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The 10 Best DJ Controllers In 2020 - Home DJ Studio

Best DJ Controller : 2020 Review

Comparing and working out what the best DJ controller is can be a daunting task. In this review, we’ve done all the research for you and have listed the top 10 DJ controllers currently available.

Top 10 DJ Controllers

Pioneer DDJ 400 Beginner
Numark Mixtrack 3 Budget
Traktor Kontrol S3 Traktor
Pioneer DDJ1000SRT Serato
Pioneer DDJ1000 Rekordbox
Numark NS7III Scratching
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 iPad
Denon MC7000 4 Channel
Denon Prime 4 Screens
Pioneer XDJ RX2 All-In-One

Controllers have grown from a small niche industry into a dominating force in DJ culture.

From beginner DJs to professional DJs there is a controller available to suit your needs.

As technology has improved so has the features and functionality of DJ controllers. Modern DJ controllers emulate the layout and feel of professional-grade gear. This allows new DJs to learn DJing at an affordable price point. It also allows experienced DJs to have a portable and compact option to practice their DJ sets. 

In this guide, we go over the major categories of DJ controllers and the best option available in that category. We also dive into each category in more detail so you know what to look out for.

DJ Controller Reviews

The below is our list of the best rated DJ controllers currently available in each category. There is a range of excellent options available. So let’s not waste any more time and dive into the details.

Best DJ Controller For Beginners

Pioneer DDJ 400

The Pioneer DDJ 400 offers new DJs everything they need to get started in the world of DJing. It comes with excellent full version rekordbox software. The layout of the controller emulates higher-end Pioneer gear making it easier to step up to more advanced gear.

While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles it still offers a large number of pad modes and features. With long pitch faders, it helps make learning to beatmatch by ear easier. Built-in tutorial features to get you started are another bonus.

At an affordable price, it’s the best entry point for new DJs or DJs looking for a compact rekordbox controller.


Best Budget DJ Controller

Numark Mixtrack 3

If you are on a tight budget the Numark Mixtrack 3 is the best budget DJ controller currently available.

It offers new DJs 100mm pitch faders which are not common at this price point. These long pitch faders make it easier to adjust the BPM of a track more precisely. This makes beatmatching by ear easier.

Despite its low price point the Mixtrack 3 features a full 3 band EQ for full control over frequencies. High and Low pass filters are also available along with a suite of FX controls. Solid metal jogwheels add to a surprising level of build quality at this price.

If you don’t want to spend too much on your first controller the Numark Mixtrack 3 is your best option.


Best Traktor Controller

Traktor Kontrol S3

The Traktor Kontrol S3 is one of the best controllers Native Instruments has ever made. They have struck the balance between features and price with this controller.

It offers access to 4 channels and a full-featured mixer section to cover all the basic controls you need. The long and accurate pitch faders are great for manual beatmatching.

The jogwheels are high quality and durable despite not having the haptic feedback feature of the S4 Mk3. With plenty of connection options, it retains a small footprint making it a great portable controller.

If you are a fan of the Traktor ecosystem you’ll love the Kontrol S3.


Best Serato DJ Controller

Pioneer DDJ1000SRT

The Pioneer DDJ1000SRT is the Serato version of the popular DDJ1000. It’s a professional piece of gear that offers large jogwheels. These jogwheels have built-in screens for displaying important information. It has excellent and tight integration with Serato and offers control over 4 channels.

A large selection of connection options also adds to the flexibility this controller offers. An updated Magvel crossfader is also a step up from the previous generation.

An excellent choice for Serato fans that want a controller that looks and feels like club level gear.


Best Pioneer DJ Controller

Pioneer DDJ1000

The Pioneer DDJ1000 is a professional DJ controller with stacks of features. It offers DJs full-size jogwheels. The jogwheels also have screens that display waveform and cue data. Other important information is also displayed like BPM, time remaining and key.

The professional layout mimics high-end Pioneer gear making it an excellent option for DJs that want to or do use club gear regularly. The excellent sound color and beat FX allow you to fully express yourself behind the decks.

If you’re set on a Pioneer controller and want pro-level features don’t look past the Pioneer DDJ1000.


Best DJ Controller For Scratching

Numark NS7III

The Numark NS7III offers scratch DJs something that no other control can offer. Motorized jogwheels that emulate the feel of turntables. With the addition of slipmats and vinyl, it’s a controller that is sure to please dedicated vinyl DJs.

It features a detachable screen so that you get the benefits of the digital era. All without losing that authentic vinyl feel. If you are an exiting turntablist looking for a controller this is the closest you’ll come to replicate your experience.

