What Controller Is Right For You? All-In-One vs Modular DJ Setups

Whether you’re buying your very first DJ controller or getting a new one, the question “Should I go modular or all-in-one?” will come up. Deciding between these workflows can be an important choice, as both have specific advantages you may not be aware of. In today’s article, I will help you understand the key differences and advantages of each – and explore the conceptual debate of DJing on a mixer versus in DJ software.


To make sure we’re on the same page, let’s define what each of the two choices mean:

“All-in-one DJ controller”: A single controller that houses a sound card, mixing section, and deck controls in a single interface.

“Modular DJ controllers”: Piecing together various controllers to make up a full control surface, and potentially using an analogue mixer and separate sound card.

Popular Examples Of All-In-One Controllers:

  • Traktor Kontrol S2 $499 (Review
  • Traktor Kontrol S4 $799 (Review)
  • Vestax VCI-400 SE $999 (More Info)
  • Numark NS6 $1299 (Review)
  • Reloop Terminal Mix 4 (Review)
  • Stanton DJC.4

All of these controllers can be used by themselves to DJ with a laptop alone.

Popular Examples Of Modular Controllers:

All of these controllers generally require other devices such as mixers and sound cards for full DJ control.


The first question to ask yourself is how much time you plan on spending DJing live. The reason is because requirements become very different in live environments and must be taken into consideration when choosing professional equipment.


An all-in-one controller will probably be the best option for you. They are generally the most economical way to get started, portable, and easiest to use/set up. Just want to plug in and start mixing right away? The all-in-one console style systems are your friend, especially since packages like the Novation Twitch come with a controller, sound card and software.


This is where it gets more complicated. The gear you want in a party environment will often be very different than a basic home setup – for reasons we’ll go into later. The gear you practice at home with should ideally also be the same style of gear you play on in public, so that the skills and experience translate smoothly into the club.  Not always, but usually, a modular setup is better at that.


This is the next important question you need to ask yourself. Do you want to mix inside software and use all virtual controls, or keep a little analogue flavor in the mix and run your decks out to a mixer? DVS DJs using Serato Scratch Live have to mix externally outside the computer by default, but Traktor Scratch users get the option of mixing internally or externally depending on your preference. A great recent example of a Traktor Scratch DJ mixing externally is DJ Shiftee – check out his setup in Mostly Robot.


This is common for Ableton Live and many Traktor users. Having a sound card inside a controller is all you will need, and often a lot easier to set up. These sound cards, like on the Kontrol S2, generally have two or three stereo outputs:

  • One for your headphones
  • One for the master
  • One for the monitors/booth (sometimes)


In this case you need a multi-channel sound card, which I recommend be separate from your controller. Each deck or channel goes out on a discrete output and is then mixed on a “real” analogue mixer, just like any other DJ input including CDJs or vinyl.

Since each deck needs its own discrete audio output. The correct sound card depends on how many decks you plan to run in parallel.

  • 2 decks: Audio 2 
  • 3 Decks: Audio 6
  • 4+ Decks: Audio 10 


There are a few benefits to mixing inside the computer with all signals mixing together there.

  • The routing is more flexible
  • You can easily record and edit mixes in the future
  • There are no digital to analogue conversions
  • It’s much easier to mix more than three sources of audio with a limitless virtual mixer

Here are the downsides:

  • It’s debatable that analogue summing sounds better and can be pushed harder without digital clipping
  • You don’t have easy access to the booth, loud headphone, and master output controls on the house mixer in clubs (big disadvantage)


Mixing externally has some significant advantages if you plan on playing live:

  • The mixers are all full-sized, well spaced and designed for live performance
  • There are always mixers available and plugged into the sound system at most venues ready to be used
  • Access to analogue clipping and a 2nd gain stage on each channel is very useful
  • The headphone outputs are usually much louder
  • You have direct access to the DJ booth and system master directly on your mixer

It also has some downsides:

  • Running multiple channels of audio into a mixer can be a pain in the ass to set up properly
  • You need to have a good sound card with multiple outputs

Personally, I think that mixing in clubs using the real mixer is the best way to go. Therefore, your home setup should also have a mixer involved so the entire setup translates well. I prefer mixers like the DJM-900 Nexus (read my review here), which have four channels of USB audio available right on the mixer. Just plug in your USB cable to the mixer and four decks are instantly routed to each of the four faders on a house mixer. Very few people can afford to have a $1500 mixer at home, so I advise on getting an inexpensive 2-3 channel mixer in the $250 range for practice only.


This next question is important. Should you buy a controller with a sound card in it, or buy a separate sound card with it’s own USB plug. This is a more subjective choice, but here are a few things you should know about them.

