Although there have been DJs rocking the clubs for decades, the DJ MIDI Controller is a product that's still in its infancy. Even so, its popularity has skyrocketed in just the recent past, and has now made its way into the arsenal of all or nearly all pro DJs. The reason, of course, is computer integration, paralleling the computer revolution in DJ technology that has slowly taken hold over the last twenty years. The ease of use, portability, as well as the sensitivity in tactile response all factor into the decision of which controller to choose. All these factors boil down to one all-important question: is it DJ-friendly? That is to say, can it allow the DJ to focus solely on his or her artistry without having to overcome physical or technological hurdles to achieve the desired result? To save you the time and bother of trying them all out yourself, the best and the brightest have been assembled below. After you check them out, we know you'll be so inspired, you'll be itching to scratch!
With an ergonomic feel, high-resolution audio, and software capability that allows the user to snag incoming audio and loop it in realtime, the Traktor Pro S4 is a great new addition to the DJ controller category. It features four channels with associated faders, EQ, and filters, and a magnetic-brake jog wheel gives a familiar feel to performers usually used to turntable decks. iTunes integration makes it even more attractive, and super-low latency means that you get immediate results from each move you make. Read Full Review
The Traktor Pro S4 is the new kid on the block, and boasts the familiar USB audio interface and turntable-style controls. Whats new- a sampling and sample-playback functionality that catapults it to the top of the pack for value, making it our new number one DJ controller. Two jog wheels both have magnetic brakes, a proprietary technology that makes for a more realistic feel. Also a 4-channel USB audio interface, the S4 comes with two decent preamps, and can process audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. The various channels available each have a volume fader, send effects, a 3-band EQ, as well as filters that can help you color your sound to your hearts content. The crossfader included has a sharpness curve, making it further customizable. Also included is the Traktor Pro S4 DJ software, which has been updated to include four decks, as well as sample decks, making it possible to perform live looping and sampling. This allows the user to grab samples on the fly and loop, overdub, and create a track on-the-fly. The possibilities for live performance are endless, and a big part of the reason that we place the Traktor Kontrol S4 right at the top of the list.
A 2-channel USB / MIDI DJ controller, the Vestax VCI100 Mk II is the result of painstaking improvements made to its popular VCI100, the first successful DJ controller. It also offers 4-deck control, and features advanced pulse resolution and torque control, giving more tactile authenticity to the DJ who longs for the feel of a standard turntable setup. A standout, the VCI100 Mk II deserves consideration as one of the very best DJ controllers available today. Read Full Review
Although Vestax might not be well-known outside the world of DJ controllers, the VCI-100 has been wowing users for some years now and was remarkably the undisputed king of DJ MIDI controllers until this Mk II version was released. As it turns out, the new sibling is even better than the original. With a panoply of faders, knobs, and buttons that are intuitively laid out, the VCI-100 Mk II allows the laptop DJ to keep both hands in front, without having to stretch to have one hand on the CD player or laptop, and the other on the mixer. Many MIDI controllers also allow this, but the Vestax seems to have been designed by DJs themselves, making the experience both fun, and creatively fulfilling. The touch sensitivity on the turntables makes it a standout, as does its rock-solid build, making it able to handle the rigors of the road for years, as opposed to months. Lastly, the VCI-100 Mk II looks incredibly slick, and for laptop DJs who regularly fight the assumption that they're not as good or experienced as record DJs, having it on your rig will give you the edge as far as looks are concerned. The VCI-100 Mk II is both PC and Mac compatible, works both with USB power and an included power adapter, and comes bundled with the industry standard TRAKTOR LE, just in case you don't have DJ software of your own.
With a 24-bit interface and a format that could fool just about anybody into thinking it's a traditional dual deck turntable setup, the NS7FX is the king, but it's also the priciest. Unless you're DeadMau5, you might not be able to afford it, but if so you'll be pleased with what you get. You can activate and control effects in the Serato ITCH DJ software, which is part of the big appeal of this package. Read Full Review
Numark has been a major quality manufacturer of traditional record players for decades, sealing its reputation as one of the kings of its industry. In making the NS7FX, Numark seems to have decided to make itself king of DJ controllers as well, blowing away the competition in design, concept, and unfortunately, also price. This premium you pay is significant, and the reason why it ranks at #3 on our list. To be fair, though, the NS7FX does represent the very best there is to offer, and can be found as the main rig for top DJs working today. This is simply because the controller looks and feels more like a real dual-player DJ system, all the way down to its dual direct-drive turntables. Also, the hardware works impeccably, and the included Serato Itch DJ software is great too. It is indeed large-and-in-charge, and some have been less than pleased with the location of the laptop stand for space considerations. Still, the NS7FX is the gold standard right now for DJ MIDI controllers, it's just a matter of whether or not you can afford it!
A heavy controller that's stood the test of the time, Hercules' DJ Console RMX continues to sell well.The feel of the jog wheel impresses users, and song navigation controls are intuitive. The decks themselves are a little on the small size, but most people don't mind. The bundled Virtual DJ DJC software is OK, and the 4 X 4 USB audio interface is still competing really well even against newer models on this list. Overall, it's not the lightest of the prettiest, but it's still a tried-and-true DJ controller that works.
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There's something that seems to suggest an urge to overcompensate in the brand naming of the Hercules DJ Console RMX controller, but fears quickly subside after you start to actually use it and realize that the name is warranted. Unlike most MIDI-only controllers, the Hercules is also a 4 X 4 USB audio interface! If there was any overcompensating going on, it was in the weight; the thing is built like a Sherman tank and requires real strength to lug around. Add to this that the manufacturer has tried to conceal its weight by not listing it in the specs to retailers and it gives one pause, but rest assured it's also an extremely durable device, a trade-off that's easy to overlook given the included features.
Where the Hercules shines is in its performance: users have described the jog-wheel feel and song-navigation controls as spot-on, for example. With all the functions available, not the least of which being the significant audio connection options, it's difficult to deny the Hercules a top spot on this list. The controller also ships with a passable Virtual DJ DJC software and a limited free plugins download.
More of a starter controller than what you'd find a pro DJ using, the Stealth Control is still a fairly useful deck that can get the job done. It comes bundled with Traktor LE, and has utilitarian controls that aren't so intuitively laid-out, but are usable nonetheless. The Kensington security slot is a good addition, even though whoever might steal it wouldn't be able to sell it for much. If you're looking for a bare bones DJ controller, this is the one. Read Full Review
As the little brother of the original Numark NS7, the Stealth Control benefits from a significantly lower price tag and the ability to compete at or below the cost of many of the other controllers featured here. It features simple yet effective controls, and can be powered solely by the USB bus, giving it a quick and easy setup. In performance, the jog wheel has a good feel, and can affect both pitch and tempo. The included TRAKTOR LE software is also a welcome addition, and although it's not as impressive as some of the other controllers on this list, the Stealth Control manages to deliver everything an average DJ could want in a MIDI device. Also, the Kensington security slot is a clever add-on, and can give peace of mind to any DJ worried about someone making off with the rig in between sets.