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Spin Control: DJ Interfaces & Controllers

Christian Wissmuller • April 2024ArchivesRoundtable • April 5, 2024

“He just turns up with his memory stick and pretends he’s doing something and goes away with a huge amount of money,” said Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickenson of today’s DJs in a recent interview. Ouch. To be sure, though, plenty of musicians and music afficionados turn their nose down – perhaps rightly so – at the sort of “DJ” who arrives at a club or party and essentially just hits “PLAY” and lets a curated playlist on his or her laptop or smartphone provide the evening’s soundtrack. For many true artists out there, though, DJing is an involved creative process requiring every bit as much skill as traditional acoustic instruments. Mixing on the fly, cross-fading, synching drops and phrases, EQing different source material to maintain sonic consistency – a lot goes into it!

DJ Controllers and Interfaces provide the artist with a central command center that enables the DJ to perform and curate digital mixes via access to exhaustive musical libraries, while also applying effects and transitions in real time. This equipment – usually consisting of components such as jog wheels, transport buttons, performance pads, connection ports, and mixer controls – allows control of digital audio files and mixing files, without reliance on physical media such as CDs or vinyl. In other words: this is essential gear for any modern DJ.

MMR checked in with some of the major brands in the DJ market to get up to speed on what specific models of DJ controllers are selling in 2024, what features and technology are sought after by end-users, and how successful retailers market and promote these products.

For your brand(s) what are curently the top-selling models of DJ controllers & interfaces?

Jake Hill: For Numark, the Mixstream Pro + and Mixstream Pro Go standalone DJ controllers are performing really well and the tried-and-true Party Mix DJ controller continues to sell at an astonishing rate!

 For Denon DJ, the PRIME 4+ and SC LIVE 4 standalone DJ controllers are our top sellers, while the battery-powered PRIME GO also continues to be very popular as a portable solution for DJs on the go.

For RANE, the FOUR 4-channel Stems-focused DJ controller is our top seller, followed by the motorized ONE DJ controller.

Dustin Good: Our current DJ controller lineup consists of three models: the DJ-202, DJ-505, and DJ-707m. The first two represent entry and mid-level options, with all the features users expect in a modern DJ controller, plus some unique additions only Roland offers. The DJ-707m, while compact, is a powerhouse for event DJs and streamers with an insane amount of connectivity, routing, and tools packed in. All three controllers, regardless of price point, have pristine 24-Bit/48Khz fidelity which really shines over a good sound system.

Our immensely popular portable sampler, the SP-404MKII, also hosts a feature-packed DJ Mode and deserves to be mentioned here.

Luciano Minetti: Our MIDI controllers at KORG are known for their consistent performance, with popular models like the nanoKONTROL and microKEY leading the way. We’ve recently expanded our DJ specific product line with the introduction of the KAOSS Replay. This innovative DJ and live performance tool offers a range of innovative features, making it a strong contender in the market.


What are some of the recently introduced, cutting-edge features that are really connecting with end-users?

DG: Being a brand with a rich history of synthesizers and drum machines that were integral in the development of electronic music, Roland is always looking to inspire and support approaches that meet at the crossroads of DJing and live electronic music performance. We offer full, programmable drum machines inside all our DJ controllers which allow for creative performance approaches. When combined with Serato’s phenomenal stem separation technology, these controllers are remix powerhouses.

LM: The KAOSS Replay offers innovative features like a wide range of effects, enhanced sampling capabilities, and intuitive DJ controls. Its portable design and advanced features allow for easy live performances without needing extra equipment.

JH: DJs have really been intrigued by real-time access to Stems. The way that we’ve implemented the Stems workflow on the RANE FOUR has really connected well with users. The Stem-Split feature on the FOUR lets DJs instantly split the instrumental and acapella of a track across 2 channels at the press of a button. This, combined with the Stems Pad Mode, the dedicated Instrumental and Acapella buttons, and access to 4 channels, unlocks and entirely new level of creative performance options for DJs.

