Before dropping your hard earned cash on a DJ deck that won’t serve its purpose, it is vital to be informed on what features are important, what can be skipped, and most importantly, what you need for your skill level. First, understand that decks come in all shapes and forms. Some are cheap and others expensive, some come in low and others high quality making it extremely hard for a novice to choose from the crowd. The most essential element of a beginner DJ’s career is a deck.
DJ decks have advanced far from the old school turntables DJs used to utilize, to electronic modern controllers. Understand that you can only take an educated approach to choose the most appropriate mixer by understanding the important features to look for in a DJ deck.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ=SB2 is a 2-channel super compact 4-deck controller that has trim knobs with 3 band EQ on either channel. It boasts popular features building on the layout of the original DDJ-SB and comes with a dedicated filter; pads transform FX and filter fade crossfader setting.
The controller has been upgraded with 4-deck control and comes with dedicated buttons for switching between channels easily. Compared to other models ranging from $ 1,000 and above, Pioneer DDJ-SB2 has fair pricing and can be classified as a budget model.
This is perhaps one of the best entry-level Serato controllers. Unlike most other mixers, DJ DDJ-SB comes packed with professional features including browse knobs, a pan Trans effect button, level meters, trim pots, and a dedicated filter. It also has switchable four-deck controls, trim pots, and level meters. This is certainly the controller to beat within the sub $250 range.
The mixer ships with a USB cable, meaning you will not need to get a power brick. In the back is a USB socket, headphone jacks ranging from ¼ to 1/8, master output’s RCA jacks, and a ¼ mic in the jack. TraktorKontrol S8 is a beast on its own, from its size to its performance. The problem is that it’s heavy and not portable like its counterpart the Pioneer DDJ-SB2, which is way lighter and mobile for any serious DJ.
The biggest problem with carrying large controllers to gigs is that they are too heavy and hard to set at the venue. DDJ-SZ and DDJ-SX2 are also oversized and heavy. In the Pioneer DDJ-SB2, all the features of the original version are present including the switchable four pads bank, the auto loop, manual loop, the Serato SP-6 Sampler, and control hot cues.
Although this controller has gained a lot of support from the DJing industry, it doesn’t come without challenges. The negativity about it is that it does not come with software. The Serato software is available for trials but is not included in the bundle. It is also one of the most expensive mixers. The device is all inclusive making it hard to repair or find a replacement.
In recent years, Gemini has been known to positively redefine its place in the market, and one of the good changes has been the Slate 4. It is a portable software controller and audio interface used for playbacks in certain applications including clubs, DJ setups, bar installations, among others. It is built with tools such as key-lock, advanced effect controls, and pitch fader.
In terms of price, Slate 4 is a budget model and happens to be one of the smallest and cheapest Serato DJ controllers. Perhaps the best part about it is that it is not just easily portable, but highly responsive too.
The Slate 4 is a controller to beat, bearing 8 multi-color pads and every deck control features an included sampler, hot cues, and the fly auto loops. It gives the user access to the filter controls and the equalizer.
This model comes with special features not too common for its price range such as the sampler, hot cues, and the fly auto loops.
Compared to other items, Slate 4 is thin (25mm) and light making it easy for the serious DJ to travel almost anywhere with it. It also has pre-mapped FX controls for instantaneous results.
This Numark DJ deck is an incredible and perfect console for an entry-level DJ. It comes packed with a multi-function backlit performance pad, unique touch strip X control, and dedicated channel filters.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is perhaps one of the cheapest mixers you will get. The good thing about it is that it comes loaded with a host of features that puts it on the bar above traditional controllers.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 gives you real power in your performance with 100mm pitch sliders making it easy to play the fines pitch adjustments.
Most of the other decks give 60mm pitch sliders which are completely incomparable to the performance the Mixtrack Pro 3 gives.
It also comes with 16 multi-function performance pads that leave no limits on your creativity. In each channel are multi-function touch strips for dynamic FX control.
This is an entry-level controller that comes with a free Serato DJ lite. It gives DJs the features and the layout of a full-size professional mixer in a portable unit. It gives extemporary flexibility to remix and give great beats while creating in the studio or when performing live.
