DJ Controllers have grown from a small niche industry into a dominating force in DJ culture. From beginners to professional DJs, there is a controller available to suit your needs and setup.
In this detailed guide, we cover all the major categories of DJ controllers. The best one for you will depend on your DJing style. Read on to find out exactly which DJ controller is right for you.
The Best Rated Controllers
Top 10 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.
Pioneer DDJ 1000 Review
- Full-Color Jog Wheel Display – Large jog wheels that are ideal for scratching. Plus plenty of detailed information including waveforms displayed for quick reference.
- Gets You Club Ready – Transitioning to club gear is easy due to the near-identical pro DJ layout. Excellent set of decks to practice your routines before using high-end gear.
- Hardware FX – Inherits 14 hardware FX from the NSX2 mixer. More than enough to add FX to your DJ sets.
- 16 Performance Pads – Beyond Sound Color and Hardware FX there is also a range of excellent pad modes. Great way to stretch your DJ skills even further.
- Rekordbox DJ Only – The Pioneer DDJ 1000 doesn’t support other popular DJ software platforms like Serato DJ. Rekordbox DJ is an excellent piece of DJ software but some DJs may not want to make the transition.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ 1000 is a professional 4 channel DJ controller with stacks of features. It offers DJs 5.5-inch jog wheels. The jog wheels 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 24-bit soundcard also does an excellent job at delivering excellent sound output quality.
Responsive performance pads add an extra layer of functionality. Set hot cues or explore the various performance features with ease. The excellent sound color and beat FX allow you to fully express yourself behind the decks. The built-in sound card is also very good.
If you’re set on a Pioneer DJ controller and want pro-level features don’t look past the Pioneer DJ DDJ 1000.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ 1000 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 1000
Denon Prime 4 Review
- Amazing Screen – Huge full-color 10-inch screen. Touch capable and very intuitive to use. Excellent for DJs who want to ditch the laptop.
- Excellent Construction – Build quality is high with solid components. Fantastic attention to detail.
- Value For Money – Once you factor in everything this DJ controller offers the price point is very reasonable.
- Can Be Used Standalone – Excellent option for DJs that would prefer to ditch the laptop and controller combo.
- Engine Prime – While continual updates are welcome the included software still lags behind industry heavyweights. Recent Serato support is a welcome addition.
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 offering excellent visual feedback. It’s touch-responsive and adjustable to your preferred viewing angle. With 4 channel deck control available it retains the feel of using professional-level gear. The 24-bit audio interface also delivers clean and solid sound.
It’s also standalone capable, with built-in Prime software and a SATA drive for music storage. Plug and play capability for quick setup at gigs. Plus added dual USB functionality for back to back sets. Considering the size of the screen and that it is packed with features, it’s still much cheaper than other options in the market.
This is the best DJ controller if a built-in screen is at the top of your priority list.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Pioneer XDJ RX2 Review
- 7-Inch Screen – Touch controls are executed cleanly on this controller. Convenient navigation knob and stacked waveforms.
- Responsive Jog Wheels – For scratch enthusiasts, there is a lot to like here. Despite the smaller platters it still offers accurate and precise control.
- Professional Layout – The NSX2 layout is what many professional DJs are familiar with. For DJs with aspirations to work in the industry, this is a great jumping-off point.
- Comfortable Workflow – Functions are spaced out logically. Important information is easily viewable. Allows you to focus on your gear, not your laptop.
- Only 2 Channels – The price point is fairly high. For this amount, I would have liked to have access to 4 channels.
The Pioneer DJ 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 plug and play DJ system.
It has an outstanding screen with stacked waveforms. While it only offers access to two channels, 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. With dual USB it is also easy to handover to other DJs or for back-to-back sets.
If you want to set the laptop aside or leave it at home this is one of the best controllers available.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Pioneer DDJ 400 Review
- Excellent Layout – Mimics the professional Pioneer layout seen on club based gear. Transitioning to other Pioneer gear is a breeze.
- Full DJ Software Included – Included Rekordbox DJ unlock gives you access to powerful DJ software without the added expense.
