As with any profession, having the right tools is crucial to succeeding as a DJ. A high-quality DJ controller is the key to perfecting your sound. By providing a seamless mixing experience and allowing you to flex your creative muscles, a good controller is an investment that will up your DJ game.
My main recommended DJ controller is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800. This portable unit offers a club-style layout with popular features from the DDJ-1000 while still being compact and lightweight for easy transportation between gigs.
My second recommended DJ controller is the Numark DJ2GO2 Touch. It is an affordable, pocket-sized solution that features touch-capacitive jog wheels. It’s also lightweight, portable, and a great choice for beginner DJs.
I’ll cover a range of prices, from budget-friendly options for beginners to high-end models for professionals. I’ve assessed each controller’s design, functionality, connectivity, software, and compatibility with popular DJ software. Through this evaluation, I’ve highlighted the standout features of each controller to help you make an informed decision.
A DJ controller gives you so much more control over your mix. The ability to loop and manipulate tracks on the fly is a game-changer. And the fact that it’s all conveniently packaged in one piece of equipment makes transportation to gigs so much easier.
- The Best DJ Controllers (2023) – At a Glance
- 1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-800
- 2. Numark DJ2GO2 Touch
- 3. RANE ONE
- 4. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
- 5. Denon DJ SC LIVE 4
- 6. Roland DJ-202
- 7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3
- 8. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
- 9. Roland DJ-505
- 10. Reloop Mixon 4
- Key Features and Specs to Look for in a DJ Controller
- Buyers Guide
- Understanding DJ Controllers
- Types of DJ Controllers
- DJ Software Compatibility
- Try Before You Buy and Additional Resources
The Best DJ Controllers (2023) – At a Glance
Let’s look at them in more detail:
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-800’s LCD jog display is a big step forward for DJs, putting the club-style NXS2 setup into a small, easy-to-carry 2-channel mixer. I like that it features top-quality materials and parts. You can also customize the display to see important details like BPM, waveforms, and more, making mixing easier.
- Great deck with club-style layout
- Portable and lighter than DDJ-1000
- Customizable Color LCD On Jog Display
- Feedback reducer for microphones
- Audio mixer feature for external sources
- Lacking Serato support
- Rekordbox software is not as user-friendly as other DJ software
With this device, you won’t struggle with cue points anymore! The DDJ-800 comes with 16 colorful performance pads that let you do more when you’re on stage or practicing. The Page function helps you quickly find 16 hot cues per deck, making your work smoother, and the eye-catching colors make your shows more aesthetic.
Additionally, you won’t have any annoying microphone feedback due to the smart feedback reducer. I really like this helpful feature because it finds and lowers unwanted feedback, so your DJ sets have clean vocals. Plus, the mixer can blend audio from other sources, which means you can create one-of-a-kind performances.
- Design: 2-deck USB DJ Control Surface
- Display: LCD Jog Display
- Pads: 16 Multicolor Performance Pads
- Power Source: Corded Electric
The Numark DJ2GO2 Touch is compact and lightweight, making transportation and setup a breeze for mobile DJs and novices. Its portability and adaptability are something I really like, as it seamlessly fits into any DJ setup and has lit-up controls, ideal for gigs with different lighting conditions.
- Portable and lightweight design
- Compatible with Serato DJ Lite & other DJ software
- Touch-capacitive jog wheels for precise control
- 2 deck mixing with crossfader, pitch faders, and performance pads
- Suitable for beginners or as a backup controller
- The plastic build may not be as durable as higher-priced options
- No EQ knobs, limiting sound control
- Micro USB and 1/8″ connectors may not be suitable for all setups
Enjoy a smooth and accurate show with the controller’s touch-sensitive jog wheels, which mimic the feel of traditional DJ turntables. Its dual-deck features, including a crossfader and pitch faders, enable professional mixing, blending, and scratching for smooth set transitions.
This controller comes with Serato DJ Lite pre-installed, providing instant access to many professional DJ functions. Additionally, MIDI mapping compatibility allows for easy configuration with well-known programs such as Virtual DJ, ensuring versatility across different DJ platforms.
