DJs are a staple at clubs, parties, and special events like wedding receptions, and controllers help them bring the tunes. They set up in a corner or an out-of-the-way place and perch themselves behind an audio system delivering grooves that make people want to dance. The difference between a good DJ and a great one is how they mix tracks. It’s easy to play one song after another, but a great DJ will blend the two tracks, seamlessly transitioning between the two, and add a dose of sound effects.
At the heart of mixing is the DJ controller, which comes in all sizes and price points. Some are complex and best left to a seasoned DJ, while others have a simplified interface and come with training software. The choices can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. That’s why we put together this guide on the best DJ controllers for beginners.
— Best Overall: Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX
— Best Value: Pioneer DJ DDJ-200
— Best Small: Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ Controller
— Best for Traktor Integration and Simplicity: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
— Best for Mixing: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200
How We Picked the Best DJ Controllers for Beginners
To find the best DJ controllers for beginners, we started with a list of essential features and compiled a list of recommended models. We rated each controller based on features, price, and by looking at owner and expert reviews. Where required, we applied our own personal experience and knowledge of audio equipment to narrow down the options.
The goal is to not only rate the best DJ controllers for beginners, but provide you with information to help you decide which controller is best for you. The controllers on this list all rate highly for beginning DJs and would make great options to help you get started.
Best DJ Controllers for Beginners: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX
Why It Made The Cut: The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is the best overall DJ controller for beginners with its mix of features like a high-resolution pitch fader, 4-channel support, and excellent jog wheels.
— Inputs: One microphone
— Outputs: RCA and headphones
— Software: Serato DJ Lite
— Lots of great features
— Great effects controls
— Solid build quality
— Not the cheapest
— Serato DJ Lite software limits capabilities
Numark’s Mixtrack Platinum FX offers a lot of bang for your buck, combining a lot of features, ease of use, and a reasonable price in one package. It includes pro-level features like 4-deck mixing with a range of tools like Hot Cues, Sampling, Fader Cuts, and Auto Loop. The jog wheels are easy to use with high-resolution, built-in LED displays. There is even a wide range of built-in effects which can be deployed by a set of easy-to-use paddles.
The Mixtrack Platinum FX comes with Serato DJ Lite and a built-in 24-bit audio interface with plug-and-play USB connectivity for Macs and PCs. This makes it easy to browse and stream everything from classic tunes to the latest underground sounds from providers like SoundCloud and TIDAL. The setup makes it easy for a beginner to up his or her game to sound like a pro, but it also offers enough features for more experienced DJs. In fact, this controller is one people recommend as a backup unit for professional gigs.
The downsides are minor but have to do with cost. The Numark Mixtrack Platinum is not the cheapest DJ controller, but you are getting a lot of value for what you pay. If you can live without some of the features, you can also get by with the Mixtrack Pro or Party Mix.
The other cost has to do with the Serato DJ Lite software. Many of the Serato DJ software features are locked out in the lite version, however, you can upgrade to Serato Pro which costs about $130. The lite version will get you started, offering plenty of tracks and features.
Best Value: Pioneer DJ DDJ-200
Why It Made The Cut: Pioneer makes a number of great DJ controllers but the DDJ-200 is the best value for beginners with its low price and easy-to-use tutorial software.
— Inputs: None
— Outputs: None
— Software: WeDJ, Djay, edjing Mix, and rekordbox
— Low price
— Excellent smartphone and tablet connectivity
— Several great software options including full unlock of WeDJ
— Compact size
— No audio interfaces
Like most of its audio products, Pioneer’s DJ controllers rank among the best in the industry. The company offers a variety of high-quality, low, mid-range, and pro-level controllers and the DDJ-200 is no exception.
The DDJ-200 provides a basic setup that’s good for novice DJs. A simplified mixer and other controls look the business without being overwhelming. Thanks to the simple layout, the DDJ-200 is compact and makes a great option for people who want a smaller controller.
