We hereby present to you our jam-packed review and buying guide of the best DJ controller, where we take a deep dive at the great USB DJ controller products, as well as the best virtual DJ controller options on the market today.
Over the past few years, the DJ industry experienced a considerable number of changes in a positive way. DJ equipment and gear have become more functional, powerful, and, at the same time, more accessible and less expensive.
While a lot of conservatives, or shall we say “old schoolers,” pledge to the importance of understanding the use of an actual vinyl deck to be the one and only foundation to harness this art, the dynamic and constantly evolving art of the DJ industry led to the opportunity for developing more digital and functional turntables and boards.
Part of the development and evolution of the DJ industry is the development of best DJ controllers, which can be considered the rational and reasonably priced equipment that you need to get yourself into the industry. It is also the more economical approach, as traditional decks are significantly more expensive than the current options. What makes the DJ equipment lineup nowadays better is how straightforward the process is, which makes it a lot easier than before to break into the scene.
Even though CDJs are still considered the original club standard, numerous clubs already utilize technology where you just plug the controllers straight into the system. One of the biggest misconceptions about best DJ controllers is that they are basic equipment. Actually, they can be considered both basic and advanced-level types of equipment; that’s why, regardless of skill level, the user will benefit from it in some way.
We will have a quick look at some of the best DJ controllers. In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best DJ controllers for under three hundred dollars. It might not seem like a lot of money when it comes to purchasing a cutting-edge bit of kit; however, you will be quite surprised at some of the amazing tunes you will be able to bang out for such a small amount of money.
DJ Controller Guide
When it comes to shape and configuration, the best DJ controllers share numerous similarities.
Best DJ controllers are MIDI controllers that are plugged to a PC or laptop through the USB cable. Best DJ controllers are used to control various types of software, including Serato DJ, Virtual DJ, Traktor, and RekordBox.
Every hardware control on the controller, including knobs, faders, and jog wheels, are carefully mapped to the software. Therefore, the cue points and playlists are safely stored into your laptop. That’s some next-level convenience for you.
However, it is very important to understand that you still need to control them via hardware.
You Get What You Pay For
As the construction of controllers vary depending on the actual price, it is realistically sound to find controllers made primarily from plastic materials. However, utilizing plastic-based equipment is not necessarily a bad thing. They tend to be more resilient, and they can endure shocks and knocks effectively. Another advantage of using plastic-based equipment is that they are significantly lighter than conventional materials, so portability and ease of transport are ensured.
Top Features To Look For
Most controllers usually come with the same or at least similar features. These features may include a mixer that has two physical decks. As with most decks, the standard features include faders for pitch and tempo, pause and play buttons, and of course, the jog wheels, which can be used for either vinyl mode or CDJ mode. There should be at least two sets of rotary Eqs for low, mid, and high frequencies, as well as volume faders and a crossfader.
What You Need To Work
The controller should definitely have both the input and output function. The former enables you to connect to other devices, such as other decks, for example. There are controllers that can connect to two additional decks, which can be either vinyl or CDJ, and these can be connected by either your software or directly through the mixer. Normally, this feature can be found in more expensive decks.
Quality Compatible Software
As we have mentioned before, a lot of controllers share common features, but how the software is utilized is where the similarities part ways. Although the controllers themselves have a lot in common, the software they use makes them different in a way. As stated before, controllers are used to control DJ software installed on a laptop. Different controller manufacturers utilize different software programs.
All Pioneer controllers use RekordBox.
All Native Instruments controllers use Traktor.
Most other controllers (Denon, Roland, Numark, etc.) use Serato DJ.
It is noteworthy that a lot of controllers can be mapped into the software in cases that they are not included by default. For example, a Native Instruments controller can be mapped to RekordBox. Despite the ease of use, and given how this process can be a little challenging or too technical for some, we highly recommend that you select your preferred controller because you might end up using it for quite a long time.
Remember to check thoroughly as every software product has its own set of advantages, as well as disadvantages. There are a lot of options, but it is quite hard to find the “ideal” because some features or functions may or may not work for you.
RekordBox – Pioneer is notorious for its mostly high-end gear. Expensive Pioneer controllers work either with RekordBox DJ or standalone in the same way as CDJs. You simply load your tracks onto a memory stick and mix without the requirement of a laptop.
Pioneer’s RekordBox DJ is incredibly robust, even though it’s only really been around for a couple of years. It isn’t lacking in any feature, and it sports a unique and modern interface with highly effective browsers and layouts.
Serato DJ – Serato DJ is considered to be the most frequently found software in the DJ controller industry. Given how the company doesn’t produce the controllers themselves, the software is grouped with controllers produced by companies that don’t have their own software, such as Denon, Numark, and Roland.
