In a perfect world much of the DJ equipment that gets released wouldn't get released at all if it replicates exactly what another piece of gear can do for the same price. At one time it was the case that many of these other companies niches was to provide a means of doing the same thing for less as they constantly improved the quality of their products over time. In fact it even got to the point where the actual quality of their products improved so much that they were very comparable to (if not actually better than) the established pro options but still had a second best rating due to brand perception against the perception that people had of the better known (short of ceremonial stripes acquirement) industry standard "pro" options.

Its like how Vestax (generally) and eventually Stanton (with their higher end models) were technically able to produce similarly performing if not better Turntables then Technics from a purely mechanical and build quality standpoint at the top end for many to still cling to Technics due to more sentimental attachments, synonymous  association with club culture and long held perceptions. 

In light of this many of them changed strategy to try and raise their profile. Many of these companies that set up producing cheaper DJ gear wanted to stay competitively profitable, and as a result of target segment marketing in an attempt to altering perceptions of their brands, many have in fact over priced some of their products in relation to what they could actually sell them for and most likely try to differentiate them by calling it their "pro range" of some sort. 

This was most done in an attempt to try and retain and cultivate customer loyalty from those that started out with them by offering the full range of perceived "beginner" to "pro" equipment under their single product brand name through target segment marketing. Newbie's would also be able to form a much different perception from all of us with more tainted views of what DJ gear brands were worth their salt having seen them start up. 

But they are in fact just doing exactly the same as the much bigger DJ hardware producer brands do. Which makes it even stranger that a brand like Pioneer have finally  decided to put out "beginner" budget targeted equipment under their flagship brand name.


 
I reckon if Pioneer had actually put out their exact same entry level "beginner" controllers out at £100 to £150 more then the actual current RRP to then tack on some sort of pro target intention in naming convention, the perception of them would be very different whilst also making them a lot more desirable for fewer people to actually part with cash for them. Keep in mind many of the these "beginner" controllers have all the same features of their "pro" counterparts. The chances are the build quality on them would hardly be lacking either from someone like Pioneer. Any issues in build quality even in their "beginner" devices would reflect badly on their whole range just because of how general consumers are.



Essentially Pioneer producing a more affordable option allows them to tap a larger potential market that other manufacturers have been cleaning up in for years. Only Pioneer have a prestigious name too which they'd obviously be able to harness in their favor.



Once upon a time the rave scene and small independent record shops was an alternative network for perpetuating alternative dance music and the scenes that went with them beyond the mainstream. However as all these channels have matured they have become part of some official alternative network and to some degree part of the actual "establishment". 
 
People complain about the sound quality on some of the modern entry level gear, but if you were to compare the sound quality of the pro gear they were using when rave culture was in the full throws of being a sub-cultural movement away from the mainstream and when it eventually first moved into the clubs, the entry level gear of today in terms of sound quality has got to be at least 10 times better then it was back then. But how many impromptu raves do you think we'll see off the back of all this new entry level gear with all the pro features included with better sound quality? Few to none I should think. I guess at the very least it'd be easier to leg it from the law with your gear in tact on the slim chance of any mass illegal raves being busted up by the rozzers or getting rumbled for banging out the tunes over an illegal pirate radio station. 


 
When it was about rebellion and partying before all going legit and into the clubs (today's unlikely scenario) 

Ok, picture it now, you've been called up to DJ at a mass illegal rave. There's every chance that it could get rumbled by the cops since no one has permits and there are club candies being done everywhere. You only have to supply the DJ equipment and tunes as they've already taken care of the sound system. Or maybe your pal calls up wanting you to do a slot on a pirate radio station that's always moving to avoid getting tracked down. But usually its always from some kind of high rise block of flats that's for the sake of getting the best signal throw and with you locked in for the purposes of slowing down the cops if they should track you down with the only means of escape being out the window and onto the roof. there's no way you could turn it down since its a perfect opportunity to get your name out and possibly do some additional promo work if not just to party for the sake of partying with you at the helm doing something you love. All's going well for a few hours, but its not long before the cops arrive to bust things up... (the dodgy stick man in is purely for the purposes of scale and nothing more)



take 1: RUN! .... fail. Ends in you being locked up and all your gear being confiscated.



