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Interested in becoming a DJ?
Want to light up a party and get people up and dancing?
Or, would you like to start playing around with your gear at home?
In that case, you’re going to require the right gear and it all starts with a DJ controller.
As a beginner, you’re likely looking for affordable kit that’s easy to use, and on this list, you will find many that fit this criterion.
So, let’s look at the best DJ controller for beginners.
Denon DJ MC4000 | Premium 2-Channel DJ Controller With Serato DJ Lite Download (24-bit / 48kHz)
The Denon DJ MC4000 is a two-deck controller for Serato and comes with Serato DJ Intro.
It also comes with touch activated jog wheels for accurate scratching and track cueing, dedicated hot cue, sample trigger pads with illuminated feedback and long throw 100-millimeter pitch faders.
Fully upgradeable to Serato DJ, this console is also compatible with Traktor 2, Algoriddim djay Pro, Virtual DJ 8 and any DJ application that supports MIDI mapping.
Per Denon, this is a portable and dependable unit with good sound quality.
Its pro-grade steel chassis should hold up to plenty of gigging and transport between shows.
In all, its features include jog wheels, dedicated pads, faders, control knobs for EQ and FX, balanced outputs and RCA auxiliary input.
Most customers are pleased with the entry-level DJ controller and some even say you would be hard pressed to find a better controller at this price point.
Of course, it is one of the more expensive consoles on this list.
Negative reviews and issues with the controller are few and far between.
If it’s not out of your price range, the Denon might be exactly what you need.
Pioneer DJ DDJSB3 DJ Controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJSB3 offers an intuitive layout and comes with Pad Scratch (scratch effects for cued and currently playing songs), FX fade feature, 5 inch durable and low-latency aluminum jog wheels.
Per Pioneer DJ, this unit has been built from premium materials and audio circuitry.
The two-channel controller has been made specifically for beginners and is easy to navigate.
The FX Fade feature makes it easy to transition between tracks and with the Pad Scratch function you can experiment with scratch effects without ever using turntables.
This controller was co-developed with DJ Jazzy Jeff, which gives you a bit of an idea of what it can offer.
The on-board Serato sound card allows you to connect to your PC or Mac via USB and use Serato DJ Lite without an external sound card.
It is also compatible with Serato DJ Pro in case you want to pay for an upgrade – this gives you dedicated buttons for FX, Beat Jump, Slip mode, 8 Hot Cues and 8 sample buttons.
The unit ships with a USB cable and Operating Instructions (Quick Start Guide).
Positive reviewers loved the features and price point of the DDJSB3.
Less enthusiastic buyers all had different comments on the unit, such as the fact that the pads are too small or that it doesn’t offer many external in/out options.
Beginners might outgrow it relatively quickly, but this Pioneer DJ unit is still worth checking out.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 | All In One 2 Deck DJ Controller For Serato DJ
The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a two-deck DJ controller for Serato DJ Intro (included) for Mac and PC with high resolution 5-inch metal jog wheels.
This is a pro grade class compliant audio interface with two headphone outputs and main output for connecting to PA systems or mixers.
It also comes with two physical decks that come with a crossfader, dedicated browsing controls, individual filter controls, touch capacitive jog wheels and independent transport controls.
The 16 multi-function back lit pads come with multiple pad modes to give you control over cue points, auto/manual looping and sample playback.
You also get 100-millimeter pitch controls and multi-function touch strip for dynamic FX control and strip search.
The six sample packs from Prime Loops with over 380 premium instrumental loops, drum kits, one shots and others should give you all the inspiration you need to get up and running.
There are plenty of positive reviews for this unit, indicating that it’s a good learning tool.
Negative reviewers say this unit is only intended for beginners, and at this price point, you can hardly complain.
The Numark is a worthy contender on this list.
Pioneer Pro DJ, Black (DDJ-WeGO4-K)
The plug and play Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-WeGO4-K is compatible with PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones using a USB or lightning cable.
It works with WeDJ Pioneer’s DJ performance app for iPad and comes with a free rekordbox dj license key.