Serato DJ became renowned for its vertical waveforms. It has stuck around for nearly a decade now and is, without a doubt, still delivering for pro DJs until this very day.
Traktor – Native Instruments uses its own software, known as Traktor. Traktor has been considered to be the most exclusive among the three competitors. Many have suggested that Traktor will be coming to an end. This is because there had been no update from the company for a couple of years, enabling Pioneer and Serato DJ to overtake the company and increase their popularity. Traktor’s new version is eagerly anticipated.
For a long period of time, Virtual DJ has maintained its reputability as a type of software meant simply for the bedroom DJ.
Even without endorsements or big marketing, VirtualDJ managed to gain more than one hundred million downloads, making it undoubtedly one of the most utilized DJ software products around the world.
If you were to ask around, every DJ you would encounter will probably say they use or have used VirtualDJ at some point during their careers.
According to VirtualDJ, all the money it could have invested in marketing to make the software “seem” better it has instead invested in research and development in order to make its software “be” better.
It is for that very reason that all the professional press is unanimous. VirtualDJ continues to pioneer the DJ world by creating and introducing new technologies that will change the DJ-ing world of tomorrow years before the competition – including the best Virtual DJ controllers.
Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an accomplished DJ, VirtualDJ will always be able to provide you with the latest state-of-the-art features, which will not only help you mix better but will also give you a significant advantage. Don’t just sit there and let others have better tools and mix better than you. Do yourself a favor, and get your hands on the most advanced software as soon as possible so that you can create the best mixes you can. And make sure to get the best Virtual DJ controller.
A significant number of studies have gone on to show that VirtualDJ has one of the lowest crash ratios in the industry. This is because of its highly reliable, optimized, and well-tested code. VirtualDJ runs faster and smoother than any competitor’s software, making it a dependable piece of kit for your gigs.
Right off the bat, there are several best Virtual DJ controllers that are natively supported and work just fine, the Denon mcx8000 being the most popular at the moment.
Furthermore, with the VirtualDJ, you can map your gear how you want; after all, custom is king. Take your time when preparing yourself so that you can reap the rewards.
VirtualDJ supports more hardware than any other software and some of the best DJ controllers . With plug-and-play support for over three hundred best Virtual DJ controllers, the selection of gear is completely up to you. From easy-to-operate basic-level controllers to advanced club mixers, simply connect your best Virtual DJ controller, and you are all set to mix. Not only is detection and setup completely automatic, but the powerful built-in mapper allows you to customize everything with ease so that you can set your controller to work in a manner that is more convenient for you.
Another alternative would be to build your own hardware with a PLC; however, keep in mind that this should not be attempted by those who are shallow pocketed or faint of heart. Additionally, if you can choose HID rather than MIDI, you can build/write your own HW/FW/Def file/mapping. Should a component mechanically fail, you will know exactly how to fix/upgrade it without servicing charges.
Although VirtualDJ may lack that top-drawer crystal-clear interface, it has a highly customizable modular setup, which can be modified with skins created by both VirtualDJ and its community. Some skins are designed to give off the appearance of some of the best Virtual DJ controllers. This is amazing, and it really sets VirtualDJ apart not only from Serato DJ, but from every other software.
Furthermore, VirtualDJ enables you to use up to ninety-nine decks. Initially, this might sound rather silly; however, you can load tracks onto a few decks and know they’re waiting for you in the mix. This means no navigation, and you won’t even need to press a cue point. VirtualDJ’s almost infinite expandability can sometimes come at the price of stability, but for the most part, it’s pretty solid.
Pioneer DJ Controller
DDJ-SB3: 2-Channel DJ Controller for Serato DJ Lite
Pioneer DJ listened to its customers, and we believe that this product is one of the company’s tokens of appreciation for its loyal fans. By incorporating the good and widely praised features of the DDJ-SB2 together with the Serato best DJ controllers, the level of accessibility significantly increased.
While this product has been configured to work as a two-channel controller, DJs of various skill levels can benefit from it. The easy navigation process, the build quality, and every other feature seem to be well-thought of. We highly recommend that you harness the features of Serato DJ Lite first, then progress into greater heights by purchasing the Serato DJ Pro.
The simplistic design allows easy transition between tracks, thanks to the FX Fade feature. You can also try new things by using the scratch effects without the need to use an actual turntable. This can be done through the Pad Scratch function. These are really helpful and neat features to keep you rolling and improving.
Each of the features have been designed to be where you need them, when you need them. The layout takes on elements from the companies DDJ-S series, such as independent Auto Loop buttons, play and cue buttons, Performance Pads, and jog wheels.
Add scratch effects to cued or currently playing songs without having to use a turntable, thanks to Pad Scratch.
Whether you are just a beginner or an experienced DJ, mixing is seamless with the FX Fade feature.
