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.
Pioneer DDJ REV7
A stunning controller with motorized jogwheels and onboard screens. The battle layout is perfect for scratch DJs.
An outstanding controller that offers motorized platters to simulate the feel of vinyl. Ideal for scratching.
The Top 10 Controllers Reviewed
Having a professional DJ controller will give you the edge when it comes to scratching. Let’s take a look at some of the best options in this category.
Pioneer DDJ REV7 Review
The Best DJ Controller For Scratching
- Stunning Platters – Pioneer delivers an excellent 7-inch motorized platter for each deck. It offers an exceptional and realistic vinyl feel. Plus each jogwheel includes an onboard display with plenty of view styles available.
- Solid Build Quality – This controller is rock solid and features a high degree of build quality. The pads are fantastic and all the buttons and knobs offer premium quality. Highly dependable.
- Battle Style Layout – The inspiration is clear with the REV7. This is a unit with the sole purpose of imitating pro-level scratching setups. Pads don’t get in the way when scratching and the pitch faders are located towards the top of the controller.
- Magvel Fader Pro – One of the most popular crossfaders available today. Tight and precise with excellent durability. A must for any serious scratch DJ.
- Layout May Through Some DJs Off – The REV7 is a near-perfect controller for scratch DJs. The only possible issue is it may take some time to get used to it if you’re already familiar with other controllers.
Pioneer has developed possibly the best DJ controller for scratching ever made. This controller features everything a dedicated scratch DJ would want. The large motorized platters are a joy to scratch with. It also comes with an excellent Magvel Fader Pro.
Integration with Serato is tight with a large amount of performance features up your sleeve. Fantastic FX and toggle switches. The layout is also an excellent choice and unique to controllers. Perfect execution from head to toe. While the price may be very high this is a premium quality unit worth every dollar.
For serious scratch DJs, the Pioneer DDJ REV7 is undisputedly the best DJ controller available today.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ-REV7 review for more detailed information.
Rane One Review
Outstanding Serato DJ Controller For Scratching
- 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.
- 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.
Read our full Rane One review for more detailed information.
Hercules DJControl Inpulse T7 Review
Affordable Motorized Scratch DJ Controller
- Dependable Jogwheels – The Inpulse T7 features motorized belt-driven turnatables that feel great to use. Much like the more expensive options above, it simulates the feel of turntables and vinyl but without the big price tag.
- Familiar Battle Layout – In keeping with the scratching theme the Inpulse T7 offers a refined battle-style layout that is ideal for scratch DJs. Perfect for beginners that want to eventually move onto real turntables and battle mixers.
- Lightweight Option – For a unit with motorized platters, the Inpulse T7 is relatively lightweight and portable. A good choice for DJs that need to move their equipment often.
- Excellent Value For Money – The Inpulse T7 is the cheapest controller to offer motorized platters making it an enticing option for scratch DJs that don’t want to shell out the bug bucks for the leading brands.
- Serato DJ Lite – While it does come with full functionality with DJUCED software, if you want to fully explore the Serato DJ experience you’ll need to pay extra to unlock the Pro version.
Getting a controller with motorized platters for scratch DJing can be challenging due to the high cost of entry. But Hercules has managed to break this trend with the most affordable option on the market. While it might not have all the bells and whistles, it offers beginner scratch DJs the most authentic scratch experience possible without breaking the bank.
It’s well constructed and also features flip-out feet for a more comfortable ergonomic height for scratching. If you don’t want to spend too much on DJ gear with motorized platters, the Inpulse T7 is a great choice.
Hercules DJControl Inpulse T7
Pioneer DDJ-FLX10 Review
Best Scratch DJ Controller For Rekordbox
- 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-FLX10 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 & Stem Controls – Packed with 18 hardware effects and Stem controls. You can stretch your creative mixing to the next level. Apply the effects to any connected device, and chop up tracks in real time. This is excellent for scratch DJs that like to incorporate acapella sections in 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.
- Stem Sound Quality – While more than capable for DJ sets, the quality of the algorithm does vary between platforms. If Stems are going to be an integral part of your sets, you’ll be better off using Serato over Rekordbox, but this might change with future updates.
