As technology improves so do DJ controllers. The biggest innovation in recent history is the addition of screens. This has given DJs newfound freedom when DJing. Less time staring at the laptop and more time focusing on the controller. But, some controllers are better than others. In this review, we check out the best DJ controllers with screens currently available.
Denon Prime 4
A gorgeous touchscreen with advanced features. It also offers extensive connection options and innovative zone output.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
An excellent controller with a familiar pro layout. Excellent software integration but also very capable in standalone mode.
A Closer Look At Controllers With Built In Screen
With some outstanding options available let’s dive into the details of what this new generation of controllers has to offer.
Denon Prime 4 Review
The Best DJ Controller With Screens
- Impressive Screen – The huge 10-inch screen is the biggest screen currently available. It’s bright and responsive and it’s a touch screen DJ controller. You can alter the angle to your preferred setting and it’s solid and well-built.
- Standalone Capable – The Denon Prime 4 is capable of operating as a standalone controller. If you want to unshackle yourself from a laptop this piece of DJ gear is an excellent choice.
- Affordably Priced – Despite the extensive list of features and the epic screen the unit is still reasonably priced. An excellent option for both professionals and serious hobby DJs.
- Excellent Connection Options – The Denon Prime 4 offers a large selection of output choices. This allows you to handle any potential connection situation. With 4 USB inputs plus a built-in SATA drive, you also have full flexibility in managing your music collection.
- Engine Prime Software – The only real drawback is the software. It is capable and well presented but not as polished as mainstays like Serato and Rekordbox. Luckily it is compatible with those pieces of software. If you already own them you’ll still be able to maintain your existing track preparation workflow.
The Denon Prime 4 is an outstanding piece of DJ gear. Catering to a vast array of DJs it’s hard to not recommend it. Especially when you consider the competitive price. The screen is amazing and a joy to use.
If the touch controls are not your style you can also plug in a keyboard for quicker searching. This is especially useful if you have a large music collection. If you are looking for a controller with a screen you should have the Prime 4 high on your list of options.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Pioneer XDJ RX2 Review
Outstanding Rekordbox DJ Controller
- The Pioneer Standard – The XDJ RX2 offers an updated layout that now more closely resembles the Nexus line of mixers. This is excellent if you already use Pioneer gear in a pro club environment or have ambitions to do so. Everything is where you expect it to be.
- Central Screen – The 7-inch touchscreen is vibrant and responsive. You have access to all the information you need to navigate and prepare your next mix. The navigation knob now sits next to the screen which is a big improvement compared to the original RX.
- Improved Pad Controls – The other noticeable upgrade is the expansion to 8 pads. These pads feel like pads and not like the button feel the original RX offered. They feel comfortable and natural to use for the various pad modes.
- Full Software – Rekordbox DJ comes packaged with the controller. You can use it to prepare your tracks or have it connected to access extra features. You can also connect it to your laptop for track management. This means you don’t have to go through the process of exporting to USBs.
- Not Worth Upgrading – The RX2 is an improvement over the previous model. But, if you already own an RX unit there isn’t that much innovation here to justify making the upgrade.
The Pioneer XDJ RX2 is a solid controller with excellent screen integration. The central placement and parallel waveforms make it easy to prepare and execute your mixes.
It’s also light enough to be a great choice for working mobile DJs. Because of this, it took out our top spot for the best all-in-one DJ controller review.
It offers excellent software and a professional layout. When you take all this into account it makes the XDJ RX2 the best Pioneer DJ controller with screens currently available.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Need Help Choosing The Right DJ Controller?
Read our Best DJ Controller buying guide.
Denon Prime 2 Review
Feature-Rich 2 Channel Option
- 7-Inch Screen – The Prime 2 offers a smaller screen than the Prime 4 but it is still on par with the similar Pioneer XDJ RX2. The screen is vibrant and very responsive. Touch capable with solid layout options.
- Connection Choices – Full balanced options available on the back of the unit for your speakers including Booth output. Two microphone inputs are also great for mobile DJs that need to be able to provide a microphone for MCs.
- Wi-Fi Capable – You can stream music directly from Tidal, Beatport LINK, Beatsource, and Soundcloud Go+. This opens up a massive range of music for low subscription costs.
