The controller and laptop combination is extremely common in today’s DJ scene. The combination of excellent software with the affordability of controllers has helped spark a new era of DJing.
But, there are occasions where you either need or want a controller that doesn’t need a laptop. In this guide, we check out some of the best standalone options available.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
An excellent controller with a pro-level layout. Fantastic screen, mixing features, and tight software integration.
Denon Prime 4
A premium controller with a massive full-color screen. It also offers 4 channel mixing and a large number of connection options.
All-In-One DJ Systems Reviewed
Let’s dive into the details of the options available to you if you want to say goodbye to the laptop when DJing.
Pioneer XDJ RX2 Review
The Best All-In-One DJ Controller
- Large Central Screen – While not as large as the Prime 4 the Pioneer RX2 still boasts a 7-inch full-color screen. It displays all the vital information a DJ needs. Track length, BPM, Key, and the all-important waveforms. The parallel horizontal waveforms make it easy to see upcoming breaks and fine-tune your beatmatching.
- Pro Layout – The XDJ RX2 inherits the Pioneer layout from their other pro-level gear. If you are an experienced Pioneer gear user you’ll feel right at home with this controller. Everything is where you expect it to be. New DJs will also be able to transition to Pioneer pro-level gear with ease.
- Included Software – It comes with a full version of Rekordbox DJ. This allows you to prepare your tracks in advance and load them onto your USB drives. Preparation is a big part of the DJ workflow and Rekordbox is an excellent piece of software to handle this task.
- Impressive Jogwheels – The jogwheels are responsive with low-latency. You’ll be able to execute everything from baby scratches to crab scratches without any issues.
- 2 Channels – The XDJ RX2 offers 2 channel mixing. If you’re wanting to explore 4 channel mixing you’ll need to look at an alternative controller.
The XDJ RX2 is an outstanding Pioneer standalone controller. This controller has an excellent selection of features from the Nexus series. It has impressive and effective FX to add spice to your DJ sets. The pad functions are fully fleshed out giving you access to even more creative choices.
The 7-inch screen is central making it easy to manage compared to separate screens per deck. If you want to move away from taking your laptop to gigs the XDJ RX2 is an excellent option.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Denon Prime 4 Review
The Best Screens On An All-In-One DJ Controller
- Fantastic Screen – The Denon Prime 4 offers an exceptional screen. Large, bright, and with touch controls. Once you get your head around how to navigate through the menus it becomes a joy to use.
- Built-In Drive – A built-in SATA drive bay allows you to store your music within the controller. The controller also supports USB and SD cards. This gives you full flexibility in how you want to manage your music collection.
- Large Range of Connections – Denon Prime 4 offers an excellent range of connection options. 2 master output options along with a booth output. More importantly, it also offers a Zone output. This allows you to assign a channel to play in a different area. A great way to send music to a chill-out lounge while you DJ the main party.
- Mobile DJ Friendly – Considering the number of features included the unit is still lightweight. Mobile DJs will appreciate the size of the unit as well. While large it’s still very portable.
- Learning Curve – It can take some time to come to grips with how the Denon Prime 4 operates. If you are reliant on existing software it will take you some time to familiarize yourself with the built-in software.
Denon Prime 4 is an impressive DJ controller. It allows you to unshackle yourself from your laptop. Yet, you’ll still keep an extensive list of easy to access features. The 10-inch screen is responsive and a nice change from the normal two separate screen layouts of other all-in-one DJ controllers. Due to the quality of the screens, it’s our recommendation for the best DJ controller with screens.
It also still maintains an affordable price point for a standalone system. If you want a fully-featured all-in-one controller the Denon Prime 4 is one of the best all-in-one DJ systems currently available.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Denon MCX8000 Review
The Best Serato All-In-One DJ Controller
- Best of Both Worlds – The Denon MCX8000 supports use with a laptop or in standalone mode. This gives you plenty of flexibility to use the controller as you prefer. A good choice for working mobile DJs that may not always want to use standalone mode.
