DJ MIDI Controllers - MIDI Controllers for DJs

Starting with this post, I am going take certain key areas and talk in great length about what is available for that area. I am going to start with what is closest to me - MIDI Controllers for DJs or DJ MIDI controllers. (and that is the mammoth Xone 4D under UV lights in the picture)

Now DJs are a specialised bunch of performers and they have specific needs from their MIDI Controllers. The main requirements are - realiability, sturdy-ness and ease of use in a dark environment of a Dj booth.

Now of course, when it comes to MIDI Controllers, the software being used is also important. For DJs using controllers, the software is usually Traktor or Ableton Live. There are some who use Virtual DJ, MixVibes and MixMeister, but most DJs use the first two softwares. Those who use timecode, go for Serato. But with Itch, even serato has gone into MIDI Controller territory. More on that as we move along.

Here, we come to a divide. Live and Traktor are two completely different beasts and have completely different approaches to the idea of live performace. Live is more of a 'make music on the fly' type software where you can really play around with music. Traktor represents the traditional approach to DJ-ing - 2-4 decks and a mixer and fx sections.

So, let's just talk about the traditional approach and I will handle Live in a separate post altogether.

For Traktor, Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, etc. we need a MIDI Controller that emulates at least two decks - complete with transport controls (play/pause, cue buttons), pitch faders, etc. And we can choose between using an external mixer or we can use the virtual mixer within the software. Now there are pros and cons of doing either. So let's talk about them.

Going for an external Mixer is usually a good idea, but not if you are low on space in your booth. Sometimes, going for the software mixer is a good idea because you save space by mixing out of one single device (or two, if you are using an external sound card or audio interface). But when it comes to certain techniques, you are best off with a hardware mixer and that would obviously include scratching. Now I am not saying that you can't scratch with just MIDI controllers (heck, I scratch on my BCD3000 sometimes) but for finer controls and complex techniques, you are better off with a hi-res controller and a hardware mixer with a good quaity audio interface.

Going mixer-less will also free up controls on your MIDI controller, which you can then assign to other things, like assign chanel EQ controls to the FX section or the up-faders to some other parameter (get creative with this one!).

Going mixerless is a good idea for mobile DJs and DJs who travel a lot. With a good controller and audio interface, a club Dj can easily play gigs with just 3 items (laptop, controller, sound card/audio interface). It is easier to carry, less items to check at airports and many more. It might be limiting at times, but you can always add small secondary/auxiliary controllers to your set up to give you more freedom. I will write a separate post on that one. So don't worry, I am here to share right ideas with you. Just keep on coming back.

Anyway, so now that you now what you are going to do, you can choose between a MDI Controller with no soundcard or one with built-in soundcard. For controllers with built in sound, you go for the following: -


  • Behringer B-Control DeeJay BCD3000

    - a cheaper option, but sould last you for some time, given the price. Decent for beginners, casual and semi-prfessional djs.

  • Numark OMNI CONTROL DJ Control Surface

    - Good built quality, quite sturdy, metal casing.

  • M-Audio Torq Xponent

    - One of the first controllers to have a touch sensitive feature. It is tied with the Torq software, although it can be hacked into working with other softwares. You just need to find out the correct MIDI outputs to make the LEDs work.

  • Hercules DJ Console Rmx Controller

    - Hercules were the makers of one of the first MIDI Controllers for DJs. This one is their second generation offering.

  • Stanton SCS.1m Digital Mix Controller

    - Stanton's offering for professional DJs, the high quality SC System combo (SCS.3D notwithstanding). This one emulates a 4 channel mixer, with assignable controls. It features a hi quality firewire audio interface.

  • Numark NS7 DJ Turntable Controller with Serato ITCH Software

    - This gigantic Controller features twin spinning platter decks, integrated full fledged mixer section and builtin audio I/O's. It is a dedicated, Hi-res MIDI controller for Serato's Itch software.

  • Denon DN-S3700

    and DN s3700 - These are actually DJ table top players with MIDI capabilites. They also act as sound cards and have spinning platters. Pretty cool (and expensive to a point).
  • Allen & Heath Xone 4D - If you've ever felt like robbing a bank, you will feel like it now for sure. This is the big daddy, the overkill of a controller. It features the sound quality of Allen & Heath mixers and is as expensive as lemurs (okay, bit less than the Lemur).
  • EKS Otus - Touch sensitive Dj deck style controller. Do have a loot at it. Very futuristic.
If you are looking for controllers without built-in sound , you are options are many: -

  • Numark MixMeister Control

    dedicated controllers - The Dedicated Controller for the Mixmeister software.

  • Numark Total Computer DJ In A Box

    - Not the sharpest tool in the shade.

