The best dj controller for beginners? In this article, we will go over some of the top-rated and most affordable DJ controllers on the market. If you are still unsure about what to get, we have a list of helpful tips to help narrow down your search.
A lot of DJ controllers are more expensive due to better performance, but more affordable options for beginners are becoming popular.
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Additionally, more non-traditional DJ controllers and MIDI controllers are becoming popular for controlling DJ rigs and DJ computer software. For this article, we’ll take a look at all-in-one DJ controllers priced under $500.
- The 10 Best DJ Controller for Beginners In 2021 Reviews
- Choosing the perfect beginner-friendly budget DJ controller
The 10 Best DJ Controller for Beginners In 2021 Reviews
Here are the best budget DJ controllers for beginners
- Denon DJ MC4000
- Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
- Numark Mixtrack Platinum
- Pioneer DJ DDJ-400
- Roland DJ-202
- Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
- Hercules DJControl Jogvision
- Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4
- Numark Party Mix
- Reloop Neon
1. Denon DJ MC4000
Big package with an affordable price
Denon DJ has been a big seller among those who enjoy DJing and continues to be a popular choice for DJs even with bigger competitors like Pioneer DJ.
The MC4000 is a great starter DJ controller. It is a 2-deck DJ controller that is compatible with Serato DJ software. This beginner DJ controller is an all-in-one controller that has everything you need to manipulate samples, make edits on the fly, and also perform live with their included sample pads.
Getting into the features, the MC4000 includes a copy of Serato DJ Lite to use with your computer, and you can easily upgrade to the full version for a small price. The MC4000 has touch-activated jog wheels that allow you to cue tracks and scratch more accurately.
Sample trigger pads are provided for performance purposes and give you light display feedback. Pitch faders are another feature for manipulating audio, and you also get balanced outputs for local speakers if you want to just have a DJ session with studio monitors rather than hooking up to a whole sound system.
The layout of the MC4000 is overall very spacious and has a workflow optimized for effortless performance. Each channel has their own EQ and FX controls and there are even balanced mic inputs with a 2-band EQ and more.
The MC4000 is made from steel and is extremely durable, as well as sleek looking. You can take this thing on the road and you won’t have to worry about it getting damaged or scratched up, so it’s great for touring with. If you have additional MIDI controllers or DJ controllers like Traktor 2, you can also connect them to the MC4000 to make your setup even bigger.
The Denon DJ MC4000 is a suitable option for absolute beginners and is also inexpensive for a DJ controller. I highly recommend it because of its workflow and optimized layout. Although it can be a bit intimidating to learn how to use the MC4000, it is easy to manipulate tracks.
2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
The best DJ controller under $500
Native Instruments has been one of the most innovative creators when it comes to some of the best DJ controllers for beginners. Traktor Kontrol S2 is their 2-channel Traktor model. It is a plug and play, all-in-one controller that makes getting started with DJing very easy while remaining at a great price under $500.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 has everything you need for a great DJ performance and comes with built-in Traktor Pro software for your computer. Since this is a 2-deck controller, it’s great for crafting big sets and allows you to get really creative thanks to its beginner-friendly looping and beat syncing tools.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 also features club grade effects like reverb, EQ, delay, filters, and more, all featured in the Mixer FX controls. There are plenty of jog wheels if you like to be more hands on, and you can use them to do things like beat matching tracks. Nudging tracks forward or back, scratching, and scrolling is made very easy with these jog wheels.
The interface of the Traktor Kontrol S2 is very streamlined and allows for seamless blending of tracks and best matching, so you can focus more on building a great set on the fly, sculpting your sound, or even performing with a connected MIDI controller.
Cue point pads called HotCues are also made available for jumping to different parts of tracks but you can also use them to perform like you would with a pad based MIDI controller or load different instrument samples into them to make your mix extra choppy.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 is a great option for a beginner-friendly budget DJ controller. If you already like DJing and plan to upgrade in the future, you should definitely learn on a Native Instruments DJ controller. This one is the perfect DJ controller for starters.
