Since the ’90s, DJs have been raising the roof in clubs all over the world, either playing their favorite tracks for a packed room of clubbers or incorporating new beats and basslines into tracks we know and love. With DJing, the possibilities are endless!
But when it comes to DJing, it’s not just about cueing up your playlist and then pressing play. Serious DJs need a host of functions at their disposal to give them the most amount of control over the music they’re playing.
All-In-One DJ Controllers are a one-stop-shop for any DJ worth their salt - complete with mixers, CDJs, modern pads, mixers, effects triggers and manipulation, a machine that integrates seamlessly with the mixing software on your laptop.
These all-in-one controllers also come with turntables, so you can properly replicate that authentic DJ experience. You can fade one track into another or mix and match beats. These unique desks give you the flexibility to shape and mold your tracks to the setting or genre of your choice.
But what are the best all-in-one DJ controllers currently available on the market right now? What features and properties do the best DJ controllers have that will give you the most out of your decks? How much can you be expected to spend on the best DJ controllers?
Well, whether you’re an expert beat matcher or new to genre mashups, we’ve got answers to some of those questions and more, with our in-depth list of some of the best all-in-one DJ controllers currently available on the market.
We’ve then got a buyer’s guide that will give you a better understanding of what to look for in a DJ controller that suits you as well as some frequently asked questions about DJing and DJ mixing.
OUR TOP PICK
Our first all-in-one DK controller comes with an impressive 7-inch color screen that gives users an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to effects.
It also comes with a 2 channel mixer that enables you to pre-load all your tracks via USB and create a workload so you’ll be able to have everything planned out before you hit that club stage - introducing the Pioneer DJ DJ System (XDJ-RX2).
The generous 7-inch screen has the capabilities to display a wide range of information, including waveforms, track length, key and BPM, so you’ll be able to see exactly what’s coming and when it’s about to drop.
Timing is one of the most important aspects of DJing and it’s important to have a controller that gives you maximum control over that.
It comes with on-board software such as Rekordbox DJ, which allows you to prepare your tracks and upload them via USB in advance.
It also comes with jog wheels that enable you to perform crab and baby scratches with minimal effort, allowing you to influence the track with your unique flavor.
The large central screen - this will give you everything you need to see in a lateral scrolling layout, giving you plenty of time to anticipate the changes in tempo and key.
This comes with the Pioneer layout which has been utilized on previous models, so anyone who has experienced this before should have no issue transitioning to this new machine.
The jog wheels and effects manipulation will give the budding DJ a lot of influence over existing tracks. If you fancy adding your own dub bassline to a vintage swing track, then this controller will allow you to do that.
Preparation is important for a set to run as smoothly as possible, and with this DJ controller you can upload and co-ordinate your tracklist and make sure that nothing is left up to chance.
With only 2 channels, anyone who wants to progress to the more complex 4 channel mixers will have to purchase a more elaborate model.
Our next all-in-one controller can be used as either a standalone model or hooked up to your laptop, it’s a very versatile machine that gives you a lot of options when it comes to playing and making music.
It comes with a crystal clear and well-lit high definition display that will let you mix your tracks without having an additional laptop connected - introducing the Denon DJ MCX8000.
The layout of this controller is certainly its most accessible feature, with a very logical layout that avoids a lot of the button clutter of some other models of DJ controllers.
The larger screen size will help you display all the information that you need, making mixing a very straightforward process.
When lugging equipment from one gig to another, it is more than likely that your screen is going to get battered back and forth.
Luckily, the Denon MCX8000 comes in a very solid construction of pure metal, while also a fairly lightweight model, so it won’t give you RSI in your DJing arms.
This DJ controller will give you the best of both, both operating as a standalone unit and being adaptable with any laptop containing your favorite DJing software.
The inputs on this controller are very varied, allowing you to port a laptop into your desk to boost the effects settings and load up any preexisting tracks.
The durability of this desk is perfect for those DJs that gig extensively and do a lot of traveling as a result. Having a desk that can withstand numerous knocks and superficial damage is crucial for increasing the lifespan of your desk.
You can integrate this controller with software such as Serato to enhance the effects, speed and beat-matching capabilities of your desk, synching the software with the live buttons on your desk.
Some users have complained about the screen freezing on this controller, although some have alleviated this problem by turning the screen brightness lower. Regardless of this solution, some DJs would prefer a desk that is 100% reliable.
Our next all-in-one controller offers the experienced DJ a wide range of choice when it comes to different music formats, supporting WAV, AIFF and MP3 through its onboard USB and CD inputs.
If you’re planning on playing your favorite CD collection with added effects and varied speeds - introducing the Numark Mixdeck Express.
This deck has capable jog wheels that offer a decent response even if you’re planning on scratching from a CD. The jog wheels are touch sensitive and are a great option if you fancy manipulating the sound straight from the CD.
The Mixdeck Express is also compatible with a large range of DJing software, so if you are used to working in Serato, Ableton Live or Traktor Pro, you can easily transition to this machine and start progressing your sound palette from your old machine.
The price - as it is a few years old now, this DJ controller is very reasonably priced, making it the perfect starter deck for entry-level DJs.
This deck is pretty much kitted out for an avid CD user, so if you’re obsessed with this vintage format and have a collection of CDs that you’re dying to introduce to your club set, then this is the machine for you.
This DJ desk has been described as very old skool, so if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic for the heyday of DJing, then you might want to consider this option. It is also very adaptable to the latest DJing softwares, which will give you plenty of scope to integrate your style with a new deck.
