CDJ’s VS Controllers – We investigate…

Written by on 21st September 2017

EDM Authority

So this is a big conversation splitting the DJ community right now,  but why is there such a gap between these users?

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a huge controller fan, I’m dedicated to my trusty CDJ’s along with many other producers these days. In-fact the only controller I have ever used was the Traktor Kontrol S8 –  and as amazing as it was, there’s no way i’m trading in my CDJ’s just yet.

But why is there such a split between CDJ users and Controller guys? Iv’e spoken to many DJ’s on both sides over the years, and this is my presentation on the main factors why DJ’s are refusing to move to Controllers.

Many CDJ users say that using a controller is cheating – and this sounds awful but I do agree with that. I have spent years perfecting my DJ style, learning how to beatmatch without using the BPM metre, mixing in key and producing the perfect set – Just to find some kid with a £40 controller from Amazon can do all that with one push of a button.

Now I know that’s harsh, there are many people who are incredibly talented at using controllers, and can mix better than I ever will – but with companies such as Numark dropping controllers for <£40 there has been a huge rise in the bedroom DJ, and people who think they can DJ but in reality can’t mix for sh*t.

This isn’t the case for all controllers, there are some seriously impressive controllers out there – such as the Traktor line, and Pioneers latest controller ‘XDJ-RX2’. Now these are real pieces of kit, in fact the XDJ-RX2 seems so amazing I am tempted to get my hands on one just to ‘test the waters’.

Now one upside to using a controller over CDJ’s is the travel capabilities. We all know the pain of arriving to a club to find kit that’s being held together with duck tape, or even worse – the dreaded Sticky CUE button. Having a controller completely out rules this issue, many top end controllers have both a XLR and RCA output and will work perfectly in (most) clubs. Just imagine a time that you can carry all you need for a set in your rucksack – and not needing to rely on club kit.

So convenience that may be, however I like to reassurance that if one of my CDJ’s go down I have 3 more to run off – while a controller is all or nothing, if it goes down, there’s no backup.

Certain features, such as Rekordbox can make live shows so much easier. You have your full music library on your laptop in front of you, and you can  set cues as you go (although that’s not a smart move). While with CDJ’s everything has to be prepared beforehand, all cues added and exported to your USB Drive.

And I think the main issue many of us ‘CDJ guys’ have with controllers is their impact on the title ‘DJ’. As I mentioned, you can get controllers for a ridiculously small amount of money which may be great for those starting out and are serious about it, but I feel like we’ve hit a generation where kids get some cheap controller from Amazon, hit sync and instantly call themselves a DJ.

Now talking about this always reminds me of one incident where I bumped into an old school friend a few years back. I was known at school for being the DJ – And many knew that’s what I was going into when I left school. Jump to a few years ago when I bump into an old school mate of mine. He tells me he’s now a D, bought himself a £80 controller from Ebay and bam, instantly a DJ. When I ask him what BPM he normally sticks to, his blank face tells it all. He’s going around telling people he’s a DJ, when he’s really just a budget version of Spotify premium. And that makes things look bad for the rest of us.

So should we all be switching to Controllers, or is it just a fad? After all, nobody thought CDJ’s would replace Vinyl. Both have their positives and negatives, and I think we can all agree the days of bringing CD’s to gigs are behind us. So whats the best option?

Personally, I love what Denon is doing at the moment with their ‘Prime’ series. Their mix between CDJ and controller is amazing and in my opinion, features the best of both worlds. With each individual consoles like CDJ’s, but running from USB or SD card, layering (yup, you can now use one unit as two different channels with separate outputs) Denon have seriously got there game on.

But if your set on a controller, I highly recommend the Pioneer XDJ-RX2. It’s the most advanced controller out right now and features some pro features that are first of it’s kind. It’ll set you back £1,500, but that’s a small price to pay for it’s immense power and capabilities.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Any other points you’d like to add? Leave a comment below and get a conversation going, maybe you’ll convert someone! (or not)


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