The Essential Guide to Finding the Best DJ Controller + Reviews
In this guide, you should find the best DJ controller, and if you’re in a hurry and you’re tired of browsing through all those DJ controller reviews without finding what you need, we’re here to help you. Our team of experts took the time to analyze the most sought-after models, and after seeing what the market also has to say about them, we found out that the Numark Party Mix | Beginners DJ Controller can be your first option. It gives you everything you need to start mixing, from the much-needed jog wheels to pitch faders and many others. Despite being so small, this controller can give you the options often found in bigger models. It also looks great and has a low-profile design. It will be a pleasure to use it. But if you can’t find our first option, look for the Pioneer DJ DJ Controller, Black, (DDJSB3).
Our Top Choice
Coming with the DJ-ing essentials that a beginner needs, this controller suits many tastes. You can use the professional audio interface to connect to all types of devices. It’s a small controller that will also look good in any setup and it will be a pleasure to use it.
The software will have to be replaced or updated after a while.
Being a great option for beginners and more experienced DJs, this controller can give you everything you need to reach the level you want. It’s the sort of tool that you can take with you anywhere.
The main advantage of this controller is the intuitive layout, with all the buttons and settings placed so you can find them more easily. You don’t have to use a turntable with this device, as it allows you to put in place cues and scratches with the Pad Scratch.
The controller sometimes freezes, mostly because of the faulty software.
Combining the features of a previous model that worked like a charm, with the new Serato DJ-ing software, this cool controller will help you learn the complex but fun art of mixing much easier.
Also To Consider
There are so many tools that this controller offers, and this should help any kind of DJ, be it beginner or pro. It has also been designed to be lightweight with a slim profile to be highly portable. With this device, you can make quick adjustments.
It’s not the most durable device and you need to be careful around it.
Made to help the aspiring professional reach his or her goals, this controller will give you all the knobs, buttons, sliders needed to get to the next level. You also get plenty of connectivity options.
10 Best DJ Controllers (Updated Reviews) in 2021
The best DJ controllers on the market will help you reach your goals faster. They should be easy to use, look good, and be performant. A DJ controller review wouldn’t be complete without some suggestions, and that’s why we’re presenting the following options, each coming with pros and cons.
- 1. Numark Party Mix | Beginners DJ Controller
- 2. Pioneer DJ Controller, Black, (DDJSB3)
- 3. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
- 4. Pioneer DJ DJ Controller (DDJ-400)
- 5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller
- 6. Gemini GV Series G2V Professional Virtual DJ Controller
- 7. Denon DJ MC4000
- 8. Numark NV II | Four Deck DJ Controller
- 9. Roland, Black, DJ-202
- 10. Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 200
- Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Numark Party Mix | Beginners DJ Controller
Allowing you to connect directly to your PC or Mac, this controller is highly portable and comes with all the essential DJ-ing tools that you need. With it you can play, mix, or browse all the songs you want, and you also get the included Serato DJ Lite software on it. One of the things that differentiate it compared to other devices is the light show that it can provide.
There are 3 LED lights capable of lighting up a room and their arrays can auto-sync to the music you are playing, illuminating your performance. You get all the essential controls of a modern DJ setup including 2 jog wheels, buttons for play, sync, and cue, 4 different responsive performance pads, a crossfader, and headphone cueing.
The built-in sound card will help store your songs, and with the on-board audio interface, you can have complicated setups made easier.
The Party Mix comes with all the DJ-ing essentials, from two jog wheels to pitch faders, you should always have the tools needed to solve a problem at your disposal.
The on-board pro-grade audio interface and the dedicated headphone output will help you keep a good mix and allow you to connect to all types of mixers, speakers, or audio recorders.
Despite the small size, this device can pack a punch and it will allow you to control everything, giving you the performance usually found in larger controllers.
This controller won’t lack in style – with the slim low-profile it has, and the radiant backlit colors, it will look great and will be a pleasure to use.
Although you get the licensed software, that is for a limited time, so after a while, you will have to invest again in a new piece of software.Buy from Amazon.com for ($119)
2. Pioneer DJ Controller, Black, (DDJSB3)
Combining the features of a popular model, the DDJ-SB2, with the controls of the easy-to-use Serato DJ software, DJ controller Pioneer managed to create a controller that will make learning DJ-ing an easier task. This is a great tool for beginners that want to improve their skills, as it comes with basic and intuitive controls.
