DJ Controllers Vs Turntables Vs CDJ: Which Setup Is Best for You?

DJ Controllers Vs Turntables Vs CDJ


As a DJ, choosing the right setup is like selecting the perfect tool for a masterpiece. DJ controllers, turntables, and CDJs each offer a unique set of features and capabilities. But which one is best for you?

No matter if you are a beginner DJ, you are more keen to use software like Traktor, Virtual DJ or Serato or you want to have your music on a USB stick, all of these options are industry standard and will give you high-end quality. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the key differences and weigh the pros and cons of each option. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, this guide will help you find the innovative setup that suits your style and needs.

Overview of DJ Setup Options

Understanding the different setup options available is crucial in determining which setup is best suited for your needs. DJ controllers are versatile devices that combine mixing controls, jog wheels, and performance pads in a compact package.

Turntables, on the other hand, offer a more traditional approach, allowing for precise vinyl manipulation. Also, you will appear more professional when you show up on the scene with two turntables and a DJ mixer.

CDJs provide a digital alternative, offering a familiar interface for DJs who prefer using CDs or USB drives. Each setup option has its own unique features and advantages, and exploring these options will help you make an informed decision.

DJ Controllers Vs Turntables Vs CDJ

What are DJ controllers?

I love how DJ controllers offer a versatile and compact way to mix and manipulate music. DJ controllers are hardware devices that allow DJs to control software applications, providing a complete DJ setup in a single unit. Probably the most used DJ equipment in the last years because of many various reasons. 

These controllers typically feature a mixer section with faders, knobs, and buttons, as well as jog wheels for precise track control. They connect to a computer or mobile device, enabling DJs to access their music library and use various effects and features.

DJ controllers are an excellent choice for beginners or DJs who prefer a portable setup. They offer a wide range of functionalities, including looping, sampling, and hot cueing, all easily accessible through the controller’s interface.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, DJ controllers provide a convenient and innovative solution for your DJ setup. When we compare CDJs vs DJ controllers, the main thing is the pricing and portability – but we will leave that up to your decision.

What are turntables?

A turntable is an essential component of a DJ setup, allowing me to play and manipulate vinyl records with precision and control. Turntables have been a staple in the DJ world for decades, and for good reason. Here are four reasons why turntables are still regarded as the best option for DJs:

  • Authenticity: Turntables provide a unique and authentic sound that can’t be replicated by digital formats.
  • Performance: The tactile nature of vinyl manipulation adds an extra layer of skill and creativity to DJ performances.
  • Durability: Turntables are built to last, with robust construction and high-quality components that can withstand the rigors of DJing.
  • Versatility: Turntables can be used with a wide range of accessories and vinyl records, giving DJs a vast library of music to choose from.

In comparison of CDJs vs turntables, you will be able to notice the digital and analog way of playing music. Also, you will be able to combine two turntables and CDJs for more complex setups. Most definitively, a unique DJ gear – and if you ask me, I would always pick a set of turntables over a DJ controller, but everything has its own usage and needs.

What are CDJs?

During my time as a DJ, I’ve come to appreciate the versatility and convenience that CDJs offer in modern DJ setups. CDJs, or Compact Disc Jockeys, are professional-grade multimedia players that allow DJs to seamlessly mix and manipulate music from various sources.

They’ve revolutionized the way DJs perform by providing a digital platform that combines the best of both worlds: the tactile feel of vinyl turntables and the technological advancements of DJ controllers.

CDJs offer a wide range of features, including looping, cue points, and effects, all accessible at the touch of a button. They also allow DJs to utilize USB and digital media, eliminating the need for physical CDs or vinyl records.

With their intuitive interface and extensive capabilities, CDJs have become the go-to choice for DJs looking to elevate their performances and create innovative mixes. Compared to turntables, the CDJs are their digital counterparts and you most definitely would love to use CDJs over using a controller. Also, you will look really nice with all the lights in the DJ booth, for sure!

Key Differences Between DJ Controllers, Turntables, and CDJs

DJ Controllers vs Turntables

I’ve always preferred using DJ controllers over turntables because they offer more versatility and easier integration with modern technology. With a DJ controller, you have access to a wide range of features and functionalities that can enhance your performance and take your creativity to new heights.

