Digital DJing has become the standard form of disk jockeying for the past decade. Technologies used in this niche vary. Some DJs prefer the classic CD format while others use DJ controllers. This article will review some of the DJ mixing decks for beginners, giving some useful recommendations for both solutions.
Where are the main differences?
CDJs and a mixer is the DJ setup consisting of 2-4 separate decks and a mixer. CDJs can work both - on standalone mode, meaning no third party gear is needed, as well as MIDI controllers when being paired with the PC. They are capable to playback most of digital audio formats from your CDs or USB stick. (See featured image above).
A DJ controller is basically an all-around device, where sound card, mixing section and deck controls are integrated in the same chassis. In order to function, DJ controllers must be paired with the compatible DJing software in your computer.
How to select your option?
Consider the price range. Ask yourself how much you are able to spend for your mixing deck. The thing to keep in mind is that CDJs and mixer combined will most likely be more expensive compared to the similar level DJ controller.
Compare the functions. The most crucial faders, knobs, sliders and effects will be on both solutions. The main difference is that DJ controllers will be more flexible as they are specifically designed for particular DJ software, giving advantages you can't get on CDJ equipment.
Check the software compatibility. Decide which software would be most appropriate for you and see if it is supported by the controlling device. Same goes for CDJs, if you choose to connect them to your computer as MIDI controllers.
CDJs and Mixers
1. CDJ-200s and DJM-250. CDJs support multi-format playback with Auto Beat Loop function and Auto BPM LOCK. 2-Channel mixer includes dedicated Sound Color filter, 8 flexible inputs for external devices and a 3-band Isolator on each channel.
2. DJ DN-S700s and DJ DN-X120. CDJs support CD TEXT / ID3 Tags, Auto/Manual BPM as well as Hot Start / Seamless Looping modes. 2-Channel entry level DJ mixer does all the basic functions with Three-Band EQ, Cross-fader and Channel faders.
3. Gemini CDJ250 and Gemini PS2. CDJs come with extra-large jog wheels, large blue backlit LCD display, and three selectable jog modes. 2-Channel mixer supports rotary EQ with Gain control, Rotary Cue knob for cue preview and Rail Glide cross fader.
1. Numark Mixtrack 2. Excellent entry level digital DJ controller with low-profile touch-sensitive control wheels, 16 backlight rubber Drum pads, Loop, Sample, Hot Cue modes and dedicated FX and EQ controls for fine-tuning your mix.
2. Pioneer DDJ-SB. Compact performance DJ controller, that includes Serato DJ software as a bonus. Controller itself features 4 illuminated Performance pads per deck for Hot Cue, Auto Loop, Manual Loop, Sampler, Sync & Shift functions.
3. NI’s Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2. Quality DJ controller with silicone-damped jog wheels and aluminum top plates for high-resolution cueing and scratching, highly-intuitive 2+1 channel DJ performance system and flagship Traktor Pro 2 software as a bonus.
Final thoughts towards the choice
Although the choice of mixing deck will always be subjective at individual level, based on personal preferences and beliefs, we would suggest to start with DJ controllers. They are much easier to learn, as the layout is clean and easy to understand.
CDJs and a mixer would be much more appropriate solution for more experienced DJs. Working on standalone mode will definitely require some previous knowledge and practical skills in scratching, cueing, pitching and beat-matching.