Best DJ Controller – Buyer’s Guide (February 2022)
When it comes to mixing music, you have a lot of gear to choose from. A simple and versatile option is a DJ controller: an all-in-one tool for mixing and producing professional music.
A DJ controller combines classic turntables with modern mixers, which simply means you can invest in one controller instead of several pieces of gear to mix your music. All you need to do is download the appropriate software to your Mac or PC and connect your laptop to your DJ controller. Since a DJ controller is usually dependent on a laptop, you have an infinite amount of music to mix with. In addition, DJ controllers are known for their accessible design because they make it easy to apply professional effects on the fly.
Finding the best DJ controller depends on your skill level, your events, your budget, and your style. Whether you’ve been mixing for years or you haven’t started yet, whether you’re looking for a high end controller or you just need cheap DJ equipment, there are professional DJ controllers to suit your needs.
|Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX||Best With Built-In LCD Screen|
|Denon MCX8000||Best High-End Serato Controller|
|Native Instruments Traktor Control S8||Best High-End Traktor Controller|
|Pioneer DDJ-SX3||Best Mid-Level Serato Controller|
|Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3||Best Mid-Level Traktor Controller|
|Reloop Mixon 4||Best W/ Built-In Pod Docking Station|
|Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000||Best W/ HD Screens Built Into Jog Wheels|
|Roland DJ-505||Best W/ Built-In Drum Kits|
|Numark Mixtrack Pro FX||Best Budget|
|Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3||Best For Beginners|
The Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX is a high-tech DJ controller with an intuitive design for quickly mixing music on the fly. This 2-deck Pioneer DJ controller is compatible with Rekordbox DJ software, so you have all the professional mixing effects you need at your fingertips. In addition, the color-coded performance pads ensure an organized setup, so you can navigate and mix your songs with ease.
What really makes the Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX stand out is a large, 7-inch touch screen. With more comprehensive capabilities than most other DJ controllers, you can use the touch screen to search functions and access shortcuts. This large and clear display screen ensures that all the information you need is constantly accessible, giving you ultimate control. This Pioneer DJ controller is a perfect all-in-one solution when it comes to professional sound, music, and effects.
- LCD display touch screen
- Professional, high quality results
- Organized and accessible
- Not beginner-friendly
The Denon MCX8000 is a one of a kind DJ controller built to give you limitless capabilities. Unlike most DJ controllers, the Denon MCX8000 comes with unique Engine technology, which allows you to perform without a laptop. In stand-alone mode, you can use the Denon MCX8000 with just a USB drive and mix your music with ease. This way, you don’t have to shift between your laptop and controller, so you can focus on creating a great show in the moment.
This high-end DJ controller also boasts 4-decks, which means you can control up to four songs at a time. As you shift between the four decks, you can mix and layer songs in more creative ways than you could with a 2-deck controller. With endless creative freedom and limitless opportunities, the Denon MCX8000 is one of the best high-end DJ controllers on the market.
- Stand alone mode–no laptop required
- Two high-definition screens
- Not beginner-friendly
3. Native Instruments Traktor Control S8
This Native Instruments Traktor Control S8 is a high-end DJ controller with great displays and stunning visuals. It has two bright, color-coded display screens designed to help you visualize your mixes. With several pop-ups, views, and panels, this Native Instruments controller helps you to both see and hear your effects, so you can better interact with your music.
In addition to its stunning displays, this Native Instrument’s brightly illuminated controls will keep you organized and engaged, which is especially important in dark clubs and parties. Further, you can manipulate your sound with the LED touch strip, making this DJ controller a fully tactile and visual experience. The Native Instruments Traktor Control S8 offers a unique sense of immersion and organization, making it one of the more engaging and awesome controllers.
- Two bright display screens
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Full color display
- No jog wheels
- Untraditional design
The Pioneer DDJ-SX3 controller is perfect for everything: clubs, parties, weddings, and large events. This controller gives you the best professional effects with improved jog wheels for smoother scratching and perfect control. The standard and intuitive design is easy to navigate and full of creative possibilities.
This Pioneer DJ controller is also incredibly versatile because it has two USB ports and three mic inputs. With two USB ports, you can connect up to two laptops for seamless transitions. With three mic inputs, this DJ controller lends itself well to large corporate events and weddings with multiple speakers. You can apply mic effects and easily control sound clarity, then smoothly transition back to playing music. This controller is perfect for a DJ looking for a versatile controller that adapts well to large events.
- Two USB ports
- Three mic inputs and FX
- Intuitive design
- Serato Pro included
- Too advanced for beginners
- No LCD screens
5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3
Another great Native Instruments Traktor controller is the S4 MK3 because it delivers great music and mixing production at a more affordable price. The most unique feature of this DJ controller is its highly responsive jog wheels: these haptic jog wheels function in three modes that respond quickly and smoothly to your touch. The LED ring around each jog wheel moves with you as you mix, so you can see and feel your mixing process.
