If you are a DJ who enjoys mixing with physical CDs, there has never been a better moment to switch to a complete digital experience — DJing music from a laptop computer.
For those trained in using the jog wheels found on CDJ, the options are nearly unlimited. There are tons of mixing controllers available and nearly as many software programs to choose from. If you’re feeling lost as to where to begin, heed the advice of a DJ with 10 years experience — choose your mixing software first and then choose a controller.
The first point is that there are quite a few more kinds of DJ controllers on the market than there are decent software platforms. The second point is that you want to choose a program that has some history, not an app that’s brand new and still has a lot of bugs. Many hardware makers have put out digital mixing programs and while some may be suitable for small-scale wedding DJs, if you are mixing in clubs then you need to use the best DJ software you can find, especially designed for DJs that have CDJ experience. Without a doubt it’s Traktor.
A small disclaimer. While I have never actually used Traktor (I chose to use Ableton since I like to perform tracks I produce) there is no doubt that it’s one of only two pro platforms. The other is Serato Scratch, but that’s more geared towards vinyl DJs. While I’ve never used Traktor, you can take my advice to heart because I was mentored by an old-school DJ who shared headlines with all the big guys before they were famous… Hawtin, Glaude, May, Atkins, etc. When my mentor made the switch to digital he picked Traktor — and he’s a vinyl DJ. This guy breathes, eats, and sleeps techno music, so his opinion musn’t be taken casually.
If you’re searching for a DJ app that the pros use and you learned to DJ using jog wheels, then get Traktor and work backwards to find the right controller. Once you buy the software you can find the perfect hardware to match it with and you’ll be set.
If you like to be really thorough you might be able to take your laptop and headphones down to a music store and ask to try it with the various mixers to to see how compatible it is with Traktor. If it isn’t plug and play, you should consider something else, because if a mixer isn’t Traktor-compatible, it’s likely for amateurs. Make a final choice based on review, features and price and you’ll be on your way. See you in the mix!