It’s also a great controller for new DJs that want to explore the world of scratching without having to buy an expensive turntable setup.


Best iPad DJ Controller

Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers the best iPad integrated experience. The Traktor DJ 2 software for iOS is robust and offers plenty of features. You’ll also unlock a full version of Traktor Pro 3 and can use this controller with a laptop as well.

The controller itself offers full 3 band EQ and quality jogwheels that are of a decent size. A professional layout helps break the cycle of iPad controllers that don’t look like DJ gear. The inclusion of a master out is a bonus allowing for high-quality sound output.

The S2 Mk2 is the best choice for people that want to DJ with an iPad and controller combo. 


Best 4 Channel DJ Controller

Denon MC7000

The Denon MC7000 offers DJs a spacious and professional layout. The mixer section has plenty of room. Once you factor in all the integrated Serato features it is quite the accomplishment. It’s built tough and commands a presence. Luckily it’s not very heavy making it a good option for mobile DJs.

A long list of connection options for both inputs and outputs cements the MC7000 as a controller up to any task. It also comes with a massive amount of included Serato software.

If you are serious about 4 channel mixing the MC7000 is one of the best controllers out there.


Best DJ Controller With Screens

Denon Prime 4

It’s hard to look past the massive 10-inch screen on the Denon Prime 4. A gorgeous and bright screen that is a joy to use. It’s touch-responsive and adjustable to your preferred viewing angle. With 4 channels available it retains the feel of using professional-level gear.

It’s also standalone capable, with built-in Prime software and a SATA drive for music storage. Considering the size of the screen and the features it’s still much cheaper than other options in the market.

If screens are the biggest draw for you as a DJ this controller is the best available.


Best All-In-One DJ Controller

Pioneer XDJ RX2

The Pioneer XDJ RX2 takes out the top spot in the all-in-one category. The functionality this controller offers is perfect for mobile DJs that want a one-stop-shop DJ controller. It has an outstanding screen with stacked waveforms. While it’s only a 2 channel controller most mobile DJs are not composing elaborate sets for weddings, parties or smaller gigs.

The extensive range of connection options will also allow you to tackle any potential gig environment.

If you want to set the laptop aside or leave it at home this is the controller for you.


Best Digital DJ Controllers Buyer’s Guide

The growth of digital DJ controllers over the last decade has brought with it a large number of options. No matter what type of DJ you are there is a controller out there for you.

With so much choice DJs both new and established often ask what is the best DJ controller available. Navigating through these choices can be difficult. Most modern DJ controllers will share the same core features. They will allow you to mix from one track to another. But, once you move beyond the core similarities there are a lot of features that can be unique to a particular group of controllers. Understanding what you want from a DJ controller is half the battle. Once you have a clear idea of the features you need it makes it a lot easier to select a controller that’s right for your needs.

In this guide we breakdown the major categories of DJ controllers. Each section will detail what this category offers and some of the key features to look out for.

DJ Controllers For Beginners

One of the categories that has seen the biggest growth and most attention is DJ controllers for beginners. These entry-level controllers provide the perfect opportunity to get into DJing.

DJ altering the EQ on a DJ mixer.

Beginner controllers are a great way to learn DJing before moving onto more complex gear.

The best examples in this category will offer both software and hardware that allows you to plug in and start learning DJing. While they may not have all the bells and whistles of more professional controllers you’ll still be able to execute mixes. Even professional DJs use beginner controllers to prepare and practice their sets.

These beginner controllers also offer an affordable entry point. They are a great way to get started without committing too much money upfront.

Key Features

  • Aim for a beginner controller that has a full 3 band EQ. This allows you to manipulate Low, Mid and High frequencies which is important to properly mix tracks.
  • Keep in mind the software that comes with the controller. Ideally, you want full version software so that you don’t need to spend extra money down the line.
  • Beginner controllers often have fewer outputs compared to other controllers. If you want to hook up a specific set of speakers it’s worth paying attention to what outputs are available.

Budget DJ Controllers

Not everyone has a lot to spend on a hobby. Luckily there are some good choices available if you are on a tight budget. DJing used to be an expensive hobby but modern technology has allowed nearly everyone to get into DJing at an affordable price.

DJ adjusting the EQ on a DJ controller.

Budget controllers won’t have expansive features but they are a great starting point.

These controllers offer the bare bones when it comes to features and connectivity. If you are not sure if DJing is something you have the time and dedication for these controllers offer a good way to test the waters.

