Basic Background Information
In a nutshell, DJ controllers are capable of producing high-quality scratching sounds. At least, if you know what you are doing. The scratching sound that you hear at night clubs and in DJ mixes is created by either using a digital or standalone turntable.
This sound can be made on a DJ controller, standalone CDJ, vinyl turntable, or even with DJ software. The skill of the person scratching is much more important than the type of equipment you use. Yet, some equipment tends to work better for some people than it does for others.
There are many different techniques for producing a scratching sound. Some of the most common scratching techniques are the baby scratch, tear scratch, chirp scratch, and various other techniques. One of the most basic techniques for scratching is used to edit explicit lyrics out of a track by moving the platter forward on beat.
Scratching with DJ Controller vs. Vinyl
As said earlier, scratching can be done both on vinyl materials and non-vinyl (such as DJ controllers). Scratching on a DJ controller can sound just as great as on vinyl. Be aware, though, that many Luddite vinyl purists in the industry will vehemently tell you otherwise.
As much as vinyl turntables can produce warm and awesome scratches, DJ controllers also produce great sounds. As you will learn when you get good at scratching, the type of equipment that you use doesn’t matter. It is your skill on the gear that matters most.
Scratching with a MIDI DJ Controller: Pros & Cons
The fact that you will not be respected when you use a DJ controller for scratching is a false assertion. The respect you get from DJing does not depend on the type of gear you use but the sound you produce. Both classic vinyl equipment and modern DJ controllers can be used to create great scratching sounds.
Scratching with Standalone Vinyl or CDJs: Pros & Cons
Standalone gear such as vinyl and CDJs have long been accepted by the scratching community. However, one major concern that you should be aware of is that both CDs and vinyl will wear with continued use. If you use vinyl turntables, you will also need to purchase new needle cartridges.
How Fast Latency Will Affect Fast Scratching
Some people believe that they cannot use a DJ controller for scratching since they believe latency will make fast scratching impossible. In reality, a MIDI DJ controller will work wonderfully for fast scratching with software that was designed for the controller.
It is also a good idea to make sure that you have a nice audio interface if your controller doesn’t come with an included sound card. Certain software works well with certain controllers. With a nice audio interface, or a good controller/software combination, latency will usually not affect your ability to scratch fast.
Motorized Platters Vs Stationery Platters
The platter (or jogwheel) is the platform where you create the scratching sound. There are two major types of platters. Motorized platters have a built-in motor that makes the platter move to mimic the look and feel of a classic vinyl turntable. This is the type of platter that is recommended for anybody who is switching from vinyl to DJ controllers.
Stationary platters are usually a lot more affordable than controllers with motorized platters. This is because there is no included motor to spin the platter like a classic vinyl turntable. If you are new to scratching and are looking for the best cheap DJ controller for scratching, you should get a model with a stationary platter.
Traditionally, the Best Scratchers Have Used Vinyl
There is no doubt that the DJ controllers are capable of high-quality scratching if they are used by somebody who knows how to scratch. However, the reality is that many of the best scratchers in history were known for using vinyl turntables. Even if this means they use timecode technology.
It seems that times are changing, though. For many reasons, both old school and new DJs are starting to notice the impressive scratching capabilities of DJ controllers. You can still be respected as a scratching DJ if you use MIDI controllers.
Finding the Best DJ Controller For Scratching: Buyer’s Guide
There are some important variables to keep in mind if you wish to find the best DJ controller for scratching. For starters, your personal needs are the most important thing to keep in mind. Before we break down our top scratching controllers, let’s explore each of these variables.
Software Designed for the Controller
To find the best DJ controller for scratching make sure to check which software the controller was designed for. This way, you can minimize the possibility of any technical difficulties. As we mentioned, using the software intended for the controller usually allows you to have the best scratching capabilities. It will also make it a lot easier than trying to find MIDI maps and installing things on your own.
Type of Platter on the Controller
If you are a DJ who is accustomed to vinyl, it is recommended that you start by using a DJ controller with a motorized platter. Although it will cost a little bit more than one with a stationary platform, you will feel at home from the get-go.
If you are new to scratching or need to find an affordable scratching controller than you should consider one with a stationary platter. As a beginner, you won’t be affected by the difference between motorized and stationary platters as much. You will probably save some money by doing so.
Number of Supported Channels
A good scratching DJ will typically use more than two channels. This is because while you are scratching you might also be planning your next transition. Files used for scratching are usually small sound bites. If you only have two channels on your controller, it will be very difficult to scratch during a transition.
This is why those who want the best DJ controller for scratching should get a controller with four channels. You will be able to have one channel on the right and left side of your crossfader reserved for scratching. Best of all, you can always leave one channel open for transitioning to the next song.
