Undoubtedly, it is confusing to purchase DJ controllers. Even more so when you are a beginner. Worry not as we have reviewed one of the best DJ controllers for you to upscale your mixing skills. Being an indispensable requisite for any professional DJ, audio mixing controllers can make or break your effort. Without a fully-functioning controller, you can’t hope to reach your prime. It is what allows a DJ to manipulate and seamlessly transition between soundtracks. And perform different tricks that your regular home system cannot.
Top 10 Best DJ Controllers
The market is, however, jam-packed with the sheer amount of these devices, making the selection overwhelming. Luckily, we have enlisted down best DJ controllers to make the selection procedure a breeze. Every entry in the list is broken down carefully to help you choose which item suits your needs the best.
Pioneer DDJ SR2
With this two-channel compact controller, you can control the features of Serato DJ Pro software with a simple push of a bottom. It is outfitted with a mic input, RCA, XLR, USB jack, and also two headphone ports. This is indeed an upgraded version of DDJ-SR while still carrying many of the previous features.
Moreover, SR2 comes with a multi-hued pad for controlling rolls, hot cues, and other sampler features. Each pad, with its colorful outlook, entertainingly indicates the playing status and the selected modes. Plus, they come in handy at venues where the light conditions are dim. For efficient scrubbing through tracks, the needle search feature proves helpful. Further, the level meters get the channels as well as the master signals, making it more convenient.
As for the portability, it wins against its previous model with distinction. SR2 has a lightweight and more compact design, which comes with attached handles. You can easily grab and travel with your controllers anywhere you want. Even though it is relatively portable, the jock wheels are large, giving the user great accuracy and scratch response. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that it is one of the best DJ controllers for beginners 2021.
If you seek to take your performance anywhere with you, Pioneer DDJ 800, a dual-channel controller, is ideal for you. It inherits the portability of DJ-1000, including the club-layout, and most of the popular features. That is why you wouldn’t face any trouble in transporting your setup to parties, weddings, and other lively occasions.
The most important feature of this device would be the exciting jog display. The customizable LCD present on the center of the wheels displays essential information, including waveform, BPM, Hot cute, playback position, and loop points. In other words, you can take your eyes off your computer and focus on the deck with no distractions.
Another stunning addition is the feedback reducer. Whenever you hand the mic to someone else, the device will immediately sense and minimize the “howling” sound. Meaning, the control of the sound will always remain in your hands. Having said that, it is among the best DJ controllers having immaculate voice clarity. Also, you can control the channel trims, faders, and EQs of other equipment. In addition to that, when the controller is attached to the laptop while rekordox on it, you can control the tracks from external sources as well.
No matter how you look at it, RX2 surpasses the original XDJ-RX model. The built-to-last enclosure and the solid yet qualitative feel speaks for its durability. Compared to the previous version, there are two obvious improvements — the performance pads, and the mixer.
The mixer, being very similar to Pioneer DJM-450, offers four sound color effects: SWEEP, DUB ECHO, FILTER, and NOISE. Plus, you now have the liberty to change the characteristics of the aforesaid effects using the parameter button. It proves useful for continuous adjustment of the effects, especially the Noise effect. What’s more, the mixer works for both internal and external media sources.
The second most standing-out feature is the color-coded performance pad. There are eight pads on each deck, having rubberized built, making it easier for quick finger action. You can set the pad on different modes for the Hot Cue — SLIP LOOP, BEAT LOOP, and BEAT JUMP.
As for the display, it is crisp, vivid, and about the right size. It allows you to even monitor the status and mix in challenging light conditions. The only con side to the design is that it doesn’t feature the latest multi-touch system. Even without that, it rivals the best DJ controllers.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
At first impression, you would notice that it has a very appealing size — thinner than previous models, having the right width and depth. Manufactured from high-impact polymer composite, Mixtrack Pro 3 is lightweight compared to many controllers of the same size.
It features a 24-bit audio interface, allowing the user to play crystal clear playback. So, you don’t require any additional hardware — just plug and play using USB ports with minimum mess. If you are familiar with Pro 2 mode, you will see the pitch slider are bigger, allowing a 100mm of travel — a rare trait for controllers of this price tag.
