Using a DJ controller without a laptop can give you more freedom and flexibility when you’re playing a set on the fly, since you don’t have to worry about your laptop crashing, or lugging an extra piece of gear.
Most controllers come equipped with a built-in audio interface, and input/output ports for sound. A standalone model will come with display screens which will eliminate the need for a laptop.
The best all in one DJ controller will allow the DJ to mix sets on the fly, without the use of a laptop. This type of added flexibility is perfect for the mobile DJ, or the DJ who doesn’t want to rely on a PC connection. These controllers are fairly common these days, as they become more popular in the DJ scene for their versatility and power. Denon is one of the leading standalone DJ controller manufacturers in the industry, producing many of the best-selling all in one controllers with full mixing capabilities.
These versatile all-in-one devices can offer the benefits of both a controller and a mixer, so you can truly get creative during a live set and all this without needing a laptop. Read on to learn why standalone units are the future and which all in one DJ controller I recommend for DJs of all skill levels.
The Standalone Design
When it comes to a traditional controller design, typically, you’ll find that the sound goes through the software, which is the basic principle of a digital device. But models that come equipped with an advanced sound card are able to handle external device input.
Standalone controllers will work as a software MIDI controller and a mixer. With this design, the PC doesn’t need to be powered on or connected.
Obviously, this type of unit is either AC or DC adapter powered because it tends to consume more energy than what a standard USB is able to provide.
So, if you have a digital setup and a couple of CDJs, you’ll want to mix mainly on the controller using the included DJ software, but you’ll want to keep your CD player active as a type of backup and secondary source.
If you have a DJ controller that works as a standalone unit, then you’ll be able to connect any type of external device to an available audio channel, which is usually located on the back of the unit.
This will pass the sound from an external device, such as a turntable, directly to the main output. This means no processing and no software integration. This is why a standalone controller is DC or AC powered.
If you’re a pro DJ and you play a lot of public gigs, then a standalone controller is a must. The biggest advantage is the fact that it doesn’t have to depend on a laptop in order to operate.
Below, you’ll find my recommendation for one of the leading all in one DJ controllers on the market. This model will give you a big advantage at any live performance and has a reputation for both power and durability.
The Prime 4 by Denon DH features four internal decks with a large tilting touchscreen that measures in at ten inches. It also features a second zone of audio output and a built-in hard drive.
If you’ve been looking for a four-channel all in one model, then this controller by Denon is it. The Prime 4 comes loaded with all the best features that you’ll find on past Denon controller models, and then some.
The four comes equipped with Engine Prime DJing software, which is a standalone install. It can also run a couple of layers on audio on each player. It also comes with a total of four decks for playing audio on the preinstalled DJ software.
The four decks are vertically arranged and feature a library section located directly in the middle. It also offers key syncing features, which means you’ll be able to pitch shift songs to match and mix up the perfect set on the fly.
The Denon DJ Prime 4 includes USB keyboard support, in addition to full lossless file support.
The large tilting screen is a multi-touch model, which means the DJ can use a lot of the same type of swipe controls that past models by Denon offer. This includes swiping tracks, scrolling through a sound library, and pinching to zoom.
The dual-zone audio input offers more flexibility and allows the DJ to send a deck to another XLR output located on the back of the device. The unit’s press release controls allow users to send one of four decks to the Zone Out LXRs, so they can set up a playlist to play out on the additional channel.
This model definitely offers an impressive selection of inputs for a standalone controller, including four USB slots, an SD slot, and a SATA drive bay.
Another great feature is the ability to record a mix on any of the connected cards or drivers. This isn’t a feature you’ll find on competing all in one controllers, which usually only allows one USB slot to function as the record out slot.
Effects and Beats
The Denon Prime 4 dual pole effects on each of the channels offer the type of workflow control you’d expect, however, the placement of the selector, which is directly in the middle of the mixing section is a little odd and takes away from the flow of the setup and tends to make it feel a little crowded.
The effects offered include nose, wash, echo, and filter, all of which are very useful. It’s worth mentioning that there aren’t any parameter controls for the effects. this means that the effect’s resonance cannot be controlled on the fly, which is a drawback for some DJs.
