top dj controller

Choosing the right tools of the trade is half the battle in achieving greatness in any field and it is even truer when the field in question is DJing. Choosing the best DJ controller can make all the difference between a fledgling career as a DJ and a struggling one. Making people sway to your music is an art but you can get there only if you have the right equipment. A lot of factors go into what makes a DJ controller great for you and we will look at all of them today. We will present all the different things that you need to consider and look for when buying your DJ controller and by the end of this post, you will be armed with all the necessary knowledge to make a wise choice and avoid any regrets or hassles. Without further ado let us begin.

Basically, a DJ controller is a device used to help a DJ mix music. DJ controllers make it a hell of a lot easier for the musician to mix and match different songs and create a seamless mix of music. It would be a lot harder to do this with only a computer keyboard and touchpad & mouse.

The Best DJ Controllers of 2020

  • Brand: Pioneer
  • Size: 10.7″ x 19.2″ x 2.3″
  • Weight: 6.65 lbs
  • Channels: 2
  • Deck Control: 4

Features & Functionalities

Effect Controls –    It offers the same Pioneer styled DJ Controller interface for Serato DJ. It is capable of producing 3 effects at the same time; the ON buttons double as FX SELECT when Combined with SHIFT Key. A dedicated BEATS button to control the number of beats.

Touch Strips & Jog Wheels – It comes with rough and tuff jog wheels as expected from the brand Pioneer. The wheels are very responsive and offer high fluid spin backs. Moreover, the touch strips provide a massive benefit in searching between tracks during playback. 

Performance Pads – The performance pads of DDJ-SR2 are RGB based, and it supports some best performance functions in SERATO DJ. It includes SLICER, HOT CUE, SAVED LOOP, SLICER LOOP, SAMPLER, ROLL, and CUE LOOP. Also, it offers the PITCH PLAY feature for the alteration of pitching.

Loop Section – There is an auto loop button with a determined size, a beat button with half or double loop size, and a button for manual loop also. A mid-level pioneer pitch faded with no compromised quality, and lastly, a right-sided CENSOR button to keep out all swears from the performance. 

The Mixer – The mixer uses the SR2 in combination with Serato DVS. It allows the user to switch between DECK 1, DECK 3, and the PHONO/LINE. The mixer comes with a 3 band EQ per channel, with a TRIM Knob and VU meter channel with Master VU meter. 

Inputs & Outputs – The controller comes with TRS booth output and two master outputs i.e., RCA and XLR. Each line holds an individual RCA input, with a switch to change between LINE and PHONO. It comes with a TRS microphone input and a volume knob on the front.

Pros

  • True Compact Size
  • Most Affordable
  • Real Hardware Mixer
  • High-Performance Pads
  • Pitch N Time Plugin with Serato DJ
  • Key Sync with Key Shift Controls

Cons

  • Too Small Pitch Fader
  • Small interface with loads of buttons and knobs
  • No option to enable single effect mode.

 

Verdict

The Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is one of the best 2-channel DJ Controller best for beginners who want to experience the Serato DJ.  However, for a professional DJ is will be the best optional backup DJ controller with loads of features and offers top-notch reliability. So Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is very good to opt for.

  • Brand: Numark
  • Size: 10.7″ x 19.2″ x 2.3″
  • Weight: 6.65 lbs
  • Channels: 2
  • Deck Control: 4

Features & Functionalities

Jog Wheels – The size of the Jogs is a bit smaller when compared to other big controllers; however, we can’t expect more in this price range. Moreover, it usable, but it takes almost a second to resume the Virtual DJ’s playback. 

The Mixer – The mixer knob offers onboard high, gain, and low, but it misses the filter knobs. The feel of the volume fader knobs are heavy but build with plastic. The controller comes with poor quality crossfaders as it can’t offer a smooth shift. Lastly, all the knobs, including headphone cue, volume, and Master output knobs, offer the best results as expected. 

Performance Buttons – The Numark Party mix offers 4 performance buttons per deck altogether. The buttons are not velocity-sensitive and provide a stiff feel. All the performance buttons come with 4 different modes, including loop points, Sampler, cues, and effect toggling buttons. 

RGB Lights – The built-in light feature is the biggest selling point of Numark Party Mix. The unit comes with 3 different LED bulbs i.e., red blue and green. The lights are meant to focus on either of the two subjects: your bedroom wall or your crowd.  Lastly, it offers 4 unique lighting effects and can be customized as per your master output and also comes with totally off functionality.

