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Taking your DJ Controller to a club or venue can be a daunting experience. There is this strange prejudice that bringing your DJ controller to a club is an amateur move, but good arguments can be made for bringing DJ controller to the club:
- Clubs don’t always have good working equipment: broken CDJ’s, bleeding faders on mixers, uncalibrated turntables… A real nightmare for any DJ
- If you are used to DJ from your laptop it means you have your whole collection organized there. Keeping it synced with CD’s or USB sticks can be a lot of overhead and not something digital DJ’s would like to spend time with
- And finally, if you are used to your controller, your will probably perform better on it! And in the end, isn’t the quality of the performance what counts in the end?
This being said, there are few unwritten rules you should respect when bringing a DJ controller to a club:
- Discuss this option in advance, don’t just show up with your controller and expect the club to cater for it. Make sure there is enough room for you controller and that you don’t disturb DJ’s playing before or after you. Be professional!
- Don’t show up with a large format DJ controller. The weight and the size of, for example, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ will make it difficult to find a spot for it in the booth.
- Bring your own cables, and make sure you are prepared for everything. So if your DJ controller, for example, doesn’t have an XLR output, have a converter cable in your DJ bag.
Now that we established some ground rules, what are the best DJ controllers for the club in 2017? Let’s find out!
Important note: I didn’t consider any modular controllers, such as the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2, or Akai Pro AMX/AFX series.
TOP PICKS in this article
|Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX|
|Denon DJ MC7000|
|Denon DJ MC6000MK2|
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2 Serato DJ controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2 is the Serato DJ version of the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX discussed below. Like the RX, the SX2 is a four-channel DJ controller for Serato DJ but supports Rekordbox DJ out of the box as well. It has dedicated controls for Serato’s Flip function (what can be described as a bare-bones sequencer for hot cues).
The DDJ-SX2 has a hardware mixer so, next to running 4 channels of Serato DJ, you can also connect turntables and CDJ’s. It has high-resolution VU meters and gain controls per channel, and volume controls for master and booth volume.
The build quality is really good, everything feels solid and built to last. The jog wheels have CDJ like center LCD’s to indicate needle position and feel solid yet very responsive.
The performance pads give full control over all the Serato DJ performance functions, such as loops, rolls, hot cues and more.
TOP PICK! Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX Rekordbox DJ controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX comes in at 5.8 kg and 664 mm in width, making it larger than most other controllers in this article, but compact enough to fit in most DJ booths. It’s a Rekordbox DJ controller exclusively.
If you are, this controller offers a pro look & feel (so you won’t look like you are working with a toy), hardware sound color fx, truly exceptional jog wheels, a long throw pitch fader, dedicated booth out… In short, you will be hard pressed to find something missing here.
The performance options in Rekordbox DJ, combined with the velocity sensitive pads on the RX also offer something more over usual club setups. Many DJs that use controllers with performance pads can find it challenging to move to a more traditional CDJ/DJM setup not because they cannot operate it, but because the gear simply doesn’t have the features they need to fully deliver their performance.
TOP PICK! Denon DJ MC7000 Serato DJ controller
The MC7000 is a 4 channel controller for Serato DJ that has many of the features of the bigger MCX8000 but lacks the onboard screens. Instead, it has double USB inputs for easy DJ changeovers (the only other controller that has this feature is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SZ).
It also has jog wheels with a led ring around them to indicate needle position, hardware controls for Serato Flip and Serato Pitch ‘n Time, Extensive I/O options on the back with 2 mic inputs, a hardware mixer that supports Serato DVS…
TOP PICK! Numark NVII Serato DJ Controller
This is definitely the controller to consider for club use if you are a Serato DJ user. Very compact but packed with features, the Numark NVII will not need much more space than, say, a traditional 4 channel club mixer.
The screens allow the DJ to focus on performing and interacting with the crowd instead of looking at the laptop, and the long pitch fader allows for precise manual beatmatching when needed. The NVII has XLR master out and RCA booth out, so it should be a breeze hooking it up to the club PA. Oh, and it works fine with Virtual DJ as well, including the screens!
