The Best Starter DJ Controllers Available in 2022

There has never been a better time to get into the art of DJing. Technology has brought a once very expensive hobby/profession into the mass market for beginners. Every major manufacturer of high-end DJ equipment now offers affordable digital DJ controllers.

WINNER

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 DJ Controller.

Pioneer DDJ-FLX4

4.8/5

A superb controller with a comprehensive pro-style mixer layout, high build quality, and innovative and fun FX options.

RUNNER UP

Top view of the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

4.7/5

An outstanding entry-level controller with a slick layout. It also features great FX and screens on the jogwheels.

Entry Level DJ Controller Reviews

With so much choice it can be difficult to know which controller you should buy. Let’s check out the best DJ controller currently available for beginners. Plus you can always jump to the full review for many of these controllers if you want more information.

Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 Review

The Best DJ Controller For Beginners

Specifications

Pros

  • Professional Layout – The DDJ-FLX4 features a layout that is similar to Pioneer’s professional range of DJ gear. This makes it a perfect beginner controller if you eventually want to use club gear.
  • Detailed FX Controls – An extensive selection of FX ensures you have full flexibility to add character to your sets. Innovative Smart CFX, plenty of performance pad modes, and a dedicated FX strip on the mixer.
  • Software Selection – Full unlock of Rekordbox DJ and compatible with Serato DJ. Explore both platforms and choose the one you prefer.
  • Modern Styling – A slick and clean design that oozes professionalism. Matte finish also minimizes fingerprints. USB-C connections also add to the modern edge.

Cons

  • Lacks Balanced Outputs – As with many beginner controllers, the DDJ-FLX4 doesn’t feature a balanced output option. You’ll have to stick with just RCA.

The Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 is the follow-up to the hugely successful DDJ-400. This new model improves in nearly every single way with innovative features and a tried and true layout that DJs love.

The comprehensive mixer section gives you access to everything you need to mix and gives you access to a range of performance features that set it apart from the competition, including Smart Fader for easier transitions between genres and Smart CFX for advanced filters.

The build quality is also superb while maintaining a lightweight and compact form factor. The DDJ-400 was the gold standard for beginner controllers, and the DDJ-FLX4 carries on that illustrious tradition.

It’s feature-rich, reliable, and attractive, making the Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 the best DJ controller for beginners.

Read our full Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 DJ Controller.

Pioneer DDJ-FLX4

4.8/5

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX Review

Best Beginner DJ Controller With Screens

Specifications

Pros

  • Long Pitch Faders – Much like other Numark DJ controllers there is a focus on long pitch faders. This makes it easy to make fine adjustments to the BPM of a song.
  • Screens on Jog wheels – The large jog wheels feature small screens that display vital information. The biggest advantage is the display of the BPM. This allows you to visually compare BPM’s between two tracks. This makes beatmatching without looking at your laptop much easier.
  • Soundcard – The Mixtrack Platinum also includes a 24-bit, 44.1k audio interface. This results in high-quality sound reproduction.
  • 4 Deck Mixing – Access up to 4 decks by activating the deck 3 and 4 buttons. This opens up the option to layer additional tracks, samples, or acapellas.

Cons

  • Appearance – An upgraded design that is better than previous models. But it still retains the awkward-looking Play and Cue buttons from past models.

The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is a fantastic beginner controller with all the features a new DJ needs. The layout is spacious and the additional features set it apart from other entry-level options.

The long pitch fader length is ideal for learning beatmatching and the addition of jogwheels screens assists further. Plus the jogwheels are decent in size and feel comfortable to use. They are also capable enough for some light scratching work.

The FX section is also intuitive and a heap of fun to use. The paddles are reminiscent of battle mixers and offer an engaging and effective experience. This controller is also lightweight and easy to transport. Perfect for taking it around to a friend’s house for an impromptu party.

It’s packed with features and comes in at an affordable price, one of the top controllers for beginners.

Read our full Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

4/5

Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review

Excellent Traktor Controller For Beginners

Specifications

Pros

  • Solid Build Quality – You can tell Native Instruments takes pride in their gear. The Traktor S2 Mk3 is another solid and well-built piece of DJ equipment. It can handle the rigors of consistent use.
  • DJ Software – The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 is packed with the full version of Traktor Pro 3. This excellent piece of software has all the features a DJ needs for digital DJing.
  • Portable – The small form factor makes this an excellent beginner DJ controller or even a backup to a larger setup. Added connectivity to the iOS Traktor DJ 2 App makes this a great portable option.
  • Pro Layout – A well-designed layout that mimics the more expensive Native Instruments controllers. This makes it easy to migrate to better gear down the track.

