The 2016 Guide for Choosing the best DJ Controller from Beginners DJs to Pros DJs

Best DJ Controller Guide

Welcome to the best guide for buying the best DJ controller. This guide will go over the best DJ controllers that you can buy right now. It will also go over what a DJ controller does and what you can do with it. We do cover all price ranges and skill ranges for controllers, so there is something in here for everyone. So lets get started.

DJing has become such a popular hobby. It is no wonder that the market has blown up with so many makes and models.

Like everything worth while, making this decision is quite difficult and a little stressful. But what’s the best controller that you will like? Are you going to like the software? What should you look for when buying one?

This guide lays the groundwork for research on all the up to date models. If you are like myself you want to have a well-informed opinion before purchasing the best all in one DJ Controller. At the end of the day it will be your decisions. There are tons of options, and its up to your to choose what suits your needs and preferences.

Lets start out by describing what a DJ controller is.

What is a DJ controller?

If you are new to the DJ world, you may not know what a controller does. In the simplest form, a controller allows you to control the DJ software, and to control what you are playing. Simple.

What we are focusing on with this review guide, is all in one DJ controllers. All in one DJ controllers are stand alone units that allow you to just start it up and go. There are also controllers that control different functions.You can get drum machines for instance, to control drums, but as I mentioned we will focus on all in one controllers.

Here are some of the basic features of an all in one DJ controller.

Common DJ controller features and functions

Most controllers today include:

  • A control surface, with knobs, buttons, jog wheels, performance pads or faders, displays, and levels.
  • An interface that transmits audio signals and MIDI signals to your laptop, effects processors and PA systems (this depends on the type of connectors it has)

So now that you know what a controller is, lets find out what kind of DJ softwares you can control with them.

DJ softwares used with DJ controllers

Controllers allow you control the software more easily, but it is the software that does all the cool mixing and mastering.

Not only does it load your music library up, it provides the virtual transport controls for playback, as well as playing the virtual decks you DJ on. DJ software allows you to add all the cool filters, effects, samples, modifiers and other cool tricks.

All the DJ controllers listed below come with software, some are full licenses and some are light versions.

Here are some of the most popular DJ softwares designed for controllers.

Traktor Pro

Made by Native Instruments, Traktor Pro is one of the biggest players in the DJ world. They tightly integrate their DJ controllers with their own software, making for an awesome experience.

One of Traktors selling points is its Remix Deck concept, which lets you manipulate the component parts of the tracks by dicing, slicing and stretching the beats and melodies.

Native Instruments produce multiple Traktor based softwares ranging from beginner to pro. The pro grade versions are some of the most intricate  softwares around and can get really complex. Traktor also has some of the best MIDI implementation in the game.

Any DJ controller can technically work and can be mapped out to use Traktor, but Native Instruments has done a great job with integrating their own controllers to use the software the way it was meant to. Precise jog wheel performance is a boasting feature, so DJs who plan to scratch might want to choose a Traktor controller.

Serato DJ Software

Many DJs feel that Serato focus on user friendliness a bit more. Serato works well with other 3rd party apps a bit better. A potential drawback to Serato is its inability to run in stand alone mode. You must be plugged into an interface or controller when you DJ.

Serato aims to cover all aspects of your performance. It has multicolored waveform editing that shows your EQ settings. Applying effects, triggering samples and making beats is enhanced with expansion packs.

Flips is a powerful expansion pack that makes beat editing better. The DVS pack gives you a more vinyl mixing and scratching feel. Great for users transitioning from turntables and mixer set up.

MIDI mapping is also straightforward with Serato. DJ Intro versions of the software are usually bundled with entry level with beginner DJ controllers and the full versions or bundled with high end DJ controllers.

Some other less popular DJ softwares include:

  • Virtual DJ
  • DJAY
  • Deckadence
  • Mixed IN Key Flow
  • iOS Apps

Now that you know what DJ controllers do, let’s find out what the best DJ controller on the market is.

Finding a DJ Controller right for you

I’ll be listing what I think are the best DJ controllers (MIDI controllers) on the market right now. Lists are in no particular order, choices are based on amazon ratings, reviews and feature for feature comparisons.

This guide shows the best all in controllers on the market for each skill level. With each skill level, there is a different price bracket for each one. You can click the links below to jump to your skill level, or continue reading.

Top 4 Expert All-in-one DJ controllers

Price Range: $1000 USD and up

These are the best DJ controllers over 1000. The top of food chain when talking about the best DJ controllers, the complete solution. These are made for the pros and have high levels of hardware/software integration. They have the features and the flash and come with the price tag.

These controllers are geared towards the club DJ’s (wedding DJ’s) who want to take advantage of the features like live/remix elements of the included software, or the serious amateur DJ who is looking at investing and escalating there dream. These are the best professional DJ controllers on the market.

