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Standalone DJ controllers include everything that a DJ needs to perform. They have a variety of inputs and outputs, controls for tweaking specific aspects of the sound, and many other useful features.
With the advancements in digital audio technology in recent decades, DJ controllers have come a long way. Rather than using separate mixers, interfaces, and other components, DJs can now use all-in-one standalone controllers.
New DJ controllers are released each year, and the market has become quite saturated. Therefore, we’ve created this guide so that you can quickly find the best DJ controller for your requirements.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
Standalone DJ controllers are often very complex devices. Therefore, we tested them extensively. Firstly, we looked at the number of controls that are installed on the device, as this directly impacts versatility.
We then tested how easy the controls were to operate, along with their impact on the dynamics and tone of the audio. Finally, we tested the sound quality produced by the DJ controllers, through monitors, headphones, and when directly recording the output.
Best Standalone DJ Controllers Reviews
With all of the required features and controls for a professional DJ setup, the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 is a bargain. It has an extensive FX section, which can be used to smoothly blend tracks.
A DJ controller must have a smooth, high-quality crossfader, which this one certainly does. It features a useful Curve switch, which allows you to customize the curve of the crossfader to suit your style.
With a powerful onboard audio interface, recording the sound from this DJ controller is very easy. You can simply output the audio and capture it in your preferred DAW.
Included with this standalone DJ controller are two brilliant pieces of software. Firstly, there’s the Serato DJ Lite, which boasts a variety of effects and tools for improving your DJ set.
You also gain access to DJUCED DJ software, which comes with a range of samples, loops, transitions, and facilitates integrating more decks into your DJ controller rig to expand your setup.
The two jog wheels installed on the Inpulse 500 are very easy to use. They are touch-sensitive and can be used for scratching techniques similar to old-school DJing decks.
- 2-channel DJ controller
- FX and Filter section
- Curve switch crossfader
- Intuitive control layout
- Onboard audio interface for recording
- Extendable feet for convenient placement
- Advanced DJ sets may require more channels
The DJ Prime GO by Denon is a two-channel, all in one DJ system that caters to all of your needs. It doesn’t require a laptop or any other device to run smoothly – simply hook it up to the speakers and you’re good to go!
At the heart of the Prime GO’s smooth operation is the Engine OS platform, which was developed by Denon DJ. This hardware improves many aspects of the controller’s performance.
One of the benefits that the Engine OS offers is pairing the Prime GO with the intuitive Engine Prime software, which is free to download. This permits you to categorize all of your audio files and songs in one place, regardless of their format.
Interestingly, Denon has installed Wi-Fi on this DJ controller. This makes wireless music streaming possible so that if you get an unexpected request for a song, you can keep the crowd happy!
To make this DJ controller more practical, it has a rechargeable battery that can run for up to 4 hours on a single full charge. Alternatively, you can use it while connected to a power source indefinitely.
- 2-channel DJ controller
- Onboard Wi-Fi
- 2 microphone inputs
- Compatible with all digital music formats
- Versatile connectivity options
- High-quality effects
- Firmware updates reported to cause some issues
This digital DJ system is a reminder that Pioneer is still at the top of its game after many decades in the industry. It’s a truly stunning piece of kit – with 4 onboard channels and a plethora of controls and features.
Pioneer was inspired by one of their legendary creations when designing this modern DJ controller – the NXS2. They modeled the XDJ-XZ on that device, then added some modern advancements to improve its functionality.
The controller has 16 soft performance pads, which can be used to trigger different effects and features. This is essentially like having a sampler attached to your DJ controller.
Microphone inputs are integral for DJ performances. This controller has a feedback suppressor fitted on the mic input so that you can avoid dreaded noise issues when addressing the crowd.
The visual aspect of the Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ is also fantastic. It has an LCD touch-sensitive screen, which displays the waveforms from your selected audio, making it easier to match the beats together and transition between songs.
When using this DJ controller, you also benefit from having access to a 3-band EQ, so that no matter what the acoustic properties of the venue are, you can make sure your setup sounds great.
