What to Know About 2-Channel vs. 4-Channel DJ Controllers
The distinction between a 2-channel and a 4-channel DJ controller may be important to you if you're wanting to upgrade or are considering purchasing your first controller. Why do certain controllers only have two decks but four channels? Does investing additional money in a 4-channel controller make sense?
You're not alone, so don't worry. We've all been there, and as soon as you grasp the fundamentals, you can choose the controller that works best for you and move forward.
First, for total newbies:
The amount of actual routes you have to play music differs between a 2-Channel and 4-Channel DJ Controller. The columns of knobs on the controller's mixer are called channels, which are inputs. Each channel shows that you can play the associated sound and adjust characteristics specifically for that channel.
Every channel typically has a trim knob, EQ, cue button, and channel fader.
How Does a 4-Channel Controller Operate as Compared to a 2-Channel?
A 4-channel controller allows you to connect two turntables, two jog wheels, and two controller decks, and use four faders to operate all four decks simultaneously. A 2-channel controller can only control a pair of jog wheels (channels).
For instance, you could even use channels 1 and 2 for your digital music source, channel 3 for your turntable, and channel 4 for your microphone.
The majority of DJ software will let you use four decks (some even more).
By pressing a button on a 4-channel controller, all four channels can be controlled, with one side switching between decks 1 and 3 and the other between decks 2 and 4.
There may be additional buttons and knobs, such as a channel input selector (such as CD/Phono/USB, for example), and FX assign buttons, depending on how good your controller/mixer is.
Although 2-channel controllers lack this feature, some 4-channel controllers with additional features will actually remember where your EQs and faders were set on each deck. When you switch decks, the controller won't change until you get the fader or knob back to the memory point.
As a result, you must move the low knob back to zero before it "kicks in" and starts letting you bring the lows back up if you have the lows out on channel 1, then switch to channel 3 and bring the lows in, then switch back to channel 1.
With only two channels open to you, a whole other world is unlocked. I can attest from years of only using two turntables to DJ vinyl that having four channels was a game-changer and is now a part of my equipment.
What Situations Require DJs to Use a 4-Channel Controller?
While most club/EDM DJs use 4-channel controllers, turntablists and scratch artists typically stay with 2-channel controllers.
- When mixing two tracks and an acapella (a recording with only vocals), a 4-channel controller comes in helpful. It may also be used to add an additional drum loop.
- If the mashup becomes heated and they need to keep it going to keep the mix from losing intensity, they use them as regular decks.
- They are frequently used by DJs for phone and mic input.
Techno DJs frequently overlay a lot of songs. They use one song as their foundation (many techno tunes are 8 minutes or longer), then they constantly weave in and out other music. As an illustration, they might play the base track, disable the crossfader on that channel, then quickly switch between two different songs. Alternately, they might play a vocal track on one channel while alternating rhythms. This assignment gets considerably more difficult to complete with just two channels.
House musicians typically mix on a 4-channel setup because they have gradual transitions. It's wonderful to be able to use vocals to bridge a transition between two tracks or loops from a later in a song to then transition into the same tune.
To modify the acapella they use on the fly, most DJs would prefer to be able to layer an acapella over a track rather than have to edit it over top of it.
The extra decks are most typically used by mobile/wedding DJs since they may play a playlist (such as dinner jazz) on deck 1 and let it run its course while having dance tracks prepared for decks 2 and 3. Deck 4 can be used to keep the next song from the wedding playlist ready, such as the song for the garter toss.
In a bar, they can combine two songs, scratch sound effects on track 3, and set a request on track 4 until the right moment to play it. In either case, they constantly have two decks for mixing.
An illustration of how my friend employs a 4-channel controller is given here:
Studio Mix: Two digital mixing channels. For straight vinyl, the other two are connected to the Pioneer PLX-500-K turntable.
Digital mixing for radio shows requires two channels, one for the microphone, and one for voiceovers and the third track cue.
Live Shows: 4 channels free for digital mixing - extremely rarely four-channel mixing, three at most, with the fourth used for a cappella.
Do Beginning Players Need a 2-Channel or 4-Channel Controller?
When mixing from one music to another, all you technically need are two channels. For a newbie, it is easier and better.
Although it's less usual, more experienced DJs may employ three or four channels (typically for backing vocals or a drum track in addition to the songs playing on the first two decks, or if you're mixing in a fast-paced style like in drum and bass DJs).
You effectively have more capacity to grow with a 4-channel mixer if you decide to do so in the future. like adding a fourth deck. You can never use more than two channels at a time.
With four decks, you can pre-mix, in addition to all the other awesome things this article mentions.
I always suggest purchasing a 4-channel controller if you believe you need four decks. The error margin gets significantly less if you have four channels for a four-deck system, even though you will still only have a few of jog wheels.
My recommendation if you were to purchase a four-channel one would be to ignore the other two channels first.
Two decks and two channels are plenty if all you want to do is mix tracks one after the other without adding any further layers on top.
I wouldn't say that having four channels is necessary because many outstanding DJs can get by with just two; but, once you get used to having four channels, going back to just two seems incredibly restrictive.