In addition, the frequent and free updates of Engine DJ have been very well received by DJs. Engine DJ is the operating system of our Numark and Denon DJ standalone DJ controllers. Recent updates have added Bluetooth audio out, standalone embedded sampler, Fader Echo, Match automatic library filtering, Engine DJ online profiles, and more. Updates are pushed out wirelessly so that users of devices are notified when an update is available and can download it directly to their device over Wi-Fi.

Do you have any suggestions regarding best practices that MI retailers might want to explore when it comes to marketing and displaying these types of products?

LM: After a successful presentation of the product at the 2024 NAMM show, live demos are essential for showcasing products like KAOSS Replay. In the case of KAOSS Replay, we recommend having a microphone on hand to encourage customers to try out the vocal processing effects and explore the product’s potential. The centralized touch screen makes for a fun hands-on experience where customers can shape their sound.

JH: Since they can be used without a laptop connected, the standalone DJ controller options are great for in-store displays. These devices include the Numark Mixstream Pro+ and Mixstream Pro Go, and most of the Denon DJ hardware lineup including the PRIME 4+ and SC LIVE 4. These units also have demo tracks built-in, plus the Numark Mixstreams also have on-board speakers!

DG: As with other tech categories, the more premium the product is, the more the customer tends to be knowledgeable about the spec.

For entry-level DJ controllers, overall value-vs-price is key for product messaging. Assuring the customer that they have everything they need will also ease their purchasing journey and lets sales staff sell with confidence. We offer a post-purchase bundle (US-only) with our DJ-202 that includes a full perpetual license for Serato DJ Pro software, a 3-month subscription to the BPM Supreme record pool, as well as a free introductory training course with a Roland product specialist, hosted online in real-time.

Any upcoming or recently introduced models for your brand, or brands, that you’d like to discuss?

DG: Through continued firmware updates, we keep expanding the DJ Mode on the SP-404MKII sampler to offer more and more features. Now, this super-portable instrument, without the need for a computer, allows for carrying up to 16GB of songs that can be played out and mixed just like you would on a DJ mixer with features familiar to any DJ. Add to that the legendary built-in effects that the SP-404 line is renowned for, and you get a super-versatile performance tool that can find its way into many different setups.

JH: The PRIME 4+ was released in 2023 and is a great update to the proven PRIME 4, which was released in 2019. Not only does the PRIME 4+ have a sleek new look with improved jog wheels, but it also adds access to Amazon Music Unlimited and Bluetooth Audio input. It’s the ultimate standalone DJ controller for working DJs and is built to withstand the rigors of the road.

The RANE FOUR is another unit that is pushing innovation in the DJ industry forward. Released in 2023, its intuitive control options for DJing with Stems have set the bar for what a DJ controller is capable of. This, combined with the premium touch-sensitive jog wheels and over 22 internal effects options make the FOUR an incredible choice for any type of DJ.

LM: In addition to the KAOSS Replay, we also have the new Keystage controller. Keystage offers a slim design, MIDI 2.0 connectivity, and a display for DJs who want to trigger/modify sounds easily using a keyboard onstage.


What’s your take on the overall state of the DJ market and what are your expectations for the coming months?

JH: The DJ market continues to thrive and the recent technological advancements in Stems and standalone DJing continue to fuel that fire. We’re excited to continue to release innovative new DJ solutions across all of our brands in the coming months and beyond!

LM: We believe the DJ equipment market is primed for growth due to rising electronic music popularity, a younger DJ demographic, and the return of live events are fueling this trend. Additionally, innovative features like those found in the KAOSS Replay will keep DJs engaged and the market expanding.

DG: DJs are definitely getting out and playing events again as promoters and venues continue to re-adjust from the impacts of the COVID pandemic. 2023 market reports of DJ controller and mixer sales show strong growth YoY. Also, with summer coming in quickly, we can expect a strong Q2.

In regard to style and approach, “Open Format” DJing seems to be growing in popularity and expanding from smaller events and clubs to larger audiences, with DJs playing a huge variety of different music styles within one set.  We love this, and features like having drum machines included in our DJ controllers are there for specifically this reason – to get creative with layering, add flavor, and keep the beat going.

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