All DJs know how hard it can be to choose a proper DJ controller — this can set you apart from other DJs and make you better or worse. Why a DJ Controller? Because it’s cheaper than having an entire set of CDJs and a Mixer, saves more space, lets you work off your laptop and some controllers might have more features than any CDJ on the market!
It’s very important to have a good DJ controller. Some controllers come with 2 channels and some with 4 channels. They also come with many cool functions and effects, multiple cue points and more. It’s very important that you choose a DJ controller that is fast, easy to use, has a good layout for quick and easy DJing.
Most of the DJ controllers in today’s market work with 3 kinds of DJ software – Traktor, Serato and Virtual DJ. Many DJs prefer Serato as it’s faster and more precise, while Traktor is still very good, some say it has limiting features. In the end it’s your preference and workflow that is the final factor of choice. The choice comes down to several heavyweights – Pioneer, Native Instruments, Numark & Gemini.
Read on as I review the current top 10 DJ controllers on the market.
Input and Output
Traktor PRO 2
Mac OS X 10.9
Mac OS x 10.7 or higher
2 headphone outputs
Mac OS X 10.7.4.
Mac OS x 10.6.8
2 headphone outputs
Mac OS X 10.7.4
Mac OS X 10.6.8
Traktor PRO 2
Mac OS X 10.9 or higher
Mac OS X 10.8 or higher
2 headphone outputs
Mac OS X 10.10/10.9/10.8
2 headphone outputs
Mac OS X 10.6-10.10
2 headphone outputs
2 headphone outputs
There are five things one needs to look for when purchasing DJ controllers. One of those very important things is build quality.
DJ Controllers need to be built well and that is a fact, as you will be transporting it to your gigs or you will just have it at home for your bedroom sessions.
It’s very important that your DJ controller is sturdy, lightweight if possible and built from good quality materials – this will ensure that your DJ controller lasts for many years to come.
Good thing to look out for are rubber or plastic buttons, my preference is plastic as they won’t get stuck like rubber buttons do, not to mention that after a while you will actually have to hit them to work which can get annoying after a while. Again, this is just my personal preference, you might like the rubber ones better.
Be sure to check for the soundcard quality as this will ensure good quality sound and low lagginess, and make sure that the DJ controller comes with all the connectors and outputs you might need in your DJ environment.
Another thing to look for is the design aspect. You want your DJ controller to look good and professional you are a DJ, you are standing in front of a crowd, you want your DJ Controller to look nice.
In my opinion, the most impressively designed DJ Controllers at the moment are Pioneer DJ Controllers — if you know how to use CDJs, transition to a Pioneer DJ Controller will be effortless due to the unique design and workflow.
It also works both ways – if you can use a Pioneer DJ Controller, you will definitely know how to use Pioneer CDJs afterwards.
Numark or Native Instruments do not work that way unfortunately which can be a turnoff for many aspiring DJs. I am a big fan of Pioneer DJ equipment and I really like how they use the same designs for their products and add so many new features, so transitioning is super easy.
DJ Controller design also plays a big part in the overall use of your DJ Controller. Some DJ controllers come with 2 or with 4 channels. Having 4 channels can be very useful if you work with a lot of tracks and you want to have a fast workflow or just to create those crazy live Mashups. 2 Channel controllers are good too, sometimes you don’t need the size of a 4 channel controller and 2 channels work just as fine.
You want the DJ Controller to be well designed, mixer area has to be easy to use and have a good layout so you don’t have to look around for certain buttons and features. Cue and Play buttons should be easily visible and easily reachable for flawless workflow.
When you find a controller you like, be sure to test it out and see if you like the layout, as I just mentioned – it is one of the most important things on a DJ Controller.
Software is what makes or breaks a DJ Controller — The DJ controller allows you to manipulate music that is run by the software. DJ Software enables you to choose tracks, cut them, loop them, use effects and much more.
Software enables you to store your entire music library and find any song you need in an instant. It’s a great tool as now you don’t have to carry CDs with you or a ton of DJ gear. All you need is your laptop, DJ controller and your headphones.