3. Numark Mixtrack Platinum
Platinum quality for platinum mixes
Right now Numark is the world’s leading producer of innovative DJ equipment and technology, and the Mixtrack Platinum controller is the latest addition to their DJ controller products that are great for anyone from beginners to pros. The Mixtrack Platinum has a ton of great features and comes with the lite version of Serato DJ.
The Mixtrack Platinum is a 2-channel controller with 4-channel mixing capabilities, so it’s easily one of the best DJ controllers for a bigger setup if you want to use it with other gear. There is a large built-in LCD screen in each jog wheel for monitoring things like BPM, track play time, pitch adjustment, and more for creating a seamless transition between songs.
You can even switch between 4 different decks and control which one is active, giving you limitless layering possibilities and the ability to create your own mix tapes. This is also useful, so you don’t have to constantly monitor your laptop, preventing you from getting distracted and allowing you to focus on actual mixing rather than choosing the next songs.
There are 16 performance pads for loops, hot cues, and launching samples, and you can use the multi touch functions provided for searching through tracks or stripping FX quickly. Filter knobs are provided for each channel to further sculpt your sound. Pitch sliders are also featured for even the finest pitch adjustments. Intelligent touch controls allow for precise control over your tracks.
The unit itself is very rugged and sturdy, made out of metal so you don’t have to worry about it breaking while on tour.
The Numark Mixtrack Platinum is a fantastic DJ controller under $300. It has lots of great features that make it fun and easy to create high-energy mixes that sound great too. I would suggest this controller for any DJ, whether you’re a beginner or a professional due to its extensive audio manipulation controls. It’s fairly low-cost, so it won’t put too much of a dent in your wallet, leaving room for you to get another piece of gear if you so desire for your setup.
4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-400
Perfect for absolute beginners
Pioneer DJ is a very popular and well-known audio solutions company, and they do of course sell DJ controllers. The DDJ-400 was made specifically with beginners in mind to be used as a person’s first ever DJ controller. The DDJ-400 is a 2-channel DJ controller and comes with a license for rekordbox, which is Pioneer DJ’s own DJing software.
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Learning to DJ on the DDJ-400 is extremely easy and fun. It’s packed with features that will help you develop your skills quickly and get you feeling comfortable with using more advanced DJ controllers in the future.
The DDJ-400 is set up like Pioneer DJ’s NXS2 controller, a more advanced model that they offer, so that when you upgrade you feel comfortable using a more professional setup. Some of the features included in the DDJ-400 that you will also find on more advanced DJ controllers are dedicated cue buttons, beat FX for spicing up your mixes, CDJ style looping, and much more.
The DDJ-400 has a special tutorial feature that helps you learn the controller’s ins and outs. The tutorial feature works hand in hand with the included rekordbox DJ software to help you learn both the hardware and software.
For added flexibility, you can choose to hear the mix through your computer’s speakers (if it’s connected) or studio monitors. Simultaneously you can cue up the master output in headphones. The DDJ-400 is great for taking on the road and is very durable as well so you don’t have to worry about it getting scuffed up during transit.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 is an amazing entry-level DJ controller. If you want something fairly low-priced and you know you’ll want to upgrade in the future, I strongly suggest you get this controller to learn on. There is much less of a learning curve compared to other beginner controllers, so it is easy to get started with DJing thanks to this controller. If you have no clue where to start, just get this one and you should be good to go.
5. Roland DJ-202
Impressive features for DJing anywhere
The Roland DJ-202 is another great low-cost unit that ranks well among the cheapest DJ controllers. The DJ-202 is a small package but has so many features that are useful for DJing as well as performing and producing music in the studio. The DJ-202 is compatible with Serato DJ and comes with a Lite version of the software to get you started making music.
The DJ-202 is very intuitive and modern and has the features that you might find on a high-end controller, but in a more portable unit. The DJ-202 is great for DJing, remixing, and even producing beats. The DJ-202 is armed with large platters that have incredibly low latency, dedicated pad and transport controls, an onboard sequencer for controlling Serato DJ’s sampler, and even a mic input for performing.