The standard design of this DJ controller is intuitive and organized, with brightly colored performance pads and high-definition display screens. With the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3, you get four decks of high quality mixing technology with advanced jog wheels, making it one of the best DJ controllers for scratching at a great price.
- Haptic jog wheels
- Intuitive design
- Small display screens
- Single USB input
The Reloop Mixon 4 is a revolutionary collaboration by Serato and Algoriddim that allows you to mix with more devices than ever before. This DJ controller is compatible with a PC, a Mac, or an Android device, which can all be connected through the USB port. In addition, it comes with a Lightning connection input for iOS devices, which is especially helpful if you’re looking to use your DJ controller for Ipad use. You can download and mix music on a variety of platforms, and you’re not limited to your laptop. Further, if you want a DJ controller for Serato software, the Reloop Mixon 4 comes with the full version of Serato DJ Pro included.
This kind of versatility and device compatibility is revolutionary for a DJ controller. Most times, DJs must choose between different types of gear based on their mixing preferences and the equipment they already have. The Reloop Mixon 4 is another step closer to creating a truly all-in-one mixing system for any event, style, or device: you can use it as an Ipad DJ mixer, a standard controller, or anything in between. This adaptable, 4-deck controller comes with unlimited possibilities.
- PC, Mac, Android, and iOS compatible
- USB, Lightning, and Android OTG cables included
- Untraditional setup
- No LCD screens
The DDJ-1000 is another high quality, professional controller option from Pioneer. It has a standard layout–familiar to almost any DJ–with improved mixing technology to reduce latency in the jog wheels. This professional DJ controller will give you amazing sound and control for years to come.
What’s especially fantastic about this Pioneer DJ controller is the built-in LCD screens at the center of each jog wheel. You can customize the screens to display the information you need–whether it be BPM, waveform, or loop points–so you can interact easily with your music at a glance. Customizable features are especially valuable when it comes to controllers because each DJ has their own style and method, and the Pioneer DDJ-1000 can easily adapt to yours. This DJ controller is designed to help you stay focused, organized, and in control.
- Customizable LCD screens
- Familiar, standard design
- Basic software included
The Roland DJ-505 combines the best features of the Serato DJ Pro controller with the iconic sounds of Roland drum machines. With this DJ controller, you’ll get the best professional features of any other great DJ controller, plus editable drum kits. The professional drum sound of the Roland DJ-505 lends itself to amazing live remixes, unique transitions, and creative freedom.
In addition, with the high-end technology of a Serato DJ Pro, this controller is one of the best for syncing multiple tracks for diverse and layered mixing. The Roland DJ-505 also pairs well with turntables, CD players, or other external MIDI devices, accurately syncing each device for an unforgettable sound. This unique collaboration between Serato’s software and Roland’s drum technology could provide you with the one-of-a-kind mixing capabilities you’re looking for.
- Combo of Serato mixing and Roland drums
- High-end sync abilities
- Lightweight and affordable
- Mostly plastic construction
- Only one mic input
If you’re looking for DJ controllers for beginners, or just something that’s easy on the budget, the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX is the best DJ controller under $500. This 2-deck controller is simple, clean, and accessible for DJs of any skill level. With quality jog wheels that mimic the feel of turntables and easy access to professional Serato effects, the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX gives you all the basic tools you need to break into the DJ world.
Further, this DJ controller comes with Serato DJ Lite software to get you started, which has all the basic functions you need to maximize your Numark DJ controller. This DJ controller makes it easy to connect and start mixing with high quality control that you can feel.
- Intuitive and accessible
- Serato DJ Lite included
- Great value for price range
- For beginners
This refurbished Pioneer DDJ-SB3 is easy on the budget and perfect for beginners as well. Restored and tested for professional performance, this Pioneer DJ controller will function like new, with smooth scratching and clean effects. In the case that this DJ controller doesn’t live up to your expectations, Amazon allows you to return it within 90-days, so you’re guaranteed to get the best bang for your buck. This Pioneer DDJ-SB3 proves that with a cheap DJ controller, you don’t have to deal with cheap results.
The Pioneer DDJ-SB3 is lightweight and durable–great for a DJ travelling on a budget. It has an intuitive design that’s easy to learn, so you can create and mix professional sound at any skill level. If you’re looking for the best cheap DJ controller, the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 goes above and beyond.
- Professionally refurbished
- Not for large events
- No software or cables included
What is a DJ controller?
