The Best Controller Options for iPad DJs

Some love it and some hate it, but either way, the iPad is gaining traction as a viable DJing platform.  It makes sense; all the time, tablets are getting more computer-like while computers are getting more tablet-like.

But this is still a bit of an unexplored frontier for many DJs.  What are the options?  Are there decent controllers for iPad DJing, or are they all plasticky toys?

To help answer this, I’ve done the research in order to present to you what are, in my opinion, the five current best controller options for iPad DJs as we approach the end of 2014.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2

Kontrol S2

MSRP: $499 | See Current Street Price | See Customer Reviews

Native Instruments’ Kontrol series is still a staple for many digital DJs.  When NI decided to refresh their S2 and S4 lineup with the MK2 updates, they added a pretty major feature: support for Traktor DJ for iPad.

The S2 is not pushing the innovation envelope, but is still one of the best options for Traktor-based DJs.  If you like Traktor DJ and want to use that going forward, this is the recommendation I would give.  As a bonus, you get to use it with “big Traktor” on your laptop as well.

Of course, the S4 is an option too.  But only choose that if you want to use a laptop to DJ sometimes, since you’ll be wasting 2 channels (Traktor DJ for iOS only supports two.)

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Features: Plug & Play compatibility with Traktor DJ (iOS) and Traktor Pro 2 (PC/Mac).  Live remix/freeze mode options which can be triggered by hot cue buttons.  Gives access to Traktor’s advanced features like Flux mode, slicer, etc.

Reloop Beatpad

Reloop Beatpad

MSRP: $899 | See Current Street Price | See Customer Reviews

I’ve become a big Reloop fan as of late, because their hardware is solid, well-presented, and tightly-integrated with its intended software.

The Reloop Beatpad is a dedicated iOS controller, developed and optimized for Algoriddim’s DJay software.  Of course, it’s MIDI enabled and can be mapped to your software of choice should you connect it to a laptop.

The unit features two headphone connections on the front side, two master outputs (XLR, RCA) and even an aux input for iPod, CD player or turntable on the back of the device.  And the extra large “vinyl grip” jog wheels featured on other Reloop controllers are present here.  As a nice added feature, the wheels are surrounded by multi-colored LED rings which indicate the position of the track in a circular motion.

Reloop’s entire controller lineup these days is solid, and the Beatpad is no exception.

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Features: RGB jog wheel ring indicators, solid build quality, large jog wheels, 4 large drum pads per deck, AirPlay support for wireless speakers, Spotify integration via Djay.

Pioneer DDJ-WeGo3

Pioneer DDJ-WeGo3

MSRP: $299 | See Current Street Price | See Customer Reviews (coming soon)

The WeGo3 is a brand new controller in the WeGo line by Pioneer, and excels as a great bang-for-buck option for iPad DJs.

The “Pulse Control” function gives visual feedback via moving jog wheel animations: Launch Pulse (moves from load button to jog wheel when track is loaded), FX Pulse (light patterns showing which FX/filters are engaged), and Beat Pulse (glows to show the volume of sound).

This controller is also compatible with Virtual DJ 8 and Serato DJ Intro for the laptop users.  The WeGo3 version of the Djay software has been streamlined for clarity to remove unnecessary duplication, and the unit itself has a unique (but intuitive) layout.

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Features: Durable brushed aluminum finish, jog LED feedback, intuitive tactile interface, dual headphones outputs, Spotify integration via DJay.

Numark iDJ Pro

Numark iDJ Pro

MSRP: $499 | See Current Street Price | See Customer Reviews

The iDJ differs from other offerings in that the tablet actually sits flush in the controller itself.  This serves both to get the iPad out of your face, and to give more intuitive control for people that want to tap and drag on the iPad itself.

It also differs in that, instead of line faders, it has rotary knobs for each channel.  This was probably done to save room (since the iPad effectively becomes part of the controller itself), but many people prefer rotary control.  This is something rarely seen on controllers.

The downside to having the tablet dead center is the fact that it forces the configuration into a somewhat non-standard layout.  The EQ’s, for example, are at the top left and top right… a spot usually reserved for FX control.

One thing worth mentioning is the fact that this is one of the few iPad controllers that are iPad ONLY… that is, it cannot be used as a MIDI controller for your laptop.

The iDJ Pro features capacitive touch-activated platters, die-cast aluminum volume knobs, and brushed aluminum casing with hot cue, loop, and effects controls.  Overall, a solid choice.

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Features: Integrates touch screen into control surface, touch-activated platters, XLR outputs, aux input for external sources, Spotify integration via DJay.

Vestax Spin2

Vestax Spin2

The Spin2 has an appearance very similar to the classic VCI-100.  It works across all Apple devices and provides intuitive control via your iPad.

This controller is compact, lightweight, and includes a “studio grade audio interface”.  This is a great unit to just toss in your bag and head to a quick gig without much trouble.  The track browsing interface is similar to the d-pad on a video game controller, which some people may or may not prefer over the rotary encoders present on most.

For lovers of the Vestax brand, the Spin2 provides a nice solution at a reasonable price.

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Features: High-res touch-sensitive jog wheels, compact design, light color scheme, lightweight.

Summary

So there you have it… five great options for DJing with your iPad.  As you can see, most of the options utilize the popular DJay app by Algoriddim, with the exception of the Kontrol S2.  An S2 is definitely my recommendation if you want to use Traktor DJ.  Outside of that, the rest are solid options and it really just comes down to preference (as always).

My personal favorites?  The Kontrol S2 if you want to use Traktor DJ; Reloop’s Beatpad otherwise.  But, they are all up to the task!

Have experience with iPad DJing and want to weigh in?  Feel free to post your comments below!