Internal sound cards are often not the highest quality, and usually consist of a $50 sound card thrown in for marketing buzz. Native Instruments controllers are one of several exceptions, with the S2 and S4 containing the exact same sound cards as the Audio 2 and Audio 6. When buying an external, you can choose to pay for the highest quality audio converters possible without wondering what your all-in-one has under the hood.

If your sound card and controller are combined, this may present a problem when there’s downtime. If the controller glitches (which they do sometimes), restarting it will require turning off the sound to the club – not good! Keeping mission critical systems isolated is good for NASA and good for DJs too!

Internal sound cards are really only better for two reasons:

  • Convenience: eliminates multiple USB cables
  • Price: the “bundle” is often less expensive than purchasing comparable items individually


Now that we have teased out the sound card and mixer issue, let’s ask the more simple question. Should all of your decks and effects controls be on a single surface or pieced together?


  • A single uniform playing surface that is well-designed with all critical controls is very nice to play with. I’m a big fan of the Kontrol S2 for its simplistic ease of use. The VCI-400SE contains everything you could ever want in a single control surface, as with everything close to the mixer and tightly integrated, it could be easier to use and understand.


  • This comes down to flexibility over time. If you want the ability to easily add more controls, take some away and slowly add more pieces at incremental $200 price bumps – then modular is fantastic. Pick the exact parts you need and add more over time without wasting money. I am a big fan of minimal controls, and the Midi Fighter is a great modular example of that. Personally I have one Midi Fighter per deck (using the deckalized mapping). If I want to play a simple gig with two decks, then two Midi Fighters make the flight. If its a big set with all four decks in the works, then all four controllers come along.
  • In this particular case, since I use analogue mixers and only a few small modular controllers – my DJ bag is actually smaller and lighter than most all-in-one “singular” controllers.


Now it’s time to bring up some observations from the real world. Most professional DJs using controller who I encounter play in a similar fashion:

  • Just a few choice modular controllers, in many cases just one or two X1s and a standard analogue mixer.

This provides them with a simple utilitarian interface, where very little can go wrong. It’s very rare that I see touring DJs use all-in-one controllers on the road (Zedd and Porter Robinson are the notable exceptions). In some cases they actually present a serious problem. The S2 and S4, for example, have magnetic jog wheels which, when subjected to intense vibration, can move on its own and completely throw off a mix! The VCI series of controllers combat this issue with sensitivity adjustments on the jog wheels, but they’re also susceptible to the same problem. For this reason a live rig should:

  • Be very easy to set up quickly
  • Be simple and easy to understand under stress
  • Be fairly indestructible and take the regular abuse of a show
  • Integrate and fit well into a wide variety of DJ booths without much hassle


There is no clear cut answer on which model of DJ Controllers will be right for you as it depends on your personal style and how you want to play. That, of course, is the exciting part of this entire controller revolution! DJs can finally choose how they want to perform without being wedded to a single “industry standard” and express themselves creatively through whatever interfaces they want.

Ean Golden is the founder of Dj TechTools and a worldwide Dj specializing in controllers and new performance technology.

Follow Ean on: Twitter  Facebook   SoundCloud   YouTube 

all in one controllersbest dj workflowdj boothsMidi Fightermodular controllersmodular dj setupTraktor s2traktor s4
Comments (80)
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  • T

    Dont know how the situation is over in the states but I play around 100 gigs a year (mostly in Oslo, Norway) and I have only had a problem to fit in my DDJ-SX at one place. I usually use a CDJ-settup with a rane sl3 if I play in bigger clubs, and as long as you have a good speced macbook it never fails! The only time I ever had a problem was at outdoor gig in -15 celsius. The bullshit somebody talks about selling controllers is not a big deal. Sold my first DDJ-SX for allmost the same price as i bought it for new after 2 years hard use.

  • D-Jam

    I consider myself more a hobbyist now, as I stopped actively gigging years ago. With that in mind, I ended up investing in some inexpensive components (Behringer CMD series) that might not get loads of love, but they get the job done for someone just wanting to make mixes at home and occasionally play a house party.

    What I like about components is that I get my desk back…as opposed to my desk covered in DJ gear. Modular is one for hobbyists to consider if they need a small footprint. I even like how I could go play somewhere with just 2-3 items and my laptop.

    Even if you need “higher end” there’s the NI or Akai components for whatever your software of choice is.

  • Amen

    I already have a top of the line sound card what are the best choices for DJ controller with tractor….for live use?

  • No Qualms

    If you are like me and DJ full time. You will find that you actually need both.