Key Features

  • While these controllers are cheap they should still have 2 channels, a decent EQ section, and jogwheels. This allows you to experiment with all the fundamentals of DJing.
  • To keep costs down these controllers often don’t have built-in soundcards. They will rely on your computer or laptop to process the audio.
  • Avoid controllers that don’t allow you to alter the cue/mix in your headphones. This is what allows you to preview the next track and align it with the current track that is playing.

Traktor Controllers

Native Instruments has been a mainstay of the DJ scene for a long time. Both in software and hardware. With the release of Traktor Pro 3, a fresh batch of Traktor compatible DJ controllers followed.

DJ using a Traktor controller.

Native Instruments produces innovative and capable DJ hardware.

These controllers are well-built and feature-rich. They often have innovative features that set them apart from other controllers in the market. Access and control over stems also offer DJs a new way of DJing. It allows you to play a certain component of a track like a bassline or a drum section.

Key Features

  • Traktor controllers work with Traktor software. As a result, it is difficult to get them to work with other popular DJ software platforms. Traktor Pro 3 is excellent DJ software but it is still worth keeping in mind if you want to experiment with other software.
  • Currently, Native Instruments is in the third generation (Mk3) of their line of controllers. While you can still pick up the previous generation of models I’d suggest you stick to the latest generation for the tightest integration.
  • Native Instruments also offers a range of other hardware that is compatible with some of their controllers. If you have ambitions to expand your DJ skills or move into production there is a wide range of directions you can go in.

Serato DJ Controllers

Serato is another dominant force in the DJ scene. Their innovative line of software options has opened up digital DJing including digital vinyl mixing. As a result, most of the major DJ gear manufacturers offer a Serato compatible controller.

Pioneer controller in a club environment.

Serato is the most supported piece of DJ software with plenty of quality choices.

Serato offers DJs excellent control over their music. It is also a stable and reliable piece of software that has made it popular amongst professional DJs.

Key Features

  • When buying a Serato controller it’s worth keeping an eye out on if it comes with the Pro version or the Lite version. The Lite version is free but it locks out certain features. The biggest locked feature is the ability to record your mixes.
  • Serato offers a wealth of functions. A good Serato control will have integrated controls over as many of these functions as possible. This allows you to spend less time playing with your laptop and more time engaged in your mix.
  • Due to the popularity of Serato, there are over 90 compatible controllers available. Despite this massive number, you should stick to the major manufacturers like Pioneer, Denon, Roland, and Numark.

Pioneer DJ Controllers

Pioneer has a firm grip on the professional DJ scene. Their high-end gear is the mainstay of both clubs and festivals. This makes their controllers an excellent choice if you have ambitions of becoming a professional DJ. 

DJ playing on a Pioneer DJ Controller

Pioneer has a firm grip over club-gear making their controllers an excellent starting point.

While the range of Pioneer controllers can be more expensive they are well-built. Pioneer also has a range of controllers for their DJ software rekordbox. Originally a music library management tool it has evolved into a solid piece of DJ software and a legitimate alternative to Serato.

Key Features

  • Pioneer offers a large amount of DJ controllers. It’s worth checking compatibility with certain software if you have a preference.
  • Controllers in the Pioneer range have an excellent reputation. It’s a brand you can trust.
  • The modern generation of Pioneer controllers emulates the layout and features of high-end DJ gear. If you have plans on upgrading to club-level gear these controllers are a great option.

DJ Controllers For Scratching

DJs that want to explore scratching also have a large number of controllers to choose from. While on the surface most controllers have jogwheels the quality varies.

Despite what purists may have you believe you can execute the full array of scratches on a quality DJ controller. From baby scratches to crab scratches and everything in-between.

Close Up photo of a DJ using a jogwheel.

Modern DJ controllers are more than capable of executing scratch routines.

High-quality DJ controllers will also allow you to plug in external hardware like vinyl decks. This opens up the best of both worlds. Tactile control over your music with all the performance features modern software offers.

Key Features

  • The jogwheels are the most important feature to consider when selecting a controller for scratching. You need jogwheels that are low-latency for maximum responsiveness. You also want the jogwheels to be a decent size to make it comfortable to scratch.
  • Resistance and feel is another key feature of jogwheels. They shouldn’t be overly stiff but offer enough resistance to properly emulate the feel of scratching on vinyl-based gear.
  • Paying extra attention to the crossfader is also important. A loose yet well-built crossfader is ideal for quick chops between channels. A replaceable crossfader is also great. It allows you to add a crossfader of your choice or replace a worn out or broken fader.

iPad DJ Controllers

With the growth in tablets a new market emerged. People wanted to access DJing without the need for a laptop or computer. From here a variety of controllers have come onto the market with varying degrees of success.

