The Faderfox DJ44 is a solid high-end controller for DJs who are looking for a small, portable alternate to their existing set-up that they can’t take along for logistical reasons, such as if you’re using CDJs or a large format controller.
First Impressions / Setting up
The first thing that really grabbed my attention when I received this unit was its case: The controller itself was built into it! Obviously meant for portable DJing, the DJ44 comes with an aluminium lid that pops off to reveal the controls underneath it, a convenient all-in-one solution to ensure your gear travels safely with you.
The review unit I received arrived with its own extra long USB cable, a quick start guide, mapping stickers for Traktor and Ableton Live that you can stick behind the controller’s top lid for reference, and a CD that contained the mappings. Do note that this doesn’t ship with any software, so you’re not getting a lite version of Ableton or Traktor with the hefty US$560 price tag. The DJ44 also doesn’t have its own sound card, so you’re going to have to use an external one or a splitter cable at the very least if you’re going to want to do any headphone cueing.
Once opened, you’ll immediately notice the absence of jogwheels; this is definitely a deal breaker for some DJs, especially those who prefer a more traditional “two decks and a mixer” layout, but Faderfox has always been a brave visionary when it comes to controller technology, and clearly some tradition has been eschewed on the DJ44 in favour of smaller components: Like the Novation Twitch, the DJ44 does away with the jogwheels and replaces them with something that sits better with the device’s design and user experience.
A quick overview of the DJ44’s facade reveals a mix of rubber knobs and encoders that feel top quality, along with snappy buttons that look like oversized Lego bricks. I love these buttons, and while they may not be ideal for cue point juggling because they have a bit of travel when you press them, they’re definitely solid. The faders are on the stiff end, so don’t expect to do any scratch-style crossfader and upfader techniques here, although they do make for some very precise fader movements.
The Faderfox DJ44 is powered by your computer’s USB port, so you won’t need to plug an external adapter in to make this work.
I fired up Traktor Pro 2 on my laptop, loaded the .tsi mapping file from the Faderfox website (my MacBook doesn’t have a CD drive any more), and got started using the DJ44. I didn’t even want to take a look at the mapping sticker; with the way the controller was laid out, I had a strong feeling this was going to be a truly plug and play experience, and I wasn’t disappointed!
Loading a track was a breeze with the DJ44’s browser section; there are two knobs here, one for your playlist tree and one for the songs in your playlist, along with two buttons for loading tracks onto either deck A or B (just hold down the shift button if you want to load to decks C and D).
Once loaded, I had three options for playing the track: I could hit the green Play button, or the grey Cue and Cue/Play buttons beside it. The headphone level and mix are adjustable in the DJ44’s monitor section on the right side of the device. As I mentioned the volume faders are stiff, but still very high quality. I also noticed that the crossfader doesn’t have a curve adjustment knob, so you’re going to have to adjust it manually within Traktor Pro 2; not that you’d be tweaking that a lot since, again, this isn’t a device made for scratching.
The hot cue buttons are fun to use; they’re of the springy type, so you can’t do super quick hot cue juggles, but they’re built of very solid-feeling plastic and produce an audible click sound with each press, which may or may not be to your liking (I personally found it quite satisfying, akin to an arcade button being pressed or the click of a MacBook charger being plugged). All eight cue points are accessible by pressing the cue selector beside each deck’s row of cue buttons.
I loved tweaking the EQs and filters on this device as the knobs are some of the highest quality I’ve ever held on a DJ controller, and truly are a joy to use. I especially liked the inclusion of an EQ “kill” switch for quick cutting of the lows. The FX section at the top of the unit features four knobs for full control of Traktor’s effects, along with requisite buttons for each tweakable parameter. The loop section consists of an auto loop encoder along with a display showing the loop length, as well as buttons for manual looping.
I particularly appreciated the inclusion of gain knobs, as I’ve found Traktor’s auto-gain feature to be inaccurate at times; having a knob dedicated to that lets you manually tweak levels as you mix, ensuring smoother transitions without level spikes or dips. There are even pan pots for assigning a deck to the left or right speaker. Yes, Faderfox really threw everything and the kitchen sink in this one!
One of the biggest points of interest for most readers will be the transport section: How does it fare without jogwheels? I have mixed feelings on this one. On the plus side, there are enough controls to be able to beatmatch properly without needing the jogs or, indeed, defaulting to using the Sync button out of frustration, thanks to the pitch bend buttons. Even the Seek knob encoder, placed in lieu of scrubbing through a track with a jogwheel, works fine and feels right.
However, I found the pitch control knob to make adjustments using very small increments, making the jump from a range of a few BPM (eg 120-123bpm) to take a small amount of effort, something which would have taken less than a second had the pitch control been a fader. Of course, you can adjust how sensitive the pitch control fader can be within Traktor, but I guess it just takes a little more time to get used to a knob instead of a fader for making tempo adjustments.
With that said, however, I have no other reservations for the Faderfox DJ44, save for the fact that this doesn’t have its own sound card which, given its lofty price tag, may turn some DJs off as controllers in this price range generally have one onboard already.
I’m mostly pleased by the fact that it did so many things (even the little ones), extremely well. Much thought has been put into the layout and production of this device, and it definitely shows: I turned up at a private function carrying nothing but my laptop, a Traktor splitter cable, and the DJ44, plugged in to the sound Don’t forget to shorten the titlesystem, and DJed as I normally would have. No one knew I was just using a device that was the size of an iPad! You know a controller and its mapping are really powerful and clearly thought out when you can confidently translate your usual DJ habits and techniques onto a device you’ve only used for a day or two.
And this, in my opinion, is the heart of the entire Faderfox DJ44 experience: It’s the perfect high-end controller for DJs who are looking for a small, portable alternate to their existing set-up that they can’t take along for logistical reasons, such as if you’re using CDJs or a large format controller. Although I wouldn’t recommend this for cash-strapped beginners who want to stretch their dollars as far as they’ll go (you’ll want an onboard sound card if you’re on a tight budget), it’s definitely simple enough to use even for novice DJs who just know a thing or two about Traktor. To be completely honest, the only reason I’m not giving this device full marks is because of the said lack of sound card given its price tag.
It takes a high degree of intelligence to make something complex seem simple. In this respect, the Faderfox DJ44 is a rare genius among its controller contemporaries.