 

Pros

  • Class-compliant with plug n play facility
  • Inbuilt soundcard with no additional software needed.
  • Simply plug and play features for speakers and headphones
  • Dual Slider controls and Scratchpads
  • Compact chassis with space-saving hardware and additional free Virtual DJ LE software bundled.
  • 8 multifunctional trigger buttons for samples and cues.
  • Master gain with customized Equalization controls with bass enhancement.
  • RGB Backlight with additional lightroom features.
  • Lightweight with just 1.8lbs.

Cons

  • No output facility for computer
  • The controls and knobs need to be smoother and responsive
  • No proper useful performance pads

Verdict

The Numark party mix is an excellent DJ controller for beginners. It is mainly beneficial for those who want to learn the basic and all mixing tricks at an initial level. The controller is also recommended because it offers a tremendous sturdy build quality with a variety of functions.

Also, it allows the user to match and mix songs with sounds to produce unique creativity. Apart from it, the price to performance ratio beyond satisfaction. Lastly, the setup is extremely smooth without any hassle at all.

Features & Functionalities

Performance Pads – The controller comes with RGB backlit pads, which reflect a mimic look and feel of the Serato DJ. It allows for coloring code hot cues for easy recall and recognition.  

Serato Flip – It is a unique feature integrated dedicated matrix of buttons for enabling the Serato Flip feature. Serato flip allows the user to create customized flips, hot cues, or the censor button. It also provides either to play at one-shot or as a loop. The option offers quick controls to record, perform, flips, and store the playback on the device itself. 

Jog wheel Display – Well, the jog wheels are super sensitive and offer lower latency for a more accurate scratching effect. The jog wheels come with the center display with a new red cue point markers countdown right in the middle. The DDJ-SX2 jogs offer the best feel of tightness without any sacrifice.

Serato DVS – The Pioneer DDJ-SX2 can be upgraded with Serato DVS. It allows the user to hook pair of turntables or CDs.  The features help the DDJ-SX2 to perform 2 functionalities: a fully functional Serato DJ and then offers an additional interface for vinyl with Serato DJ. DJing with the controller offers multiple control mediums.

Pros

  • Great performance pads options
  • Dedicated filter per channel
  • Highly responsive and best quality jog wheels
  • Built-in high-quality DAC
  • Rough and tuff construction with needle search touch strip
  • XLR and RCA main outputs
  • Dual microphone inputs and dual headphone outputs.

Cons

  • No Equalizer kill switch
  • Remember not to touch the needle search touch strip while using the effects section.

Verdict

It is the best sub $1000 range premium 4 channel Serato DJ Controller. If you are someone wanting to experience the new Serato flip feature, then this controller will offer you the best combination package. Moreover, if you are looking for the Traktor Pro controller the then this controller is for you as it supports TSI mapping.

Features & Functionalities

  • Dedicated two metal 5 inches jog wheels with high-resolution effect
  • 5 segment LED display for master level Control
  • Unbalanced RCA output with 6.3 mm and 3.5 mm headphone
  • Touch strips with multi-functional dynamic effect control
  • Tempo control with 100mm pitch fader
  • Package includes a prime loops Remix tool kit
  • The 8 performance pads placed just below the jog wheels, the bottom pads are used for hot cues, and the top pads are used to control the looping effects.

Pros

  • A compact form factor, with great value for money experience.
  • 4 channel mixer with full Serato DJ features
  • High-quality performance pads
  • Dual built-in screens
  • RCA booth Out
  • RCA auxiliary input
  • Superb Jog Wheels

Cons

  • All the knobs and the buttons are bit congested because of its small form factor
  • Jogs Wheels are quite small in size
  • Lacks in offering DVS functionality and Standalone mixer

Verdict

If you want to get the best value for your money spent on a controller, then Numark NV II is the best option to go with. As it offers a huge set of features to offer to its fans. It is recommended to jump on this controller to perform some best creative beats with all-day playing extended sets.

Features & Functionalities

  • Dedicated two metal 5 inches jog wheels with high-resolution effect
  • 5 segment LED display for master level Control
  • Unbalanced RCA output with 6.3 mm and 3.5 mm headphone
  • Touch strips with multi-functional dynamic effect control
  • Tempo control with 100mm pitch fader
  • Package includes a prime loops Remix tool kit
  • The 8 performance pads placed just below the jog wheels, the bottom pads are used for hot cues, and the top pads are used to control the looping effects.

