Whether you’re a beginner or a professional DJ, a reliable DJ controller should be an essential part of your DJ gear.
A good DJ controller will give you complete hands-on control over your software, allowing you to improve your workflow and the overall quality of your DJ set.
Although it’s a good thing that the options for DJ controllers are now wider than ever, that also makes choosing the right controller a bit daunting.
To help you narrow down your search, we compiled a list of the best DJ controllers available.
So, let’s take a look at each controller’s main features and highlights so you know which one meets your needs.
1. Pioneer DDJ-1000 – Best pro DJ controller
If you’re looking for a professional DJ controller ideal for performing at events and parties, you should check out Pioneer DDJ-1000.
First of all, Pioneer is a superstar brand among DJ and audio equipment, offering reliable, durable products for different applications.
And their DJ controllers are no different.
The Pioneer DDJ-1000 for rekordbox is hands down one of their best DJ controllers, boasting the professional layout inherited from the flagship NXS2 models.
This 4-channel DJ controller has full-sized and pressure-sensitive jog wheels, all-new high definition LCD screens on each wheel, and an updated Magvel crossfader.
It works best with rekordbox, but it also works well with Serato DJ software.
In any case, the DDJ-1000 is an excellent choice for newcomers and seasoned DJs alike.
It’s a bit pricey, but if DJing is something you want to delve into more seriously, it’s worth every penny.
2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 – Best affordable DJ controller
Another great option from Pioneer is the DDJ-400 controller.
This is a more affordable option, so if this is your first DJ controller and you don’t want to spend a fortune on it just yet, the DDJ-400 might be a perfect solution.
It’s a 2-channel DJ controller for rekordbox, and although it lacks deeper effects control, it offers great value for money nevertheless.
It provides all the basic features for club DJing, and it’s compatible with the Tutorial feature in rekordbox.
Plus, it features CDJ-style layout and loop controls that are very easy to access.
All in all, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced DJ controller that won’t let you down, you can’t go wrong with the Pioneer DJ DDJ-400.
It’s a well-built and widely used DJ controller ideal for first-time DJs.
3. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 – Best for Traktor
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is a DJ performance system with 2 channels (+ sample deck channel) that also comes with an audio interface.
It stands out from the crowd for its innovative haptic jog wheels.
Thanks to the company’s new ‘haptic’ technology, jog wheels are now motorized and therefore provide unique tactile feedback of cue points.
Besides compatibility and ease of use, this 4-channel controller is known for its tight Traktor 3 integration.
Moreover, it has a pro mixer layout and CDJ-style faders, ideal for all kinds of applications.
Since it’s reasonably priced, it’s a good choice for beginners and first-time DJs.
But it also offers everything you need for a professional live performance.
4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 – Best for Serato
With the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3, you can play music at parties and events with ease.
This simple DJ controller is bundled with Serato DJ Lite, so it’s designed specifically for use with this popular DJ software.
You might like this option because it’s quite affordable, especially compared to some other options on this list.
Although it’s cheaper than some of its competitors, the DDJ-SB3 features everything you need for creative DJ sets, including jog wheels, performance pads, play and cue buttons, and independent auto loop buttons.
And unlike its previous version, it offers Pad Scratch, a cool feature made in collaboration with DJ Jazzy Jeff that enables you to initiate eight of his trademark scratch techniques.
This way, the scratch is automatically matched to the track’s BPM, which can then be used in isolation or in combination with your own scratching.
5. Rane Twelve MkII – Best turntable-style controller
Rane Twelve MkII is another top choice when it comes to DJ controllers for parties and events.
This is also the best turntable-style DJ controller on this list.
It’s a bulky, durable and compact controller with a true vinyl-like touch, in addition to hot-cue and track search capability.
The controller also offers the precision control needed for seamless DJ performances.
Due to its design, you’ll need some extra gear to complete your DJ setup.
But if you’re looking for an authentic vinyl-like DJ controller, look no further than the Twelve MkII.