The vintage aspect of this machine that makes some DJs instantly fall in love with it might also be the reason that some DJs will dislike it. If you are looking for something more up-to-date with the latest gadgets and gizmos, we recommend skipping this one.
Our final unit has been described as very rugged and resilient by a lot of its users, with a lightweight feeling that is also solid.
It is the ideal desk for a wedding DJ that wants to add a level of sophistication and control over his playlist, as well as having a machine that can withstand the odd drink spillage and manhandling of drunk wedding guests - introducing Gemini CDM4000.
If you’re anticipating a certain amount of bumping and spillages over your mixing desk, then the anti-shock capacities of your DJ desk will really come in handy. This will be particularly useful in preventing CDs from skipping too.
Because this DJ controller is adapted to play CDs without having to convert them to digital tracks first.
It is also a very cheap unit, which is perfect for vintage-style DJs with a love of older formats who aren’t keen on modern updates and unnecessary additions to their mixing board.
The anti-shock features make this desk the reliable and durable unit that it is, with a solid construction that can easily withstand the numerous bumps and scrapes that come with transporting your desk from one gig to another.
The CD capabilities will be a great USP for those DJs who do have an extensive collection of compact discs and don’t want to spend a few weeks converting them to a digital format.
But this isn’t just one for the DJ nostalgia-heads - you can quickly plug in your laptop into the Gemini’s USB interface and have a unit that has all the effects, beat, tempo and key-changing capabilities of a state-of-the-art DJ controller.
The price - this is reasonably affordable, ideal for beginner DJs or even experienced mixers who want a back-up system without having to break the bank.
This system only has a 2-band equalization, meaning that you will only have control over the highs and lows of your track’s EQ. This will limit your ability to traditions seamlessly between tracks.
Best All-In-One DJ Controller Buying Guide
When it comes to buying your next beat-matcher or CD scratcher, there are a few key features that you’re going to need for a DJ experience that won’t let your punters down when you're in the booth.
Here are the things you’ll be looking for in your next DJ deck purchase.
What Is The Size Of Your Screen?
When it comes to operating a mixing desk in usually dark conditions with strobes or flickering colored lights, being able to see your buttons and screen will be hugely important for most DJs. That’s when having a decent screen size will be very important.
Remember: if you’re thinking about forgoing your laptop and opting for a standalone system, then you won’t have the added luxury of extra screen size or vibrant illumination.
Having a large and vibrant screen will be very important for clarity, especially if your screen is smaller than usual. A decent all-in-one controller will generally try and relay all the information about your track in as straightforward a way as possible.
One easy way to test whether your DJ deck is up-to-scratch is whether you’re having to squint at the screen or not.
The purpose of having an all-in-one DJ controller in the first place is to ensure that everything you need is condensed into one handy device.
What Size Is Your DJ Controller?
One of the main reasons for the invention of the standalone controllers was to save space for DJs working in smaller clubs.
If you have a laptop with your DJ controller, you might find yourselves with some stray cables and a cluttered setup.
DJ controllers are sizable in themselves, so you might be purchasing one to eliminate the need for a laptop. You’ll also want a unit that weighs relatively little and allows you to set up and plug into the house PA system easily and efficiently.
When it comes to durability, a machine made from a steel or aluminum body will be the most resilient.
If you want to save on the added weight, you can also have a composite of a metal frame with smaller rubber or plastic buttons.
How Flexible Is Your DJ Controller?
As you’ve seen from our list above, most of the all-in-one controllers give you both standalone and laptop connectivity.
A DJ should rarely be restricted when it comes to their setup, different DJs have different styles.
DJ controllers should also be as adaptive to as many types of DJ software as possible, including Serato, Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor Pro. Again, no brand of mixing desk should seek to make a certain software obsolete, as they are removing a large part of their DJ market.
Ideally, your controller should come with onboard software that gives you a shorthand control over your tracklist while giving you the option of augmenting it with more updated software on your laptop.
Transitioning from a laptop set up to an all-in-one DJ controller can be a tricky task for a DJ.
One of the greatest benefits of using a DJ controller is that it allows you to concentrate on your timings, with things like faders, crossfades and beat droppers. Having a software with a seemingly infinite number of options can make you feel disconnected from the physical side of DJing.
Don't forget that a DJ is a musician. Imagine being a guitarist who wants to focus on their playing, but instead are distracted by having to adjust the dials on their pedalboard.
DJ controllers should also help rather than hinder your ability to organize your playlist. By creating a workflow, a good DJ controller will save you the hassle of getting confused way before you’ve hit the DJ booth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Software Is The Most Compatible With Your DJ Controller?
Ideally, your DJ controller should be compatible with all the latest and most popular DJing software.
However, software such as Serato DJ is only compatible with decks that are built in collaboration with that company. Look at the Serato website to find out which brand of DJ decks are adaptable.
Your choice of controller will usually be influenced by your preference of software or vice versa. So it is worth thinking about both before forking out money on a new controller.
What Other Upgrades Can You Make To Your DJ Controller?
Some DJ controllers come with additional ports that will allow you to connect things like turntables, CDJs or even a separate instrument, if you really want to push the boundaries of live mixing or include timecoded vinyl or CDs in your DJ repertoire.
The ability to connect to a laptop has been mentioned, which will give you an expansive choice of digital mixing options. You will also want to have the option of using these DJ controllers as standalone mixers.
Our Final Say
When it comes to shopping for the perfect DJ companion, an all-in-one DJ controller is a great way to both transition from a laptop or use it in conjunction with one.
Before buying your next DJ controller, you’ll also want to think about practical concerns such as size, weight and durability to get the unit that suits your DJing style and schedule.
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