- Drive Slot – Much like the Prime 4 there is a dedicated SATA slot for a hard drive. Manage and store all your music within the unit itself. Something other controllers don’t offer.
- Engine – One of the biggest issues is the software. While continually improving it still trails the other major software platforms. But, at the rate they are updating the software it may not be long before it can match or beat the heavyweights.
The Prime 2 is the smaller two-channel version of the hugely popular Prime 4. A refined and more compact controller it still boasts an excellent screen and a good set of features. Denon continues to push the boundaries and the Prime 2 is a perfect example of this mentality. It is cheaper than the RX2 and has a better screen. But it does lack the universality that Pioneer gear offers.
An excellent controller that is perfect for DJs that don’t require 4-channel mixing.
Read our full Denon Prime 2 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 2
Pioneer XDJ XZ Review
Excellent Controller For Pros
- Intuitive Layout – The industry-standard Pioneer workflow is present here. If you are familiar with Pioneer club gear you’ll instantly be able to get to work. Also great for DJs that want o prepare for club sets.
- Responsive Jog Wheels – The large full-size jog wheels are responsive and great to scratch on. Added onboard displays also provide important information at your fingertips.
- Gig Ready – With a solid range of connection choices you can easily take this from the studio and use it in a professional gig scenario. A good choice for professional mobile DJs.
- Can Operate Independently – While it does work best with a laptop you can still use the controller standalone. Keep in mind you’ll only have access to two channels in this mode.
- Dated Screen – Pioneer has stuck to the same screen that has served them well for many years. While familiar it is starting to show its age compared to more modern touch screens.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ is a professional piece of gear that has all the features you’d expect from a high-end Pioneer controller. It cleanly replicates the in-club experience and is an ideal controller for professional DJs that don’t want to invest in a full club setup for their studios.
Despite a few restrictions, it is an outstanding controller for fans of Pioneer gear.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ XZ review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ XZ
Denon Prime Go Review
Innovative & Portable Option
- Solid Construction – Denon hasn’t cut any corners with this controller. All the knobs feel great. The jog wheels are responsive albeit a bit small. The housing is also great, especially important considering how this controller is intended to be used.
- Chargeable – No more will you be burdened with having to have your controller continually plugged in. The built-in power source is rechargeable and offers a respectable 4+ hours of battery life.
- Great Screen – Responsive and intuitive to use. Full-color and touch-capable. A must-have for DJing without a laptop.
- Standalone – With your music loaded on a USB or SD card you are free to run this without a laptop. An excellent option for outdoor gigs or as a portable gigging machine.
- Workflow – There is an initial adjustment period due to the placement of the EQ. Nearly all controllers have vertical EQ but to accommodate the screen you’ll have to adjust to horizontal EQ.
The Denon Prime Go is an innovative controller that fills a particular slice of the market. With a built-in battery, you can take this controller anywhere. Prepare sets or perform. The great connection options also allow you to use this as a professional level controller for gigs.
An impressive controller that is perfect for DJs that want to DJ anywhere and everywhere.
Denon Prime Go
Our Expert Buying Guide
There are a few key differences between the features of a regular DJ controller and a controller with screens. In the below guide we’ll highlight the most important aspects to assess before buying a DJ controller with built-in screens.
Size and Resolution
The first and most obvious are the screens themselves. Screen size plays a critical role in how much you’ll enjoy using the controller. It will also determine how much you’ll be able to avoid looking at your laptop.
When it comes to screens bigger is better. The larger the screen the more information that you’ll have access to. A large screen will make navigating your music library easier. It also allows for information to be more thoughtfully laid out.
Small screens can be difficult to read and you may find yourself squinting or hunching over. This is not great for maintaining a consistent and solid workflow behind the decks.
The goal of DJ controllers with screens is to look at the laptop less and emulate a club-style workflow.
The resolution also plays a role. The more pixels per square inch the clearer the image will be. This makes it easier to read especially when you factor in a dark and smoky environment like a nightclub. Hi-res screens are a must-have feature when looking for DJ gear with screens.
It’s also worth considering the number of available channels that the controller offers. A four-channel controller is ideal for performing DJs that want to stretch their creative limits. It opens up the door for layering acapellas and blending several tracks at the same time. If this style of DJing is appealing to you then a four-channel controller is a must.