- Design: 2-deck USB DJ Controller
- Material: Plastic
- Compatibility: Mac & PC
- Pads: 8 backlit pads; 4 pad modes
RANE ONE’s motorized 7.2-inch platters, excellent build quality, and removable acrylic disks provide a genuine vinyl feel that is hard to find in modern DJ controllers. I really like how DJs can customize the high/low torque motors, allowing them to adjust the deck’s responsiveness.
- Motorized platters for traditional vinyl feel
- Durable, high-quality build
- Great sound quality
- Seamless Serato DJ Pro integration
- 16 multi-function performance pads
- Dedicated loop section for track control
- No sampler volume control knob
- Heavy compared to other controllers
- A slight learning curve for beginners
These motorized platters combine the enjoyable feel of spinning real records with advanced technology. Another plus for the RANE ONE is the dual metal paddles, which enable quick activation of six FX within the integrated Serato DJ Pro mixer. These paddles make it easy to control sound manipulation, making it a great choice for an intuitive layout and versatile performance.
The RANE ONE should satisfy all needs of DJs who desire versatility in workflow and software options. It is incredibly durable, offers great sound quality, seamless Serato DJ Pro integration, has 16 multi-function performance pads, and has lots of other useful features that make mixing a breeze.
- Design: 2-deck Motorized DJ Controller
- Pads: 16 multi-function performance pads
- Features: 3-Band EQ, LP/HP Filter Control, and channel faders
- Connectivity Options: 2 USB laptop connections, switchable phono/line input, balanced XLR main and booth outputs, RCA main output
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 has large, precise jog wheels. At 14 cm in diameter, they provide better control and accuracy for mixing and scratching. I like how you can easily nudge tracks with spin-to-nudge or adjust beat grids with a twist. These jog wheels give DJs a familiar tactile feel with increased precision.
- More features than competing controllers at this price point
- Great for beginners and small gigs
- Hardware build quality is good
- Sensitive buttons with quick response
- User-friendly and easy to learn
- Portable and good for on-the-go use
- Build quality feels cheap
- Limited FX options
- Does not work with other DJ programs, only Native Instruments software
This DJ controller resembles the club-standard design. It has the same deck design as professional setups, a two-channel mixer for blending audio, and quick access to essential TRAKTOR functions. This controller allows you to mix tracks like industry pros, despite its affordable price tag.
I’m a fan of the controller’s 16 RGB pads, letting you easily trigger hot cues, loops, and samples. These pads ensure you always have control over your set and can remix tracks on-the-fly. The controller also features high-quality headphone output, 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, and minimal crosstalk for an impressive audio mixing experience.
- Design: Club-standard 2-Channel Mixer
- Pads: 16 RGB Trigger pads
- Features: 3-band EQs, Headphone output, Jog mode
- Material: Plastic
Think of controlling a powerful 4-Deck Standalone DJ Controller without needing a computer! This impressive system uses Engine DJ OS to make your performances professional and polished. With special Layer buttons, a club-style layout, and huge library access, you won’t need a laptop for your mixing sessions.
- Affordable standalone DJ controller
- Access to 100 million CD-quality songs on Amazon Music
- 7″ touchscreen for easy browsing and track selection
- Built-in speakers for convenient, portable practice
- 17 internal FX for creative mixing
- 4-deck capability for versatile mixing options
- No Bluetooth connection to speakers
- Crossfader may leak after minimal use
Improve your mixing with this one-of-a-kind DJ system that easily connects with both Denon DJ and Amazon Music Unlimited. This gives you command over more than 100 million CD-quality songs! Plus, it includes a free trial so you can explore this vast music library before deciding.
The Denon DJ SC LIVE 4 has an advanced 7″ touchscreen, designed for easy browsing of your music library and track selection. Add professional connection options like 2 microphone inputs, XLR and RCA main outputs, and a 1/4″ booth output for computer-free shows that look as good as they sound.