With this device, you get a 2-channel controller that is easy to navigate. Once you get used to the Serato DJ Lite software on it, you can go ahead and purchase the Pro version if you want more. The FX Fade feature found here can help you transition between tracks easier, and you can also experiment with scratch effects without having to expertly use the turntables, but via the Pad Scratch function.
This DJ controller has been developed with the help of DJ Jazzy Jeff and it should allow you to have an easy time performing with it.
One of the main pros of this product is the fact that it comes with an intuitive layout, and all the features and buttons have been designed and placed so that you can find them fast when you need them.
Mimicking professional gear, the knobs and fader positions have been arranged to be easy to reach even by beginners.
You can add scratch effects to both playing songs and cued songs without having to use a turntable.
Most of the features have been designed to help the beginner and that is why when you introduce a new effect it will automatically try to match the BPM to help you.
The FX Fade function will smoothly blend tracks by applying FX while reducing the volume – this will greatly increase your ability to mix.
Possibly because of the software the controller freezes sometimes and you will have to unplug it and plug it back again to restart it.Buy from Amazon.com for ($211.97)
3. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
Designed to aid the needs of a skilled aspiring professional DJ, the DJ controller Numark has all the technology needed for that. It comes with an arsenal of features that include plenty of connectivity options for PAs, microphones, or headphones, large jog wheels, 2-channel mixing capabilities, controls for filter and gain for the separate channels, and audio output of high resolution.
Whether you’re a new starter in the world of DJ-ing or you’re already on your track for professional performances all over the place, this controller doesn’t sacrifice on features, and it’s as compact as it could be. You won’t need complicated setups with this device thanks to the on-board pro-grade audio interface. There are even 2 separate dedicated headphone outputs so you can change quickly between sets.
The core control is the heart of every DJ set, and that’s why this product comes with all the mixing essentials you need.
You have access to a multitude of tools for a smooth blending – from touch-capacitive jog-wheels to EQ controls, multifunctioning touch strip, pitch faders, mixer filters, or crossfader, you have it all at your fingertips.
This is a controller designed to be used in more than one location and that’s why it’s so slim and lightweight – so you can carry it with you anywhere.
It’s a device full of performance-enhancing controls – it comes with 16 multi-function performance pads, and more pad modes for them so that you can have total control over cue-points.
Thanks to the FX control and the function that allows you to track search, you have fast access to your setlist, and you also get to quickly use the Serato DJ Intro effects.
It’s a fragile device and if you don’t take good care of it you will see the performance decreasing, with the controller bleeding noise.Buy from Amazon.com for ($315.35)
4. Pioneer DJ DJ Controller (DDJ-400)
Full of features designed to help you comfortably enhance your skills, this Pioneer controller comes with 2 channels and it has the same features as some top-of-the-line models. It shares some professional elements like Beat FX, dedicated cue buttons, and CDJ looping controls. This means that, although it’s great for beginners, once you are ready to progress, the device will allow you to do that.
Unlike other beginner-friendly models, this one actually comes with professional performance software, the rekordbox dj, but it also has a tutorial feature that will help anyone master its controls. It’s a portable device that is lightweight and that allows you to take it to any practice or live session.
Arranged in the same manner as professional set-ups, the buttons and knobs on this device have a club-style layout. The Sound Color FX and Beat FX features will make you feel comfortable while performing in DJ booths.
The Beat FX function is capable of applying professional FX effects that will automatically match the tempo of the rack you are currently playing.
Bundled with this product you also get the rekordbox DJ licensed software so that you can start DJ-right right off the bat.
This Pioneer DJ equipment offers enough versatility to allow you to listen to the mix through the internal speakers of a computer or through connected speakers (you can still use the headphones to cue).
Setting this thing up is an easy task as you only have to connect it to a computer with the help of a USB cable and the built-in sound card that will aid with that.
It’s a lightweight and compact device that even comes with grab handles to allow you to move it anywhere you want.
