Our Detailed Guide To Scratch DJ Equipment In 2021

Digital DJing has fundamentally changed how many modern DJs work. But there has always been one bastion of DJing that digital had a difficult time emulating and that is scratching. The feel of traditional vinyl is not easy to replicate in a digital form. Luckily DJ controllers have improved by leaps and bounds. There are now several excellent choices for DJs that want to incorporate scratching into their DJ routines.

WINNER

Top view of the Rane One

Rane One

4.8/5

An outstanding controller that offers motorized platters to simulate the feel of vinyl. Ideal for scratching.

RUNNER UP

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ-1000

Pioneer DDJ 1000

4.7/5

A high-quality 4-channel controller packed with excellent features. Jogwheels are solid and great for scratching.

The Top 8 Controllers Reviewed

Let’s dive into the details of the best DJ controllers for scratching currently available.

Rane One Review

The Best DJ Controller For Scratching

Specifications

Pros

  • Motorized Platters – By far the stand out feature of the Rane One. These 7.2-inch platters are the closest you’ll ever come to the feel of turntables in a DJ controller. The torque is spot on and adjustable to your preference. This results in an excellent feel and accurate control when scratching.
  • Excellent Quality – No compromise when it comes to quality. Metal components throughout give the unit a heft that inspires confidence to put out aggressive scratch routines.
  • Mag Four Fader – A solid scratch controller is only ever as good as the crossfader. The light and smooth Mag Four is an ideal choice. Tension is adjustable but you’ll have to remove the faceplate.
  • Thoughtful Layout – The placement of the pads along with the inclusion of FX paddles make this controller a dream to play on. Easy access to these features inspires creativity. Triggering cues while still keeping your hands on the platter opens up lots of options.

Cons

  • 2 Channels – There is very little to complain about when it comes to this controller. But, there will be a small section of DJs that will desire access to 4 channels.

The biggest complaint from scratch DJs when it comes to controllers is how they lack the feel of turntables. The Rane One has taken this as a challenge and succeeded in developing a controller for dedicated scratch DJs. A step up from the last generation NS7iii in all ways.

The resistance and feel of the 7-inch platters are as close to a set of Technic turntables as you can experience. With a fantastic crossfader, you can perfect the art of scratching.

If you want to get into scratching or want a controller option to go alongside your normal setup there is no better choice than the Rane One.

Top view of the Rane One

Rane One

4.7/5

Pioneer DDJ 1000 Review

Best Scratch DJ Controller For Rekordbox

Specifications

Pros

  • Jogwheel Display – The full-color onboard display on the jogwheels showcases the critical information you’ll need. Less time looking at the laptop allows you to focus on executing your mix. They are pressure sensitive which gives scratch DJs accurate control. Even more important is they feel great. Excellent tension adjustment features ensure you can customize it to your preferred style.
  • Pro Level Layout – Pioneer is a name that is synonymous with pro-level gear. The DDJ 1000 emulates the look of Pioneers club level gear. If you end up getting booked for gigs it will be easy to transition from this controller to club gear without a huge learning curve.
  • Beat FX – Packed with 18 hardware effects you can stretch your creative mixing to the next level. Apply the effects to any connected device including microphones. This is excellent for scratch DJs that like to MC or freestyle during their sets.
  • 4 Channels Available – Access to 4 channels is nearly an essential component for scratch DJs. You can still perform a great set on a 2 channel controller but having access to 4 expands your creative options. Dedicated scratch tracks or samples can be ready to go at the drop of a beat.

Cons

  • Rekordbox Only – For Rekordbox users this controller is a no-brainer. But, for established DJs that prefer Serato or Traktor, this controller is not for you. You’ll have to learn new software which for some will be a dealbreaker.

Since the entry of Pioneer into the software space, there has been a lot of demand for a full-featured controller for Rekordbox. The DDJ 1000 is the answer and it delivers on all fronts. Taking all the essential features from their pro-level gear and incorporating them into a portable all-in-one unit.

The controller is sturdy and well-built and the jogwheels are sure to please most scratch DJs. Keep in mind the software restrictions. If you do prefer Serato check out the DDJ 1000SRT.

