adding a tiny, portable single jogwheel DJ midi controller could give you everything you need but still let you throw it all in a side-pocket of your backpack. Have party, will travel…
- Because one deck is all you need – If your style of DJing uses effects, Ableton, looping and pad triggers as DJ tools, having TWO jogwheels may be overkill – maybe you’d rather have one unit with a jogwheel, and another unit doing something else entirely…
- Because you want to control 4 decks in Traktor – If you have a VCI-100 (or other 2-deck controllers), you may be quite happy with it but still want to unlock one or both of the other 2 decks in Traktor Pro. With one of these, you can.
Do I need a sound card with one of these?
Yes. We’ve gone only for controllers, not interfaces – ie, these have no built-in sound cards. That’s just because we feel most people interested in this type of controller will either already have a sound card, or be looking at an external card or a DJ mixer with one built in – or even (in the case of using one to add some control over just one channel of laptop music in an existing setup) not using a sound card at all and relying on their laptop’s sound output. However, we will be covering such units with built-in sound cards at a later date.
Please remember that while we try our hardest to get all the facts straight, we are not guaranteeing the suitability of any of these units for your particular hardware/software combination. Most can be mapped to any software, but it often takes effort.
As always, we’d advise reading up carefully on them and doing your research before buying one. It’s part of the fun, after all! Happy hunting.
Allen & Heath Xone:1D
Decks controllable: 1*; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Software compatibility: Traktor, Ableton Live; Size & weight: 3.5 x 14 x 4.7″ (88 x 358 x 120mm), 4lb (1.8kg) *Multi-deck control Midi mappable
They say: The Xone:1D is a dedicated Midi controller connected and powered by USB. Use the Xone:1D with any DJ mixer to add digital control, or add the 1D to a Xone:2D to your favourite mixer to make up the equivalent to a Xone:3D. All the Midi controls can be mapped to software for use as navigation controls.
We say: Highly professional gear, better for permanent than portable use. Not the best for multi-deck control as no standout visual indicator of deck alignment. If you want a truly pro, installation equipment (and don’t mind jogs that aren’t up to scratching), this is it. Even has 5-pin DIN Midi sockets for connection to other Midi devices. Top quality.
Decks controllable: 2; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Software compatibility: Traktor Pro, Virtual DJ; Size & weight: 6.7 x 1.2 x 8.6″ (170 x 30 x 218 mm), 2.9lb (1.3kg)
They say: The unit is an affordable, compact, professional-grade, solid steel Midi controller designed for the home DJ or party laptop DJ on the go. A 2-layer system, the unit can control 2 decks at once (with visible deck colour change), or be paired with another DN-SC2000 unit to control 4 decks.
We say: It’s tiny, thin, well built, and screams “professional”. The long-throw fader for pitch is as good as any analogue equipment, and the way the backlighting works is good both in clubs and when using two decks with the one unit.
DJ Tech Kontrol One
Decks controllable: 4; Software compatibility: Traktor Pro, Deckadance; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Size & weight: n/a
They say: The Kontrol One is a professional DJ Midi controller designed specifically to enjoy the functionality of the most advanced DJ pro software in the world. Kontrol One will satisfy the needs of the DJs who still want the tactile experience of DJing, with digital media in computer-based systems.
We say: Not to be confused with the Native Instruments Kontrol X1. This unit is well built and has a good, touch-sensitive jogwheel. It has the ability to control 4 decks so in theory, you could add this to your laptop and rock 4 decks on Traktor Pro. Great value, but the company website and support materials are ropey.
Reloop Contour Controller Edition
Decks controllable: 4; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Software compatibility: Traktor Pro; Size & weight: 6.3 x 2.5 x 15.1″ (160 x 63 x 383mm) Weight: 4.4lb (2kg)
They say: Control up to 4 decks, due to the intelligent deck switch system. The large, backlit buttons shed light on the current status. Sections for deck, sample, and loop control are ready on stand-by. The extensive effect section disposes of 4 feedback encoders, 4 mini faders and further 4 rubberised buttons.
We say: The touch-sensitive jog wheel is big and feels good. The unit is well built, and if you like the styling and features of the Digital Jockey range you’ll feel at home here as that’s what it’s been developed from. Not widely available in the US, though, and expensive compared to the rest.
Decks controllable: 2; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Software compatibility: Traktor, Ableton Live; Size & weight: 3.3 x 14.5 x 16.8″ (84 x 368 x 427mm), 13.9lb (6.3kg)
They say: Compact controllers are great in some scenarios. But sometimes they’re just not enough. Tiny, non-motorized platters just don’t cut it when your goal is to try to emulate the vinyl experience. The SCS.1d is the perfect crossover device for DJs that want to embrace the advanced features modern software offers, while still staying rooted in a traditional workflow.
We say: This is a big unit, though lighter than you might think. The 10″ motorised vinyl and motorised pitch control (while the former feels a little lightweight for my liking) put it in a class of its own here, as do the velocity-sensitive trigger pads. If you’re looking for a controller that’s a straight replacement for a CD deck or vinyl deck, this may be it. It’s pricey, though.
Decks controllable: 2; High-resolution jogwheel: yes; Software compatibility: Traktor, Ableton, Virtual DJ, PCDJ; Size & weight: 8.5 x 4.7 x 1.4″ (216 x 120 x 35mm), 1.1lb (0.5kg)
They say: SCS.3d’s compact and sleek profile makes it a space-friendly addition to any existing DJ gear set-up or it can stand on its own as a complete controller solution. Stanton’s StanTouch technology allows you to use traditional DJ-style motions and gestures on a touch-pad style surface.
We say: Small, highly durable, innovative, and just plain cool, we love the little SCS.3d. It’s everything that’s good about digital DJing. It’s taking the best of what analogue can do and giving it a twist that’s new.
All of these controllers offer much to any of the DJ types mentioned in the introduction – there are no bad models here, hence they all get good scores. We’ve dished out the 3s, 4s and 5s depending on how well the controllers fit into our own ideals of innovation, portability and quality. For instance, if you want the best quality, Allen & Heath has it. Two of those alongside, say, their own Xone:DB4 mixer will give you one absolutely awesome DJ set-up.
But Denon’s new controller is also pro-grade, and alongside the more consumer-quality models from Reloop and DJ Tech offer a better range of features, including 2 and sometimes 4 deck control with the one unit through clever colour coding.
Stanton’s controllers couldn’t be more different from each other, with one actually trying to be extremely traditional (and maybe slightly the worse for it), but the other smashing through the barriers of what DJ equipment should look and feel like, and doing it brilliantly.
Find the one that suits what you want to do, and try and give it a go first (or make sure you can return it if it doesn’t feel right to you) – you will be using your controller intimately for many hours, so get it right at the start.
We hope this guide has been of some help in showing you how different manufacturers have approached the same basic issue. good luck!
Would you add a single-deck controller to your system? Have you done so? Which if these appeals to you the most? Let us know in the comments.