- Solid FX Options – Pad FX coupled with Beat FX give you plenty of options to incorporate FX into your DJ sets.
- Beginner Friendly – Tutorial is included to ease the learning curve. The simple and easy to use layout is another benefit.
- Tight Mixer Section – The compact mixer section of the Pioneer DDJ 400 is a little cramped.
The Pioneer DDJ 400 offers new DJs everything they need to get started in the world of DJing. It comes with the excellent and powerful Rekordbox DJ software. A crisp and refined layout that emulates pro gear while maintaining a refined footprint.
Component quality is also good with all the knobs, performance pads having a great feel to them. The 24-bit audio interface does a good job of delivering decent audio quality. Excellent value for money.
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.
At an affordable price, it’s one of the best DJ controllers for new DJs or DJs looking for a compact Rekordbox DJ controller.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ 400 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 400
Rane One Review
- Motorized Jog Wheels – The large platters offer excellent tactile scratching control. A great choice for turntablists looking for a controller.
- Excellent Crossfader – The Mag Four fader adds to the scratch DJ mentality of this controller. It is light and smooth making quick cuts and crabs effortless.
- Solid Connectivity – Master and Booth outputs along with RCA Line-In. Connect extra gear for full 4 deck control giving you full flexibility.
- High Quality – Metal components and excellent finish. A durable choice that can handle the rigors of consistent use.
- Only 2 Channels – A very minor gripe and for the vast majority of scratch DJs, they’ll rarely want access to 4 channels.
The Rane One offers scratch DJs something that no other control can offer. Motorized jog wheels that emulate the feel of turntables. With the addition of a quality crossfader, it’s a controller that is sure to please dedicated vinyl DJs.
It features additional digital controller options like Pad Modes and FX paddles. All without losing that authentic vinyl feel. If you are an existing turntablist looking for a controller this is the closest you’ll come to replicate your experience.
It’s also the best DJ controller for new DJs that want to explore the world of scratching without having to buy an expensive turntable setup.
Read our full Rane One review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S3 Review
- Robust Jog wheels – The S3 offers capable platters that you can comfortably scratch with.
- 4 Channel DJ Controller – Access to extra channels is often high on the list when it comes to features DJs want to explore once they learn the basics.
- Connectivity – Extensive range of connectivity choices supporting a variety of speaker systems. Also offers a booth output.
- Loop Controls – Intuitive and crisp loop controls via a dedicated loop control knob.
- Lackluster FX Section – 4 solid dedicated output FX but lacks dedicated deck control FX section. Requires manual control using the DJ software.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S3 is one of the greatest DJ controllers NI has ever made. They have struck the balance between features and price with this controller. It has excellent integration with Traktor Pro 3 DJ software.
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 jog wheels 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.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S3
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX Review
- Long Pitch Faders – Small controllers often mean small pitch faders but that isn’t the case here. Full-size faders are great for beatmatching.
- Aggressive Price Point – Numark has a history of offering budget-priced controllers for new DJs. This is another excellent example of a low priced controller with good features.
- Complete Mixer Section – Full EQ section which is often lacking on other entry-level controllers.
- Decent Jogwheels – Despite the low price the jogwheels are solid and made from metal.
- Serato DJ Lite – While it does keep the price down Serato DJ Lite is a stripped-back version. To unlock all the features you need to upgrade from Serato DJ Lite to Serato DJ Pro.
If you are on a tight budget the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX is an excellent entry-level Dj controller for Serato.
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 Pro FX 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 quality at this price. The FX paddles and FX selection is another excellent addition to this budget controller.
If you don’t want to spend too much on your first controller the Numark Mixtrack 3 is your best option.
Read our full Numark Mixtrack Pro FX review for more detailed information.
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX
Pioneer DDJ 1000SRT Review
- Pro DJ Layout – The Pioneer DJ range offers a familiar Pioneer layout allowing you to easily move to club-standard gear. The 1000 SRT takes it up a notch with NSX2 inspired features.
- Excellent Jog wheels – Full size and comfortable to use. If you like to scratch these will allow you to execute routines with ease.
- Magvel Crossfader – Another excellent addition for scratch DJs. Improved crossfader helps to ensure accurate control.
