Over the last 2 years I’ve been trying different djing methods to see what works best for me. I transitioned from mostly vinyl to cdjs a couple years ago while playing out but still play vinyl at some house parties and whenever i can. Unfortunately, in the real world, playing vinyl is not an option. There just aren’t enough tracks available and the fact is most clubs don’t have tables anymore or the tables are so un-maintained they sound like shit. I still collect vinyl because I think there is value in the physical artefact and overall I find it sounds better.
I started using Ableton along with an M-audio X-Session controller to DJ last year and have also played around with Novation’s LaunchPad a bit. If my live original music set ever got put together properly I would definitely go the ableton route as its perfect for that. But, for djing, the warping was a buzzkill and I missed the act of following a groove/pitch to feel the music. Im sure this depends on the style of music you play, but I found I was too restricted with the tracks I had setup ahead of time and there was less fun and intuition in reading the crowd and just going with the flow of where the music could take me. You only had the tracks you had setup for that set and it was a big “?” if you dropped a track you hadnt warped yet or played out in while. The spontenaity is lost. Now that the Ableton/Serato Bridge has been released, ableton/serato are looking to make it easier for djs used to serato to move to ableton. I can see the value of Ableton as a DJ tool if you were into mashups and quick button mixing where there is less “mixing” and more “slamming” of tracks every 30 seconds. But for me, I prefer the longer mix and the fluidity of EQ and letting the songs have more time to be heard.
Fast forward to what my current rig looks like, I feel really comfortable with NI’s X1 controller and my trusty Allen/Heath Xone:62. I just cannot enjoy mixing on a crappy plastic controller. I love having nice quality faders/pots to EQ with rather than the cheap plastic on most controller/mixers. The X1 is very versatile and that is the key here, I can use it in many different ways. My preferred setup is still 2 technics /vinyl controllers with an Allen/Heath mixer and the X1 for loading tracks/effects/loops. I also use the cdjs as controllers for gigs where they only have cdjs or i dont want to lug my technics. And when there are no controllers? I can use it in sync mode as a stand alone controller with the club’s mixer. The hotcue section of the X1 is downright awesome for loading cue points. Add to that the ability to assign anything to midi for use with your DAW, ableton or whatev and its a home run for me. I would love to get one more in the near future to do the 4 deck traktor pro thing but for now I am happy workin 2 decks. These days it seems people’s rigs are becoming more and more complex and although there is some value in the “technical feat” ala plastikman, I think keeping things simpler actually allows me as a DJ to focus more on the crowd and the music.