Rane Twelve MkII provides USB Midi and DVS control for Traktor, Virtual DJ and Serato DJs.
6. Roland DJ-505 – Best for beginners
Roland DJ-505 is a popular Serato controller that will help you bring your DJ performance to the next level.
This beginner-friendly DJ controller has quality built-in sounds which can be played with the pads or triggered by the sequencer.
There are 8 pad controls for Serato DJ with Hot Cue, Roll, Slicer, TR, Pattern, and Sampler.
And its large plates with minimal latency make it ideal for scratching.
But one of the biggest highlights of the DJ-505 is probably the integrated, fully editable drum kit from Roland’s legendary TR-808, TR-909, TR-606, and TR-707.
All things considered, thanks to its affordability and ease of use, Roland DJ-505 is an ideal choice for beginner DJs.
7. Denon MCX8000 – Best high-end Serato controller
Denon MCX8000 is a high-end DJ controller designed for Serato DJ software.
This is also the company’s flagship controller, and Denon proudly states the MCX8000 is “the first true DJ hardware/software controller”.
It has velocity-sensitive performance pads for cues, rolls, slicer, and samples.
And as we’ve already mentioned, it can control Serato DJ on your computer.
There is also a DVS upgrade package, giving the MCX8000 unlimited possibilities regarding traditional vinyl control.
But this unique DJ controller also has an innovative Denon DJ Engine software, which means it can also operate completely standalone.
On top of that, it includes a Stage LinQ network connection to control lighting and video.
That said, if you need a professional standalone DJ player and controller, look no further than the MCX8000.
8. Numark DJ2GO2 Touch – Best compact DJ controller
If you’re looking for a portable DJ controller, you should take a closer look at Numark DJ2GO2 Touch.
This pocket-sized DJ controller is ideal for traveling.
But don’t let the size of this controller fool you – the DJ2GO2 Touch offers everything you need for a memorable DJ session.
For instance, it has two channels with a crossfader and pitch faders for easy blending, and it provides the ability to scratch on capacitive touch jog wheels.
And it features a built-in sound card with master gain, headphone output for cueing, and channel gain knobs.
It’s a convenient DJ controller for sure, packed with all the must-have mix essentials.
It comes with the Serato DJ Lite software program.
9. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 – Best for creative DJing
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is another top choice when it comes to the best DJ controllers.
It features professional features like Mixer FX, Hotcues, and loop controls on a club-standard layout.
So, unlike the previously mentioned S4 Mk3, the S2 Mk3 is designed with experienced DJs in mind.
Nevertheless, it’s suitable for other levels as well, as it features easy-to-use tools.
You can quickly access expressive effects and essential controls for chops, stops, and seamless transitions.
Plus, you can leave the beatmatching to TRAKTOR, so you can focus on picking tunes, experiment with FX, and use looping and remix decks.
That said, the S2 Mk3 is an ideal DJ controller for clubs, parties, bars, and any other venue that requires you to show off your DJing skills.
10. Reloop Mixon 4 – Best for iOS and Android
When searching for the best DJ controller for your live performances, you should also check out the Reloop Mixon 4 controller.
This is the company’s flagship hybrid controller designed for Serato Pro DJ and Algoriddim djay PRO, blending two acclaimed DJ software with a multi-platform concept.
It’s also capable of mixing on PC, Mac, iOS and Android, and it’s actually the only kind of its type on our list.
Moreover, the Mixon 4 controller is praised for its integration with Spotify and other popular streaming services like Tidal and Soundcloud.
The controller’s internal, low latency, and low-noise USB 2.0 audio interface provides a powerful club sound on all platforms.
All in all, if you’re interested in getting a hybrid DJ controller, this is definitely a safe choice.
Do You Need a DJ Controller?
As you can see, there are many top-rated DJ controllers to choose from.
So, it’s normal if you feel confused or overwhelmed, especially if you’re a new name in the DJ realm.
And you’re probably wondering: do I really need a DJ controller?