Unlike other mixers in its price range, this budget model comes with dedicated pad controls, mic input with professional vocal FX, large low-latency platters, onboard sequencer, and DJ-202 packs.
It preserves the concept of the flagship DJ-505 and DJ-808 but packs the most features of any other controller in its class. It is also lightweight, compact, and rugged for optimal portability.
Whether it's steppy synths or bass-heavy breakdowns, the TraktorKontrol S2 has all that is needed for high-level mixing. It is the essential console for beginners and professional DJs alike.
The MK2 pairs with Traktor DJ for both iPhone and iPad. Compared to other models in its class, it can be classified as a budget model. A key feature that this deck comes with is improved fader reliability.
The MC4000 has a perfect combination of features for the beginner and for the professional DJ. It features a sleek new design and appearance continuing the Denon DJ’s reputation for dependability and unrivaled sound quality. Its price range compared to other consoles of its class can be classified as budget friendly. The good thing about this mixer is that it comes with audio manipulation tools in high-class steel chassis for durability.
The MC4000 is truly one of a kind, given that it comes with additional access to dedicated hot cue and sample pads for better creativity. This is an added advantage on top of its precision touch-activated jog wheels. Unlike most others, this one has long-throw 100mm pitch faders alongside an intuitive control layout to allow for better balancing in complex set elements.
This is an easy to use DJ controller that is not short of all the best mixer features a DJ needs to comfortably perfect their skills. It mirrors that of its flagship the NXS2 and comes with shared elements such as the Beat FX, cue buttons, and CDJ-style looping controls.
Its advanced gears feel natural when using the console. CDJ-400 is a budget model that comes bundled with professional DJ software. Its tutorial features are great for helping a DJ master their creative capabilities.
First, this pocket-friendly model has a built-in sound card and includes a Rekordbox DJ software license. A DJ using this mixer will also be able to have enhanced sound color FX mixes. It connects straight to the speakers or the amplifier with the help of a single USB cable. This means the DJ is able to record sets to the rekordbox using the USB connection.
This is a highly integrated 4-deck console that comes with a built-in 4-channel USB interface for your audio. It comes with all the tools needed to learn the basics of mixing.
It is a budget controller that contains the same features you will find in the larger and more expensive versions. Not only does the 4A include these features, but also improves them.
Most models tend to have pitch faders that don't necessarily feel right. However, the Studio 4A broke out 100mm faders for its pitch controls.
60mm channel faders are also known to translate into better and smoother mixes so these were also added in the console.
Most other decks fall short when it comes to the platter size. The Studio 4A has 6” touch sensitive platters for better sizing and performance.
The Studio 4A has many features that are great, but there are also some that are not exactly up to par. One common complaint is that although you have the freedom to select at least 8 cues, you have to select the delete button every time you want to delete a hot cue which can be a hassle. It is also not USB powered, meaning it has to be powered by an included DC power supply. It cannot be used as a standalone mixer.
This is an entry-level console suitable for casual users and house parties. It is a powerful controller in a very small package and is all that is needed to learn the basic fundamentals of DJing. This full-featured deck allows you to mix and remix with ease. The Instinct P8 is a budget model, making it a popular choice amongst beginner and professional DJs alike.
This controller, unlike most others in its class, has two channel faders, load buttons, a push-button browser dial, cue, two channel faders, play buttons, and sync features. It also comes loaded with a multi-colored LED backlit performance section. Within it are also cue points, loop triggers, and loop lengths.
Numark has set the pace as the world’s leading DJ equipment innovator for a long time. Numark now presents the Mixtrack Platinum that enhances the performance of DJs from the amateurs to the advanced professionals. This budget model comes with top of the class features.
Mixtrack Platinum has a host of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd. It has a built-in custom LCD display screen in every 5” capacitive jog wheel, gain and filter controllers, 24-bit audio output, and 4-channel mixing capabilities. The custom 1.75” displays take you to a whole new level, with its colorful high-resolution display that allows you to monitor details on platter position.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of mixers is their ability to recall mixes and save them. By now, you should have a pretty good idea on what to look out for when considering a mixer, depending on your immediate need. In the most basic terms, your need for the mixer should guide your budget, to ensure you buy something that serves the purpose and not just a low-price-carries-the-day oriented project.