Traktor Kontrol S8

Best pro controller Kontrol S8

The flagship controller for Traktor. The best traktor DJ controller as well.

MSRP: $1200 click here for Promo Prices

Software: Traktor Pro

Pros: Very good tracktor integration, built in screens, timecode enabled.

Cons: May miss jog wheels

Overview: Choose if you want the laptop glare out of your view, also if you want great stand alone options. The best DJ controller for Traktor.

Click here for more info on the Traktor Kontrol S8

Numark NS7II

Numark NS 7 II

The best Numark DJ controller, it has rotating vinyl and and slipmats.

MSRP: $1600 click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato

Pros: Motorized platters and 7” vinyl platters feel like playing records, all the bells and whistles

Cons: Big, heavy, no hardware filters

Overview: choose if you like the feeling of spinning vinyl, but like the all in one digital setup. One of the best DJ controllers for scratching.

Click here for more info on the Numark NS7II

Pioneer DDJ-SZ

Best Pro dj controller DDJ SZ

All in one controller that the CDJ fans will love. Also the best Pioneer DJ controller on the market.

Advertised Price: $2400 click here for Promo Prices

Pros: Most full featured serato controller, pro grade, dual USB, great performing pads

Cons: On the high-end of the price scale, huge, no Rekordbox functions

Overview: Choose if you want a club standard feel, you love serato and want to be able to use all the features, you want a high end, high quality machine. One of the most expensive DJ controllers.

Pioneer XDJ-R1

Best pro dj controller XDJ R1

If you want to ditch the laptop this is the best option

Advertised Price : $1100 click here for Promo Prices

No bundled software

Pros: Great stand alone machine in every way (CD, USB, Rekordbox), IOS control

Cons: Functionality is limited when not controlling software

Overview: Choose if you are very mobile and wants various playback options.

The Decision

If you want a controller with Tracktor, the S8 is definitely your best bet. It offers the most fully-features and well-integrated controller available today. The touch-sensitive knobs, built in screens and genious UI design makes for a great user experience. The jog wheel delete will be something you have to get used to though, which personally hasn’t bothered me.

The NS7II is awesome for DJ’s who want that nice vinyl feel, but want to be digital. It has tension adjustable platters and can switch from 33 and 445 RPM modes.

The DDJ-SZ may be the best Pioneer DJ controller ever made, it sure is the priciest. However, its still less expensive than the CDJ/Pioneer mixer combo it emulates. For a very similar feel the SX2 is another option with a lower price tag. Both are great options for DJs who like Serato.

The XDJ-R1 is a great 2 channel entry, and doesn’t require software. This is great for a DJ who doesn’t like lugging stuff around. Great if you want a lot of play back options and great bang for your buck.

Best Mid Range All in One DJ Controllers

Price range: $500-$1000

These controllers are the mid level range, while they are not as feature rich as some of the High end controllers, these midrange controllers are club oriented and a complete solution still. These controllers are the best DJ controllers under 500.

Keep in mind technology changes so rapidly now, that these controllers would have been top of the line controllers a couple years ago. So saying that don’t be scared of checking these ones out as well.

Denon DJ MC6000MK2

best pro dj controller MC6000

Great Denon DJ controller with tons of great features.

MSRP: $900 click here to check the Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ Intro

Pros: Nice and compact, very mobile, rugged and very well built

Cons: Full Serato is extra, no pads

Overview: Choose if you want a nice mobile unit with Serato capabilities

Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2

best mid controller traktor s4

One of the most best Traktor controllers on the market

MSRP: $900 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Traktor Pro 2

Pros: Great ergonomics, great Traktor support, great IOS support

Cons: No standalone mode, few custom options

Overview: Choose if you are very mobile, need the 4 channels but don’t need features of the S8 as well as the price tag. One of the best portable DJ controllers.

Pioneer DDJ- SR

best mid range controller DDJ Sr

Pioneer DDJ Series is a great quality controller at an affordable price

MSRP: $700 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ

Pros: Full usb powered device, very portable and great aesthetic

Overview: Choose if you want a truly mobile Serato setup with great look and quality. One of the best 4 channel DJ controllers on the market.

Reloop Terminal Mix 8

Reloop Terminal Mix 8

Great Serato control, at a very competitive price

MSRP: $700 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ

Pros: Great Quality, built very well, large job wheels

Cons: No dedicated master out or ¾ channel meters, no inputs for deck standalone/DVS

Overview: Choose if you want to mix in the box with Serato.

Numark NV

Numark NV

Numark’s NV was the first controller with screens

MSRP: $800 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ

Pros: Built in screens, great value, slim design

Cons: No standalone mode, smaller pads

Overview: Choose if you want to use Serato and don’t like having your laptop out

The Decision

Within this price range you are looking at a broad range of different controllers. The Numark NV was the first to have screens on the controllers. While not as slim and feature rich as the S8. It is still and great setup for Serato DJs that don’t want their laptop glaring.