Here are some key advantages of using DJ controllers:

  • Seamless integration with software: DJ controllers are designed to work seamlessly with popular DJ software, allowing you to manipulate and control your tracks with precision and ease.
  • Extensive connectivity options: DJ controllers often come equipped with multiple inputs and outputs, making it easier to connect to external devices such as mixers or sound systems.
  • Enhanced performance capabilities: DJ controllers offer a range of performance features such as touch-sensitive pads, dedicated effects controls, and loop functions, allowing you to create unique and dynamic mixes.
  • Portability and convenience: DJ controllers are typically compact and lightweight, making them easy to transport and set up for gigs or performances.

For the modern and innovative professional DJ, a DJ controller offers the perfect combination of flexibility, functionality, and convenience.

DJ Controllers vs CDJ

DJ controllers have gained popularity in recent years as a more compact and portable alternative to CDJs. These all-in-one devices combine a mixer, jog wheels, and pads, allowing DJs to control their music with precision and ease.

CDJs, on the other hand, are standalone units that require a separate mixer. They offer a more traditional DJ setup, resembling turntables with large jog wheels and a familiar layout.

While DJ controllers provide convenience and versatility, CDJs offer a professional feel and are preferred by many experienced DJs. Ultimately, the choice between DJ controllers and CDJs depends on personal preference, budget, and the specific requirements of each DJ.

DJ Controllers
DJ Controller

Turntables vs CDJs

I rarely use turntables, but I prefer CDJs for their versatility and ease of use. CDJs offer a wide range of features and functionalities that make them the perfect choice for DJs looking for a modern setup.

Here are a few reasons why CDJs are the best option for you:

  • Advanced Performance Features: CDJs come equipped with advanced performance features such as hot cues, loop controls, and effects, allowing you to elevate your DJ sets and add unique elements to your mixes.
  • Seamless Integration: CDJs seamlessly integrate with various software and hardware, giving you the flexibility to customize your setup according to your preferences and workflow.
  • Reliable and Durable: CDJs are built to withstand the rigors of professional use, ensuring that they’ll last you for years to come without any issues.
  • USB Compatibility: CDJs support USB connectivity, allowing you to easily access and play your music library without the need for external devices.

Disclaimer!: My preference for the genre of music I play is the one above, but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with the choices that were not my first pick. This is just my personal opinion and please look into it with a reserve and from my point of view. I prefer to play Drum and Bass, so more digital choices are more suitable than the analog turntable choice.

Pros and Cons of DJ Controllers, Turntables, and CDJs

Advantages and disadvantages of DJ controllers

Using DJ controllers offers a range of benefits, but one disadvantage is the limited tactile feedback compared to traditional turntables. DJ controllers are digital devices that allow DJs to manipulate and mix music using software.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using DJ controllers:

  • Flexibility: DJ controllers offer a wide range of features and functionalities, allowing DJs to experiment with different effects and techniques. This flexibility allows for more creativity and innovation in DJ performances.
  • Portability: DJ controllers are compact and lightweight, making them easy to transport and set up for gigs. This is especially convenient for DJs who frequently travel or perform at different venues.
  • Integration: DJ controllers seamlessly integrate with software and digital platforms, enabling DJs to access a vast library of music and easily organize their tracks. This integration also allows for real-time syncing and beatmatching, resulting in seamless transitions between songs.
  • Cost: Compared to traditional turntables or CDJs, DJ controllers are often more affordable, making them a more accessible option for aspiring DJs.

While DJ controllers offer numerous advantages, it’s essential to consider the limited tactile feedback they provide compared to traditional turntables. This can affect the DJ’s ability to physically interact with the music and may require some adjustment in technique and performance style.

Ultimately, the choice between DJ controllers, turntables, or CDJs depends on personal preference, style, and the specific requirements of each DJ setup.

Advantages and disadvantages of turntables

Despite their nostalgic appeal, turntables can be more challenging to maintain and require a greater investment in vinyl records, but they offer a unique and authentic sound that many DJs prefer.

