Today, we look at the 7 Best DJ Controllers For Beginners.
In this modern world of technology, DJing has become easier. Looking back to the days when I learnt to DJ using vinyl records and turntables to today, using a DJ Controller running from a MacBook Pro and DJ Software. It is quicker, easier and less equipment to carry.
I should add – there is nothing wrong with learning the original way with turntables. In fact, you will certainly become a better DJ if you learn the hard way. It will give you more appreciation and better mixing skills. You cannot always rely on tech to work 100% of the time.
So, what are the Best DJ Controllers For Beginners..?
In a rush? Quick Look List
Best DJ Controller for Beginners
Pioneer has been leading the way in DJ equipment for many years now, particularly in DJ Controllers and CDJs.
If you are starting out, but are looking to progress into a professional gig, such as Club, Bar or Lounge, you cannot go wrong with Pioneer.
So, it is no surprise that our choice for the Best DJ Controller for Beginners is the Pioneer DDJ-SB3. It is effectively an entry-level version of their high-end controllers, but still well worth the money.
It comes with the limited version of its DJ Software, Serato DJ Lite. You can upgrade this to the full version, Serato DJ Pro, for just shy of $100, or $10 a month on their subscription.
One slight downside is the single headphone jack ,which only accommodates a 1/8” socket so if your headphones only have a 3.5mm jack you will need an adapter.
It has some great features for its size and price:
- USB Bus Powered: Yes.
- Compatible DJ Software (not included) : Unlocks Serato DJ Lite.
- Paid upgrade to Serato DJ Pro.
- Inputs 1 MIC (1/4 inch Jack)
- USB 1 USB B port
- Outputs 1 MASTER (RCA)
- 1 HEADPHONE MONITOR (Mini-jack)
- Channels : 2 .
- Deck Control : 4 .
- Trim knob : Yes .
- Jog Wheel : 128 mm durable aluminium jog wheel .
- Filter : High & Low Pass filter .
- FX Fade : Yes .
- Pad Scratch : Yes .
- Trans : Yes .
- Hot Cues : 4 .
- Manual Loop & Autoloop: Yes.
Best Runner-Up DJ Controller for Beginners
The Runner-up in the Best DJ Controllers for Beginners is the Pioneer DDJ-400. A close second and another option from Pioneer DJ.
This one comes with Pioneer DJs own software, Rekordbox Pro, but is also fully compatible with Algoriddim’s DJay app for iOS and DJay Pro for PC/Mac.
The DDJ-400 is compact and lightweight, ideal for practising at home, or taking with you in a bag to a gig.
Like the DDJ-SB3, it is a 2-channel controller, allowing you to play 2 tracks simultaneously with its built-in sound card.
The headphone jack is a more common 3.5 mm, and a 1/4” mic jack.
- USB Bus Powered Yes
- Included DJ Software Rekordbox DJ
- Channels 2
- Deck Control 2
- Pad FX Yes
- Sampler 16slot x 4bank
- Hot Cues 8
- Fader Start Yes
- Crossfader Curve Adjust Yes
- Inputs 1 MIC (1/4 inch TS Jack)
- USB 1 USB B port
- 1 MASTER (RCA)
- 1 HEADPHONE MONITOR (Mini-jack)
Best DJ Controller for Usability
My choice for the Best DJ Controller for Usability is the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3. Numark has been a staple in the DJ equipment world for some time, and its products can be found in all areas of the industry.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is enjoyable to use and easy to learn with. It’s straightforward to setup, in fact it’s plug-and-play with both PC and Mac.
The DJ Software included is Serato DJ Lite, which can be upgraded to the Pro version.
It has a good range of features, from trigger pads for various effects and samples.
- Dedicated Filter Knobs For Each Channel
- Multi-function Touch Strip For Dynamic FX Control And Track Search
- 16 Multi-function Performance Pads
- All-new High Resolution Metal Jog Wheels
- Dual 5” Hyper-responsive Metal Platters
- Multiple FX Manipulation
- Includes Serato DJ Intro (Upgrade Available For Full Version Of Serato DJ)
- Includes Prime Loop Remix Tool Kit
- Dedicated Track Browsing Controls From Your Library
- Integrated Class Compliant Audio Interface With 1/4″ and 1/8″ Headphone Connections
- Controller Type: Mixer/Decks
- Channels: 2
- Platters: 2 x Dual Zone Touch-Sensitive
- Faders: 2 x Volume, 2 x Tempo/Pitch
- Crossfader: 1 x Master
- Rotary Encoders: 14 (Including Transport)
- Touch Sensitive Strips: 2
- Pads: 16 Multi-Function Performance Pads
- Buttons: 26
- Audio Interface: 4 Channel
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4″ Microphone
- Outputs: 2 x Stereo RCA, 2 x Headphones (1/4″ and 1/8″)
- USB: 1 x Type B
Best Value For Money DJ Controller
The Best Value for Money and the Best Budget DJ Controller in the is the Traktor S2 MK3 by Native Instruments.