  

Two f'n' heavy ass vinyl turntables with a tank like build, a two channel mixer, and a couple of heavy ass record boxes that hold about 100 records each. Each vinyl record probably has 2 to 3 tracks on them. You'll probably also have a top draw selection of your most current white labels and exclusive records with you in a heavy ass record bag slung over your shoulder too which isn't included in the picture above (was too lazy to draw it). 
 


 
take 2: RUN! ... all gravy. You make a swift escape.


One laptop and a four channel digital mixer with built in audio interface. (or possibly some sort of other controller for hooking up to a laptop) You also have an additional 2.5 inch 320 to 500GB internal hard drive wedged into your puter for storing all your music. 


 
 
take 3: RUN! .... epic win. Clean get away.


A pocket sized two turntable DJ rig with a 120GB of music storage. 


 
Of course things are all a lot more civil nowadays with illegal raves and pirate radio station appearances hardly being the norm of today, but at the very least its a lot more convenient to get to a party/house party and get the choons on the go with all the gear we have at our disposal these days.
 

  

Here's a breakdown of my perceptions of various DJ equipment brands. Some of it based on actual hands on and other based on overall reviews and feedback as well as my own long held perceptions of them.



Pioneer - What could be said? It’s the industry standard since vinyl turntables were officially ditched, although I've never used them.



Allen & Heath - I used to lust after the Xone 3D, then I lusted after the Xone 4D when that landed. But my ideal setup if money was no object would have to be a DB4 with a couple of K2's at this point. They seem to have a knack for making premium grade fantasy mixers. 



Technics - barely anyone uses vinyl turntables for regular none scratch based DJing these days.  But if I had to use vinyl or a Digital Vinyl System (DVS)  I'd go with Technics. It's what I learned to DJ on and enjoyed spinning on them for quite a while before going digital.




RANE Serato - It's the main industry standard DVS. Expensive. Fine if you've got the cash. The Ableton bridge plug in for this is a highly interesting development if you're into using vinyl records and vinyl based DVS (I only say vinyl based as its possible to use timecode CD's with a CDJ too). But as stated before its an expensive gig to get going if you're rocking you're already expensive Ableton rig and you don't yet have a Serato box to begin with to get some Ableton bridge action on the go. 



Ableton - I've used and watched their consumer end software product evolve since version 4 in all its slights. Back then even I thought it was just fad that would never catch on nor did I see myself ever seriously using it over a DVS. But at this point I couldn't consider a setup without it. 


 
Rane Mixers - They have some very expensive pro toys with built in Serato vinyl DVS capability.  But it was the newer Ableton and Serato capable all in one variants that set them apart to my mind.  As in newer highly desirable variants designed specifically for Ableton and Serato DVS usage all rolled into one, meaning Ableton bridge capability straight out of the very expensive box. Its like a collaborative platform unified all in one device and, maybe a much  more expensive version of the zero 4 but under a different manufacturer after they had chance to test the waters with the Zero4 and see what their users wanted to do with it. I might point out that the Z4 did in fact have Serato software and Serato DVS compatibility in the very early stages of its release before anything was set in stone, however it eventually got locked out to be locked down to Traktor certification. Again if money was no object the Rane 68 would be up there for serious consideration with its not one! but TWO built higher grade ASIO capable audio devices in belly with additional built in lower latency industry standard Serato DVS capabilities too. They can both be used with a single laptop or it can be used in such a way where two laptops can be hooked up to it and midi synced for the mixer to be shared between two machines. Its like my all in one DJ hardware fantasies gone hyper after Ableton's bridge pluggin for general public acquirement announcement on version 8 of live was made. However at this point long after the 68 was first released, I still think the Allen & Heath DB4 with a couple of K2's would still maybe win by a nose off the final furlong if I had to choose. The Rane 68's surface layout (albeit with a whole bunch of extra assignable buttons down either side) looks to be something that I'd be very accustomed to in having gotten to know the Korg Z4 inside out. 

Damn I just reminded myself of this very expensive fantasy turned reality gem having struck it off my list long ago due to its very high RRP. Hmm, in fact come to think of it if money was no object, maybe a Rane 68 with a couple of K2's?