Ability to Easily Adjust Crossfader Curve
When we broke down how to use a DJ controller, one of the features we described is the ability to adjust the crossfader curve. As you will learn when you start to learn advanced scratching techniques, you will need to be able to move the crossfader back-and-forth rapidly. With the ability to easily adjust the crossfader curve (either on the control or the software), this won’t be a problem.
Best Controllers for Scratching: Comparison Chart
Most Affordable DJ Controllers for Scratching: Comparison Chart
5. NI Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
The Top Scratching DJ Controllers
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX Review
The DDJ-RZX is a high-quality DJ controller for scratching since it comes with four-channels on the mixer, large jogwheels, an impressive 96 kHz/32-bit included audio interface and the full version of Rekordbox.
In fact, this is not only one of the best DJ controllers for scratching, but one of the top-tier DJ controllers in general. If you have the extra money sitting around, this controller will not only serve as a great scratching controller. You can trust this controller for all types of gigs.
Whether you are a beginner DJ learning how to scratch, or a club DJ who wants a more portable setup, this is a great option for you to consider.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX Feature Highlights
This controller is designed to mimic all the best features of one of Pioneer’s finest products, the CDJ-2000NXS2. This includes premium features like extra-large jogwheels, 4-channels, touch screen control, FX & looping, and the flawless functionality we all expect from the Pioneer brand.
2. Numark NS7III
Numark NS7II Review
Many DJs see the Numark brand as the best manufacturer of DJ controllers and products. Although we could debate for days on which brand is the best, the Numark NS7II is a sample of the Numark brand’s premium quality.
Not only is this one of the best DJ controllers for scratching, but is jam-packed with features which make it one of the overall best DJ controllers on the market. There is also a 24-bit audio interface included in the controller.
This controller comes equipped with the full version of Serato DJ Pro, motorized platters, and 3 LCD screens. The motorized platters, in particular, are what will make this the best DJ MIDI controller for scratching for experienced turntablists.
If you have been using vinyl for years, this is a great controller to switch over to.
Numark NS7III Feature Highlights
The feature which stands out the most with this controller is that it comes with motorized platters. This is a highly coveted feature by DJs who are looking for a product to make an easy switch from vinyl or CDJ over to MIDI controllers.
The product comes equipped with software, a Prime Loops Remix Tool Kit, MPC pads, and an included 24-bit/44.1 kHz audio interface. Then, there are 3 LCD screens on this device. One for each channel, and a waveform visual placed in the middle to assist with scratching.
There are also 8 MPC pads for each deck and touch-activated knobs to fine-tune your sound FX. There is also an included 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
3. Roland DJ-808
Roland DJ-808 Review
The Roland DJ-808 is a premium DJ controller for a wide array of purposes. Most noteworthy, this controller allows for easy scratching with the large platters, 4-channels control, and the full version of Serato DJ Pro.
There are various other reasons why many consider the DJ-808 to be the best DJ MIDI controller for scratching. Outside of the creation of sounds and beats with the TR-S drum machine that is incorporated in this controller, you can change the channel your platter controls with a simple touch a button.
Roland DJ-808 Feature Highlights
One of the nicest features of this control is that it comes equipped with a built-in Roland TR drum machine. This will give you access to your own selection of kicks, snares, hi-hats, claps, and so on during your live sets.
Another impressive feature of this device is that there is a built-in VT Voice Transformer. This wonderful feature adjusts your voice while you talk on the microphone to ensure that your voice stays on-key during your live sets.
The DJ-808 has many of the basic features which you should expect in a DJ controller. This includes 8 drum pads on each channel, sound FX, and looping control. When turned on, the backlighting really highlights the beautiful design of the controller.
4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2 Review
The DDJ-SX2 controller from Pioneer features updated jogwheels to allow for better scratching and a new Hot Cue Countdown system. The SX2 remains as one of the best DJ controllers for scratching despite the fact that Pioneer has since released the SX3 version.
The large platters, full version of Serato, and 4-channel design of this controller are all reasons why this is one of the best DJ controllers for scratching. If the SX3 is updated to counter various bugs and problems, it would be very easy for it to replace the SX2 on this list.
The SX2 has dedicated buttons which are used for the Serato FLIP. This feature allows DJs to record cue point automation, and adjust edits during their sets. It also comes with 4 channels and drum pads for each channel.
Pioneer DDJ-SX2 Feature Highlights
If you are a fan of Pioneer and Serato, then this may be the best digital DJ controller for scratching to suit your needs. The functionality of this controller, when paired with Serato, is flawless. In fact, it is specifically designed to be this way.
Scratching DJs will love how this controller comes with large platters and 4-channels to allow plenty of room for scratching sound FX. The cue points can also be easily used along with the vinyl mode, allowing DJs to easily recall back to their favorite cue of a track for scratching purposes.
