6 Best DJ Controllers for beginners

Best DJ Controllers for beginners – 2019

Starting out as a DJ requires that you get functional equipment that will not break the bank nor overwhelm you with its complexity. Start off small and when you have mastered the art, move on to bigger more complex equipment. A good DJ controller will give you a solid foundation on your journey to being an expert DJ. Find the Best DJ Controllers for beginners below.

What is a DJ Controller?

A DJ controller is a digital equipment that combines the DJ mixer and turntable onto a single compact equipment, laptop or computer.

Your DJ equipment needs to have certain functionalities including:-

  • A good mixer is core to the DJ profession.   The mixer allows the DJ to perform the different acts like transiting smoothly between different recordings to bring you great music.
  • Jog wheels allow the user to mix and adjust tracks, much like a turntable
  • Headphones you want high-quality headphones to listen, cue and mix the music. They must also be comfortable because of the length of time you will be wearing them.
  • Controller-modern DJs no longer use vinyl records or CD’s, nowadays they favor portable and easier to set up digital set-ups.  Controllers mimic turntables and mixers. With the use of knobs, jog wheels, faders, and other control components mix music and keep people on the dance floor whether at a gig or house party.
  • Software– you DJ controller runs on software. Most models come with manufacturer recommended software, but there is a great deal of variety including free ones.  As a beginner, you may consider using free software as you try to grasp the basics before purchasing the more expensive software. 

You may not be able to get all the features at once but if your budget allows, then these may be factors to consider when looking for the best DJ Controller for beginners.

We will provide a review of 6 DJ controllers for beginners to help you in your search.

  DJ Controller Best for  
1 Numark Mixtrack DJ Controller Best for beginner DJ Check price here
2 Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller. Best easy to use Check price here
3 Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ Controller best budget Check price here
4 Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ controller Best features Check price here
5 Hercules Instinct P8 DJ Control best basic Check price here
6 Native Traktor DJ Controller best quality Check price here

1. Numark Mixtrack DJ Controller – best for beginner DJ

The entry-level Numark Mixtrack DJ controllers are great for aspiring DJs and mobile professionals as it is easy for learners to master but can handle advanced techniques. Numark DJ is one of the biggest names in the DJ industry so the name inspires confidence.  Its compact design makes it portable therefore great for mobile use.

16 multi-function performance pads allow for multiple functions including loops, hot cues, and tweaks. FX manipulation together with touch activated Jog wheels allow for easy mixing of tracks. The jog wheels are sensitive and can work well for scratching.  The touch strip will allow you to assign 3 Serato DJ effects per deck.

The Numark Mixtrack has a 2-channel mixer with 4-deck layering and mixing capabilities allowing the 100mm pitch sliders to work perfectly when marching. The Mixer has advanced controls for looping and effects as well as a crossfader, line fader.

Directly plug in your headphones, microphone, and speakers into the build in soundcard. Power it using the USB Connector and integrate with iTunes for playback and mixing of songs. It features Serato DJ lite but you may need to upgrade to Serato DJ for better functionality.

What we like.

  • The library navigation allows you to browse through tracks without using the mouse.
  • It comes with a virtual DJ LE that allows you to start mixing right away.
  •  Good pitch fader, 3 band EQ and volume meters
  • Easy to use features and a unique touch strip for effects
  • Compatible with MAC and PC and requires no additional drivers

What we do not like.

  • Touch strip on the pitch fader can be unresponsive
  • Upgrade to Serato DJ for more functionality
  • Humming sound emits at certain sound levels.
  • Not very portable due to weight.

2. Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller. – best easy to use

The pioneer DJ controller’s design has usability in mind.  The intuitive design is great for beginners as well as experienced DJs.  It has a robust design built for durability and is portable due to its lightweight.

Blend in tracks smoothly using the FX fade and volume controls. You can use the high or low pass filter as well as the loop playback and backspin. Low latency jog wheels made of Aluminium give great sound response and accuracy. Don’t worry about breaking rhythm, as the speed automatically matches the BPM.

