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DJ Controllers: A Beginner's Guide

Knowing how to operate a DJ system ensures that you will be the life of every party. Not only that, but if you get good enough, it also represents a potential source of income. From weddings to birthdays, to just plain parties, a good DJ will always find themselves in high demand.

Whether you take a professional interest in DJ'ing or are just looking for a fun hobby, you won't get anywhere until you have the right equipment. At the heart of all DJ setups lies the component known as the controller. If you would like to learn more about what the controller does and what you should look for when buying one, read on. This article will provide a useful introduction to the subject of DJ controllers.
What is a DJ Controller?
Once upon a time, a DJ setup involved little more than a pair of turntables and a mixer — not to mention several hundred pounds of LP records. Today, however, DJ setups are both simpler and more sophisticated, thanks to the fact that most people use their computer — equipped with a DJ software program — as a music source.

Yet it takes more than just a computer and some speakers to properly DJ, and that's where your controller comes in. The controller consists of an external device that, when hooked up to your computer, offers a sophisticated way to access and manipulate your music in real time. A controller allows you to enjoy all of the features of a traditional DJ setup, right down to the ability to crossfade and scratch your records.

Why Use a Controller?

The first question most people ask about a DJ controller has to do with whether this piece of equipment is really necessary. After all, doesn't the DJ software already allow you to do just about everything you could possibly want? The simple answer here is yes. Good DJ software will permit you to mix tracks, add in effects, and perform other sophisticated tasks.

Things get more complicated, however, when it comes to the ease of accessing the built-in abilities of DJ software. Without a controller, you'll be forced to scroll through endless folders of music using a trackpad, mouse, or keyboard — a method that is both awkward and time-consuming.

A controller provides an intuitive and hands-on way of manipulating your tracks. It also allows you to make changes with a much greater degree of finesse than anything you could accomplish with a cursor on a screen. And because most DJ controllers come bundled with software, you can effectively meet both needs with a single purchase.

What Should You Consider Before Buying?

The first thing to consider when buying a DJ controller is the software that comes with it. Most companies allow you to download demos of their DJ software. Do your research about what software comes with what controllers, and then download the relevant demos. Play around with these until you find the one you feel the most comfortable with.

If you have aspirations about DJ'ing outside of your home on a regular or even semi-regular basis, then you'll want to consider controllers from a durability angle. Gigging can be rough on DJ equipment. Controllers designed for light in-home use often simply aren't able to withstand the rigors and abuses of regular use.

​Finally, make sure the controller has all of the features you'll be using on a regular basis. You should consider all of the following as mandatory elements of a good controller:
  • Scratchplates
  • Pitch faders
  • Mixer
  • Liner faders
  • Crossfader
Don't worry if the range of options available makes you a little nervous. A good sound equipment deal will be more than happy to let you try out different models, as well as talk you through the basics about your new DJ setup. For professional assistance in the Raleigh area, please don't hesitate to contact the sound system experts at