This is where screen size also comes into play. If you are looking at using four channels you’ll want a large screen that will be able to display 4 waveforms. Not only should it be able to display them but it should also be easy to interpret the information on the screen.
If you are happy with two channels you can be more flexible when it comes to screen size. While bigger will still be better it is easier to assess your mix when you have to only tackle two waveforms.
Parallel waveforms are another consideration when selecting a controller. This becomes even more important if you are a new DJ. Having the ability to see upcoming drops in your music can help you adjust and plan your mixes. You can avoid phrase mismatches via loops and execute smooth transitions.
Whether it’s two or four channels make sure the screens display the information you need. Having the information directly on your controller will prevent you from looking at your laptop.
You want to get well-built gear and preferably from a well-known brand. Whether it is your headphones or the best 12 inch powered speakers. When you factor in the addition of screens there is another layer of damage you need to worry about. Screens that are robust and well-built have a greater chance of surviving knocks and bumps. Replacing screens is extremely difficult in controllers.
While some controllers are better than others I still suggest you invest in an appropriate flight case for your controller. This will make transporting your controller easier. It will also shield your controller from dust and grime. It will also help protect the screens.
Software Vs Standalone
The other consideration is if the controller offers a standalone mode. Some controllers will restrict you to two channels when using standalone mode. The included software is also important if you plan on using standalone mode. You’ll need to factor in some time to get familiar with the workflow and information available. Check out the video below featuring Alphatec. He is using the Denon Prime 4 in the standalone mode which will give you an idea of what to expect.
When working in standalone mode you’ll also need to invest more time in preparation. Analyzing and tagging your tracks accordingly will make your time on the decks better. A refined and organized playlist will also help when using a DJ controller with screens. Due to the limited screen size, it will be easier to find your next track if you have a set playlist.
Many DJ controllers with screens also work with standard DJ software. Having this option available to you opens up the best of both worlds. For basic information and tasks, you can keep your focus on your controller. For more detailed settings and changes, you can revert to using your laptop. It is also great for preparing your sets. Updating cue points or information like the Key of the song is easier to do on a laptop. This is especially the case if you like to utilize harmonic mixing and need to update Key data for new tracks.
A good DJ controller with screens will provide robust options for both. The standalone mode should be easy to use and logical. Meanwhile using DJ software and a laptop should open up more options for you. Tight integration is important.
Things Mobile DJs Need To Consider
Mobile DJs make up a large part of the working DJ group. Not everyone has a comfortable residency at a nightclub. Wedding gigs, college parties, and corporate events are often the main source of income for up-and-coming DJs. This is where DJ controllers with screens can excel.
DJ controllers with screens are perfect for working DJs that play at weddings and similar parties.
It can lead to less gear that you need to bring with you to a gig. You can prepare your tracks beforehand and leave your laptop at home. It is also one less piece of the DJ chain that can fail. There is nothing worse than laptop failure or laptop issues during a gig. Except for maybe annoying guests with strange song requests 😉
If you are a mobile DJ looking at buying a new DJ controller with screens take some time to think about how you work. If you already have heavy speakers to bring along you may want to buy a controller that is lightweight and portable. If you are looking for lighter speakers you can check out our best 12 inch powered speakers guide which features some great options. Also, consider how much you rely on your laptop in your current workflow. If it plays a huge part you may still need to bring it with you to gigs.
Which One Should You Buy?
Buying a controller with screens can be a liberating experience for DJs. With so many DJs tied to their laptop screens, it’s a welcome change to be able to focus on your gear. As parts become cheaper the major DJ gear manufacturers are pushing the limits with what they can offer.
Selecting a favorite is usually difficult but there is one controller that stands head and shoulder above the rest. When you factor in screen size, affordability, connection choices, and features the Denon Prime 4 is our winner. With a large, bright, and vibrant screen, it’s a joy to use.
But, if you prefer the Pioneer ecosystem the Pioneer XDJ RX2 is a compelling alternative. Either way, there are some fantastic options currently available. No matter which one you end up buying you’ll enjoy this new generation of controllers with screens.
Denon Prime 4