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

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 5 April, 2018

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.

Click here for your free DJ Gear and software guide