DJ Equipment Review

Roland DJ-202 DJ Controller Review

DJ Equipment Review
June 25, 2018

I’m excited I got to review the Roland DJ-202. It is a great beginner DJ controller with tons of little features that all add value. The controller has two channels and four decks, large plates optimized for scratching, is compatible with iTunes, and has some classic Roland drum kits included. Basically, this is the perfect controller for a beginning DJ.

It’s time to take a closer look if you want to master this craft. The Roland DJ-202 was designed for use with Serato DJ software and comes with Serato DJ lite. However you can use it with any DJing software. This software is great for beginners but has functionality missing. Anyone truly interested in getting the most out of the device will have to look into a full Serato (or other DJ software) purchase.

The Foundations

This controller contains all the features you would expect on a controller. You can load tracks quickly into either channel by selecting them onscreen using a knob and loading via the load button for each channel. Each channel has EQ for adjusting high, low, and mid frequencies, as well as a basic filter and volume control. There is a crossfader for controlling the mix of the two channels, as well as volume controls for master volume and headphone volume. But the cream of the crop is the fact that it’s a 4 deck controller allowing you to mix 4 songs at once. This feature gives this controller great value. Usually quad decks start emerging around the $350 price point.

Spin Plates

One of the best features of this controller in my opinion are the spin plates. The plates are highly responsive to touch and sturdily built. It’s easy to generate a number of highly impressive scratching effects with a light touch of the plates. Although the controller itself is very lightweight and portable, the plates are solid and perfect for scratching.

FX Controls

Each channel has a bank of effects. You can assign these in the Serato software. Common audio effects such as flange, echo, chorus, phaser, etc. can be easily loaded to buttons above the spin plates. A total of three effects can be loaded at a time and these effects can be easily changed onscreen via the software. Basically this means you can create tons of original effects. You can toggle effects with these buttons and change the level of effects with a potentiometer knob. The tempo of each channel can also be adjusted using a slider in the upper right hand corner. Temp control can be a bit tricky especially for beginners, however there is also an option to sync the two channels, which will automatically calculate and match the BPMs of the two channels.

Performance Pad

Each channel has a set of eight pads at the bottom. You can use these pads to store loops and samples for easy use. The pads can be loaded with looping portions of the track or one shot samples. These can be fired at will and the program handles the timing. This controller has several classic electronic drum kits included. With this you get even more value. You can assign these kit samples to the performance pads. The control scheme of this feature is a little difficult to get the hang of. But once you figure it out, it’s very easy to create original drum patterns to play over your mix. You can load and assign your own additional sample banks. You can insert drums live with the pads while a sequence is playing and the software will play them in time. This is perfect for learning controllerist DJing.

Pro Features

Although it is not required, additional features of the controller can be accessed by upgrading to the Pro version of the Serato software. Among these features are the option for you to record live DJ performances and to cue loops and effects in advance. You need to upgrade to get usage access to the two additional decks within Serato. However, even the basic features of the lite version are more than enough for a beginner to create professional sounding mixes with only a small amount of practice.

The Final Word

All in all, this is a fantastic entry-level controller for anyone who wanted to get into DJing. This is a great all around controller for multiple different styles.

The Roland DJ-202 DJ Controller is a great piece of DJing equipment. It is perfect for a beginning DJ looking to learn the craft. The controller is portable and packed with enough features for professionals looking for a mobile set up. Probably the best overall feature of this controller is the spin plates; these plates are very sturdy and well built with the perfect touch response. If you’re looking to get into scratching, this is a great controller to get started on.

The four decks for the price point are amazing as well. Mashups and party mixes take on a whole new magnitude of possibilities when you can use four samples at once. With on the fly customization the drum pads are great if you’re looking for a more controllerist path. The lite Serato version included with the controller has everything you need. But additional features are only available when you upgrade to the Pro version.

Numark Mixtrack Platinum Review

DJ Equipment Review
August 6, 2017

So I decided to take some time and write a Numark Mixtrack Platinum review. The controller is one of the latest additions to the Numark family. Numark intends that the controller for the skilled amateur. As such there’s a lot of features added for ease of use and monitoring for the user. While at the same time some top range features are left out. All said and done the controller is very good value for its price.

