Digital DJing has fundamentally changed how many modern DJs work. But there has always been one bastion of DJing which 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.
An outstanding controller that offers motorized platters to simulate the feel of vinyl. Ideal for scratching.
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.
Numark NS7III Review
The Best DJ Controller For Scratching
- Motorized Platters – By far the stand out feature of the NS7III. These 7-inch platters are the closest you’ll ever come to the feel of turntables in a DJ controller. The torque is spot on and it even comes with slipmats and vinyl. This results in an excellent feel and accurate control when scratching.
- 4 Channels – Having access to 4 channels expands your creative possibilities. For scratch DJs, this allows for primary tracks as well as samples for scratching to play at the same time.
- 10 Pad Modes – The large selection of pad modes also has the performing DJ covered. From loops, hot cues, sample triggers, and more. This controller embraces creative DJing. Layer samples, cue juggle all while having access to the best scratch experience on a controller.
- Thoughtful Screen Layout – The attachable screen offers an intuitive and logical layout. While browsing your library is a little tricky everything else is on point. Plenty of relevant information for each deck and stacked waveforms. You can comfortably mix without ever looking at your laptop.
- On The Heavy Side – The only real drawback is that this unit is a beast. Built like a tank but also not the most comfortable to transport. The internal fans can also be a little noisy but easily drowned out if you’re playing music at a reasonable level.
The biggest complaint from scratch DJs when it comes to controllers is how they lack the feel of turntables. The Numark NS7III has taken this as a challenge and succeeded in developing a controller for dedicated scratch DJs. The resistance and feel of the jogwheels are as close to a set of Technic turntables you can experience. With a nice and loose 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 you should consider the NS7III.
Read our full Numark NS7III review for more detailed information.
Denon MC7000 Review
Excellent Choice For Mobile DJs
- 4 Channels – The Denon MC7000 offers control over 4 channels. This is a huge benefit to scratch DJs that want to layer multiple tracks at the same time. Coupled with the full kill EQ the creative options are limitless.
- Plenty of Connection Options – A large range of connections options will ensure you can set up at any location. Plenty of inputs also allows you to connect with other gear like turntables if you want to explore classic vinyl mixing down the line. It’s because of this that the MC7000 took out the top spot in our best 4 channel DJ controller review.
- Good Build Quality – A robust controller that will be able to handle the rigors of regular use. At 7kg it is a hefty and stable controller yet still portable.
- Software Integration – Denon has crammed heaps of Serato functionality onto the controller. You can access nearly all features without having to look at your laptop. For aggressive and creative mixing it’s essential to have these features at your fingertips.
- Overwhelming For New DJs – It’s hard to fault the MC7000. But, for new DJs, the large range of options and buttons may be a little overwhelming. As a new DJ, you may be better off with a simpler controller to learn on.
The Denon MC7000 is a workhorse controller that is well suited to the performing DJ. The 6-inch jogs offer great resistance which makes scratching feel comfortable and accurate. The crossfader is also replaceable which is another added benefit for scratch DJs that have a preferred crossfader. Even the best crossfaders wear out over time so it’s good to have a simple way to replace it. Backed by tight software integration it’s a solid choice for scratch DJs.
Read our full Denon MC7000 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 1000 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 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.
- 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.
Pioneer DDJ 1000
Roland DJ 808 Review
Solid Scratch DJ Controller For MCs
- 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.
- 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.
Roland DJ 808
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 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
Denon MC4000 Review
Fantastic Budget Controller For Scratching
- Long Pitch Faders – Working with classic tracks can be a challenge for scratch DJs. Tempo can drift throughout the track. Having access to long pitch faders makes it easier to adjust and realign your beats. It’s great to see an entry-level controller offer pitch faders of this size.
- Durable – A robust unit that can take some punishment. The faders are of high quality and durable. All the knobs and pads also ooze quality. For a budget-minded controller, Denon has managed to maintain a good level of build quality.
- Excellent Affordability – DJing doesn’t have to be expensive and the MC4000 is a great example of this. Packed with plenty of features it still maintains an aggressive price point. The value offering is great for DJs not looking to spend too much on a controller.
- Large Amount Of Connections – Entry-level controllers can suffer from a lack of connectivity. The Denon MC4000 breaks this pattern and offers DJs plenty of choice. It also includes a booth output which is essential for a working DJ that needs independent control over volume in the booth.
- Intro Software – Unfortunately the Lite version of Serato will need an upgrade to get the most out of the software and controller. You’ll still get access to all the essential features but factor in the upgrade cost down the line.
The Denon MC4000 is a controller packed with a lot of excellent features. All this at an affordable entry-level price. The jogwheels are touch-sensitive which will please scratch DJs. Onboard FX controls add some extra creative options to your sets. Compatible with different software it also allows DJs to explore alternatives to the included Serato DJ Lite. If you’re on a budget but still want excellent value you should seriously consider the MC4000.
Read our full Denon MC4000 review for more detailed information.
Numark Mixdeck Express Review
Great Choice If You Use CDs
- 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 MP3’s 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.
- 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 your 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.
Numark Mixdeck Express
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
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 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 Numark NS7III. 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. A well-built controller that will please both veterans and new DJs alike.
The Denon MC7000 comes in as a very close second due to its impressive list of features. Either way no matter what DJ scratch equipment you buy there has never been a better time to jump into digital DJ scratching.