- 4-channel DJ system
- Feedback eliminator on mic input
- EQ, effects, and many other features
- Incredible sound quality
- Facilitates advanced DJing techniques
- Intuitive, clear display
- May be too complex for beginners
Native Instruments are perhaps best known for their extensive selection of VST plugins. They don’t shy away from ambitious creations and like to push the boundaries when it comes to effects and audio processing.
In addition to their VST plugins, the company also makes some exceptional standalone DJ all in one controllers. The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 is one of their best offerings to date, due to its intuitive design and impressive functionality.
To get the best out of the Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3, it’s advisable to use it with the free software bundle that Native Instruments include in the package. You get access to both the Native Instruments Traktor DJ, and the Traktor Pro 3 software.
These programs include many tools to enhance your Dj performances, including samples, effects, loops, breakbeats, and more. You can also use the turntables to trigger a realistic-sounding digital scratching effect that responds to your hand motion.
With 4 channels and a 24-bit/96kHz audio interface, this DJ controller is equally suited to live performances as it is to record a DJ set. It also features RGB ring lights and LED color displays as a finishing touch.
- 4-channel DJ controller
- Touch-sensitive jog wheels
- 3-band EQ and effects
- Makes beat matching and mixing easier
- Comprehensive control selection
- Great for direct audio recordings
- Relatively large piece of equipment
The highly revered Magvel crossfader is included in this DJ controller. This crossfader is renowned for its durability, smooth action, and the precise control it gives the DJ over the channel that is playing.
The connectivity options included on this standalone DJ controller are also extensive. It includes two USB ports so that laptops can easily be connected. Then there are four analog inputs, for connecting additional hardware, in addition to two microphone inputs.
The LCD jog display allows you to monitor different statistics, like the BPM (tempo) of your tracks, the position of the waveform during playback, and loop markers for repeating sections.
16 responsive performance pads have also been installed, each of which has a different color design. These pads are used for triggering samples or performing advanced techniques like beat jumping.
- 4-channel DJ controller
- 14 onboard effects
- 16 color pads
- Provides control over every aspect of DJing
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Pristine audio quality
- Complex control layout
The 2-channel Motorized DJ Controller by Rane One is designed for the modern DJ, but it also pays homage to old-school equipment.
Two motorized turntable wheels have acrylic disc-shaped covers, which makes them feel like genuine vinyl platters. You can use these to perform techniques like scratching, or plunger-esque starting and stopping of audio.
The onboard 3-band EQ allows you to tailor the prominence of bass, mid and treble frequencies to suit the environment you’re performing in. Then, you can spice things up by using the 6 FX buttons.
The onboard effects include classic options like highpass and lowpass filters, along with a variety of other processing tools. You can connect the device to Serato’s Scratch Bank to access more effects and features.
In terms of connectivity, this standalone DJ controller covers all bases. It has main and booth outputs, with a pair of balanced microphone inputs, two USB ports for laptop connection, and line inputs for connecting other audio devices.
- 2-channel DJ controller
- Motorized turntable pads
- 2 mic inputs
- Useful EQ section for shaping the sound
- USB connection for direct recordings
- Wide range of effects
- Controls may feel a little crowded and compact
6 Best Standalone DJ Controllers Buyer's Guide
The art form of DJing has experienced a major transformation as we’ve moved into the digital age. This had led to a huge increase in the equipment that DJs can choose from to enhance their live sets.
One of the most impactful inventions of recent decades has been the all-in-one, standalone DJ controller. These devices act as the central hub which controls almost every aspect of a DJ’s performance.
Standalone DJ controllers are available in many varieties, to cater to the many different types of DJs out there. Some are control-focused, while others are designed for simplicity.
There’s a lot to think about when trying to choose a standalone DJ controller, so we’ll explain what you should look out for when deciding which is best suited to your requirements.
Things To Consider When Buying
Consider the number of channels
One of the most important things you need to decide before purchasing a DJ controller is how many channels you require. Channels allow you to blend different audio files simultaneously, but more channels often mean a higher cost.