Add scratch effects to your mix using the scratch pad and 8 of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s scratch recording.  Even without scratching experience, you can use the feature on its own or combine it with your own scratching for a range of effects.

The 2 channel 4 decks Pioneer DJ Controller comes with Serato Sound card allowing for plug and play via USB. You may, however, need to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro for more advanced features like beat jump and hot cues.

What we like

  • Comes with a pad scratch and Access to 8 of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s scratch recordings
  • Easy to use layout
  • Fairly priced
  • Sturdy design
  • Responsive jog wheels made of durable Aluminium

What we do not like

  • Upgrade to Serato DJ for more functionality
  • Sound quality issue in some controllers.
  • The headphones need a mini-jack connector.

3. Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ Controller  best budget DJ controller

The Pioneer DDJ 400 is for the budget conscious; a great feature for beginner DJ’s who do not need to spend too much money on their first machines. It comes with a full Rekordbox DJ license thus a massive saving for the first time DJ.

It has longer pitch faders for accurate manual tempo matching. The design of the DJ 400 opted for loop controls instead of buttons. It has a loop in, loop out, reloop, cue or loop call buttons making it easier to use.

The Rekorbox feature allows you to put iTunes playlists and music collections that are easy to play using the mixxvibes software.

The two-channel two deck mixer has jog wheels, 8 performance pads, and an FX control. The performance pad has features such as Beat Jump, beat loop, keyboard, and hot cue amongst others.  It has an inbuilt soundcard with a 2 channel mixer and 3 bands EQ.

The machine is compact in design making it portable. It has UBS powering and does not need any additional driver to function. It is also compatible with iOS devices.

What we like

  • Comes with Rekordbox DJ license that is a plus for aspiring DJs.
  • It is a budget-friendly DJ controller with great features
  • The DJ tutorial will help in understanding the machine for ease of use
  • If you are looking for a portable machine then this DJ controller is durable and lightweight.

4. Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ controller – best features

This is a compact DJ controller that is great for learners. It comes with Serato DJ lite and is good value for money.

The DJ-202 is a 2 channel 4 deck controllers that require minimal set-up; all you need to do is plug and play. Its compact lightweight design makes it portable and therefore great for mobile applications.

It provides all the features of a good DJ controller and extras like a sequencer and drum machine which gives you defined sound no matter the genre. It has high-quality low latency jog wheels. The patented Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) allows you to create tracks using sound palettes of musical icons. The Serato DJ allows you to organize and build playlists from iTunes or your library

The low latency platters allow you to cue and scratch your mix with confidence. The Serato DJ lite controls allow for quick creation and control of functionalities. Switching between the four decks is easy with the deck control button. The Serato FX allows you to finesse blends and accentuate scratches.

What we like

  • The sequencer and drum machine are great additions. There are drum kits from the TR909, 808, 707 and 606 machines each with 8 sounds.
  • Rugged and portable build
  • It comes with the easy to use Serato Lite
  • Plug and play feature makes it easy to use

What we do not like

  • The non-rubber performance pads are not very responsive.
  • Using the sequencer and drum machine can be tricky.
  • You may need to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro to enjoy additional functionalities.

5.  Hercules DJ Control Instinct P8 – best basic DJ Controller

The look of the Hercules Instinct P8 belies its performance ability. This would make a great gift for an aspiring DJ. It has 4 performance pads per channel that allow for loops, FX and trigger samples. It features the DJuced 40 software that is easy to set up and use. The software keeps the rhythm intact thus great sound.

Despite the fact that the jog wheels are 2-pressure detecting, they may not be very effective for heavy DJ use but will be ok for an entry-level DJ.  Pressing on the jog wheel allows you to scratch; you can also browse through tracks or control the pitch bend function using the jog wheels.  The loop function has 4 buttons for Loop, FX, Sample, and Cue.