Pioneer DJ created an exceptional product with the DDJ-SB3, which is made from top-quality materials and sound engineering. The streamlined design is perfect, and the equipment exudes a very professional feel.
Intuitive layout, all of the features were designed to be where you need them, when you need them. 5 inch durable aluminium jog wheel. Weight: 4.6 pounds.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 | USB DJ Controller
This company has managed to build a great reputation for itself, thanks to its affordable yet feature-packed best DJ controllers. The Mixtrack 3 is one of the later USB DJ controllers and is considerably cheap, easily weighing in below the three hundred dollars.
Regarding the quality of the build, this USB DJ controller is wide and spacious, which is great if space isn’t an issue for you. Its size makes navigating the USB DJ controller much easier, which may prove to be quite beneficial for when you are using this product in dark rooms where light is at a minimum. I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants to press the wrong buttons by accident when performing. This USB DJ controller made using plastic; however, it doesn’t look tacky at all, and it most certainly isn’t a toy.
The company has managed to include enough features to give this USB DJ controller scope. It delivers the goods in almost every respect: metal jog wheels, 100 mm tempo faders, sample / FX pads, EQ, and even a touch strip so that you can navigate through your music.
For the money, this company has provided a controller that will get both beginners and aspiring DJs off to a flyer. On top of that, this controller can execute most of the same functions that a controller twice its price could do.
This product includes the Serato DJ Lite, which can be upgraded to the full version at an additional cost when you feel you need it.
There are a number of benefits when it comes to this product. Not only can this controller be purchased at a reasonable price, but it is also an incredibly powerful piece of kit. The controller itself possesses a spacious design and layout. It also contains all of the features you would need as either a beginner or aspiring DJ. The controller likewise includes Serato DJ Lite for out of the box mixing.
Next-Generation Feature Packed Controller – Ultra-Portable two-deck DJ Controller for Serato DJ Intro (Included) for Mac and PC with high-resolution. On-board pro-grade class compliant audio interface.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum | 4-channel DJ Controller
Elevate Your Mix to Platinum Status!
Known as the world’s leading innovator of DJ equipment and technologies, this company is proud to present the Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller.
A recent addition to the family series, the Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller promises to improve the performance of any DJ, from the skilled amateur to the most advanced professional.
This product offers a number of amazing features, engineered to keep your mix on point. These features include a built-in custom LCD display screen in each 5” capacitive jog wheel, filter and gain controllers for each channel, four-channel mixing capabilities, a multi-function touch strip, and twenty-four-bit audio output.
All of the amazing features of the Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller are truly incredible. Thanks to them, you will be banging out mixes that will sound like that new song you know without a doubt is going to be platinum.
Whether you’re a pro or just a beginner, the Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller vows to take your set to the next level. So what are you waiting for?
Platinum High-Res Displays
You shouldn’t be getting distracted by your laptop while performing. It is vital that you keep your focus fixed on what’s crucial: your performance. Luckily, this is possible, thanks to this product’s innovative 1.75-inch full color displays, platter position, monitor information on bpm, pitch adjustment, time remaining, and keylock.
On-Board Audio Interface
Make complex setups a thing of the past with Mixtrack Platinum.
This company is well aware of the core controls that form the beating heart of any DJ Set. That’s why it has loaded this product with all the must-have mix essentials that you require.
4-Deck DJ Controller with LCD Displays, Touch-Capacitive Jog Wheels + Compact USB to DMX Interface and Serato DJ Lite Included.
Denon DJ MC6000MK2 | Premium Digital DJ Controller & Mixer
This product is the company’s next-generation flagship professional best DJ controller and digital mixer. It was created to be the ultimate tool for the most discerning of contemporary club and mobile DJs. This product’s slimline tabletop steel chassis unit can blend a 4 channel/8 source real-time matrix operational digital mixer with an uncompromising 24-bit, class-leading digital and analog audio interface. This product is a real-world, truly professional digital controller/mixer and a long-term performance partner for visionary DJs.
Includes full-version of Serato DJ (user download)
This product operates out of the box with the full version of Serato DJ. Serato DJ is known for being an award-winning software product that is used by countless DJ professionals across the globe.
A Multitude of Connectivity
This best DJ controller itself accommodates table-top CD and Vinyl decks, plus auxiliary input sources can easily be integrated, with USB audio input routing adding even more flexibility. This best DJ controller also guarantees fast and efficient DJ hand overs.
Opening up the creative potential of 4-deck mixing to all, the unit’s top panel places the all-important transport, loop, pitch, hot-cue/sample, and EQ samples ergonomically in order to guarantee an optimal, error-free live performance.
Slim Tabletop design for various DJ applications and portability. Includes free Serato DJ Lite downloads and optimized for Serato DJ Pro (full version) and others.