The NVII has XLR master out and RCA booth out, so it should be a breeze hooking it up to the club PA. Oh, and it works fine with Virtual DJ as well, including the screens!
On the negative side, the bright colors, small jog wheels and overall small form factor don’t really scream “professional DJ controller”, but that only is a problem…if you care.
TOP PICK! Pioneer DJ DDJ-RR Rekordbox DJ controller
If 4 channels in a club setting is overkill for you, the Pioneer DDJ-RR might be a good choice for you.
The small form factor ensures easy placement in tight booths, it has a hardware mixer so you can hook up external sound sources and it has high-quality velocity-sensitive performance pads.
The mixer offers decent visual feedback on sound levels with separated channel & master VU meters, and there are enough input & outputs to hook the DDJ-RR up to any pro sound system. Note this a Rekordbox DJ unit, no other DJ software supported.
TOP PICK! Denon DJ MC6000MK2 Serato DJ controller
The MC6000MK2 is a true workhorse, no-nonsense DJ controller aimed at working/mobile DJs. Showing with one of these in a club will certainly send a message that you know what you are you are doing.
This Serato DJ controller has 4 channels, compact but nice jog wheels, and extensive connectivity. What it doesn’t have are performance pads, so you won’t have easy access to the more recent performance features in Serato DJ.
With 2 mic inputs, RCA inputs for every channel, XLR and RCA master out and TRS booth out the MC6000MK2 is more than equipped to handle any club requirements.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5 Traktor Pro controller
- Price: check on Amazon
- Manufacturer: Native Instruments
- More Info: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5 quick overview
The Traktor Kontrol S5 is a pretty good choice if you are a Traktor Pro user and if you don’t mind the absence of jog wheels.
The support for Stems is built in and they offer amazing possibilities, but the learning curve and availability of tracks in the format might be a hurdle too big to take for some.
That being said, the screens on the S5 are great (a notch better than those on the NVII even), and they help to keep your focus on the crowd instead of on your laptop. The S5 has a generous amount of inputs and outputs making it club PA ready.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 Traktor Pro controller
- Price: check on Amazon
- Manufacturer: Native Instruments
- More Info: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 quick overview
The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 is a good, cheaper alternative to the S5 if you don’t need the screens or the Stems features.
Also if you want jog wheels, this is the top Traktor Pro controller having them. The S4 MK2 has improved jog wheels over the S4, excellent layout and solid, built to last knobs & buttons.
I really like the Led that indicates the loop size selected, that is so important when djing and so hard to find on your computer screen… Who hasn’t activated a loop of the wrong size by error and killed the dance floor in the process? I know I did…
The S4 MK2 has a hardware mixer, so you can connect extra turntables and/or CDJ’s to it. On the back, you will find TRS and RCA master out.
Reloop Mixon 4 Serato DJ controller
The Reloop Mixon has some strong points that make it front runner for club use. It’s the first 4 channel Serato DJ controller that also supports IOS and Android devices running the Algoriddim djay Pro app. This offers a lot of flexibility, as it gives you the choice of mixing with a laptop running Serato DJ, or an IOS/Android device running djay Pro.
Apart from that, the Mixon 4 is well equipped with large performance pads & jog wheels, key sync controls, XLR and RCA master out and TRS booth out.
Denon DJ MC4000 Serato DJ controller
Finally, we have the fairly recent MC4000 from Denon DJ. A top-notch unit aimed mainly at the mobile DJ but should be absolutely right for any club DJ.
The build is high quality and the number of inputs/outputs largely enough to connect to any club PA: there is a TRS booth out, RCA master out and XLR master out. There are also 2 mic inputs, and 1 AUX input that can be really handy in emergency situations!
I like the high-resolution pitch fader, a joy to use when fine-tuning manual beatmatching. The controller has 4 hot cue buttons, a spacious effects section and a loop section with auto loop, loop size buttons… It won’t do any fancy Serato DJ performance tricks, but what it does, it does well.