What we like

  • Basic mixing machine for the entry-level DJ
  • Multicolored lighting on the sample pads enables easier comprehension
  • USB powered port and no drivers required for set-up
  • It is MAC and PC compatible
  • Comes with the DJuced 40 software

What we do not like

  • Jog wheels are not effective
  • Does not come with a microphone input
  • Software issue in some machines

6. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ Controller – best quality.

The DJ Controller works with Native Instruments software. The software whether Traktor Pro or Traktor PJ allows you to link up to your iPad, iPhone, PC, and MAC. The Tractor Pro allows you to start mixing right out of the box.

Create automatic or manual loops and save them on the performance pads for a later time with the Loopmasters function.  The FX control can assign effects and control parameter.  Use the remix deck to individually add a different flavor to the tracks you play.  Tracks are easy to blend with the streamlined interface.

The finely calibrated jog wheel uses Haptic Drive™ that allows you to nudge the deck forward or backward or get the track in sync. The top plate helps you find your starting position or to rewind.

Use the cue points to jump to different parts of the track. Each pad has a cue point making it easy to control. The pre-cue lets you hear the upcoming track. It has crossfaders and finely calibrated jog wheels. It also comes with Tractor Pro that will allow you to start mixing right out of the box.

The deck is very visual allowing you to see which deck you are playing on. Mixing is easy to see because you can see the track tempo and play mode.

What we like

  • Compatible with a wide range of smart devices –has USB 2.0 and USB iPad connector and will charge your iOS device as you mix
  • Silicon damped motorized jog wheels allow for spinning high resolution scratching back spins and pitch fading. It gives the old school turntable feeling.
  • Comes with Tractor Pro 2.

What we do not like

  • The software sometimes crashes
  • The manual is more on the software than the hardware
  • Problems with the microphone input experienced in some machines

What do you look for when buying a DJ controller?

Price

As a beginner, you may want to save your money for the more expensive types of DJ controllers when you have learned the trade and can make money off it. Start with the cheaper ones that deliver all the functionalities you need to learn the trade before you upgrade to the pricier options.  

However, cheap should not mean poor quality. You may want to spend a little more so that when you outgrow the beginner’s controller (you definitely will) and want to upgrade then you can consider selling the one you have and just top up.  Here is where quality will play well in your favor.

What is the value add? Some manufacturers will throw in some freebies like headphones, software amongst others. It does not hurt to have a little extra.

If you are buying the controller for fun then stick to the lower priced basic models, but if you are looking to make a career out of being a DJ then look for a more advanced machine that will start you on your career path.

Features

Since you are starting out, you need a DJ controller that is basic and easy enough to use. Look for a controller with decent jog wheels, platters, pitch fades, mixer with EQ, faders, crossfaders, built-in sound card, and cue and play buttons.

It would also be a good idea to get a controller that allows you to connect turntables or CD players so that you can sometimes use the music in your computer.

Check the number of channels. The DJ controllers we have reviewed above come with two channels which are good enough for a beginner. The number of decks will also determine how many tracks you can mix at once.

Software

As you research your preferred machine, also research the software that comes with it. The more common software’s are Traktor Pro, Serato DJ, Rekordbox and Virtual DJ.  Acquaint yourself with the software and make sure you are comfortable with using it. You are probably better off going with what the manufacturer has suggested to avoid problems. Some of the machines have the lowest grade or entry level software as an extra meaning you will have to upgrade at a later stage. It pays to take note of such things.

You are also better off buying a DJ controller that is compatible with many machines and smart devices to give you better functionality. Some of them are compatible with almost all makes of laptops, iPhone, iPads, Android just to name a few.

Durability

You need a durable controller. You will spend hours practicing on it and also move it from one location to another, so you will not want a heavy bulky machine. Look at the quality of the material used before you buy.

Conclusion.

We have looked at some great DJ controllers for beginners to guide you in the buying process. Our best pick would be the Numark Mixtrack DJ Controller because it has some great features that make it best for beginners.  The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ Controller also has great features and is compatible with a wide range of devices.

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