It includes several professional features including Hot Cues, sampler, Pad Fx and loops, and it features a simple layout besides.
It also comes with a PC Master Out, built-in soundcard, customizable EQs and Algoriddim djay.
Many positive reviewers say this is a fun and portable controller.
You’ll also be glad to know constructive negative reviews are few and far between.
Here’s another Pioneer DJ console and slipmat that might solve your problems.
Numark DJ2GO2 | Ultra Portable Two Channel DJ Controller For Serato DJ
The Numark DJ2GO2 is a portable, feature packed two-channel DJ Serato Lite (included) USB DJ controller for Mac and PC.
It includes MIDI mapping for use with other DJ software (including Virtual DJ), 1/8-inch headphone output, 1/8-inch main output, two DJ decks with crossfader, jog wheels, pitch faders and the ability to stream music from streaming providers like TIDAL and SoundCloud.
The ultra-compact unit is affordable and easy to carry around.
Even some experienced DJs speak well of this little controller, which could be used as your backup or main unit.
Negative reviews are somewhat mixed, citing issues with software, lack of built-in EQ and so on.
Still, the Numark should prove plenty of fun, especially for beginners.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SZ2 Flagship 4-Channel Cotroller For Serato DJ Bundle
The Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 comes with dual USB ports, native control for Serato DJ, needle searching using intuitive touch strip and stereo 1/4-inch and headphone outputs for live monitoring.
It also features backlit performance pads, large aluminum jogs, dedicated controls for key shift, key sync and pitch, Pitch Play and professional oscillator.
In addition to the console, this bundle comes with an adjustable laptop stand, polishing cloth and headphones (extra gear is always nice to have).
We'll talk more about the exact gear you need to get up and running later (you can't DJ with just a controller).
Many customers are impressed with the quality of this unit, though the minority seemed to have issues with noisy headphone and master outputs.
We can’t confirm or deny these claims, so if you’re curious, scan video reviews for more information.
Here’s yet another Pioneer DJ console that could prove a lot of fun for beginners.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 controller comes with jog mode (classic spin-to-nudge function and scratch capability), beat grid adjust mode, club-standard layout, two-channel mixer, fast control of TRAKTOR features, 16 RGB pads for triggering Hot cues, loops or sample and a three-band EQ with modeling of industry standard mixer EQs.
Positive reviewers loved the fact that this unit came with Traktor Pro 3 and the size of the jogs.
Customers are somewhat split on this unit, with some saying it’s not customizable enough.
This Native Instruments unit is worth a look, but if this isn’t the right fit, there are others on this list worth looking at.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum | DJ Controller
The Numark Mixtrack Platinum is a portable four-deck DJ controller for Serato DJ Intro for Mac and PC with high resolution LCD multifunction displays on each jog wheel.
It features an on board 24 bit class compliant audio interface with two headphone outputs, main output, two physical decks (with four deck capability) with cross fader, dedicated browsing controls, touch capacitive jog wheels, independent transport controls, 16 multifunction backlit pads with multiple pad modes for cue points, auto/manual looping and sample playback, 100-millimeter pitch controls, multifunction touch strip for dynamic FX control and strip search.
The six sample packs from Prime Loops with over 380 premium instrumental loops, drum kits, one shots and more should help you get your DJ journey off to a running start.
Positive reviewers say it’s a great beginner unit with plenty of great functionality.
Others just thought it was only so-so.
But overall, the Numark could be worth a look.
Pioneer DJ DJ Controller DDJ-400
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 comes with a club style layout, built-in sound card, plug and play connectivity via USB, Rekordbox DJ license key and tutorial features, FX that match the tempo of the tracks, PC Master Out, clear audio and a portable design.
Performance controls include two channels, two deck control, pad FX, 16 slot x 4 bank sampler and 8 Hot Cues.
Buyers generally say it’s good value, especially with the software license – some even say it’s best on the market for the price.
Some people seemed to have an issue with streaming playback, mind you.
Aside from that, most users didn’t experience any major problems.
Pioneer DJ does it again.
The Roland DJ-202 is a two-channel, four-deck controller for Serato DJ Lite (free Serato DJ Pro upgrade included for U.S. purchases).
