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As a DJ, your controller is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll own. Ultimately, you want a high-quality device that allows you to effortlessly mix your music with your software without it constantly failing on you.
Have you previously splashed out on a DJ controller and found that the sound quality wasn’t as good as you expected it to be? Or spent way too much money on one that was even worse than the beginner-friendly controller you bought second-hand?
Or even have one completely fail on you after the first couple of uses due to the poor quality materials?
You might want a controller with more FX options, a different software, one with color-coded lights, one that’s more compatible with your other devices, whatever you’re looking for on the market, there can be so much more to consider than just the sound when it comes to buying a DJ controller and that’s why we’re here to help.
We’ve written this article to provide you with some of the best DJ controller options you can get your hands on, as well as a handy buyer’s guide to point you in the right direction when researching the best controller for you.
We’ve even included a list of frequently asked questions so you feel prepared when you begin the exciting hunt for your perfect DJ controller, so let’s dive in!
Best DJ Controller
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
First on our list is the Pioneer DJ Controller DDJ-SB3-N. This controller is an improved and adapted version of the DDJ-SB2 with the abilities of a professional controller and an easy-to-transport main body.
The controller is also stylish and is fitted with gold platters, trims, and a silkscreen to make you stand out in front of the crowd.
The controller is designed in a user-friendly way and includes jog wheels, auto loop buttons, a performance pad, and play and cue buttons. This means it is the perfect controller for both beginners and more advanced DJs.
Moreover, the FX fade feature allows DJs to edit the volume easily and add as many FX to their tracks as they want at the same time. It includes 8 different FX patterns including a high and low pass filter, backspin, and loop playback.
The scratchpad also allows DJs to experiment with a variety of scratch patterns and the pad will match the speed of the scratching to the music’s BPM.
Compact and with grab handles for complete portability, this controller is perfect for traveling musicians.
- Portable- Compact and designed with easy-grab handles.
- User-Friendly- Perfect for both beginner and advanced DJs.
- Stylish Design- Unique and stylish design with gold platters, trims, and a silkscreen.
- Instructions Limited- Detailed instructions are not included but can be found online.
The Hercules DJ Control Impulse 500 is a great DJ controller for beginner DJs. It is specifically designed to help you get started so that you can carefully enhance your skills so you’re ready to perform live in front of an audience in no time.
Some of the features that make it great for beginners include a high-definition resolution on the jog wheels and an easy-to-use ring.
The audio interface comes with a cutting-edge AKM digital signal processing technology that works on both inputs and outputs, the metal backing plate on the mixer is sturdy and it comes with rubber RGB pads, non-slip retractable feet, and helpful light guides to help keep you on track when mixing.
If you need extra support when learning, the DJUCED training programs can also be found right in the software itself or on the Hercules YouTube Channel.
Furthermore, Serato DJ Lite training programs can be found on thedjcoach.com/hercules with the code, discover, and so it is the perfect controller for you if you’re eager to learn.
The controller comes with 2 decks and a built-in audio interface with an input mixer for audio inputs, which means you can add filters from your smartphone or other media player, and since it is also so easy to set up, we could not recommend this controller highly enough.
- Great for Beginners- Specifically designed to enhance DJ skills.
- Safe- Designed with retractable and extendable feet, to lift the controller and avoid any spilled drinks.
- Serato DJ/DJUCED Ready- The Filter/FZ lets you customize sets with effects available in Serato DJ and DJUCED.
- Easy Set Up- Powered by USB, plus comes with two headphone connectors.
- Material- Made of plastic but still as responsive as other materials.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller is perfect if you want a controller with ultimate flexibility. From bass-heavy breakdowns to peak-time rewinds this controller will help you achieve the best possible mix.
Set on 2 decks and equipped with easy-to-use tools such as looping, beat syncing, and club grade effects, you’re ready to spin both in the studio or in front of an audience on the big stage.
The Mk3 DJ Controller has its own jog wheel so you can beat-match tracks and nudge the deck forward or backward to get a track in sync.