Where the DDJ-200 really shines is in the software. It comes preloaded with Djay, edjing Mix, a full copy of Pioneer’s own rekordbox, and WeDJ applications. WebDJ is especially helpful for beginning DJs with its great tutorial features. Later, once you’ve mastered the basics you can step up to rekordbox and begin working on advanced mixing.
The DDJ-200 does not include any physical audio inputs or outputs and is solely connected using Bluetooth devices. Fortunately, the integration is seamless and the power demands are low enough that it can be powered by a USB input. Unfortunately, the lack of physical interface means you’ll have to add a separate device for a proper DJ setup with output and headphones.
Lack of physical interface aside, the Pioneer DDJ-200 is one of the least expensive and easiest-to-use controllers out there. It’s a great choice if you want to DJ as a hobby or learn the basics before upgrading to a more sophisticated setup.
Best Small: Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ Controller
Why It Made The Cut: Roland’s DJ-202 is compact but packed with lots of features including a drum machine, sequencer, and comprehensive Serato control.
— Inputs: One microphone
— Outputs: RCA and headphones
— Software: Serato DJ Lite
— Great drum machine emulations
— Mic input includes vocal effects
— Comprehensive Serato control
— Same great quality as Roland’s more premium controllers
— Expensive compared to other controllers
— Serato setup and configuration can be tricky
Roland is a great brand with a long history of building outstanding musical instruments and electronic equipment, but are fairly new to the DJ world. Like its other products, Roland’s range of DJ controllers matches up well to the heavyweights. As a bonus, the controllers are able to emulate Roland drum machines.
The higher-end Roland DJ-505 and DJ-808 controllers come with more features and controls, but the DJ-202 isn’t lacking. It includes a mic input with several onboard vocal effects, including a gate, filters, reverb, and echo. Plus, its build quality easily matches the high-end machines while being somewhat less expensive and smaller.
The DJ-202 is designed for use with Serato Lite but can be upgraded to Serato Pro if you purchase a license. However, some reviewers have commented that the upgrade and installation process can be tricky, taking several hours and multiple attempts.
Pricewise, you’re paying a premium compared to other DJ controllers because of the drum emulation and vocal effects. If those are features you don’t plan to use, there are other controllers that are more suitable. However, if the drums and vocal effects are your thing, the Roland DJ-202 is an excellent choice. Not only are the effects amazing, but the size and basic aspect of the controller make it a good small controller or backup if you decide to move up to a more sophisticated one.
Best for Traktor Integration and Simplicity: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
Why It Made The Cut: Native Instruments’ Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is a great introduction into the Traktor ecosystem and comes in a very cool-looking package.
— Inputs: One microphone
— Outputs: RCA & headphones
— Software: Traktor DJ and Traktor Pro
— High quality, well-built, and stylish controller
— Includes full licenses for Traktor DJ and Traktor Pro
— Works with mobile and desktop devices
— Complex controls for novice DJs
— Customer support can be difficult to work with
Now in its third generation, the Traktor Kontrol S2 has developed a reputation as a stylish, well-built DJ controller. Lightweight but sturdy, it has the cool look and feel of a professional setup.
Specifically designed for Native Instruments’ Traktor ecosystem, the S2 is equipped with both a beginning Traktor DJ app and Traktor Pro for more advanced DJs. It also comes with full licenses for these software applications, making it a bit of a bargain among entry-level controllers.
The S2 lacks the controls and effects of the bigger, more expensive Traktor controllers, but there are still plenty of features for a beginner or intermediate DJ. That said, it can still be a bit complex and intimidating for novice DJs, and the Traktor DJ app is not as intuitive as some other software. There also have been complaints about customer service from some reviewers who struggled to contact them and get assistance with warranty claims.
However, for someone who likes the Traktor software apps, or wants a premium-looking controller that will provide a great platform for beginning and intermediate DJs, the Traktor S2 MK3 is a great way to get your feet wet.
Best for Mixing: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200
Why It Made The Cut: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200 is targeted for beginners who want to jump in and start mixing and scratching.
