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 10 Best: DJ Controllers

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Number of posts : 14

DJ Bag
Style: Psychedelic

PostSubject: 10 Best: DJ Controllers   Wed 29 Jun - 17:48

Allen & Heath Xone:DX

View all Allen & Heath DJ controllers


Allen and Heath's DJ mixers are known for their robust
build, cool filters, crisp sound and high end circuitry, so it comes as
no surprise that their professional MIDI USB controller range follows
suit very nicely. The DX is fully integrated with Serato Itch but as it
is MIDI you can map the controls to just about anything. Key features
include a built in 20 Channel USB soundcard, 24bit/96kHz audio system
and a built-in hardware MIDI interface. Looking at the controller it's
reassuring to see that the case is made out of decent quality metal -
too many controllers on the market these days are happy to remove in
excess on 500 from our wallets in return for little more than a plastic
pizza box. Nothing is loose or wobbles this is due to each control
section being mounted on its own PCB rather than one universal board.
This is particularly handy if you happen to spill your drink on it as
any short circuits can be easily and cheaply rectified!

On first impression the jog wheels on the
decks look a bit small but with Itch fired up we can assure you that
they are rock solid and will handle almost any amount of punishment. The
rotary pitch control may not be to everybody's taste either but once
you're familiarised you'll be wandering why we ever switched to faders.
Chances are you probably won't need to use it anyway as the sync mode
Itch will match the tempo of the track pretty much perfectly every time.
On each player you've got four hot cue buttons which make on the fly
editing of tracks a walk in the park. The censor or reverse feature is
also very slick, returning you to the point of the track you would have
reached if the function had not been activated.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4

View all Native Instruments DJ controllers


Marketed by Native Instruments as the culmination of
ten years vision and experience, the S4 is a premium-quality 4-channel
DJ mixer with a built-in 24 bit/96 kHz soundcard custom tailored for S4
version of Traktor. Up on deck the S4 feels sturdy - the multi
functional electromagnetic jog wheels are rock solid, while the pitch
control, channel faders and cross-fader move freely yet not of their own
free will. Upon software launch you can customise your S4 set up
between the sample decks, track decks and live inputs. You can load
samples (up to 48 seconds each) from the browser to each cell (eight in
total) or set loop points in the playing deck, the contents of which can
be moved to one of the cells.

The layout of the S4 console is clean and well
thought out - you can tell a lot of care has gone into positioning
certain controls in close proximity to others. The player's loop, sample
trigger, play, cue and shift controls are situated beneath each of the
two jog wheels. These resemble those on a professional CD deck and can
be used to browse files, cue and scratch tracks or samples as well as
nudge the tempo. The central mixer module has four channel strips, two
for each channel with illuminated cue, filter, 3 band EQ control, gain
and effects sends. The loop sampler is situated in the very middle and
is made up of a dry/wet mix knob as well as record, play, loop size and
undo keys. Along the top of the unit to the left and right we have the
effects controls: we all know how much fun these are to use in Traktor
and the S4's deliverance doesn't disappoint. It doesn't take long to
familiarize yourself with the S4, even those of us who don't know our
way around Traktor Pro will find it easy enough to learn the basics with
advanced operation not far around the corner.

Numark NS7

View all Numark DJ controllers


Numark's NS7 USB DJ controller is optimized and ships
with Serato's Itch software. Numark have really done their homework on
the requirements of the digital DJ and have clearly upped their game for
this venture. Looking at the NS7's top panel Numark have included a
strip search feature which is useful for jumping to a particular point
in the track and by placing a finger on a point along a sensor. Directly
below this, you'll find the track forward and back buttons, which are
for skipping to the next or back to the previous track. Below this is a
tap tempo button which when tapped in time with the track playing, helps
the software detect a more accurate BPM reading. There's a handy
bleep/reverse switch to change the direction of the platter and to the
right are the start time and stop time knobs which control the rate at
which the playback shifts from play to pause and vice versa.

In the centre of the deck is the platter,
which has a high torque motor akin to that of any professional turntable
and although it's only seven inches in size, doesn't feel small or
flimsy. Above the platter are the loop controls, which have all the
necessary buttons for creating loops and changing their length or
position in the track. The mixer in the centre of the NS7 is primarily a
two-channel scratch mixer. All the controls you'd expect are present,
along with the additional navigation controls at the top of the mixer.
These controls are used for scrolling through and selecting the tracks
in Itch without having to touch the computer.