  • Numark STEALTH CONTROL

    - The soundcard-less version of the Omni controller.

  • Vestax VCI-100

    - Both are ruling the roost of digital DJs using controllers. Especially the VCI-100. The 300 is a Hi-res MIDI Controller tied to Serato's Itch software. The VCI-100 also has a special MixVibes Edition and an SE (Special Edition).

  • Vestax VCM-100

    and
    Vestax VCM-600

    - The 600 looks like it is meant for controlling Live. VCM100 on the other hand is a perfect space saving controller and perfect for mobile DJs. It also comes with a rack (optional of course) for mounting your laptop.

  • M-Audio X-Session Pro

    , this is just the controls that emulate a mixer. Very basic and very popular.

  • Stanton SCS.1d Control System Deck

    - This is really the next level by now. It is a highly sophisticated MIDI controller with an adjustable torque spinning platter, with the lowest spin up time in the market (adjustable, as mentioned) and assignable controllers. My only per peeve is that they left out a soundcard to makes us buy the SCS.1m. But obviously, most will go for an audio interface coupled with a hardware mixer.
I could actually go on and on with DJ MIDI controllers, there are so many of them around. But i have to stop somewhere ( to eat, sleep, etc.). So I will stop here. For more information, drop me a line via the comments area and I will reply, either with a full post or a comment.

And remember to subscribe for your daily updates on MIDI Controllers! Available in two exciting flavors - Atom and RSS! :)

So till next time, keep on controlling! (is that better?) :P

  1. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - June 14, 2009 at 5:46 AM

    YOU DA MAN

  2. gravatar

    # by Shailpik - June 14, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    err... thanks mr.anon! Woudda been nice if you had left your name :)

  3. gravatar

    # by Vilhelm - July 12, 2009 at 6:44 AM

    so if I´ve understood this right you need to buy an extra soundcard if you buy a midi controller with no built in soundcard? have you got any advice for one of those? I´m using a laptop, macbook pro.
    GREAT POST btw. :D

  4. gravatar

    # by Shailpik - July 12, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    Hey Vilhelm, welcome to the Control MIDI blog!

    Yes, if you want to have proper quality audio, you should have a decent audio interface/soundcard attached to your system.

    I use a Mac too, but a white MacBook :) Nice to have another mac user around.

    I can recommend the apogee duet if you want to do your own recording plus other things.

    If you want to save money - you can go for presonus firewire boxes.

    If you have the newer macbookpro, you might need an adapter for turning the firewire 800 to fire 400.

    If you are going to use USB 2.0, make sure you have a proper USB 2.0 cable.

    Let me know if there's something more I can help you with. May be I should make a post on portable audio interfaces. hmmm...

  5. gravatar

    # by Vilhelm - July 15, 2009 at 3:41 AM

    thanks for the help!
    I totally think you should make a post on portable audio interfaces, there is way too little information about that on the internet.
    I´ve subscribed to this blog :)
    /Vilhelm

  6. gravatar

    # by Shailpik - July 15, 2009 at 3:55 AM

    Hey Vilhelm,

    Nice to have you back here. Thanks for subscribing :)

    Well then, it looks like I really should make a post about it. With my current workload, I think I will have a proper post ready within a week's time. See you then!

    regards,

    Shailpik

  7. gravatar

    # by Vilhelm - July 16, 2009 at 12:03 AM

    Looking forward to it!

  8. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - December 23, 2009 at 3:20 PM

    Nice Article!

    I'm a beginner DJ and I am thinking about forking out the cash for the Stanton SCS.1d. But I don't feel like spending another $700 CAD for the stanton mixer (SCS.1m). What mixer would you recommend? I'm most familiar with Traktor. (I've been fooling around with DJ programs for the past 2 years with a mouse and keyboard...thought it's time to upgrade :P)

    Regards,
    Ryan

  9. gravatar

    # by Shailpik - December 29, 2009 at 12:52 AM

    See, the problem with comparing the SCS.1m with normal Dj mixers is that it is a more a MIDI controller with an in-built soundcard than an actual audio mixer. So if you want something that has similar functonality, all I can think of is the XONE stuff from A&H (but those are way too expensive). You CAN make your controller and soundcard separate.That way you will be saving some money. I would've said that m-audio x-session is great but I'm not sure if they are making those anymore. You try the faderfox models. Hope that solves your dilemma a bit. Do let me know if you have more questions.

  10. gravatar

    # by Anonymous - January 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Hey thanks for the post. I was doing some searches and found this to be very informative and helpful. Keep dong your thing and know it's greatly appeciated.

  11. gravatar

    # by Shailpik - January 15, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    Happy to help :) Do post back if you need more help.