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DJ Controller Blog
4th October, 2021
DJ Controller VS Turntables VS CDJs – Which Setup Is Best?

If you’re new to DJing, the number of setup options available can really be quite overwhelming. You’ve got DJ Controllers, Turntables, DJ Mixers, DVS Systems, CDJs/Media Players, Standalone Controllers, the list of equipment is endless and you’d be forgiven for not knowing which bits you need to buy.

So today, we’re going to walk you through the 3 most popular types of setups available – from DJ Controllers to turntables and club-style CDJ setups. Allowing you to decide which option is right for you!

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DJ Controller

First up, we’re going to look at the DJ Controller option which is the most common setup for beginner DJs. But what exactly is a DJ Controller?

Generally the cheapest option if you’re starting out; a DJ Controller typically mimics the setup of a Mixer and two turntables or CDJs. Aside from a few key differences.

You’ll then connect it to your laptop via USB; giving you full control of your digital music library via DJ Software installed on your computer. Another plus when it comes to DJ Controllers is that most will come packaged with a version of software for you.

If you’re on a budget, or your end-goal is to DJ at clubs and festivals, the controller route is perfect as you’re getting a compact and affordable option that will feel very familiar to the club-standard CDJ setup.

But it’s also perfect if you plan on DJing events like weddings and parties because you can easily take your controller with you wherever you go.

We’d recommend going for a 2-Channel DJ Controller like the DDJ-400 to start with. But if you’ve got a bit more money to work with, or want to take the next step, a 4-Channel or standalone controller will give you an even better experience.

Standalone DJ Controllers like the XDJ-XZ function very much the same as a DJ Controller, but eliminate the need for a laptop. Rather than controlling the DJ Software installed on your laptop, you’ve got the software built right into the unit as well as a larger screen to help you navigate.

So all you need to do is plug in your USB with your tracks on, hook up your speakers, and you’re ready to start mixing.

So how does a DJ Controller differ from a CDJ Setup?


Walk into the DJ booth at almost every nightclub, bar, or music festival and you’re going to see the same thing. A Pioneer DJ Mixer and a couple of CDJs sitting alongside it. But there are a few key differences you need to know if you’re going to make the jump from a DJ Controller to a CDJ Setup.

Firstly, with a setup like this, you’re definitely not going to get the portability and flexibility you’ll find with a DJ Controller. It’s more of a setup you’ll want to put somewhere and not move around too much.

The first difference you’ll notice is how you use your hot cues.

On a typical DJ Controller, you’ll find a bunch of performance pads under your jog wheels in which you can trigger hot cues and different FX. But you won’t find the same on most CDJs. You’ll usually find dedicated hot cue buttons either on the left hand side, or directly under the screen on the latest CDJ3000s.

The second difference is going to be the way you browse for your tracks. With a typical controller, you’re likely going to be plugged into your laptop. So you’ve got full access to search for tracks with your keyboard and mouse. Instead, you’ll have to cycle through using the browse knob, or the touch screen on the latest CDJ3000s.

It definitely pays off to have your music organised so you can find the right tracks quickly when you need them.

Another tip before jumping straight onto CDJs is to make sure your tracks on your USB have been uploaded and analyzed through Rekordbox first. Otherwise, your CDJ isn’t going to recognize them!

So if you’re a nightclub, bar, or venue looking for a DJ Setup, or you just want to have exactly what the clubs have, then 2 of the latest CDJ3000s and a DJM900NXS2 Mixer is the current industry standard configuration. But it’s going to cost you significantly more than a DJ Controller!


Finally, if you want the authentic feeling of DJing with vinyl, or want to express your creative flair with some scratching; you’ve got a few different options to give you that traditional vinyl experience.

If you’re strictly going to be playing from your vinyl collection, you can get yourself a DJ Mixer, and two DJ turntables such as the Reloop RP8000. You might want to look into a battle mixer like the RANE SEVENTY over a standard club mixer as they’re generally a bit more durable and geared towards vinyl DJs!

If you love the idea of vinyl, but don’t want to lug around kilos of heavy records, then a DVS System is going to be for you.

Hook your Mixer up to your laptop and your control vinyl will send a coded signal to your DJ Software. Allowing you to control your entire digital library, just as if it were traditional vinyl.

The last option if you want to keep to the feel of vinyl is to go with the RANE ONE. Although this is technically a DJ Controller, it’s the first of its kind to feature motorized, 7″ turntable platters.

Giving you that authentic vinyl-like touch with all the professional features you need to mix and scratch like a pro. Along with convenient access to your digital music library.

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