Cons

  • Plastic Knobs – Previous beginner controllers from NI featured rubber knobs that felt more comfortable. But, the new plastic knobs are more durable.

The re-imagined beginner DJ controller from NI is a winner. The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 offers a cleaner and more sleek design with a selection of great features.

Performance pads function well with a solid if slightly limited set of options available. The dedicated knobs for loop functionality is another great feature. The jog wheels have a good feel to them and can be used for executing scratch routines.

This 2 channel controller also offers impressive connection options. Two master outputs in both balanced and unbalanced. Plus, an added mic input. The built-in sound card is capable and delivers excellent audio quality.

Backed by Traktor Pro 3 software the Traktor S2 Mk2 is one of the best beginner DJ controllers. It’s also an excellent backup unit for any Traktor DJ.

Read our full Traktor S2 Mk3 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

4.7/5

Pioneer DDJ REV1 Review

Entry-Level Battle Style Serato Controller

Specifications

Pros

  • Big Jogwheels – The Pioneer REV1 offers the largest jogwheels available on an entry-level controller. This is great for new DJs that want to focus on scratching.
  • Affordable Serato Controller – This is the cheapest Serato controller that Pioneer offers. Serato is one of the world’s most popular DJ platforms making it a perfect entry point.
  • 4 Channels Available – Access to be able to run 4 channels at the same time via deck switching buttons.
  • Battle Style Layout – The REV1 offers a battle style layout similar to what pro turntablists use. This makes it a great gateway to the world of vinyl scratching.

Cons

  • Intro Software – Comes packaged with Serato DJ Lite. To unlock all the features you need to pay for the full version of Serato which is an added expense. Keep this in mind if you are on a tight budget.

The other Pioneer DJ controller aimed at the beginner market is the REV1. Serato is one of the most popular and full-featured pieces of DJ software in the market.

Excellent performance pads and a battle-style layout make this DJ controller a great starting point for scratch DJs. While it is a 2 channel controller you do gain access to decks 3 and 4 via convenient deck select buttons.

The unique layout is reminiscent of a turntable-style layout. But you won’t find this layout on the Pioneer club gear. This can make transitioning to other gear a little more challenging.

For beginners wanting to focus on scratching, the Pioneer REV1 is a great choice.

Read our full Pioneer DDJ-REV1 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Pioneer DDJ Rev1.

Pioneer DDJ-REV1

4.3/5

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 Review

Best Option For Learning Beatmatching

Specifications

Pros

  • Excellent Beatmatching Experience – One of the fundamental skills a new DJ needs to learn is beatmatching. The Inpulse 500 features visual guides to help with matching tempo, beats, and even assistance with phrasing. Fantastic for beginner DJs.
  • Built-In Feet – Unlike other entry-level DJ controllers, the Inpulse 500 features 4 feet to elevate the controller higher. This leads to better mixing ergonomics and also allows you to easily manage cables. Plus, the added elevation protects it from liquid spills on a table.
  • Pro Connections – The Inpulse 500 features a comprehensive suite of connection options. Thanks to the balanced TRS connection point, you can comfortably connect to PA systems.
  • DJ Software Flexibility – This controller is compatible with Serato DJ and also DJuced. This allows you full freedom to explore platforms and select the one that you like the most.

Cons

  • Serato Upgrade – While integration with one of the most popular DJ software platforms is present you’ll need to pay for an upgrade to Pro to unlock the full feature set of Serato DJ.

This beginner controller from Hercules is a big step forward for a brand that is often associated with toy-like controllers.

The mixer section features a full 3-band EQ along with FX features reminiscent of Traktor controllers. The knobs feel great and the added metal top plate gives it a professional feel.

The standout feature is the excellent beatmatch assist that is ideal for new DJs that want to learn beatmatching. Color indicators on the pitch faders help ensure the tempo is equal. Further color indicators on the jogwheels guide you in the direction you need to nudge the track to align beats. A seamless learning platform for beginner DJs.