Pros

  • Equipped with long pitch fader best for beat matching
  • The jog wheels offer the best responsive effect
  • The mixer allows the user to manage 3 band Equalizer, filter knobs, and VU Meter
  • Crisp and clear audio output

Cons

  • Sadly it offers only RCA master output
  • No option to connect an external source, no additional option for failover source through the mixer in case of computer failure during the play.
  • No dedicated knobs for Dry and wet settings need to be managed using the touch strips only.

Verdict

One of the best Mixtrack Pro editions with a grown-up looking design and nicely spread out buttons and knobs. It comes with long pitch controls with additional supplied software. It is a good option for a controller with 2 decks Serato DJ. The features it offers are much more when you compare with the price you are paying. It is a great deal to steal.

Features & Functionalities

Huge Touch Screen – The 7-inch full-color touchscreen display gives you a quick visual reference when mixing, along with Wave Zoom for depth information on track spikes as well as breakdowns.

Professional DJ Features – Operate accurate, seamless mixing with equalizers and crossfaders that have ratios similar to those on the top professional club controller. Sound Color FX and Beat FX grant you applicability for a creative spark in your beats. 

Multi-Colored Performance Pads–The performance pads stand out. They are rubber coated and multi color-coded, making it very easy to categorize that whatever function (or even which hot cue precisely) is against almost every pad.

Link Export Features–The XDJ-RX2 has multiple USB interfaces. You can also use it for both the accessing files and also you can use it to store your mixture. It removes the difficulty out of recording your plays, even if you’re always going to have to resort to an additional listening device to get the crowd background into your recording.

Rekordbox DJ – Besides operating independently, the XDJ-RX2 is also compliant with the Pioneer DJ Rekordbox DJ application. Just connect these into your notebook through the USB interface at the rear of the XDJ-RX2 when you are off to the competitions.

Pros

  • High build quality
  • 8 performance pads per deck with multi-colored lights
  • Best jog wheels
  • The mixer is best optimized to produce a variety of effects and options
  • The touch screen is crisp and bright
  • Value for money DJ controller

Cons

  • The touch screen feels outdated and boring

Verdict

The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 is a versatile product of the DJ controller. It works wonderfully well as a dedicated media player. It upgrades the XDJ-RX with improved and much more output pads each deck a smoother and much more technically built mixer, a touchscreen display, and a few other minor changes. If you are able to move with a notebook and controller, you may also want to move on to the XDJ-RX2. Moreover, the biggest attraction is that you can do anything without a laptop, which is basically what you are really paying for. 

Features & Functionalities

Control mixer – The crossfader is at the back of the mixing console. The crossfader sounds like that of the DJM group mixers, and the majority of consumers will also be pleased with both the scratching and mixing the output of the crossfader.

Great jog wheels – The DDJ-SR jog wheels just feel fantastic. The previous generation push top jog wheels are replaced with new generation metal top touch sensitive jog wheels to produce best combined beats with Serato DJ.

Highly advance Deck controls – There are many charges that make the DDJ-SR offers to its users. The most important is its 16 different performance pads to produce addition customized functions. However the pads are bit smaller in size but do the task perfectly without any glitch.

Sampler – The controller comes with 24 samplers in total, and each side consists of 12 samplers. The buttons are pushed to produce the customized music output. Sampler Roll feature allows the sample to playback and forth at the existing BPM as much as the button is pushed.

Pros

  • The package includes professional full Serato DJ software
  • Compact professional DJ controller with a rugged structure.
  • 16 performance pads with multiple effects and controls
  • Emergency AUX input
  • Metal jog wheels with crossfaders

Cons

  • Smaller tempo sliders

Verdict

The Pioneer DDJSR has become one of my top controllers on the market today. Everything about it is customized to create a live performance that pairs your character. Whether it was a hard creation to cart it off to the locations.Mobile size without loss of user experience.Fast and efficient combination of sounds for playing songs. Or an incredibly useful audio card that takes the efficiency of the speaker system out of the world. 

Features & Functionalities

Build quality – Right out of the box, and the Mixtrack Pro II looks way better than that of the previous. It’s a fully plastic build; however, the faceplate has a pretty intelligent fake brushed metal feel.

Jog wheels – The ‘ Pro ‘ in the Mixtrack Pro II is a misleading term because everything about the device is shouting ‘ pro. ‘They are fluid in motion, solid and clear of wobble (precluding ‘ checking ‘ their boundaries). The first and only aspect that always betrays the look of the jog wheels seems to be that the quality each turn doesn’t suit the top-level controls, giving slow motion a touch of surround sound audio in the application. 