- Solid Construction – The MCX8000 is tough. Solid metal construction is a nice touch especially for mobile DJs that need to cart their controller from gig to gig. Despite the metal build, it is still light enough for easy transport.
- HD Display – The two displays are vibrant and clear. Navigation is also straightforward. Relevant information on the display allows you to comfortably mix without a laptop connected.
- Excellent Layout – The list of features on this controller is extensive. Despite so many features, it avoids the cluttered look that other controllers can suffer from. The layout is both logical and comfortable.
- Screen Freeze – The MCX8000 does have some screen freeze issues. Frustrated DJs have found a solution by turning the screen brightness down. Even then it’s an issue which shouldn’t be present in the first place.
The Denon MCX8000 is a contender for one of the best all-in-one DJ controllers currently available. It’s a controller that will please a lot of different DJs. Mobile DJs will love the extensive range of inputs as well as the standalone mode. Dedicated controllerists will appreciate the smooth integration with Serato. New DJs will also enjoy the logical and professional level layout.
Access to 4 decks is available when plugged into a laptop but even 2 decks are often enough for most working mobile DJs. Unfortunately, the screen issues do knock a few points off what is otherwise an outstanding controller.
Read our full Denon MCX8000 review for more detailed information.
Numark Mixdeck Express Review
The Best All-In-One CD Controller
- Play Anything – The Mixdeck Express offers DJs a large amount of choice when it comes to music formats. It supports WAV, AIFF, and MP3 via USB input. It also supports MP3 CDs and regular CDs. If you have an extensive CD collection it’s one of the most affordable all-in-one DJ controllers that can handle them.
- Capable Jogwheels – The jogwheels offer a good response even when scratching from CD. If you need platters that are touch-sensitive that can handle CDs the Mixdeck Express is a good option.
- Flexible Software Options – The Mixdeck Express has been around for a little while. As a result, it’s compatible with a large range of DJ software. This is great if you already have preferred software and don’t want to go through the learning curve of new software.
- Affordable – Considering the range of features the Mixdeck Express offers it’s still affordably priced.
- Looks Dated – The Mixdeck Express isn’t the most attractive controller available. The plain blue screens look dated and the aesthetic isn’t as nice as more premium controllers.
The Numark Mixdeck Express is an affordable controller that handles CDs. While CDs are not as prevalent as they used to be there are many people with a large CD collection. The process of converting your entire collection to digital is time-consuming.
While not the best looking controller it still has a good set of features. At an affordable price, it’s a great option for CD enthusiasts looking to get into DJing.
Numark Mixdeck Express
Gemini CDM-4000 Review
The Best Budget All-In-One DJ Controller
- Durable Construction – The Gemini CDM-4000 is a rugged little unit. Despite the lightweight feel of the controller it still feels solid. For a wedding DJ that may have to handle rowdy guests, it’s good to know your gear will survive accidental knocks and bumps.
- Anti-Shock – Speaking of rowdy guests it isn’t uncommon to have someone bump your DJ table or just be a nuisance. When working with CDs this can cause skips. The CDM-4000 offers built-in anti-shock technology to keep your song playing without interruptions.
- CD Capable – The CDM-4000 can play MP3’s loaded onto a USB or from CD. It can also handle traditional CD media. If you have an existing CD collection the CDM-4000 will prevent you from having to convert your CDs to digital.
- Budget Price – The controller is aggressively priced. If you need a backup CD controller it’s an excellent option. Considering how expensive CD controllers can get it’s also a good option for people wanting to try out DJing without spending too much.
- Limited EQ – The CDM-4000 only offers a 2-band EQ. Having control over just the Lows and Highs limits your capacity for more refined transitions.
The Gemini CDM-4000 offers an affordable all-in-one option. Standalone DJ systems can be expensive. While it is a controller with some flaws it will get the job done. If CD capability is important to you it’s worth considering.
The budget price point is well suited to entry-level DJs or as a back-up unit for the working mobile DJ. But, if you do have more to spend there are better systems available.