DJing using a crossfader on a DJ controller.

Adding a DJ controller to your iPad setup gives you more tactile control over your mixes.

The majority of these controllers are compact and aimed at beginner DJs. This does result in a reduction of features. What it does offer though is excellent portability. It’s never been easier to have everything you need to DJ fit into a backpack.

Key Features

  • The size of the controller is worth considering. If you want to play anywhere you don’t want a massive controller. Especially once you factor in the space that an iPad can take up.
  • Connectivity becomes even more important in these compact setups. You’ll want to be able to plug speakers in if possible. Plus having the option to use it with a laptop as well as an iPad is ideal.
  • There is a range of DJ apps available but some are better than others. It’s worth checking what software is compatible with the controller and if it’s good software. The ability to stream music from Soundcloud, Beatport or iTunes is also worth considering. Especially if you don’t have an existing music library.

4 Channel DJ Controllers

Once your skills expand you may be looking to move into 4 channel mixing. This style of mixing opens up a new world of creative options. You can layer several tracks at once and incorporate acapellas, scratch routines and more into your sets. It tests your skills and makes DJing an even more engaging experience.

DJ standing in front of a DJ equipment

Mixing with 4 channels is both challenging and rewarding.

Not every genre of music lends itself to 4 channel mixing. Likewise not every DJ wants to mix using 4 channels so understanding where you want to take your DJ journey is important. There is no point in spending extra to gain access to 4 channels if you have no intention of utilizing them.

Key Features

  • A spacious mixer section is important in 4 channel controllers. You’ll be spending a lot of time adjusting EQ and moving faders. Having enough space to do this comfortably will prevent mixing fatigue and keep you motivated.
  • The software also plays an important role. When working with samples, acapellas and multiple tracks you want all that information to be clearly displayed. Good use of screen real estate is important along with stacked waveforms.
  • The other component to keep in mind is latency. Changes you make to the audio should reflect quickly and precisely. Most modern controllers handle this well but it’s worth pointing out in case you’re looking at an older controller.

DJ Controllers With Screens

For the longest time DJ controllers didn’t offer screens. You needed to assess all the extra information from the software on your laptop or computer.

Once components became more affordable there was a rapid growth in controllers with screens. First, it came to high-end professional gear but eventually it made its way to controllers.

Pro DJ gear with laptop in the background.

Screens are a mainstay of pro-level DJ gear and are now more common in controllers.

These controllers help detach you from your laptop and keep you engaged with your gear. Some can also serve as standalone controllers where a laptop isn’t even required.

Key Features

  • The screens are a critical component and need to be up to the task. They should be hi-res and a decent size. Touch controls are good but so are good navigation knobs. Factor this in if you prefer one over the other.
  • The placement of the screens is also important. Some controllers will have smaller displays on the jogwheels. Others will have dedicated screens above the decks. Consider which option is more suitable to the style of mixing you do.
  • Beyond size and quality, it’s also worth knowing what information is available on the screen. It should display the info logically so that you have all the vital info you need to execute your mixes.

All-In-One DJ Controllers

These controllers are usually aimed at the mobile DJ market. Having said that many DJs want to have a controller that doesn’t rely on a connected laptop.

If you are a mobile DJ these controllers will allow you to bring less gear to your gigs. It will also have a layer of redundancy since it is one less component in the chain that could fail.

DJ equipment at a wedding

All-in-one DJ controllers are an excellent choice for working mobile DJs.

Hobby DJs can also enjoy these types of controllers if their laptop or PC is a low spec machine. There is a certain amount of security that comes with having a controller that works independently of other hardware.

Key Features

  • Portability is a big consideration, especially for mobile DJs. You don’t want to replace a lightweight controller and laptop with a heavy standalone controller. Finding the balance between features, size, and weight is critical.
  • Standalone systems often include screens to provide the ability to search and control your music library. The onboard software is an important factor to consider if this is the case. It should be easy to use and contain a good set of features comparable to regular DJ software.
  • A standalone system removes the need for a laptop. But, it’s still worth investing in an all-in-one controller that supports connection to a laptop. This gives you the best of both worlds in case you want to switch between the two.

The Future Of Professional DJ Controllers

DJ controllers have undergone some massive evolutions over the last few years. This trend is far from over with new models announced regularly. The latest DJ controllers keep pushing the boundaries of included features while upping the build quality.

There has never been a better time to get into DJing with so many great controller options. As the popularity of these digital controllers increases, I’d expect to see even more amazing choices in the future. I for one can’t wait to see what the next generation brings. But, in the meantime time what are you waiting for. Get yourself some gear and start spinning!

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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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