The battle lines between using vinyl versus digital music among DJs were drawn years ago. More recently, a side argument over DJ controllers or CDJs has been brewing as well. Each approach has its own devotees as well as its pros and cons. Let’s look at some of the different elements in this fight over mixing digital music using DJ equipment and which is best; click here for a rundown of items related to DJing.
The selling point on this option is that controllers are a good entry-level choice. They are much less expensive than CDJs and can be manipulated with just a computer if you desire. For a hobbyist or someone just getting into mixing, controllers are a user-friendly place to get your feet wet while avoiding a huge accumulation of expensive equipment. The newer models of controller have a wider variety of functions that can allow you to do pretty elaborate music manipulation using various types of software. Also, when it comes to portability, you can’t beat the laptop approach. Controller DJs don’t have to lug around heavy and large CDJs from place to place, leaving more room in the van for their Chauvet lighting system.
It’s important to note that many controllers are optimized to work with very specific software, while others allow users to mix and match programs and apps as much as they want. There is a huge variety of low-cost or free mixing software available, plus new iterations coming out all the time. Working from the controller also doesn’t offer much of a musical show, however, as there is just a laptop at the DJ table. But if you are not performing live shows, that’s not a deal-breaker in most cases.
These devices are meant to stand alone, so they don’t require a computer to operate them. However, they are much more expensive, and you need two of them in order to mix properly. If you plan to take your show on the road pretty often, keep in mind that CDJs are heavy and require more space in the van. Fortunately, the best quality options are built with a lot of durability for hard use.
Because CDJs have been the industry standard for many years, regular music venues are likely to have a set already installed in the DJ booth. That means that most DJs learn to use these machines from the very beginning of their training, if they aren’t learning on turntables. CDJs require a mixer in most cases, and they have jacks for a lot of peripheral devices. Many musicians will load a flash drive with many digital tracks, then plug it right into the CDJ for a quick transfer before they are off to the races. The number of mixing options and sound manipulations possible on a CDJ are comparable or even superior to those available using software on a DJ controller.
The debate over the legitimacy of controller DJs versus CDJ users will likely rage on for a bit longer as technology continues to change the face of digital music mastering. In the meantime, the turntable enthusiasts will continue to look onto the battle from the sidelines, confident in their superiority!