The 10 Best DJ Controllers of 2021

With the rapid advancement of technology in recent years, there are now many DJ controllers to choose from, and they have become a lot more affordable. Here are the top-rated DJ controllers on the market for you to help you decide.

All of the selected DJ controllers on the list are great choices for different settings and different needs. However, among them shines the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000, which is one of the flagship models of the brand. This feature-packed DJ controller is my top pick on the list.

If you are looking for something more affordable, you should check out my budget pick, Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3. It is the entry-level option with a high value for price ratio.

Now let’s take a deeper look into the features of these great DJ controllers, along with the other picks on the list.

The Best DJ Controllers of 2021 – At a Glance

Let’s look at them in more detail.

1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000

Top Pick
A Pro Feature-packed DJ controller with impressive jog wheels.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

With its built-in standalone mixer and two full-size CDJ-type jog wheels, Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 is a feature-packed controller created both for professional settings and home usage. 

The 4-channel unit comes with a standalone mixer, needle search, 16 performance pads for hot cues or complex effects, Sound Colour FX, and the option to play with samples in real-time.

The controller shines with its great full-size jog wheels along with its club-style design. It is an easy controller to get familiar with the controls and functions. Plus, it features six inputs, into which you can connect additional gear such as microphones and turntables. 

Pros

  • Great full-size jog wheels
  • Flexible connection options
  • Wide variety of hardware FX
  • Standalone mixer option

Cons

  • Works only with Rekordbox
  • A little bit bulky for a DJ controller (which can also potentially be seen as a positive!)

The mixer section is quite versatile as it is equipped with 4 color Fx and 14 hardware FX. The wide range of hardware FX of the controller is quite fun to play with, while it gives you versatile performance and control options.

One of the letdowns of DDJ-1000 is that it works only with Rekordbox, which the controller includes the full version. Although it is not a heavy controller, it is pretty big to carry around easily.

Including software Rekordbox
Inputs2 x Stereo RCA Line Input2 x Stereo RCA Line/Phono Input1 x Combo XLR-1/4″ TRS Mic Input1 x 1/4″ TRS Mic Input
Outputs1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone Output1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone Output2 x XLR 3-Pin Master Output1 x Stereo RCA Master Output2 x 1/4″ TRS Booth Output
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

However, it is a true powerhouse DJ controller that would not let any user down. That is why it is my top selection on this list.

2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

Budget Pick
A Great Beginner DJ Controller With High Value-Price Ratio.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

My budget pick, The Pioneer Dj DDJ-SB3, is a great choice for beginner DJs. It features a bit of everything with great jog wheels, good performance pads separated from the cue-play buttons, a dedicated loop section, a 2 channel mixer, and original functions like the Pad Scratch.

It is a portable controller that you can take to house parties with its compact size. Even though it is a plastic controller, it features a high build quality and feels quite durable.

Pros

  • High value-price ratio
  • Good FX and scratch modes
  • Great layout with excellent jog wheels

Cons

  • Only intro software included
  • Only 1/8“ headphone jack output (for 1/4″ headphone connection you can get a separate adapter which are generally affordable)

The star aspect of Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 is definitely its value for price ratio. It is an affordable DJ controller with a good variety of FX options and scratch models. Besides, it also has an innovative side with the new Pad Scratch feature that allows the user to assign pre-designed scratch modes to the selected cue points.

The biggest con of the controller is that the included software is the intro version and is quite limited. You can upgrade to the Pro version, but that will require extra cost.

Including softwareSerato Dj Intro
Inputs1 x 1/4″ TS Mic
Outputs1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone1 x Stereo RCA TS Master
Stand Alone Mixer Function No
Channels2+1(mic)

Finally, the output options are quite limited, but that is acceptable as it is a beginner controller that probably won’t be used with high-end sound systems.

3. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3

Best Traktor DJ Controller
Versatile DJ controller for Traktor with touch-sensitive jog wheels.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

One of the best options for Traktor users on the market today is Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3. 

With a 4-channel standalone mixer, pitch control, a dedicated remixing decks section, intuitive visual feedback with LED rings, 16 RGB pads, and touch-sensitive jog wheels, it is a versatile DJ controller both for pros and beginners.

The unit feels pretty solid and reliable with its portable design. With the bright displays, the controller looks elegant and is highly easy to use. Besides, the innovative haptic feedback system allows for an authentic experience.

Pros

  • Highly feature-packed
  • Solid and reliable
  • Suitable both for pros and beginners
  • The dedicated remixing deck section

Cons

  • Unusual button layout for NI users
  • Small space between controls

The negative side is that the button layout is quite different from the previous NI models, which can be hard to get used to. The controls are quite close to each other, making it a bit harder to navigate through the decks. And finally, this is a high-end controller which can be heavy on small budgets.

