Aside from using faders, EQ knobs, and pads, one of the other important parts of using DJ equipment such as a controller or a CDJ is using a jog wheel. In fact, jog wheels can be crucial for some DJs that tend to use scratching heavily and other similar techniques. There are different kinds of jog wheels on the market that are currently in use which I will talk about below, but have you ever wondered which one of these is best? Below I provide the answer.
The truth is that the best jog wheel will depend a lot on what you are looking for in a jog wheel. It's often said that mechanical jog wheels are considered the best of the best for DJs that are used to mixing with controllers/CDJs. Not only do they feel more substantial, but they feel much more accurate and precise. The downside of them is that they aren't as common as you would like, aside from being more fragile and heavy because of the additional mechanical components.
There are three different types of jog wheels. These include mechanical jog wheels, capacitive jog wheels, and motorized jog wheels. These all have their own pros & cons, which means that even though mechanical jog wheels might be considered the best, that doesn't mean that they are the best fit for you. In the following paragraphs, I will talk a little bit more about jog wheels, how do they work, the differences between each type of jog wheel, and more. I hope you find this article useful!
As I mentioned above, there are three main types of jog wheels: mechanical, capacitive, and motorized jogwheels. The one that you want will depend a lot on things like your budget, your DJing style, and other things. Below is a more comprehensive explanation.
The most common type of jog wheel, a capacitive jog wheel works by way of touch-sensitive interfaces. In other words, they work exactly as your iPhone's touchscreen does: you touch the surface and you rotate it to get the desired BPM or song. These jog wheels do not have as many mechanical components as other jog wheels. Rather, are much more digital. This has its own set of pros & cons, for both the end-user and the manufacturer.
The DJ using a capacitive jog wheel will find that they are much more responsive than mechanical or motorized ones. This is a pro because you do not have to exert a lot of force to get it working, but it's also a negative because that also means that you can accidentally operate the jog wheel by mistake (a few controllers have a lock function that helps you avoid this).
Other characteristic of capacitive jog wheels is the fact that they are both easier and less costly to manufacture, which means that manufacturers can provide a more affordable product to the end consumer. This is a big pro for everybody involved: manufacturers get to sell to more people, and DJs get more affordable controllers & players.
Last but not least, capacitive jog wheels tend not to be as precise as other types of jog wheels out there. They might be relatively cheap to manufacture, but the inherent nature of them means that they will never provide the precision of a mechanical jog wheel. This was especially true 10 years ago when capacitive technology wasn't as commonplace in the world. Thankfully, there have been a lot of advances in the last 5 years or so when it comes to these technologies, so the quality of the average capacitive touch screen has improved a lot, but they are definitely still not as good as mechanical jog wheels, at least when it comes to precision.
Capacitive jog wheels are the types of jog wheels that you want when you are a beginner DJ and do not know much about mixing. They are also a good idea when you tend to do more gradual transitions instead of more snappy ones. Most entry-level and mid-range controllers tend to feature capacitive jog wheels, so if you already have a controller, it probably has one of these jog wheels.
As their name implies, mechanical jog wheels work by mechanical components that measure how much you are rotating the jog wheel. They have their own set of pros & cons, and they are generally considered to be the jog wheel of choice for serious DJs for several reasons. The first one is that they tend to be universally used on higher-end controllers and CDJs. You would be hardpressed to find a pro-grade player that has a capacitive jog wheel, and if you do find one, it's probably really good.
Mechanical jog wheels do have their disadvantages though. The first one is that they cost more to manufacture, which means that they tend to be priced higher for obvious reasons. That's why you will only find then on higher-end players and controllers. Another disadvantage is the fact that they tend to be heavier and busliker, which emans that the players where they are installed on will be heavier. This is ebcause of all the mechanical components found on the jog wheel itself.
Also another disadvantage is the fact that tehy are more fragile than capacitive touchscreens. You can't drop a controller with a mechanical jog wheel because of you do the first thing to break will probably be the mechanical components of the jog wheel. Not only that, btu they also need to be calibrated to maintain proper function. In short, they are higher maintenance than your average capacitive touch screen based jog wheel
Another difference with mechanical jog wheels is the fact that they tend to be more responsive than capacitive jog wheels. DJs that tend to use a lot of scratching will probably love these types of jog wheels. If you are thinking of becoming or specializing in scratching techniques, I recommend that you go ahead and get a mechanical jog wheel as soon as possible. You might need to buy a used controller or CDJ to do so, but let me tell you that doing so is well worth it.
The third type of jog wheel is called the motorized jog wheel. This type of jog wheel is the one that most resembles an actual turntable, and there's a small but vocal section of the DJing community that prefers them because of this, especially people that want gear that emulates old-school stuff. I personally haven't used a controller with a motorized jog wheel, but from what I have heard and seen they are very similar to normal controllers, but the jog wheel part looks very similar to what a turntable looks.
The moving platter makes DJing with a motorized jog wheel a little bit awkward especially for people that are used to DJing with normal gear. From what I have heard, motorized jog wheels usually feature slipmat and a non-functioning real piece of vinyl. Aside from this, motorized jog wheels work the same as mechanical and capacitive jog wheels: touch the top part to "scratch" and the side edges to speed up or slow down the song being played.
Most of the DJs that are reading this article probably started out with a capacitive jog wheel. The truth is that they are overall the best and only choice for people that are just getting into this, but after a few years of DJing, most people start moving on to CDJs and thus, mechanical jog wheels. Even though they make the gear heavier and more fragile, you can't argue that they feel much more precise and accurate than most capacitive jog wheels out there, aside from the fact that it's much harder to accidentally activate.