Korg - To my mind at this point? Not much in terms of rating within their current available product range. They no longer produce any type of more standard industry intended DJ gear with only the continuation of their famed Kaos pad range to keep one foot firmly wedged in the DJ market door. Sure they have a compact digital DJ unit too within their current catalogue, but nothing that I would seriously consider parting with cash for against other options offered by Allen & Heath and Pioneer. Other then that I still highly rate their Korg Zero4 mixer which used to consistently provide decent performance when used in pure digital mode (when it wasn't constantly being remotely tapped by nosey busy bodies and cops all up in it all the f*cking time). But it looks like Windows 8 when it finally lands might actually fix this to get it back to a reliable useable none stuttering state like when I used to use it in total digital midi mode at the start. I would never consider buying from Korg again for any DJ gear requirements unless it was to buy another fully working Zero4 or Zero8 to use in conjunction with a more modern system running Windows 8 or possibly a perfectly working example of a zero 4 or zero 8 in analogue mode for using with CDJ's, vinyl turntables, or a DVS of some kind.



Traktor - Used by many Pro DJ's on Macs and even Pioneer have decided to integrate Traktor accessibility directly into their CDJ2000's. I have a high perception of Traktor but I don't see the point of using Traktor with its built in instant sync button in a none DVS setup (just as how many of the top DJ's use it) when there's Ableton.



Vestax - They seem to rate highly in my personal perception off the back off their reputation as vinyl turntable and analogue mixer builders. However it still wouldn't convert to a personal purchase since I'd still consider buying other digital options by other manufacturers over Vestax products if I had to pay cash for it.



Tonium Pacemaker - A very new company with a highly polished concept/product and to some degree a serious toy/piece of usable equipment that can be used to produce actual professional sounding results. I guess I can't really refer to it as a "toy" since many people have in fact used it in professional club environments as well as many others having used it to keep the tunes seamlessly flowing at house parties. The marketing behind it and the actual physical and visual design cues used on the device was highly polished and added to its desirability. The product concept was also highly unorthodox against current industry standard equipment form factors and unsaid industry restrictions. But the Pacemaker concept was something that could have potentially smacked of industry mockery if enough well placed individuals decided to get behind it with a determined enough user base that could actually competently use it even if that wasn't the intention. A competently usable full two table DJ rig and digital music player that had been compressed and contained within a pocket sized device that was ready to go anytime-anywhere for up to 3 hours on batteries once loaded with tracks in the same way you would with an iPod. 3 hours roughly being the average length of a DJ set. Of course you could also go for as long as you wanted if you had a mains supply near by. But after the Pacemaker device cull its move to the Blackberry playbooks highly polished hardware in software/app form offered a very expensive path of progression to a multi-touch device at £559 for the 64GB variant. 



But with the recent 2012 price drop to £129 the dualcore premium tablet device has suddenly become  a lot more affordable (most likely partly prompted by the introduction of the vastly more powerful and aggressively priced Google's Nexus 7). It’s a shame they don't produce some sort of external controller for the BB Playbook to used in conjunction with the Pacemaker app. 

  
 




Behringer - This lot has actually risen in terms of my perception of their brand and products. They have a long history in audio equipment production and generally from a mechanical standpoint their gear has always been pretty good even if the sound output was a little off on the DJ gear front for their first couple of flagship mixers. Sure its generally not top draw stuff but I've seen their gear dotted about in fair few professional working environments. With everything going digital their recent range of controllers should fair quite well based on the mechanical build of their equipment. 



Stanton - I've never used them, but I'm assured by many that their higher end gear is very good, especially their more recent top end vinyl turntables that could apparently out do a Technics. But my overall perception of them as a brand is just too tainted from the early days despite taking quite a fancy to one of their more recent digital mixing consoles which can be used without need of a computer to be connected to it (pictured above). Which is why for the main part I'd probably not really part for cash on Stanton gear with other similarly priced alternate options being available from Allen & Heath and Pioneer. 



M-Audio - I'm not sure why I don't really rate their DJ gear since I've never used it. Although I do remember some half assed plasticy controllers against other more hardcore pro options being turned out by Vestex at the time. But my brand perception of them for DJ gear isn't that great. Although I have actually bought and used a midi keyboard controller of theirs which worked perfectly and their range of studio gear is claimed to be very good.


Numark - they've been getting investment from somewhere since the relatively young budget slanted brand first arrived on the scene. But again another brand that’s maybe been tainted by my perceptions from the early days of the segment they used to mainly cater to despite their attempts to re-align perceptions and run with the big boys using all the various marketing tools. I still have images of budget belt drives in mind. But their more recent top end digital controllers do in fact look very slick, but again its worth keeping in mind that there are similarly priced options from the likes of Allen & heath and Pioneer. 

There's a whole bunch of other brands which I do and don't rate if I'd actually taken the time to think even longer about it. But they didn't come to mind off the top of my head within the time I'd taken to think about it so they weren't mentioned.