Including softwareTraktor Pro
Inputs1 x 1/4″ TRS Mic1 x XLR-1/4″ TRD combo Mic2 x RCA Stereo2 x RCA Stereo Line/Phono
Outputs2 x XLR 3-Pin Master1 x RCA Stereo Master2 x 1/4″ Booth1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone 1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

In short, S4 Mk3 is a premium quality DJ controller and is an ideal choice for Traktor users who want a versatile and feature-packed unit.

4. Pioneer DDJ-RZ

Premium Pick
A big, solid-built, feature-packed Rekordbox DJ controller.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Specially designed to work with Pioneer Rekordbox, Pioneer DDJ-RZ is a premium-quality 4-channel DJ controller with full-sized jog wheels. It features two USB sound cards, a club-quality crossfader, a hardware mixer, and sound color effects. With all these features, it offers complete control over everything.

The unit works perfectly with the Rekordbox software and is considered the next-generation controller for DJs. It has a high-quality, sturdy design with a highly intuitive layout. That is why the unit can be used by professionals as well as beginner musicians.

Pros

  • High-quality, sturdy build
  • Great jog wheels
  • Versatile standalone mixer
  • Professional features and inputs-outputs

Cons

  • Big and heavy, not portable
  • High-end product

There is not much to say against Pioneer DDJ-RZ. It is a high-end product, but its price seems fair when all the features are considered. As it is big and heavy, it is not a controller that you can carry around easily.

Including software Rekordbox
Inputs1 x 1/4″ Jack Mic 1 x XLR-1/4″ combo Mic2 x RCA Stereo Line/Phono4 x RCA Stereo Line
Outputs2 x XLR, RCA Master2 x 1/4″ Jack Headphone1 x 1/4″ Jack Booth
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

All in all, Pioneer DDJ-RZ is the ideal unit for Rekordbox users looking for a complete DJ controller.

5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8

Best DJ Controller Without Jog Wheels
Great Traktor DJ controller designed for STEMS and Remix Decks.
View Price at Amazon

As the flagship model, Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 features 4 channels with 4 decks, 2 full-color displays, a touch strip, 16 RGB pads, Stems-ready decks, touch-sensitive knobs, and faders. 

The controller is designed to take DJing to the next level by its focus on STEM files combined with samples, remix sets, and electronic tracks thrown into the mix.

The controller consists of a metal body, elevating the build quality. It features a high range of analog inputs and outputs. Plus, the MIDI connectivity option allows you to connect MIDI keyboards and synthesizers to the controller.

Pros

Cons

It is an all-in-one package DJ controller except for the fact that it does not have any jog wheels or pitch faders. This may be a big letdown for some professionals. Another negative aspect could be the controller’s heavyweight, making it less portable.

Including softwareTraktor Pro
Inputs4 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Line/Phono1 x Combo XLR-1/4″ TRS Mic1 x 1/4″ TS Mic1 x DIN 5-Pin MIDI Input
Outputs1 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Master2 x XLR 3-Pin Master2 x 1/4″ TRS Booth1 x DIN 5-Pin MIDI Output
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

All things considered, NI Traktor Kontrol S8 is a great controller for DJs who want to take control of stem tracks instead of one whole track.

6. Roland DJ-707M Four-Channel DJ Controller

Best Portable Controller
Lightweight and small DJ controller with high versatility.
View Price at AmazonView Price at Guitar Center

As the “M” in the model name refers, Roland DJ-707M is a compact DJ controller designed for Serato-user mobile DJs. It features 4 channels with 4 deck controls along with great features such as the built-in drum machine, a wide range of input and output options, loop station, and standalone mixer option.

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Onboard drum machine
  • Wide range of input-output options
  • Input and output scene-setting savings

Cons

  • Small jog wheels

Weighing only 7 lbs (3.5) kg, DJ-707M is tailor-made for the event DJs for whom mics, speaker-sound management, and routing options are essential. The scene-setting save option allows the controller to remember the settings made for every connected device, making DJ-707M an ideal member of a more extensive setup.

As it is a compact controller, the knobs and pads are quite small on the control panel. This can be an issue for some players. Also, the lack of LCD backlighting makes it hard to control in low-light settings.

Including SoftwareSerato DJ Pro
Inputs2 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Line/Phono Input2 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Line Input2 x XLR 3-Pin Mic Input
Outputs2 x XLR 3-Pin Balanced Master Output1 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Unbalanced Master Output2 x 1/4″ TRS Balanced Booth Output1 x Stereo RCA Coaxial Aux Output1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone Output1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone Output1 x DIN 5-Pin MIDI Output1 x Phono Ground Terminal
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

So, if you are a mobile DJ looking for a portable Serato workstation or a good companion for your big DJ setup, I recommend you to check Roland DJ-707M.

7. Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller

Best Entry-Level Serato DJ Controller
An affordable, easy-to-use Serato DJ Controller.
View Price at Amazon

The Numark Mixtrack Pro II is an affordable entry-level DJ controller. The 2-channel unit features a 16-pad setup to control the main DJing functions, good jog wheels, and a compact design. The easy setup process and intuitive layout, along with its low price tag, make this one a great choice for beginners. That is why this one is one of the best-sellers on the market.

Pros

Cons

Mixtrack Pro 2 does not lack anything when it comes to essential DJing with a laptop. The unit’s star is the 16 Rubber Performance Pads set that controls samples, cues, effects, and loops along with the touch-sensitive jog wheels.

Mixtrack offers quality on a budget; however, there are some letdowns for the device. It comes with the Serato DJ Intro version. Also, the input-output options are pretty limited, but as this is a beginner model, it is not a dealbreaker.

Including softwareSerato DJ Intro
Inputs 1 x 1/4″ Jack Mic 
Outputs1 x Stereo RCA1/4″ Headphone Jack1/8″ Headphone Jack
Stand Alone Mixer Function No
Channels2

Overall, Numark Mixtrack Pro II is a great choice to learn and get deeper into your DJing journey.

8. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

Best Entry-Level Traktor DJ Controller
A low-budget, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly Traktor DJ Controller.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Native Instruments’ entry-level DJ controller Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a lightweight and portable 2-channel DJ controller. 

It features a complete mixer section with each channel’s 3-band EQ, level meters, and gain controls, along with the other essential control knobs. It also has great-feeling jog wheels and 8 performance pads.

Pros

  • Portable and lightweight
  • Great-feeling jog wheels and good pads setup
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • No deck level effects
  • Not the best build quality

The unit works seamlessly with iPad or iPhone, along with Mac or PC. Plus, the device comes with the full version of Traktor Pro 3. 

As it is a portable and lightweight controller, it is made of plastic which is not the best material for protection. Users will have to be careful when carrying it around. Another letdown may be the different approach the unit takes with the FX section. There are no dedicated effect controls on the deck.

Including softwareTraktor Pro
Inputs1 x 1/4″ TRS Mic
Outputs1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone1 x Stereo RCA Master1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Master
Stand Alone Mixer Function No
Channels2

NI Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is an affordable and portable DJ controller with all the essential features, a great choice for beginner DJs, especially for those using iOS devices.

9. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3

Best DJ Controller Bundle
A high quality, portable, and versatile Serato DJ controller with accessories.
View Price at Amazon

Designed with mobile DJs in mind, Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3 is a powerful workhorse that is the upgrade to one of the most popular DJ controllers ever, DDJ-SX. 

It comes with four channels, diverse connectivity options, big performance pads, and stylish jog wheels, along with a solid case and a beautiful DJ Led kit.

Pros

  • Compact, portable, elegant design
  • Comes with a case and DJ Led kit
  • Hardware mixer into which you can connect external audio sources
  • 3 mic and 2 USB inputs
  • Sound color effects on the mixer

Cons

  • High-end product
  • No screens on-board

Even though it is not the lightest DJ controller with its weight of 13.5lbs (6 kg), it is quite portable thanks to its robust case and compact design. The case can also be used as a stand when playing.

Of course, all of these great features come with a price, as DDJ-SX3 is a relatively higher-end product. There is not much to say against it, but for the price, I would expect an onboard screen for easier control.

Including softwareSerato DJ Pro
Inputs2 x Stereo RCA Line/Phono1 x Stereo RCA1 x Combo XLR-1/4″ TRS Mic1 x XLR 3-Pin Mic
Outputs1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone2 x XLR 3-Pin Master1 x Stereo RCA Master2 x 1/4″ TRS Booth
Stand Alone Mixer Function Yes
Channels4

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3 is a versatile and high-quality DJ controller designed for mobile DJs using Serato. You can also use it as a standalone mixer or as the base of a multi-person DJ set.

10. Rane One

Best DJ Controller For Scratching
A fully-featured, professional DJ controller ideal for scratching.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Rane One is a mid-sized 2 channel DJ controller with its top-features 7.2″ motorized tactile platters and great effect paddle controls. 

The adjustable torque and great build quality provide an excellent scratching feel and accurate control. With the ultralight Mag Four crossfader added, the unit becomes a scratching machine.