It features large platters with lowest available latency (optimized for scratching), built-in drum kits from Roland pattern-909, pattern-808, pattern-707 and pattern-606 with advanced ACB (analog circuit behavior) technology, eight sounds on each TR kit (bass drum, snare drum, closed hat, open hat, tom, rim, clap and ride) and onboard sequencer that controls Serato DJ’s sampler for on the fly beat making.
This portable unit is compact, rugged and lightweight and it also comes with MIDI output for synchronizing external devices with tracks in Serato DJ.
Customers point out that this is a great beginner option and is a lot of fun to play with.
Others didn’t like the cue buttons or the sound.
This Roland entry is another you should keep an eye on.
Hercules DJControl Impulse 200 | Portable USB DJ Controller
The Hercules DJControl Impulse 200 comes with tempo and beat Align guides that light up, Assistant and energy functions, comprehensive DJing software with interactive help and integrated tutorial videos, imam and intuitively laid out buttons and sliders.
This unit is well-suited to complete beginners who have no idea what they’re doing.
Many found the tutorials incredibly helpful as well.
Some found the build quality a little cheap, but honestly, what can you expect from a console at this price point?
This portable Hercules controller could help you set your DJ career on the right track.
Numark Party Mix | Beginners DJ Controller For Serato DJ Intro
The affordable Numark Party Mix is a two-channel DJ controller for Serato DJ Lite, compatible with PC and Mac.
It comes with built-in LED DJ lights that sync to your music, 1/8-inch headphone output, 1/8-inch main output, two decks with a crossfader and jog wheels.
Customers say this portable unit comes with cool features well-suited to beginners.
Of course, there are some contrary views, and some expressed dissatisfaction with the software.
While it may not be for everybody, it sounds like the Numark could be a great tool for getting the party started.
Hercules Djcontrol Jogvision 2-Channel USB DJ Controller
The Hercules Djcontrol Jogvision controller comes with in-jog LED displays to show you where you are in the track, 5.9” jog wheels, two decks for controlling two virtual decks and one virtual mixer, rugged black casing, touch detection, visual guidance, high resolution, low latency and Air Control for gradually manipulating the low-pass filter.
Many buyers liked the way the jog wheels feel, as well as the fact that it’s Serato ready.
Some people didn’t like that it was so small, and even said it’s only good for practice.
You can be the judge, but the Hercules is another console you may want to consider for your DJ needs.
Pioneer DJ Smart DJ Controller (DDJ-200)
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 is a smartphone compatible controller with multi-app compatibility and support for music streaming services, tutorial and pop-hint features, phrase sync, phrase analysis algorithms and a compact, lightweight body.
It also comes with Transition FX featured in WebDJ for iPhone with 11 effects styles, crossfader, split output for speakers and headphones and rekordbox dj.
Buyers liked how easy it was to use as well as its compact size.
This Pioneer DJ product is another good option for beginners.
Hercules DJControl Starlight
The Hercules DJControl Starlight comes with headphone and main outputs, two jog wheels, four pads per deck and pad modes, including Hot-Cue, Loop, FX and Sampler.
Compact, light and practical, this controller works with Serato DJ Lite.
It has a built-in audio interface, bass equalization, filter knobs and RGB backlighting with strobe effects.
The bundle comes with black R100 stereo headphones from Resident Audio.
Buyers say the mixing and functions are straightforward, making this unit ideal for beginners thanks to its ease of use.
There aren’t any negative reviews for the affordable Hercules unit.
What Should I Look For In A Beginner DJ Controller?
In terms of a beginner DJ controller, any of the above products should suit your needs.
They are all easy to use and come with the basic features you need to light up a party out of the box.
Some even come with additional functionality you may find helpful.
With a bit of practice, you should be well on your way to gaining the knowledge you need to get the most out of your DJ controller.
With that in mind, there are many important factors to consider when shopping for the ideal unit, so I’ll offer some additional guidance below.
Here are the main considerations covered here:
- Ease of use
- Inputs and outputs
We don’t want to overwhelm you with too many criteria to think about, because any of the products mentioned above will get the job done.
