Mid-Range DJ Controller Comparison
Which controller should I get? This is the question of the year for me and believe me, I like to answer it. There are so, so many to choose from these days and we always do our best to bring you all up to speed whenever we get them in. However, we have found doing “side by side” comparisons on the ones that are not only the newest, but the ones that are similar in price, feature set, and size make for a pretty good blog and video. We have received a good response when we have done them in the past so it’s certainly time that we do another one. This go round we have chosen four of the newer controllers in the mid-range priced between $500-$600. Here are the players.
Denon DJ MC3000
This is one of the most anticipated controllers of the year considering the success and versatility of the DN-MC6000. It’s basically a 4 deck controller packed into a 2 channel layout. It can be used with both Traktor and Virtual DJ for control of your MP3 tracks, samples, and video (Virtual DJ only). We are still waiting for it’s official release, but we can probably predict that this will still be relegated to being used primarily in a mobile DJ environment.
Good: Versatile, solid construction, semi-stand alone, 8 hot-cues, rubberized buttons, A LOT going on a smaller surface controller.
Bad: No designated booth output, smallest jogs, comes with only LE software, TOO MUCH going on a smaller controller.
Layout Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. The MC3000 scores high because of the LED’s, modifier buttons, and mirrored layout, but still not perfect having a cramped, congested work space that might hinder your proficiency.
The Ergo is a slick controller with a sexy look and design. Pioneer has a knack for being considered the best products out there as far as mixers and tabletop CD players, but they’re still finding their way in controller-land. The Ergo is a 2 deck controller for Virtual DJ and is an ideal controller for bedroom and house/after party enthusiasts.
Good: Versatile, lightweight and extremely portable, ⅛ and ¼ inch headphone outputs, biggger jog wheels with LEDs, sleek Pioneer design.
Bad: No designated booth output, no VU level meters per channel, comes with only LE software, TINY cue and sample buttons.
Layout Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Not mirrored like most standard controllers. It really should be based on the size, but if you are a huge Pioneer fan then that shouldn’t bother you at all.
Native Instruments Kontrol S2
The Kontrol S2 is quickly becoming the bell of the controller DJ ball, only slightly less fair than it’s predecessor, the S4. It really delivers a suitable option to those not using all 4 decks on the S4. It is a Traktor Pro controller that allows 2 deck control, with one sample deck. It comes ready to rock with the Pro version Traktor included and will likely be the most popular of this bunch, highly considered to be pro piece, road worthy, and tour ready.
Good: Designated booth output, super accurate jog wheels suitable for scratching, NHL protocol for 4x the resolution of MIDI, comes with Traktor Pro 2, high quality cue/sample pads.
Bad: NO AUX/LINE inputs, will not function as stand alone mixer, and you can’t use with timecode like the S4. Limited hardware control (FX 3 and 4, and loop recorder)
Layout Rating: 5 out of 5. Streamlined workspace with mirrored layout. Everything is logical down to my headphone control on the front panel next to the headphone ouput.
We knew the Novation Twitch would be big. It was really the first relevant “jog-less” controller for Serato Itch and Novation’s daring entry to the controller market. It sparked a new wave of controller enthusiasts and Serato Itch wizards to abandon scratching and focus on cue and beat juggling, loop phrasing and slicing, not to mention using the groovy Fader FX for some killer combos. We still haven’t seen the Twitch used in a professional or touring capacity as of yet, but we do have expectations of Novation releasing a bigger or updated version in 2012.
Good: Very versatile, compact and portable, designated booth ouput, ⅛ and ¼ inch headphone outputs, 8 ruber performance pads, long throw faders and super cool fader fx, slicer and loop roll features are hot, pinchable touch strip.
Bad: Resetting transport modes on touchstrip, resetting line faders when switching back and forth between fader FX and mix, no pitch slider, hot cue jitter, bad grid = bad mix.
Layout Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Clean, uncluttered work space. Nice rubberized cue “pads” versus small, hard buttons. Semi-mirrored layout however, FX select/control on upper left and browser section on upper right. Not difficult to adjust, but semi-annoying at first.
These controllers are arguably the hottest in this particular class and price range. We have to give an honorable mention to the Reloop Jockey 3 ME and the Vestax VCI-100MK2 for also being great controllers with similar features as these, however we picked the top 4 most requested. We know that in 2012 the major DJ product manufacturers will bring many more options and probably even some new technology to wet our DJ whistles. When they do you can be sure we will be there get the goods and share it with you all. We will be in full force at the 2012 Winter NAMM Show in January ready to see all of the new hotness, too. Until then, Happy New Year, and happy gigs!