Every DJ controller comes with it’s own software, as mentioned before Pioneer works with Serato, Native Instruments works with Traktor and Numark and other controllers work with Virtual DJ. I will explain more about each of these to help you choose the one that suits your needs.
Yes, it’s a funny name I know, but the software is actually pretty good. The creator of this software – Native Instruments has a long successful history and was one of the first professional DJ softwares. There is an option of Traktor Pro which works with your DJ controller and Traktor Scratch Pro which would work with an external sound card that would be connected to your turntables or CDJs.
Any DJ controller will work with Traktor, you just need to download a MIDI mapper from the manufacturers website and you’re good to go.
Some DJs find it annoying that Traktor can get slow and laggy which is a major reason why they switch to Serato. I found that this annoyed me as well, same as the inability to turn off quantize mode to have full more precise control over your tracks.
Traktor comes with a wide array of effects, it’s a very good DJ software with lots of features. You will like it’s unique feature Remix Decks which allows you to do live remixes, use one shots, loops and more. It may take you some time to get used to it’s functionality but once you do, it’s really good.
Serato is a great DJ software, it works mostly with Pioneer DJ Controllers and also has the same option as Traktor to connect your CDJ or Turntables via Soundcard.
I found Serato to be more stabile and much faster for DJ performances, I noticed no lag compared to Traktor’s. This is my go to DJ software. It comes with a variety of cool effects, has a great and easy layout, runs much faster than Traktor and looks more attractive. It’s very user friendly so your learning curve is much shorter than with Traktor.
It may seem like I’m favoring Serato which is true, I have my reasons, main reason is the lag that Traktor creates when changing track tempo and cueing. It’s much easier to work with Serato, it has really good colour indicators, you can store up to 8 cues or more (depending on your controller) which will ensure that you have an epic DJ set. It also comes with a slicer feature which will allow you to cut songs, remix live and all sorts of creative things.
Serato publishes new updates almost every month which adds more functionality, more effects and more tools for your DJ sets.
Virtual DJ is a decent DJ software, I am not a fan of it personally, but it is still very good. Some DJs even prefer Virtual DJ over any other software. It is full of cool features, you can change skins for it and make it look more professional as in its base mode it looks very plain and boring.
Virtual DJ is the most compatible DJ software on the market and it will work with virtually any DJ controller you want. This software comes with a video mixing feature which other softwares do not have.
You will have a bunch of effects, you can stream your mix live, has an integrated sampler and much more. It comes with a cool feature called Track Cleaner which can be used to remove parts of a track that you don’t like or even filter out curse words in tracks.
This software is compatible even with your tablet, phone or anything you want. Yes It does sound amazing but I just don’t enjoy working with it. It was fun when I was starting out as a DJ, just to get the idea of how things work, but now as an advanced user, I still prefer other software. Try it out, you might like it more than the other softwares out there.
My suggestion is – try all 3 softwares, see which suits your needs best. Then decide on the controller. In case you decide to go for a Serato powered DJ Controller like Pioneer, have in mind that you can also run Traktor Pro on Pioneer DJ controllers, but you can not run Serato on Native Instruments DJ Controllers. Virtual DJ will work virtually anywhere, but you will not get the best DJ controller with it.
Your budget will be a very important factor in this purchase. That's why I have created this list so it can help you choose the best DJ Controller for you!
It’s not necessary to spend $2000 on a DJ controller just because they are of a certain brand and size so you think it will perform better than the $500 one. It may have some more functions and size but in the end it all comes down to how you use it.
I have seen DJs that use a $200 DJ controller and have better sets than a DJ that uses the best and most expensive DJ controller.
Don’t worry about that aspect, do some research and testing and you will see that I’m right.
On a side note, Pioneer DJ Controllers have a higher resale value than any other DJ Controller, have that in mind if you plan on investing more money into your DJ Controller, so later when you sell it, you can get some of that money back.
Decide how often you will be using your DJ Controller, what your purpose is, and determine your budget based on those factors.
Another great thing to look out for when purchasing a DJ Controller are additional accessories and extra features you get with your DJ Controller.
