Best DJ Controllers for Beginners

So you want to be a DJ? At first glance, DJing may look like a very expensive hobby. If you have your eyes on the same setup of your local club’s DJ booth, then you’d be right. However, we all have to start somewhere and the best starting place is with a DJ controller.

In this post, we’re recommending the best DJ controllers for beginners. We’ve included options to fit almost everyone’s budget — from cheap toy-like controllers to sleek hardware that’ll see you through to an intermediate level.

While you could feasibly learn how to DJ with nothing more than your laptop, we encourage everyone to get their hands on a hardware controller of some sort to really grasp many of the techniques. Some controllers make it easier than others, but at the end of the day, any of the options below are great entry points for DJ beginners.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

Pioneer Electronics DDJ-200 2-Channel Smart DJ Controller

The industry standard in terms of DJ booth setups are Pioneer’s CDJs. These bad boys aren’t cheap, so a Pioneer DJ controller is often the best introductory product for those getting started with DJing. The Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 is the best DJ controller for absolute beginners on a budget. It’s an affordable option with all the basic features needed to start mixing — jog wheels, a mixer, and performance pads — from the leading DJ brand.

We recommend this controller for anyone that is brand-new to DJing and wants a low-cost entry into learning the craft. While it won’t take long to outgrow this controller if you stick with the hobby, adding more advanced features would be overwhelming to newbies.

If you have the basics down already or plan to stick with DJing for years to come, we encourage you to keep reading about more feature-filled DJ controllers on this list. Also, this isn’t going to be a good option for gigging, so keep that in mind.

The DDJ-200 works with a handful of DJ software, including Pioneer’s rekordbox and WeDJ (an iOS/Android app aimed at teaching the basics). The other software options include Algoriddim Djay and edjing Mix. Besides rekordbox, all of these software are best suited for beginners.

As this is a barebones DJ controller, it does lack an audio interface. You’ll need to either use the included audio splitter for simultaneous headphone monitoring or invest in an external audio interface.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 14:05 // More Information

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX - DJ Controller For Serato DJ with 4 Deck Control, DJ Mixer, Built-in Audio Interface, Jog Wheel Displays and FX Paddles

When it comes to the best DJ controllers for beginners, Numark’s Mixtrack series has always been a part of the conversation. At the top of the line is the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX model.

This is the first controller on this list that allows you to mix 4 tracks at the same time. This won’t make a huge difference for true beginners, but is a welcome feature for intermediate-level DJs. If you are after a controller that can be grown into a bit, this is a solid option.

The controller comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite. Serato is one of the most popular DJ software options, and the Lite version is a good introduction to that ecosystem.

The jog wheels are a decent size and have high-resolution displays for even more control. As the name suggests, this controller is focused on DJ effects (FX). The paddle switches on the hardware make it easy to navigate Serato’s built-in effects.

If the Platinum FX model falls just outside of your budget, Numark’s Mixtrack Pro FX is a bit cheaper. However, with that cost reduction comes sacrifice. You’ll be giving up features like 4-deck mixing and the high-resolution jog wheel displays.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 16:46 // More Information

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller

The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is Native Instruments’ entry-level Traktor DJ controller. Traktor is one of the most popular DJ software options, and this controller works with both the cross-platform Traktor DJ app (great for beginners) and the full-featured Traktor Pro 3 (included with the hardware).

The controller has a solid build, featuring 2 channels — standard for beginner DJ controllers. Compared to the higher-tier NI Traktor controllers, the S2 has fewer features dedicated to things like FX control and sampling.

The price point of this controller sits a bit higher than some of the other beginner DJ controllers on this list, but the build-quality, design, built-in audio interface, and included professional software license help justify it.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 14:05 // More Information

Roland DJ-202

Roland DJ-202 2-Channel Serato DJ Controller with Drum Machine

Roland isn’t one of the biggest names when it comes to DJ equipment, but the brand rightfully holds its place in the music industry as a whole. The Roland DJ-202 is a great DJ controller for beginners, especially those that are also interested in learning beat production.

The DJ-202 hosts emulations of Roland’s iconic 808, 909, and 707 drum machines. While that is exciting, the lack of features in this lower-end model does make it more difficult to sequence the sounds compared to higher-end Roland controllers like the DJ-505 or DJ-808.