An excellent controller for beginners that want to master beatmatching without relying on the Sync functionality that many beginner controllers depend on.

Top view of the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500

4.5/5

Roland DJ 202 Review

Great Choice For Creative DJs

Specifications

Pros

  • Built-In Drum Machine – Trigger 8 drum sounds from Roland’s selection of drum machines using the performance pads. This allows on the fly beat creation. If you are into the idea of remixing and production you’ll enjoy this addition to a starter DJ controller.
  • Responsive Jog wheels – High quality, touch-sensitive, and low latency for precise control. For scratch DJs, this is a must. Scratching and using the drum machine can be a rewarding creative outlet.
  • 4 Channel DJ Controller – Much like the SB3 you can access up to 4 channels. This expands your creative options as a DJ.
  • Midi Out – A Midi port at the back of the unit gives you the flexibility to add an extra piece of kit. Considering the various components available from Roland you can begin to migrate to a more live performance aspect of DJing.

Cons

  • Flimsy Feeling Build Quality – While I don’t expect premium materials in a beginner controller it does feel a little hollow and flimsy.

Roland is known for producing high-quality pieces of production gear. That same mentality has inspired their range of Roland controllers all the way down to this beginner option.

The DJ 202 takes a different approach to other beginner DJ gear by giving you access to more creative performance features. The built-in drum machine is excellent for adding your unique style to your sets. The ability to effectively remix live is something no other controller offers at this price point.

The built-in audio interface is excellent and delivers great sound. The large jog wheels are great for scratching as well. Performance pads are responsive and great for beat making.

The DJ 202 is a great option for beginner DJs that want a more performance orientated controller.

Read our full Roland DJ 202 review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Roland DJ 202

Roland DJ 202

4.1/5

Numark Mixtrack Pro FX Review

Super Affordable Beginner Controller

Specifications

Pros

  • Built-In Soundcard – Having an in-built audio interface is a huge plus for the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX. Plug your sound system directly into the unit without relying on your computer to handle the sound. This also makes the headphones substantially louder making it easier to preview and prepare mixes.
  • Really Long Faders – With full 100mm pitch faders, it is perfectly suited to mastering beatmatching by ear. Beatmatching is a challenging skill to learn to this is a big bonus.
  • FX Paddles – Instant access to a range of Serato FX via dedicated buttons. Activate FX on both channels via quick paddles and easily alter parameters with dedicated knobs.
  • Lots of Value – Offers a lot of the features you see on more expensive options. If you’re on a tight budget it’s a great way to get all the features you need while saving some money.

Cons

  • Intro Software – Serato DJ Lite is included. It may be a budget option but there is still the hidden upgrade cost if you want the Serato DJ Pro.

Numark has offered quality beginner DJ controllers for many years and the Mixtrack Pro FX is no different. This Numark DJ controller comes with a few features that you don’t normally find in DJ controllers at this level.

The performance pads are responsive with a good set of functions. The touch-sensitive jog wheels and knobs also feel good to use. Brand-new FX controls make adding and manipulating FX easy and fun. A complete and capable mixer section with 3-band EQ sets you up learning the ropes of DJing.

An updated design helps move the Numark away from the more toylike designs of the past. It’s a great DJ controller for beginners that offers an aggressively cheap price point.

Read our full Numark Mixtrack Pro FX review for more detailed information.

Top view of the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX

Numark Mixtrack Pro FX

4.2/5

Our Expert Buying Guide

When looking at buying your first DJ controller you need to ask a few key questions. These initial answers will help guide you in selecting something that is right for your needs.

What Type Of DJ Do You Want To Be?

There is a wide variety of DJing styles. Understanding what type of DJ you want to be is the first step in identifying which DJ gear will be right for you.

If you love the turntablist side of DJing you’ll want to make sure you get a controller with good jog wheels.

Executing scratch routines with small jog wheels is difficult. Poor responsiveness can also make this type of DJing hard.

You’ll also want to pick a controller that has good faders, especially the crossfader. The crossfader is the backbone of many of the initial scratches that you’ll learn.

Having a crossfader that can handle the rigors of all the practicing you’ll be doing will save you money in the long run.

If on the other hand, you are more interested in long and elaborate blends the jog wheels won’t be as important.