You’ll also be able to use this wheel to adjust the beat grid in TRAKTOR or spin it back for the highest energy rewinds.
You’ll be able to easily edit loops and samples as each track is assigned to one of 8 pads so you can play them like an instrument and step up your DJ game to the next level. You’ll even be able to use the Mixer FX as your secret weapon.
The Mixer FX allows you to build transitions with one-touch control on each channel which opens up the reverb, delay, or a smoother filter to get your tracks popping.
With 8 club-grade effects and 3 other filters, you can use up to 4 at one single time with the Mixer FX, making you the next star on stage.
Finally, with its brand new design that incorporates a club-standard layout, you’ll be able to browse your tracks, adjust beatgrids, use special effects, and even features like Flux Mode to get those creative juices flowing.
- New Design- Club-standard layout with an identical deck design.
- Jog Mode- Built with scratch capabilities and a spin-to-nudge function.
- Beat Grid Adjust Mode- You can use the jog wheel to adjust the beat grid in TRAKTOR.
- Easy To Use Tools- Easy to navigate looping, beat syncing, and club grade effects.
- Best for Beginners- Software might be too simple for more advanced DJs.
Next on our list is the Rane One DJ Set and Controller. Designed around RANE’s legendary performance layout, this professional DJ controller showcases all of the hallmarks of RANE’s build quality and intricate DNA.
This controller continues RANE’s dedication to the art of DJing and promises to give you the best possible DJing experience with each mix.
The controller comes with traditional motorized turntable platters with quick-release acrylic disks as well as turntable style starts and stops, and adjustable high/low torque motors.
This allows you to touch and feel your mix and keep that traditional vinyl feel.
Gain swift control over your cuts with the MAG FOUR crossfader, allowing you to feel completely confident in your sound, and with the FX button, metal paddles, and 16 multi-function performance pads, which include Serato DJ’s Scratch bank, you’ll be prepared to take the stage.
The ONE is equipped with a reliable Serato DJ System, the world’s most popular DJ Software app and comes integrated with a DJ mixer for Serato DJ Pro, but also is compatible with Djay Pro AI and Virtual DJ Compatible, giving you freedom of choice on which software you use and providing you with everything you need to take the stage.
- Stay Connected- 3 stereo outputs, dual mic inputs, USB connections, Phono/Line, and aux inputs.
- Serato DJ Ready- Reliable software and comes with a DJ mixer for Serato DJ Pro.
- Djay Pro AI and Virtual DJ Compatible- Compatible with these two additional leading DJ softwares.
- Turntable Technology- Turntable platters with quick-release acrylic disks, turntable style starts and stops, and adjustable high/low torque motors.
- Effects Limited- No onboard effects.
- Advanced- Technology might be hard to navigate as a beginner DJ.
The Numark DJGO2 Touch- Compact DJ controller is perfect if you are a DJ on the go! Whether you’re a beginner or advanced DJ looking for an ultimate backup controller for all of your DJ equipment, look no further.
This portable controller is a touchscreen, pocket-sized, and has a 2 deck solution with the ability to scratch and easily mix on its touch-capacitive jog wheels.
The USB controller is suitable for Mac and PC and the MIDI mapping allows you to use it with many other popular DJ software, including virtual DJ.
It also comes with 8 pads and 4 different pad modes so you can remain in control of cue-points, looping, and playback, as well as having immediate access to performance controls that are also found on larger controllers.
The controller also combines two channels and is outfitted with a crossfader, jog-wheels, and pitch faders so that you can bend and scratch all night.
You can plug, play and perform to your heart’s content with the ⅛-inch headphone and main output allowing you to connect a range of speakers, mixers, and PA systems.
It looks great, sounds great, and is powered by USB so definitely deserves a spot in our list of recommendations!
- Ultra-Portable- Compact and pocket-sized.
- Serato DJ Ready- Pre-mapped with Serato DJ for reliable streaming of sound.
- Universal Compatibility- Can be MIDI mapped to any other software.