Turntables are the traditional choice for DJs who value the tactile experience and the warm sound of vinyl. They provide precise control over the music, allowing for manual beatmatching and scratching. However, the setup for turntables can be more complex, requiring additional equipment such as a mixer and a separate audio interface. Additionally, vinyl records can be expensive and delicate, requiring careful handling and storage.

On the other hand, DJ controllers and CDJs offer a more streamlined and digital approach to DJing. They’re often more compact and portable, making them suitable for mobile DJs. DJ controllers offer a wide range of features and integration with software, while CDJs provide a familiar interface for DJs who are used to using CDs. Both options allow for easier library management and access to a vast digital music collection.

However, some DJs argue that the sound quality and tactile experience of turntables can’t be replicated by digital setups.

Turntables and DJ Mixer

Advantages and disadvantages of CDJs

While CDJs offer a more digital and streamlined approach to DJing, they lack the experience and authentic sound of turntables. However, they do come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages:

  • Versatility: CDJs allow for easy navigation and access to a vast digital music library, enabling DJs to seamlessly mix and match tracks from various genres.
  • Durability: Unlike turntables, CDJs are built to withstand the rigors of frequent use, making them a reliable choice for professional DJs who are constantly on the move.
  • Integration: CDJs can be easily integrated into modern DJ setups, allowing for seamless compatibility with other digital equipment such as MIDI controllers and software applications.
  • Sync Functionality: With advanced syncing capabilities, CDJs make beatmatching and tempo adjustments a breeze, eliminating the need for manual adjustments.

Despite these advantages, CDJs may not be suitable for DJs seeking a more tactile and hands-on experience. Additionally, the cost of CDJs can be prohibitive for beginners or DJs on a tight budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are CDJs harder than controllers?

A: I find that CDJs can be more challenging to use than controllers. A professional DJ setup often combines Turntables, CDJs, and DJ Controllers, and while controllers like Serato DJ are intuitive, CDJs require more skill.

For those looking for more technical experience, CDJs are the way to go. However, for those just starting out in the world of DJing, controllers may be the better option.

Ultimately, the best setup is the one that best suits your needs and goals.

Q: Should I buy a controller or CDJ?

A: It really depends on what you’re looking for – a controller is great for ease of use, while a CDJ offers a more technical experience.

If you’re looking for a setup that’s simple and easy to use, a DJ controller and laptop combo is the way to go. With this setup, you can mix, scratch, and loop tracks without ever needing to touch a turntable or a CDJ.

However, if you’re looking for a more technical experience, then a CDJ and mixer setup is the way to go. With this setup, you can fine-tune your mixes and have more control over your sound.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each setup before making a commitment.


Q: Are you even a DJ if you don’t have a turntable?

A: With so many options available, it’s up to the individual to decide whether they need to have a turntable to be considered a DJ.
For those who want to stay true to the art form, turntables remain the classic choice.

However, CDJs and controllers have opened up the possibilities, enabling DJs to create innovative sets with ease.

Today, DJs have the option of using turntables, CDJs, controllers, Serato DJ and even mobile DJ setups.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the desired sound and the individual’s creativity.

Q: Can you use a DJ controller in a club?

A: Yes, you can use a DJ controller in a club, as long as it has the necessary features and is compatible with the club’s setup.

With the latest DJ Controller models, such as those that use Serato DJ, you can control MIDI CDJs and even use a hybrid setup of both turntables and CDJs.

It’s an innovative way to mix and blend different types of music and create unique soundscapes.

With the right knowledge and preparation, a DJ Controller is an effective way to make your mark as a DJ in any club.


So we did a basic comparison between CDJ vs Controller, Controller vs Turntable and Turntable vs CDJ. There are various types of DJ sets that would require different setups and every DJ has its own preference. One thing is sure – they are the essential DJ equipment that every modern DJ should have. 

So if you have any doubts over some pros and cons of each module, I hope that everything will be clearer now and that you will make the right decision before moving on. Please let us know if you have any questions and we will be more than happy to answer your needs.


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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