In this case, you’ll want a controller that gives you access to as many creative tools to adjust and manipulate your tracks to create seamless transitions. A good range of FX options and full 3-band EQ is a must for this type of DJing.

Dj controller on a table with headphones

Do you want to play gigs or just have fun at home? Figuring this out can help you choose the right controller.

Multi-format DJs that play a variety of genres have other more pressing needs. Good software that can accurately detect BPM will help you go from one genre to another.

This is where effective tagging tools come into play as well. Having a well-organized and easily searchable database makes playing different genres easier.

For more creative and production-focused DJs performance tools are very important. Injecting your own personality via FX, samples, and one-shots is extremely fun.

Having good-quality pads and software will make this easier. Likewise having access to additional decks opens up the option of layering several tracks at the same time. This further pushes your creative potential.

Finally, working mobile DJs will have a deeper focus on connectivity options. You’ll likely be connecting your controller to DJ speakers that may require a certain type of cable.

Access to a mic output will also be high on your list of wants. Having the option to MC or allow your customers to make speeches can set you apart from competitors.

There is no singular definition of a DJ. But, having an understanding of what you want from DJing can help narrow and refine your choices.

Do You Plan On Scratching?

As mentioned in the section above, if you want to incorporate scratching into your DJing you’ll need to make sure what you buy has solid jog wheels. Touch-sensitive platters that offer high resolution are ideal.

This is also an area where size does matter. Small jog wheels will make it difficult for you to have the tactile control you’ll need to effectively scratch. While not impossible you also don’t want to hinder your learning and progress because of poor hardware.

Poor build quality is also something to be mindful of. Scratch DJs will be aggressively using the jog wheels so they need to be able to handle the constant use.

The DJ controller needs to have a solid mixer section with all the controls you need to alter the music and play with effects.

Having access to a good EQ range (Low, Mid, High) will help you learn the subtleties of mixing. EQing is also one of the most used skills to execute smooth mixes. Removing frequencies from one track opens up space in the audio scape for the next track to find its spot. It also opens up the possibilities of extended blends.

Photo of a DJ playing on a DJ controller.

A comprehensive mixer section will give you all the tools you need to execute smooth mixes.

All good beginner controllers also need to have a proper cue/master output for your headphones. This is what will allow you to preview and prepare your mix. You’ll be able to hear both what is currently playing as well as what you intend on playing.

The mixer section should also have good pitch faders. These allow you to alter the tempo of the playing track so that you can align it with the next song.

Most starter DJ controllers offer Sync functionality which will automatically match up the beats. But to truly become a well-rounded DJ it is worth learning the skill of beat matching by ear. Long faders make this learning process easier and more beginner-friendly.

Other extras like Filters or on-board FX are also good features to look out for in the mixer section. These further open up your mixing possibilities.

What DJ Software To Use?

There are plenty of choices in DJ software but not all are created equal. Modern DJ controllers require software and the quality of that software will directly impact your enjoyment of both preparing and playing your sets.

When selecting a DJ controller the software included can also play a big role in determining value. High-quality software that offers lots of features but is still beginner-friendly is important. It’s also worth knowing if the software is introductory software or a full version.

To get the most out of your purchase you’ll want full version software that unlocks all the features. This may involve having to spend extra.

Many controllers are designed to be used with certain software with easy plug and play capability. If you already have DJ software you’ll need to check if it’s compatible.

How Often Will You Be Using The Controller?

Build quality is important when it comes to choosing the best beginner DJ controller. Many controllers that are designed for beginners can be made from cheap materials. For beginner gear, you’ll likely be faced with primarily plastic components. But how thick and rigid that plastic is will vary between manufacturers.

If you plan to jump on the decks on a regular basis you’ll want something that is going to be able to take the punishment. This becomes even more important if you plan on taking your DJ setup with you to a friend’s house or parties.

A photo of a DJ mixing on an entry-level controller.

Entry-level controllers are often compact but need to be connected to a laptop or PC.

Does It Have An In-Built Soundcard?

A dedicated sound card is a good feature . It will allow you to plug and play without having to rely on the capabilities of your computer or laptop. The best DJ controllers will offer a 24-bit sound card that can deliver crisp and clear audio. These controllers will also allow you to send the sound directly to your sound system.

While modern PCs offer good sound cards it’s best to pick up a controller that can handle the heavy lifting when it comes to sending the audio signals.