You can’t play YouTube music on this device, and it also doesn’t do well when you’re trying to play files meant for VLC.Buy from Amazon.com for ($241.93)
5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller
Thanks to the Traktor Kontrol S2 you can make every kind of mix happen, from steppy synths to peak-time rewinds or bass-heavy breakdowns – this device has it all. You get two decks to play with and craft sets on them,and this allows for increased creativity. The easy-to-use tools will give you the edge you need to create nice looping effet, beat syncing, or club-grade effects.
The tool is a professional one but it also feels intuitive, and best of all it’s easy to set up and carry anywhere. The professional features include hot cues, Mixer FX, and improved loop controls. You will be ready to mix wherever you want thanks to the high-end integrated audio interface, the USB connectivity, and the full Traktor Pro version installed.
You will find the controls to be effective and fast, and with their help, you will be able to transition the sound you have in your head to the speakers in seconds.
With this fast device, you will be able to mix really quickly, as you can simply line up your next track, find the cue point and everything will fall in place together nicely.
If you’re the kind of DJ that likes to have a hands-on approach you will be pleased with the playroom you have with the jog wheel – you can use it to beat-match tracks, or spin it backward for impactful rewinds.
The wheels are bigger and this will let you have better control over scrolling, scratching, or nudging.
Because in the world of DJ-ing timing is everything, this device lets you jump to different track positions with the help of cue points. This will help you get the sound you want to your crowd without messing around too much.
When loading a new track, the software uses too many resources, causing the music to go out of sync.Buy from Amazon.com for ($339)
6. Gemini GV Series G2V Professional Virtual DJ Controller
Stacked with enough amazing features to be used by any kind of DJ, the GV Series should prove to be an ideal addition for any kind of performant DJ. First of all, it offers a professional 24-bit interface that allows for improved connectivity with both PC and Mac, and with this in mind, you can record, monitor, or playback the music you want.
The only limit here should be your creativity as the device allows you to do anything you want. You have access to the physical DJ deck offering control over 2 separate virtual software decks and 8 multi-function pads with many other assignable rotary encoders. It’s a complicated piece of equipment but it doesn’t take long for a beginner to learn how it works.
You could say that the only thing this device needs to work well is a decent DJ and lots of creativity.
The virtual DJ set works using pre-mapped easy controls that give you the ability to tap, toggle, or twist your tracks as you want.
It’s a very capable virtual DJ-ing controller, but it also allows to have real-life applications with the help of effective MIDI-mappable and high-resolution controls.
It is one of the most resilient devices out there and it will allow you to perform as often as you need, as it’s fully enclosed in metal and hard to damage.
You get plenty of tools to use – stuff like pitch fader, key-lock, and cue controls, and different looping settings will allow you to reach the next level.
The controller lets you have continuous access to Filter controls, EQ, and gain so you can make precise tunings on the go.
After a while, the jog wheels stop working properly, and you will have to get this device in the shop for repairs.Buy from Amazon.com for ($349.95)
7. Denon DJ MC4000
Coming with a sleek and compact design and great looks, this model from Denon DJ continues the brand’s vision of offering portable, innovative, and great-working DJ controllers. This is the ideal device for a DJ that is always on the move, and that is due to the robust steel chassis capable of enduring many bumps and hits.
You won’t need additional equipment when setting this up and that is made possible by the basic inputs and outputs, and the simple mixing built-in capabilities that require no extra tools. You get the Serato DJ Intro software with this device and you also have the possibility to upgrade it to the full Serato DJ.
In terms of software, it’s also compatible with Traktor, Agoriddim, and Virtual DJ, and that means more versatility for you if you’re used to a different system. Any other application that supports MIDI mapping is usable too.
Coming in a robust steel chassis, this controller gives you rugged durability that will serve you well, especially if you’re the kind of DJ that needs to perform in several different locations.
The device offers touch-activated jog wheels and dedicated hot cue and sample pads so that you can make on-the-fly adjustments when you need to.
It’s the sort of product that focuses on usability, and for that reason, it gives the user all the features needed and they are spaced to offer the optimum working experience.
Using this is a simple task – it’s built to allow you to mix and perform in various settings and you don’t have to go through confusing functionalities.
For better and clearer mixes, the controller comes with a professional-grade 24-bit audio output path.