Hot Cue, Loop, Sequencer, and Sampler modes are available for the dedicated performance pads. For the mic input, you can use effects like gating, a high pass filter, reverb, and even an echo. You also get built-in drum kits from Roland’s legendary drum machines. They have advanced Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology that make them extremely powerful and realistic. Each kit has a bass drum, snare, closed and open hats, toms, rim shots, and claps.
Another great thing about this low-budget DJ controller is that it has MIDI outputs for syncing external MIDI compatible devices with Serato DJ’s tracks. The overall build of the controller makes it very sturdy and lightweight, and it has handles for easy transport. The DJ-202 is not cheaply made and it has plenty of connections for hooking it up to monitors or other devices.
The Roland DJ-202 is a great DJ controller for DJing as well as performing and producing music. If you are a producer who is wanting to get into DJing, the DJ-202 is the optimal budget DJ controller that will help you make a smooth transition into DJing. The drivers are sometimes a bit hard to set up but once you’re past that, it’s smooth sailing on the DJ-202. I highly recommend it to anyone, from beginners to pros.
6. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
A fantastic all-in-one controller
Hailing from the same brand as the Mixtrack Platinum, the Mixtrack Pro 3 by Numark is the latest addition to the Numark family, and it doesn’t disappoint. The Pro 3 is a 2-channel controller and is compatible with many different DJ softwares, but the model also comes with a copy of the lite version of Serato DJ with the option to upgrade later if you choose to do so.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 features capacitive touch activated platters and a complete, professional deck layout. There are 2 banks of 8 trigger pads for playing samples, jumping to cue points, and many other functions like adding effects or playing drums.
It has 4 onboard inputs and outputs in the built-in interface, so you don’t have to bring an audio interface with you when you perform, which is extremely convenient regardless of whether you’re DJing or producing. The touch sensitive platters on this thing are super realistic and feel exactly like you’re scratching with a vinyl record, and you can also use them to bend pitch by manipulating the sides.
Also featured is a 3-band EQ, a precision crossfader for seamless mixing between tracks, and dedicated effects knobs for effects other than EQ. The 16 trigger pads are extremely responsive and are great for anything that requires some sort of interactivity, but you can also use them to cue up loops so you don’t have to keep monitoring them.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is easy to transport and will stand up against heavy equipment banging against it, so you won’t have to worry about it during travel.
The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a solid option if you need a lightweight but durable DJ controller under $200. If you really enjoy the feel of vinyl records under your fingertips, you’ll love how the Mixtrack Pro 3 feels and responds with its low latency and realistic vinyl feel. I’d recommend this controller for those of you who have dabbled in old school DJing and want to take it a step farther, as well as absolute beginners because the learning curve is not steep at all.
7. Hercules DJControl Jogvision
Touch sensitive and high tech
Coming from a company that is less well-known, the Hercules DJControl Jogvision is another hefty contender on this list with lots of nice features for beginner DJs. The DJControl Jogvision is a 2-channel USB controller ideal for giving your performances the boost of excitement that they need. It comes with a lite copy of Serato DJ that you can upgrade later on, but is compatible with other software like Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro and Ableton Live.
It features large jog wheels that are easy to manipulate thanks to instant touch detection that allows you to scratch with precision and are completely free of latency. The jog wheels have built-in displays that let you see the current playback speed of a track as well as your current position in that track to help you stay focused on mixing.
Another really nice feature of the Djcontrol Jogvision is the AIR Control feature. The AIR Control feature lets you control the integrated low pass filter without any contact, meaning your movements create the sound effects from the filter, including Filter Push, Cut, and Roll. It uses a sensor that detects the movement of your hand, so you don’t even have to touch the Djcontrol Jogvision to modulate the filter. This is something I’ve never seen before on DJ controllers, but it piques even my interest.