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Multiple Decks

Usually a feature like this is only found in higher priced controllers, but the Mixtrack Platinum comes with 4 channels split between 2 decks. Allowing you to load up to four songs/clips to play at any time. The deck select allows for mixing in samples and clips easily. Most controllers at this price only allow for 2 channels.

Displays

The main selling feature of the Mixtrack Platinum is its Hi-resolution jogwheel displays. These are very nice as they’re easily seen and monitorable by the DJ. They show all kinds of useful information, like the BPM, platter position, remaining time in the song, a key lock and the pitch. However, one issue that I ran into was the display easily got a scratch from transport so you need to be careful not to throw it into a backpack with a bunch of loss objects.

Another piece of information they show is a great indicator of which channel is currently running on the deck. Each deck can swap between two different channels. This display was unexpectedly very useful, and much better than the traditional indicating LED in the heat of a performance.MixtrackPlat

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Comes with Serato (Or Not)

The controller does not come with the full Serato, instead it comes with a lite version called Serato DJ Intro. It’s definitely enough to get you to start mixing but if you want to get real fancy you’re going to have to buy the full version of the program. The Intro program will not allow you to record tracks within the program and limits quite a lot of aspects. To get full Serato you need to pay an additional $10 a month or a flat fee of 100USD

Limited Track Effects

One issue I found was there was a very limited amount of track effects. At the most there were 2 settings for each effect. Essentially making you feel limited on what you can do with the effects themselves. At least you can stack 2 effects allowing for tons combinations so it’s not like there’s not a lot to do. But it definitely feels like begginer controller. As for using the effect settings themselves, they have an intuitive dynamic touch strips where you slide your finger along, similar to a straight fader, but fancier. I didn’t have any issues with it, but I do worry it may misbehave if your fingertips are wet or cold.

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The Hardware itself

When it comes to the design and construction of the controller. I’m impressed, it’s pretty sturdy constructed with hard plastic. It’s durable and lightweight allowing for travel, I wouldn’t feel bad putting it in the hands of kids. Something that always impresses me and is actually one of the things I look for in a controller that this one has is the 100mm faders. Long faders allow for you to very precisely adjust your settings manually. It doesn’t seem like much but that extra physical space is really nice.

This Mixtrack comes with its own soundcard, it’s a decent 24bit card that allows for great sound. Anything more would just be a placebo to human ears. The only issue is that it’s RCA out only which is unbalanced and can lead to crossover in large club setups. It has two monitor feeds, allowing for both 1/8 and 1/4 headphones.

Another hardware consideration is the power. If you opt to use an external soundcard, or have a complex set up you may need to also look at getting a powered USB hub. The Numark Mixtrack Platinum only comes with the option of being powered by USB. This means you need to plug it into your computer, and if you bring a laptop your USB slots may be limited (see an example in the pic below) and if you have too many devices running it may start to misbehave while running on low power. Another issue I found is it didn’t come with a power off. I have my computer in my bedroom and have to fully disconnect the controller from my computer otherwise it stays on. A slightly distracting personal issue but one all the same.

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The Rundown

Overall after carrying out the Numark Mixtrack Platinum review I’ve seen that it’s quite good for it’s price. It does have some weaknesses moving into the professional sphere but it will carry you well as a midrange DJ controller. It has some nice standards of living, like it’s original Jogwheel displays, yet at the same time has some issues with the more creative aspects of DJing.

 

Numark Party Mix DJ Controller Review

DJ Equipment Review
August 2, 2017

First Impression of the Numark Party Mix Starter DJ Controller

I was surprised by how small the Party Mix is in person when I first saw it. Obviously, I knew it was going to be compact, but I was initially worried it might impact performance. However, I’m happy to report my worry was for nothing. If anything, the smaller chassis allows me to take it more places, and my kids can easily tote it from room to room while they play with it as well.
The plug n’ play aspect is appreciated. Nothing’s worse than installing a bunch of extra drivers or having to buy extra gear to setup something like a beginner’s DJ controller. I like that it comes with its on software. As I later mention in this review, it’s optimized to work with the software it comes with. Luckily, you actually get the software for free—for keeps. This would have been a downside if it was merely a free trial, but thankfully you can continue to use it, which makes it worth it, in my opinion.