    For bar gigs and private parties where they don’t have in house DJ gear I have an NS6 mapped to Traktor.
    For bars and clubs that have Pro gear (Pioneer Nexus) I just rock up with USB’s (Rekordboxed).
    For bars and clubs that have older gear, old CDJ’s and Technics, I rock up with Traktor Audio 6, kontrol vinyl/cd’s and an X1 for track selection and cue points.
    For my original performances where I bring all my own gear, I use turntables, mixer, F1, Dicers, Midi Fighter Twister and an Audio 6 🙂

  • Christopher Allen

    i never understood these home vs club setup issues. what’s the difference? the clubs may have more expensive equipment but as long as what you have has a tempo fader, jog wheel, play, and cue buttons, i think any dj should be able to work it out. depending on your setup, you may not know the woes of routing cables to the right places, but in the club that’s usually set up anyway. still, a good skill to have. other than that there should be no issues. honestly, from modular controller to cd deck is the hard transition. go from using a jogwheel to buttons. from feeling out a track to having millions of cues and samples pre set up and synced to a lable-less button. i had an issue in europe where my equipment didn’t work and i had to use a x1, f1, and z1. took me a few min but i got it. i guess it all comes down to dedication to your craft

  • ???????

    This gave me a better understanding of what I wanna do with my setup. Thanks!!

  • mikefunk

    Always go modular. Always. Do not buy singulair big ass controllers if you ever plan to play outside your house. If you want to play only in your bedroom or occasionally at your friend’s house, then OK. But after a year of logging you big ass (and probably already obsolete) controller you will understand why smaller is better. Do not beleive NI or other manufacturers that one unit is better. It never is. And you will rarely find space in DJ booth for your gear. Not mentioning looks you will get while trying to set up your ironing board during a gig. Finally it’s far easier to sell modular parts than one big board which is already out of date. Small controllers hold value way longer as they are more versatile. I have number of DJ friends that sold (with difficulty) their big Pioneer controllers and went with smal NI Z1 and NI X! controllers. Just throw them in the backpack and off you go. Anywhere. Keep it simple! 😀 (Even Ean is using small two X1’s, that means something)

  • Federico Maltés

    Excuse me if i dont express myself very well but i dont speak English and i really need to know this. If I buy a Stanton Djc.4 Dj controller, do I need an external audio card or this dj controller has one? I mean, can i pre listen the song that i am going to mix? Thanks !!!!

    • stijn

      It has one built-in so yes there’s seperate outputs for headphones and PA.
      In fact this unit is unique in that it has inputs as well, may come in usefull at some point.

  • Evan Weissman

    Hey i already have an interface and was thinking about getting a novation twitch which has a shitty internal sound card, is it possible to use the twitch and my external interface?

  • Zach

    This is such an informative article for someone that is just starting out! Really seems to encompass everything a beginner needs to think about!

  • Johnny

    Hello, I am staring on DJ business. I am encountering this issue. I do not know to buy the new pioneer DDJ-SX or make the investment in a modular set. I am looking to practice at home and play in the club. Could someone make an article about this new controller? and if it is perfuming good at the club sets.

  • Joakim Nikola

    Yesterday I writed long text but I did not press Post as… :/

    but here I go again.
    I have played from cds for long time, used douple deck Numark and Pioneer CDJ-800 with Behringer DJX-750.
    And this article did not open to me, as I want and need to start the DJ’ing from digital music(from computer).
    I have looked Pioneer DDJ-SX but I noticed that it does not have 0db markings on line-in leds.. is that so crucial?
    As I have used to play with that the line-in volume is “bouncing” on that 0db point.

    Or is there any other ones beside DDJ-SX that are good?

  • basvanbasten

    this is all very difficult info for me aspaccially in english. i have to put my set+my vinyls away because of the space it takes at home. 2vestaxpdx2000 turntables rodec scratchbox mixer traktor x1 controller with the traktor scratch duo set. i also have a cheaper numark usb mixer. im now looking for a controller that takes a lot less space. so i have a good mixer and i have the cotroller x1 with the native instruments set but i stil want to be able to scratch. i dont need an all in one set now right? does someone have some options for me?

  • Christopher Duran

    Talking about space, I have it down to a Ecler Nuo 2.0 and Xone K2 if need be, thats a pretty small footprint. The soundcard in the K2 is loud and decent.

  • Ryan Glassman

    Xone:DB4 + MF3D + X1 + Korg PadKONTROL + iPad = my perfect modular setup. Anyone got $3650?

  • Tom Rockford

    I would really like to know if there’s more “pro” mobile performing DJ’s
    out there like f.ex Porter Robinson, which uses an S4/S2 in there live
    performance. I somebody there who can telling me that pls?

