The world of DJing is one of the first to be changed from its core by the advancement of digital technology. No matter how much we all love that analog signal, digital equipment has swept in and took the main stage in all aspects of this profession.
One of the last points of resistance, at least to some relative degree, remains turntables.
Turntables are still the preferred way of mixing tracks for a lot of DJs and the proof is in sales statistics. But that doesn’t mean that change hasn’t come. In fact, DJ controllers have become all the rage now, and many like them for their digital versatility rather than the old school method of scratching physical records on a turntable.
So, if you’re a beginner DJ, you might be wondering—what should I do? Should I buy a turntable and use physical records? Should I embrace the digital revolution and get a DJ controller? Or, maybe, if I have the money to do so, should I consider getting both?
These are the exact questions we’ll be answering in today’s in depth article.
Below, please take a look at some DJ controllers and turntables that are popular amongst those in the DJing community. You can compare them against one another based on things like price, rating and noteworthy features.
|Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2||$$||★★★★||Silicone-Damped Jog Wheels|
|Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller||$$||★★★||Sensitive 100mm Pitch Sliders|
|Numark Party Mix||$||★★★||Built-in Sound Card|
|Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2||$$||★★★★||2-c=Channel Controller for Serato DJ|
|Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-WeGO3K||$$||★★★★||Has Pulse Control Lights|
|Stanton T62||$||★★★★||33 or 45 RPM Speeds|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||★★★★||USB Direct Drive|
Turntables vs Controllers
DJ turntables have been used for decades, and for many older DJs, there is simply no other way to mix music. With that said, turntables are not that easy to use, especially if you’re new to them.
A turntable is considered to be a show of one’s skill level as well. It takes a lot of practice to even master the pitch and tempo control when using vinyl, let alone perform a whole set problem-free.
On the other hand, these days, you have cheaper, more versatile DJ controllers currently available to you on the market. These controllers come in a variety of shapes and forms. You can either use legit controllers, which use a number of buttons to get the job done, or you can get a set of CDJs. The former is a more affordable option, and one that many newcomers go for (since a controller can be used for much more than just syncing tracks).
And before we move on, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling DJ turntables or related equipment currently available on Amazon:
What are CDJs?
CDJs are specialized digital music players that many DJs love using. And they are also quality alternatives to turntables if you’re willing to embrace the digital world.
With a CDJ, for example, you don’t need to carry a collection of vinyl everywhere with you if you want to play a certain track, nor do you have to worry about the components of that turntable being in a good enough condition to get you through the set.
Instead, you just load up the tracks using CDs or a digital format/file. Digitizing everything cuts down on time you need to access different tracks and apply adjustments where applicable. CDJs, like turntables, come in different tiers of quality—some are cheap but affordable, some are considerably higher quality and rightfully more expensive.
Another reason why a decent number of experienced DJs are moving on to quality CDJs is the fact that risks of damage are minimized when you go digital. A CDJ is definitely not something you want to toss around like a sack of potatoes, but it’s going to be light and a lot more resistant to being bumped during transport. On a similar note, you don’t need to worry about having vinyl with you, which is not only extremely heavy but very fragile (vinyl is sensitive to light, heat, cold, dust).
CDJs and DJ controllers in general simply make the life of a DJ that much easier at the end of the day.
So what’s the final answer here? Let’s put it this way: CDJs are cheaper, easier to use and more practical in many ways than turntables in this modern era we live in.
On the other hand, while turntables are old, they are a reliable and (depending on the individual) an eternal mainstay in the DJ world. A turntable is what you might want to use (even if only occasionally) when you gain some experience as a DJ.
Is going with a turntable right off the bat a wrong thing to do? Definitely not, but be prepared to learn how to handle, maintain and use a turntable first. With that said, many people within the DJ community feel that new DJs should begin with turntables and real vinyl records.
It’s no doubt a personal choice.
Here’s a summary, just to quickly recap what we discussed above before we move on to the next section.
- More organic feedback
- Analog nature
- Difficult to master
- Limited versatility
- Easy to use
- Require little to no skill
- Highly versatile
- Require little to no skill
- Doesn’t have that organic feel
- Expensive if you want the quality stuff
Top DJ Controllers for Beginners
Just like any other tech market, the one for DJ controllers is packed full of various models. Some are going to be professional grade gear, while others are barely scraping by to be called a controller in the first place.
A beginner might find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of information and options available. We understand that, and below, we have gathered what we feel are five of the best controllers for DJs on the market. We’ll list them below, and then go into a bit of detail of what you can expect to get out of each one and why they’re worthy of your consideration.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ controller
Numark is one of the several household names when it comes to good DJ controllers. The one we are looking at here offers a great solution for beginners who plan on staying involved in DJing for a while.
It brings a perfect balance of features and performance, which is exactly what you would want from a good beginner unit. The format it comes in is standard — two CDJs and a central 2-channel mixer.
The main benefit of this model is its size and clean layout. In other words, you won’t have trouble finding the right controls in the heat of the moment. That is something a lot of people overlook. When it comes to disadvantages of this model, the quality of pads and other controls could be a bit better.
However, there is only so much you can expect at this price (just under $300).
Traktor Kontrol S2
Compared to the Numark above, the Traktor Kontrol S2 is a lot more compact and simple.
The S2 is one of the most popular DJ controllers on the market, and it more or less brings the many of the same features to the table as the Numark. Here, you still have two CDJ decks and a central mixer, for example. With that said, there is one huge difference between these two models. Unlike Numark, the Traktor Kontrol S2 was designed to work with Traktor software.
In simple terms, it’s a hardware extension to a very popular and powerful DAW. Naturally, someone who isn’t in the know would consider this to be a flaw, but that is far from being true. The level of integration between the software and this piece of hardware is so high that most DJs choose to use this setup over anything else.
Sure, some will probably have something far more powerful than the S2, like S8, but the principle remains. Either way, using this controller can set you up for success down the road.
You can find the Traktor Kontrol S2 for about $400 online.
Here’s a truly simple piece of kit from Pioneer, which is great for learning the trade and perfecting your fundamentals.
The DDJ-WEGO3-K is not something you would want to use during a live set, but it’s a great tool for aspiring DJs to get familiar with how things work. This Pioneer has an integrated CDJ, which offers a simplified design that is complimented by an equally simple mixer.
This Pioneer offers quality performance and ease of use for a very affordable price.
You can find this controller for about $270 online.
Good Turntables for Beginners
When it comes to turntables, you have a lot of great choices.
One to consider is the Stanton T62. This is great for beginners because, first and foremost, it’s very affordable (about $200 online). It offers a straight tonearm that has solid tracking when you’re ready to start scratching for the masses.
This is a direct drive turntable that plays back at 33 and 45 RPM.
Another beginner turntable to consider is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 USB. This turntable is more advanced than the AT-LP60, as it features an S-shaped tonearm and offers users pitch control. As you advance in DJing, you’ll likely want to upgrade from this table, but for just starting out (and for the very affordable price of about $230 online) it’s a pretty good option.
Both the turntables and controllers have a large, passionate following which won’t change its mind anytime soon. Which one you choose to go with is more a question of personal taste than anything else. Using a turntable won’t limit you in any significant way if that’s what you want to do. On the other hand, controllers are a bit more practical. The choice is yours.
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