The 2-channel DJ Controller is supplied complete with Native Instrument’s Traktor Pro 3 DJ Software. Not only that, you will also have the option to use Traktor DJ 2, which works with Mac, Windows and iPad.
Traktor S2 MK3 has some great features with its large jog wheels and dedicated mixer allowing you to add some impressive effects to your mixes. You can also trigger samples and loops with the 16 built-in RGB pads.
It is a 2-channel controller, allowing you to play 2 tracks simultaneously with its built-in sound card.
The headphone jack is a more common 3.5mm, and a 1/4” mic jack.
- New large (14 cm / 5.5″) smooth precision jog wheels with two modes:
- 1. Jog mode: Classic spin-to-nudge function, as well as scratch capability
- 2. Beatgrid adjust mode: Use the jog wheel to manually adjust beatgrid in TRAKTOR
- Club-standard layout with identical deck design, 2-channel mixer, and fast control of key TRAKTOR features
- 16 RGB pads for triggering Hotcues, loops, or samples
- 3-band EQs with modelling of industry standard mixer EQs
- New Mixer FX for instant one-knob FX and filter control on each channel. Choose from eight FX and three filter types to assign to four hardware FX slots
- Pro Mixer Layout with redesigned monitoring section and four dedicated slots for Mixer FX plus filters
- Full version of TRAKTOR PRO 3 included
- Connectivity: 44.1/48 kHz / 24-bit audio interface, mic input (1/4″ / 6.3 mm TRS), headphone out (1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS), 2x stereo main out (line and 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS), USB port, iOS port, 12V DC.
- Powered via USB 2.0 or with optional power supply unit.
Best DJ Controller for Build Quality
Next, we move onto the Best Build Quality in the Best DJ Controllers for Beginners. And for that, you can’t go wrong with the Denon DJ MC4000. While it is still lightweight like the other finalists, it sports a sleek, steel design, both eye-catching and durable. Though this is only the top section – the rest of the unit is plastic.
The DJ MC4000 comes boxed with Serato DJ Lite (upgradable to Serato DJ Pro), but it is also compatible with Traktor 2, Algoriddim djay Pro and Virtual DJ 8.
The Denon DJ MC4000 is another 2-channel mixer, with two output choices: balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA.
Unlike most entry-level controllers, the Denon boasts two microphone inputs, each with a 2-band EQ control. And it has two headphone inputs for either 1/4-inch or 1/8-inch jacks.
- Premium 2-Deck controller for Serato
- Includes Serato DJ Intro; user-upgradeable to Serato DJ
- Touch-activated jog wheels for accurate scratching and track cueing
- Dedicated hot-cue and sample trigger pads with illuminated feedback
- Long-throw, 100mm pitch faders
- All-new control layout for effortless, intuitive use
- Dedicated EQ and FX controls on each channel
- (2) balanced mic inputs with 2-band EQ, Ducking, and Echo effect
- Compatible with Traktor 2 (via .tsi files) and Virtual DJ 8
- RCA Aux input for external device mixing
- Balanced Main and Booth Outputs
- Pro-grade steel construction
Best DJ Controller for Bedroom DJs
Winning the category for Best DJ Controllers for Bedroom DJs is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-WEGO4-K. It is lightweight, compact and fairly basic in design, but is still a great piece of kit. The DDJ-WEGO4-K is an excellent choice for the beginner DJ looking for something versatile enough to practice in their bedroom, but also put it in a backpack and take it to DJ a house party or gig.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-WEGO4-K has a built-in sound card to power its 2 channels. The DJ software packaged with this are Rekordbox DJ and Virtual DJ LE. It is also designed to work seamlessly with tablets and smartphones, using WeDJ, Djay 2, Vjay and Traktor Pro 2.
- Connects easily with multiple devices
- Supports WeDJ app and bundled rekordbox dj
- Clear, intuitive controls
- Professional FX and performance features
- PC Master Out – use computer’s speaker for master out and controller for headphones
- Compact design with a choice of colours
- High-quality, powerful sound
- Mic input circuit for clear audio, even at high volume
- Built-in sound card for easy connection to PC/Mac with a single USB cable
Best Overall DJ Controller for Beginners
If you have the budget and the desire to start as you mean to go on, look no further than the Best Overall DJ Controller for Beginner DJs. Ladies and gentlemen, we present the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2.
Unlike any of our other offers in the list, the DDJ-SZ2 is a 4-channel controller, meaning you can play up to 4 tracks at once. Plus, it has 2, yes TWO sound cards enabling 2 computers/laptops to be attached at the same time – so if you need to handover to another DJ with their own laptop it can be achieved without any pause in music.
It is packed full with features, thanks to its dedicated Serato DJ Pro integration. There is almost nothing you need your laptop for, other than the screen, the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 can control it all.