— Inputs: None
— Outputs: RCA & headphones
— Software: DJUCED
— Video tutorials and lighting make mixing a breeze
— Includes beat align and track assistant
— Great low price
— No integration with big-name DJ software
If you want to learn the basics, including mixing and scratching, the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200 is an excellent option. Not only is it one of the least expensive controllers, but also one of the easiest to learn how to use.
The Inpulse 200 comes with Hercules’ own DJUCED software installed, which includes integrated video tutorials showing you how to mix. Better still, the tutorials are interactive. Combined with the software, the Inpulse line of controllers include a light guide to show what buttons to push or how to blend and mix tracks. A visual, lighted beat pulse helps you align the beat between two decks. Finally, the “Intelligent Music Assistant” will suggest tracks or effects to keep the party going.
The trade-off for the low price is a lack of integration with big-name DJ software. If you’re looking for Serato, Traktor, rekordbox, etc. then keep looking. Another drawback is the controller also looks a bit like a toy with its multi-colored buttons and lighting. But the low price and interactive tutorials could be just the thing if you’re getting started.
Things to Consider Before Buying a DJ Controller
More than just two turntables, modern DJ controllers include a lot of features for mixing and adding sound effects. They also include functionality like Bluetooth connectivity and software to access a wide variety of music. If you’re just getting started, here are the basic things to look for.
DJ controllers all have controls that look like turntables called jog wheels. These controls also perform many of the same functions as traditional turntables allowing DJs to scratch and bump music tracks, or sync two tracks together. Most DJ software also provides these capabilities but can’t match the feel you get from a physical wheel.
Faders and Mixers
A mixer is the tool used to blend several tracks together. The primary tool of the mixer is the fader, which allows a DJ to adjust the volume of each track and fade it in or out as needed. These controls are split between vertical faders, which adjust individual track volumes, and a horizontal crossfader to blend tracks together.
Most DJ controllers include audio inputs to add additional sound outputs like a microphone. While you can use a laptop or a tablet, the sound quality will generally be better using a controller. Some controllers also come with sound effects or drum machines you can use as well.
Back in the Dark Ages, DJs used CDs and vinyl records to provide music. Today everything is online. DJ software includes a music streaming service with access to a large library of music. Typically run off of a computer or mobile device, the software lets you build playlists, mix tracks, and add sound effects. Some controllers have their own proprietary software while others are compatible with multiple applications. Like most applications you download to your phone, you can use a free version or pay for a license.
Q: How much do DJ controllers for beginners cost?
DJ controllers start at $100 and can cost up to $4,000 depending on features and quality. For beginners, look for a controller in the $100 to $300 range, or up to $500 if you want something with a built-in drum machine.
Q: What’s the difference between a DJ mixer and a controller?
A mixer is a device allowing a DJ to mix music tracks and sound effects. It can be a standalone device but is included with most DJ controllers. Mixers require multiple audio inputs which can be mixed or blended together to seamlessly integrate two music tracks or add other sound inputs.
Q: What do I need as a beginner DJ?
Q: What is the easiest DJ software to use?
Virtual DJ and WebDJ are the easiest software apps for beginners to use and include aids and tutorials for beginners. For more experienced DJs, Serato and Traktor are the most common software applications and provide a wide variety of features.
Final Thoughts on the Best DJ Controllers for Beginners
If you are a beginning DJ, the selection of controllers can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know what features you need and there is a learning curve involved with using the DJ software and mixing tracks. Fortunately, there are a number of really good DJ controllers that cover the basics and are excellent choices for beginners. All of the controllers on this list include the software to get you started and standard features like mixers and jog wheels.
One area that gets overlooked is the DJ software. Experienced DJs have their preferences on what software to use based on features, but a novice DJ needs a software application that is easy to use and provides training on how to get started. Look for a controller that has a basic software package with a tutorial guide and options to upgrade to a more comprehensive software package later.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.