DJing! It’s the art form of the future. DJing is one of the dominant forms of musical expression in the world – it’s a popular topic for sure! DJs are now revered on the world stage.
They’re massive icons, they play huge events at gigs, festival and other concerts all around the world. DJing is new, exciting and it’s highly accessible to all sorts of people from anywhere and everywhere!
DJing has developed hugely over time. We now have so many types of devices ranging from old school turntables to CDJs and the almighty DJ controller.
|Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 200
|DJUCED DJ Software
|Serato DJ intro
|Virtual DJ LE/Serato DJ Lite
|Hercules DJControl Starlight
|Serato DJ Lite
Controllers: The Way Forward?
Well, the DJ controller is super-powerful, flexible, cost-effective and works with versatility for both pro gigs, parties and practice.
They’re the easiest way to get into DJing.
Controllers pack in decks, faders, EQs, pads, cue buttons, FX controls, all sorts! They’re an all-in-one solution for DJs.
You could say that the controller generation has taken a full grip of the DJ landscape!
Budget DJ Controller Guide
The great thing about controllers is that they don’t have to be expensive. Many DJ controllers are very cost effective and can cost small amounts when compared to CDJs or vinyl decks. There are so many manufacturers pumping out cheaper and cheaper controllers – the choice available to consumers is pretty awesome!
Budget controllers are made invariably from plastic. You can’t expect super-shiny metals and ultra-sleek buttons, faders and decks.
But does it really matter? Not really!
Plastic is a tremendous material. It’s very strong, absorbs shock extremely well and it really doesn’t look bad anyway. It’s much better to drop a plastic controller than a super-expensive Pioneer aluminum controller, for both the floor and the controller!
Cheaper controllers can be lighter on the features than more expensive ones. Some expensive controllers contain an overwhelming quantity many buttons – they look like some sort of aircraft cockpit!
Cheaper controllers will contain the essentials. That includes decks, faders, at least some EQs and likely some buttons for cues and FX.
To be honest, you don’t need much more. Mixing is primarily about the music, after all. It’s not what you’ve got but how you use it! The extra features of expensive controllers usually go to waste in the end anyway!
One key aspect of cheap controllers is that they cut down the EQs from 3-band to 2-band. Not all cheap controllers do this but this is probably the only slightly irritating feature of budget controllers.
A 3-band EQ allows you to control bass, mids and high frequencies. A 2-band EQ will only allow you to control bass-mids and mids-highs. So, the bass and lower mids are attenuated by the bottom EQ (usually labeled just bass) and the high mids and highs are attenuated by the top EQ (usually just labeled highs).
Essentially, turning down both knobs on a 2-way EQ will still turn down all frequencies until you can’t eventually hear anything. It isn’t like they allow just mid frequencies through at all times, which is the impression you can get from a 2-band bass/high EQ.
Software is where controllers fork off down their different paths.
There are tons of software options available but most of us will be familiar with 3:
Traktor has been revitalized with Traktor 3. It’s propelled back towards the top of the DJ software rankings. Traktor 3 has cool innovative features like remix decks. If you’re a Native Instruments fan then you’ll love Traktor. It definitely suits a certain vibe of creative tech-conscious DJ.
The new kid on the block, RekordBox is Pioneer’s own DJ software company. It’s super-powerful and has fast become one of the most widely supported DJ softwares amongst pro DJs. It also syncs seamlessly with Pioneer CDJs which are a club standard.
By most accounts the original DJ software, Serato has gone from strength to strength and they’ve largely set the bar for other softwares to aim at. Serato is super-sleek, powerful and it caters for DJs of all levels. It’ll forever be a pro-choice.
Serato is worth a special mention in this guide because of Serato DJ Lite. Serato DJ Lite is free and you can use it with any controller including the 4 in this guide. Simply plug n’ play – ultra simple and cost-effective DJing!
- The Rest
Virtual DJ, Ultramixer and several other companies also create DJ software. There are actually tons of options for those who want to dig beyond the main 3. You might be surprised by what you find!
Bottom Line: Hercules rock! They provide super-cheap controllers which are unique, innovative and high quality. The Inpulse 200 is one of their leading budget controllers and it’s cheap as chips!
This controller is super-compact. It’s pretty cute! It can fit in a bag, on your lap, on your head, on your bike handlebars, passenger seat dashboard..you get the picture. It’s very much a take-anywhere controller. Very small and well designed.
It has your usual controls, nothing special but nothing too lacking. It has all your usual gains, faders and small jogwheels. It has a 2-band EQ but you can’t complain for the controller’s size.
It’s basic but what else can you ask for from a compact controller?
Hercules do have an ace up their sleeve. They’ve actually helped develop their own custom software named DJUCED. Of course, you can switch to Serato DJ Lite for free and the controller will work with that immediately but DJUCED is worth checking out properly.
For starters, DJUCED contains lots of features to help aspiring DJs learn the trade. It links in with video courses and with extra controls for aiding DJs when learning, it’s pretty cool for those buying their first controller.
DJUCED has several ‘modes’. For starters, you can enable ‘tempo-assist’ to help you adjust tunes to the correct tempo. Another feature named ‘beat grid’ aids with beat-matching. It’ll help you lock in beats and keep them on time – pretty cool!