The Jogvision also sports 4 drum pads that give you control of different mixing modes, and a microphone input for performing. There is also a 3-band EQ, 1 crossfader for seamless blending of one track into another, and 1 volume fader per deck.
The Jogvision is quite durable and is made with an ergonomic design to reduce the potential for carpal tunnel and other physical issues that could arise after a long DJing session. It’s quite durable and seems to withstand a great amount of rough and tumble usage so it’s great for traveling with.
The Hercules DJControl Jogvision is an incredible option for those who like higher tech features. If you want one of the best cheap DJ controllers that is loaded with sensors and haptic feedback then this is the DJ controller for you. I strongly suggest you check out this gem.
8. Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4
Ideal for beginner DJing on the go
Pioneer DJ offers a lot of different DJ controllers, but the DDJ-WeGO4 is easily the most compact and the only one specifically made more for traveling and DJing while you’re on the go. It is a 2-deck controller compatible with WeDJ as well as Pioneer’s rekordbox DJ software.
The DDJ-WeGO4 is different in that it can (and should) be used with an iPhone or other iOS device. Pioneer offers its iOS app, WeDJ, for mixing tracks directly from your iTunes library and controlling different things on the hardware controller. You simply plug it into your device with a lightning cable and you’re all set.
It’s also compatible with computers too, so you aren’t limited to using handheld iOS devices. Pioneer’s rekordbox DJ software is provided to you free of charge, so you have an awesome software to get you started making great sounding sets.
The DDJ-WeGO4 has plenty of features that have been inherited from more professional controllers to bring even more creativity to your DJing sets. On the DDJ-WeGO4, there is a sampler, Hot Cues, and Pad FX. These can be used to spice up your track mixes, jump between different sections of a song, cue up loops and samples, and breathe new life into songs you’ve heard a thousand times.
The layout of the DDJ-WeGO4 is very straightforward and simple but allows you to easily and comfortably upgrade to higher end pro DJ setups like CDJ multiplayers and DJM mixers when you feel like you’re in need of something with more controls.
For flexibility purposes, you can listen to the mix through your computer speakers or play through a wireless speaker, and at the same time you can cue out an independent headphone mix from the master output. The DDJ-WeGO4 is also very lightweight but solidly built to stand up to outdoor adventures, but not made from metal.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4 is the perfection choice for the traveling DJ. It is one of the best cheap DJ controllers for things like outdoor use or parties that don’t have much space. If you enjoy entertaining, traveling, and touring, this is a good companion or replacement for a bigger DJ controller. I highly recommend this one.
9. Numark Party Mix
The best beginner DJ controller for around $100
The Numark Party Mix is a DJ controller that is sure to make you the life of the party at any club, party, or performance venue. The Party Mix is a 2-deck controller with plug and play capability. It includes Serato DJ software.
The Party Mix allows you to mix, blend, and create the right moods with its intuitive and handy controls. With the Party Mix, you can do all sorts of professional things, like previewing the mix in your headphones before blending it into speakers to ensure it sounds great. You can also manually or automatically sync the beat and blend songs with your playlist.
Four cue points are available with pads that allow you to apply effects to your audio. Pad Mode allows you to create auto loops of different lengths, and you can also add effects instantaneously as well as use samples or drums (4 per side) once loaded into the pads. EQ with treble and bass, channel gain, and master gain all are there for you to sculpt your sound right out of the box.
An additional feature of the Party Mix that is extremely cool is that it offers a light show function. Three onboard LED light arrays sync to your mix and flash from the back of the Party Mix to illuminate your set while you DJ. You can leave them on, or they can be turned off. Additionally, with built-in audio, the Party Mix has all the connections you’ll need to send your mix to speakers as well as headphones at the same time.
The design of the Party Mix is true to Numark’s other controllers – it is professionally-designed with high-quality materials to ensure that it will easily withstand drops, scuffs, and more during travel.
The Numark Party Mix is ideal for beginner DJs who want all the bells and whistles. If you really want to create different vibes and really put on a show while DJing, the Party Mix is a complete no brainer with it being so affordable. I highly recommend it for beginners since it’s such a fun controller.