Faders and knobs – The rotary knobs – the crossfader bar – are somewhat straight, a design that seems to be more or less than the agreed norm for crossfader currently. This implies that this is very simple to make steady, seamless modifications to the intensity of the signal, but it still doesn’t convert all through quick scratching and complicated combining-like movements.

Buttons and performance pads – The first and most noticeable adjustment to the Mixtrack Pro in creating the Mixtrack Pro II is the inclusion of 8 softer buttons on either side of the panel. However, Numark found where all the original plastic buttons are still appropriate and can even match the layout of the machine.

Serato DJ – When hardly anyone involved in the Mixtrack Pro II would see it as a concern, it’s important to mention that there’s no crossfader reverse configuration in the Serato DJ Intro. The full version of Serato DJ, a premium update for Mixtrack Pro II owners, does have some great improvements over DJ Intro.

 

 

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Fully MIDI map-able with Serato DJ
  • Big 16 rubber performance pads
  • Lightweight, sleek, and compact.

Cons

  • Input and output options are limited
  • Plastic build

Verdict

The Numark Mixtrack Pro II is a tiny yet lightweight DJ controller with a newly redesigned and elegant fit and finish and several simple-to-use functionality straight out of the box. The Numark Mixtrack Pro II has some of the best configuration methods I’ve ever seen, making it a perfect choice for learners or entry-level consumers.

Features & Functionalities

  • Each channel comes with dedicated filter knobs with mixing features
  • Availability of dynamic FX control via multi-touch functional strips
  • The 16 dedicated performance pads offer clip launcher features with the added variety of customized tools and options
  • The controller holds 100mm pitch faders to boost the overall music mixing experience by offering best-matched beats.
  • Metal jog wheels with high-resolution effects with superb after effect response.
  • Creative control with multiple FX manipulation
  • The package includes Virtual DJ LE 8 preloaded
  • The controller comes with dedicated music library browsing controls.

Pros

  • Very durable and built with high-quality plastic
  • Equalizers come with 3 channel filters
  • Précised vinyl control high-resolution jog wheels with additional effects
  • The controller comes with multiple trigger pads with various hitting effects included

Cons

  • No sound card included within the controller
  • The controller is not compatible with mobile devices including tablets and smartphones
  • No additional USB input for connecting external DJ interfaces
  • Not compatible with online audio streaming services, including YouTube or Spotify.

Verdict

If you still want to get the most out of the above device, here you will have to purchase more and pay too much. This controller will offer you an exciting and practical way to understand what the DJ is, as long as you’re prepared to do that. If you would like a more comprehensive package, you should recommend looking somewhere else. 

Features & Functionalities

  • Multiple mixing with easy controls and features. It allows you to make loops, launch samples and produce best beat effects
  • The controller is very lightweight and small enough to carry in a standard laptop bag.
  • A couple of jog wheels allows multiple modes each deck and produces useful track navigations and pitch modulations
  • The package includes DJUCED software with mixing tracks feature
  • The controller is compatible with Tractor, virtual DJ, and other MIDI-compatible services.

Pros

  • Easy to carry due to portability and lightweight design
  • Good quality highly responsive Jog wheels
  • The shifting buttons are placed accurately for handy operations
  • Very minimal latency

Cons

  • Mostly designed for beginners
  • No input jacks just come with USB ports

Verdict

The mere suggestion of DJ controllers at the entry-level mentions pictures of technology that is poorly crafted. Luckily, the device for the Hercules Compact doesn’t fit into that category. It’s targeting the fresh DJ. Indeed, it’s not without shortcomings.

DJ controller buying guide

What is your budget?

This is where your quest should begin. The ideal DJ controller should have all the features you need without overshooting your financial capabilities. It is also very important to ensure that your budget is reasonable enough. If you have to wait a couple of months to accrue more funds then do that instead of wasting your money on a DJ controller that you might grow out of just as you start gaining a strong foothold in the world of DJing. It is also important not to overspend as expensive isn’t always better. The ideal budget for a beginner to intermediate level DJ would be about $450 for the DJ controller. You have to ensure that you have funds to spare for a good DJ software as well. If this budget is not feasible then you can get a very decent DJ controller for about $200 to $250 but you will have to forego some of the more advanced features and interface options. These won’t restrict you much during the initial years of your career as a DJ but you will have have to think of upgrading your equipment as your proficiency increases. Somewhere along the way, you might also need a good MIDI keyboard to complete your setup.

What if you are unsure about being a DJ and want to check it out?