Switching on the NS7, the backlit buttons
become illuminated in red and white. In a darkened club or general
low-light conditions, this is a huge bonus as almost all of the buttons
are backlit so operation is unhindered in inferior conditions. A quick
perusal of the Itch interface reveals a simple, user-friendly program
that doesn't over-complicate or lack either. Anyone who's previously
used Serato's Scratch Live DJ software will instantly feel at home but
newcomers needn't worry as Itch is very intuitive. As you'd expect each
of the controls and parameters are mapped to a corresponding knob,
button or fader on the NS7. The responsiveness of the NS7 is equally as
impressive mimicking almost perfectly a professional vinyl turntable
and DJ mixer. The NS7 can also be used in conjunction with Numark's NSFX
effects unit making for some interesting and creative results.

Reloop Digital Jockey 2 Master Edition

View all Reloop DJ controllers


German manufacturers Reloop have been quietly
mastering their craft since 1996. These days they are a household name
(well, at least in DJ friendly households). The advent of their Digital
Jockey controller and interface series paired with Native Instruments'
Traktor software has left the DJ more time to concentrate on the
creative process whilst eliminating the need for complicated set-ups
without compromising features, usability and style. The Digital Jockey 2
Master Edition combines the might of a 24bit/96 kHz soundcard with a
professional DJ/USB controller. Top of the impressive list of features
is Reloop's all new standalone mixing function, which enables two CD
players or turntables to be utilised without the aid of software or a
computer. The controller will work with many MIDI platforms but was made
with Traktor in mind, hence shipping with the LE version and serial

We tested the Digital Jockey 2 in two deck
internal mixer mode with surprising ease, yielding some very
professional results early on. The jog-wheels, although small, perform
well in search, scratch or pitch bend mode they can also be used to
browse your file menus which is a convenient feature. They contain a two
part sensor meaning that pressure exerted to the top rim will operate a
different function to when it is applied to the side wall meaning that
the operation is very similar to a pro CD deck. If you'd rather make the
fine adjustments to your mix outside the jog wheel environment there
are +/- tap buttons located diagonally above. The crossfader feels solid
and the curve is easily adjusted, and the channel faders have the same
reassuring feel to them. The cup, cue and play buttons are of solid
plastic and feel as if they'll handle the sustained tapping that they
will doubtlessly undergo.

The effects buttons and knobs on the
controller really bring this controller to life. The activate buttons
are directly below the parameter control knobs which have a reassuring
encoder style click with each adjustment making precise tweaks to
complicated effects error-free. The loop buttons are placed in between
the effects and EQ bank meaning that on-the-spot bursts of creativity
can be achieved with only the slightest movement of the hand. Headphone
monitoring is professionally delivered and microphone control will keep
the hip-hop MC's and wedding DJs more than happy! Just for the record we
couldn't resist tipping our hats to Jeff Mills or Carl Cox, who'll be
happy to know that in 4 deck internal mixer mode, with the aid of the
shift button everything works as above.

Vestax VCI-300 MkII

View all Vestax DJ controllers


2008 saw the introduction of the award winning VCI
300, designed in collaboration with Rane as a dedicated, compact
interface for Serato Itch with an analogue feel. Unperturbed by the
legions of feature packed wannabes, Vestax have opted for pure and
complete functional simplicity. There are no fancy effects or multiple
deck setups - it's all about doing what it says on the tin. Fast forward
to 2011 and they've updated the console in the form of the MK2 edition
based on customer feedback. First impressions are that it's not light
for its size, tipping the scale at 3.2kg you'll notice this in your bag.
The design is sleek and contemporary with the craftsmanship having an
almost handmade feel to it - very nice. The jog wheels resemble reel to
reel tape spools rather than the usual tractor tyre imitations and the
bevelled corners are protected by rubber bumpers. The interface is built
of metal and the top panel is of black plastic.

Operating the DJ system brings together all
the conveniences of digital DJing yet allows the user to concentrate on
the crowd whilst putting full trust in the console at hand and thus
eliminating the need to constantly squint at a laptop. The jog wheels
are very smooth once set to your desired torque and the grid feature on
top of Itch's waveform display makes it very difficult to do a
machine-gun out of time mix. You can be as heavy handed or as precise as
you like with the pitch control which makes it incredibly quick and
easy to set it at the correct value. With this taken into account you're
free to beat sync the tracks and get to grips with the loop and reverse
functions making for some very creative soundscapes.