    What’s the diffence between a F1 and a S4 in unsing it?
    Thanks for feedbacking me

  • Hymn Elisha

    Hi, I have some little question and no body cant answer me.I buy a Launchpad and novation twitch. But when i connect it together ,Why twitch is turn on and can use but launchpad its connect??, I want to use it all together. If you have any idea about Digital Dj gear to connect it together and can use pls tell me. Plsssss Answer me i Hopefully you can help and answer me. Thx alot Peace and GOD BLESS YOU.

  • Jesse Herr

    great article! nothing like an all in one with some extras, might buy an external mixer or sound card down the road

  • Darren Chopper

    Hi Ean

    is it possible within traktor to have 2 different beat grids?

    for example you could have a track that starts at a certain BPM then slows down in the middle of the track. upon return to the original speed the BPM grid is totally out of sync?

    Do you know how to cure this?

    • Dilby

      There is a forum for this stuff….

      Put a cue point at the place in the track where it returns to the correct/original tempo and make it a grid marker.

    • Aleksandar Todorovic

      Found a solution for that. Make two copies of the track, load both to the separate decks. Now, lets say that you have a track that goes from 128 to 140. Load the first copy of a track to deck A, set a beatgrid at 128. Now, load the second copy to the deck C, set the tempo to 140 and beatgrid it to the second part of the song. Then, during the performance, just play both decks at the same time, turn off the sync button on 140 version and mute it of course, and then, when tempo changes, simply mute deck A and unmute deck C. Complicated, I know, but if you’re not so experienced with beatmaching, or you don’t have a controller that allows you to do it, it’s a good solution.

  • Tero Fubar Nousiainen

    Thing is that I’d love to use a single controller- however the ones available at the moment are too cramped for most part. I love my twitch but under stress and all the hustle going on in the booth I have to be constantly careful in what I press on the controller. Only option for a full-sized controller is now numarks ns7fx. Thats why I use mostly cdj’s in midi and a mixer. Looking forward to getting the new denons sc29’s tho.

  • Brian Foster

    Numark Mixtrack, Native Instruments Audio 2 DJ. That’s how I roll economy style.

  • NotSoSiniSter

    I like the modular setup. Waiting on my QuNeo to get in. Then I want to experiment and see if an Ipad running lemur and a QuNeo is enough to DJ with. Or I might add something with knobs and a crossfader if i need a little more. 🙂 Internal mixing is fine with me. Depending on a club to have a good mixer is always a little dicey.

  • Andrew Northern

    I use a DDJ-S1 running serato itch 2.0 and I run ableton live 8 in the background using a novation launchpad and an x1 controlling loops effects and drumrack (Thanks Zach for all the drum racks!) I don’t believe that you have to pick one or the other…

  • Ray

    I’d love to see you do an article on mobile DJs. There are some really talented guys doing it out there like The Flashdance fro example. An example of what Ean would play at a corporate party or Wedding would be great too.

  • DJ_ForcedHand

    I don’t see this as an either-or thing and maybe the topic is off target. I really value this article for suggestions, but I don’t think there will ever be a catch-all guide for what is right for each individual unless that guide speaks to every aspect of the broad topic of “DJing.”

    I think it’s pretty clear that the more you want to do (live) will mean the more you’ll have to customize your setup and the more you will make your setup modular but there’s no shame in using what you have to the best of your abilities.

  • sammsousa

    modular is definetly for me!! the only problem is that my next purchase would have to a 4 channel mixer, wich will be atleast 1000 bucks (either i get an older one but i’d have to get a soundcard aswell or i’d get one with a soundcard in it and that would also be arround that price) & i would still need another controller later on.. plus i would have to buy traktor!! thinking that for less then the price of a mixer i could get an s4, with the 2.5 software, its tuff to choose modular (when you’re on a budget!!) but in my opinion all in one controllers are just to unsecure! i personally know somebody that owns an s4 and one of the faders was buggin sometimes! it eventually stoped, but he couldnt send it to be repaired because now, in the summer, he needs it more then ever! however i know two other guys that own one and didnt have a problem yet! but still to risky for me! when ever i can i prefer quality over quantity, might be more expensive, but worth it! that could go for food, weed and SPECIALLY music gear! modular is no doubt the best investment!

    • Sebastian Gonzato

      The Denon DN-X1100 is a really good mixer if you don’t want effects, so you could get that (around 500 euros) plus the audio 10 / 6. If you do decide to get the Denon DN-X1100 and live in Europe, I’m selling mine for 300 euros (it’s a year old and works and looks absolutely fine).

