With the proliferation of mp3s the world of DJing has seen a seismic shift away from traditional forms of mixing to digital systems and controllers that solely work with digital music files. So it’ll come as no surprised to you that there’s a burgeoning market for low-cost easy-to-use DJ controllers that range from simple midi controllers to all-in-one systems – here are our top 5.
Hercules DJ Control AIR 2, price: £199
Hercules recently updated its popular DJ Control AIR range; the low-cost setup has been really popular for aspiring DJs who are on a tight budget of less than £200. The unique selling point of the DJ Control AIR + is it’s an all-in-one system – meaning you won’t need to fork out for a costly separate mixer.
The biggest change to the new AIR+ is it has increased size making a lot easier to use – crucial for any all-in-one DJ system. Other changes see both jog wheels increase in size to 5.9-inches, and they now both have 750 steps per turn – making scratching a lot more representative of a real vinyl player.
DJs are able to liven up their mixes with samples and hot cue points using the controller’s 8 touchpads, 4 per deck. Another clever touch is the harder you tap on each pad, the louder the playback volume. DJ Control AIR+ comes bundled with DJUCED, a new DJ mixing software that provides an adequate clone of Native Instruments’ Traktor.
Pioneer XDJ-R1, price: £859
Established hardware manufacturer Pioneer are also courting the all-in-one market with their newly announced XDJ-R1. This system is four times the price of the AIR+ – but for the money you get a system that wouldn’t look out of place in any of the world’s top clubs.
The controller features two decks (that work identically to the company’s much-love CDJs), there’s also: two CD slots, a full built-in mixer, two USB ports (allowing users to use the company’s Rekordbox software) – and a bulletproof set of ports and connections to supplement the system with extra CDJs and vinyl players.
Elsewhere you’ll find a bevy of beat effects, cross faders, EQs, filters and hot cues on the controller – just about everything you’d expect to see on professional club setup.
The XDJ-R1 can also be controlled wirelessly using Pioneer’s new Remotebox iOS app. The app allows users to browse music, mix tracks and even mash up tracks, all remotely using their favourite iDevice. The app can also be used to control an XY pad, crucial for professional sounding effects.
Push Controller – Akai, price: £429
While Ableton Live isn’t exclusively a performance tool, it does now have a brand-new performance controller called Push from Akai. The new controller doesn’t follow the design and look of a traditional DJ controller, instead Akai has taken it takes its design cues from its classic pad-based drums machines.
The Push controller essentially turns Ableton into a live instrument rather than being just another a generic midi controller – and, on the whole, it largely succeeds at this. Push immediately feels robust, mainly, due to Akai’s decision to give the controller a rubberised coating – making it perfect for DJs who do a lot travelling.
You can control almost any function of Live, so you can use the controller to navigate samples, launch tracks, play or step sequence drums, and you can even use it as a midi keyboard with fully pressure sensitive velocity pads.
Native Instruments Traktor Z2, price: £500
Industry leaders in digital mixing, Native Instruments have also recently launched their latest all-in-one creation: the Z2. It’s another Traktor-centric MIDI controller that comes with a built-in audio interface, conventional analogue DJ mixer, a copy of Traktor Pro and Traktor Scratch Mk2 time encoded vinyl and CDs, for use with CDJs and vinyl players.
Like any good mixer, NI has kept the Z2’s hardware simple. It offers two channels, fed by either line or phono inputs, both with built-in Traktor Scratch decoders – so whether you use CDJs, turntables or even a laptop, the Z2 looks bring together the best of Traktor Pro and the tactile feel that only a phyiscal deck can provide.
The Z2 features two remix channels, meaning it fully supports Traktor’s recently released Remix Decks. Another great feature is the Allen and Heath-style filter knobs on each decks – making sweeping high and low-pass filters are incredibly smooth.
Pioneer DDJ-WeGo, price: £249
Pioneer is also aiming to corner the budget DJ market, too, with its latest ultra compact DJ controller, the DDJ-WeGo. It enables DJs on a tight budget to get a professional DJ controller for under £300. Much like the Air+, the DDJ-WeGo is a two-channel all-in-one system.
Setting up WeGo is simple: just plug in a laptop and start up the software. The WeGO’s ergonomic controls and user-friendly interface make it easy for aspiring DJs to learn the ropes from the ground-up. But there’s also a range of advanced features from Pioneer’s professional products – such as Beat Sync, sound effects and loops, for DJs who want to get really creative. For the asking price you get a free copy of Virtual DJ that has the ability to perform music stored on a Windows PC or Mac.