Some mix music as a hobby and some do it professionally. Whatever your motivation is, doing the job right is fundamental. In the digitized era that we live in, different software like Ableton makes mixing music a breeze. But for the enthusiastic ones, using software just doesn’t cut it.
This is where DJ controllers come into play. For professional DJs, a good quality controller is crucial for success. The market is flooded with all kinds of DJ controllers, and finding the right one for you can often be a challenge.
That is why we have done some research to give you a comprehensive list of the best DJ controllers in 2021. Once you find the DJ controller you like the best, consider checking out some professional DJ headphones as well.
Quick glance at the best dj controllers:
This is a two-channel DJ controller for both beginners and professional DJs. It is compatible with both a Mac and PC. The package includes Serato DJ Lite, a free mixing software. The Numark Party Mix DJ Controller Set features a crossfader, large jog, and other crucial DJ essentials.
The integrated lights are one of the finest features of this DJ controller. It has a built-in light show that you can use to astonish your friends or the party peeps. The lights auto-sync with the music, which is a neat feature for wild party lovers.
This spectacular DJ controller comes with onboard audio. Before, setting up a DJ controller was way more complicated than it is now. But with the 1/8-inch headphone output and a 1/8-inch main output, you can utilize all the audio interfaces, mixers, and speakers from the control panel.
The Numark Party Mix DJ Controller Set is a very portable option if you are on the go. It packs all the controls you can ask for, including cue points, sample playbacks, manual looping, etc. It is a USB controller that ensures instant inputs and outputs.
The Pioneer DDJSB3 DJ Controller is packed with all the DJ essentials. It is an ideal controller for beginners. It comes with two-channel controllers, and all the buttons are intuitively placed. It might be targeted toward beginners, but it has a professional layout. The package also comes with Serato DJ Lite.
The Pad Scratch Function makes the transition between tracks a walk in the park. You don't even have to touch the turntables for the scratch effects sections. It allows you to recreate DJ Jazzy Jeff's scratch records without breaking the rhythm of your current song.
There are two large jog wheels for your preferred scratch response. The overall package is very compact, but the large jogs are enough to give you effortless control over your mix. The FX Fade feature integrated into this controller allows you to mix tracks like a pro, even from two separate genres.
On top of it all, the build quality of the Pioneer DDJSB3 DJ Controller is off the charts. The aluminum wheels, robust audio circuits inside, and all the buttons feel premium and durable. You can take it anywhere without fear of damaging the equipment.
This is another DJ controller on our list from Numark – the DJ2GO2 Touch DJ controller, an innovative USB mixer for all you DJs out there. The large jog is touch-sensitive, and it is one of the most portable controllers you can get your hands on. It comes with Serato DJ Lite, and it is entirely upgradable to the full version.
But the scopes are not limited to Serato DJ. You can choose any platform you are comfortable with because it is MIDI mappable with any software platform. It has a low-profile appearance designed to provide portability. It's plug and play to both Mac and PC.
The dimensions might be small, but the Numark DJ2GO2 Touch DJ Controller is packed with all the features you need. With a 1/8-inch headphone output along with a main output, crossfader, jog wheels, and faders, the DJ2GO2 has everything you can hope for.
Four pad modes give you the ultimate control over your tracks. As for the tracks, the integrated Serato Lite allows you to use millions of tracks with only a few clicks. It supports major platforms like SoundCloud and TIDAL.
The Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ Controller is one of the most feature-rich mixers on our list. It is also the best value for money, in our opinion. It has a club-style layout with a built-in sound card and is powered by USB. Unlike the previous controllers, this one comes with a Rekordbox 5.3 license.
Dedicated cue buttons, CDJ-style loop controls, and Beat FX features make it stand out among the competition. At this price range, it is unbelievable how well designed the controller is. Beat FX allows you to put effects on your current track without breaking a sweat.
Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ Controller runs on both Mac and PC. It is very portable despite packing a lot of features, knobs, and two huge jog wheels. It has grab handles that you can use to carry it around with you.
The unique output method allows you to listen to your creation with both internal and external sources such as speakers. Moreover, you can connect headphones to get independent output that you can use to cue your tracks. For outputs, it has a master RCA and a headphone monitor mini jack. You can use these controllers as studio monitors as well.
