In today’s era of digital technology, intelligent software, and flexible connectivity, DJs have more options than ever before in choosing their gear and setups. While turntables, mixers, and CD players have historically been the solutions of choice, the art of DJing has become even more accessible in recent years with the advent of DJ Controllers. By eliminating the need for separate devices, multiple cables, and even a prior music collection, the versatility of a DJ Controller can offer a much easier path to entry for complete beginners, and a more convenient solution for existing DJs. As with all types of DJ gear, the range of Controllers on the market today covers a broad spectrum to meet the needs and budgets of all users.
As DJ Controllers themselves do not typically feature integrated storage for music files, they are primarily designed to operate with desktop or laptop computers running compatible DJ software, such as Serato DJ and djay Pro AI. Thanks to tight midi integration, many of the software functions can be operated directly with dedicated hardware controls on the Controller, for example: to load tracks, trigger cue points, and apply effects. The computer also serves as the source of the music files, and as of recent years, many streaming services are also accessible through the software, allowing DJs to perform with music via online and even offline connectivity.
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As smart device technology continues to become more powerful and sophisticated, our everyday smart phones and tablets have become a viable option to DJ with when connected to a compatible Controller. In addition, trusted apps such as djay Pro AI can also provide users with the ability to DJ entirely via streaming services to offer the most convenient (and in some cases, most portable) solution possible.
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While many DJ controllers are large in size and designed primarily for home or club setups, smaller and more portable options are becoming more and more desirable as they allow users to prepare and perform their DJ sets while traveling or in more exotic locations. Due to their size, connecting to a laptop or power bank via USB is usually all that is needed to power a compact Controller. Some even offer additional bluetooth connectivity to a smart device, which when combined with access to streaming services, offers the most portable and wireless DJ setup possible.
For users who prefer a more minimal setup without the need for an external computer or smart device, some DJ Controllers offer an all-inclusive solution featuring locally integrated software and a built-in user interface or touch screen. Users would typically access their music by plugging USB drives into dedicated ports on the Controller itself, or via streaming services over wifi.
DJ Controllers typically have 2 or 4 line channel faders, and vary in size accordingly. Each line fader channel can be used to play a different track, while the volume of each is controlled by sliding the dedicated vertical fader up or down. In addition, some Controllers also incorporate Gain or Trim dials which control the volume level input into the channel. The benefit of having more channels means that more tracks can be mixed together simultaneously, and therefore 4 channel controllers are usually geared more towards experienced DJs.
In addition to the vertical channel faders, most mixers also feature a Crossfader, which is operated horizontally, blending the inputs of different channels together in a single control. Many DJ Controllers feature dedicated onboard settings (or in-software settings) to adjust the crossfader contour for mixing and scratching performance, and some Controllers can even be retro-fitted with 3rd party faders for even more customisation.
Aside from being able to control the volume levels of each channel, it is also common to find EQ controls (otherwise known as Equalizers) on many DJ Controllers. Where Gains allow you to adjust the volume of audio being input into a channel, EQs allow you to adjust the levels of specific frequency bands within the audio signal. An EQ section typically consists of a Low, a Mid, and a High knob to individually boost or cut the Bass, Midrange or High band of frequencies in the music. Having this added level of control over the music they play allows DJs to shape their sound and smoothly transition between songs to a high degree. 3-band EQs are the most common, however, smaller more simple DJ Controllers may only feature a 2-band EQ for controlling Low and High frequencies.
To further shape their sound in the mix, DJs often perform with effects, either generated from the Controller itself (Onboard FX) or triggered from the external DJ software (Software FX). A common effect featured on many Controllers today is an onboard Filter knob for each channel. These typically work in a bipolar capacity, so if the knob is turned clockwise, a sweeping high pass filter is applied to the music (only high frequencies can be heard as low frequencies are carved out), and inversely, if the knob is turned anti-clockwise, a low pass filter is applied (only low frequencies can be heard as high frequencies are carved out).
