CDJ or Controller? What's your take?
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  1. #1
    Tech Wizard DJ Altercation's Avatar
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    Default CDJ or Controller? What's your take?

    I started DJing about a year and a half ago. I am now getting more serious about it and I am looking to upgrade my equipment. I am currently using a Numark Mixtrack mapped to Traktor Pro 2. For the gigs i've done, this has gotten the job done perfectly. I love it. However, it was good to start. It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that i'm looking for. I am looking to upgrade to a Pioneer controller.

    Now I see a lot of professional level DJs using CDJs instead of controllers. I have read that controllers are considered 'bedroom equipment' and CDJs are considered 'pro equipment'.

    Is it personal preference? Am I going to be looked at as a less skilled DJ because I use a controller over CDJs?

    I will always be using my laptop. I feel more comfortable with a controller than a CDJ anyway.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    Tech Guru keeb's Avatar
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    First off I'd suggest a search - there are quite a few threads on this topic.

    That said, here's my take:

    Most pro DJs have been at this for years. Many of said DJs have been doing this longer than Traktor/etc. have been around, so they're used to CDJs and stick to what they're used to. Aside from that, the higher end get to specify riders; they get to tell venues what equipment to have for them, so if they want a DJM 2000 and 4 CDJ 2000s they get it. However, you're not getting your own rider any time soon.

    Unfortunately, having a controller is often the mark of a newer/younger DJ, because the older ones will tend to be on CDJs (not strictly true, but it's the stereotype). Controller setups are cheaper, so they tend to be the entry-level option, which furthers this stereotype. The clubs I've been to in my area have all had DJs playing there using a variety of controllers and/or CDJs/TTs. I haven't heard of controllers being much of an issue in my area, though it does feel like a slight bias against them exists. Realistically I don't think using a controller would prevent you from getting many gigs in Boston/Rhode Island, but I couldn't really tell you about PA as I've not been.

    CDJs have practical advantages; most clubs will have a pair of CDJs and a mixer so if you're comfortable mixing on those, you don't have to hook anything up when you show up to your gig; a controller setup means connecting a soundcard which can be a pain for changeovers. Convenience doesn't sound like much in the context of a bedroom, but if you can avoid having to plug into the back of the mixer (not always the easiest thing to access) in the middle of someone else's set - that's kind of a big deal. Long-run I plan on investing in CDJs and I've done the whole controller thing for years.

    Real talk though: From a financial/business perspective, if you're not gigging out often enough to make a return, then this is kind of irrelevant. Buying CDJs will not make you a pro in and of itself and probably won't make the difference you're expecting them to. They do promote better habits as far as encouraging proper beatmatching instead of syncing as well as arguably more careful music management, but they won't make the difference in workflow and sound that something like a mixer will. If you just want the most enjoyable setup that will potentially last you the longest, CDJs could be a solid option. They're really expensive though, so if you're not prepared to drop around 4k for a pair of nice CDJs and a mixer to go with them you might rethink the idea. If you don't think you'll make that amount of money back by getting more gigs because you use CDJs, you're spending 4 grand on a hobby; just make sure you realize that. If money's more of a concern, I'd suggest grabbing a mixer and two technics 1200s. I grabbed my techs for 300 apiece and honestly, they're as fun or to mix on with Traktor Scratch as with 2 CDJs. This left me enough money within my budget to get a DJM 900 nexus (which honestly is excessive for my use; I didn't say I practice what I preach, but I enjoy it).

    Side note: The next time I wanted to upgrade I grabbed an RMX-1000 which, next to Traktor, has been my single best DJ-related investment as far as the improvement in my sound goes. It's not perfect, but it fits my workflow beautifully and is a hell of a lot of fun.

  3. #3
    Tech Wizard DJ Altercation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keeb View Post
    First off I'd suggest a search - there are quite a few threads on this topic.

    That said, here's my take:

    Most pro DJs have been at this for years. Many of said DJs have been doing this longer than Traktor/etc. have been around, so they're used to CDJs and stick to what they're used to. Aside from that, the higher end get to specify riders; they get to tell venues what equipment to have for them, so if they want a DJM 2000 and 4 CDJ 2000s they get it. However, you're not getting your own rider any time soon.

    Unfortunately, having a controller is often the mark of a newer/younger DJ, because the older ones will tend to be on CDJs (not strictly true, but it's the stereotype). Controller setups are cheaper, so they tend to be the entry-level option, which furthers this stereotype. The clubs I've been to in my area have all had DJs playing there using a variety of controllers and/or CDJs/TTs. I haven't heard of controllers being much of an issue in my area, though it does feel like a slight bias against them exists. Realistically I don't think using a controller would prevent you from getting many gigs in Boston/Rhode Island, but I couldn't really tell you about PA as I've not been.

    CDJs have practical advantages; most clubs will have a pair of CDJs and a mixer so if you're comfortable mixing on those, you don't have to hook anything up when you show up to your gig; a controller setup means connecting a soundcard which can be a pain for changeovers. Convenience doesn't sound like much in the context of a bedroom, but if you can avoid having to plug into the back of the mixer (not always the easiest thing to access) in the middle of someone else's set - that's kind of a big deal. Long-run I plan on investing in CDJs and I've done the whole controller thing for years.

