We live in an era where 52% of adults own at least one tablet. The ease of use and ultra-portability has sparked a new revolution in DJ equipment. Now all the major manufacturers offer a dedicated DJ App for iOS as well as controllers for those apps.
Read on to find out what this new generation of controllers has to offer both new and established DJs.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
An excellent and durable controller with impressive jogwheels. Fantastic integration with Traktor DJ 2 iOS App.
Pioneer DDJ 200
Affordable iPad controller from the world’s most popular DJ brand. Compatible with multiple iOS DJ Apps.
The Pioneer, Traktor & Reloop Controllers Reviewed
Let’s dive into the details to see what the best options are when it comes to DJ equipment for iPads.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review
The Best iPad DJ Controller
- Durable Design – The S2 Mk3 feels solid and robust. This is essential in a portable controller that will likely be taking a few bumps here and there.
- Excellent Layout – The professional level layout is great for both new and experienced DJs. New DJs will be able to move onto better gear with ease. Experienced DJs will instantly be able to get to grips with this controller. As a result, it also serves as an excellent backup controller.
- Included Software – This controller includes Traktor Pro 3. This piece of DJ software is fully featured and compatible with the full range of Native Instruments controllers. It’s also compatible with Traktor DJ 2 for iOS. This gives you the best of both worlds. Pro-level desktop software and portable ready iOS software.
- Impressive Jogwheels – For a small controller the jogwheels are generous in size. They are very responsive which is great if you want to incorporate scratching into your routines. They also have the same excellent build quality as the rest of the unit.
- Closed Ecosystem – The only real drawback is that you won’t be able to use this controller with other software. MIDI mapping is an option but this controller is not well supported to run with other software.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a fantastic controller from Native Instruments. The emphasis on portability and durability is well-suited for people looking to DJ with an iPad.
Traktor DJ 2 is an excellent piece of software with a range of layouts and features. It also offers integration with Soundcloud Go+. Full Traktor Pro 3 added on top is the cherry on the cake. This allows you to move on to more advanced controllers from NI. You can check out our review of the best controllers for Traktor to get an idea of future options.
If you’re looking for a reliable and feature-rich iPad DJ controller the S2 Mk3 should be high on your list of options.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Pioneer DDJ 200 Review
Most Supported iPad Controller
- Excellent App Compatibility – The DDJ 200 doesn’t come packaged with any software but is compatible with a range of apps. WeDJ, djay and edjing Mix. This extensive range of options also opens up the door to using it with Android devices in case you ever move away from iPads.
- Full Mixer Section – Much like the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 the DDJ 200 has a full 3 band EQ with filter. This gives you all the tools to manipulate the frequencies of the tracks you play.
- Affordable Controller – The DDJ 200 is affordably priced. This becomes even more pronounced once you factor in how many features it offers.
- Beginner Friendly – The DDJ 200 comes with a range of tutorials to help you navigate through your first mixes. This makes it an ideal choice for people new to DJing.
- Missing Outputs – The DDJ 200 doesn’t have any external outputs. This means you’ll need to run your sound via your iPad or iPhone or external speakers via the split cable.
The DDJ 200 is the cheapest DJ controller that Pioneer offers. It’s tailored to a new DJ that doesn’t want to use a laptop or PC. Smart integration with a variety of apps gives you lots of choices.
While not as robust as the S2 Mk3 it’s still sturdy enough to handle transport. Pioneer also offers access to Beatport LINK, Soundcloud Go+, Deezer, and Spotify. An excellent option if you don’t have an existing music collection.
Pioneer DDJ 200
Need Help Choosing The Right DJ Controller?
Read our Best DJ Controller buying guide.
Traktor Kontrol Z1 Review
Ultra-Portable iPad DJ Controller
- Small Form Factor – The Z1 doesn’t have jogwheels, performance pads or any of the other bells and whistles of other controllers. Instead, it offers a compact and lightweight alternative to other controllers. For the traveling DJ, this is ideal since it’s small enough to fit in a backpack or laptop bag.