Whether accessing music from a computer, smart device, streaming service, or USB drive, DJ Controllers typically feature dedicated on-board navigation controls for conveniently browsing libraries and loading tracks to any of the channels.
While some DJ Controllers are designed specifically to be used with an intended piece of software, other more extensive Controllers feature external channel inputs, usually found at the back of the unit. This allows additional sources (such as turntables and CD players) to be connected and mixed through the onboard mixer section of the Controller, alongside any inputs from a software source.
A primary feature of most DJ controllers are the jogwheels, which are designed to emulate the analog feel of vinyl records, and offer tactile control over digital music. They achieve this to varying degrees, depending on the jogwheel type and class of controller.
■ Static jogwheels are the most common and are often touch-sensitive (known as capacitive) making them responsive and light. Some even feature inbuilt screens providing the user with real-time information relating to the track and current tempo etc.
■ Motorized Jogwheels offer the closest likeness to DJing with traditional turntables as they feature a platter that rotates relative to a playing track. They often come complete with a slipmat and vinyl equivalent for manipulating the music.
They may work and feel slightly different but in all cases, jogwheels allow users to cue, pitch bend, and scratch the music.
LED feedback indication and LC-displays can be found more often on todays DJ controllers. They are designed to give visual real time information like a virtual needle position. The LEDs can be single- or multi colored to indicate loops and effects. Built-in displays give you precise time information (elapsed / remaining) and further details, which usually are displayed in the software. This keeps you focussed on the controller and in the mix.
In addition to manipulating digital music with jogwheels, DJ controllers can also be expected to feature either 4 or 8 midi performance pads. These are typically pre-mapped to operate various functions in the DJ software such as hot cues, samples, or loops, and can often be re-mapped for other controls according to a DJ’s preference. Higher grade DJ controllers may feature performance pads that are velocity sensitive or backlit with multicolor LEDs.
The capability to manipulate the playback speed of music has always been a requirement for mixing tracks together with different tempos (measured in beats per minute, or BPM). As such, the Tempo Fader is a key component of almost all DJ gear and DJ controllers are no exception. When in the default position, a track will play at it’s regular tempo however, sliding the tempo fader up or down will slow down or speed up the music respectively, by a percentage defined by the user. A typical value for regular mixing is 8 or 10% however, DJ controllers paired with their corresponding software are often capable of much wider ranges such as 25, 50 or even 75%. This makes it possible to mix tracks together with very different tempos.
Dj Pro AI and Serato´s integration with streaming services such as Tidal, Soundcloud Go+, Beatport Link and Beatsorce Link give you access to millions of tracks for instant mixing, cutting and scratching.
With so many controllers on the market, there are a number of things to consider before choosing the right device for your needs.
Through these questions you may find the right controller from our product range:
Reloop Ready - Portable Performance Controller For Serato (Introduction)
Reloop Ready feat. DJ Delta (Performance)
Reloop Buddy Compact 2-Deck djay Controller for all platforms feat. DJ Carlo Atendido (Performance)
Reloop Beatpad 2 DJ Controller - Cross Platform Device - iOS, Android For DJAY 2 (Introduction)
Reloop Beatpad 2 DJ Controller - World Class Finger Drummer Carl Rag Highly Impressive (Routine)
Reloop Beatmix 4 Trailer
Reloop Mixtour DJ Controller - Sleek And Powerful Allrounder for Djay iOS/Android (Introduction)
Reloop Mixtour DJ Controller - Incredible iPad Scratch Routine By DJ Fong Fong (Routine)
Reloop Neon Add-On DJ Controller - Serato DJ Performance Drum Pad Modular Controller (Introduction)
Reloop Neon Add-On DJ Controller - Breathtaking Turntablism Performance By JFB (Routine)
Reloop Mixon 4 DJ Controller - Hybrid Performance Controller For Serato & Algoriddim (Introduction)
Reloop Mixon 4 DJ Controller - How To Perform Amazingly With This DJ-Equipment (Chris Karns Routine)
Here you will find useful information about DJing. We share our knowledge with you, keeping this area updated regularly with new content.
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