Explain It Like I'm Five - DJ Controllers
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  1. #1
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    Default Explain It Like I'm Five - DJ Controllers

    I get the concept in general (I think), but I'm not 100% clear on how it all comes together. Perhaps the best way to approach it is to present where I am at currently, and why I am asking. I tried to read all of the relevant stickies, but my bad if I overlooked something.

    I have been spinning about 2.5 years using Tech 1200s, Rane TTM-56, and Scratch Live. I spin mostly oldschool/underground hip hop and funk/soul, with some 80s, rock, and electronic mixed in there as well. Almost all of my music is digital. I am mostly a bedroom DJ, but I do some house parties and whatnot, and would like to branch off into some clubs/bars in the coming year (although for a club/bar gig, I would most likely be looking to bring my Techs, so not really relevant to this thread).

    I would sooner give up my left testicle than my Techs/Rane, but being home for the winter break I can't ignore how awesome it would be if I could just pack up single piece of gear and be able to spin at some friends' house parties while I am back in town and don't have my full setup.

    So basically, I would like to get something that would allow me to mix without using my Techs, but I am not looking for it to be my primary or preferred setup. I am more just looking for something that can be quick and easy and readily transportable, and concede that it may not be as flexible/responsive as my current setup. In other words, I don't have the desire or willingness to spend to make it THAT flexible of a setup; I would much prefer my Techs, but I just want it as something I can fall back on when I am flying home and can't pack my Techs, or space is too limited, etc etc

    The need for employing an external mixer would be fine with me, since mixers are relatively easy to transport, and I already have solid mixers in both my temporary and permanent zip codes.

    I would also like something that I can easily integrate with Scratch Live, as I have spent countless hours getting my library organized in a way that I like.

    I would like to keep it under $200 max, and I would also prefer to build it myself for the DIY aspect and nostalgia, assuming it is not overly complicated.

    That said, here are my current questions:

    1) Could somebody link me up to a thorough explanation of how DJ controllers work and the nuances between different configurations?

    2) Is it possible to build a basic DJ controller that can do what I am asking? Since I like to spin a lot of hip hop which uses scratching, and funk/soul that has live drummers, it seems like I would want my controller to have some sort of jog wheel, but I haven't seen any DIY builds that included a jog wheel. Can the need for a jog wheel be replaced by good planning ahead of time (making sure tracks are beatgridded properly, etc)? Is my understanding of the jog wheel's uses off-base?

    3) If a DIY controller is not an alternative, what models would match my needs in the sub-$200 range? I am open to buying used.

    4) Is there a DIY build or OEM controller that could serve both the purpose previously mentioned, but also compliment my Technics setup similar to the way the Dicer does?

    Thanks in advance for responses!
    Last edited by Redcon1; 12-27-2011 at 02:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    Under 200 I'd say go for a Numark mix track pro with itch intro (you can use your existing Live Crates) for simplicity's sake, i'd be saying go with something like that, if you REALLY need to use your serato crates it'd seem the way to go without converting them all to Traktors format.

    I can't really think of another Sub $200 controller that will give you that flexibility.

    It'll give you everything you need pretty much plug and play sound card, touch sensitive jogs etc ... included, no need to bring out your live box either.

    AND its pre-mapped ... no need to start customizing stuffs.

    If you want to go the trakor route you can use the Live>Traktor import tool to convert your grids/ cues/ loops etc. and take your pick on controllers, it'd just be a pain doing that all the time.

    Maybe look at EKS XP-5's, they would basically operate like 2x turntables each side of a Mixer and seen them go second hand really cheap on ebay... I like the idea of individual "decks" each side of a mixer, some people want all-in-one.

    Most Midi controllers could be used to compliment your setup, the two I mentioned above can be and the EKS can be mapped to Live (once you use your own Live Box)

    DIY for 200 bucks and usable jog wheels .. umm not really worth it IMHO.
    Last edited by deevey; 12-27-2011 at 02:50 PM.

  3. #3
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    I like the idea of individual decks with a dedicated mixer as well, as it would allow me to use my TTM-56, which means I could do some scratching and I would expect sound quality to be better coming out of the Rane rather than the Numark Mixtrack.

    However, the XP-5 looked extremely plasticy to me, and it could be nice having everything in one piece of equipment without the need for an external mixer as it is with the Numark. I understand I can't get the highest quality with a $200 budget, but at the same time I refuse to buy crap. How does the construction of the XP-5 compare to the Numark Mixtrack? What would be the "next step up" from the XP-5 if I wanted a similar two-controller setup with a bit better construction?

    Also, like I said, I am really new to controllers. Do I really need a jog wheel? What purposes does the jog wheel serve? My understanding is that it could be used to nudge a track into alignment, could be used for some light scratching, and could be used to scroll through tracks and whatnot. Am I correct in this understanding? Is there anything I am missing?
    Last edited by Redcon1; 12-27-2011 at 03:43 PM.