Further, it comes with touch-sensitive metal 128mm job wheels, having two modes. The first mode behaves like an ordinary wheel (touch and stop the track), whereas the second mode is about bending the pitch by using the platter. As for the crossfader, it works great for scratching and mixing, and it features low/high pass filters per channel. This comes in handy during mixing and allows you to filter out unwanted frequencies. In terms of performance, it rivals one of the best DJ controllers within such price limit.
On the whole, it doesn’t have much of a learning curve, making it a promising gadget for beginners. Not to mention, Pro 3 has a satisfactory price tag, and the device provides good value for money.
Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
Anyone who would buy this, won’t let it go for life. It may not have onboard screens, extensive FX knobs, or Haptic Drive jog wheels, but the gadget still delivers satisfactory performance. The jog wheels are of decent size and do not wobble. Plus, they are highly responsive and perform well. Both the performance pads and the pitch faders aren’t huge, but they surely exhibit high-end quality. You can adjust them to 1/100th of BPM with no trouble at all.
Everything on the device is simplified to make it less cluttered, especially the FX controllers. They are condensed to one knob per channel, making the process a lot simpler. Still, the effects sound great and are enough for most people. Furthermore, it features 16 pads for triggering loops, Hot Cues, and samples.
Conclusively, the design is bold, and the decision to take out some of the features have made it stand out. Without any doubt, the device is one of the simplest on the listicle, having no learning curve. That is why it has our highest recommendation for beginners. But as for performance, it may not qualify amongst the best DJ controllers.
Traktor Kontrol S4
Connect with the music in a different way than the usual through Traktor Kontrol S4. The jog wheels are motorized, allowing them to reach and spin to scratching, nudging, backspins, and pitch-fading. Also, they send loop makers, and cue points better to your fingers, which is more convenient.
Additionally, the wheels are outfitted with a haptic feedback mechanism — when you scroll past the points and loops, the devices click. This feature allows you to read the dancefloor with precision without having to look at the screen all the time.
It includes 16 performance pads for samples and hot cues, including two high-resolution displays. All the information is displayed clearly on the front, allowing you to monitor every change while mixing.
The device is compatible with one of the best software from the company: Traktor Pro 2.5, having a better audio engine. Plus, the improved user interface makes mixing a piece of cake. Whether you are a newbie or an advanced user, you won’t have a problem learning the program.
Another essential feature is the color-coded visualization of the deck. With adaptive RGB lights, rings and tempo visuals, you can control the tracks at a single glance. You will have no trouble in keeping track of how much stall and nudge the deck.
Denon DJ MCX8000
In many ways, MCX8000 is revolutionary and competes with the best DJ controllers. At the same time, it can be operated as a standalone media player as well. For effective track analysis and preparation, it goes with Denon DJ’s Engine software.
The device features a comfortable and well-weighted 133mm jog wheel, made from aluminum. No LCD is included in the design, which is a huge drawback. In place of the LCD, LED rings are creatively used to indicate the needle’s position while the track is playing. The rings aren’t as helpful as the LCD, but they work fine.
Per deck, MCX8000 gives out eight performance pads. These are enough for Serato DJ’s features: cue loop, cue, saved loop, velocity sampler, sliver loop, roll, sampler, slicer, flip, and pitch ‘n time. To make the looping quick to engage, and easy, a sperate looping section is also available.
Moreover, the device offers an impressive mixer — channels 1 and 2 go with Line input and Serato Engine. Whereas channels 3 and 4 also support both of them, including DVS setups. Another convenient feature is the two microphone inputs, having their own hi/low, gain, echo effect, and EQ. However, the sad thing is that there are only three deck effects: phaser, echo, and noise. On the good side, the design is more spacious than other devices, allowing you to mix with freedom of space.
Behold an on-the-go solution for all of your future gigs. This gadget can be described as a complete, compact, and charismatic controller. It is highly portable and ultra-lightweight, allowing you to take it with you hassle-freely. Just put it in your backpack alongside your laptop and start traveling. It is, without a doubt, one of the best DJ controllers for moving around.
It may be small but a powerful piece of hardware, equipped with many essential features. The smooth and comfortable jog wheels are perfect for scratching on the go without any latency. They allow you to control the navigation with tracks efficiently and offer two modes: Pitch and Scratch Bend. During the Pitch Bend, the jogs allow you to slow or speed up the track. Whereas when Scratch is enabled, you can scratch the track loaded in the virtual decks.