The Pioneer DDJ-FLX10 is a superb controller with excellent jogwheels for scratching. The familiar and comfortable layout will also appeal to DJs that want to or already work in clubs with Pioneer gear. Excellent tension control and a staggering amount of performance features seal the deal.
The controller is sturdy and well-built and features a comprehensive range of connection options including direct DMX connectivity. A quality DJ controller for club DJs that want to scratch.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ-FLX10 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ REV5 Review
Scratching DJ Controller With Stems
- Comfortable Layout – The REV5 features a layout inspired by the DJM S7 and S9 mixers. It’s a battle-style layout that is ideal for scratch-focused DJs.
- Built-In Stem Controls – Access to Stem separation. Isolate Vocals, Drums, Bass, & Melody. Opens up a lot of creative mixing opportunities.
- Auto BPM Transition Feature – Seamlessly migrate from one BPM to another with this new feature. Frees up your hands for other tasks, including scratching.
- Piano Play Performance Mode – Pitch Play with a replicate keyboard setup using all 15 performance pads. Further expands creative potential.
- Lacks Phono/Line Inputs – You won’t be able to plug in additional players or turnatables since this DJ controller doesn’t offer Phono/Line inputs.
The Pioneer REV5 sits comfortably between the entry-level REV1 and the top-of-the-line REV7 in Pioneer’s scratching-focused DJ controller lineup. It’s an excellent controller with plenty of performance features, but it is a little overpriced, and the build quality is not as premium as other choices on the market.
Despite a few drawbacks, the DDJ-REV5 is an excellent scratch-based DJ controller with a high-quality crossfader and CDJ jogwheels that feel comfortable to scratch on. Plus extra features like Stems control make it even more enticing.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ-REV5 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ REV5
Pioneer XDJ XZ Review
Excellent Choice For Pro DJs
- 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.
- 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.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ XZ review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ XZ
Pioneer DDJ REV1 Review
Budget Controller For Scratching
- Large Jogwheels – By far the most appealing features of the REV1 are the large jogwheels. Scratching on smaller jogwheels can be challenging. These feel great to use and are a perfect introduction for scratch DJs.
- Battle Layout – Just like its big brother the REV7 this controller features a battle-style layout. This type of layout is common for scratch DJs that use turntables. This makes it both familiar to experienced DJs and a great stepping stone for new DJs.
- Toggle FX – Paddles for FX are something that most scratch DJs like to see. With your hands always busy, it is convenient and easy to apply FX and get back to scratching.
- Tracking Scratch Function – The REV1 features a set of unique Tracking Scratch functions. You’ll have access to six scratch patterns. This can open up more advanced scratch options while also teaching you the fundamentals of scratching.
- A Little Cramped – Trying to squeeze so many features onto a controller this size is a challenge, to say the least. While Pioneer has done a great job the pads do feel small and the mixer section feels a bit cramped.
It is difficult for beginner DJs to find a decent controller for scratching. The Pioneer DDJ REV1 alleviates this issue and offers scratch-focused DJs an affordable entry point.
The battle-style layout, large jogwheels, and intuitive features all have the scratch DJ in mind. But it isn’t without some issues. The basic connection options may not be enough for some DJs. Additionally, the lack of color may also put some people off.
For a controller at this price point, it is hard not to be impressed with the Pioneer DDJ REV1.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ-REV1 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ SR2 Review
Good Quality Scratch DJ Controller For Serato
- 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.
- 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.
Pioneer DDJ SR2
Roland DJ 505 Review
High-Quality Scratch DJ Controller For Producers
- 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.
- 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.
Roland DJ 505
Pioneer DDJ FLX6-GT Review
Affordable Mid Tier Controller For Scratching
- 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-GT 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.
- Lacks Pro Connections – The FLX6-GT doesn’t offer many 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-GT 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 techniques 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.
Is It Hard To Scratch DJ?
Scratching is a challenging but also rewarding skill to master. As with all technical DJ skills, practice will make it easier over 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 Pioneer REV7. 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.
Pioneer has a dominant position in the DJ community. This new foray into appealing to scratch DJs is extremely impressive. A well-built controller that will please both veterans and new DJs alike.