Some DJ Controllers have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity feature, so you can connect your iPad or phone to your DJ Controller.
Some extra features don’t help much and are just a marketing ploy to raise the price. You can buy different stick on covers for your controller to make it unique, you can buy travel cases as you will need to transport your controller to your gig, decksavers prevent dust from going inside the controller and much more. Be sure to research this on your own time.
These are the 5 most important things to look for when you’re purchasing a DJ Controller. It’s honestly not that hard to choose one - just listen to your instinct and get the one that feels the best for you. Do not be pressured by your friends or colleagues, do not listen to what others say, decide for yourself!
Be sure to test every model you’re interested in and enjoy your new DJ Controller, it might make you a famous DJ superstar!
Here is a list of the top 10 DJ Controllers that are currently on the market — use this list to help you choose the best for you.
This is a really good DJ controller. It comes with 4 channels which is more than enough. This will allow you to prepare several tracks ahead or even create live mashups. It has 3 band EQ control for lows, mids and highs.
Jog wheels are rather small but still very responsive. You can still scratch to a certain extent, but it lacks any visual indication so you will be guessing what the position of your JOG wheel is.
Some controllers like Pioneer have this indication which makes it much easier to control your tracks. You can still nudge it on the side to do a beat skip to help you beatmatch.
The entire DJ Controller feels good, well built and sturdy. On the back you will find plenty of inputs so you can connect your turntables or CDJs and use them at the same time as your laptop. Each side has 4 hot cue points and an easy loop feature which is very handy. It’s easy to switch to other decks with a press of a button, but it can get quite confusing – practice makes perfect. It is packaged with a download key for Traktor Pro 2 which will save you some money.
All in all it’s a pretty decent controller with a good price. Not my favorite as I found the layout a bit clunky and prefer a simpler easier layout. It felt like it has too many knobs and buttons which can get annoying as it’s easy to press the wrong one. I’d say it’s a decent 4 channel entry level controller and definitely worth a shot for the price of $600.
This is a fairly cheap DJ Controller, for $200 less than the S4 you will get the exact same thing, but only with 2 channels. Same layout, same design, same functions. 4 cue points, 2 effect controls for each deck and much smaller than the S4.
Some things are missing, you will not find a filter knob on this model and it will not have the Remix Decks feature.
It’s a decent entry level DJ controller if you’re just starting out and want to play at house parties. It comes with a Traktor Pro 2 download key so you’re all sorted.
Pioneer is the top of the line brand. This really cool DJ Controller comes with 4 channels, 8 cue points on each deck (which is amazing), plenty of effects and a ton of features.
It comes packaged with Serato DJ software. This is one of the best DJ controllers I’ve ever used. It’s has a great layout which you will find on every piece of Pioneer DJ equipment.
It’s very fast and responsive, precise and definitely will not disappoint you in any way.
It has needle search which is a really cool way to quickly go through a song, looks stunning, has loop control and it’s very easy to get used to it – In a few hours you will be mixing like a pro.
This is an excellent mobile DJ Controller which will last you for years to come. I would only recommend purchasing a case for it so it doesn’t get damaged.
It does come at a higher price of around $1000 but it’s definitely worth it. Be sure to test it out, you will love it.
The DDJ SR model is very similar to the SX model. It’s a 2 channel mixer but still packs the same features as the SX. It has 8 cue points same as the SX, all the same features, but only 2 channels.
It comes at a much lower price than the SX, you can get the SR for around $600. It comes with Serato DJ Software. It’s a very good controller with great features, very portable and easy to use.
It’s fast, precise, has no lag and works great. JOG wheel is of decent size so you can still use it for scratching.
If you’re on a budget and you want a DJ controller that will last for some time, be sure to check it out.
The X1 looks very different from any DJ controller on the market. It is more of a MIDI controller than a full featured DJ Controller. You can use it to extend your DJ setup which will give you more features.
It does not have it’s own sound card and you can use it to control some extra features in Traktor DJ software.
This is more of an extra that you can add to your existing Turntable & laptop combo, it will make cueing easier, it has a touchstrip which will help you navigate through a track much faster & can help you with beatmatching, has FX control, 4 extra cue points on each side. It looks pretty cool, you will need some time to learn how to use it properly.