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The Party Mix easily connected with both headphones and speakers we already had at our house. The connection was pretty standard, so for those who already have their own, you likely won’t have to buy any, which is another very likable aspect.

Most important is functionality. The Party Mix offers a lot of capabilities for a DJ controller that is targeted at beginners. You can actually make some quality mixes and it’s easily to tinker with them to get the sound that you want—the scratch pads are especially fun to play with, which I suppose is what most of us adults who have always imagined ourselves DJing have been dying to do since we were kids, since, you know, there were actually records back then.

As I mentioned before, I have kids, and they love the Party Mix as much as I do, so, in my opinion, it’s great for all ages, which makes me love it more.



The Pros

  • Class-compliant, plug n’ play
  • Free Virtual DJ LE software included
  • Built-in soundcard—no extra sound software required, simply plug in speakers or headphones
  • Compact chassis are space-saving
  • Dual scratch pads
  • Dual slider controls
  • 8 total multifunctional trigger buttons for cues and samples
  • Equalization controls for customizing master gain, bass and more
  • Built-in lightshow feature; RGB LED backlighting
  • User manual included
  • Warranty included
  • Lightweight at 1.8lbs—easy to travel with 

The Cons

  • To fully access the included free software, Virtual DJ LE, you have to go to the website and enter the registration code. This is a bit annoying, but at the same time, it is your free pass for the software, and the good news is once you enter it, it’s yours for life.
  • Since it’s intended for beginners, it’s really only designed to be used with the included software, but this isn’t really an issue for the DJing novice, and if you end up becoming serious about DJing, you’ll likely upgrade to a different controller anyway.

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Warranty

Numark’s Party Mix is covered under a warranty, so if any issues arise during the warranty period, you’re good.

Final verdict

The Numark Party Mix is an ideal DJ controller for beginner DJs by providing all the basics you need to get a handle on basic DJing skills and concepts—and then take them to the next level.

Pioneer DDJ-SR Review

DJ Equipment Review
February 14, 2017

Intro

Pioneer is pretty much a gold standard for DJ controllers. They carry high quality products for all levels from entry to professional. This DJ controller is geared toward semi-professional controllerist DJs who wants to see the live remixing innovations of state of the art controllers. I would suggest this controller to someone who’s been DJing for a while, someone who wants to become a professional DJ. It’s pretty complex and beginners may be a little lost. But it’s absolutely great for learning as well and won’t take too long to pick up.

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Design

The setup is an asymmetrical two turntable design with one on either side and a two channel mixer in the middle. It comes with it’s own amazing sound card and is USB powered. The DDJSR is smaller and lighter version of the brand’s SX model. It is extremely compact at just over shoulder width allowing for portability and ease of setup for temporary shows. It comes with a rugged steel face plate. On top of that it can probably handle a fall or two without too much issue. Meaning it can handle travel to and from gigs without babying. The sides are a strong and sturdy plastic. It is powered by USB for laptop connectivity with Serato installed. The sound card hosts a monitor headphone output, microphone input, balanced auxiliary inputs, and a balanced output to the PA.
The controls all feel like they’re extremely high quality. The wheels are really responsive, smooth and feel durable. The performance pads are very nice, somewhat rubbery but easy and satisfying to press and time with the beat.

The two turntables are asymmetrical where the layout on both the left and the right are the same, which may throw off some DJs used to a mirrored deck setup. Each deck comes with 8 performance effect pads, four effect selection controls, three FX knobs , a jog wheel, tempo control, and time signature selection.

Each deck has a shift key allowing you to moved to a third and fourth deck and control over up to four tracks at once. The DDJSR having 4 decks means this product is an amazing next step when moving up from an entry level controller. Though even as a beginner you’ll be able to efficiently and quickly learn the ropes with the software controlled effects to produce a professional sound and performance.