- Integrated Sound Card – A high quality integrated sound card gives you access to the best sound quality. You don’t need to rely on your iPad to handle the sound. If you have a good quality pair of speakers this unit will give you the best results.
- Good Build Quality – Like all Native Instruments products the Z1 doesn’t skimp on quality. Durable and rugged. It offers pro-grade faders and comfortably spaced knobs.
- Compatible With Other Gear – You can add extra components to the Z1 to add more mixing options. The X1 unit allows you to control loops, cue points and effects. You can also add an F1 unit to handle remix decks for more creative mixing options. Keep in mind these options are for the Traktor Pro 3 software as opposed to the Traktor DJ 2 iOS app.
- Limited Functions – Without performance pads and jogwheels you’re limited in the types of mixes you can do. If you want to incorporate scratching or FX you should look at alternatives.
The Traktor Kontrol Z1 is the most refined and simple DJ controller available. It offers a traveling DJ the fundamental basics needed to mix one song into another.
Smooth integrations with Traktor DJ 2 iOS app make it easy to plug and play. The intro copy of Traktor Pro 3 comes with an upgrade voucher if you want to also use it with your PC or laptop.
If you want a controller that can slip into your backpack or satchel along with your iPad this is the best option.
Traktor Kontrol Z1
Traktor Kontrol S3 Review
Feature Packed iPad Controller
- 4 Channel Controller – If you want to explore mixing with more than two tracks at the same time this controller opens up that option to you. Keep in mind you’ll only be able to do this with the included Traktor Pro 3 software.
- Range of Connection Options – With a bevy of connection choices this controller can handle a range of output types. This is handy if you want to take the controller to a friend’s house and plug into their sound system.
- Lengthy Pitch Faders – Long pitch faders are excellent for making fine adjustments to the BPM of the tracks you are playing. This makes beatmatching easier to learn and execute.
- Attractive Design – The revamped Traktor controller line looks great. It is the most professional and sleek looking range of controllers NI has offered. Excellent use of color for the pads and buttons. A stylish controller that looks the part.
- 2 Channels Only With Traktor DJ 2 – Having access to 4 channels can help expand your creative options. Unfortunately with the Traktor DJ 2 iOS app, you can only use 2 channels.
The Traktor Kontrol S3 offers DJs the maximum amount of flexibility. Coming with full version software you can hook this up to your laptop or PC and have access to an impressive range of features.
You can also take it on the go and connect it to your iPad via Traktor DJ 2. This makes it one of the most versatile options for an iPad DJ controller for Traktor. But, it is on the larger side so it may not fit in most standard-sized backpacks.
Read our full Traktor Kontrol S3 review for more detailed information.
Traktor Kontrol S3
Reloop Buddy Review
Fun And Expressive iPad Controller
- Compact Controller – This controller is lightweight making it ideal for transporting. It’s also compact enough to fit in backpacks and laptop bags. If portability is high on your list of priorities the Reloop Ready ticks all the boxes.
- iPad Slot – The Reloop Ready offers a dedicated docking area at the top of the controller. This allows you to have an all in one solution for your DJ needs. You won’t need a separate stand for the iPad or have it lying awkwardly to the side of the controller.
- FX Controls – The Reloop Ready offers FX paddles. These are normally found on battkle style mixers. They are easy to use and fun.
- Neural Mix – This advanced features allows you to isolate drums, instruments, and vocals. Opens up plenty of creative mixing and remixing opportunities.
- Complicated Setup – Depending on what device you are connecting will depend on what cables you’ll need. Not user friendly and not all the cables are included.
- Limited EQ – Low and Hi EQ options is a little restrictive. No control over Mid freqencies even within the App.
The Reloop Ready offers a portable and effective option for iPad-based DJs. The FX controls and Neural Mix options set it apart from other options currently available. Integration with Algoriddim is decent but there is still key data which could be better presented on screen when using the controller.
Despite an unintuitive setup flow once you have it connected the Reloop Ready is fun to use and offers some advanced features.