The beat effects are definitely different from what you’ll find on a traditional controller. There are a couple of effects units one above each of the decks. These are assigned using the buttons that are located above the channel strips.
You’ll also find a total of four encoders for each of the units. These encoders have buttons located directly below them, which provide more control, as well as small screens located above the tracks you’re controlling.
The controller also comes loaded with a variety of pads per deck. This includes:
- Loop and slicer
- Hot cues
Clearly, this is a very feature-packed, tech-heavy all in one DJ controller that offers the type of versatility and flexibility that the mobile DJ loves and needs, without the use of a laptop or PC. To learn more about this leading model by Denon, click the button below.
Choosing the Right Controller
If you don’t want to worry about your laptop crashing during a set, or you want a controller that’s more flexible and can operate independently as a mixer, then a standalone unit is a great option. However, with this added functionality, you can expect to pay a higher price. But most DJs will find that the added convenience is well worth the higher price tag.
What’s the Best Four-Channel DJ controller on the Market?
I recommend the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX Controller. Not only does this have a pro setup, but it also comes with pre-installed top DJing software.
While it’s a perfect choice for the professional DJ, the controller’s layout and features also make it very beginner-friendly, which means the beginner can use it during the start of their career and beyond, without the fear of quickly outgrowing it and needing to upgrade later down to the line.
To get more info on leading beginner-friendly models on the market, check out my beginner DJ controllers buyer’s guide.
What is a DJ Controller?
DJ controllers often get mixed up with mixers, in terms of function and how they’re used. Many models of DJ controllers also feature a dedicated mixing section, offering more functionality than a basic dedicated mixer. But the real difference here is that the controller operates with a PC connection, which runs DJing software.
The software allows you to add effects and cue up tracks during a set, or you can create your own unique set ahead of the show and add some scratching during a performance. Ultimately, the controller is one piece of equipment the DJ can’t do without.
What Do You Need for DJ Equipment?
This can depend on your style of DJing. The choice of the gear can differ from DJ to DJ, but most setups will include vinyl records, turntables, mixers, controllers, monitor speakers, a PC, and software.
But a standard setup may not work for a certain style of DJing, which is why it’s important to mix and match your gear in order to determine what works for your specific style. For the beginner, the equipment options can seem overwhelming, especially considering that the equipment type and quality are crucial when it comes to creating a solid set.
However, there are a number of essential pieces of equipment that a DJ will need in order to make a killer set that will please the crowd.
When you put a couple of tracks together, you’ll need to use a couple of input devices. This can take the form of CD decks or turntables. You can choose from a large selection of input devices, which will allow you to mashup tracks and mix tunes without a pause in a track.
The mixer is one of the main components in a setup. This is an audio mixing console that will allow the DJ to use different types of effects. A DJ will also use a mixer in order to make a seamless transition between a couple of tracks.
Headphones are another essential piece of DJ gear that you’ll find most DJs relying on during a set. The headphones allow the DJ to listen to the song that’s currently playing and the cued track. This will allow the DJ to beat match and determine the perfect time to bring the cued track up and begin the transition from one song to the next.
For headphones, I highly recommend the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (on Amazon), as they are comfortable to wear, have insane sound quality, and much cheaper than its competitors.
Monitor speakers will allow the newbie to hear their mix with more clarity. High fidelity speakers will produce high-quality sounds and also work to amplify certain frequencies that a beginner often has a difficult time hearing. However, monitor speakers are not essential for every style of DJing and are often used mainly by the mobile DJ who travels from gig to gig.
If you want to learn more about DJ speakers and which is the best type for your setup, check out our in-depth guide here!
Are DJ Controllers Easy to Use?
Yes. The DJ controller is a simple, versatile piece of gear that comes equipped with a dedicated mixing section, so the user can mix on the fly. The all in one units are even easier to use because there’s no need for a laptop, so you can focus 100% on the controller.
This is probably one of the most common pieces of equipment that you’ll find in a DJ setup and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for basic gear that can add plenty of value to the quality of your set.
The included DJing software is what will allow you to add effects and make a track more unique. Basically, they mimic many of the functions of a mixer and turntables.