    Real talk though: From a financial/business perspective, if you're not gigging out often enough to make a return, then this is kind of irrelevant. Buying CDJs will not make you a pro in and of itself and probably won't make the difference you're expecting them to. They do promote better habits as far as encouraging proper beatmatching instead of syncing as well as arguably more careful music management, but they won't make the difference in workflow and sound that something like a mixer will. If you just want the most enjoyable setup that will potentially last you the longest, CDJs could be a solid option. They're really expensive though, so if you're not prepared to drop around 4k for a pair of nice CDJs and a mixer to go with them you might rethink the idea. If you don't think you'll make that amount of money back by getting more gigs because you use CDJs, you're spending 4 grand on a hobby; just make sure you realize that. If money's more of a concern, I'd suggest grabbing a mixer and two technics 1200s. I grabbed my techs for 300 apiece and honestly, they're as fun or to mix on with Traktor Scratch as with 2 CDJs. This left me enough money within my budget to get a DJM 900 nexus (which honestly is excessive for my use; I didn't say I practice what I preach, but I enjoy it).

    Side note: The next time I wanted to upgrade I grabbed an RMX-1000 which, next to Traktor, has been my single best DJ-related investment as far as the improvement in my sound goes. It's not perfect, but it fits my workflow beautifully and is a hell of a lot of fun.

    Thanks for your input on the subject I really appreciate it. I'm going to take a look into that.

  4. #4
    Tech Guru jprime's Avatar
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    I don't like how easy CDs scratch. I think I've heard more CDJ skip fails than I have scratchy records, lol. Maybe people feel a bit more anal about keeping records nice than CDs which can be re-burnt.

    I'll take a controller over CDJs any day, but keeb ^^ pretty much covered my sentiments from the business perspective. 1200s ftw.

  5. #5
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    I think controllers will replace CDJ's
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jprime View Post
    I don't like how easy CDs scratch. I think I've heard more CDJ skip fails than I have scratchy records, lol. Maybe people feel a bit more anal about keeping records nice than CDs which can be re-burnt.

    I'll take a controller over CDJs any day, but keeb ^^ pretty much covered my sentiments from the business perspective. 1200s ftw.
    Can't imagine many cdj's actually play a CD nowadays. My cdj350's certainly only saw a CD once in the year I had them.

    I have debated the controller / cdj thing quite extensively recently. I have been spinning for 15 years, but had a 8 year break and only got back into it recently. Bought the 350's as I was sure I had no respect for controllers. Have since sold them though, and did consider getting a good controller. BUT, I really wanted a real mixer. Can't be doing with some fiddly plastic nonsense. So bought a db4.

    Now, what do I replace the cdj's with? Clearly a pair of cdj 2000 nexus'. The mixer deserves nothing less.

    Plus, despite this purely being a hobby as I have never played out, if I ever got a shot at it, I'd bet my db4 that I'd see a pair of 2000's wherever I was.

    Cdj's promote the need to be able to beatmatch. Controllers don't. And be cause of that, if you can play on them, you can probably play on most set-ups except pure vinyl. A skill all the best dj's should have at a minimum.
    Last edited by xs2man; 11-23-2012 at 05:20 PM.
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  7. #7
    Tech Guru jprime's Avatar
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    Fair enough, those 2000 nexus units look pretty ace.

  8. #8
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    My take on it is that if I were playing in clubs, I'd be using their CDJs (and turntables if they had them). I wouldn't bring anything of my own except monitoring (headphones or IEMs) and music (USB keys, backup CD wallet, and vinyl +cartridges if they had tables). And I'd have a recorded set on my phone with proper cables as a backup to their equipment. Miming a set is a really bad Plan-A, but it's better than shutting down if all their equipment is broken.

    At home, CDJs don't make sense to me unless you're rolling in cash. Each CDJ-2000 costs as much as a well-loaded Macbook Pro or Air. The 3 CDJ-2000s I'd want cost as much as my next two computers, the high-end audio interface I've got a hard-on for, and an Apple Cinema display. That's right, I said "and".

    They're the only things that do exactly what they do, but to me, they're just not worth the price that Pioneer is charging for them. I won't fault people for buying them. I just don't understand it right now.

    That being said, I also started on vinyl and still spin it whenever I can. And the way my room is setup right now, I can't see my computer screen while I'm mixing, so technically my controller has fewer visual aids and less visual feedback than a CDJ would.
    Last edited by mostapha; 11-24-2012 at 02:48 AM.

  9. #9
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
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    All the new CDJ's are just controllers with a CD player thrown in for sentimental reasons.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by xs2man View Post
    Cdj's promote the need to be able to beatmatch. Controllers don't. And be cause of that, if you can play on them, you can probably play on most set-ups except pure vinyl. A skill all the best dj's should have at a minimum.
    But since the new CDJ 2000's have a "SYNC" button arent you contradicting yourself there??
    Last edited by soundinsurgent712; 11-24-2012 at 09:03 PM. Reason: thinking faster then I can type, lol!

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