      • Anthony Woodruffe

        I’ll reply here so to keep a bit of a flow. I use an Audio 8 and have to connect every time to my Xone:92 (Which gives the warmest sound of any mixer on the market) but I’ve been plugging and unplugging for 18 months now (that’s about 80 gigs) and TBH it’s starting to piss me off. I’ve thought of buying an all-in-one unit but virtually all look like toys and have no place at one of my events. That said I like the to look of the Vestax vci-380 and vci-400 and I think one of these combined with an Kontrol F1 or Midi-Fighter 3D could certainly add some versatility to a set. But I already own 2 Xone:1Ds, a launchpad and a little Vestax VMC-100 so to go and buy a load more stuff again seems redundant. My problem is the Audio 8 but it’a a rock sold piece of kit. It’s quite possible I should just buy a DB4 or DB2 and be done with it but that’s a lotta cash to splash out just on a whim.
        I guess what I’ve been trying to point out is, think twice about getting an analog mixer. I’ve been there and done it. It’s sounds f’ing awesome but it’s a pain in a ass connecting the thing week in / week out, sometimes 3x a week.

  • Sara Simms

    Thanks Ean, this is a very well-written article. I think this will help many people to choose the controller that best suits their needs. You made a few good points about live rigs too!

  • Owen

    I just bought the Vci-400 SE and a Midifighter 3D. Yes I realize that makes me now look like a total DJTT fanboy. I am upgrading from a two channel urei mixer and old as fuck denon cd decks using traktor scratch duo…. the old one … like the really old one. So I now have all in one and modular gear on it’s way to me. My old gear served me extremely well but it was finally time to upgrade. Now I would never dream of landing up to a club with the Vci-400 if I was not the main event.. I, like most people on this site am not and probably will never be the main event, I can live with that. If I was playing a small set in a club I would use CD’s to save the hassle of trying to set up gear in between other peoples sets. Or I would use Traktor scratch and an X1 and the 3D, I am actually really looking forward to messing around with the 3D although I can’t see me ever using it out anytime soon, it doesn’t fit my style at the moment but I think for production it might be a real gem in the studio. The Vci-400 will only ever leave my house to go to other house parties or the odd mobile DJ style gig.

    The main problem with all in one solutions and digital DJ’n in general in my opinion is small booths and the fact swapping between 2 DJ’s using totally different set ups can prove to be allot of hassle in the real world. As easy and polite as we try and make it theres still allot that could be done that would make things easier. I wish there would be more traktor and serato certified mixers. If the DJM850 had two USB ports and a traktor and serato cert soundcard in it the world would be a better place. 2 DJ’s could easily swap over 2 laptops using different software with just 2 usb cables coming out of the top of the mixer. For the foreseeable future clubs will be house gear with modular add-ons and mobile DJ’s will be more all in one solutions with some sort of back up to cover unforeseen problems.

    • Sebastian Gonzato

      Traktor AND Serato certified soundcards? Never, ever, ever gonna happen.

      • Owen

        I know it will never happen but in an ideal world….

        • Dennis Olivieira

          It is already heppening. Because de DJM850 en DJM900nexus is getting clubkit of Serato.

  • Jason Karriker

    “Access to analogue clipping” is a benefit? Oh dear…….

    Please, for the love of god, keep the mixer out of the red.
    Thx,The Management

    • D.J. Md

      where is the like button?

  • theartofnoise

    “It’s debatable that analogue summing sounds better and can be pushed harder without digital clipping”
    “Access to analogue clipping and a 2nd gain stage on each channel is very useful”

    well, most mixers in clubs are digital. all pio mixers are digital. all denon mixers are. the latest-gen xone mixers (db2/4) are. latest-gen rane mixers (61/62/68) are.

    so your point on analog is moot!

    “Personally, I think that mixing in clubs using the real mixer is the
    best way to go. […] I prefer mixers like the
    DJM-900 Nexus”

    So you prefer a digital mixer. No analogue summing or access to analog clipping on the Nexus. I gotta say, this article is a huge letdown. Your lack of understanding of technical aspects is shocking!

    • Ean Golden

      all the mixers you mentioned are digital but they have lot’s of great compression DSP on the outputs of each channel and the master bus to avoid digital clipping (which emulates the analogue effect) – they also have their own gain stage, which is the main thing a dj needs live. Auto gain in traktor, and then mixer gain if more boost is needed.

      I prefer the Nexxus (which I know is digital) – because it has 4 channels of USB audio directly into the board along with a good suite of built in effects.

      • Tom Rockford

        I would really like to know if there’s more “pro” mobile performing DJ’s
        out there like f.ex Porter Robinson, which uses an S4/S2 in there live
        performance. I somebody there who can telling me that pls?

