Professional DJ Controllers with built-in screens are the best of both worlds: the advantages of using a computer to DJ combined with a fully featured DJ controller that has all the features of a professional media player and usually even more.
Cost-wise, they might be a better investment than media players and mixers, as the most expensive unit in this review costs USD 3.000. For that price, you don’t even get a pair of professional media players.
At this moment in time, the amount of DJ controllers that can be considered professional and have built-in screens are only limited to a few specific models: the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX, the Denon DJ MCX8000, the Numark NS7III, Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX and the Kontrol S8.
You might wonder why I include the XDJ-RX. After all, this is meant to be a media player, hence the XDJ naming instead of DDJ. But, on the other hand, Pioneer DJ has made this unit compatible with Rekordbox DJ, and that makes it, at the very least, a hybrid DJ controller/media player to me.
So let’ dive into this multi-review!
The screens compared
If you came here, you are interested in screens, so it’s only normal we start with this. First, there are no bad screens in this comparison. All the units reviewed here have pristine, high-resolution and full-color screens. The difference is mainly in the size and a number of screens per controller.
The DDJ-RZX has three 7 inch screens built-in, and they are not only high-resolution but also touch enabled. The RZX is designed to be a fully featured DJ controller for Rekordbox Video, so the screens need to display high-quality video next to track information and waveforms.
There are many, many things the screens can do additionally, such as control hot cues and effects in a very innovative way, using x/y grids, made possible by the touch screen capacity.
Compared to the DDJ-RZX, the screens on the MCX8000 look & feel much more basic.
We did a full review of the MCX8000 a while ago so check that out for a detailed overview of all the screen features. For this article, it’s enough to mention that despite their limited size (4.3 inches) and lack of touch capacity, they display library information, effects information, track data and waveforms adequately, certainly well enough to keep you from looking over at your laptop screen all the time.
The Traktor Kontrol S8 is a totally different beast as we will see further down this article. The screens are actually very good, comparable to the ones on the DDJ-RZX. They are smaller (4.7 inches) and are not touch enabled. But, they are very useful to display all the advanced features of the S8, such as remix decks and stem decks.
Without screens, using these advanced features becomes more complicated as you need to keep your eyes constantly on your computer screen to control everything.
The Numark NS7III is related to the MCX8000 in the sense that Denon DJ and Numark are both under the InMusic umbrella, and that shows in the product design. the NS7III has, like the DDJ-RZX, 3 screens: two for deck control and 1 for library control/waveforms above the mixer.
The advantage of the third screen is that it can display Serato DJ stacked waveforms, something many laptop DJ’s are used to and cannot have on the MCX8000. Also, it means that browsing and selecting tracks doesn’t interrupt the deck screens, which makes for a much more enjoyable DJing experience.
Finally, we have the single screen on the XDJ-RX. The screen is the same size as the ones on the DDJ-RZX (7 inches), but in the case of the RX, it’s not a touchscreen.
The fact Pioneer DJ opted for a single, central screen means that there is a lot of information to display. As a consequence, things can get a bit cramped. At the same time, the single screen allows displaying stacked waveforms, which is a plus for anyone used to them from, say, Serato DJ.
The Numark NS7III is the only controller in this bunch that has spinning wheels, with real slip mats and vinyl. It’s a shame that this is not a trend elsewhere, as this is the perfect blend between a traditional DJ setup (mixer and turntables) and digital DJ controller setup.
Moving on to the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX, which has large, mechanical jog wheels with a center LCD screen, exactly the same size as the jog wheels on the CDJ-2000NXS2. They also come with tension adjust so you can set them exactly to your liking. If you are looking for a CDJ jog wheel experience, this is it.
The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX has the same jog wheels as the DDJ-RX, and that’s a good thing. They are aluminum and have a central LCD screen that displays track information. They are smaller than on other XDJ/CDJ models but very well weighted overall.
The jog wheels on the Denon DJ MCX8000 have a led ring around the jog wheel instead of an LCD screen in the center part, which is slightly less discrete but serves the same purpose. There is a knob to control the stop time which is cool as it is a frequently used feature.
Finally, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 doesn’t have any jog wheels so we can be quick about that. The touch strip does replace the jog wheel to some extent, but it’s not the same. This fits the philosophy of the S8 but might be too much of a change for DJ’s that are used to jog wheels when DJing.
Having built-in screens means that selected effects can be viewed right on the controller screen, without the need of having to turn to the laptop screen. All of the controllers in this roundup make effective use of the built-in screen, the MCX8000 and the Kontrol S8 and NS7III all doing it in very similar ways.
The DDJ-RZX, however, goes a bit beyond this and is a true professional effects engine on its own. The built-in touchscreens allow for advanced effects manipulation, for audio and video. Additionally, the controller comes with hardware sound color FX, both for the channels and for the microphones! If you are big on effects, the RZX is truly the ultimate DJ controller.
Finally, the XDJ-RX has a typical, DJM approach to effects: there are 4 sound color effects built into the mixer, and there is a beat FX module with all the traditional effects found on most DJM mixers. This is the ideal choice if you want to get familiar with the DJM+CDJ workflow, even more than the RZX.
Let’s start with the Denon DJ MCX8000. Being a Serato DJ controller, it has a typical Serato DJ performance section. The 8 performance pads enable hot cues, rolls, slicer, and sampler. The pads are velocity sensitive. There is support for Serato Flip and Pitch ‘n Play. If you want examples of how these work, check out my full review of the MCX8000. The loop section is separated from the pads.
Over to the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX that has a very similar performance section as the MCX8000, with the difference that the RZX works with Rekordbox DJ and not Serato DJ. The velocity-sensitive RGB backlit pads have several modes, amongst others: cues, pad FX (a combination of loop rolls and effects), beat jump, slicer, sampler… There are separate sections for loops and using the sequencer. Due to the large size of the RZX, everything is well spaced and doesn’t feel cramped.