Transcript:Hi, this is Scott Magno, DJ MadFlip, I’m here with UniqueSquared.com. Today we’re going to do a comparison of some of the mid range controllers out there. You guys have had a lot of questions about these, some of the newer popular ones. I’m going to compare some of the features they have, some of the things that they might lack, and I’m also going to give each one my own personal layout rating based on how everything is placed on the controller itself. Hopefully we’ll give you guys some information and you can make a decision on which one is the best for you, let’s check it out. Alright, first we have the MC3000 from Denon DJ. This is a really great controller, it’s versatile, it’s got some of the best construction out there. Pretty solid, you can use it as a semi-stand alone mixer because you do have two RCA auxiliary inputs. You also have control of eight hot cues, so that’s really nice. Actually four at a time, and you do have level meters on that. So a really great controller, however you do lack a booth output and it only comes with LE software. So if you want to go pro with the MC3000, you are going to have to upgrade to Virtual DJ Pro or Traktor Pro. Now the layout, I’m going to give it three stars because you can do a lot directly from the controller in a small footprint but it is a little bit congested. I do like that you’ve got backlit LEDs, but everything is really sort of cramped on there so you just have to get used to it. Ok, so up next we’ve got the Pioneer DDJ-Ergo. Great controller, this is going to give you two deck control of Virtual DJ and also for Serato Intro, very nice. Some of the things I like about it, it’s just got great Pioneer design. It’s pretty sleek, light, very portable. The jog wheels are the biggest of the group here and they also have that pulse control feature, so you’ve got some groovy LEDs going on around the jog wheels and everything is layed out kind of clean. Now, this doesn’t have a designated booth output at all, you can’t use it as a stand alone mixer. You do also lack level meters, you don’t have any LEDs per channel, so that is one of the things that it does lack. And it also only comes with an LE software so you’re going to really have to upgrade if you want to go pro on that. As far as the layout, I’m going to give this one three out of five stars. The reason why, is that the layout is not really mirrored. Meaning that my pitch adjust isn’t on the outside of deck 1 over here. This button doesn’t do the same function as that, just got to get used to it, also, the hot cues are super tiny, it’s like eating with chopsticks for the first time, you’ve got to bumble through, but once you get the hang of it you shouldn’t have a problem, especially if you are a big Pioneer fan. Alright, so next we have from Native Instruments, the ever popular Kontrol S2. This is going to give you two deck control of Traktor, you also have your sample deck on there. What I like about it, it does have a designated booth output, so you can have control of that on there. It’s a very accurate controller, the jog wheels especially if you do a lot of scratching, the jog wheels are accurate. It actually has these sort of pads on here, so if you are a controlerist it should suit you great. Also, Native Instruments gives you NHL protocol, so that means the control you have on this software, the hardware to the software is like four times faster than MIDI. That’s really nice. Now this will not work as a stand alone mixer, you don’t have any other sort of auxiliary input on there and some of the features on Traktor you can’t really control directly from the hardware. You’re lacking control of the loop recorder or your third and fourth effects, but overall pretty good. Now for the layout of the Kontrol S2, I’m going to go give it a five out of five, simply because everything is pretty logical, laid out, here’s my effects, my gains. Everything is mirrored on this side. It’s really nice, everything feels good, really accurate. My headphone control is actually on the very front of it, as it should be. So there it is for the Kontrol S2. Ok, so finally from Novation we have the ever popular Twitch. This is a pretty popular controller for Serato Itch, two deck control, however, you can map it to Traktor and also Ableton. This is a unique controller because it doesn’t really have any jog wheels on it, but that’s ok because it’s designated to mostly the controlerists out there. I’ve got eight rubber performance pads up here that I use for my hot cues, for that really cool loop roll feature in Itch. Really nice. I’ve got fader effects on here that I can use. It’s really a controlerist type of piece, you know high performance, I really dig that about it. It also has a designated booth output as well as auxiliary line inputs. It’s the little things, it’s compact and very versatile, I really dig it. On the other hand, it does take some getting used to. You have to make sure that all your tracks are beat gridded like, perfectly in there, because if you do need to make adjustments it’s kind of hard to nudge on the touch strip and also the pitch as a rotary. It just takes a little bit of getting used to, but overall a really solid controller. The layout rating I’m going to give for the novation twitch is going to be four out of five stars. Everything is logical, it looks really good. You know, the browser is not in the center, it’s on the upper right, effects are on the upper left, but outside of that it’s layed out well, you can get used to it and really do some damage on it. Ok guys there it is, our comparison of some of the popular mid range controllers on the market. Hopefully you can make a decision based on the information we’ve given you, but if you need more information don’t forget to check out our accompanying blog. Also we have all of these available and more at great pricing on our website. Thank you for following us on Facebook and also on Twitter. This is Scott Magno, DJ MadFlip. Be you, be unique, at UniqueSquared.com.