DDJSRThe deck’s jog wheels are pretty large and take up a big percentage of real estate on the compact controller. They’re not too big that they overtake it, so it’s actually pretty nice to have due to precision. The wheels also have multiple functionality depending on how you spin them. The top of the wheel allows you to scratch, while the side of the wheel allows you to skip and fine-tune where you are in a track in Serato.

Performance Pads

A huge plus is the effects are geared towards a live and impromptu environment, having only a cursory understanding of what the effect does is all you need. No additional preparation other than the knowledge is needed as the beat mapping and computer will take control of all the settings. Basically if you keep the phrasing and downbeats of your track intact you’ll find you can do some ridiculously amazing things with this piece of gear effortlessly. You just have to choose the beat lengths. Just keep an eye on the looping length to keep control of the beat with a cursory glance.

The most important part to realize is that unlike a loop or roll the slicer allows you to work with parts of the music that haven’t happened yet without impacting the rest of what gets played. You can insert future beats over the track in time with the music. Allowing you to bring in effects before they’ve happened and a whole new dimension to your creativity without ruining the flow of the track. You can add in some pretty awesome buildups and other effects on the fly and really make your show shine easily with this controller.

On top of these standard of living improvements for live shows, the DDJSR also comes with Pad Plus. It’s essentially a set of alternative settings to create next level effects. For example the slicer pad plus makes the slicer pads become triggerable effects like reverb fade outs. Once again these effects are all perfectly in sync with the music that can be incorporated at any time.

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FX Knobs and Software

In addition the DDJSR comes with 12 FX software packs and has lots of additional ones for purchase through the app package. You can have up to three active at a time and choose between having one effect that you have full control over 3 parameters of that effect and really deep dive into creating something unique. Or you can go with a much broader strokes with 3 effects being controlled at once. This is done through three FX knobs at the top of each deck. Honestly they take some getting used to as each effect is mapped it’s own way. But for the most part they seem to follow intuitive rules for knob assignment.

Slip mode

One of the premium features of this controller is the Slip Mode setting. Essentially what this setting does is allow for the track to continue to progress regardless of what’s done on the controller. So for example if you pause the track in Slip mode, the sound will be paused and won’t play out loud, but the track will keep going quietly on your Serato program. Essentially it mutes the track during loops, scratching, samples, and even “pausing”. So if you put effects on the start and stop of a song you can trigger them without interrupting the song, just by pausing and playing the track.
This brings us to the greatest strength of the DDJSR. You never have to interrupt your song to create effects.This is why I think it’s the best DJ controller for controllerist DJs as they will see the most benefit. But this controller just makes your performance so damn smooth when everything you do works with the flow of the music instead of in place of it. Whether you’re using Pad triggers, slip mode or FX knobs this controller’s got you covered.

Audio Mixer and Serato Sound Card

As a standard controller staple there’s not much to say about the mixer. Your expected features are there and everything is easy to use, well designed and fine. The mixer comes with trim, EQ and a high and low pass filter for controlling base in your performance.

The sound card on this piece of gear is really, really nice and extremely high quality. This is where Pioneer steps up their game. In addition to Serato’s output it comes with inputs for your Mic and Aux in to bring in more sound. The device has a balanced 1/4 jack output to make sure your sound comes out crisp. When I say the sound card is extremely high quality I mean it. It comes with 24 bit sound at a 44.1k sample rate. This means it sounds way better than it’s price point, from deep bass to high high hats. It is greater than Bluray sound quality. For an easy comparison, it’s got 256 times more precision on frequencies than CDs. Take the time to find some lossless tracks and you can blow your audience away with studio quality sound.

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USB Powered

The USB power is both good and bad. It cuts down on necessary cables and cleans up your play area for sure. But if you have too many USB devices plugged into your computer you can find yourself with power issues that may mess up your setup. If you’re thinking of hooking up multiple USB powered devices to your laptop look into a powered USB hub.

Serato Software

The DDJSR comes with a full version of Serato DJ (Normally $99). Of course it integrates very effectively with the Serato software that comes with the product. It was made for it after all. The software itself is frequently championed as one of the best. It’s extremely stable and has never crashed on me. Make sure your laptop can handle it though. The software lets you set 8 cue points per track. Which just so happens to be the max of this controller. It has my favorite library organization as well with Key, BPM and custom flagging.

