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In 2014 we saw the first controllers with built-in screens arrive on the market. Numark was first with the Numark NV, followed closely by Native Instruments with the Traktor Kontrol S8. Since then, many manufacturers have followed and thus it’s a good moment to review what options you have when looking for a controller with built-in screens.
Professional DJ equipment such as Pioneer CDJ players and DJM mixers have had built-in screens for a long time. Over time, these screens have gone from showing only the most basic track and library information (or in the case of mixers, information related to FX) to show full-color waveforms in high resolution, track artwork & information and much more.
The screen of the latest SC-5000 media player from Denon DJ even behaves like a tablet, you can literally swipe tracks left and right to select them and pinch the waveforms.
In principle, a DJ controller can do without screens, as it merely acts as a midi controller for a laptop running DJ software. However, manufacturers have understood that trying to emulate the “CDJ feeling” on DJ controllers makes sense since it allows DJs to focus on their performance and minimize staring at the computer screen.
TOP PICKS in this article
|Denon DJ MCX8000|
|Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8|
TOP PICK! Numark NVII Serato DJ controller
The Numark NVII is a compact DJ controller for Serato DJ. The screens are high resolution and show all the information you need while DJing. When a track is loaded, these screens emulate the Serato DJ software information, such as effects selection waveform, needle position, and so on. When selecting tracks, they show track information. While they show a lot, Serato DJ contains much more than the screens can show so the occasional glance at your laptop screen will be inevitable.
Overall the NVII is feature rich and contains a lot of professional DJ features in small form factor. There is a 4 channel mixer, 3 band EQ with gain and filter controls. There is an AUX input that is switchable with the MIC input as well. The jog wheels are small but high quality. On the back, you will find balanced XLR master out and RCA booth/master out.
The Numark NVII will set you back around USD 700, which is reasonable for what it offers.
TOP PICK! Denon MCX8000 Serato DJ Controller
In many ways, the Denon DJ MCX8000 can be seen as a “big brother” to the NVII. The screens are very similar (but not the same) and they are both 4 channel Serato DJ controllers. But there the comparison stops. The MCX8000 is notable for being (the first?) DJ Controller that can also function in standalone mode. For that, it has two USB ports that accept sticks with digital music. If you want to enjoy of all the functionalities the MCX8000 has to offer though, you need to analyze your tracks in the Engine software from Denon DJ.
Hardware wise, the MCX8000 is fully loaded, with said screens, a 4 channel hardware mixer, support and extensive controls for 2 microphones, fully loaded decks with support for several Serato performance features such as Pitch ‘n Time, large, high-quality jog wheels… On the back, a large selection of inputs & outputs is available to suit any situation: XLR booth out, XLR and RCA master out, RCA inputs for every channel, 2 mic inputs…
TOP PICK! Traktor Kontrol S8 Traktor Pro DJ Controller
- Price: check on Amazon
- Manufacturer: Native Instruments
- More Info: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8
The Traktor Kontrol S8 is big, full of innovative features and the first Native Instruments full-size controller to leave the jog wheels behind. Instead, it has extensive performance features, such as a touch strip, velocity sensitive pads, and 4 line faders per deck to control remix decks. Last year Native Instruments launched
Last year Native Instruments launched Stems: their in-house created, open source multi-channel audio format, which is fully supported by the S8 as well, and allows individual control over 4 channels per track.
The screens basically serve to show a myriad of things: full track metadata including high-resolution waveform, stems/remix deck information or library browse, FX selection and settings.
They are very helpful to get your eyes off the computer. If you are using remix decks or stems in your performance, using a controller with onboard screens is a real must, as it is almost impossible to control these without having a visual cue of what is loaded in which cell at each given time.
Numark NS7III Serato DJ controller
The Numark NS7III is in many ways a remarkable DJ controller. The thing that sets it apart the most are the spinning platters, complete with slip mats and real vinyl. If you want to use a DJ controller and still have that turntable feeling, the NS7III is the best and only option, full stop.
The controller has not 2 but 3 screens. The central screen serves to display library information, or for stacked waveforms, which is a big advantage over the NVII.
The rest of the features make the professional aspirations of the NS7III clear: hardware 4 channel mixer, a full host of inputs & outputs on the back, support for Serato DJ DVS, MPC style performance pads, and much more.
The NS7III is basically the NS7II with added screens on top. Comparable in features with the Numark NV, with the big difference that here everything is spaced out much better.
Traktor Kontrol S5 Traktor Pro DJ Controller
- Price: check on Amazon
- Manufacturer: Native Instruments
- More Info: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5
The Traktor Kontrol S5 is the little brother of the S8 and has very similar features, with a few notable differences:
- The 4 line faders per channel are absent, so controlling individual stems tracks & remix sets is done by different means.
- The mixer is not hardware so it’s not possible to connect external turntables and/or media players.
Apart from that, the S5 has the same high-quality screens, a 4 channel mixer, professional grade inputs & outputs and an AUX input ideal for emergency situations. At approx USD 750, it is considerably cheaper than the S8.
Pioneer DDJ-RZX Rekordbox DJ Video DJ controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX is a DDJ-RZ with 3 big touchscreens added on top. The second big addition is the native support for Rekordbox Video, the new video plugin for Rekordbox DJ.
The screens are touch-enabled and high-resolution. We haven’t seen much yet on how they work exactly, but they seem to mirror most of the information displayed on your computer screen so the need for looking away from your DJ controller while performing should be reduced to a minimum.
As said, the DDJ-RZX is an expanded version of the RX, with additional color FX and separated color FX for the microphone. All the SZ features such as the large CDJ like jog wheels and the double USB inputs for easy DJ changeovers are still there.
At USD 3.000 it’s expensive for a DJ controller, but considering this setup rivals a professional CDJ/DJM setup such as the NXS2 system the high price is relative.