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DJ Controller or Turntables? A Debate About Digital vs. Vinyl

Everyone has their preference on whether they reach for their turntables for a gig or their CDJs. There are lots of things you need to look into before making a decision, however. Is one inherently better? Do they sound different? What about cost? Is there a steep learning curve? We’re going to tackle these questions and a few others below to see which might be a better fit for you.

Controllers:

Pros

  • Extensive MP3 libraries and access to thousands of songs on hand.

  • In-depth features such as cue points, loops, and live sampling.

  • The ability to create remixes and mash-ups on the fly.

  • Less equipment to transport (no more breaking your back carrying crates).

  • Stronger performances at clubs and shows.

  • Visual aid in understanding beat matching for beginners.

  • Compatibility with iTunes and beat production programs such as Ableton Live.

  • Typically cheaper than turntables and vinyl records.

Cons

  • MP3 sound quality cannot compare to the sound of vinyl (certain DJs’ opinions).

  • It makes it easier for anyone to be a ‘DJ’ because you don’t necessarily have to learn the proper skills or techniques (the program helps you do it)- e.g. beatmatching.

  • It can make the DJ lazy and less likely to actually perform at peak skill levels.

  • Latency issues with sound. However, since technology is getting better by the day, this is rare.

  • With controllers and all in one digital systems, it can steer beginners away from learning on the foundation of this art-form…the turntable.

Turntables:

Pros

  • Natural sound quality.

  • The feel of vinyl can't be beat.

  • Scratching is better.

  • Album art and liners.

  • Fun and coolness factor. It just looks good.

  • Fine-tunable, continuously upgradeable sound.

Cons

  • Initial Investment. Remember, you have to have two to play music. Then, you have to get all those albums.

  • Record care and cleaning.

  • Occasional surface noise.

  • Storage space. Records take up a lot of space.

  • Newer music is harder to find on records.

  • Less portable. They’re large and heavy, plus you have to tote around the albums as well.

All-in-all, no matter which you choose, you’re still a DJ. It really comes down to practice and how much you care about it. Try both because you can rent all the equipment to give them a shot and see what feels right to you.