Conclusion

The Pioneer DDJSR is one of my favorite controllers available on the market right now. Everything about it is tailored to creating a one of a kind live show that matches your personality. Whether it’s the rugged construction for carting it off to venues. The portable size without losing usability. The seamless effects integration with playing tracks. Or the unbelievably good sound card that puts out arena sound system quality. You gotta pick it up today.

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What are the Best DJ Controllers For Beginners?

DJ Equipment Review
February 10, 2017
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Finding the Best DJ Controller For Beginners

So you’re thinking to get into the world of DJing. Well before you become master of the dance floor you need to find the right introductory gear to get started and learn the ins and outs of the game. Whether your want to pump a crowd or create something personal I’ve put together a list of great controllers for newbies. Nothing is more fun than playing and mixing beats for others to enjoy. Below you’ll be able to find the best DJ kits for beginners from our handpicked list of controllers that give you the best value for the cost.

Rundown of The Best DJ Controller for Beginners

Pioneer DDJ-SB2

The Pioneer DDJ-SB2 is the company’s entry level pro DJ controller. Not only is it beginner friendly, it’s good to go for shows. As you get used to the device you’ll quickly find out that it’s fully loaded for it’s price. I mean it has four decks for queuing tracks. This is the only controller on the list that will give you access to this advanced skill-set. It has extremely good sound quality and an intuitive layout. Beginners who learn to use to it’s limits will be able to use any controller on the market. It’s robust and definitely built to last. Comes with a sound card and features that blow everything else on this list out of the water.

Detailed Review of the Pioneer DDJ-SB2. The Best DJ Controller For Beginners

Numark Mixtrack 3

DJs need to give themselves freedom to explore their trade. This piece of gear is anything but restrictive in that sense. This controller lets you experiment and manipulate music like a pro. The Numark Mixtrack 3 is an amazing DJ Controller enough features to hone your trade. For the price, the DJ controller is a great bargain. It’s biggest draw are the large faders on each deck. They allow for some real accuracy that most kits don’t have. This precision will go a long way in teaching you how to find the perfect balance.

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Hercules DJControl Compact Controller

This is one of the most cost efficient controllers on the list. Intended for people who are on the fence and just want to dip their feet in before fully investing in equipment. This has all the baseline features that are fundamental in more expensive gear and more than covers the basics of DJing. Basically if you need to learn something, it will be one this controller. Plus at the cost it’s very good for figuring out if DJing is for you in the first place.  This will definitely take you to an intermediate user level and get you going. One major bonus is the full version of the software comes with this so there are no other fees if you want to dive in a bit more.

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Numark Party Mix

All in all this is a very good entry into DJing for youngsters and hobbyists. The software is extremely easy to use. It has more settings and features to learn than the Hercules mentioned above and it’s perfect for mixing small parties and comes with a built in light show. The biggest feature is the soundcard, you can hook this up to an RCA speaker output without additional gear.

Read the Full Review Here

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Gemini SLATE 2-Channel Serato Dj Intro Controller

This is the best mid range controller for beginners. It’s a two deck system with a full set of features. The controller is a high quality build with great controls like extremely sensitive capacitive jog wheels. The device is portable and can take you from beginner to running a live show without any problems. An onboard soundcard means you don’t need to make that extra purchase to push forward your DJing career. One noticeable difference is Gemini likes to put action pads above the jog wheels. It takes a little bit to get used to if you’re used to alternative layouts.geminislate2

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These are my top picks for someone who would be interested in getting started with an entry level controller. I chose these more for people who are looking to dabble to see if the hobby is a fit for them. As such the price points are low because most of these are a beginner dj controller. That said most of these controllers have more features than other similarly priced models and stand above in quality and reviews. If you’re willing to pay for the best and want to start with the top of the line, definitely check out this DDJ SR review. Whether you start at the high or low end. You want to be able to explore and grow your skills without needing to upgrade and find something that works within your budget. With these controllers you won’t ever feel restrained and they’ll take you far.