Turntables or DJ Controller, Which is Better?

July 6, 2016 by Jason Alexander

In the DJ world, there’s been an ongoing debate about turntables versus a DJ controller. Many DJs have different opinions about which is best. Some DJs claim that only “real DJs” use turntables, while others state that a controller is better. There is no definitive answer on which is best. I’ve even seen a few articles discussing that some clubs don’t allow controllers, and only have CDJs, and/or turntables. In my humble opinion, a DJ’s true job is to mix music and make sure people have fun! However the DJ does that is truly up to the DJ.

I’ve seen some DJs claim that they’re “real DJs” because they use turntables, but ironically, they also use Serato or other software with turntables. Many of these new DJs have never actually mixed vinyl, without a computer. If you’re using DJ software, using turntables is not that much different than using a controller, especially if you’re using a mixer such as a Rane Sixty Two, which many people use. This mixer essentially bridges the divide, by allowing DJs to use samples, effects, etc., which is basically what a controller does. So the argument that turntables are somehow superior to a controller, is ironic, for those DJs who use this type of setup.

Admittedly, turntables look much nicer than a controller. As a veteran DJ, I started as a kid in 1991 and there were no laptops, software, Rane mixers, etc. DJs at that time only had vinyl. We used the heavy DJ equipment and carried around super-heavy crates full of records! I’ll be honest, nothing beats the look and feel of mixing with vinyl! When you learned on vinyl, you compare everything else to it. Vinyl did have drawbacks, though, mainly the loading/unloading of heavy turntables & crates, buying expensive singles on vinyl, etc.

In the last decade, I haven’t seen many local Austin/Central Texas DJ use vinyl only, to mix all night. There’s an occasional “vinyl night” at local bars, but the genres they mix are very limited. Personally, we have a pair of Technics, but we also have a pair of Pioneer DDJ controllers, too. We’ll bring turntables to events where customers specifically ask us to, and we’ll even mix vinyl-only, but we charge more for this. At the end of the day, what DJs use is purely personal preference. In my opinion, entertaining the crowd is what it’s truly all about!

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