Our Expert Buying Guide
When looking at DJ controllers for iPad there are a few extra considerations that you need to take into account.
I always recommend that new DJs aim to get a controller that features a robust mixer section. This becomes even more important when you are looking at an iPad controller. You won’t have access to a mouse to make any further adjustments to your mix. Using a touchscreen interface can be awkward in the middle of a set. A controller that offers all the core features you need makes executing good mixes easier.
Ideally, the mixer should have a full 3-band EQ to adjust Low, Mid, and Hi frequencies. This gives you full control over the music. An addition of a filter also helps to add flavor to your transitions. While having gain knobs is not critical it does give you another layer of control.
Good quality faders are also something to keep an eye out for. A long pitch fader makes beatmatching easier. Modern DJ software offers auto-sync options but the software doesn’t always get it right. Having access to good pitch faders will ensure you get a smooth mix.
If you’re looking for an iPad controller you’ll likely fall into one of two main categories.
The first is the DJ looking for a portable controller option to take to a friend’s house, on trips away, or for smaller gigs. If this is you you’ll need to pay extra attention to the size of the controller.
A large controller will not fit into backpacks or laptop bags. This will add an extra layer of inconvenience when you’re taking your controller with you.
All you need is a tablet, headphones, and a controller and you’ll have the ultimate portable DJ setup.
The weight is another factor. A portable setup needs to be as light as possible. While most of these controllers are lightweight it all adds up once you include speakers, iPad, and headphones. You want to be able to pack up and get set up easily without breaking your back in the process.
If you have no plans to have your gear leave your home you don’t need to worry about these factors. Instead, focus on gear that can be permanently set up to encourage you to mix more often.
You can check our DJ controllers with screens review for some alternative options to using a laptop.
High build quality is always something you should aim for. This is even more important if you do plan on transporting your controller. You don’t want simple bumps to cause your controller to stop functioning.
If you are DJing in a bar you’ll also want your controller to be able to withstand the grime that comes with such an environment.
Keep in mind you get what you pay for. Cheaper controllers will use cheaper components. Striking the balance between quality materials and the price is difficult. Luckily there is a good range of options out there that do a decent job of achieving that balance.
Sticking to established brands is a good idea. Brands like Pioneer and Native Instruments have a long history in the DJ game. This results in good quality controllers even when it comes to their cheaper entry-level options.
The most important connection point will be for your iPad but there are a few other things to consider.
If you don’t want to rely on your iPad speakers (and let’s face it they are not great) you’ll want extra connection points for speakers. Most controllers in this range will offer an RCA option.
Depending on your speakers you may not be able to use them with your controller. If you want to connect to big DJ speakers you’ll need to check connection options.
If you are looking to buy DJ speakers you can check out our guide to the best 15 inch powered speakers.
RCA audio cables are the most common speaker connection type for iPad DJ controllers.
You may also want to assess if you’ll need a microphone option. If you want to be able to MC an event, as well as DJ, make sure to pick a controller with a Mic In connection.
Music Subscription Services
Besides DJ gear the next most important thing is music. We live in an age where many people don’t have a large music collection. Streaming now dominates the way we consume music. This can be a barrier to entry for new DJs.
With the growth of iPad compatible controllers there came a need for better integration with streaming services. Luckily DJ manufacturers are finally looking at incorporating these services into their gear.
When selecting an iPad controller you’ll need to assess the software that comes with it. An app that integrates with Soundcloud Go+, Spotify, or Beatport LINK can grant you access to an instant music library. Curating a personal collection over time will always be preferable but this is a great way to get started.
Which One Should You Buy?
It’s a great time for iPad DJ controllers with plenty of excellent options.
When you factor in all the features you’d want from an iPad DJ controller the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is the best one currently available. A compact yet robust controller that gives both new and established DJs all the tools they need. Clean and tight integration with a good quality DJ app means you can finally leave your laptop or PC out of the equation.
If you’d prefer a broader range of software options then I’d recommend the Pioneer DDJ 200. While lacking some of the features of the S2 Mk3 it’s still a quality controller and a great alternative.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3