The Numark NS7III has 8 performance pads that are RGB backlit. Much like the two controllers above they support several performance functions: hot cues (the NS7III also has 5 separated hot cue buttons to keep the hot cues accessible at any time), loops, rolls, and samples. There is no separated loop section so all the looping has to be done with the pads.
The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX shows its hybrid nature in the performance section as well. The pads enable hot cues, auto beat loop, and loop slice, and they are smaller than the ones found on the other controllers in this comparison. Also, there are only 4 of them compared to the typical 8 per deck. That being said, they are a welcome addition to what essentially is a CDJ+DJM setup, offering features that cannot even be found on the CDJ-2000NXS2.
Finally, the Traktor Kontrol S8 is a special beast. It not only has 8 performance pads that enable comparable functions as the controllers above but additionally, it has 4 line faders per deck that serve to control Stems & Remix decks volume levels. This allows for very precise manipulation of the different sections within a Remix Deck or Stem track, making this the controller of choice for remixers and producers that want to bring their music live.
This allows for very precise manipulation of the different sections within a Remix Deck or Stem track, making this the controller of choice for remixers and producers that want to bring their music live.
All these models have, obviously, hardware mixers, meaning you can connect external media players and turntables to them. All have high-quality sound and line/crossfaders that will last for a long time, even under heavy use.
Let’s start with the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX’s mixer. It’s almost DJM club size and certainly feels like it. With double USB inputs for easy changeovers, 6 sound color effects for the channels and 4 sound color effects for the mixers, the oscillator module, support for Rekordbox DVS and so much more it is truly top of the line.
The Denon DJ MCX8000 is a close second and designed with mobile DJ’s in mind. It has 2 mic inputs with individual EQ per input, a filter knob per channel, support for Serato DVS… Each mixer channel can switch between Serato DJ (laptop mode) and external input, with 2 channels available for standalone mode.
The Traktor Kontrol S8 is a sturdy 4 channel hardware mixer, allowing connection of external media sources. It supports Traktor Scratch (DVS) and has a filter on/off knob that I wish more manufacturers included in their mixers.
Then we have the mixer on the Numark NS7III. Much like the MCX8000, it’s a 4 channel hardware mixer supporting Serato DVS, this one has a bit of particular layout, with the channel input switches located under the line faders. The mixer has a phase meter built-in that helps DJ’s when beatmatching. The crossfader is sufficiently loose, an important point considering the controller is an ideal scratching machine.
The mixer on the XDJ-RX is a typical Pioneer DJ DJM mixer, with sound color effects, beat effects, and the possibility to support external audio sources. Of course, connecting two turntable means you cannot use the internal media players, as the mixer only has 2 line channels.
Inputs & outputs
All of these units have extensive inputs & outputs available. The DDJ-RZX is the only one of the bunch with double USB input to connect two computers at the same time, but the MCX8000 can support two DJ’s has two channels can run on the internal Engine software while the other two channels are controlled by Serato DJ.
Each of these controllers has a booth output which is critical when using a DJ controller professionally, and all of them have 2 microphone inputs.
It’s easy to conclude that the DDJ-RZX offers the most professional features of the lot. It definitely is the most impressive DJ controller on the market today, with or without screens, but it also has some drawbacks:
- Absolutely massive, making it quite difficult to transport
- It costs a fortune, nearly USD 3.000
- It doesn’t have a standalone mode, which most DJ’s would expect for the price and onboard features
- You need a high-end computer to power it, think I7 processor and at least 32GB of ram
So in my opinion, if you have a large budget, don’t mind the size and weight and are prepared to use Rekordbox DJ as your DJ software of choice, then the RZX is the absolute best option here.
The Traktor Kontrol S8 is lighter and cheaper than the RZX, but it doesn’t have any jog wheels or pitch faders, which is probably a step too far for traditional oriented DJ’s. It is possible to connect turntables and use DVS, but this creates a large and heavy setup to carry around.
The S8 is the perfect companion to the producer/remixer that wants absolute control of samples, remix decks and Stems when playing, nothing comes really close.
The NS7III is the dream controller for the scratch DJ that wants to go digital and use Serato DJ. The spinning platters emulate the vinyl feel in the best possible way, and the built-in screens provide all the information right where the action is. A drawback is that the NS7III is a big, iron clad DJ controller that is probably too massive to around frequently. Still, if your thing is to emulate the vinyl feel and you are prepared to pay the price for it then the NS7III is your weapon of choice.
The XDJ-RX is in the first place a standalone media player for Pioneer DJ Rekordbox, but due to its layout and design, it does resemble a lot a traditional DJ controller. It also works with Rekordbox DJ. For USD 1.500, you get:
- A DJ controller for Rekordbox DJ
- Two CDJ-like media players and a DJM-like mixer in one, with a built-in high-resolution screen.
- Professional grade inputs & outputs, with possibility to connect external audio sources
To me, that is a fantastic deal if you are looking for an all-in-one DJ controller/media player, and the best way to emulate a CDJ+DJM setup without breaking the bank or sacrificing portability.
Then there is the MCX8000. It’s, to me, the most interesting choice when looking for a professional level DJ controller with screens if you have a budget to respect.
- The price of USD 1.300 is very, very sharp
- It works as a standalone unit, no laptop needed
- At the same time, it’s a complete Serato DJ controller
- It has built-in screens, not as sharp and big as the DDJ-RZX, but they do the job well enough
If your budget is endless, then invest in a Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX, but be prepared to spend as much as USD 5.000 in total to get a computer powerful enough to handle it.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my conclusions? What is your favorite pro DJ controller with screens? Comment below!