Our Expert Buying Guide
There are a few key features that will make a huge difference to your enjoyment level of an all-in-one controller.
Screens are one of the most important aspects of an all-in-one DJ controller. Large screens make it easier to discern key information. Keep in mind you’ll be forgoing that 15-inch laptop screen and replacing it with screens often less than half that size.
Having a screen that is vibrant and clear is important. Especially when you factor in the small form factor. Intelligent use of that screen real estate is also important. A good all-in-one system will present information on the screens in a logical and easily legible way. You don’t want to be squinting and end up spending far too much time decoding the information on the screen.
The goal of an all-in-one system is to present that critical information at a glance allowing you to go back to crafting your DJ set.
Often the goal of a standalone controller is to free up space. Having a large laptop plus a controller can result in some awkward setups. While standalone controllers can solve this issue sometimes the controllers themselves are large.
All-in-one DJ controllers are a good alternative to large club level DJ systems.
If you are a working mobile DJ you’ll need to consider if it’s easier to transport a smaller controller with a laptop. Consider how much the unit you’re looking at weighs and how you plan on transporting it to gigs. This can help you in choosing an appropriate controller for your needs. The last thing you want is to regret your purchase because you dread carting your controller around between gigs.
All-in-one DJ decks should also offer you some flexibility. The standalone mode should supplement the ability to also use the controller with a laptop. I’ve always been a strong supporter of not restricting how a DJ uses their equipment.
Tight and seamless integration with professional-level DJ software is an added benefit. While you may intend to never use your controller with a laptop it’s still nice to have the choice.
While standalone software has come a long way it’s still playing catch up to the established DJ software powerhouses. Take some time to understand the limitations of the included standalone software. This will help inform you what type of features you’ll need to remove from your DJ arsenal.
A good standalone controller should give you the best of both worlds. Solid and robust internal software and excellent integration with standard DJ software.
Mixing With No Laptop
If you are an existing DJ that uses a controller the transition to an all-in-one system comes with both pros and cons.
The biggest benefit is the ability to concentrate on your controller. DJ software offers lots of features that can often prove to be a distraction. Staring endlessly at the laptop disconnects you from the physical and engaging side of mixing. Focusing on the DJ gear will make you more aware of the various features of your controller. This will develop a more focused workflow.
One of the other benefits is it can make the transition to club gear more seamless. Some establishments may have an existing setup that doesn’t support laptops. Having that familiarity with using gear without a laptop will boost your confidence when tackling these types of setups.
Some promoters or other DJs may even look down on or ban the use of a laptop during sets. I think this type of attitude has no place in DJ culture The average punter doesn’t care. All they care about is having a good time. Whether a laptop is part of the process shouldn’t make a difference.
Even dedicated turntablists have embraced laptops and incorporated them into their gear.
One of the key drawbacks is information. Modern all-in-one DJ mixers have screens that will give you important information. But, it won’t be as thorough as the information available when using a laptop with DJ software. It can also be trickier to alter certain settings on the fly with a controller compared to using a laptop. This will vary based on what type of DJ you are but it is worth considering.
The small screen sizes can also make it difficult to navigate through a large music collection. Taking time to prepare for your sets can mitigate this issue to some extent.
It can be very liberating to move away from a laptop but also very daunting. Take your time to adjust if you are a DJ that uses a laptop regularly. Before long you’ll be as comfortable using an all-in-one DJ controller with no laptop as you are with one.
Which One Should You Buy?
The explosion in quality all-in-one DJ controllers over the last few years is a fantastic development. There are several excellent options available that can finally remove you from staring at the laptop.
When you consider functionality and build quality the Pioneer XDJ RX2 is our top pick for the best all-in-one DJ controller. With excellent software and a natural progression to other Pioneer gear, it’s our favorite. But, if you prefer a larger screen and want to use Serato the Denon Prime 4 is an excellent alternative to the Pioneer.
No matter which option you end up selecting you’re in for a liberating DJ experience.
Pioneer XDJ RX2