Although a DJ can get by without having to buy a lot of specialized equipment, there’s one thing that they can’t skimp on, and that’s their DJ controller. A high-quality controller with its collection of jog wheels, faders, buttons, and knobs is an indispensable piece of equipment if the DJ wants to achieve professional results.
Without a doubt, there’s nothing that can replace the best DJ controllers available. That’s why we did our research and found the ten best models currently available. Any of the following controllers are bound to give the DJ the tools and the flexibility they need to mix their sound according to their own personal style and tastes.
Best DJ Controllers Reviews & Buying Guide
#10 Numark DJ 2 Go Ultra-Portable
This well built and extremely portable DJ controller has a number of features which make it a good board. For one, it’s extremely inexpensive and portable. Two, it has mouseless navigation built into it and three is hs integrated Virtual DJ LE Lite Software. This product also has a USB cable so it can be connected to a PC or MAC. Other features include compatibility with a variety of MIDI-capable devices, and an intuitive A/B deck and crossfader setup.
- Well constructed controller
- Extremely portable
- Is an inexpensive unit
- Has knobs for track’s volume instead of faders
- Not a full-feature controller
#9 Denon DJ MC4000
This two-deck controller comes with a Serato DJ Intro software, which can be upgraded to the full Serato DJ version if so desired by the user. This unit has touch-activated jog wheels that allow it to be accurately scratched and for track cueing capabilities. This controller also has 100mm long-throw pitch faders and has a 24 bit 44.1/48 kHz sampling rate. This product can be used with both MAC or Windows-based systems, although it can be a little glitchy with earlier Windows OS versions.
- Is a compact unit
- Touch activated jog wheels
- Two deck controller
- Can be glitchy with some Windows PC systems
#8 Hercules DJ Control Instinct
Although this unit isn’t really intended for anyone other than disc jockeys who are just starting out and need a basic controller, it does provide a few nice features. It has a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack for headphones, two RCA outputs, has pressure sensitive jog wheels, and has a compact design that’s extremely intuitive and user-friendly. It also comes with DJUCED mixing software. All of this makes this controller a good basic unit for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a professional setup.
- Inexpensive basic unit
- Pressure-detecting jog wheels
- Built-in audio outputs
- Is only really suitable for beginners
#7 Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
This controller comes with a number of exciting features which make it a good intro-level setup. It has a built-in sound card that can connect directly with speakers, microphones or headphones, and comes with Serato DJ Lite. This unit also has touch-sensitive jog wheels that may be too sensitive for some people and 100mm pitch sliders. Other features include rubber trigger pads, a multi-function touch-strip, and a volume levels display. This unit also comes with the Prime Loops Remix Toolkit which includes 6 handy sample packs.
- Reasonably priced controller
- Easy-to-use unit
- Has 100mm pitch sliders
- Jog wheels are too sensitive
#6 Numark Mixtrack Pro
This easy-to-use DJ controlled comes with Serato DJ Intro, which can be upgraded to Serato DJ for an additional upgrade cost, and is ready to be used immediately. It supports MIDI over a USB connection so it can be used with just about all of the major digital DJ software available. It is also a Plug N’Play unit that doesn’t require any additional drivers to be installed for it to use. Other features include illuminated controls, a dual deck layout, and touch-sensitive control wheels.
- Comes with DJ Serato Intro
- Supports MIDI over USB capability
- Illuminated controls
- Doesn’t feel like a durable controller
#5 Pioneer DDJSR Pro Controller
Although this unit is a bit expensive, it does come with a number of professional controls. This unit has large jog wheels that allow for scratching and mixing capabilities, has a variety of performance pads which present the user with features such as a slicer, sampler, hot cue, and roll. This unit is USB-bus powered, plug and play compatible, and comes with Serato DJ software. Other features include a 24 bit/44.1 kHz soundcard, high & low pass filter, and a Crossfader Curve Adjust.
- Professional quality controller
- Has a durable build quality
- Plug N’ Play functionality
- Has a Vinyl Jog Mode
- Controller is expensive
#4 Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1
Although this unit has unit is made primarily from plastic, it also comes with a number of features which makes it pretty handy for just about any DJ. This unit has 16 RGB multi-colored pads, plug-and-play operation, and a gives the user the ability to scratch their own loops and samples or export loops from other sources. This product comes with 2-GB of premium remix sets that include a number of basses, leads, and beats. Other features include four volume faders and dedicated filter knobs. This unit is compatible with both PC systems from Windows 7 to Windows 10 or MAC systems from OSX10.10 to 10.13. And although it works with Traktor Pro 2.5, it doesn’t come with it.