You will need to work a bit if you want to install other pieces of software instead of the predetermined one.Buy from Amazon.com for ($865)
8. Numark NV II | Four Deck DJ Controller
This is the second rendition of a classic device that revolutionized the world when it appeared – the original Numark NV came with dual full-color screens, and now the Numark NV II offers that and improved control and an intuitive layout on the displays. Adding gridlines to the screens, the new model lets you focus on the details you need and thus beat-match your tracks.
You can sort your music by song, artist, BPM, time, and even key. This should give you fast and easy access to your computer files, even if you don’t have them categorized well there. The Serato DJ software is included and you don’t have to purchase an upgrade for it. Furthermore, you get the plug and play function thanks to the USB cable that allows you to quickly connect to a computer.
To get to have dynamic control over your sound, the device comes with touch-capacitive EQ and filters.
The large 5-inch platters will allow you to have more control over the sound so that you can feel the music better through your fingertips.
There are 16 velocity-sensitive pads that come with RGB backlit feedback and these allow you to creatively remix the music on the go.
With 10 pad modes, you can place hot cues, try loop slicing, finger drumming, and many more.
You can switch from one deck to the other 3 with just one click, and you can also mix instrumentals with a capella sounds, or make party mashups during your sets.
It’s hard to find a device that is more road-ready than this one – with the intuitive XLR outputs, the Booth/Master RCA outs, and with the help of the ¼-inch microphone input, you can connect it fast to most devices.
The sound card doesn’t rise to the standard of such a device and that could also be because of poor USB connection.Click to see the price on Amazon!
9. Roland, Black, DJ-202
Giving the user the feel and layout of professional controllers, this one comes in a rugged build forming a portable small unit. It follows the concept of more expensive models from Roland while still offering flexibility to DJ, produce beats, and remix music. Allowing you to change settings on the fly, it’s a great controller for live performances and studio creations.
There are some vocal effects that you can use and these include a low-cut EQ that helps you refine the sound and a noise gate that will automatically clean up the unwanted background noise. The DJ controller comes with some large low-latency platters, a mic input with professional FX, onboard sequencer, and dedicated pad and transport controls, and this gives it superior capabilities compared to other controllers in its class.
Each TR kit comes with eight sounds, specific to a drum set – bass drum, snare, closed hat, open hat, tom, rim, ride, and even a clap.
While you get a basic Serato software, you get the opportunity to freely upgrade it to a Serato Pro option when you want to.
Given how small and lightweight this unit is, it offers the user the portability needed for intense DJ-ing nights in different locations. It even comes with easy-grab handles to let you move it around.
It’s easy to set up – with its intuitive layout and connectivity that lets you plug it in and instantly use it, this rig will have you DJ-ing fast.
This DJ controller benefits from the performant TR drum machine that is known for the sounds that can allow you to build intense hip-hop, techno, or electro music.
Using the low-latency large platters you will have a much easier time finding and placing cues, and scratching.
Although you can upgrade to Serato Pro for free, this lives you in the impossibility of installing another software that you might prefer.Buy from Amazon.com for ($299.99)
10. Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 200
Capable of giving you the easy introduction you need for DJ-ing, this controller will help you work on your listening and mastering beatmatching manually. The integrated dynamic light guides will give you the help you need when starting off. This unit comes with the Intelligent Music Assistant which is a tool that suggests the best tracks that could follow based on a set of parameters.
With this controller, you will be able to feel the energy level of your party and adjust the songs accordingly. The device will guide you in everything – you can activate the light guides at first and after you feel that you have mastered the controller, deactivate it.
The device will let you adjust the track’s BPM with ease, using the tempo arrows. With the help of the “Beat Align” arrows, you can also easily synchronize the tracks. You could say that this controller does everything for you.
Activating the Intelligent Music assistant you will be able to get the machine to suggests the best following songs based on internal algorithms.
With the Energy function, you can pace and feel the atmosphere of your party – blue meaning calm and red full of energy.
The controller is always there to give you the best advice and to help you at every step, from the beginning.
The DJUCED software comes with incorporated tutorial videos that will give you the basic information needed to learn the fundamentals and always improve your skills.
This controller is compatible with Windows systems from 7 to all the newer generations, as well as macOS from 10.11 onwards.
This is also one of the smallest DJ units out there and for that reason, you can use it everywhere.
