Making music on your own has never been more accessible than how it is now. Back in the day, you needed a proper booth, a full-on studio, a talented team, and a lot of high-end gear, not to mention other things. Thankfully, things are much more intuitive these days. If you know the basics of all the controls on a DJ interface, you’ll get by just fine. Of course, skill and practice are needed, but the right combination of gear and software always helps.
A DJ controller will definitely make your life easier as a producer or DJ. Instead of doing all of it in the software, throwing in a few analog controls is always more precise. Components like knobs, jog wheels, encoders, faders, touch strips, among many others are crucial.
We’ll be looking at some of the best DJ controllers for beginners and professionals alike. If you use a particular piece of software, we’ll have a look at controllers that work great with Serato, Traktor Scratch, Virtual DJ, etc. If you need to find the best DJ controller for scratching, we’ve got you covered there as well.
Basically, this guide will help you in finding the perfect controller for you. No matter what kind of DJ you are and what you’re skill level is. Let’s get started.
For a full decade, the most fun and intuitive way of DJing has been using the powerful DJ tools on a laptop and connected that with a DJ controller. That is exactly why the Denon DJ Prime 4 has huge ambitions to shake up that whole situation. It’s one of the most groundbreaking DJ controllers we’ve seen in years. It’s completely standalone which means you don’t need a laptop, at all.
First impressions are very strong with this controller. It’s wide and the metal plate it’s based on goes very deep. The construction is entirely made out of metal and feels incredibly premium and professional. The transformer is built into the unit, which is nice. The touchscreen is pretty big at 10-inches and is topped by glass. It also feels well built.
The four channels on the mixture can be used completely standalone. This means you can plug in four external sources and switch them between the digital channels. You can also use the crossfader with these channels. The pitch controls have a long flow, they are smooth and accurate. You also have mic channels, effects, a powerful screen, tonnes on inputs and outputs and much more.
Honestly, we could spend all day talking about this powerful DJ controller. Simply put, it’s the best on the market. If you’re the type of professional who needs that, then this is also a great value for the serious professional. It even supports Serato, which technically makes this the ultimate Serato DJ controller on the market.
Pioneer is one of the leading brands when it comes to DJ equipment and gear. Their highest-end products like the DJ CJD and DJM products are flagship professional-level equipment. However, not everyone is willing to drop that amount of cash. The alternative, their XDJ RX2 might not be the cheapest option, but it’s a much better value for anyone looking for that amazing Pioneer experience.
The XDJ RX2 is wrapped completely in very tough and hard plastic material. It looks great but doesn’t necessarily feel as good as the Denon controller above. The two-channel mixture has three-band EQ control, Sound color FX knobs and a parameter knob. The jog wheels are excellent, and so are loop controls and the touchscreen.
The jog wheels are slick and responsive, however, they are touch capacitive and take a bit of getting used to. The performance pads are satisfying as well. The touchscreen has been updated, and can now display more information than previous models. The mixer has a lot of features and the usual premium Pioneer controls you expect.
Rekordbox DJ isn’t exactly the best software out there, but it does get the job done. It’s just not as slick as other options out there. Apart from that, this is a very close runner-up. If you are someone who needs a Pioneer setup for whatever reason, this comes close to being perfect.
Let’s switch things up a bit. Maybe you are a beginner who does not need to go all-out when spending cash on a new DJ controller. That’s understandable, audio equipment can get quite expensive. Add in studio monitors, a good pair of headphones, a decent recording space, and all of that adds up.
If you’re on the budget, and also need something while on the move the Numark Mixdeck Express is a great option. This three-channel all-in-one controller has support for USBs, CDs, MP3s, and it can be used as a Midi controller. It uses a three-band EQ for all three channels. A gain knob and a master output knob are placed at the top, which controls all the channels.
The chassis, the buttons, and the faders all feel solid. Every button and knob here feels responsive, and that’s a huge accomplishment for the price. The chassis could have been a bit better, it’s made completely out of plastic so it’s not the most premium feel.
It’s quite a simple unit that will easily cover all of your essential needs, and it’s affordable too, considering the market. A couple of features are omitted here and there for cost-cutting reasons, but you can’t complain too much. Overall, for beginners or people on a tight budget, this is a great option.
The DDJ-SX series has been around since 2012. They are intended for mobile DJs who are on the move and need a fully-featured controller that doesn’t sacrifice on anything. The DDJ SX3 is the latest iteration in that series, and it’s a decent evolution from previous models.
The DDJ SX3 is big, full of features, and quite professional. The design is easy to fall in love with, and the layout is similar to a lot of Pioneer products. Although, I’ll admit that for some beginners, all of those controls, effects, dials, and knobs can be a bit confusing. However, if you are familiar with Serato and Pioneer, you’ll feel right at home.
It even has three microphone inputs, which are seen of much pricier controllers. At the back, we’ll find the RCA and XLR outputs, and at the front, we have the headphone jacks. Sound Color FX is baked into the unit, which is good to see. The stand-alone four-channel mixture is excellent, the jog wheels feel perfect albeit a bit small. I also would have liked to see a display on them for ease of use.
There’s not much wrong with the DDJ SX3. If you are someone who uses Serato DJ Pro, this is the definitive DJ controller while on the move. However, it is a bit expensive for what you get. But for Pioneer purists, it may well be worth the money.
The Numark DJ2GO touch is a surprisingly inexpensive DJ controller. In fact, it’s the cheapest on this list and one of the best values you will find in a controller like this. Granted, it’s lacking a lot of features and is limited in its capability, but for people who are just starting out, this is a great option.
Setting it up is incredibly easy. Plug in your headphones, connect a speaker, download the Serato DJ Lite software and you are good to go. Serato Lite may not be as powerful as other beat-making software out there, but it has everything you’ll need as a beginner.
The pitch throw is quite short, but it’s decent enough for the price. The touch-sensitive jog wheels are a delight to use, and while they might be quite small, get used to them and you’ll be mixing like a pro in no time. The buttons are all made of plastic, and the switches don’t feel as good either. Sure you are sacrificing a lot, but again, look at the price!
The DJ2GO touch is an excellent buy for anyone looking to make music while on the go, plus you save a lot of money by dealing with a few compromises here and there.