- Design: 4-Deck Standalone DJ Controller
- Display: 7-inch multi-gesture touchscreen
- Compatibility: Serato DJ Pro & Virtual DJ
- Connectivity: Microphone Ins, XLR/RCA/Booth Out
At the core of a fantastic DJ setup is its ability to deliver top-quality audio that blends smoothly. With excellent 24-bit/48 kHz audio fidelity, the Roland DJ-202 meets that standard. Its USB-powered functionality and RCA connection type provide clear sound, enhancing your mixes and capturing your audience’s attention.
- Comes with Serato DJ Pro
- Easy setup and intuitive layout
- Compact, lightweight, and portable
- Large, low-latency platters for effective scratching
- Great entry-level DJ controller
- High build quality
- Built-in pattern recorder not intuitive for all users
- The learning curve for beginners
- Stiff pads
Having easy access to famous Roland drum kits like the TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606 is thrilling. The controller’s built-in ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) technology allows you to enjoy authentic drum tones and produce diverse drum programming with eight unique sounds per TR kit, perfect for a captivating performance.
The Roland DJ-202 not only makes managing your mixes simple, but it also has a sturdy, lightweight, and compact design that’s great for DJs on the go. With handy grab handles and a lightweight design, it’s travel-friendly, ensuring you can give an impressive performance wherever you are.
- Design: 2-channel, 4-deck controller
- Power: USB-powered
- Built-in Drum Kits: Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606
- Included Software: Free Serato DJ Pro
7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3
The motorized jog wheels on the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 are game-changing, offering amazing haptic feedback. The three haptic feedback modes – Turntable, Jog, and Beat grid – allow a special touch-based interaction with your music.
- Great for beginners and experienced musicians
- Large motorized jog wheels with haptic feedback
- High-resolution color displays
- New Mixer FX for instant one-knob effects and filters
- 16 RGB pads for triggering Hot cues, loops, or samples
- Compact and innovative design
- Limited MIDI support
- Smaller in size than expected
- Glitchy software and hardware; requiring updates
- A bit pricey
An impressive part of the Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is the bright high-resolution screens, which show important track details and make controlling your music very easy. With deck rotation visuals and an RGB LED ring, you can immerse yourself in the mix while easily finding songs, improving your performance.
The adjustable crossfader curve and 16 vibrant RGB pads set it apart from others. You can quickly use hot cues, loops, or samples, and modify the performance to fit your style. I like the professional mixer design, strong Carbon Protect faders, and user-friendly USB Hardware Interface, making this controller suited for your DJ needs.
- Design: 4-channel, 4-deck DJ controller
- Screen: Dual Color Displays
- Pads: 16 RGB Pads
- Compatibility: Mac & PC
8. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 stands out because of its customizable color LCD screens on the jog displays. It has full-sized jog wheels and professional construction. The bright screens in the middle of each wheel help you see important track details, like BPM and waveforms, no matter the lighting conditions. This keeps performances smooth and confident.
- High-quality build and professional layout
- Full-sized jog wheels for great scratch response
- Customizable color LCD on jog display screens
- Enhanced performance with 14 Beat FX and 16 Performance Pads
- 4-input flexibility for CDJs or turntables
- Requires a computer with a compatible OS
- Not suitable for complete beginners
A key feature of this controller is its easy-to-use layout, similar to the NXS2 setup. This design helps DJs feel comfortable using the controls, allowing more focus on entertaining the crowd and delivering fluid sets.
The controller’s Magvel Fader combines durability and precision, perfect for professional DJs who use their equipment often. The improved jog wheel and crossfader operations provide accurate mixes for impressive audience experiences. But, that being said, it does stand on the pricier side of controllers, however, it does offer a lot!
- Design: 4-channel, 4-deck DJ controller
- Screen: Color LCD Screens
- Pads: 16 back-lit rubber Performance Pads
- Compatibility: Mac & PC
The Roland DJ-505 is a well-rounded controller that features famous drum kits from Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606. Thanks to the advanced ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) technology, you have excellent sound quality that brings your music to life. This controller is great for professional DJs or those who want to expand their musical skills.
- Good sound quality
- Intuitive and responsive design
- Easy installation and software download
- Built-in drum machine with legendary Roland sounds
- Large, low-latency platters optimized for scratching
- Comes with full Serato DJ software and all expansion packs
- The plastic build feels cheap
- Lack of touch strip
- A bit pricey
This controller is very easy-to-use with dedicated sections for convenience. You have large, low-latency platters made specifically for performances. With the eight different pad controls for Serato DJ Pro, like hot cue, roll, slicer, modern pattern, and sampler modes, you can explore new possibilities in your mixes.