What Features Does The Controller Offer?

While most controllers follow the same overall design philosophy there is a lot of differences in features. Layering multiple effects will require something that has plenty of in-built effects options and controls.

Most beginner DJ controllers support 2 channels but a few do have some workarounds for 4 deck mixing. Knowing how likely you are to use these features is important. It will help you get a setup that allows you to fully explore the side of DJing you are most passionate about.

Performance pads often form the backbone of many of the extra features on a DJ controller. At the bare minimum, you’ll use these to set Cue Points or Hot Cues. These are markers in the track for your reference.

For example, they could be mixing in and mixing out points. But they can also be used for other interesting parts of the song that you may want to have on hand to quickly jump to.

Beyond Cue Points and Hot Cues, the performance pads can handle a wide range of other functions. Options like Pad FX or Pad scratch features tend to be handled by these pads.

The best DJ controllers will have a wide range of performance options that allow you to inject creativity into your transitions and routines.

Does The Controller Have The Inputs You Need?

DJ controllers for beginners often have minimal inputs and outputs. Knowing what type of connection options are available is also crucial.

It’s also worth checking the headphone connections. Open back headphones and DJ headphones will have different connection types.

When I purchased my first DJ controller I couldn’t start using it straight away as I needed a converter for my headphones to suit the headphone output.

Photo of RCA audio cables.

RCA is the most common audio output used in beginner controllers.

Master audio output is also worth considering. Many beginner controllers offer only one output source. This will prevent you from having a separate booth output.

While not a big issue for new DJs it can be critical if you plan on performing gigs where you’ll be far away from the main speakers.

Booth outputs allow you to set up a separate set of monitors close to you so that you can accurately time your transitions without sound delay.

Keep in mind most DJ controllers for beginners require a USB connection so you’ll need to have a spare USB port on your computer or laptop.

All the best starter DJ controllers are not standalone options and do require you to plug them into a laptop or computer. Unfortunately, there is no all-in-one option at the beginner price point. If you’re looking for something along those lines you’ll need to up your budget considerably.

What Is Your Budget?

There is a lot of difference in price points for DJ controllers. Luckily there are lots of choices if you are looking for a cheap DJ controller for beginners.

Knowing how much you have to spend can quickly eliminate some options. Keep in mind that just because a DJ controller is inexpensive it doesn’t mean you cannot craft amazing mixes on it. As long as it has all the basic features for mixing.

It’s also worth considering if you plan on purchasing headphones and speakers. In most cases, you’ll be able to get started with the headphones and speakers you already own.

If you do plan on buying them too you’ll need to split your budget. Where possible, invest in a DJ controller you can afford and then upgrade other components down the track.

It’s not uncommon to get a cheap DJ controller you can afford to start with. You can then look at an upgrade once you have a deeper understanding of what features you need.

A word of warning though you do get what you pay for. Higher build quality, more features, and more inputs will cost more. If you do have the extra funds available you won’t regret buying a more expensive DJ controller.

Cheap Doesn’t Mean Bad

There is a misconception that you’re not a real DJ unless you have expensive gear. That cannot be further from the truth. A professional DJ controller isn’t just determined by the price. In fact, many pro DJs love the compact and refined nature of beginner DJ controllers.

Check out this YouTube video from Pri yon Yoni explaining why he loves to use beginner DJ controllers that are targeted to beginners.

Which One Should You Buy?

The Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 is the best DJ controller for beginners. It has all the features a new DJ needs and a healthy dose of creative flexibility.

Rekordbox and Serato DJ software are the two most trusted and popular DJ software platforms, and this controller provides an easy-on-ramp to learn the core features of both. And with so many performance features, you’ll be able to evolve and grow as a DJ.

If you want a DJ controller with a focus on moving toward a turntable-style layout, I recommend the Pioneer DJ DDJ REV1. It’s the best DJ controller for beginners that want to focus on scratching.

No matter what type of DJ you plan to be you’re in for a great experience. DJing is a fun and rewarding hobby and there’s never been a better time to get started with so many quality beginner controllers available.

Top view of the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

4/5

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Patryk Biernacki

Patryk Biernacki

For over 20 years I've been involved in the world of DJing. Now I want to share my experience so that DJing is more accessible for anyone with a passion for music.

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