- Plenty of Connection Options – Beyond the extensive output options the 1000 SRT also allows you to connect external gear like turntables.
- Cut Features – Compared to the DDJ 1000 the SRT version doesn’t display as much information on the jog wheel display.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ 1000SRT is the Serato DJ version of the popular DDJ 1000. For Serato DJ fans this was a long-awaited piece of gear after the initial release of the DDJ 1000.
It’s a professional piece of gear that offers large jog wheels. These have built-in screens for displaying important information from Serato DJ. It has tight integration with Serato and offers 4 deck control. It also has 16 performance pads for setting hot cues and using additional performance features.
A large selection of connection options also adds to the flexibility. An updated Magvel crossfader is also a step up from the previous generation.
An excellent choice for Serato fans that want a DJ controller that looks and feels like club level gear.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ 1000SRT review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 1000SRT
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review
- Full Mixer Section – Contains everything you need to accurately manipulate the tracks you are playing. A step up from other iPad focused controllers.
- Compact Footprint – Portable and lightweight. Fits in a backpack along with you iPad for quick setup anywhere.
- Good Quality – The component quality of the faders, knobs, and jog wheels is high. It will last you longer than other cheaper iPad controllers.
- Included Software – Unlocks Traktor Pro 3 for use with your laptop or computer. Traktor DJ 2 is also excellent software for mixing with an iPad.
- Closed Ecosystem – You won’t be able to use this DJ controller beyond the Native Instruments range of software. If you are a Serato DJ fan you’ll need to look at other controllers.
The Native Instruments 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 a full EQ section and quality platters 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 via the built-in 24-bit soundcard.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk2 is the best choice for people that want to DJ with an iPad and controller combo.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Pioneer XDJ XZ Review
- Club Layout – The Pioneer XDJ XZ manages to replicate the club-standard layout of Pioneer’s high-end gear. Familiar and powerful.
- Central Screen – The 7-inch screen displays critical information including stacked waveforms. An excellent way to avoid having to look at your laptop. Jog wheel screens add to the immersion.
- Robust Build Quality – Solid construction while still maintaining a reasonable weight. Jog wheels and pads are a joy to use and the unit also sounds great.
- Broad Range Of Connections – Full suite of connection options for both outputs and inputs.
- Require Laptop – While you can run the unit standalone you’ll be restricted to just 2 channels. Thankfully with the built-in screen, you can still set your laptop off to the side.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ offers DJs a spacious and professional layout. The mixer section is loaded with advanced features as seen on Pioneer club gear. This makes it the ideal 4 channel controller for pro DJs that want a compact Nexus style set up in their studio. It’s also a great option for DJs that aspire to eventually play in clubs but can’t justify a full-sized club setup at home.
A long list of connection options for both inputs and outputs cements the XDJ XZ as a DJ controller up to any task.
If you are serious about turning DJing into a profession the XDJ XZ is one of the best options out there.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ XZ review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ XZ
Our Expert Buying Guide
Selecting a DJ controller is a difficult process. There are so many controllers available. Some are more suited to certain types of DJs and the price range varies greatly.
If you are still unsure about what DJ controller to buy we have you covered. Here are some key questions that will help narrow down which DJ equipment is right for you.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
Before you even begin looking at features you need to set a budget. DJ controllers range from under a hundred dollars into the thousands. Knowing how much you have available to spend instantly narrows your choices. This makes it easier to compare features.
Entry-level controllers don’t offer as many features as more expensive options. But, you can still master the fundamentals of DJing and have a great time. If you are new to DJing these controllers are a perfect starting point that won’t cost a lot.
For established DJs selecting your gear is more complicated. You’ll likely need to set a larger budget to gain access to more features and better hardware. Keep in mind that it is not worth changing your DJ setup if it is a lateral move. If you plan to upgrade you are better off saving more and getting the best possible controller that helps push you to expand your skills.
How Good Is The Mixer Section?
When selecting a DJ controller the mixer section is very important. This is the part of the hardware you’ll spend the most time using.
The controller should have a fleshed-out mixer section. It should offer a 3 band EQ and trim control. This gives you full control over the frequencies and volume of the music you are playing.