- Performance Enhancing- 8 pads and 4 different pad modes.
- Small- The smaller size may mean features on bigger controllers are sacrificed.
When choosing which DJ controller you’re going to buy, there are many considerations you need to take into account. It must be compatible with devices, it must produce high-quality sounds, it must have the right software and most importantly, it must be suited for your ability.
A professional DJ isn’t going to want a beginner controller, so where do we start?
Starting with the software, this is extremely important to get right as each controller is tailor-made to specific software. Some may be cross-compatible like Serato DJ, yet most come built with their very own software.
A controller comes with tailor-made software for several reasons.
It makes learning easier as you are only dealing with one item, it saves you money as you don’t have to purchase software on its own, and most importantly, it provides a virtual transportation system control for playback and creating virtual decks for you to mix.
Additionally, it loads your music library to your computer memory, monitors mixing moves, applies filters, triggers samples, modifies waveforms, and enables you to do all kinds of tricks. It does a lot, right?
Well, luckily, most controllers will come equipped with software, but double-check this is the case before making that all-important purchase.
You might also want to consider and research whether the included software is a scaled-down version of the manufacturer’s complete version.
If the version states it is ‘lite’ or ‘LE’ for example, this will mean the version is limited, and whilst this may be ok for beginners, you may end up upgrading to the manufacturer’s full version as you become more advanced, so it might be worth investing in the full version right away.
Do your research on different types of software before buying. The most popular software would be Serato DJ, but other software includes TRAKTOR PRO, Rekordbox, Ableton Live, VirtualDJ, and Mixxx. With so many out there, make sure you opt for one that’s right for you.
Choosing your system is just as important as choosing the right software. It might be best, especially coming from CD or vinyl to digital, for you to opt with a system that works with a laptop and software but also works with USB sticks and CDs, so you get the best of both worlds.
On the other hand, most DJs end up neglecting the CD and USB function as the digital system allows waveforms, FX, and more controls which allow for more creativity, more fun, and better-sounding mixes on stage.
If this sounds appealing to you, perhaps opting for an entirely digital system would be more beneficial in the long run.
Deciding on the model can be tricky. If you are on a budget, there are cheaper, older models out there but bear in mind their technology will be outdated and there may be missing features.
If you want an ultimate DJ experience, we suggest spending those extra dollars on a newer model that’s been recently released. Older models may have outdated jog wheel performance whereas a new model will have an updated version and be much more responsive.
Additionally, if you opt for an older model, keep in mind that it might not be supported by many software companies and it may take you longer to get it upgraded.
Features and functionalities are what everyone looks for when it comes to buying a DJ controller. The more you spend on a DJ controller and the newer it is, the more features it will have.
But if you are a beginner, perhaps find a basic controller with only the basic features that allow you to mix and perform without too much difficulty.
Traditionally, a long time ago, a DJ only had two turntables and a mixer and so a controller that closely imitates this is perfect for learning on. This is because you must learn the mechanics of DJing before trying out advanced features.
If you are a more advanced DJ, know that each controller will have a list of features, so identify and write down what you are looking for before you begin the research process. This will help you narrow your choices down much quicker than if you went in blindly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A DJ Controller?
Simply put, a DJ controller helps DJs mix music with their software. Some components include jog wheels, encoders, touch strips, faders, and backlit buttons.
They are microprocessors that provide control of any DJ software better than the computer keyboard, touchpad on a laptop, or touchscreen on tablet computers and cell phones.
What Is The Difference Between A DJ Controller And A DJ Mixer?
The most obvious difference between the two is how they are designed and made. A DJ controller will probably have 2 decks with turntable platters that are attached to a mixer, whereas a mixer on its own will not be attached to any decks.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A DJ Controller?
DJ controllers are fully featured with great software to help with your DJing, without having to drop thousands of dollars on a complete setup.
What Is The Name Of One Of The First DJ Controllers Made?
The Hercules DJ Console was one of the first DJ controllers made in DJ history.