In addition to that, it offers four performance pads for every deck, which is something unprecedented for a portable controller. They let you surf between four functions: FX, Sample, Cue, and Loop. In comparison to products we have reviewed here, this is one of the best DJ controllers under $500.
Mixtrack Platinum, a four-channel controller, offers a myriad of vital features. That includes capacitive jog wheels, crisp LCD screen, Effects, gain and filter controllers, and 24-bit audio. All of these are impressive features and makes the product worthy enough to be on this list. It clearly packs all the essential features of the best DJ controllers.
With four decks, it takes your creativity to unforeseen heights. You can switch between desired decks, and perform full mixes as per your preferences. While doing that, the 1.75-inch display lets you monitor the status with ease. You wouldn’t have to take your eyes off the jog wheels to an external screen. The display is crisp, giving out high-resolution information of platter position, bpm, time remaining, keylocks, and pitch adjustments.
Using 16 performance pads, you can experiment on loops, samples, and manipulate the cues. Further, the filter knobs present on every channel give you the tonal control you have always dreamt of. You can use it right out of the box due to the 24-bit audio system. Just plug in your microphone, PA system, and headphones, and start enjoying. As you wouldn’t need any external audio interface to run this device, it is always ready to mix. You may not even get this flexibility in the best DJ controllers.
Traktor Kontrol S8
At a cursory glance, it may look odd, but you shouldn’t let appearance get you. As even the best DJ controllers look different. The device is pretty innovative — instead of huge platters, it incorporates color displays to effectively control the tracks. In our opinion, you would never experience a controller like this product. Onboard, a pair of touchpads ensures precise pitch bend control, track position scrubbing, and much more.
As there is 40% more space on the decks, the device offers a big full-color display, having high-resolution. It allows you to adjust levels, tweak playback options, and set loops. Due to these hand-on-controls, your performance will surely enhance many times fold.
Along with four deck mixer sections, it features an impressive mixer/audio interface — a pair of microphone inputs, four sets of stereo inputs, and various other outputs. As for the sound quality, nothing tops the 24-bit/48kHz resolution, giving you a noise-less recording interface.
Everything we have discussed above makes this device a high-end and one of the best DJ controllers for aspiring DJs. However, it is pretty expensive in comparison to other devices we have reviewed. But one thing’s for sure; it is worth the investment.
Buyer’s Guide - How to Look for Best DJ Controllers for Beginners?
Note that the best DJ controllers are responsive, portable, and reliable. If you are still unsure what to look for, then separate the best features from the average ones. By doing so, you can carefully choose the product that suits your mixing needs.
Here are a few things that you must keep in mind while looking for the best DJ controllers.
No matter how innovative your controller, if it isn’t built to last, the device isn’t worth buying. Make sure the controller is made by high-quality polymer composite. This material is sturdy and feels solid in hand.
Any cheaper plastic would bend and break down over time. About the buttons, they should be rubberized or at least made from quality material. Flimsy bottoms will be worn out, becoming a hurdle in mixing properly. More of your areas of concern should be the outer edges, knobs, dials, and sliders.
Compatibility with DAW
Needless to say, the controllers should be compatible with the best DAWs. However, not all of the controllers, including some high-quality ones, suit the best DJ software. As we have discussed above, many of the entries give out free digital workout stations. Even if they are entry-level versions, the free ones come in handy. Therefore, make sure that the device is compatible with your desired DAW and give out a free version.
You may want a controller that goes with your existing external speakers or any other hardware. For that, look into the number of outputs and input you demand before making your final decision. Remember, the best DJ controllers come with a plethora of options for external connectivity.
Functionality and Features
Always look into the full potential of your product. Examine what it can actually do. For instance, ask yourself, “Does it have haptic feedback along with realistic jog wheels?”, “Does it offer innovative touch controls?” and so on.
The choice will be yours, but as per the most users, LCD screens, more FX per touch, multi-EQ functions, at least four performance pads, and easy filter controls are must-have. But the more features it offers, the more expensive the package. Therefore, look for online sites that put functional DJ controllers for sale to get a better deal.
Another feature that you mustn’t overlook is compactness. The body should be light weighted and portable so that you can travel with ease. Some of the devices even come with built-in handles, which can be a plus point.