What is a CDJ? What’s the big deal!

In today’s era of tech innovation and advancement, we’re privileged to explore more on endless possibilities that a device has to offer. Most likely, if you’re still trying to figure out what you can do as a DJ, you haven’t looked into all of your choices just yet and are mostly practicing on a DJ controller. This makes sense given that there are a lot of choices to choose from on a piece of DJ equipment, but a controller is still a classic and simple one worth honing your talents with.

Still, despite the simplicity of a controller, as a DJ, exploring what your options are is a must for you to be able to deliver music that’s unique and fantastic. Later on, there’s a chance you’ll outgrow the controller’s easy-to-use setup for beginners and intermediate DJs. And with that, you have to look at the more advanced and involved setups like the so-called CDJ, which is often considered the “workhorse” in a club setting.

It’s safe to assume that CDJ is among the most reliable tools in the DJing world, and here’s why. But first, let’s know more about CDJ and why it’s making rounds in the music scene.

What is a CDJ?

A CDJ is an abbreviation for “Compact Disc Jockey.” A “CDJ,” a portmanteau of “CD” and “DJ,” was named as it was designed to ease the transition from vinyl records and tapes to CDs. Pioneer invented the CDJ, which debuted in the mid-’90s and was designed from the ground up to be revolutionary. They are created for DJs that play using CDs, as there was still no access to online streaming of music from before.

While its primary function was to play CDs, the advancement of technology has led us to know that it can now also play digital audio files from external storage devices like USB flash drives and SD cards. Often, two CDJs are usually connected to a DJ mixer. CDJs resemble DJ turntables as both contain features like jog wheels and pitch faders that allow DJs to mix music.

The CDJ was the first gadget to allow a DJ to mix music without relying on a turntable, mixing instead by using a computer and prerecorded tracks. With synchronization tools, the CDJ helps a user be more comfortable with complex equipment.

What’s the Difference Between a CDJ and a Controller?

The CDJ and the DJ controller are two distinct pieces of gear, but professionals and fans have divided opinions regarding it. One may say that the two devices couldn’t be more dissimilar, with the CDJ more closely resembling a “digital music player” much like a turntable. As CDJs can be used without a laptop, users don’t consider them to be in the same category as controllers, which do need a laptop.

However, others can attest that the CDJ is fundamentally a controller, although one with a somewhat different structure. Below are some of its differences:

1. Features

How they handle different DJ tools and functions is another big difference between CDJs and DJ controllers. Most mid-range to high-end controllers come with extras like a “SYNC” button, but that isn’t always the case with CDJs. A CDJ might not have any actual sync buttons or knobs, just a BPM slider (if it has one). Most of the time, a CDJ will contain some extra features, but it doesn’t have a lot. This can be a problem, especially if you’re used to having some things included that you don’t have to.

2. Laptop Use

Laptop Use DJ controllers need to be connected to a laptop to run the different types of DJ apps that load and play music tracks. It makes use of software such as Serato, Traktor, Virtual DJ, and Rekordbox, to help current DJs do their mixes better by showing important data like waveforms, BPMs, and the beat grid for a track.

3. Channel Availability

The CDJ has a lot more channels than a controller, which is a complete plus. Even on the most expensive controllers, most of them have between two and four. But for a CDJ, an average one would consist of at least four to eight channels depending on how your mixer will allow it.

4. Hardware

The last change is the biggest problem with the CDJ: it’s only one part of a three-part setup. With this, you’ll be needing to buy another CDJ and a different mixer in addition to your main one. This is very different in comparison to how controllers are set up, where everything is included in one package. Also, even if you’re getting an expensive CDJ, you would still expect to pay a lot more for a CDJ setup to be fully completed than for a DJ controller.

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But, CDJs are more than what you pay for!

A lot of people can attest to CDJs as a standard in every club playing. Its impressive build and features make it so much better at handling mixes for parties – which makes it great for club setups for a variety of reasons.

Its Convenience

Before CDJs, many vinyl DJs had to carry around big, heavy boxes of vinyl records in order for them to be played. This caused a lot of problems, like the chance that their records would be stolen or broken during a show. CDJs solved this problem by adding the ability to simply insert a USB drive in addition to playing CDs. This erased the problem of lugging around heavy boxes of vinyl.


Preference is an important factor when you pick between a CDJ and a controller. The CDJ is and always will be a great tool that all DJs should know about and trained professionals should be able to use. They have made a name for themselves in the past and have been very important in the move from vinyl to digital, which is much easier to get.

If you’re still confused about what to get: a controller or a CDJ, you have to weigh in on the skills you want to hone more as a professional DJ. If you’re into club-playing and can come up with a lot of remixes on the tip of your fingers, opt-in on using a CDJ. But if you plan on becoming a music producer (home-based or not), then a controller might be a convenient choice for you.

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