Think about recording options
Most high-end DJ controllers double up as audio interfaces. If recording your DJ sets is important to you, look for a controller that has a good audio interface, converters, and USB connectivity to take a direct line out and capture the performance on your computer or laptop.
Consider onboard FX
A large part of performing as a DJ is using effects to manipulate the sound of the tracks you play. Some useful effects to look out for are reverbs, delays, EQ, and filters.
Identify the ideal display type
Would you benefit from having a colorful, immersive display that brings all of the features and parameters of a DJ controller to life? Or do you prefer a less intense display that won’t distract you from performing? The visual aspect of a controller is often overlooked but is very important.
The Essential Qualities of Standalone DJ Controllers
When most people think of DJs, the image of a person standing on an elevated platform, with turntables on either side of them and one headphone off their ear springs to mind. What they don’t see, is the array of other equipment a DJ commonly uses when performing.
DJs must control every aspect of their performance, from the visual to the sonic. Standalone controllers simplify the process dramatically.
A DJ controller is essentially designed to resemble a “traditional” setup, that DJs would use many decades ago.
They make it possible to perform all of the techniques and functions that would require a range of separate devices and tools before, without the hassle of setting up all of this equipment individually.
The more capabilities a standalone DJ controller has, the more versatile it will be. Some will allow you to perform techniques like scratching, and advanced beatmatching, and apply a wide range of effects.
Others may be more focused on the dynamic aspects of DJing. Such as setting the levels and EQing the different tracks.
You need to decide whether you’re likely to use the advanced features that high-end controllers offer, or whether a more minimalistic device would be better suited to your aspirations as a DJ.
Which Controls and Features Do You Need?
You can tell just by glancing at the many different DJ controllers available today that they all vary vastly in terms of their capabilities.
Manufacturers will generally install a staple set of controls and capabilities on these devices, which include:
- Play and pause buttons
- EQ knobs
- Channel faders
Then there are the additional features that not all standalone DJ controllers have. These include effects like reverb, delay, and compression.
High-end controllers are more likely to include these advanced features and controls, which make them more complicated to use, but better suited to DJs who want to have complete dominion over their performance and sound.
It’s also common to find pads installed on some DJ controllers. These can be used for triggering samples or certain FX.
An essential aspect of DJ controllers that you need to consider is connectivity.
If you would like to record your DJ sets, or live stream them on the internet, you’ll need USB connectors, and potentially MIDI connectors to facilitate this.
Look out for the DJ controllers that offer the widest range of inputs and outputs, as these will be capable of doing anything that you require of them.
More limited controllers may be fine for live performances only, but in the modern era, most DJs like to record and stream in addition to playing live shows.
Standalone DJ Controllers FAQs
What’s the Difference Between a DJ Mixer and DJ Controller?
DJ mixers and DJ controllers are commonly mistaken for one another, which is understandable because some of their functions and capabilities are very similar. However, there are some key differences between these two devices.
A DJ controller is capable of performing the role of a mixer, but the opposite is not possible. Think of a controller as a multi-purpose device that can do everything a DJ needs.
A mixer is designed predominantly for mixing and altering sounds. It is an integral part of a DJ’s setup, but ultimately you need other equipment to use with it, whereas a controller does everything that is required.
Can You Use a DJ Controller in Large Venues?
DJ controllers are designed to be used in any environment or venue that you require of them. The controller doesn’t affect the volume of the overall setup, this is determined mainly by the speaker arrangement.
Therefore, providing you have powerful enough speakers and subwoofers, you can use a standalone DJ controller in any sized club, gig venue, or any other space that you’re performing in.
Can You Use a DJ Controller with a DAW?
Most DJ controllers are compatible with at least some DAWs. This means that you can hook them up to the software to record your DJ set or utilize some of the features to enhance your sound.
It’s worth checking that the DJ controller supports the DAW that you prefer to use, as some may only be compatible with certain types.