        What’s the diffence between a F1 and a S4 in unsing/handle it?
        Thanks for feedbacking me

      • Nimbus

        Yes.. even when you have a controller with good audio interface, it seems better to use the DJM900 or even DJM850 internal interface instead. Sound quality of the pioneer processors seem to be noticeably better

  • arnie

    Ean, quick question about the headphone issue, i use S4 and do struggle when im playing and its pumping to here tracks on my cans. They are £60 head phones so not brilliant i was wondering if theres a way to get more out of the output.

    • Chris Silver

      I’m not sure, you just have to try this out:
      Use the power supply plug next to your USB plug on the back of your S4. This way the S4 isn’t powered via USB and should have more power for every output (master and headphones)

      Try it and tell me if I was wrong 🙂
      Hope it works

  • na_non

    Is not an option the Denon Dnsc 2000 for djtechtools? ummmm …strange? ……Nice articles though …thanks

  • Matt

    some great advice in here. Another consideration i would ad is setup footprint, especially if you are going to be crammed into a little DJ booth instead of having all that glorious room in the richie hawtin(?) photo above. These days it seems like all the places I play have CDJs and 1200s that just collect dust, and swapping between DJs is like an acrobatic and architectural feat, trying to get everyone in and out when we all have our own laptops and own personalized setup that has to get plugged in and then sit on top of some random uneven surface with usb cables running everywhere.

    “just” using two X1s seems like a good idea until you have to figure out where to fit them in around everything else in the booth. I’ve been performing a mix of DJ and live with a Traktor/Maschine combo and last week I just gave up on the Maschine part because i got too frustrated trying to find some reasonable real estate for the controller.

    • Ryan Glassman

      AMEN! That’s one of the things I love about my S4. It can fit anywhere. But I just got a hold of a 1200 and I’ve been teaching myself to scratch…but down the line, I’m still not going to be able to bring that to 50% of my gigs because there just won’t be room on the table.

      However, modular and all-in-one both work to solve this problem. Like I said with my S4, most all-in-one controllers are pretty compact compared to traditional DJ setups and can fit in tight spaces. The NS7 is probably the only real exception to that. Modular, on the other hand, is size adjustable, which is beautiful. Don’t have room for your Maschine? Well, that’s shitty, but you can still DJ a good set without it. I assume. Figure out what you can fit where, and pick your methods around that. Hopefully you can get an idea of how much space you have beforehand.

      • Owen

        I can’t think of that many clubs I go to where an S4 would fit comfortably in the booth with all the gear thats already in them

        • Ryan Glassman

          I can’t think of many clubs where anything would fit in the booth with all the gear that’s already in them, which is why footprint is even more important if you’re not going to use the club’s stuff. And the club that I play at most often has a stage instead of a booth so we set up tables, and the gear usually covers two entire tables. If my setup were any larger than it was and I wasn’t using the club’s gear, it wouldn’t fit. Same’s true for house parties and the like where space is usually limited to one table.

  • Anthony Woodruffe

    I’m just gonna write this without trying to dress it up.
    If there’s one element lacking on DJ TechTools is advice for the mobile DJ.
    This site really is geared toward all the club and wannabe club DJ’s, yet most Mobile DJ’s can earn more money than the average club DJ per-night. Reading absolutely nothing about what a mobile DJ might need in this article was disappointing. It makes me feel as if either there just isn’t anybody on the DJTT team with the experience to write about it or worse, the Mobile DJ industry isn’t worthy enough to get a mention.
    I know that there are mobile DJ’s who do frequent this site and it is a little disheartening not ever reading anything geared towards this end of the DJ industry.

    • Yan Volodarsky

      I agree with this as well, but with that said I think by reading this article and using common sense you would understand what you need based off of what is available out there… Mobile Dj Equipment = all in one, robust, small, and convenient. I think the article covered this? Although, I would like to see more articles for mobile dj’s and even Mobile DJ companies, but then again this is a Tech Review blog and not an industry review even though they cover a little bit about it.

      • Jonathan Masin

        As a mobile DJ I would disagree that mobile DJ Equipment automatically equals all-in-one, small or even convenience, necessarily. Robust, yes! When I’m getting paid to DJ someone’s wedding, I don’t want to rely on an all-in-one which could glitch on me during someone’s father /daughter dance! For reasons like that, I’m VERY modular. CDJ’s cued and ready, backup iPod cued and ready, laptop with Ableton AND iTunes open, backup thumbdrive in case the hard drive fails, backup CD’s of all music. In my opinion, if you’re getting paid 4 figures to DJ someone’s “most important day,” you can’t just have backup plans, you need parallel plans. It would be great if any one system was reliable enough for that, but I haven’t found one yet. This mobile DJ votes modular!