M-Audio Torq Xponent

View all M-Audio DJ controllers


The Xponent is M Audio's all-in-one DJ MIDI USB
control surface, fully mapped and optimised for their tried and tested
Torq software. It is also a 4-output 16-bit/48kHz USB interface that
will work with any other software that has a MIDI learn function. It's
built from the same solid plastic as the X-Session pro and Torq
Connective units and has the same functional yet no frills air about it
as the Torq DJ software. The controller itself is a decent slab at
3.7kg, with the impressively sized 8cm diameter jog wheels taking pride
of place. These can be used to cue tracks in turntable, CD or hybrid
mode complete with sturdy rubber side coating and embossed no slip grip
on top. One thing that also distinguishes the controller from others is
the addition of an XY trackpad for navigating the screen. This was
originally groundbreaking however with other units having dedicated or
shift controlled knobs and switches to control almost every aspect of
their host software it took a bit of getting used to.

As far as layout is concerned we found it
difficult to choose between calling it classic (as it has been out for
over 3 years) or nothing we hadn't seen before with the two players
complete with transport, cue set/trigger, loop and keylock snuggling up
to the mixer section. Directly underneath those fabulous wheels of joy
you've got four knobs and switches for effects modulation. The total
kill switches alongside each of the sturdy EQ knobs have a fantastically
tight action to them and you've got an eight segment type level meter
just in case you get carried away. The pitch control is rather on the
loose side however it almost redeems itself in length being more similar
to that of a Technics SL1210. The channel faders and curve adjustable
crossfader also fall short on free-movement however this is often down
to personal taste.

When operating the Xponent you'll find that
the workflow is just as streamlined as that of the higher spec models on
the market at the moment. The soundcard is crisp, the 64 assignable
backlit buttons feel professional. Although M Audio have possibly cut a
few corners financially in the manufacturing process (particularly with
the faders), overall the system is robust and after extended testing
also proved very reliable. It may not look as futuristic as some of the
newer models on offer but we'd say it was one of the safest choices
within its price bracket.

Denon DN-SC2000 USB DJ MIDI Controller

View all Denon DJ controllers


The Denon SC2000 is a single deck, MIDI-only USB
powered compact controller designed specifically for use with Traktor
Scratch and Virtual DJ, although it can be manually mapped to work with
all other leading brand digital DJ solutions. It's effectively a two
deck controller in one box and eliminates the need for any mouse or
keyboard interaction with your laptop whilst playing. The build quality
is bomb proof, the multifunctional jog wheel is heavy duty and the pitch
slider seems to go on for miles in each direction. Also included on the
top panel are rubber illuminated play and cue buttons, vinyl bend
cursor keys, four split function cue keys and a shift key. The track
select encoder and control keys are centralised flanked by the deck
change button to the left, key lock and sync are positioned to the
right. At the very top are the effects controls which consist of four
very sturdy push activated knobs, effect selects and on/off buttons.

Prior to operation it is necessary to get over
to Denon's website and pick up the latest .tsi file for the SC2000 as
it is too new to be supported by the current version of Traktor. This
will ensure 'plug & play' operation and needs to be inserted into
Traktor's controller manager device set-up preference. With that said
and done the controls are mapped and we can use as intended. The deck
change function selects each player illuminating the button and track
select encoder in blue for left or red for right whilst on screen this
corresponds to the visual A/B deck highlighting. For four deck control
you'll need to pair up another SC2000. The jog wheel can be used to cue
or tweak your track speed operating much the same as on a CDJ. With
shift depressed it can be used to scroll through files in your crate.
The pitch control is precise but unfortunately soiled with a pitch lock
at zero. The 15 illuminated rubber buttons are responsive with almost no
latency making adding cue points and looping very easy and accurate.
The track selection features are as user friendly as you'd find in any
larger controller with the previous, next and duplicate keys navigating
your rotary encoder through the various browser view options. The
effects unit control was our favourite feature, allowing simultaneous
modulation of up to three effects activated with push to make knobs.

As far as design is concerned there's not
really anything that could have been added to make this controller any
more functional than it already is. For those of us that need a reliable
lightweight controller to throw in a Ryan Air compatible bag at the
weekends then this is the answer. Anyone who's already purchased the
Native Instruments Kontrol X1 and Faderfox users should definitely take
note as this will add CDJ style flexibility to your set up at a fraction
of the price.