10. Reloop Neon
Moving away from traditional controllers
This one is more of a wildcard if you want to get away from more traditional DJ controllers and focus on ones that have pads only, or other more untraditional controls. Pad controllers are great for performing and their MIDI compatibility makes them a worthwhile piece of gear, especially if you prefer or need a smaller setup or are on a budget.
The Reloop Neon is a pad controller that works seamlessly with Serato DJ and was made especially for use with it. It features 8 low latency, touch sensitive pads (with aftertouch) that light up to give you feedback information on things like status and mode information.
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On the Neon there are 8 power modes for each pad; you can choose between a sampler, pad FX, slicer, looped slicer, as well as cue, flip, hot loop, and manual loop functions. The slicer, cue, and loop functions allow you to manipulate 4 decks.
There are 5 different trigger variants per sample slot, including one shot, toggle, hold, repeat mode, and sync. A lot of these functions and features remind me of Ableton Live, so if you’re familiar with Session mode, the Neon’s functions and controls will feel vaguely similar to it and you should have no problem finding your way around the hardware.
Further features of the Neon include endless push encoders for things like volume control, navigating through tracks, and editing loops. It’s a pretty small controller but it seems to be quite well built since it’s made to be more portable.
The Reloop Neon is a neat little DJ controller that is great for amping up your performances and taking your gear on the go. If you want to move away from traditional all-in-one DJ controllers and go even more digital, the Reloop Neon gives you enough tools to do this.
I would also recommend the Neon if you just want another controller to add to your beginner rig and don’t want to get another all-in-one set or a MIDI keyboard for performing. Beginners will love the ease of use of this DJ controller.
Choosing the perfect beginner-friendly budget DJ controller
Now it’s time for the part of the article where we’ll provide you with information for purchasing your own DJ controller. In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of DJ controllers, what they do, what features they include, how much they cost, and overall just what to look for when you go to buy one.
The different types of DJ controllers
There are 2 different types of DJ controllers, modular DJ rigs and all-in-one DJ controllers. Both achieve the same thing but are set up differently.
Modular DJ rigs are made up of multiple sound sources like turntables, CD players, an analog mixer, and sometimes even a computer that allows you to run DJing software.
This setup is becoming less popular but some people still do swear by it. It’s not a bad setup, but many people don’t like that it takes up more space and is more equipment to haul around. However, if you are a beginner and don’t have the money to spend on a more professional controller, like an all-in-one, a modular rig is simple and easy to use.
An all-in-one DJ controller is a piece of DJing equipment that combines a mixer, turntables, and an operating system or some type of DJing software into one machine.
Many all-in-one DJ controllers have tactile buttons that can be used to control the on-screen interface of DJing software, similar to a MIDI controller controlling music production software on a computer.
Many all-in-one controllers also allow you to work in standalone mode without having to have your computer connected to it, which is great for the times when you want a more analog feel as well as the flexibility to switch between the two if you want to play music from CDs or flash drives.
Common features of a DJ controller
Typically controllers from today’s time will include the following features:
- A control surface with knobs, buttons, faders, and more to control software settings and functions.
- An interface that transmits audio and MIDI to laptops and other devices like effects processors.
- The ability to control DJ apps on a smartphone or tablet (less common, but more of an up and coming feature).
Please take note that these elements are more for all-in-one controllers rather than modular rigs.
Incorporating keyboard controllers
Adding a keyboard, or specifically a MIDI keyboard, can add a lot of functionality and can make DJing much more like a live performance. If you are a producer or musician, adding a keyboard would make DJing a lot more fun.
The next element: DJ software
DJ software is a crucial element to any good, modern DJ setup. DJ software allows you to manipulate your audio files and provides virtual controls, trigger samples, and more to allow you to further shape your sound.
If you get an all-in-one DJ controller, it usually will come with some sort of lite version of a popular DJ software for you to use. These will be fine for beginners but if you’re more advanced you’ll want to buy a full version.
