When first starting the journey to become a DJ, one of the first purchases that newbies often make is getting themselves a controller. As a matter of fact, if you are reading this article you might be nearing doing this. However, there’s a question that newbies often ask themselves: do you need a mixer with a DJ controller? After all, it makes sense: a typical controller is missing some features that a DJ will need when mixing.
The truth is that it depends on the kind of controller that you have. There are 2 types of controllers available today in the market: the all-in-one controller and the standalone player. You do not need a mixer with the former, but need one for the latter.
What most newbies generally do is buying an all-in-one system with mixing functionality that allows them to start learning how to mix while keeping costs down, eventually moving to the more professional 2 CDJs and 1 mixer setup often seen in clubs and festivals.
Something that’s often argued in the DJing community is, which one of the two is the better choice. Some people argue that the all-in-one controller is easier to set up without sacrificing sound quality, while others say that the traditional setup is more versatile which is better for more experienced DJs. If you want to know more about this, the best all-in-one controllers and more, please read below!
So as you read above, there are both all-in-one controllers and standalone players. Whether you should buy a mixer will definitely depend on which specific model that you have. If you do not know what a mixer actually is, it’s an equipment that allows you to tinker with a song’s volume, frequency levels, and other things. In other words, it includes the EQ, line faders, and crossfaders of at least 2 channels, among other things.
Because of the fact that most DJs that are starting out do not have that much money to spend, a stand-alone system tends to be the better choice. While they might have a less complicated mixing system which might be a hindrance for more experienced DJs, this can also be a big pro. The last thing that a newbie wants is to be even more overwhelmed with more knobs and buttons in their gear. A less cluttered mixing board makes it easier to actually learn the ins and outs of the gear that you are playing on, which translates into better mixes and performances.
But the less complicated mixing board also has its disadvantages. The first one is the fact that manufacturers often omit several useful features from them. It’s more likely to find a less comprehensive EQ in an all-in-one system, which might be a bad thing for more experienced DJs. There are also many other proper mixes in the market that have some features that you won’t find in an all-in-one system, such as support for more than 2 channels, a more complete EQ band adjustment, more unique effects, and more. All of these are considered perks that you tend not to find in an all-in-one system.
Another reason why all-in-one systems are not the norm is the fact that many think they produce an inferior sound when compared to higher-end equipment. This tends to be true only in the lower price ranges or with manufacturers that only make low-end gear. When you move to the higher price ranges, the sound quality is pretty much on par with high-end CDJs. Still, there are many people that still believe that an all-in-one system provides a worse sound when compared to a standalone system.
Now there are many reasons why you might want a standalone CDJ and mixer. The first one is that this combination gives you much more to work with. In fact, compared to the typical all-in-one setup, The CDJ and mixer combo have a better memory cue feature, improved reliability, better resale value, and features like touch screens and support for different audio formats, among other things.
There’s also another reason why you might want a more traditional setup: it’s what most professional DJs use. Getting acquainted with the most common setup found around the world will be invaluable when you are playing at a venue that has its own gear already in place. While there are some all-in-one systems that replicate the layout of the CDJ/mixer combo, some other feature something entirely different that may not be as efficient as the traditional setup.
In short, the choice between an all-in-one system and a CDJ/mixer combo will depend on a lot of things, including what budget you have, ease of use, availability, among other things. If you have the cash to spend, I would advise that you go straight for the CDJ/ mixer combo, but if not, you can just go ahead and use an all-in-one system for learning purposes, eventually moving up to the more traditional setup.
This article would not be complete without a list of the most recommended DJ gear, mixer included or not. The DJ gear below is what I consider to be the best best for beginners and seasoned DJs alike.
Pioneer DDJ-200: One of the most popular all-in-one solutions in the market today, this is one of the most frequent purchases for newbie and newcomer DJs that are trying to learn the ins and outs of DJing. While it’s a little bit more expensive than the Numark Party Mix, I believe this controller is much more sturdy and better made. The materials feel of higher quality and the controller itself can be used with Rekordbox without a license, unlike the Numark.
Pioneer XDJ-RR: This is a true all-in-one setup that allows you to play music from different sources, such as a laptop or a USB drive. This is a setup that is more catered for the professional crowd and so the quality is up to par. The 7-inch is a huge help when mixing and selecting tracks, especially when you don’t have a laptop to play with. The pricing of this setup is much higher than other all-in-one setups, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Pioneer CDJ2000NXS2: If you are going to be buying a standalone player, I’d advise that you go right ahead and get the cream of the crop. The CDJ 2000NXS2 is widely known as a club standard and one of the most used DJ gears in the world. This is considered perhaps the best DJ player in the market, with excellent sound quality and a myriad of features that are considered essential for any professional. The only problem is the price: 2 CDJs will easily cost you 2 grand or more.
Pioneer DJM450: Usually people use this mixer with the CDJ player above. It’s thankfully much more affordable than the player but it’s still pricey. The good thing about buying Pioneer gear is the fact that the gear has a higher resale value and they also have much more demand than other brands on the market, so if you are looking to upgrade, getting rid of this mixer will not be hard because it’s so demanded.