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Modular DJ controllers are controllers that focus on a certain aspect of digital DJing. For example, you can have controllers that are midi mixers only, others that are decks for software like Traktor Pro. Some complete various functions at once.
A few of the advantages of investing in modular DJ controllers are:
- Modular DJ controllers allow you to control your DJ software much like you would do with a full-size DJ controller.
- Because of their compact size, they are easy to transport and can easily fit next to standard club DJ equipment, such as Pioneer DJ DJM mixers or CDJ media players.
- With a modular DJ controller, you can still make use of club installs, while at the same time having hardware control over your DJ software of choice.
Many professional DJ’s swear by modular DJ controllers as their professional setup of choice, as they are a compact yet complete solution for digital Djing.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-XP1
Pioneer DJ DDJ-XP1 Rekordbox DJ Add-On Controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-XP1 is an add-on controller for Rekordbox DJ, which means that it works along with another piece of kit, such as a mixer and turntables, or another DDJ controller.
It’s designed to control the performance features of Rekordbox DJ, such as all the different pad modes. It also features Slide FX, a touch strip to control up to 3 selected FX.
The DDJ-XP1 is the ideal addition to a Rekordbox DVS setup. Compared to the DDJ-SP1, it has the additional 8 pads per channel, which are RGB backlit on the XP1, and all that for roughly the same price.
Finally, the XP1 comes with licenses for Rekordbox DVS and Rekordbox DJ, which is a great value.
The Reloop Neon is a smart little controller designed much for the same purpose as the DDJ-SP1 (further below): control Serato DJ effects & performance features.
The advantages over the SP-1 are that the pads here a colored, which makes identifying different modes easier. On the other hand, the Neon can only control 1 deck at the time, while the SP-1 has a 2+8 pad grid.
The Neon works perfectly in a Serato DVS environment. Paired up with a mixer and two turntables (or two CDJ’s) it can take control of the functions in Serato DJ that traditional DJ gear cannot control, unlocking a much richer Serato DJ experience for the DVS DJ.
Akai Pro AMX Mixer/DVS controller
The Akai Pro AMX is a true swiss knife of Djing. Essentially a mixer with built-in DVS for Serato DJ and transport controls, you could basically DJ an entire set using your computer and this little box. In order to have more control over Serato however, you will need to add the Akai Pro AFX (see below).
The AMX is comparable to the Traktor Kontrol Z1, but for Serato DJ and with more options. It has an innoFADER crossfader that will make scratch DJs happy, buttons to load, cue and sync tracks, full DVS compatibility (you do need to buy the Serato DJ DVS pack separately) and a full Serato DJ license included in the box! It’s hard to get a better deal for that price, which is a merely USD 200.
Akai Pro AFX Serato DJ Controller
The Akai Pro AFX is designed to control 4 Serato DJ decks. For each deck you can control 3 effects simultaneously, set a number of beats for each effect, there is even a nice led that indicates the number of beats set.
The touch strip has a triple function: it can be used to search, to control the pitch or to manipulate FX. The 8 velocity sensitive pads are of excellent quality (after all, drum pads are Akai’s specialty). Overall this is a complete Serato DJ controller and paired up with the AMX unit it offers a complete solution for Serato DJ while remaining very compact.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2 is designed to work with Traktor Pro software only. While that could be seen as a limitation, the power of this combination is evident when you see it in action.
Deep integration between Traktor Pro and the D2 ensure tight operation, extremely low latency and lots of track information on the on-board screens. One D2 can control 4 Traktor Pro decks, and with the 4 onboard faders controlling Stem tracks is a breeze.
Recently Traktor launched a new sequencer feature in Traktor Pro 2.11, which again makes the D2 more attractive to aspiring DJ/producers that want to remix live.
Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2
The Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2 is probably the most affordable way of controlling Traktor Pro. The X1 can control 2 decks in the Traktor Pro software.
It controls effects, cues, loops and using the touch strip you can nudge and navigate tracks. The small led indicates the size of the activated loop, and that is quite smart as it prevents you to have to look to at your computer screen to check it.
The lack of a jog wheel may put some off, but the touch strip really does a good job of replacing it.
Traktor Kontrol Z1
The Z1 is a basic mixer with all the essential features: 3 band EQ and filter knobs per channel, a VU meter per channel, two faders and a crossfader.
The unit is solid and well made, as we come to expect from Native Instruments gear.
There are some compromises, however. There is only a single RCA output, so forget about booth or XLR out. As said, only the basics here. But it does support IOS djing with Traktor DJ. Also, don’t be mistaken into thinking the Z1 offers any sort of DVS support. This is not the case as this is strictly a software mixer for the Traktor Pro software.
Traktor Kontrol F1
The Traktor Kontrol F1 was built for remix decks, but with the new features released by Native Instruments for Traktor Pro in the last year, such as Stems and more recently the Sequencer, the F1 becomes much more interesting for the creative DJ.
The unit consists of a grid of 4×4 high quality, velocity sensitive backlit performance pads, 4 line faders and 4 knobs, with additional control buttons and knobs. It looks very similar to the performance section of the Traktor Kontrol D2 minus the screen, making it a good budget alternative.
If you are not into Stems or Remix decks, the F1 is really not of much use.
Allen & Heath Xone:K2
The Allen & Heath Xone:K2 is a midi controller that can be mapped to most DJ and production software such as Ableton, Virtual DJ, MixVibes, Mixx and Traktor Pro.
It has a 4 channel soundcard, 52 hardware controls providing up to 171 MIDI commands across 3 layers – plus the ability to link multiple units using X:LINK. The K2 has been on the market for a few years but it hasn’t lost its appeal, still being the DJ controller of choice of many top of the line DJs such as Chris Liebing, Richie Hawtin, and others.
The biggest advantage of the Xone:K2 is its flexibility. It can be mapped to most DJ software, so if you change your software, the Xone:K2 will move with you. The downside is that with so many buttons, knobs & layers, you might get lost on what exactly does what. This controller has steeper learning curve than others, but once you get the hang of it, it’s worth it.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SP1
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SP1 is an FX and performance add-on controller for Serato DJ. Recently Pioneer DJ announced support for Rekordbox DJ as well. This controller is meant to be used in combination with Mixers, media players or turntables to unlock FX and pad performance features in Serato DJ or Rekordbox DJ.
It doesn’t have built-in transport controls such as play, pause & sync so it can not be used stand-alone, but it does offer 4 deck control and the performance pads are the same quality as the DDJ series of DJ controllers.
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