There are many different DJ softwares. Let’s go through a few of them.
- Native Instruments Traktor Pro: One of the first major DJ softwares, it is a sophisticated program that comes onboard Native Instruments’ controllers. It’s great for slicing beats, rearranging the parts, and putting them back together, and playing it all freestyle.
- Serato DJ Software: A very user friendly, visual waveform editing software. It shows you waveforms in real time with EQ and has a beat editor that feels like you’re really mixing and scratching.
- Ableton Live: While it’s actually a digital audio workstation (DAW) used for making music, its Session View is great for arranging tracks and its Performance View is great for playing them.
Later on, if you find that the software you’ve picked isn’t working out for you, you can switch to a different one, as many of the all-in-one DJ controllers are compatible and can be used with multiple DJ softwares.
Price – the biggest factor
The reviews in this article focus on budget DJ controllers ($500 or less), but depending on the modernity of your setup and what modules you have, a DJ controller can cost anywhere from less than $100 to more than $2000.
Now, when I say a DJ controller can cost less than $100, I am talking more about the individual elements of old school DJ rigs that are very basic, made up of a small analog mixer, maybe a CD player, and more classic turntables for scratching. You definitely won’t be able to find an all in one for much less than $100.
The next factors
Once you’ve settled on the DJ software that seems to be the right fit for you, it’s time for the next step. You need to consider the following factors before finally picking out a piece or pieces of gear.
- Budget: How much can you afford to spend on a DJ controller rig? How much do you want to spend?
- Type of rig: Are you looking to buy many separate modules for a DJ rig, or do you want a right only consisting of an all-in-one machine and a laptop?
- Modular rig: How many components do you want for your rig?
- Modernity: How modern do you want or need your setup to be?
- Compatibility: How compatible do you want your equipment to be with your DJ software and/or your other equipment?
- Special features: Will you need your DJ equipment to have special features, for example, light show controls?
Once you have answers to these questions, you can go ahead and start finding DJ controllers that match what you need or want.
What to expect for prices
Price wise, for a budget DJ controller, most beginner-friendly, entry-level to mid-range-level units will be between $200 and $600. It’s a wide range, but all-in-one DJ controllers are especially expensive due to being one whole unit rather than having many separate parts like a modular DJ rig does.
You might have a hard time finding anything cheaper than $200 for an all-in-one controller, so if you have an extremely limited budget or want to save money, I suggest that you look online on websites like eBay, Amazon, or other websites that allow private third-party sellers.
A used item can give you plenty of years of use if treated well and with enough care, so I strongly suggest you try to find a used version of a controller if you end up finding one over your budget that you like. It will save you plenty of money in the long run to buy used gear and a lot of it sold is in good to excellent condition. Don’t forget about refurbished gear too, and make sure to check at music shops as well.
Before you buy – don’t forget!
Before you purchase an all-in-one DJ controller or a few elements for a modular rig, make sure that you check to make sure everything has the right connections and is compatible with the software you want to use.
These are things that can both make the learning curve steeper and just be frustrating overall. If you don’t have the connections you need or have to jerry rig something together to make everything work properly it will just start you off on the wrong foot.
Especially with modular rigs, since they are already daisy chained together, they can have a ton of latency, and having to use a bunch of other cables for connection purposes will make latency an even bigger problem. Using DJ software that doesn’t fit your workflow is a huge hassle and can make learning as a beginner an even bigger task.
Be sure to be extremely thorough when scoping out the specs of your new DJ controller before you buy it. While many stores have return policies, buying a used product from a third-party or private seller may not give you that option.
This article has aimed to give you reliable reviews of some of the best budget DJ controllers available in 2021 for absolute beginners, and hopefully it achieves that. Be sure to check out our other articles on DJ controllers and DJ headphones for more information to help you make the best purchases for your rig.
Jordan is a music producer, content creator, writer, and session musician. He has been producing music and engineering live performances for over 7 years. He is an experienced guitarist and enjoys listening to and playing many different genres of music.