Read our full Pioneer DDJ 1000 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ-1000

Pioneer DDJ 1000

4.8/5

Roland DJ 808 Review

Solid Scratch DJ Controller For MCs

Specifications

Pros

  • Drum Sequencer – The marquee feature of the DJ 808 is the onboard drum machine. You can access a range of famous Roland drum machines and program beats on the fly. For the performance-orientated scratch DJ, this adds extra creativity to your sets. It blurs the line between DJing and producing.
  • 4 Channels – I may sound like a broken record but 4 channels is a feature that works so cleanly for scratch DJs. Layering acapellas over some thumping beats that you’ve sequenced yourself feels great. Then adding scratch techniques on the other channel creates unique and engaging performances.
  • Generous Sized Jogs – Speaking of scratching the jogwheels feel great. They have a heft to them which allows for precise control for scratch DJs. While a little smaller they are still large enough to execute scratch techniques. Once you consider the space taken up by the drum machine I’m glad they made these as large as possible.
  • Good Build Quality – Roland has a long history of manufacturing production gear that is well built. Their foray in DJ controllers keeps up this tradition. It’s a well-built unit that can handle the rigors of aggressive scratching and button mashing.

Cons

  • Not For Everyone – This unit isn’t for everyone. I’m so happy units like this exists but for many DJs, the extra functionality is not needed. If you have little to no interest in the drum machine functionality you’ll be better off with a different controller.

The Roland DJ 808 is one of the most unique pieces of gear available today. Producers looking to expand into DJing will fall in love with the performance features. The drum sequencer is straightforward to use and encourages you to push the boundaries of your mixing. If you’re a scratch DJ that wants to dabble in beat creation it’s also an excellent choice.

Top view of the Roland DJ 808

Roland DJ 808

4.5/5

Pioneer XDJ XZ Review

Excellent Choice For Pro DJs

Specifications

Pros

  • Jog Wheel Display – The XDJ XZ offers full-size jog wheels that are very responsive. Displays are also incorporated to show additional information like needle position. An excellent feature for scratch DJs.
  • 4 Channels – Access to 4 channels when used in conjunction with a laptop and software. This opens up additional creative options. Scratch using Decks 1 and 2 while layering additional elements via Deck 3 and 4.
  • Club Layout – The familiarity with Pioneer pro club level gear is a massive benefit. This allows you to practice your scratch routines and feel comfortable executing those same routines in a club environment.
  • FX Selection – Adding to the creative options is the excellent range of Beat and Sound Color FX. Quick and easy access to these FX allows you to get back to scratching.

Cons

  • Price Point – While excellent value when compared to the club setup it aims to replicate it is still a costly piece of gear.

The Pioneer XDJ XZ offers scratch DJs a host of excellent club-inspired features. With dependable and comfortable jog wheels it is easy to get into a smooth scratching workflow. The onboard 7-inch screen also helps you maintain focus on the decks as opposed to your laptop. Concentration and engagement with you gear are critical components for executing complex scratch routines.

If you have ambitions of playing in clubs or already do the Pioneer XDJ XZ is a natural choice for practicing and preparing your sets

Top view of the Pioneer XDJ XZ

Pioneer XDJ XZ

4.5/5

Pioneer DDJ SR2 Review

Good Quality Scratch DJ Controller For Serato

Specifications

Pros

  • Portable – The SR2 is a dedicated Serato controller that comes in a manageable size. It’s often hard to jam all the relevant features into a controller without it feeling cramped. The SR2 succeeds to give working DJs an excellent portable backup unit. It’s also great for the home studio for practice sessions.
  • Excellent Beginner Option – Many beginner controllers lack some of the extra bells and whistles needed to expand on your DJ skills. The SR2 gives new DJs those tools at an affordable price. Once you have mastered the basics you’ll still have access to a range of extra features.
  • Pitch ‘n Time Integration – With a license including for Pitch ‘n Time you gain access to tuning your tracks without having to rely on the tempo fader. Having access to this directly on the controller means you’ll spend less time looking at your laptop.
  • Great Performance Pads – Scratch DJs can explore their creative mixing options with access to a set of 8 performance pads per deck. Features like Slicer and Sampler allow you to add extra creative elements beyond scratching.

Cons

  • Shortish Pitch Faders – The 5.2-inch jogwheels results in the pitch faders getting moved. Sitting in the top corners of each deck they are smaller than regular faders. But, they are still larger than other beginner level controllers. Fine adjustments are possible but not as natural as longer faders which can make beatmatching more fiddly.

Not all new DJs that want to get into Serato and scratching can afford a high-level controller or turntable setup. This is where the Pioneer DDJ SR2 shines. A compact and affordable controller that still packs a large number of features. The jogwheels are responsive and offer adjustable sensitivity. As a backup Serato controller or a more serious beginner controller, it’s a good fit for scratch DJs.