Enhance your DJ sets with this controller’s various features, such as a built-in microphone input for live singing or external instruments, along with Vocal FX. The controller also works as an independent mixer and offers input options for turntables or CD players, making it easier to personalize your setup.
- Design: 2-channel, 4-deck DJ Controller
- Pads: 16 Velocity-sensitive multi-color pads
- Sequencer: 16-step sequencer
- Compatibility: Mac & PC
10. Reloop Mixon 4
The Reloop Mixon 4 is a cutting-edge hybrid DJ controller that works with both djay and Serato DJ software, making it very adaptable for DJs. It can be used with iOS, Android, PC, and Mac devices, ensuring no technical barriers.
- Seamless integration with Spotify and Djay Pro 2
- Solid performance and build quality
- Works well with iOS, iPad Pro, and Mac
- 16 RGB, velocity-sensitive drum pads for various modes
- Charges device while in use
- Surprisingly lightweight for its size
- Buttons may feel cheap and wonky
- No aux input or dedicated cable for newer iPad Pro models with USB-C
- Microphone input lacking mute switch, EQ, and gain
- A bit pricey
A unique feature of the Mixon 4 is its iPad Pro dock, which can hold an iPad up to 12.9 inches. This lets you easily control your mix with an iPad, while the USB/OTG connections make it compatible with both computers and Android devices.
I appreciate the Mixon 4’s smooth Spotify integration and user-friendly design, giving you access to over 30 million songs for limitless creativity. The controller has 16 colorful, touch-sensitive drum pads with different performance modes, and the innovative Pitch Play mode adds extra excitement.
- Design: 4-channel DJ Controller
- Compatibility: iOS/Android/PC/Mac
- Pads: 16 color-coded pads
- Inputs/outputs: XLR, 1/4″ jack booth, 2 x RCA out, 2 x headphones, 2 x inputs
Key Features and Specs to Look for in a DJ Controller
Compatibility, durability, and portability, as well as channels & controls, are among the key consideration points when choosing the right DJ controller. Assessing your budget, skills, and preferred use also factor in making an informed decision.
Compatibility with your preferred DJ software
Compatibility with your preferred DJ software is a crucial consideration when choosing the best DJ controller for your needs. While most controllers on the market are designed to work seamlessly with popular software such as Serato DJ, Traktor, and Rekordbox, it is essential to confirm that the controller you’re interested in is compatible with your preferred software.
For example, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 comes with plug-and-play functionality and Rekordbox DJ support, making it an excellent choice for DJs who want to use Rekordbox. Similarly, the RANE ONE is designed specifically for use with Serato DJ Pro, showcasing its compatibility with the most commonly used DJ software.
Build quality and durability
Build quality and durability are crucial factors when considering a DJ controller, as your investment should be able to withstand the rigors of repeated use and transportation. High-quality materials and construction are essential not only for physical integrity but also for preserving the controller’s audio performance.
For instance, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 offers a robust build with a professional and portable setup, while the RANE ONE boasts a durable design with motorized 7” turntable platters that can handle extended usage.
Number of channels and control options
When considering the number of channels and control options in a DJ controller, it’s essential to think about your specific needs and performance preferences. For instance, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 offers a 2-deck setup with numerous control options, such as customizable Color LCD On Jog Displays, 16 Performance Pads, and Sound Color FX.
On the other hand, the Denon DJ SC LIVE 4 provides a more extensive 4-deck standalone setup, giving you even more creative freedom for expressive performances without a laptop. In any case, it’s vital to find a DJ controller with enough channels and control options to match your desired level of mixing and remixing capability.
Portability and size
Portability and size are crucial factors to consider when choosing a DJ controller. While larger controllers such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 and Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 offer fantastic features and expanded functionality, they may not be practical for DJs who require a compact setup for frequent travel or smaller venues.