A well-rounded and feature-rich mixer section forms the core of a good DJ controller.
A loose crossfader is ideal for scratch enthusiasts. Volume faders should offer a good level of resistance. This helps to comfortably adjust the level of each deck.
Level meters also help keep your mix out of the red. These should be easy to see and provide a clear indication of your levels.
Extra features like filter knobs, browse controls, or FX controls are bonuses that you should also consider. Performance pads that allow you to set hot cues and further manipulate the tracks you are playing are also something to look out for.
If the gear you are looking at is lacking in some of these areas you may not be able to progress your skills beyond basic mixing.
How Many Channels Will You Need?
Another question worth asking is how many channels you need. Much like budget, this will instantly narrow your choices. All DJ controllers are either 2 channel or 4 channel.
If you have the desire to layer multiple tracks at the same time it will be natural to look at 4 deck options But, even professional DJs don’t always use 4 channels so this is purely a personal choice. Just because the gear offers 4 channels doesn’t automatically make it the best option.
If you are a new DJ I suggest sticking to two channels. Once you have mastered that you can look into an upgrade if that is where you want to take your mixes.
What DJ Software Does It Come With?
The software that comes with the controller can also help narrow your choices. If you already have a preferred software platform it can be annoying to have to switch to a new platform.
The two most popular software platforms are Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ. Traktor DJ Pro 3 and Virtual DJ are other popular pieces of DJ software along with the free and open-source Mixxx DJ software platform.
Unlike professional DJ equipment, most DJ controllers require software and a laptop.
If you are a new DJ the exact platform is not as important. What is worth looking into is whether the DJ controller comes with a full version of the software or just an intro edition. Having to upgrade software is a hidden expense that may not be in your budget. As for what software is the best that is debatable.
The other consideration here is if the controller can operate standalone. This opens up the option of not requiring the use of a laptop with software. This can save space in your DJ setup. If this option is available the quality of the onboard software is very important.
In this situation, it is best to have access to both options. That way you can adapt to your preferred workflow.
What Connection Options Are Available?
Another thing to consider is the connection options the DJ controller offers. DJ setups vary with so many speaker options available. Having the right connection options becomes very important if you have a particular set of speakers in mind.
Various adapters can mitigate connection issues but it’s best to avoid these if possible.
If you plan on taking yourself beyond the bedroom you’ll want a controller that can handle a variety of connection types. Extra connection options for microphones or external hardware is another consideration.
The cheaper the controller the more likely it will be to have limited options. For most beginners, this is not a big concern. You’ll likely just want to plug some speakers in. But, if you are an established DJ or looking to upgrade this a key area to investigate. Having flexibility here is important.
How Good Are The Jogwheels?
The other section to consider is the quality of the jog wheels. For scratch DJs, this will be the most important part of the controller. Latency, platter size, and feel all come into play here. While you’ll never able to get the same feel as vinyl there is a big difference between jog wheels.
While not the same as turntables you can still execute scratch routines on a controller.
Touch-sensitive jog wheels are ideal. Usually, more expensive DJ controllers will have better jog wheels. Keep this in mind when setting a budget.
For DJs that don’t scratch the platters are less important. You’ll likely only be using them to nudge your tracks or for skimming.
Who Makes The Best DJ Controllers?
There are a few key brands that produce the best DJ controllers. Pioneer DJ is the most well known since they also dominate the club scene. Denon is another excellent brand with great controllers. Numark and Native Instruments also have a long history of making excellent DJ gear.
Which One Should You Buy?
There is no single best DJ controller. The needs of DJs are wide and varied. One controller will be perfect for one DJ while not ideal for another.
But, if I was forced to select one DJ controller that impresses me the most it would have to be the Pioneer DDJ 1000. The combination of large jog wheels and the familiarity with the Pioneer club-standard gear set it apart from the rest. And all of that at a reasonable price. If you are a Serato DJ fan then the 1000 SRT is an excellent alternative.
But, all the controllers in this list are quality controllers that meet a specific need. No matter which controller you end up selecting you’re in for a lot of fun!
Pioneer DDJ 1000