Read our full Pioneer DDJ SR2 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ SR2

Pioneer DDJ SR2

4.5/5

Roland DJ 505 Review

High-Quality Scratch DJ Controller For Producers

Specifications

Pros

  • Drum Machine – The 505 offers an in-built drum sequencer much like its big brother the DJ 808. A few of the controls are different like the lack of volume faders for the sound banks. You’ll still be able to layer drum patterns with ease and incorporate them into your DJ sets.
  • Affordable Option – One of the main selling points of the 505 is that it’s a more affordable option when compared to the 808. You do go from 4 to 2 channels but that is still more than enough for most DJs.
  • Compact – It’s also a more refined and compact design compared to the 808. If portability and size are important to you the 505 is a great choice.
  • Solid jogwheels – The jogwheels feel great and are very capable. It doesn’t have the platter indicators like the 808 but you can certainly live without it.

Cons

  • Reduction In Build Quality – Unfortunately the cheaper price point also equates to more budget materials. It’s doesn’t have the same heft and robust feel that the 808 offers. It’s still a solid and well-built controller but not as nice as the 808.

The Roland DJ 505 is a great alternative to the more expensive 808. While the feature set isn’t as fleshed out it’s a capable controller that has all the features a DJ needs. The addition of drum machine functionality sets it apart from other controllers at this price point. With dependable and good feeling jogwheels it’s also a good choice for scratch DJs.

Read our full Roland DJ 505 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Roland DJ 505

Roland DJ 505

4.2/5

Pioneer DDJ FLX6 Review

Affordable Mid Tier Controller For Scratching

Specifications

Pros

  • Simple FX Execution – New Merge FX feature allows for the layering of quick and simple FX chains for quick transitions. While a little gimmicky it is useful if you find yourself in a tricky transition moment after focusing on your scratch routine.
  • 4 Channel Mixer – Layering multiple channels opens up lots of creative options. When scratching you can have additional samples or tracks loaded and ready to be utilized. Deck switching is quick and simple via dedicated Deck 3/4 buttons.
  • Good Upgrade Path – The FLX6 sits in between the beginner Pioneer gear and the more expensive DJ range. It’s a comfortable and natural upgrade that offers extra features and prepares you for pro gear.
  • Large Jog Wheels – The full-size jogwheels are a big upgrade from smaller entry-level controllers. While they don’t quite have the heft and feel of higher-end gear they are still comfortable to use. The addition of needle position is also a good touch.

Cons

  • Lacks Pro Connections – The FLX6 doesn’t offer a great range of connection options. The dominance of RCA connections is an oversight for a controller at this level. I would have liked to have seen an XLR or TRS option.

The Pioneer DDJ FLX6 is another decent option if you want o take your scratching game up a level from intro gear. The increased number of channels and large jog wheels will instantly offer up a more comfortable and creative workflow experience.

While it does offer some new features the plastic build quality and connection options are a shortfall. However, at this price point, it’s a good mid-tier controller for scratch DJs looking to upgrade from beginner options.

Top view of the Pioneer DJ FLX6

Pioneer DDJ FLX6

4.7/5

Numark Mixdeck Express Review

Great Choice If You Use CDs

Specifications

Pros

  • CD Compatible – The Mixdeck Express is the only controller in this list that supports CDs. If you have an existing CD collection and don’t want the hassle of converting to digital this is the controller for you. It also handles MP3s on USB allowing you the best of both worlds.
  • Decent jogwheels – The touch-sensitive jogwheels are responsive and feel good. Not as great as other controllers but you’ll still be able to effectively scratch with them.
  • Replaceable Crossfader – Another benefit for scratch DJs is the ability to replace the crossfader. If you know you’ll want to swap out the fader down the line this is a good feature to have up your sleeve.
  • Excellent Compatibility – The Mixdeck comes with Serato DJ Lite but works well with most DJ software out there. If you already like to use other software you’ll have no issue getting this controller to work.

Cons

  • No Sync Button – Auto-sync is a very contentious issue. This controller doesn’t come with auto-sync functionality. The on-board BPM calculation does mitigate this to some degree. It will display the BPM and you can match it to the other track via the pitch faders.

The Numark Mixdeck Express is starting to show its age. In a world of high-quality full-color displays, the basic display looks dated. The feature set is restrictive but still provides all the core features DJs need to do their job. The jogwheels are responsive and they work well whether you’re scratching from CD or digital sources.