- High Quality Sound
- Bundled with Serato DJ
- Aluminium-Finished Top Panel & Jog Wheels
- New OSC FX – Noise, Drop, Laser and Siren
- Create and Save Hot-Cue Sequences with the Dedicated Serato Flip Controls
- Dual USB Port for Dual Change Overs
- Phono & Line Inputs
- Channels: 4
- Deck Control: 4/Dual
- CD/Line x 4 (RCA)
- Phono x 2 (RCA)
- MIC x 2 (XLR & ¼-inch TRS Jack x 1, ¼-inch TRS Jack x 1
- Master Out x 2 (RCA x 1, XLR x 1),
- Booth Out x 1 (¼-inch Stereo Phone Jack)
- Headphone Monitor Out x 2 (Front ¼-inch TRS Jack, 3.5 mm Stereo Mini Jack)
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose my first DJ controller?
There are a few things to look out for when looking for your first DJ Controller. And this may vary, depending on your level of experience – If you are used to DJing on vinyl turntables or CDJs, you may be more particular about the look and feel of the controller, the jog wheels/platters and the layout of the mixer section. If you are a complete beginner, you may overlook some basic features in favour of an affordable piece of equipment.
Budget – It is important to set a budget that you can afford, but when you do your research, if you find that what you really want is a little more than you currently have, try to save the extra for it rather than making do.
Features – Have a look at some YouTube or other review videos and figure out what features and controls you will want and actually use, such as performance pads, effects controls, scratch modes etc.
Jogwheels – The platters need to be of good quality, responsive and useable. There are some great looking controllers out there but have small jog wheels that just aren’t practical. Make sure they have the ability to beat-match, pitch-adjust and scroll through the track.
Inputs/Outputs – The basic requirement is a USB port to connect your computer or laptop, a suitable output to connect to your speakers and at least a headphone socket. Having a number of ports for each is even better as it should last you longer. Think about if you are planning on using a microphone – or multiple mics, an additional music source – an iPad or MP3 player, and consider the size and number of headphone jacks.
Number of Channels – Something easy to overlook is how many channels a controller has. A basic DJ controller will generally have two channels. You need one channel per track being played at a time. Plan ahead – if you are looking to progress, you may want four channels in the future, so you may end having to upgrade your entire controller in the future.
DJ Software – Check what software the controller is bundled with and if it is something you have used before or heard good or bad reviews about. If you want a particular controller but a different software, see if it is compatible. You can usually MIDI-Map a controller to work with a software that is not ‘compatible’ but this can be very difficult.
What is the best cheapest DJ controller?
This is a tough question and almost contradicting. As with any equipment, quality costs and cheap is not usually best. That being said, if you look for the best available for your budget there are some great options around. Don’t be afraid to look for used controllers from reputable stores or friends – just make sure you carry out due diligence first.
In our review, The Best Value for Money Controller is the Traktor S2 MK3 by Native Instruments.
What do I need to buy to start Djing?
We have a whole article on this question, but in brief, you will need;
- DJ Controller – or – Turntables and a Mixer
Depending on the type of DJ you are, or want to be, you may need more or less equipment. A Mobile DJ will need the most amount of equipment – usually a whole setup with lights, DJ booth and stands, whereas a Club DJ will generally need the least – sometimes just a USB stick with music, or a laptop, or a laptop and controller.
Do I need a mixer with my DJ controller?
A DJ Controller, as we have been reviewing and comparing in this article, is a dual playout system with integrated mixer. It allows the DJ to play and control two or more tracks, mix and fade between them, all in one piece of equipment. No additional mixer is needed. You can plug in the same things to a controller as you would a traditional, standalone mixer.
How hard is it to learn to DJ?
This depends on your understanding or definition of a DJ, or what particular skillset you are hoping to achieve. The basic description of a DJ is someone who plays recorded music for an audience. That part is relatively easy, but I imagine you want a bit more than to just stand in front of a crowd, playing one song after the other, you may want to learn how to mix, beat-match or scratch. Again, this depends on the type of DJ you want to be, and what equipment you hope to use.
There are simple instructions available online, YouTube videos, online courses and even DJ Schools you can attend to learn your craft. How difficult it is, is determined by your ability to pick things up, your individual learning style and, obviously, the quality of the instruction you receive. The more time you can dedicate to practicing will also have a huge benefit, especially if you have equipment at home that you can practice on.
Conclusion - Best DJ Controllers For Beginners
Hopefully we have given you at least somewhere to start to look for a Beginner DJ Controller. There are so many factors and choices out there, and only you know what is right for you. My best bit of advice would be to get an idea of what you want – maybe 3 or 4 choices – and go to your local DJ store/showroom and ask if you can try them. Don’t feel pressured into buying there and then, but do see what the best price they will offer you before making up your mind.
As I mentioned earlier, a DJ controller is quite an investment and something you will (hopefully) use a lot, so make sure you do your research. Buy a controller that will last you a good few years, even if it seems like it has more features than you will use to begin with.