        • Jonathan-DJ Yoni

          I think you and I have the same mindset, and the same setup for that matter! I always feel uncomfortable if I don’t bring everything to an important gig, always thinking, if something goes wrong with this, I’m covered with that. People say I’m cray, but I remember once doing a gig where the electricity went out but my music was still thumping because I use. A backup battery power module for every gig.

          • Mantron

            I don’t use controllers for certain gigs for that reason, if a controller crashes the whole operation goes down (its happened to me a few times). Still feel that cdjs and mixer are the most rock soild reliable setup, with variable ways to play music usb drive, computer, or cds.

    • Ean Golden

      Good Point – I will add some points about the mobile concerns (which are unique)

      You are correct – mobile djs almost always make more money and play more gigs than the average club dj.

      • Anthony Woodruffe

        Thanks Ean, I think any mobile DJ reading DJTT takes their job very seriously. There is no real rule for an all-in-one or modular setup. It all depends on what medium(s) you need to play and what sound quality you wish for your clients.

        • H the Dj

          “…you have absolutely smashed it on cue, so to speak. I am a mobile Dj, the first gadget (Pioneer DDJ T-1) l bought recently was due to this site. I want the Pioneer rig DJM Mixer and CDJ’s but truth is l cant afford them yet so l wanted something that l could carry around and could afford as l sink my claws deeper into my hobbie that is currently paying me well after seven full years of trying to take it off. I wanted something that would make it easier to move up the Pioneer path. I know what l bought is not exactly the high end long term but there are accesories that can help me deliver e.g the NI sound card to boost my sound, the RCA cables that l can use and how l else l can integrate what l have to more pro-based stuff as l go along etc so that’s what l think too has not really been thrown in our heaven on earth DJ site here. But good read as always.”

      • mikefunk

        Ean. I am not a mobile DJ but yeah. Article about them and for them would be nice. Mobile gear, speakers (like new Denon speakers – they’re great). I think mostly Denon gear is still focused on mobile DJ’s (solid construction and small sizes). Just an idea. Thx!

        • Mantron

          denon speakers mmmm maybe not. I would go with qsc, york, jbl, mackie

      • D-Jam

        Based on the weddings I’ve attended, and the one I played, I’d tell any mobile DJ to invest in a solid all-in-one that has extra inputs.

        I’ve noticed many setup where it’s two laptops. One has Traktor for the “club style” DJing moments, and the other using iTunes or something similar, for when it’s just playing tunes that aren’t mixed or spliced, like slow songs or early in the night music while guests eat.

        I’d probably lean then on an S4 or S8 (or one of the Pioneer all-in-ones for Serato) just so you have the power of an actual mixer with a controller. Plus it’s less stuff to carry.

    • Arnie

      I do mobile and use S4 and macbook pro, these are my staples and work great for mobile. I also have maschine which i use for effects mapped through tractor. I take my midi fighter as a back up and i also have 2no F1’s just for having fun with. But i would defo recommend S4, dont just think you can plug it in and it will do all the work for you it won’t you have to tune it to your needs with girding, cue points etc but the hard workis worth it.

    • DJ Chris Argueta

      I personally do not see myself as a mobile or club DJ. About a 4th of the time I’m in bars/clubs playing music. The rest of the time it’s all event gigs in banquet halls or private homes. After 20 years of DJ’ing I’ve yet to meet the strictly mobile only DJ. You pay Paul Oakenfold enough money, he’ll play at your home and bring his own equipment.

    • steve

      you cant go wrong with Denon for a mobile DJ. very sturdily built take lots of knocks. good sound quality. Decent enough features. This is on their cheaper gear too, not just their high end stuff.
      something like 6000mx2 as mixer / optional controller with a couple of their older cdj units (or pioneer 350s) works really good. (I don’t like the new entry level denon cdjs though)
      pioneer cdjs all the way for someone with club ambitions though – recordbox is the standard in clubs (they might have traktor or serato as optionals, but they always have recordbox) . you will be expected to mix by ear too. mixers any from a reliable make like pioneer, allen & heath, denon etc.. better to have a good built thing with small feature set, than a cheaper make with loads of features in my opinion

  • Lylax

    S4 + FLIGHT CASE + Macbook pro

  • light

    good article, always some helpful information on your site. in addition to what you wrote I felt I’d add to your comments about digital (internal in ableton, etc) versus analog mixing (with something like a pioneer mixer).

    as a professional nightclub dj spinning 3x a week, I can attest that internal mixing can only work when you know exactly what you are going to play and it all has the same general loudness (LUFS).