For most new DJs there are better controllers out there. But, for DJs with an extensive CD collection, it’s one of the best ways to get into digital without saying goodbye to your music collection.

Top view of the Numark Mixdeck Express

Numark Mixdeck Express

4.3/5

Our Expert Buying Guide

When it comes to scratch DJ equipment you need to pay extra attention to a few key features. These elements help give you the best control over your music to achieve accurate and effective scratching.

Latency

Latency is the amount of time between taking an action and it reflecting in your software or performance. When it comes to the jogwheels you want as low latency as possible. Mixing music is all about timing and this becomes even more critical when executing scratches.

Most modern DJ controllers offer jogwheels with very low latency but issues can arise over time. To prevent issues from developing it’s best to keep both your software and firmware up to date. A good quality jogwheel will also be more resistant to wear and tear which can also impact responsiveness and latency. Buying high-quality DJ equipment from trusted brands is the best way to ensure you don’t run into issues.

Jogwheel Feel

This is very user-dependent. If you’ve never scratched before you won’t have a preference which can make it difficult to gauge which jogwheels “feel” better. The fundamental things to look for are grip and resistance.

A slippery jogwheel will be difficult to control. You’ll find your fingers slipping and ruining your scratches. This may lead you to apply too much pressure on the jogwheel. This will eventually wear out or damage the components.

Close Up photo of a DJ using a jogwheel.

Higher quality jogwheels offer a better “feel” when scratching.

Resistance is another key element. You don’t the jogwheel to be too loose but also not too firm. Some controllers allow you to alter the resistance or torque of the jogwheel to suit your preference.

Scratching is a very creative form of performing and mixing. Finding a jogwheel you’ll feel comfortable with will play a big role in how motivated you’ll be at exploring this expressive art.

Jogwheel Size

The size of the jogwheel is another consideration. Trying to replicate the size of a turntable setup is difficult to achieve on a controller. But, you can still get very good sized jogwheels that offer a good level of control and feel. It can be difficult to execute complex scratches with very small jogwheels but the size isn’t everything. With experience, you can achieve excellent scratching technique on small jogwheels.

Main Jogwheel Modes

Most jogwheels will offer different settings. Usually, the main two options are vinyl or slip mode. While the vinyl mode is the standard it is good to buy a controller that offers both to give you maximum choice.

Vinyl mode, as the name implies, replicates the actions of a turntable. You can scratch and perform spin backs and when you release it will play from the exact position you are at.

Slip Mode continues to push the track forward as if you were not scratching. When you release the jogwheel it will jump to where the song would have reached.

Learning How To Scratch

One of the first questions new DJs often have is how to scratch on a DJ controller. The answer is both simple and complicated at the same time.

Scratching on a controller uses the same principles that apply to turntables. Don’t buy into the myth that you can’t scratch using a controller. If you’re an experienced turntablist you won’t have any issues migrating over to a controller. There will be some new features and adjustments but you’ll be into the groove before you know it. Check out the video below to see DJ Tone Arm scratch on the Roland DJ 808.

For brand-new DJs wanting to learn to scratch, it’s a far more complicated answer. Learning the various techniques will take time. Luckily, there are plenty of free tutorial videos available on Youtube to guide you through the fundamentals. I’d suggest starting with the most basic of techniques first like the baby scratch.

From there you can expand on those skills depending on which direction and style you want to take your mixing. Don’t become overwhelmed by some of the complex skills you may become exposed to through your journey. Stick to the basic skills and master them. You can then move onto more advanced techniques.

Remember practice is the most important part of learning any DJ skills. Whether it’s beatmatching, transitions or scratching. Keep at it and you’ll be mixing and scratching up a storm in no time.

Which One Should You Buy?

Many different DJs have many different needs. Scratch DJs looking to move into the digital space have a large number of options available to them. Both beginners and seasoned professionals will be able to find a controller to suit their needs.

After assessing all the excellent options available I can’t look past the Rane One. It all comes down to feel. Nothing in the market compares to the motorized platters. It bridges the gap between the latest technology and old school sensibilities.

Rane has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in the DJ community. This first foray into the controller space is extremely impressive. A well-built controller that will please both veterans and new DJs alike.

Top view of the Rane One

Rane One

4.7/5
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Patryk Biernacki

Patryk Biernacki

For over 20 years I've been involved in the world of DJing. Now I want to share my experience so that DJing is more accessible for anyone with a passion for music.

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