While DJing used to be dominated by a few big brands some of these have faded away while newcomers have broadened the field. So what are the best DJ equipment brands out there? and what do they bring to the table?
The current market leader in the DJ world is undoubtedly Pioneer. Largely due to their dominance as the industry-standard mixer and players/decks. Outside of those other brands like Denon are innovating hard in order to catch up. Meanwhile, Technics has the vinyl turntable market cornered.
Let’s run through every company and find out what each is about.
Pioneer DJ – Does Industry Standard Necessarily Mean Best of the DJ Equipment Brands?
Pioneer is the dominant force within DJing at the moment so it makes sense to put them first in the list of best DJ equipment brands.
Although this is not to say that they do actually produce the best equipment. However, they tend to be the industry standard. So you will see their mixers and their decks in clubs and festivals around the world.
Pioneer produces everything from DJ mixers, decks and headphones to all-in-one DJ consoles. As well as the Rekordbox software.
Pioneer DJ’s history can be traced back as early as 2001 where they created a rack-mounted mixer called the DJM3000.
They have been innovating ever since and really established as one of the mainstays when they released their CDJ decks in 2009.
Which, ever since, have been the standard in DJ booths around the world. With their current flagship model CDJ2000NXS2 being in use all over (it is also our recommended deck, see it here).
As mentioned, they might not necessarily be the best equipment available and other manufacturers may be more innovative. However, all DJs need to be familiar with Pioneer equipment as you will come across it often in your career.
Aside from their own DJ software Pioneer increasingly incorporate third-party software. Facilitating such things as Serato’s DJ Pro makes their Pioneer’s gear all the more usable.
Dream / Flagship Pioneer Setup
Currently, the top of the range setup you would have is a pair of CDJ2000XS2s linked up through a DJM900NX2 unless you are a turntablist/battle DJ. In which case you’d probably go for the DJMs9.
Rekordbox is Pioneer’s music management and DJing software.
A lot of DJs will organize their library with Rekordbox even if they don’t use Pioneer equipment at home.
This makes it easy to plug their USB in and get straight on with doing their set when using Pioneer equipment in clubs or festivals.
Numark – Apparently Biggest Doesn’t = Best DJ Equipment Brands
One of the first DJ equipment manufacturers around, Numark was initially founded in 1971.
The company we know today came about in 1992 when Jack O’Donnell (founder of InMusic), whilst working at Stanton, saw that Numark Electronics was for sale and purchased it.
He did actually propose that Stanton themselves buy the company, however, they chose not to. More fool them as Numark has now grown to be (reportedly) the largest DJ equipment manufacturer in the world.
Although they produce everything from CD decks to mixers Numark is primarily known these days for producing controllers.
Their flagship model is the NS611 which is a four-channel DJ controller that actually lets you plug in two laptops (see price on Amazon).
This makes it ideal for club use as DJs can handover from one to the other in a seamless transition.
As well as being a controller, it lets you plug in turntables and other devices and use it purely as a mixer. This gives it a lot of flexibility.
Numark does also produce turntables with their current professional grade deck being the NTX1000.
The latest development in their line from when they first really exploded onto the turntable scene with the groundbreaking TTX1. Which have since been discontinued.
Flagship Numark Setup
Tending not to be as expensive as Pioneer, Numark gives great quality while retaining value for money.
Denon – a New Contender for Top of the Best DJ Equipment Brands?
Denon DJ is owned by InMusic, who is basically the super brand in DJ equipment. And actually, when naming the best DJ equipment brands you could almost just list of their companies.
Owning as they do, Denon, Akai, Rane, and Numark amongst many others.
Denon has really been pushing themselves forward in recent times. And are showing themselves to be strong contenders to Pioneer both in terms of controllers, decks and mixers.
All of them are feature-packed.
Winners of best club deck and Innovation Awards their SC5000 is highly customizable allowing you to add effects and use loops & slices based on automatically created beat grids.
Most importantly they have loads and loads of lights.
Denon’s flagship mixer is the X1800 4 channel Club mixer, which gives you lots of options to cut and mix your tunes.
Again highly customizable Denon seems intent on taking classic equipment and pushing it to a whole new level. Like for example, incorporating a touch strip for controlling effects.
The X1800 gives you granular control over effects that be tweaked on the individual channels. Meaning once you have mastered all the controls, your mixes will sound slick and professional.
Controller: Prime 4
Featuring a large 10-inch touchscreen, along with the standard controls of a deck, plus drum pads on either channel Denon’s flagship controller is a force to be reckoned with.
And if you’re looking for a new top-of-the-line all-in-one unit this would really be all you need and is suitable for DJs and controllerists alike.
Check out the Prime 4 on Amazon here.
The Dream / Flagship Denon Setup
And aside from being feature-packed, like I said above, they all feature lots and lots of pretty lights. A vital part of any DJ equipment…
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Another of the titans of DJ hardware is Native Instruments.