This too is a very valid question. Not everyone has the rock-solid conviction needed to make it in the world of DJing. Just because you like dancing to a DJ’s music doesn’t mean that becoming a DJ is feasible. You might also be at that stage of your life where you are undecided about the direction you want to take your life in but you have the curiosity to know if you are cut out to be a DJ. In all these and other similar scenarios, spending loads of money does not make a lot of sense. Later on, if you find out that being a DJ does not interest you, you would lose a lot of money on the resale of the equipment you bought. Our suggestion would be not to get any hardware at all. There are plenty of software and apps that can simulate the basic operations in DJing. This will help you get an idea of the intricacies involved. DJing is so much more than pressing a few buttons and playing around with sliders, faders, and turntables. It is pretty much like learning a new musical instrument. See if the hard work that goes into being a good DJ is something that is feasible for you. Another great option is to join a demo class for DJing and see if it is something that will interest you in the long run. If you absolutely must get some hardware then look in the used DJ controller market. That way you won’t burn a big hole in your pocket if you wake up one day find DJing not to be your cup of tea.

How portable do you want your DJ controller to be?

Size and weight do matter. DJing involves a lot of traveling and you need a rig that you can lug around without throwing your back out. At the same time, your DJ controller should have a good enough build quality to withstand a life on the move. The actual act of DJing can be quite physical as well and your equipment should be able to handle all of that. You have to find the ideal balancing point where the controller is portable enough without sacrificing any of the features you need from your rig. The dimensions of your DJ controller should also be agreeable to public transport especially if you are just starting out.

Modular or all-in-ones?

Modular DJ controllers are basically a combination of stuff you can get like a couple of record players, a cd player, audio interfaces, etc and put together to function like a DJ controller. While this can be an interesting project to take on, it isn’t exactly recommended. For one, the probable points of failure are many and the last thing you want or need is for your music to cut in and out because one of the ports is faulty. An all-in-one DJ controller is something you can buy off the shelf. It has all the physical buttons, turntables, interfaces, and connectivity options you would need. Some of these are expandable enough to allow you to add new features later on but even if you are a beginner, getting an all-inclusive system is the best way forward.

Can you use a regular laptop with a keyboard and a mouse?

We had alluded to this earlier that there do exist software and apps that can simulate the various controls and surfaces of a DJ controller. Naturally, the question would arise if it is possible to use a simple setup with a laptop as a DJ controller. Theoretically, you can do that but you won’t get the tactile response of a physical DJ controller which means that getting the finer nuances of DJing down would be next to impossible. There can also be latency issues leading to lag and a poor performance on your side. As we mentioned earlier, this is a great way to noodle around but not at all suitable for anyone serious about being a DJ.

Software compatibility:

This is meant for someone who has a particular preference for a specific software. There are a plethora of DJ software out there and most DJ controllers are compatible with all the popular options. However, it is always a good idea to ensure that the DJ controller is compatible with your favorite DJ software.

Audio interfaces:

This can have a massive effect on the sound coming out of the speakers. DJ controllers with XLR outputs are among the best if you can afford one. Basically, ensure that there are plenty of options available here so you can choose the one that is best for a given venue. A crappy audio connection can drown out all the details of your music and you could have a poor performance through no fault of your own.

Aesthetics and ergonomics:

Finally, do not overlook these aspects of a DJ controller. Visuals play a big role in any musical performance. Think Deadmau5. Go for something that visually suits your music. DJ controllers with backlit buttons and turntables can look awesome in a dimly lit environment. Of course, the actual DJing features should take precedence over the looks but if you are unable to decide between two or three DJ controllers then opt for the one that will look the best to your audience.

Similarly, ergonomics can play a big role in how good a DJ you can become. All the physical controllers and surfaces should feel sturdy enough so that you do not hold back subconsciously. They should also offer a good tactile response so that you can carry out the various tricks of the trade as if it was second nature to you. Everything should be laid out in an intuitive manner. This is especially useful if you are starting out as the last thing you want to do is search for a particular controller in the middle of your performance. If you are upgrading then look for a layout that is similar to your previous DJ controller so that the transition period is as easy and short as possible.

There you have it. You should now have a clear roadmap in front of you on how to proceed on your quest of getting the best DJ controller within your budget and with all the features you need both now and in the future. One final suggestion would be to keep yourself updated with the latest trends in the world of DJing. It is an ever-evolving universe and the DJ controller you choose should be in tune with the times as well. Arm yourself with all the necessary knowledge surrounding this art first. Take your time as choosing the right DJ controller is a big step on your journey towards fulfilling the dream of being a great DJ.