To make this controller lightweight the manufacturers had to use plastic, and that makes it fragile.Buy from Amazon.com for ($119.99)
Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
The following guide should help you expand your knowledge, no matter if you’re looking for a cheap DJ controller to start your career with, or if you’re already an experienced DJ and want to find out more. Here are our recommendations.
Should you get an all-in-one controller?
There are 2 main types of controllers – the all-in-one models, and modular rigs. They each have their use – the modular DJ rigs offer you controllable features placed separately. You get the media/CD players, some turntables, and maybe a sound card, and all of that can be operated using a DJ software.
You could say that the all-in-one controllers are more popular because of how convenient they are. They are also the more affordable DJ controllers. However, there are still DJs that prefer the modular design, as for some this is the best DJ controller for beginners. More complex hardware is often difficult to learn, so the modular design has an advantage here.
The simplest and easiest preferable setup for starters is a DJ set formed of CD/media players, turntables, and a mixer. The all-in-one sets, however, include all of these and others in a single unit. They also have additional buttons, sliders, and knobs that allow the DJ to control the software running on their device (be it a computer, tablet, or smartphone).
Another advantage of all-in-one controllers is that they can work with any major DJ software, and they are designed to make you feel comfortable while using them.
Don’t forget about the software
It’s true that the controller will let you manipulate the music, but the app or software that it comes with will have a huge impact on how you do that. The audio software has been revolutionized in the past years, and performant pieces of software now allow you to control every part of a song.
While the software has the basic function of storing your music library, it should also provide you with the support that you need while mixing and performing. Most of the time, the software version that comes with your software is a trial one, and you will need to upgrade it. Some controllers let you upgrade for free, while others don’t. Furthermore, some software pieces are more performant than others, and if the manufacturers want to make their DJ controller cheap, they install restrictive software on it.
Your style matters
At the end of the day, you want a DJ controller that allows you to be free, to express your creativity as you desire. Paying attention to how a controller looks will not only impact how you feel about it but also how you are able to manipulate it, so you can be confident about the fact that you are able to deliver a great performance.
People that hire you won’t really care that much about how your controller looks, or if it’s a cheap DJ controller or not, but they will pay attention to how you perform and if you are able to set the appropriate vibe for the party. Great DJs are also known for their unique style, be it from an audio or visual point of view.
Connectivity will have a major impact on how you manage to get your music to your audience. A DJ controller is a complicated machine and for that reason, you should try to find one that is compatible with many sound output devices.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is a DJ controller?
A modern DJ controller is a digital piece of equipment that allows the DJ to recreate the traditional moves, sounds, and mixes that could be produced on turntables, laptops, and computers, all in one. This controller will look like a combination of the traditional mixer and turntable.
The vinyl tracks are replaced by a job wheel that will let the DJ mix as he or she wishes, and the device also comes with knobs and buttons that allow the user to set the volume, frequencies, EQ settings, and many others. The main way of setting up a DJ controller is by connecting it to a computer via USB, or other means.
The user should either have installed software on the controller or at least a software piece on the computer. The end goal is to transmit the signal coming from the controller to speakers or amplifiers.
Q: Can you use a DJ Controller for events?
This is one of the purposes of DJ controllers – using them for different events involving music. When you intend to use them for something like this you first have to take into account the notoriety of the venue – you will need a more performant controller if you will be working in an impressive club.
Of course, for those locations that barely have any visitors, you don’t need all the flashiest DJ-ing setups. The main thing in these situations is to have the skills needed to get the audience where you want them to be – engaged and enjoying their night.
Your skills as a DJ will have the biggest influence here. At first, you could accept some small gigs in small clubs, maybe for free, just to get the feel of it and start getting some experience. It’s like getting a job – a small internship could do wonders.
Q: What else do you need for a DJ Setup?
One thing that a DJ needs to create an awesome atmosphere is quality music (or should we say music that fits the place you’re DJ-ing in). Having a memory stick with you should help you greatly, and most controllers nowadays can accept that (except the really cheap DJ controllers), especially if you are playing MP3 music.
Don’t forget about the headphones. Of course, when you see a professional DJ, you can see how he or she uses a pair of headphones to get the music levels just right. You will be using the headphones to isolate the sound so you can hear better what’s going on with your mix. You also want the headphones to be comfortable as you will be using them for many hours on end.
You could also use a DJ controller stand if you know you won’t have a place to rest your device on.