Not only do they produce hardware, but they are also behind the popular Traktor DJ and vinyl emulation software.
The company was founded in 1996 and has grown a lot since it started as a software company.
While their Reaktor software remains a mainstay for professional music producers, NI has been making waves in the DJ arena since they released the first version of Traktor in 2000.
NI has released their own hardware in the form of Kontrol (which incorporates DJ controllers) as well as MIDI keyboards, audio interfaces, and Maschine
Maschine exploded onto the scene as a drum machine, similar in style to the classic Akai MPC.
Originally released in 2009, Maschine is highly regarded among DJs and producers. Particularly those that like to finger drum, layer in effects or trigger loops live. You will often see Maschine as part of a touring DJ set up.
The Dream / Flagship Setup Native Instruments
A digital DJ setup would see you have a laptop running Traktor Pro 3 linked to the Kontrol S2 (push here to see price on Amazon). This is a 4-channel, all-in-one unit that features motorized platters.
The long-reigning king of decks…
Technics – One of the Most Famous and Best DJ Equipment Brands
Owned by Panasonic, no list of the best DJ equipment brands would be complete without mentioning Technics. They were & are the undisputed king of vinyl decks in the DJ world. In particular the iconic range of Technics 1200s.
A staple in every club in the world they actually ceased production in 2010. Aside from falling sales (due to the increasing dominance of CD decks) Panasonic’s official statement also cited fewer suppliers serving the analog market.
This sent shockwaves through the DJ community who petitioned for years to have them reintroduced.
Which Panasonic, by announcing a new line of turntables, did in 2016. While the SL1200s themselves made a return in 2019 in their MK7 incarnation.
Made from lighter aluminum and fiberglass materials, the sleek matte black unit has new features along with bug fixes.
New features include reverse playback, detachable power cables & phono cables as well as adjustable starting torque and brake speed.
A near essential in all vinyl DJs set up, Technics make a very welcome return back into the DJ world.
Akai is again one of the brands that fall under the InMusic umbrella.
Originally founded in 1946 in Japan, Akai has produced everything from DJ & audio equipment to air-conditioning units. Although their specific audio division has been splintered off and housed under the “Akai Professional” name.
While their equipment predominantly focuses on studio work, there is plenty of live kit too. It is with these that Akai earns their place among the best DJ equipment brands.
This includes models like the newer iterations of their MPD units, which are based on the analog MPC that revolutionized hip hop production back in the day. Arguably their most famous controllers is the APC40 which is an all-in-one controller for Ableton Live. Allowing you to speed up the workflow of working within Ableton both in a studio or live setting.
The Dream / Flagship Akai Professionals Setup
Due to the variety of units on offer, it’s difficult to pick out one model that Akai push as their true flagship.
For live performance on the move, this would be the MPC Touch (push here to see price on Amazon). Which is an all-in-one unit that stores music and sound files and can run on battery power, freeing you from the studio. It essentially allows you to bring studio level production features to a live setting.
The MPDs range is also ideal for playing live, although these generally have to be paired with a laptop running something like Ableton.
In a studio setting, the MPCX is as described by Akai themselves as a “studio centerpiece”. Built around rows of knobs and pads the MPCX is ultra-modern while still very much nodding to, and allowing incorporation of, ts analog history.
Best DJ Equipment Brands Conclusions
While there are many different manufacturers in the DJ equipment space, they all bring unique styles, twists, and features to the industry.
This healthy amount of competition has helped move things forward and given DJs more options to build slick live sets than ever before.
Depending on your needs, and budget, then you actually can’t go wrong purchasing any of the flagship products from these companies listed above. It just depends on what you are hoping to achieve.
While some are industry standard, like the Pioneer CDJs, the skills you learn are transferable to all other bits of kit. Once you have fully familiarized yourself on one then you will find the learning curve significantly shorter for all others. So don’t get too stuck trying to pick the one that’s going to make you the “best” DJ out of the box. Because, basically, they all can. Instead, choose the one that looks to have the features that are the best fit for your style and how you want to create your DJ sets.
If you have any questions or comments about any of the companies or units mentioned in this article drop them below and I’m happy we shall reply to all of them.
FAQs: Best DJ Equipment Brands
Do DJs bring their own equipment?
Whether a DJ needs to bring their own equipment to a gig depends on the venue and the requirements of the event. If the event is being held in a nightclub, for example, then chances are they will not need any of their own equipment. That is unless they have any specialized bits of kit that they use during their sets.
Most clubs have a decent sound system and modern DJ decks that allow a DJ to simply plug in a USB and start playing. However, if it is a special event at a venue that normally doesn’t host music then a DJ may be expected to bring an entire setup. This would include everything from a sound system to DJ decks and a mixer. This is normally negotiated with the event organizer beforehand so that the DJ is clear what equipment they may need to bring with them.
For the most part, touring DJs will not take any special equipment with them. This allows them to easily go from gig to gig without needing to spend any time doing sound checks or setting up/packing down equipment.