The Hercules DJControl Starlight DJ Controller is one of the best beginner DJ controllers. It is extremely portable. The package comes with Serato DJ Lite, the perfect entryway to the DJ world. You can upgrade to the full version if you want as well. The DJ controller features internal sound cards that allow you to listen to your tracks before playing them out loud. A pair of DJ headphones are also included in the package, making it a great deal for beginners.
The wheels are pressure-sensitive, the first of its kind on our list. You can blend all your scratch effects with these wheels – it might be the best DJ controller for scratching. There is bass and filter EQ that you can use to adjust the levels with ease. It is a 2-channel controller device with all the MIDI controls.
While the Hercules DJControl Starlight DJ Controller comes with Serato DJ Lite, it is fully compatible with other sound mixing software.
Another highlight of this DJ controller is its stroboscopic RGB pads. There are seven default modes directly connected to the Serato software, allowing you to sync the lights with the music automatically.
Pioneer has been an industry leader with its top-of-the-line audio products. This one is a DJ controller suitable for pro-level DJs. The layout has all the essentials a seasoned DJ might need. It is compatible with smartphones as well as Mac and PC. You can play tracks remotely on this controller.
It is a very compact controller despite it being a pro software DJ controller. It connects to your PC via USB, or you can connect it to your smartphone with Bluetooth. Any streaming-compatible DJ software or mobile app is suitable for needle search.
The Pioneer ProDDJ200 Smart DJ Controller has a headphone splitter that you can use to connect both headphones and speakers at the same time. Both use 3.5mm jacks, meaning you cannot use RCA cables.
This is not a problem if you have an AUX compatible speaker. The gain is controlled through the software on this controller. You will not find any knobs on the controller itself, so be aware that you look at the levels before you play your tracks. A good idea is to use the controller as studio monitors to get a feel for them.
Native Instruments is another brand known for its high-quality DJ controllers. The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller is great for beginner DJs. The package comes with the full version of the Traktor Pro 3 software.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller is perfect for beginners and intermediate DJs. It's lightweight, but it feels serious while handling. The jog wheels are slightly bigger than what you would expect from entry-level controllers. The wheels don't have Haptic Feedback like high-end ones, but they are very responsive and decent for all DJ activities.
The buttons are made of plastic but feel nice to touch. There are two sets of performance pads, each containing eight of them. You will find the pitch faders and touch strips on the right side of these pads. It is a 2-channel deck with features like crossfader, touch strips, gain controls, and FX.
The software it uses by default is the Traktor Pro software. It is a very powerful software for even the pros, but it's equally complicated to use. Once you master the art of Traktor Pro 3, sound mixing will become easy.
This is another entry from Hercules. The Hercules Universal DJ Controller might be a perfect fit for all DJ activities. It has Bluetooth connectivity meaning you can play tracks from your smartphone. The app is seamlessly integrated to work with all devices.
The unique feature of the Hercules Universal DJ Controller is its three modes of connectivity. The laptop mode, the multiscreen mode, and the tablet mode. All these modes have their perks. You can use the USB connection as well as the Bluetooth connection on the multiscreen mode. The desktop software and the mobile app work in harmony.
The controller has two separate remix decks equipped with two pressure sensitive jog wheels. You know it is a professional DJ controller when there are pressure sensitive wheels. The built-in audio interfaces include an external mic input, a speaker output, and a headphone output.
There are 16 trigger pads, split into sets of two over the jog wheels. It is a compact unit covered in buttons and knobs to give you the best control. The wheels have a metal surface, while the decks have a scratch-brushed finish. The lights on the buttons come in very handy when you need to find one in the dark.
The Roland DJ-202 Two-Channel DJ Controller is a piece of art. Roland is one of the top tier brands that make state of the art musical instruments. This DJ controller is one of them, and it contains all the signs of true mastery by the manufacturer.
Roland has managed to cram all the professional features into a portable unit. It is a two-channel, four-deck mixer with the Roland Drum Machine Legacy incorporated. Whether it is the TR-808's earth breaking boom or TR-909's iconic high-hat sound quality, the DJ-202 can reproduce all of it. It is a full-on drum machine that you can carry with you.
