While most DJs use DJ controllers with laptops, a growing number of DJs, from hobbyists to mobile DJs to “pro” DJs wanting a second system to use at home, are nowadays using “standalone” DJ systems instead.
What we’re talking about here is the kind of “all in one” DJ units that look like DJ controllers (indeed, some such units also are), but that don’t require you to plug in a laptop to use them.
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The advantages of standalone
Standalone DJ systems are hugely appealing to DJs who just don’t want to have to have a laptop controlling everything when they’re DJing. Maybe you think it looks a bit naff to be DJing using a laptop. Or maybe you want to also use “grown up” club gear when you’re DJing out and about, and want to have a similar type of set-up at home.
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One reason standalone systems are getting more popular is that nowadays they’re getting really powerful. Indeed, they’re starting to feel as if they’ve basically got a computer embedded in them – which is because really, they have!
Touchscreens, great graphics, smooth animation, powerful DJ features, built-in music streaming services… the best of the current crop of standalone, all-in-one DJ systems can give you all of this – and not a laptop in sight.
In this roundup, we list our five favourites for 2022.
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Each of the pieces of gear below has a link to a full written review and also a review video. And if you have any questions, please ask in the comments – we would be happy to help you. You’re in the right place for genuine, knowledgeable help and advice in choosing.
5 Best Standalone DJ Systems 2022
1. Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX3
While it’s the newest unit here, it’s not the most powerful, and it’s not the most innovative. But the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX3 has somewhat surprisingly maybe turned out to hugely popular, presumably because for many DJs, it has all they will ever need, and comes from undoubtedly the leading brand in the DJ booth.
The XDJ-RX3 is the third iteration of the XDJ-RX range, and sports a 10″ screen, much improved on the previous models (and, indeed, on the flagship XDJ-XZ). It is also appreciably faster. As with all Pioneer’s DJ gear, it is Rekordbox-powered, meaning you prep all your music using Rekordbox software (free) on your laptop first.
Doing so gets you on-screen waveforms, musical key info and BPM info, lets you use sync and beatmatched effects, and also gives you the chance to add cues and loops and build playlists before your sets.
The XDJ-RX3 looks and feels like “club gear” (albeit with smaller jogwheels than pro gear), and for a relatively simple two-channel DJ system, it does the basics very well. All that’s sadly missing from a performance point of view for us is key shift/key sync.
With booth and master outputs including balanced, two mic inputs, and the ability to act as a standalone mixer for record decks or CDJs, it would be just as at home in the club as in the bedroom – and it even works as a controller with Serato, Rekordbox and Virtual DJ software too. All of this is why we’re calling it the best all-rounder.
2. Denon DJ Prime 4
What you lose in “industry standard” layout and looks, you gain in power and cutting-edge features with Denon DJ’s flagship all-in-one – this is undoubtedly the most technologically advanced unit here, and if we were judging on advanced tech alone, would be number one. Powered by Engine DJ software for preparing your music and making playlists, this unit is true four-channel standalone, and has built-in WiFi for over-the-air access to streaming services, giving you millions of tunes at your fingertips.
It has a better screen still than the (still pretty good) one on the XDJ-RX3, and unlike that unit, it can be expanded into a true four-deck unit with the addition of two of Denon DJ’s LC6000 deck controllers. Its embedded software is more powerful, even being able to control DJ lighting via SoundSwitch, a next-gen lighting control system that’s built-in. Cheekily it will even read and play from Rekordbox-analysed collections on USB!
With Serato support – should you want to use it with a DJ software package – the Prime 4 offers great “bang for your buck”. Although we’ve got it second in our list, it will be a first place for many, not least those who don’t care about “club standard” gear or who want an alternative to the all-dominating Pioneer DJ brand.
3. Numark Mixstream Pro
Another Engine DJ-powered unit, this great value two-channel DJ system has the same software inside as the Prime 4, giving all the same benefits. A surprising trick it has up its sleeve is a pair of built-in speakers. You’re not going to rock any parties with them, but they’re actually pretty good for the size, and just make it that bit easier to get practising anywhere.
What’s really special about the Numark Mixstream Pro is that it brings high quality standalone DJing down to a price point unheard of until now. All of the systems here will cost you well north of $1000, some a LOT more, yet here we have a perfectly capable standalone system (mic input, USB/SD card source choices, booth and balanced master outputs, good on-board effects) for well under that price.
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This unit is really meant for consumer use, but we can see it sneaking into a few mobile DJ’s kit lists, and not always as a second, back-up device either…
4. Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ
Out of all the units here, the four-channel Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ is the “pro” choice, looking and feeling to all the world like a Pioneer pro club set-up. That means it is large, almost too large. You get full-sized jogwheels just like on Pioneer DJ’s CDJ-3000, a full-sized mixer similar at first glance like the Pioneer DJ DJM-900, and a whole raft of pro inputs and outputs.
It also has Pro DJ Link, meaning you can integrate extra decks properly. They’d have to be full-priced CDJ decks though (not cheaper “controller” decks like with the Prime 4), as otherwise this is a two-channel standalone unit, despite having four physical channels.
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All that said, it actually is slower and has a worse screen than the other Pioneer DJ unit in this roundup, the newer XDJ-RX3. So unless you’re looking for that Pro DJ Link integration, or really want the bulky, full-sized look in an all-in-one, for most DJs the XDJ-RX3 is probably the better bet.
That said, the XDJ-XZ also works well as a four-channel software controller with Serato, Rekordbox and Virtual DJ, which does make it super-flexible.
5. Denon DJ Prime Go
A unique little device, this boxy metal unit has tiny jogwheels, only two channels, but all the basics including balanced outputs. Crucially, it also has a built-in battery, so you can DJ with it wherever you like – we’ve livestreamed using this unit from lakes, mountains, camping grounds, all over!
It works with Engine DJ, so you get WiFi music streaming, lighting control, and most of the other cutting-edge features of gear like the Prime 4, and the same-sized clear, smooth, bright 7″ screen as the Numark Mixstream Pro.
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The Prime Go probably wouldn’t make a perfect first DJ system, because it is a bit too specialised, it’s limited, and the layout is a little non-standard. But for the DJs who look at this and immediately think “I want one”, it won’t disappoint – and there’s certainly nothing else quite like it out there.
Note it doesn’t work as a software controller with any software – this is strictly “standalone”.
Rekordbox vs Engine DJ
So you’ve hopefully figured out that you do still need software to prepare your music. You 100% need it on the Pioneer units, and while the Numark and Denon DJ units can cope with you just adding music files unprepareed, they still work better if you do the preparation beforehand.
Rekordbox, the software you need to prep music for Pioneer DJ’s gear, is also fully fledged “laptop” DJ software, whereas the newer Engine DJ software (for prepping for Denon DJ and Numark standalones) is just for that – no laptop DJ element at all. Even so, Rekordbox is the better of the two packages, although Engine DJ is improving reasonably rapidly.
Therefore if you want to DJ with both a DJ controller/laptop and have a standalone option too, Rekordbox is probably the better bet, as the same software does both. That said, Engine DJ plays much more nicely with Serato and Rekordbox, happily working with libraries from both of those systems – something that can’t be said about Rekordbox.
Standalone DJing is certainly coming of age. Ironically, this is the way it’s usually done in clubs, and has been for decades, albeit with club “separates” – but club gear has also always felt woefully underpowered against software and controllers, something that is now changing.
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As the worlds of standalone gear and laptop DJing move closer in feature sets, we can only see standalone gear becoming more and more popular. Hopefully our guide has helped you to decide if now might be the time to leap – and if so, what to leap to! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.