Turntables versus Controllers and Why It’s Important if You’re Planning a Party

So there’s a lot of talk about turntables versus controllers versus CDJs in the DJ World.  But does all that really matter?  If you are the one planning an event, do you really care or do just want great music?  The answer is maybe.  Knowing how DJs configure different setups may help you make the right decision when it comes to selecting the right DJ for your event.

Let’s first explore some “DJ Setups”.

1) the Basic Mobile DJ Setup.


Basically, anyone can offer this type of easy DJ service.  A mixer, a microphone and a laptop plugged into the mixer with either a DJ software or media player like iTunes.  Since this setup is so simple, the DJ cannot control the music in anyway.  Mainly, the DJ cannot preview the tracks in his or her headphones, slow or speed up the music, or select cue points.  Basic DJ skills like beat matching, scratching or looping are not available.  Basically, this kind of DJ can simply press play and hope that he or she is a good enough emcee to keep the party going with his or her skills on the microphone.  Obviously, if you know our company, we don’t feel you get very much from this kind of DJ or one that uses this kind of DJ Setup.

2) CDJ set up.


This set up is very popular among many mobile and club DJs.  The CDJ-1000 was the main model to find mass usage in both clubs and amongst domestic users, especially from the second version of the model, the CDJ-1000MK2.  This was the first CD player that allowed the DJ to scratch.  It also allows you to control the tempo so beat matching is simple to create a perfect transition between tracks.  You may be thrown off to see a laptop and CD players.  In the early 2000s, Serato Scratch Live allowed DJs to play through a laptop using software CDs and a box (pic below) that allowed the CDJs to control the music on the laptop.  This also gave way to having a visual of the music on the laptop which did lead to more “cheating”.  However, instead of bringing a ton of CDs or flipping through a book of CDs in between songs, DJs can simply, search, drag and drop.  This can be crucial at a wedding or corporate event where an announcement may be need to be made or a song change is needed on the fly.


3) Controller Style DJs


Controllers were the answer to Serato Style DJing on either CDJs or Turntables.  A Controller has 2 platters, often in the CDJ look and feeling with a mixer all-in-one built in.  Controllers are great for Wedding DJs who want to beat match but also have an easy set up.  The controller simply hooks up to a laptop via a USB cable and you have an instant party.  There are variety of different controllers that have many different digital features, including effects, looping and pitch adjustment.   If you see a DJ with a controller, it does not mean they know how to beat match or are any good.  Most wedding DJs use this type of set up nowadays but this does not mean they use it with the full intention of it’s purpose.  Most wedding DJs do not beat mix in between songs.  Some like to be able to hear the next song in their headphones which a controller allows for.  They may just fade to the next song so there is no silence in between songs.   Using a controller like this allows them to attempt to beat mix, but with poor mixing skills you are often to hear a lot of “train wrecks” or poor music transitions.  Controllers range anywhere from $99 to over $5000.00 so it’s relatively inexpensive to break into the DJ world.  This has also caused a lot of new DJs to enter the market with little to no mobile experience.  You may be getting a cheap price but you may also be getting what you pay for in the end.

Not all controller DJs are bad by no means.   A great DJ can work on any piece of equipment.  Many great DJs use advance controllers from Pioneer or Numark that allow them to properly mix but have the ease of a quick setup and teardown.  Also, there is less that can go wrong with controller being that it is an all-in-one piece of equipment.  For weddings, this is a very good thing.


4) Turntable Style DJs.


Again, you might wonder how one can use a laptop and traditional turntables.  Are they playing real records?  Well, it’s vinyl but not a real record.  Again, Serato created a way for DJs to use their traditional turntables but use only one piece of “time coded” vinyl to control the music in the laptop.  See pic below.


Luckily, Rane created a mixer with technology inside the mixer, so the box is no longer needed.  The box is essential inside the mixer, and one simply can hookup their turntables through connecting the mixer to the laptop with a USB cable.

Turntables are much more difficult to operate than CDJs or Controllers.  For starters, you can’t just hit play and plan for the music to come right in.  There is a winding effect as the platter slowly speeds up to tempo to start the song.  Therefore, the DJ must really be skilled and have his or her hand on the platter when cueing music.  There are no loop features on the turntable itself.  However, there are some new turntables with this digital feature.  Purists, love turntables for the skill that is involved in performing as well the natural feel that the platter offers.  Scratching on a 12′ record just feels different from a touch and speed standpoint.  The platter is moving while most CDJ style players and controllers do not move.  This creates a different effect when it comes to scratching and cueing music.

Out of all 4 DJ Setups, Turntables are the only style of setup that takes any kind of skill when it comes to cueing up a song in a live setting.  While the other 3 setups, take many years to master (setup 1 assumes one is attempting to master the emcee angle), most can can figure how to at least cue up a track easily  in a live setting within the first couple attempts.  Turntables, however, take more time and practice just to get to step one.

In summary, these things may or may not matter to you if you are planning  an event.  But, it does tell you a little about what goes behind the equipment that is used to create the perfect party.  Knowledge is always helpful.  If you are planning an event and want to hire a really great DJ, it does help to know that he or she has invested in top quality equipment and practices perfecting their art.  However, don’t be fooled by the marketing.  There are several DJs that use turntables, CDJs and/or state of the art controllers but are not experienced in the craft or as an event emcee.  A DJs setup, like a great website or how they dress, can at least give you a little insight on how they carry themselves.  Check for videos or mixes on websites such as Soundcloud.  Avoid Setup 1 at all costs.  Meet with them and make sure they can properly handle your music and event needs.

For more information, request a trained Amp’d DJ that is a true master of “Remix’d Weddings”.  Request individual availability below.

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