5. Denon DJ MCX8000
Denon DJ MCX8000 Review
The Denon DJ MCX8000 stands out to many as the best DJ MIDI controller for scratching due to its beautiful design and ability to be used both as a standalone device and MIDI controller. In other words, if your laptop fails during a set, you will still be able to continue music without one.
Since this controller has USB inputs and the ability to connect to software, it can be used by DJs looking to have a standalone or hybrid setup. Best of all, there are four decks that you can control to allow for plenty of room for scratching.
Another great feature of this controller is how durable it is. Constructed with a metal case, this controller is considerably hard to break. It also comes with a limited manufacturer’s warranty which will help you protect your investment for several years to come.
Denon DJ MCX8000 Feature Highlights
The standalone feature and reasonably affordable price are a couple of reasons why people consider this to be the best digital DJ controller for scratching.
The MCX8000 comes with 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads on each deck. There are also various built-in sound FX, and it comes ready for you to upgrade to Serato. One major downside, though, is that this controller doesn’t come with the full version of Serato.
If you simply want the standalone features of this controller, you won’t even want to have Serato in the first place. The controller stands out from its competitors as perhaps the most durable product DJ controller for scratching.
Affordable Scratching DJ Controllers
1. Numark NS6II
Numark NS6II Review
Getting a controller which is both affordable and great for scratching isn’t entirely easy to do. However, the NS6II is one of the biggest exceptions to this general rule of thumb. With high-quality features and functionality, this may even be the best digital DJ controller for scratching to many.
Numark NS6II Feature Highlights
This product comes with LCD displays right on the jogwheels to help you track things such as the tempo and key of each track. There are also 4-channels on the mixer, making it easy for scratching DJs to do what they do best.
The N6II also comes with the full version of Serato so that you can start playing right out of the box. The mixer of the device can also be used as a standalone mixer in case you want to add a separate device to your setup.
There are 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads located on each channel to allow easy sampling and cueing. One feature which is especially unique to this device is that there are 2 USB ports which allow you to hook the device up to two different laptops.
2. Reloop Beatpad 2
Beatloop Beatpad 2 Review
The Reloop Beatpad is the best iPad DJ controller if you are searching for an affordable product that you can mix with straight from your tablet. The Beatpad 2 makes use of the DJAY mixing application that is designed to work well with mobile devices.
This is a highly professional and awesome controller for minimalist DJs. If you want a controller which will make your setup as small as possible, getting a device like this will help you be able to mix and scratch without carrying around large and overly-expensive gear.
Beatloop Beatpad 2 Feature Highlights
When you think of the idea of using an iPad to DJ, your first natural instinct might be to laugh. The real joke, though, is that DJs can scratch just as effectively with the right skill on a device like this as they can on more expensive gear.
In fact, this is arguably the best iPad DJ controller you will find. Since it pairs up with Spotify, you will never miss another request again. That is, as long as you have internet and clients which request music that is on Spotify.
This device has velocity-sensitive drum pads, 2 channels on the mixer, tempo control, looping capabilities, and can also use various sound FX.
3. Gemini G4V
Gemini G4V Review
The Gemini G4V is one of our top choices for affordable scratching controllers since it comes with 4-channels, 8 drum pads, and reasonably large platters to allow for easy scratching.
Due to its price and features, many will find this to be the overall best cheap DJ controller for scratching. If you are a fan of Virtual DJ, then you will be able to plug this controller in today and start mixing without any problems.
Gemini G4V Feature Highlights
Outside of the affordability of this device, it also comes with many of the most basic features that you need a DJ controller for scratching. This includes things such as a four-channel mixer and a generous jogwheel size.
The G4V can also handle looping, sound FX, easy tempo adjustment, and can easily be mapped for use on your favorite software. This includes Virtual DJ, Traktor, and Serato.
Perhaps what is most impressive of this device is that it comes with so many different features and capabilities at such an affordable price.
4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 Review
Although it may not look like it from the outside, this may as well be the best cheap DJ controller for scratching. Featuring a simple design which is both lightweight and portable, this device is also affordable for scratching DJs of all budgets.
This is a very high-quality DJ controller. Especially if you are searching for a budget starter DJ controller to get your business rolling. However, this controller doesn’t come with the full version of Serato and has parts which could be constructed with more durable materials.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 Feature Highlights
The SB3 has the ability to play 4 decks and has 8 sampler drum pads on both sides of the controller. There are also tempo faders, buttons to help you easily create loops, and a complete mixer with EQs and separate volume faders.
This controller contains many different features that you should expect any sort of controller. Since it comes at such an affordable price and scratching features which were designed with the assistance of DJ Jazzy Jeff, the potential of this controller is unlimited for the right user.
5. NI Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
NI Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review
This will be the best cheap DJ controller for scratching for you to consider if you are a fan of Native Instruments products and Traktor software. This is a very basic controller but can be used for quality scratching sounds in the hands of a skilled user.
