How to use a DJ controller without a laptop

Mixing has become more accessible than ever with the democratization of DJ controllers. In line with this trend, many people would like to DJ without a laptop. So, do you need a laptop to use a DJ controller?

DJ controllers can be used without a laptop. Many accept smartphones or tablets if you use the appropriate app. It may require using a third-party app such as Algoriddim djay instead of the manufacturer app. An autonomous “all-in-one” DJ controller can also work with a simple USB stick.

Why using a DJ controller without a laptop

There are mainly two reasons to mix with a DJ controller without a laptop: stability and price.


Mixing with a laptop may come with some surprises. Software crashing, laptop not booting anymore, empty battery, etc. A computer is an additional layer of complexity that will drive down the stability of your DJ setup.


A DJ controller is cheaper than a classic DJ setup with a mixer. However, add the price of a laptop and this statement may not be true anymore. Therefore a DJ controller is great for someone who already owns a powerful enough laptop. Otherwise, the investment in a laptop may be too much. Therefore it makes sense to look for alternatives.

Another reason people may want to DJ without a laptop is to protect their laptop itself. Indeed, DJing often comes with partying and alcohol. Bringing your personal laptop may be risky. Using an all-in-one DJ controller is a good solution to remove this risk.

Using an all in one DJ controller to get rid of the laptop

An “all-in-one” DJ controller is a type of controller that can work autonomously. Though pricier than regular ones, it’s worth the upgrade since you won’t need a computer to run it. Going for this option can be cheaper if you consider all the costs.

You don’t need a laptop to DJ with an all-in-one DJ controller. They can be considered “standalone”, which is another name given to this type of controller.

An all-in-one DJ controller needs a USB stick to be operated. Obviously, you will need a computer to put music on the stick. Hopefully, you can do it with a very cheap one. Moreover, once the music is prepared you won’t need the computer anymore.

Standalone DJ controllers can be identified thanks to their USB ports.

There are mainly two major brands that produce standalone controllers: Pioneer and Denon. The ones from Pioneer wear the name “XDJ” whereas the ones from Denon belong to the “Prime” series.

Here is a list of standalone / all-in-one DJ controllers:

DJ controllerPrice
Pioneer XDJ-RR$999
Pioneer XDJ-RX2$1,699
Pioneer XDJ-XZ$2,399
Denon Prime 2$1,499
Denon Prime 4$1,899
Denon Prime Go$999

If you want to go this route, I would recommend the Pioneer XDJ-RX2 which is great and more affordable than the XDJ-XZ. You can buy it here on Amazon.

How to DJ with a phone or a tablet

You can use a DJ controller with a smartphone instead of a laptop. The best application to do so is djay by algoriddim. It is compatible with a wide range of controllers among many brands on iOS. On android though the list is less exhaustive with only the DDJ-200, WeGo3, and WeGo4 for Pioneer controllers.

The complete list of hardware compatible with djay by algoriddim is available here:

As everyone owns a smartphone nowadays, using a DJ controller with a smartphone is a great budget option. However, keep in mind that mixing on a small screen is not the most convenient option. Therefore I recommend mixing on a tablet instead.

Djay has a free version and a paid one with a price of $6.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The free version works with some controllers such as the DDJ-200 and WeGo. Other controllers may require to go for the paid app. For more information you can check this page on the official website.

Please note that Rekordbox and Serato do not support DJ controllers with their mobile apps. The software delivered with your controller is to be used with computers only. Djay by algoriddim is the best option to DJ with a phone.

Can you use Serato without a laptop?

Serato cannot run on a smartphone or tablet without a laptop. The Serato Remote app is only a remote screen with touchscreen capacities. As such, it requires a computer to be synced with.

Can you use Rekordbox without a laptop?

It is not possible to mix with Rekordbox on smartphones or tablets. The app for mobile devices is for organizing your music library: analyze BPMs, setting CUE points, loops, etc. It is not designed to control DJ controllers.


Owner and writer of DJ Roundabout. DJing is my passion since 2008. I like all aspects of DJing: mixing but also the more technical aspects: Lights, Speakers, DVS, etc. I even made my own light effects with a home theatre projector!

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