- Is an inexpensive controller
- Can switch between up to 64 tracks
- Include 2-GB of premium sound
- Compatible with PC and MAC systems
- Constructed primarily from plastic
- Doesn’t come with DJ software
#3 Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Portable
This DJ controller is a perfect balance of affordability and professional level features. This product has four rubber pads that can be used to trigger manual loop, sampler, hot cue, and auto loop features, and another four to access play, sync, shift, and cue features. This controller also has low-latency jog wheels that are accurate and provide an appropriate scratch response. Other features found on this unit include a trim knob, level meters, and low/high pass filter dials. Although it doesn’t come with DJ software, it does have a great build quality a lot of disc jockeys are going to love. It also has a design that really looks cool and is very intuitive to navigate.
- Is an affordable professional unit
- Controller has 4-deck control
- Doesn’t come with software
#2 Pioneer DDJ-SX2 Performance Controller
Not only does this DJ controller have a great build quality, but it also has a design that’s intuitive and is packed with features. Just some of the features that can be found on this controller include an updated job wheel, velocity sensitive multi-color performance pads and dedicated buttons for Serato FLIP. This unit is compatible with Windows systems from Windows 7 on up and MAC systems up to MAC OS X 10.9.4. Additional features include tempo slider, needle search pad, auto loop button, cue button, slip button, censor button, and sampler volume slider.
- DJ Serato software can be downloaded for it
- Compatible with PC and Mac systems
- Has a wide array of features
- Unit has a professional build quality
- The controller costs more than some other controllers
#1 Pioneer DDJ-SB3
This DJ controller is not only made with high-quality audio circuitry that provides professional results, but the overall unit is made from high-quality materials. It also has an affordable price, and come with a number of great features. This unit has low-latency jog wheels made out of aluminum that is capable of providing improved accuracy and scratch response. This unit also has pad scratch, has four FX patterns including a low-pass filter, high-pass filter, backspin and loop playback. This unit also has an intuitive design that makes it easy to set up and use.
- Affordable price
- Has an intuitive layout
- Durable low-latency aluminum jog wheels
- Easy to add scratch effects
- Premium quality controller
- Limited samplers until the software version is upgraded to the full version
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DJ Controller Buyer’s Guide
In the past, it was easy for most up and coming disc jockeys to get started. All the DJ had to do was to purchase a couple of turntables, a mixer and a pair of headphones and they were ready to rock. However, things have become a little more complicated over the past few years. Technology has pretty much replaced all of the older DJ equipment, which leaves many disc jockeys wondering where to turn when they’re shopping for a new rig.
Although disc jockeys can put together their setup by pieces together modular units, the best solution for most disc jockeys is to buy an all-in-one DJ controller. That’s because these controllers are not only easier to control than a piecemeal setup, but they also give the DJ a lot more control over their sound. Of course, even among DJ controllers, there are a lot of things to consider, so we’ve put together this guide to give an overview of some of the basics that a person needs to consider before buying a new DJ controller. Below are the basics any DJ will need to consider.
When choosing a DJ controller, it’s important that the unit has all of the features that you need, and that these features are easy to reach. The last thing that you’ll want to have to deal with when performing is to have to reach from one end of the board to the other unnecessarily. Make sure that the job wheels, scratch pads, and the various transitions are where you would expect them to be. A controller may be the best, most expensive model available but if it’s difficult for you to use, then it’s not right for you.
Unless the DJ only intends on using the controller in one set location, then they are going to want to make sure that the unit is portable. A portable unit is not only easier to take from one location to the next but doesn’t take up a lot of space when it’s time to set it up. Look for a model that not only has a compact design but is easy to move.
On-Board Sound Card
Another thing to consider when selecting a controller is whether it has a built-in sound card or if an external sound card has to be used. Having an onboard sound card makes it easy to hook the controller up to a PC or a MAC using a USB controller. Of course, some DJs prefer to use an external sound card, so it’s really up to the personal preferences of the DJ whether they need their board to be equipped with one.
The software is an absolutely vital component of any DJ controller. When buying a board, it’s important to consider the software that’s bundled with it. The problem most people have when choosing a board is it doesn’t come with the software they like and using the board with software that’s not specifically designed for the hardware can be dicey at best. Therefore, the model chosen should have the features needed by the DJ. Most controllers come bundled with software that is basically a watered down version of the manufacturer’s full version software. These software packages are often labeled either as LE or Light. In most cases, the DJ will have to spend extra for the full version software to get the most out of their controller.
The price is also important and should be immediately weighed against the controller’s other features. For example, a controller may be inexpensive when compared to other controllers, but when you factor in the price of the software that has to be upgraded to a functional version, then some of these models aren’t the deal they appear to be in the first place. Some of the models which offer the best bargains are a perfect balance between price and the controller’s features.
Additional Features to Consider
Below are some features which the DJ may need their controller to have:
- Scratch effects
- Transition effects
- Design durability
- Portability of the unit
- Pre-loaded beats, leads, and basses
- Ability to import own sound effects