When I first started DJing, I moved between different DJ softwares. I originally started on VirtualDJ, then Serato, and finally on Rekordbox. Unfortunately, when you switch between the ecosystems, you'll need to setup you crates, hot cues, and reanalyze all your tracks from scratch since the softwares are incompatible with one another. Hence, I recommend you start with Rekordbox since it's compatible with most devices and most club CDJs are compatible with usb drives prepared via Rekordbox.
I'll note that if you want to get into turntablism, then I would gravitate toward Serato. I found DVS mode in Rekordbox not up to par compared to Serato.
Other popular DJ software include the following
For reference, I'm using a 2013 MacBook Pro with Serato in DVS mode.
It's possible to DJ with an iPad, but there's a limited selection of iOS apps. Just like many of the desktop apps, you can DJ solely on the iPad without physical hardware, but it's not the best experience.
The best one I've test is DJ Pro. This app supports streaming music from popular services like SoundCloud and Beatport. It even supports loading tracks from a USB drive. This app also supports many midi controllers. I've tested my DDJ-1000 and DDJ-SX2 and both of them work with no problems. The only downside of this app is it requires a subscription to gain access to all the features.
Alternatively, I would recommend Native Instrument's Traktor on iOS if you own or plan on purchasing a Traktor Kontrol S3.
Your mileage may vary based on which model you have, but DJing works perfectly on my 2018 iPad Pro.
The mixer takes in 2 or more audio sources and allows you control what the audience hears. They typically have a cross fader which allows you to determine which audio source the user hears as well as individual channel fader which controls which channel is heard. The more expensive mixers have built in effects like echo, reverb, frequency filters.
Players allow the DJ to play tracks. This is typically in the form of either a turntable or a CD player (aka CDJ). While turntables and CDJs audio formats may differ, these both have audio speed playback controls and a start/stop button. That's where the similarities end.
Now that you understand the anatomy of a DJ setup, let's talk about the different types. If you're just getting started, I would recommend either a MIDI controller or a standalone MIDI Controller as the 3rd option can get pretty expensive. Note that if you buy a controller, the mixer and players are combined as a single piece of equipment.
While DJs originally looked down upon controllers, many of the high end controllers are now on par with the top of the line CDJs and mixers. If you already have a decent laptop and don't want to spend too much, this is the best option for you.
This setup pairs a laptop/iPad running a DJ software (like Serato, Rekordbox, Virtual DJ, or Traktor) with a MIDI Controller. Assuming you have a decent laptop, this setup can start around $100 for a budget controller up to the thousands for an industry level controller.
Here's a list of my recommended controllers ordered by priced.
The DDJ-400 and DDJ-SB3 are great entry controllers to start your DJ career. The DDJ-400 and SB3 are essential the same with the only difference being the supported software. The DDJ-400 is the Rekordbox version while the DDJ-SB3 is the Serato version.
I threw this controller as an option if you want to use Traktor on your iPad. This controller works natively with the Traktor app and works with your laptop too. I personally really like Native Instrument gear (I own Maschine MK3 and the build quality is nice) and this controller doesn't disappoint.
The DDJ-800 is a 2 channel controller with full sized jog wheels. The mixer has a club standard layout. I highly recommend this controller if you have the money.
I'm own the Pioneer DDJ-SX2 and the Pioneer DDJ-1000. These were around $1000 when they first came out, but are still relevant even today.
Stand-alone controllers are similar to the MIDI Controllers, except they don't require a laptop to be plugged into. You can plug in a USB drive into these controllers and start DJing. Many standalone controllers have excellent mixers and layouts matching those of high end CDJs. If you're willing to spend $2000~ and don't want to upgrade systems in the future, this is the best option for you.
Here's a list of my favorites.
This standalone controller is priced even cheaper than the XDJ-RX2 at $1400. I would argue this is a better bang for the buck since Denon gear supports all the features the Pioneer can and more. Only downside is Denon gear uses Engine OS instead of Rekordbox.
Unlike controllers, this set up requires you to purchase a minimum of 2 players (either turntable or a player) and a single mixer. These types of setups can start around $1500 on the low-end and easily cost over $6000 for a high end setup. These types of setups don't require a laptop, but it supports laptop playback.
Mixers take in the audio signal from a multiple sources like a turntable or CDJ and outputs it to a speaker.
This mixer is rather basic, but sounds great for the price. Keep in mind this only has a high pass/low pass frequency filter. Personally, I wish it had more effects, but you get what you pay for.
Unlike the previous mixer, this one has a good range of built in effects in the mixer. It doesn't have booth output, but it should be fine for bedroom DJing.
Some manufacturers create dedicated hardware for DJs who scratch. These mixers focus on providing amazing faders for sharp and accurate cuts. These mixers tend to be very basic and usually are 2 channels.
This is rather competitively priced at $500. It also supports Serato with DVS.
This mixer is great if you plan on using Traktor in DVS mode. It also works in pure analog mode if you don't want to use Traktor. Personally I think there could be more filters for this price, but it's still a great product.
I'm using the DJM-S9 as my main driver. The Magvel fader is as smooth as butter making it easy to scratch.
Turntables In the beginning, DJ spun with vinyls and turntables. These systems were big and heavy, but something about spinning on vinyl feels special. Many DJs still spin with vinyl, but with Control Vinyl. These special vinyls have a special timecode that gets read by a DJ software like Rekordbox, Traktor Scratch, or Serato. This signal helps the software emulate playback of vinyl like scratching forward or holding down on the record. Read this particle on DVS for an in-depth explanation.
There are 2 types of turntables: direct drive and belt drive. I would recommend buying a direct drive turntable because the high torque motor; the direct drive turntable will be able to go to full speed instantly.
All in all, most turntables are very basic. Most turntables just have a platter, speed controls, and start/stop button. I'm personally using the Pioneer PLX-1000; the Reloop is also a very nice option since they have hot cues built into the turntable and has the same price as the Pioneer.
DJ Players The next big thing after turntables were CDJs. DJs would pop in CD discs into the CDJs and play off them. As digital music became more and more popular, DJs placed all their music on USB drives instead. Modern CDJs come with a USB port and some don't even have a CD drive anymore. Keep in mind some CDJs don't support hot cues like midi controllers and standalone controllers.
I'm own a pair of XDJ-700s. Even though it's not as flashy as the new CDJ 3000, it supports all my DJ needs. Also, expect to perform most of your functions through the touch screen rather than a physical button. You'll perform hot cues, sync, loops, through the touch screen rather than a physical button.
If these were in the market when I originally bought my CDJs, I would've picked these over the Pioneer XDJ-700](https://amzn.to/3lXmDnk). I tried this out at Guitar Center and the motorized platters are really enjoyable to play with. These also have hot cues near the bottom of the player which I find a lot easier to use than the CDJ-3000 which are right above the platter. You can snatch one of these for around $1000 (as of this writing).
Think of this as the bigger brother of the Pioneer XDJ-700. This player has a bigger jog wheel, but expect use the touch screen for loops and hot cues.
In conclusion, don't get too bogged down by figuring out what great to get. What's important is improving your DJ skills. If I could only have one setup, I would pick the Pioneer DDJ-800. The layout is very similar to top end Pioneer CDJs and it has full sized jog wheels.
All products recommended are selected by our team. If you buy something through one of the links on this page, you'll be supporting our team to keep doing what they love.