Best of all, this product comes at a price which can be purchased by DJs of all budget types. The included sound FX and looping capabilities match the specifications of any of the high-end controllers.
NI Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Feature Highlights
With a nice jogwheel size and easy incorporation into Traktor, this is another great option for a DJ who wants to learn how to scratch. The only problem you may encounter is being limited to 2 channels on the mixer.
However, those who use Traktor software will still be able to take advantage of the remix deck feature which allows DJs to reserve another channel for mixing another track into their set.
This is one of the most portable controllers on this list, and the overall best option if you want a controller that will scratch well on Traktor Pro 3.
FAQs, Tips, & Advice
Now that we have reviewed various different controllers which are great for people who are either learning to scratch or experienced turntablists, let’s break down some of the most common FAQs, DJ tips, and advice to share with people seeking the best DJ controller for scratching.
What are the Best DJ Controllers?
In order to find the best DJ controller, you need to start by first considering what type of DJ you want to be, and what kind of set up you want to be. Some of the best DJ controllers don’t actually cost that much and work great for mobile DJs who are trying to find a way into the DJ industry.
One of the most popular DJ controller brands is Pioneer. You might also consider getting a controller from a brand like Numark, Native Instruments, Denon, Roland, and so on. If you want to get a high-end DJ controller, try to get one with 4-channels, a premium software license, and a warranty of some sort.
What is the Best DJ Controller for a Beginner?
As a beginner, getting a DJ controller means that you don’t really need to invest that much money. There are many great beginner DJ controllers which allow you to learn and develop your skills adequately before moving up to some of the more expensive pieces of equipment.
In any case, make sure that the controller you purchase is one which contains at least two channels on the mixer, the ability to hook up to your favorite DJ software, tempo control, and also platters to help you develop your scratching skills.
What Are DJ Controllers Used For?
DJ controllers are usually MIDI devices which DJs can use to control software and mix music together. They can also be used as standalone devices which allow DJs the ability to use the controller without software.
However, DJ controllers are always used for mixing music. They can be used to scratch records like a vinyl turntable, create loops in songs, and even add in sound FX. If you want to be a mobile DJ, a controller will grant you the portability that you need to carry your setup around easily.
What’s the Difference Between a DJ Mixer and a Controller?
A mixer is a device which DJs use to control volume levels and EQ levels of music. They can be used by audio engineers, DJs, and live PA professionals. DJ mixers also typically contain a crossfader which allows the DJ to control which channel of the mixer is projecting out to the PA system.
A DJ controller typically contains two decks and mixer all in one device. Accordingly, the main differences between these two products are how and when they are used. A DJ controller has the ability to work as a mixer. This is typically done with the assistance of DJ software unless it has standalone capabilities.
DJ controllers also contain two decks, which allow a DJ to scratch the track, add in sound FX, loops, and so on. A mixer, on the other hand, can be used by various audio professionals, not just DJs.
What Turntables do DJs Use?
In the past, turntables were a necessary component of any DJ setup. DJs who scratch with turntables use vinyl records and a turntable. They can include timecode technology which allows them to hook up to software.
By far, the most popular brand of turntables for DJs is Technics. However, many scratching DJs these days also choose to use controllers since they are very affordable and combine the best features of turntables and mixers into one device.
How Much Does DJ Equipment Cost?
In order to determine how much it costs for a DJ setup, you need to first decide what type of DJ that you want to be, and what type of set up that you wish to perform on. As a beginner DJ, you probably won’t need to spend that much on your starter set up. Think in terms of $500 – $1,500.
If you want to have a respected professional DJ setup, though, you will definitely need to invest a lot of money. When you factor in items such as lights, sub woofers, and top-of-the-line controllers, you can easily spend more than $5,000 – $10,000 on your setup.
What is the Best DJ Equipment for Beginners?
There are three types of setups that a professional DJ can have. A digital setup, hybrid setup, or a standalone setup. In order to determine what the overall best DJ equipment for your individual circumstance is, you need to first determine what type of DJ you want to be.
Then, pick a setup which will work well with your style. Here is our guide for helping you create your first professional setup.
How Many Types of DJ are There?
The main types of DJ include the mobile DJ, bar DJ, club DJ, radio DJ, wedding DJ, concert venue DJ, and producer DJ. For more information on these types of DJs, make sure to check out our how to DJ guide.
Final Verdict: Our Top Choice
In order to get a great controller for scratching, you need a product with a durable crossfader. It also needs to ideally have a large jogwheel, four channels on the mixer, premium software, and durable parts to ensure it lasts for the long haul.
If you want the absolute best controller for scratching, make sure to check out the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX. However, if you are on a tighter budget, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 is another great option for you to consider.