  4. #4
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    For a small party the sound quality is going to be negligible. I take my VCI-300 to small parties and I DJ just the same with it, as if I were on my turntables or CDJ's. The work flow is the same in Itch and SSL, and the jog response on the 300 is great for scratching. however a used one will run you 300-400 bucks. If you want to use your 56 with your SSL box, you can get an X1 if you don't want jogs. Me personally I prefer jog wheels, just feels natural. You could try to find a single jog wheel controller and play one deck at time doing instant doubles. There's nothing really to explain. Your 1200's using timecode are essentially a controller. The XP-5 would be doing the same only on a smaller scale. If I only had 200 bucks and just wanted to play some small jam sessions at friends house the Mixtrack and Serato Intro would be my first option as well, or the Vestax Typhoon/Spin I think also works with Intro. It's a little limited, but for a small party, you get the same workflow that you are used to with SSL along with a handful of effects.
    SSL - DJM 800 - Technic 1200's - X1 - ITCH - NS6 - VCI-300

  5. #5
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    Do I really need a jog wheel? What purposes does the jog wheel serve? My understanding is that it could be used to nudge a track into alignment, could be used for some light scratching, and could be used to scroll through tracks and whatnot. Am I correct in this understanding? Is there anything I am missing?
    you don't NEED a jogwheel, except to scratch. Take the Kontrol X1 controller for example: it has pitchbend buttons and I have mine configured so I can control independent deck BPMs. I don't scratch though..
    Hardware: Akai Max49, Maschine, Equator D5 monitors, Saffire Pro 14
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  6. #6
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Get an NI X1 and run Serato in internal mode (no relative/absolute). You lose the flexibility of timecode/jogs but you can still run full serato instead of intro. You'll need to carry your serato box along with mixer. It will be frustrating though if you don't like mixing with push buttons. You'd have a lot more flexibility if you're willing to go the Traktor route; there just aren't that many all in one itch controllers, and you can't just use a M-Audio X-Sessions Pro (cheap and reliable MIDI mixer) to control Itch. But if you're cool with lugging an external mixer I'd say an X-1 or the like is the way to go. You could even get the Denon controller that is made for Serato but I think the X1 is better and cheaper.
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the replies everyone

    Quote Originally Posted by djproben View Post
    Get an NI X1 and run Serato in internal mode (no relative/absolute). You lose the flexibility of timecode/jogs but you can still run full serato instead of intro. You'll need to carry your serato box along with mixer. It will be frustrating though if you don't like mixing with push buttons. You'd have a lot more flexibility if you're willing to go the Traktor route; there just aren't that many all in one itch controllers, and you can't just use a M-Audio X-Sessions Pro (cheap and reliable MIDI mixer) to control Itch. But if you're cool with lugging an external mixer I'd say an X-1 or the like is the way to go. You could even get the Denon controller that is made for Serato but I think the X1 is better and cheaper.
    I'm still not clear on exactly what all "flexibility" a jog wheel gives me over a push-button setup. As I mentioned earlier, my understanding is:

    My understanding is that it could be used to nudge a track into alignment, could be used for some light scratching, and could be used to scroll through tracks and whatnot.
    Is there any other flexibility that a jog wheel offers that I am missing? Sorry for the noob questions, but I still haven't found a really good intro guide controllers. If somebody knows of such a guide it might save forum members and myself some time in responding to noobish questions, and allow me to target my questions a bit better.

    As I mentioned, I am open to an external mixer setup if it offers any significant advantages, but the more I think about it the more I am thinking it would be extremely convenient to have it all in one package, seeing as the entire reason I am even considering a controller is convenience and mobility...

  8. #8
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    That's the main thing, yes, nudging and manipulating the track as you would a record. You can program the jog wheel to do other stuff in traktor, pretty much whatever a knob can do, but keeping things simple, yes, it's for moving the track around by hand or scrolling through tracks.

    If you really want all in one unit, be prepared to either go with the more limited Serato Intro version (or a more expensive Itch controller) or to switch to Traktor.
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

  9. #9
    Tech Mentor brosephh's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Redcon1;404662]Thanks for all the replies everyone

    Tbh mate your not going to get a decent controller with $200, and for scratching a lot of the cheaper controllers aren't very good.

    You might want to go with a used vci 100 on ebay, and update it with 1.4 firmware (dj tech tools has tutorials on this). This is in your price range and is still imo the best all in one controller for the price.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by djproben View Post
    That's the main thing, yes, nudging and manipulating the track as you would a record. You can program the jog wheel to do other stuff in traktor, pretty much whatever a knob can do, but keeping things simple, yes, it's for moving the track around by hand or scrolling through tracks.

    If you really want all in one unit, be prepared to either go with the more limited Serato Intro version (or a more expensive Itch controller) or to switch to Traktor.
    Gotcha, thanks again for the reply.

    I really like the look/layout of the VCI-300. If I could find a steal on that in the $250 range, that might be a possibility ($200 is not an absolute, just around where I would like to spend). Otherwise, the VCI-100 looks like a good option, although I'm not a fan of the line-fader eq's. But tbh who am I kidding, mixing mostly hip hop and funk/soul, my eq's don't get the attention a house/trance/etc DJ would give them, and are not really a deal-breaker.

    As far as Traktor, I am not opposed to using the Traktor software for this setup, the main thing is I don't want to have to go through my Serato library and set all my cue points, loops, etc all over again. My understanding is that Traktor or some other external program has the ability to transfer these Serato instances to a Traktor library? If that is the case, then I would definitely consider using a Traktor compatible controller.

    With that consideration, what other Itch or Traktor compatible controllers would be good to consider? Also, any other controllers similar to the XP-5 that may be of a bit better build quality?
    Last edited by Redcon1; 12-27-2011 at 04:54 PM.

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