Pros

  • Great high-end sound
  • Motorized tactile platters
  • Expansive connectivity
  • Ultralight Mag Four crossfader

Cons

  • 2 channels

Rane is famous for its excellent sound quality, and Rane One is no different. Plus, it features a wide range of input and output options for bigger setups.

This DJ controller is specially created to scratch, perform routines, and battle. That is why I can’t really criticize it featuring only 2 channels. But, indeed, there will be some DJs who would not find it adequate. 

Including softwareSerato DJ Pro
Inputs2 x Combo XLR-1/4″ 3-Pin Balanced Mic 2 x Stereo RCA TS Unbalanced Line/Phono 1 x Stereo RCA TS Unbalanced Aux
Outputs4 x XLR 3-Pin Balanced Booth/Master1 x Stereo RCA TS Unbalanced Master1 x 1/4″ TRS Headphone1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Headphone
Stand Alone Mixer Function No
Channels2

Overall, Rane One is a great DJ controller, offering a real vinyl feel with its versatile mixer for scratching DJs.

Buyer’s Guide

If you are a beginner DJ and this is your first time buying a DJ controller, you might want to read a buyer’s guide to build some background. Understanding more about the terms and functions will help you find the ideal DJ controller that would satisfy your needs.

What is a DJ controller?

In order to understand the DJ controllers, you have to understand what DJ software is. These programs called DJ software allow you to produce music by combining and remixing tracks with your laptop. The most popular examples are Serato, Ableton, Traktor and Rekordbox.

Since mouse and keyboard are not the best tools to control music production, DJ controllers come to the scene. These controllers are often standalone units with a mixer, turntables, and controls such as pads and knobs. They are perfectly tailored to be used with DJ software as they function as microprocessors.

Shortly, DJ controllers are tools often with mixers and platters that help you control your DJ software. They are like specialized mice and keyboards or MIDI controllers for DJing.

How does a DJ Controller work?

DJ controllers are generally relatively easy-to-use devices. Plugging them into a laptop or computer through a USB or Bluetooth connection is enough to get you started. 

Most of the DJ controllers are designed for specific DJ software, so make sure you have the right software installed on your computer.

DJ controllers function by transferring signals back and forth between themselves and laptops. Mostly, they come with extra features like built-in sound cards or standalone mixer functions that make the units much more versatile.

Do you need a laptop to use a DJ controller?

DJ controllers on the market work only with a laptop. These are MIDI controllers. If you want to get standalone DJ decks that don’t require a laptop then Pioneer CDJs are a very popular choice.

DJ Controllers leave the processing and feature responsibilities to laptops. That is how they can be lighter, more portable, and affordable.

What other accessories or gadgets do I need while using a DJ controller?

While using a DJ controller, things you will need are headphones, speakers, some cables depending on your setup, and a decent laptop. A stand and a DJ table are not necessary, but they can highly elevate the comfort of your experience.

For more professional usage in clubs or parties, make sure you have a Pro Audio (PA) Speaker System that can provide enough loudness. If you are a remixing or recording artist, you will need DJ monitors, which provide clean and accurate sound rather than loud. But, you can also use headphones for this, too. 

Additionally, you can have other accessories such as stands and DJ lighting, often LED Par Lights. Depending on your DJing style, you can connect other devices to your controller, like microphones or external mixers. 

Another good idea is to have a USB stick full of your favorite tracks that you can take everywhere to perform with. Finally, you can use cases to carry around your controller safely. 

Are DJ controllers beginner-friendly?

Yes. Most of the DJ controllers are quite beginner-friendly with their ease of use and straightforward setup processes. But of course, you will need some time to get used to their functions and layout, which will come quickly with a bit of experience.

There are also relatively complex high-end DJ controllers, which can be complex for entry-level DJs. But do not worry. As a beginner, you can go step by step and use one of the many entry-to-mid level options, which are pretty easy to use.

Who should use DJ controllers?

As technology advances, DJing becomes more of an art, and the technical requirements get more critical. It is crucial for DJs to have DJ controllers and necessary accessories to show their skills fully in front of an audience. 

So if you do not want to go around your vinyl records or CDs to find tracks like the 90s DJs or if you do not want to have a hard time using a mouse and keyboard mixing your tracks, in short, if you want to be a real DJ, you will absolutely need a DJ controller.

Verdict

So, there are the best DJ controllers with different features, in different price ranges, and for different needs. These are the top-notch units in the market today that you can choose without hesitation, depending on your needs.

My top pick is the Pioneer DJ DDJ-100, as it is an all-in-one, feature-packed DJ controller with high quality and versatility. Its jog wheels alone are a great reason to choose this unit.

Another option for lower budgets is again a Pioneer product, Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3. This one is an ideal choice for beginners with its affordable price and many great features, including great FX and scratch modes.

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