A single USB powers this four-deck Roland DJ-202 Two-Channel DJ Controller. The platters are low latency, an absolute necessity for a professional DJ. It comes with Serato DJ Lite to control all your hot cues, loops, and samples. You can switch between the remix decks with a click of a button.
The jog wheels are top of the line, in a traditional Roland manner. They are not the largest you can find, but they are built for precision. However, the pitch faders are short and velocity-sensitive on this one, a common problem with entry-level top DJ controllers.
The Gemini G4V Professional DJ Controller is a two-deck, four channel DJ controller available in two variants. One is the conventional 2-channel while the other one is 4-channel for the professionals out there. It is a very portable unit, suitable for DJs who are always on the move.
The 3-band equalizer opens the door for infinite combinations of sound mixing. Each of the channels on this controller comes with a dedicated gain and filter control. There are hotkeys for cues, manual looping, auto-looping, sampler, etc.
The jog wheels on this mixer, multi-function trigger pads, and the rotary controls are touch sensitive. All the buttons are backlit to aid you in the dark. The included LCD screen on the DJ MIDI controller is a very nice touch to visualize what you are dealing with.
The Gemini G4V Professional DJ Controller comes with AUX RCA line input, XLR and RCA master outputs, RCA booth output, and a ¼-inch headphone output. Each of the decks contains eight performance pads. You will also find a deck switch button, four FX knobs, four mode buttons, a long pitch fader, and plenty of other options on the controller.
If it is your first time buying a DJ controller, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed with all the terminology and specifications. We know that choosing a DJ controller is hard. So, we will cover a few features that you should look for before you get one.
Software plays a big role for any DJ. At the end of the day, all the features on a controller are supposed to control the software. A mixing software does the job of utilizing all the features. While most DJ controllers are MIDI-assignable – meaning they can work with any software – finding the right blend is key.
For example, for a controller that offers light sync with the music, you must use the right software package. Experiment with different software to find which one works best for you.
Another important aspect to consider while buying a DJ controller is connectivity. How many inputs and outputs does it have? Are they compatible with your speakers? Can you use it with your phone? Getting the right mix of inputs and outputs is crucial to get the sound quality you are after.
The purpose you are buying a DJ mixer controller for matters when making the purchase. If you are a professional DJ, investing in a high-resolution controller would be better. Or, if you are just learning and thinking about getting into the industry, opt for entry-level controllers to build up the basics. If you plan to move around a lot with your controller, a sturdy build quality is the way to go.
Most importantly, your budget matters. There are hundreds of DJ controllers available at any given price range. It ultimately comes down to whether you are getting the value for your money. It is always better to evaluate your needs before spending top dollar on a controller. Spend money where it matters. Once your requirements are locked down, you can tweak the budget to fit a few more features in if necessary.
A: A DJ controller is essentially a control panel for your DJ software. The controllers are equipped with buttons, knobs, wheels, performance RGB pads, touch strips, etc., that let you control the software externally. DJ controllers are targeted for professionals or aspiring DJs to give them the flexibility to show their creativity during a live performance. A DJ software can be controlled via a MIDI keyboard, but it does not offer the same convenience as a DJ controller.
Q: What are some other things I need for my DJ career?
A: If you have decided on the DJ controller, it’s time to take things further. You’ll need a pair of headphones to monitor your track before you channel them to the loudspeakers. Most modern DJ controllers provide headphone support.
You will also need a laptop to run your DJ software. Usually, DJ applications are lightweight, and they don’t draw too much system resources. So, you are good to go with a medium quality laptop. If you are planning to have the controller inside a studio, desktops work just fine.
A: Jog wheels are the large round shapes that you see on every DJ controller. Usually, there are two of them. These are used to scratch the track. It’s connected to the DJ software playing the track, and you can control the speed of the track, move it forward or backward, and hot cues with jog wheel movements.
A: DJ controllers come with channel mixing features – two of them in most cases.
A: Serato is the producer of the most used DJ software, Serato DJ. It comes in a Lite version and a Pro software version.
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