In contrast, compact options like the Numark DJ2GO2 Touch and Roland DJ-202 offer optimal portability with their lightweight designs while still providing a range of important features. Ultimately, the portability and size of a DJ controller should align with your performance needs, balancing functionality and ease of transport.
Budget and price
When considering your budget and price for a DJ controller, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your needs and requirements in terms of features and functionality. Fortunately, there is a wide range of options at different price points, so you’ll likely find a controller that fits both your budget and your desired performance.
The affordable and compact Numark DJ2GO2 Touch is perfect for beginners or backup use, while the sophisticated Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 offers a wealth of features for more advanced DJing at a higher price point. Ultimately, it’s critical to invest in a DJ controller that truly matches your skill level and aspirations, without sacrificing essential features or breaking the bank.
Understanding DJ Controllers
A DJ controller is a device used by disc jockeys (DJs) to mix and manipulate audio from various sources, such as music files, CDs, or vinyl records. It serves as the DJ’s primary interface with the audience and their music library, enabling them to produce seamless and cohesive sets.
A DJ controller serves many purposes, including mixing audio tracks, adding various effects and loops, and controlling DJ software. Some DJ controllers also have built-in audio interfaces, allowing for direct audio output to speakers or headphones.
Types of DJ Controllers
There are three main types of DJ controllers: all-in-one, modular, and digital vinyl systems. All-in-one DJ controllers, such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800, RANE ONE, or Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3, feature everything a DJ needs in a single unit, including jog wheels, faders, buttons, and often an audio interface. These controllers are convenient and easy to set up, making them perfect for DJs on the go.
Modular DJ controllers allow DJs to mix and match components, tailoring their setup to suit their specific needs. Digital vinyl systems, such as Serato or Traktor Scratch, utilize specialized vinyl records and timecode CDs, enabling DJs to maintain the tactile feel of traditional vinyl DJing while benefiting from the convenience and extensive capabilities of digital DJ software.
DJ Software Compatibility
Integration with DJ software is a crucial consideration when choosing a DJ controller. Popular options include Serato DJ, Rekordbox, Traktor, and Virtual DJ. It’s essential to ensure that your DJ controller is compatible with the software you prefer, as some controllers are designed specifically for use with certain programs.
Try Before You Buy and Additional Resources
Before committing to a purchase, it can be helpful to test out different DJ controllers in-store or borrow one from a friend to ensure that you’re comfortable with its features and layout. Additionally, online forums, DJ communities, and product reviews can provide valuable insights and advice regarding specific models and their performance. By taking the time to explore various options and gather information from multiple sources, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed choice that will serve you well for years to come.
What are DJ Controllers?
A DJ controller is a device that allows a DJ to manipulate and mix music using software on a computer or other device. It typically includes tactile controls such as knobs, faders, and buttons, and may also have built-in sound cards and other features to enhance performance.
How do I choose a DJ controller?
When choosing a DJ controller, consider your DJ level, budget, software compatibility, channel count, connectivity options, and control options such as jog wheels and performance pads.
What software is compatible with a DJ controller?
Most DJ controllers are compatible with popular DJ software such as Serato DJ, Traktor Pro, Virtual DJ, and rekordbox DJ, but make sure to check the compatibility before purchasing.
Can I use a DJ controller with speakers?
Yes, most DJ controllers have outputs such as RCA, XLR, and TRS that can be connected to speakers or a powered PA system.
How do I set up a DJ controller?
To set up a DJ controller, install the necessary software and drivers, connect the controller to your computer or laptop, and plug in any cables to your speakers or headphones. Follow the instructions in your controller’s manual or software to map the controls and start DJing.
With all these fantastic DJ controllers, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs and gets those feet moving. Remember, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, a good DJ controller can make all the difference. Make sure to do your research and find a suitable option that best suits your budget, skill level, and needs.
My main recommended DJ controller is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-800. This is a portable DJ controller that offers a club-style layout with popular features from the DDJ-1000 while still being compact and lightweight.
My second recommended DJ controller is the Numark DJ2GO2 Touch. This is an affordable, pocket-sized DJ controller that features touch-capacitive jog wheels. It’s also lightweight, portable, and a great choice for beginner DJs.