    whenever you play anything with different loudness levels, you will need to overdrive the ‘quieter’ tracks so they can be heard in your mix. for instance, an alvin risk mix with an average lufs approaching -5 could not be mixed with an old school hip hop track with an average lufs of -10 and below WITHOUT you pumping the old track much louder.

    this sounds awful when done digitally unless you calculate the proper headroom needed for that mix so no clipping ever occurs. of course, when you use thousands of different tracks to perform on a regular basis, this is unfeasible. a hardware mixer is far more forgiving when being overdriven / clipped (things also depend on the club system too)

    So case in point. If your set is all the same loudness and, chances are you probably pre-planned your set to begin with, then heck, why even mix, its probably all autosynced anyways, just have a good monitor. Go internal. But if you are mixing tracks with variable loudness, physical mixing is the only practical way to go when you might have to overdrive a track every now and then.

    • Ean Golden

      I agree completely – it’s the loudness issue when you really need to pump a track to make it sit in the mix based on the sound system. Very well put.

    • mellonhead

      people using ableton do have an advantage on this point. just put a compressor on each deck, set the threshold all the way up so it’s not engaged all of the time and then lower it when needed, while also increasing the output. taada! gain management w/o the nasty clipping and near-dc speaker damage issues. clipping the mixer may sound louder, but it can fatigue the ears of your crowd and many engineers will tell you it’s not really very good for the p.a.

      • TwoColorShoe

        This sounds like a very easy thing to mishandle. While djing, if your track can’t fit into your mix in a club without some simple gain-staging (without clipping), then maybe you shouldn’t be using it. I don’t think throwing in a bunch of compressors would do anything pleasing to your mix.

        If it is a proper club, then there is probably already an analogue or a good external digital compressor being used. After having been the sound tech at a club for a while, the biggest issue is informing the dj not to push everything too far. If we want more bass, I’ll mess with the mixer, don’t turn the bass way up on your crappy Numark that’s plugged into your laptop.

      • oli

        As an alternative, I map my Ableton “channel faders” to a max of -6db (or whatever level works best for you) on the channels (instead of 0dB) and map a knob to the gain function of a “utility” plugin on each channel, and hey presto, loads of headroom AND the ability to turn up “quiet” tunes without any savage clipping. Waves L2 on the master out to catch any wayward peaks, no dramas, no tinnitus. This idea is based on something I learned from the Fabric and MoS sound crews, “headroom is your friend, always leave yourself somewhere to go”. Don’t worry about being “too quiet”, the club’s sound engineer will set the level going to the amps. (engineers CAN turn it up, they CANNOT remove distortion)

    • TwoColorShoe

      Also, in response to my comment below, I agree technically with everything you have said. I just don’t think it is a feasible thing for most people to take advantage of.

      • TwoColorShoe

        Wait, I’m sorry, I got your comment and mellonhead’s confused. You are correct. Although I would always prefer the DJ to not overdrive anything.

    • Ryan Glassman

      Am I a bad person for loving Traktor’s auto gain feature for this exact reason?

    • nimbus

      When you are using a computer you should use auto gain.. because you have NO headroom for tracks recorded ah high volume, or tracks that are already poorly over-compressed.

      Thats because a digital signal generally cant be driven over 0dB, where the output of a pro mixer has a gain well over 20dB. On a full mixer the gain of each channel provides a much larger head room, and a wider amplitude range.. meaning better fidelity. When you mix signals internally in a computer the signal is generally not handled the same way as a high-end digital mixer, and you end up with heavily compressed sound which sounds a little flat and muddy and lacks image depth.. because the computer has to fit the signals into a much smaller output. (its for this reason some will argue that mixing internally is not as good as mixing the audio externally)
      High end DJ mixers such as the Nexus offer much wider band for audio signal, which is arguably even better than a traditional analogue system when it comes to mixing, due to lower distortion when moving the signal through many different process stages.

      In the article he mentions ‘clipping’ the signal.. and he is right. The aim of a PROFESSIONAL mixing system is to have the most signal possible without clipping it… but as close as you can get it. There is a good reason for there being 3 red leds on the level display… you should be using at least the first 1 red LED if the mixer is set up correctly.

      Unless you have an extremely high-end sound card you need to completely stay away from the clipping zone or the signal will compress and sound poohs.

      So.. tell me… why don’t any of the pro DJ controllers have digital out… like on the CDJ2000/900 etc. then we could have perfect sound when mixing externally?

  • BradCee

    Spot on article. I recently switched from all in one VCI100 to a modular with 2 Reloop Contours and Numark 4ch mixer. Tbh this is working better for in general than the all in one.
    plus it feels closer to the traditional setups i stated on