A DJ controller is used to mix music and add effects. It’s the tool that helps create the iconic, bass-booming sounds of a club or a party, with each song blending into the next for the entire night.
Most DJ controllers function with laptop software. Once you connect it to your DJ software, you can download, queue, and manipulate songs through the DJ controller, layering them, scratching them, and matching them to perfection.
You can trust that a DJ controller will deliver the tools you need for smooth transitions that keep a crowd hyped, as well as high-end technology for creative freedom. A DJ controller helps you master your musical skills and develop your own unique sound that your audience will remember.
Benefits of using DJ Controller
A DJ controller is an all-in-one tool that puts all the effects you need at your fingertips. There are many other DJing devices similar to controllers–like mixers, turntables, and CDJ’s–which each have their strengths.
But unlike other devices, the DJ controller was designed to simplify the different aspects of mixing into one piece of equipment, so it’s easier for you to create professional sound. The DJ controller is one of the best options for a DJ because it combines the simplicity of a mixer or CDJ with the control of a turntable.
Each DJ has their own equipment preference for mixing music, but a DJ controller provides a middle-ground option that lends itself to many skill levels.
Controller vs. Turntables
Turntables were the first mixing devices and they’re the source of the classic scratching style we still love now. Some DJs still swear by turntables because they preserve the authentic sound of vinyl and they allow for a deep engagement with the music.
However, turntables require separate mixers, so the controller was developed as a simple, all-in-one solution. A DJ controller has a built-in mixer and numerous effects at the touch of a button, which you can’t achieve with a traditional turntable. In addition, a controller requires laptop software to mix and queue music, which allows you greater access to a wide array of music online.
Overall, the basic differences to remember between turntables and controllers is that turntables require a mixer, vinyl, and scratching skill, which results in authentic sound and originality. On the other hand, a controller only requires your laptop and DJ software, making it easier to mix, queue, loop, sync, and much more.
DJ Controller vs Mixer
A mixer is a stand-alone device that doesn’t require any software from a laptop to play music. Typically, you would connect a mixer to your turntables or CDJ to mix music, but a DJ controller is unique and convenient because it has a mixer built in. Because it’s built into the controller, it does require DJ software to download and play music, but depending on your style and skill level, using an all-in-one piece of equipment like a DJ controller could provide you with the simplicity and organization you need.
Which DJ Software Should I Use?
When you’re looking for DJ software, you’re looking for a DAW (digital audio workstation). Some DAWs are more compatible with different pieces of equipment depending on the brand. For example, several of the DJ controllers above come with or recommend Rekordbox, Traktor, or Serato.
However, you don’t really need to worry about choosing the right or wrong software because, ultimately, you can create great music and professional shows with any. DJ controllers aren’t restricted to any one software. What matters most when it comes to software is that you practice with it enough that you’re so familiar and skilled with it, it’s almost second nature. Research some of the most popular DAWs and decide for yourself which software you want to master.
How To Protect Your DJ Controller
DJ controllers are complicated pieces of equipment and your success as a DJ depends on them functioning properly, so it’s wise to invest in a carrying case. Typically, each brand sells a carrying case for all the equipment they sell, and buying a case from the same brand as your DJ controller ensures that it will fit and protect it properly. Investing in a case is especially useful as a DJ because this line of work often requires a lot of travelling, setup, and takedown.
Further, you can protect your equipment with strategic placement. Make sure you set up your controller on a steady surface out of the way of people so no one will bump into it, because protecting your equipment is an easy way to save yourself time and money in the future.
Setting Up & Learning Your DJ Controller
Setting up your DJ controller and learning to use it can be daunting, but it can be broken down into a few basic tasks. First, you need to ensure that your decks are connected to the correct channels so you can navigate them quickly and easily.
Then, connect your laptop to your controller. Once you download a song, you’ll need to make sure it plays clearly, which is indicated by the VU meter. On a typical DJ controller, the VU meter will blink green, orange, and red lights depending on the sound quality. You want to maximize the green portion of the VU meter and hardly touch the orange portion. If the VU meter ever flashes red, that means your music is very distorted.
Once you understand how to set up your DJ controller and produce clear sound, you can begin familiarizing yourself with your mixer and software. This process is different for everyone and requires a lot of trial and error, but you can be a great DJ with almost any software or equipment so long as you master the tools you have.
DJ controllers are great tools for mixing and producing high quality music because it combines the classic functions of turntables with modern mixing technology, all in a single compact system. With a DJ controller, you get exactly that: control. DJ controllers give you variety and versatility so you’ll always have unlimited mixing possibilities.
Finding the best DJ equipment for you depends on your experience, your style, and your budget. Whether you’re brand new to DJ-ing or you’re looking for the best professional equipment, there is a DJ controller to meet your needs and maximize your skills.