The controller also includes several onboard vocal effects, like a gate, filters, reverb and echo that are attractive for flexing creativity.

The DJ-202 comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite, but is fully mapped for Serato DJ Pro if you choose to upgrade as your skills develop.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 14:05 // More Information

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

Pioneer DJ DJ Controller, Black, (DDJSB3)

If you’re familiar with DJing enough and plan on using Serato as your primary software in the long run, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 is a better option compared to the DDJ-200 model mentioned earlier. While it will cost you a bit more, it offers more intuitive features when paired with Serato software.

The DDJ-SB3 comes with Serato DJ Lite. However, once you have the basics down, you can upgrade the Lite version of the software to Serato DJ Pro for even more advanced features.

Some notable dedicated effect features are the FX Fade for easy transitions and Pad Scratch for adding scratch effects using the Performance Pads. The Pad Scratch function is new to the SB lineup and was co-developed with DJ Jazzy Jeff.

The jog wheels on the DDJ-SB3 are large and offer low latency, so you get great scratch response and accuracy.

To get started with using this controller, you just need to connect your computer via USB. The sound card is built-in — a major difference to the DDJ-200. Ultimately, having a soundcard is rather important, even for beginners.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 14:05 // More Information

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200 Compact DJ Controller + Headphone + Basic Accessory Bundle

To round out this list of the best DJ controllers for beginners is the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200. The Inpulse range of controllers from Hercules has been around for years and specifically targets beginners. While the build-quality of these controllers leaves much to be desired, they get the job done.

Hercules includes its own DJ software called DJUCED, which has video tutorials along with a light guide on the hardware to help newbies learn the basics. While we wouldn’t recommend this software for anyone other than beginners, it is a solid entry point.

We recommend grabbing this controller if you’re shopping for a kid or just want something cheap to have fun with.

Last update on 2024-02-18 at 14:05 // More Information

How to Choose the Best DJ Controller for You

Budget – What is the Maximum Price You Are Willing to Pay?

The price is often a reflection of the quality and feature set of a given DJ controller.

Take into consideration what the maximum price you’re willing to pay for a DJ controller. Think about how long you see yourself sticking with the hobby and whether or not you want to be replacing the controller with a more advanced model as you progress.

If you have some money to spend, it makes more sense to get a controller that can be used by both beginner DJs or intermediate-level DJs. This reduces the need for you to think about upgrading and allows you to grow into it.

If you are on a tight budget, you may need to opt for a controller that doesn’t have as many bells and whistles. At a minimum, it should still have all of the key components to DJ such as channel faders, jog wheels, and basic FX controls.

Purpose – What Do You Need a DJ Controller for?

If you are going to be using a DJ controller, it’s important to know what you need it for.

A DJ controller is an essential piece of equipment for any aspiring DJ. It will allow the user to control the sound and performance of their music. There are many different types of DJ controllers, each with different features and purposes.

For example, a DJ controller with lots of knobs and sliders is best used for live performances because there is more control over the sound that can be changed at any given time.

A DJ controller with many buttons is best used as a mixer instead because there are less knobs to turn while mixing tracks together.

If you’re planning to gig with the controller, you’ll want to ensure your controller has a built-in audio interface, allowing you the flexibility to connect to any speaker system.

Compatibility – Will the DJ Controller Work with Your System?

Compatibility is the most important thing to consider when choosing a DJ controller. The DJ controller has to be compatible with the system that you want to use it with.

The DJ controller will need to have the correct input and output ports, meaning it likely needs to have a USB or MIDI input port and an audio output port. Also make sure you understand if the controller is powered by USB or needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet for power.

In order for your DJ controller to work with any system, it will need a sound card or audio interface as well as drivers for the software that you are using for sequencing, mixing, and playback control.

Finally, consider whether the software included with the controller will work with your computer or mobile device.

Features – Important Technical Specs and Functions That Make a DJ Controller Great

Here are a few of the most important technical specs and functions of DJ controllers to look for when comparing models:

  • Software compatibility
  • Audio input and output jacks
  • Amount and size of knobs, sliders, pads, and jog wheels
  • Portability
  • FX options
  • Build-quality
  • Number of decks
  • Power supply