Well, the thing is, DJ controllers aren’t essential – it’s possible to play music using your mouse and keyboards.
However, DJ controllers make DJing a whole lot easier.
DJ controllers have knobs, encoders, jog wheels, faders, and all sorts of buttons that will give you complete hands-on control over your DJ software.
In essence, this is an all-in-one solution – a DJ controller allows you to play music digitally (you can play MP3 files directly from your laptop) and it takes all the elements of traditional decks and a mixer and blends them together.
DJ controllers became an essential piece of DJ gear for successful DJs around the world.
And that’s why you should get one too – especially if you want to dive into professional waters.
How Do DJ Controllers Work?
A DJ controller works by being connected to a DJ’s laptop computer, so you can easily connect it to your software and use it for mixing, scratching, and so on.
Although DJ controllers come in a variety of sizes and they vary in software compatibility, feature sets, and prices, they can normally be connected to host devices via USB ports.
When you connect the device to a computer, the controller’s interface ‘takes the wheel’, delivering more power and efficiency than a normal keyboard setup.
This gives DJs more freedom and flexibility, as it allows them to mix with fewer elements to manage and worry about.
DJ controllers also include audio outputs that allow you to send your mix to speakers and your cued music to your headphones.
However, some standalone DJ controllers allow self-contained mixing with the possibility to be connected to a computer.
Now, what kind of DJ controller you should get depends on your needs and budget.
There are many great budget-friendly DJ controllers that will help you get started with DJing, and when you’re ready to step up your game, you can opt for a high-end DJ controller with more advanced features and options.
Choosing the Best DJ Controller for You
The best way to know what DJ controller to get is to test it before you buy it.
By testing it, you’ll be able to find out how the controller interacts with your software – it should feel responsive and intuitive.
Also, the controls should provide quick and easy access to all the most important elements.
You should also ask how the crossfader and jog wheels feel for quick cuts and performance and how any pads, EQs, or effects controls act in a performance setting.
Another thing you should think about when buying a DJ controller is its compatibility with DJ software programs.
Since most DJ controllers control DJ software programs via MIDI, they are compatible with any DJ software, as long as your control surface uses MIDI.
But some MIDI controllers are designed with specific DJ apps in mind, and some of them even come with included software.
And for instance, if you prefer to use Serato DJ, you should keep in mind that the software is only compatible with certain controllers.
But compared to some other options, Serato DJ has a large selection of third-party DJ controllers that are made specifically for that program.
It all comes down to what kind of DJ program you want to use, and whether you want to adjust it to your controller or vice versa.
The most important thing is that your potential controller is reliable and well-built.
Other factors like price, size, and set of features depend on your specific situation.
In any case, you can’t go wrong with either option on our list.
What About DJ Software Programs?
Many people prefer choosing DJ software before purchasing a DJ controller.
After all, if you choose a DJ app first, this will narrow down your search because you’re looking for controllers that fit your software.
But many popular DJ software programs support a variety of controllers, so you’ll be able to opt for a controller you like.
On the other hand, there are DJ software programs like Pioneer DJ Rekordbox and Native Instruments Traktor Pro that are compatible with a limited number of DJ controllers made by the same maker of the software.
When it comes to DJ software programs, there’s an abundance of choice – from cheaper DJ software for beginners to more versatile and advanced DJ apps.
Generally, some of the most popular DJ software programs include Pioneer DJ rekordbox, Ableton Live, VirtualDJ, and Serato DJ Pro.
All the top DJ apps have elements like EQs, two (or more) decks, effects, filters, and sampling and looping options.
They also have a good library management system which allows DJs to quickly search and manage their tracks.
Choosing a DJ software program that meets your needs is important, so take your time to take a closer look at all the options..
Best DJ Controllers – Final Thoughts
We hope our review of the best DJ controllers in the market helped you find the one that meets your needs.
With a DJ controller that fits your style and priorities, you’ll be able to get more creative and expressive.
And you’ll be able to enjoy your DJ sessions even more.
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