DJUCED also allows you to analyze your tunes for playlist ideas. It’ll intelligently match tunes and categorize them – awesome.
Perhaps coolest of all, Hercules controllers including the Inpulse 200 have something called ‘Energy Level’. This is a little display in the middle of the controller which shows you the energy level of your mix. This can help you decide whether to transition to a more upbeat song or a more downbeat one.
- A solid little controller
- DJUCED is great
- Energy level is a cool addition
- 2-band EQ
Bottom Line: Numark never fails to deliver at the budget end. They’re an awesome controller manufacturer and they’ve really succeeded in creating a gem in the form of the minuscule DJ2GO2 controller.
This controller’s headline feature is its size. It’s tiny. It’ll fit across your laptop or sit on your lap with ease. You could fit it in a large jacket pocket, let alone in a bag! It’s actually not much longer than 35cm, pretty crazy!
This controller packs in some cool features though, it’s not a toy. It has 2 tiny jogwheels that actually work really well, a mix fader, tempo faders and a two-band EQ. It even has 4 pads on each deck for mapping to cues, FX and other controls like samples. That’s pretty insane!
This controller has quickly risen to fame as it allows DJs to practice on the move. You can even pop this out of your hand luggage on a plane if you want to, it really is that portable. Hotel rooms, park benches, coffee shops..you name it and this controller can jam along with you.
For such a small controller, it does the job effectively. You can easily execute a proper mix on this. Sure, you’ll have to get used to the jogwheels but once you master it, this controller is extremely fun to use!
- Super small controller
- More features than you’d expect
- Did we mention it’s small?
- You’ll have to get used to the small controls
Bottom Line: Numark up again! The PartyMix is banging! It lives up to the name, it’s small, cool, effective and cheap. Also, Numark has included a special little something to put the party in the mix..read on!
Numark don’t disappoint. They’re the budget kings for a reason. This controller is small, obviously not as tiny as the DJ2GO2 but it’s still pretty compact and portable. Made from tough plastic, the PartyMix can survive a thrashing. It’s a controller you’ll be comfortable to have in a house party, especially when compared to something manufactured by Pioneer or Native Instruments!
With a 2-band EQ, faders, gains, effective jogwheels and a 4-bank of pads, this controller has everything you need to execute some awesome mixes. You can use the pads for FX, samples or cues – your choice!
But what about that awesome extra feature?
The PartyMix comes with its own light show! Yep, it has a 3-LED light system built into it. The lights will sync to your music emitting flashing colors, patterns and other cool effects. That might seem toyish but trust us, if you have a dark room and maybe a smoke machine, the PartyMix can create a pretty awesome atmosphere. It’s brilliant for a cheap controller!
- Strong and durable controller
- All the usual features
- Awesome light show
- 2-band EQ
Bottom Line: Hercules have copied the DJ2GO2 by Numark here but who cares? It’s a great alternative and splitting them is like splitting hairs!
Much the same as the Numark DJ2GO2, this controller is super-small, virtually pocket size. Throw this in a bag and you’ll have enough room for all your other gear, headphones, laptop, whatever! You can travel with hand luggage, rock up to a gig and when you whip this out an execute a sick set people will be pretty impressed!
Like the Numark, this controller may seem a little difficult to master at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually really easy to use.
It has 2 small jogwheels, faders, 4 pads per deck and a bass filter. It does differ to the Numark DJ2GO2 on this one aspect – the filter. Realistically, it doesn’t make an awful lot of difference. You can still execute brilliant mixes with this tiny controller.
Just like the Numark DJ2GO2, this controller is absolutely perfect for practicing on the move. You can place it on a desk or on your laptop, or have it beside you on a sofa or armchair. Don’t fancy standing up all night to DJ? Make the sofa your DJ booth!
These tiny controllers have added yet another feather to the controller industry’s cap. They go anywhere allowing for some pretty crazy spontaneous parties. Be the guy who rocks up to the party with their pocket-size controller for an off-the-cuff set!
- Great alternative to the Numark DJ2GO2
- Cheap as chips
- Size is hard to get used to!
Budget controllers cover every base, even despite their price they’re easily fully-featured enough for fully-fledged mixing. From super portable to highly functional and party-ready, there’s genuinely something for everyone!
Each one of these controllers has its own perks and benefits. From the tiny Numark DJ2GO2 and Hercules Starlight to the super-fun PartyMix and innovative Inpulse 200, these controllers represent great value.
Manufacturer competition has produced better controllers at cheaper prices for consumers. The result? Cheap controllers with cool features like the PartyMix with its built-in light show.
Of course, for pure portability, the Numark DJ2GO2 and Hercules Starlight are currently unbeatable. They’re so small, absolutely perfect for spontaneous party sets, practice or travel.
The Hercules Inpulse 200 is innovative and DJUCED is awesome for aspiring DJs.
Remember, any of these controllers can be used with Serato DJ Lite FOR FREE!
It’s no coincidence this list is represented by just Hercules and Numark, they are some of the best manufacturers of budget and mid-range controllers. You can’t go wrong with any of these controllers!
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