The Best MIDI Controllers For VJs

MIDI controllers
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The Best MIDI Controllers For VJs

Narrowing down to the single best MIDI controller for VJs is quite a challenge. Depending on your choice of software and your performance style, you may want different set-ups or features on your MIDI device.

Even so, regardless of which software you use or how you perform, there are a few non-negotiables you should look for when it comes to picking a MIDI controller. Keeping this in mind, here’s a list of my top 3 MIDI controllers for a VJ.

Why Do We Need A MIDI?

While softwares like Resolume & Madmapper have made visual performances easier with their interface & features, there’s still only so much you can do with a keyboard & mouse. As a VJ, an external MIDI controller is likely going to be one of the most important pieces of gear you will own – helping you control various parameters simultaneously & mix content in sync with the music.

What To Look For In A MIDI?

There are a number of different MIDI devices with different configurations available today. But as a VJ, you want to keep it simple & look for three simple things when buying a MIDI controller :

  1. Buttons – Buttons are a great way to trigger clips & also strobe lights. You can also go crazy & finger jam along with the music when you’re really in the zone.
  2. Knobs – Knobs are the perfect way to trigger effects. Cycle through the colour wheel or just increase the noise / Gaussian blur on a clip with a simple twist.
  3. Faders – Faders are ideal for layer opacity & for extended effects. Blend smoothly between layers or clips using the faders.

NOTE : A lot of MIDI controllers come with piano keys. These are fairly redundant and don’t serve much purpose to VJs. You can live without them. Keep in mind that most MIDI controllers are made for musicians & not VJs. So you’re better off adapting to fit your needs.

Top 3 MIDI Controllers For VJs

Novation Launch Control XL

Novation Launch Control XL

With 16 buttons, 8 faders & 24 knobs, the Novation Launch Control XL comes equiped with more than enough buttons, knobs & sliders for you to run your entire performance, no matter how intricate.

Features:

  • 24 rotary pots with 300-degree motion
  • 24 multi-color indicator LEDs – one for each pot
  • Eight 60mm Faders
  • 16 assignable multi-color backlit buttons
  • 8 assignable backlit buttons
  • 2 backlit template select buttons

Native Instruments Maschine Jam

Native Instruments Machine Jam

The NI Maschine Jam comes with some unique features like step sequencing that can be useful to trigger sequenced clips. A sleek, state of the art controller from industry giants Native Instruments, the Maschine Jam comes with touch faders.

However, it doesn’t have any knobs which make it unappealing to some artists. That being said, it’s still a solid piece of equipment that’s more than capable of running an entire show.

Features:

  • MASCHINE JAM’s dual-touch Smart Strips are truly one of a kind.
  • Create your own patterns and rhythms with MASCHINE JAM’s powerful step sequencer
  • 64 multi-color, high-quality, illuminated step matrix buttons
  • 8 Touch Strips with realtime multi color indication, multi-touch (Smart Strip functionality)
  • 8 multicolor group buttons and 8 multicolor scene buttons
  • 31 backlit click buttons
  • 1 touch-sensitive push encoder
  • 1 Backlit Directional PAD
  • 1 Footswitch Input
  • USB 2.0, 3.0
  • Kensington lock

Akai APC40 mkII

Akai APC40 mkII

The newer version of the APC40, the mkII comes with the perfect combination of buttons, knobs & faders – giving you complete control of your performance. The layout of the mkII coincidentally also mirrors the layout of Resolume, making it very intuitive for VJs.

The APC40 mkII is unsurprisingly the most popular MIDI controller with most VJs. It’s also the only MIDI controller recommended by Resolume, giving it quite the reputation.

Features:

  • 5×8 clip-launch matrix with RGB feedback for clip status and color coding
  • Assignable A/B crossfader for dynamic mixing on the fly
  • 9 channel faders, 8 control knobs, and 8 device controls
  • USB-powered and plug-and-play connectivity for Mac and PC
  • Easy to use layout

So there you have it!
My recommendation for the top 3 best MIDI controllers for VJs. Comment below with your favourite that’s not included on this list.

Keep in mind though, a great visual performance requires more than just the newest most versatile hardware. You also need great visual content & an understanding of how to program a great show.

If you want to learn more about being a VJ & master Resolume, you can check out our exclusive VJ course.

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