Faderfox Micromodul DJ3

View all Faderfox DJ controllers


Faderfox's first and second generation of compact MIDI
controllers were some of the first devices that allowed DJs and live
performers to truly travel light without compromising on features and
build quality. They were seen by many as the true professional's choice
but weren't to everybody's taste due to their standard MIDI only
connections (providing supreme accuracy yet limited compatibility with
some of the newer digital audio systems) and their lack of included
power adaptor with thirsty battery consumption. The recently launched
2010 third generation addresses these quirks, bringing the range right
up to speed with USB bus powered and connection at less than 500mW

The DJ3 model has been optimised for Native
Instruments Traktor Scratch, which means that the included .tsi file
maps the device controls to the channel faders, crossfader, EQ's,
filters, effects, loops, pitch, key, cues, transport and browser. As it
uses MIDI you can also control many other manufacturer's software with
approximately 250 freely assignable commands. It is ultra compact,
tipping the scales at just 350g. The knobs are now rubber coated, the
faders are made by ALPS and the top panel is metal. Faderfox's
positioning of each control utilizes the limited space perfectly. The
three band EQ and filter control knobs grace the outer walls of the unit
surrounding the two line faders and crossfader. Below are the cue and
effects assign buttons which can be allocated to a total of four decks.
These can easily be toggled between using the centrally positioned
shift and deck selector buttons. The top of the controller has four
push activated encoder knobs which have a wide variety of functions
ranging from file browsing and selection to loop length parameters to
shift activated pitch control and more.

Due to the inclusion of the barest essentials
control-wise, operation takes a little bit of time to get used to as a
lot of the controls serve a dual purpose. Once familiarized with the
toggling and shifting you'll notice that impulsive manouevres can
actually be executed in a quicker, less clumsy manner than say if faced
with moving from one corner to the other on one of the larger
controllers. Performance wise, like previous Faderfox creations, it's
pretty much faultless, not once during our tests did it hang or stutter
and will also store your deck assignments.

Akai APC 20

View all Akai DJ controllers


Akai's APC range (APC20 and APC40) are dedicated
controllers for Ableton live. The main difference between the two is
that the APC40 has two banks of four knobs, meaning you can control
eight track parameters at a time. The APC20 is essentially an APC40 with
the these controls removed - making it much smaller, lighter and indeed
a lot more portable at less than half the price of its superior. The
controller looks very slick and stylish, with its matt black finish,
wedge-shaped edges and uncomplicated appearance. Housed in a metal
casing, the APC20 feels solid enough to withstand the rigors of repeated
gigging without any problems. The 87 buttons, nine faders and single
knob also feel solid and sturdy enough for repeated heavy-handed use
without failing or coming off in your hand.

The APC20 is incredibly easy to setup, only
needing a USB lead and the included power supply to operate. It would
have been nice if the APC20 was USB powered so you wouldn't need the
power supply, but as the power adaptor switches automatically and
operates with any voltage from 100-240V, it can still be used worldwide
if you have the correct travel plug adaptor. It comes bundled with
Ableton Live Akai Professional APC Edition software, which is a fully
functional but stripped down version for performance and production. The
APC20 is pre-mapped for instant use with the software, which is great
for users who don't want to spend time mapping the controls beforehand.
Experienced users needn't worry, as every single button and fader can be
re-mapped and completely customized to their taste. In use, the APC20
is incredibly fun; the faders respond well to the touch, as does the
rotary knob.

Finances aside, the ideal solution would be to
have an APC40 just for studio work and an APC20 for gigs. The APC40
still has its place and is a fantastic controller, but being heavier and
more cumbersome makes it less appealing for globetrotting, meaning the
APC20 is a much more realistic option for travelling.

Novation Launchpad

View all Novation DJ controllers

169.99 129.99

The Novation Launchpad is a simple, well-built USB bus
powered controller with a total of 80 backlit rubberized buttons and
feet. It has a USB socket, a Kensington anti-theft lock and the
manufacturer proudly boasts that it weights in at just 717gms (one third
the weight of a Macbook!). Launchpad ships with a dedicated edition of
Ableton Live 8, but it can control almost any other music software using
Novation's Automap control software. The buttons either illuminate in
amber to show that the slot contains a clip or green to show that the
clip is playing. Red displays that the clip is recording and no colour
indicates that there are no tracks or scenes in that range. They look
professional and the backlighting provides valuable information as to
what's happening on-screen

The buttons can be used to sketch out beats
with drum racks, however the fact that they aren't velocity sensitive
makes us speculate as to whether Akai's MPD range , M-Audio's Trigger
Finger or Korg's NanoPAD and PadKontrol controllers may be more suited
to that particular task. The Launchpad can be used to control other
functions in Live using Ableton's 'Learn' mode. The exclusion of knobs
and faders does limit the Launchpad somewhat compared with Akai's more
complete APC40 Ableton Performance Controller, but at 149 compared with
the pricier and less portable APC40 (379), the Launchpad is definitely
worth considering.

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