It’s a different approach to DJing, I still prefer the classic JOG wheel functionality on other DJ controllers over this. It’s a very interesting addition to your current DJ setup which comes at a good price of $200.
This is one of the cheapest DJ Controllers on the market. Do not expect too much for this price. It comes 2 channels, 4 cue points on each side, super small tempo control, only 2 band EQ (which is odd) for bass and highs and a scratch option.
This controller is the one you will get only if you’re just starting up and can’t afford much more. It costs only $100 which makes it very affordable.
You will receive a copy of Virtual DJ LE software with it. It felt very plasticky - like it could break easily.
It’s very light and small which means you can carry it around in your backpack. It does have one interesting feature – built in Light show that syncs to your music, I kinda liked that cool feature, definitely good fun for smaller at home parties.
If you’re exploring the possibility of becoming a DJ and you definitely don’t want to invest too much in DJ equipment, try it out, you might like it and eventually want something more.
The Pioneer SB2 DJ Controller is the cheapest Pioneer DJ controller on the market. It’s a very small and compact 2 channel controller so you can take it anywhere with you.
It comes at a price of $250 which is pretty good for an entry level DJ controller.
It has a 3 band EQ for each channel, filter option for both channels which is a great useful feature, 3 effect racks on each side, 4 cue pads and a decent layout.
It doesn’t have many inputs or outputs as other DJ controllers but it will do the trick, great entry level controller.
At a low price of $150 you can find the Mixtrack 3 DJ Controller. It’s a 2 channel 3 band EQ controller with a very simplistic design.
It has 3 effect control on each side and a cool touchstrip to help you scroll through your tracks faster.
It has a large tempo slider which will definitely help when mixing, JOG wheels are made out of metal which is really cool. It’s not a bad DJ controller, it’s definitely an entry level controller.
It comes with Virtual DJ software, and it’s fully MIDI mappable so you can upgrade to Traktor Pro or any other DJ software afterwards. It’s quite a decent DJ Controller for such a low price.
Have in mind that you will need to purchase an audio interface as it does not have an implemented sound card.
This interesting looking Gemini DJ Controller comes at a price of $350. This controller has 4 channels with filter control and a 3 band EQ for every channel.
The first time you look at it you think of Native Instruments redesign. It comes with classic features as every high end DJ controller has – 8 cue points, auto loop, effects and a very good JOG wheel.
It’s built really well, with a very sturdy metal construction controller that can take a beating.
You can only use Virtual DJ or Traktor Pro on this controller. It has a built in sound card that actually sounds really well for this price range. It’s a good controller with a low price.
Has great features, cool looks, it’s a great DJ controller for a beginner/intermediate DJ that wants to step out of the Pioneer/NI norm.
Mixtrack Pro II is a good entry level DJ controller, it’s a new version of the original Mixtrack Pro. It is a 2 channel controller with a 3 band EQ but no Trim feature! I found this a bit disappointing as you do need a trim feature in case your songs are not loud enough.
It is a very simple controller with a rather simple layout but it does look attractive. I didn’t like the plastic build and rubber buttons, you might like it.
It comes with the Serato DJ Intro software which you have to download online. It is easy to use and it will do the trick. It comes at an affordable price of $200.
This is a beginner DJ Controller, it’s very basic and doesn’t offer too much for the buck. It will work well, it’s easy to use, it’s well built for the price and it sounds good.
As you can see there are many types of DJ Controllers you can get for your DJing use. This is my personal list of the most common DJ Controllers that are considered popular and and affordable.
I know that purchasing a DJ Controller may be a very difficult task for you as there are so many of them and you have no idea if you're going to make the right choice. The best thing I would suggest is to go to a DJ store, test out every DJ controller that you like that’s within your budget and trust your Instinct.
You don’t have to invest a lot of money in a good DJ controller, but if you do decide to spend lots of money, you will also get a lot back as some of these DJ Controllers I’ve mentioned will last you for many years to come.
Enjoy your rising DJ career!