The Traktor Kontrol S4 has great software integration and great quality. If you love Traktor this is the controller for you.

The Denon MC6000MK2 is a ton of power in a decently sized controller, it is a great option for Digital DJs wanting a good bang for your buck. However with only Serato DJ intro you will have to shell out more money for the full version.

Pioneer Fans will want to give a look at the DDJ-SR which receives many features for its big brothers and a modest price point. Fully USB powered makes for great portability and easy setup.

The Reloop Mix 8 is a solid machine and a very nice looking controller. Great quality build.

 

Best DJ Controllers under $500

Price Range: Under $500

These entry level beginner controllers are great for the new DJ’s wanting to get a feel for DJing without spending a huge investment. Seasoned Djs who want a backup controller should also keep one of these just in case. Also the best DJ controllers under 500.

While you wont find the same quality builds on these, the market has grown that these wont feel like low quality knock off toys.

If you are learning to DJ, on a tight budget, hobby DJ, play media format, these are the controllers for you.

None of these controllers are considered pro gear, these are all very price conscious ways to start DJing.

Numark MixTrack Pro III

best beginner dj controller mixtrack III

Numarks budget controller.

MSRP: $300 Click here for Promo Price

Software: Serato DJ Intro

Pros: Very spacious, long throw pitch controls, touch strips and channel metering.

Cons: Pads are decent, annoying loop function

Overview: Choose if you have bigger fingers, want to learn manual beatmatching, you like bigger jog wheels. One of the Best DJ controllers Under $300

Pioneer DDJ- WeGO3

best beginner dj controller DDJ WeGo3

Compact controller with a clean design.

MSRP: $360 Click here for promo prices

Software: Serato DJ Intro

Pros: Compact design, great software support, IOS compatible, clean

Cons: Weird Layout may require adjusting too, a little toyish

Overview: Choose if you don’t know which software you like yet, or want lots of functions in a tiny controller.

Reloop BEATMIX 2

best beginner dj controller Beatmix 2

Ergonomic and clean layout with nice sized jog wheels.

MSRP: $400 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ Intro

Pros: Large jog wheels, great build quality and well designed

Cons: No LED meters

Overview: Choose if you want a nice quality machine on a budge

Gemini G2V

best beginner dj controler g2v

Great bang for your buck.

MSRP: $480 Cick here for Promo Prices

Software: Virtual DJ LE

Pros: Connectivity options, build, channel metering

Cons: tacky buttons, heavy

Overview: Choose if you prefer virtual DJ, want lots of outputs and inputs. One of the best 2 channel beginner DJ controllers.

Best Beginner DJ Controller

Pioneer DDJ-SB

best beginner dj controller DDJ SB

A smart budget choice, with similar look and feel to its bigger brothers. One of the best controllers under $500.

MSRP:$400 Click here for Promo Prices

Software: Serato DJ Intro

Pros: Jogwheels feel like CDJs, more pro looking that many beginner dj controllers

Cons: Limited FX controls

Overview: Choose if you like the pioneer style look, and if you want to scratch.

The Decision

All these controllers I listed ship with the lite version of the software, so they are going to be limited as to what you can do with them unless you pay for the upgrade.

The Gemini G2V is a great controller that used Virtual DJ. It is well built and offers great features normally intended for the higher end controllers.

Pioneers DDJ-SB is a pro looking controller with a budget. Great for users who love Pioneer and want to scratch as well.

Numark has a great beginner DJ controller with the Mixtrack Pro III. It offers great jog wheels, touch strips and pads.

Reloops BEATMIX2 offers great job wheels, sturdy pads a clean design and a great quality build. Great if you want 4 channels

Tips for choosing the best DJ Controller right for you

Choosing the right controller for you can be daunting at first there are a lot of things to consider. Budget is important and here are some tips on making the most of your hard earned money.

Beginner DJ controllers usually ship with lite versions. Though you can get the basic usage out of your controller with it. You can choose to upgrade to a higher version of the software to get all the usage out of your controller.

If you want to scratch or learn to, I would stay away for budget/cheap DJ controllers, they are not really meant for scratching, although some will do it, it wont feel right.

Be conscious these controllers send MIDI data, just because one controller ships with one software doesn’t mean you need to use it. However it will work best with the shipped software. All these DJ controllers can be reassigned to control parts of any standard DJ software.

Pay close attention to your connection options. What DJ Studio monitors are your using? You need that signal to make it to the speakers, will you connect directly to speakers or will you need a separate mixer as part of your setup?

How much time are you investing into this? Premium and Mid range controllers are great for the wedding/party DJ. They are compact and feature rich enough to be an all in one package.

If you are a hobbyist you can pick whichever one you want depending on your budget and style.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helped.