But if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for just yet, read on.
Ease Of Use – Get A Controller You Can Get Up & Running With Quickly
Pro level DJ controllers are often more sophisticated and difficult to use than beginner ones.
To that extent, the controllers covered on this list are generally easier to master, giving you full control over your music as you land gigs (minus some additional functionality, of course).
This is good news, because it means you can get up and running fast.
If you practice often, you should master your gear within a short amount of time.
There are also plenty of great online tutorials to help you along the way.
The only downside to this is that, depending on what you’re planning to do with your DJ career, you may end up wanting a more sophisticated controller before long.
This, however, depends entirely on the types of gigs you’re playing, as well as the exact functionality you require.
Although it’s nothing to sweat over in the short term, it could become a more important consideration down the line.
Still, some compromises must be made, and if you don’t have any experience, you need to start somewhere.
Any controller on this list should prove easy to use given some patience and time.
So, in all, starting on beginner kit is the right move.
The Right Features – Everything You Need & Maybe A Little Extra
Consider how you’re going to be using the controller and what functions you need.
Some of the basics include scratchplates, performance pads, faders, knobs, effects sliders, jog wheels and built-in audio interfaces.
Is there anything else you might require, like external controls?
Do you need lights?
These questions are worth asking before you solidify your buying decision.
At minimum, you should aim to purchase a controller that gives you everything you need.
If possible, it’s not a bad idea to buy a controller that gives you a little more.
That way, when you find you need additional functions, you won’t immediately need to go out looking for upgrades.
Note that pro level controllers can cost double if not more, and because of that, it’s worth spending some time working with your beginner gear before you put a lot more money into a new controller.
Note that pro level controllers are often bigger than their beginner counterparts and come with other features like Serato DJ Pro compatibility, full-size jog wheels, Magvel fader, professional grade FX and more.
If you wouldn't consider yourself a beginner anymore, and you're starting to play out more, then this is the direction you would likely go in.
Durable Exterior – A Controller That Will Hold Up On The Road
At the end of the day, no one likes it when their gear breaks down.
This isn’t always an inevitability, but it’s fair to say everything is subjected to wear and tear over time.
Some DJs even say they replace beginner gear every year or so.
To that extent, it’s worth getting a controller that will hold up to some abuse, especially if you plan to gig a lot and bring it with you wherever you go.
Controllers aren’t all created equal, and some are not made with more robust materials.
If you just plan to mess around at home, then this may not be a critical factor.
But when shopping for a controller and scanning a list like this, make sure to confirm what material the controller is made out of and how to properly store and handle it.
Inputs & Outputs – The Connectivity You Need
How do you intend to connect your console?
Buyers sometimes don’t think about this before making a purchase and end up regretting it, because they aren’t able to connect their gear the way they want to.
One important thing to consider is whether you plan to use your controller with any external gear.
If your console will be your control station, then ensure it has all the functions you need.
If you intend to use it in tandem with other gear, then you need to purchase a product that supports this.
Just make note of all the ins and outs you’ll need, and shop based on these criteria.
A main out and headphone in is basically the bare minimum.
Note that pro level controllers often come with master outs (XLR and RCA), channel ins, multiple USB connectivity and more.
Beginner controllers don’t always come with this much flexibility.
The Right Size For You – Get A Controller Matched To Your Needs
Most consoles on this list are already relatively compact.
With that in mind, some are certainly smaller than others.
Some DJs find that smaller controllers offer them everything they need and even find them highly usable for performances.
Meanwhile, some DJs find smaller controllers awkward.
When your pads, faders, buttons and other controls are all tightly fit in your setup, you could end up hitting the wrong control at the wrong time (that is, of course, until you get used to it).
This is how “happy accidents” sometimes occur at a performance, but that’s only if you’re lucky.
This doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes when you’re getting started.
These mistakes offer valuable learning opportunities you can use to hone your craft and put on increasingly better performances.
But as with most performers, DJs don’t like making unnecessary mistakes, or for that matter, sacrificing usability for space saving gear.
As a beginner, you might not be inclined one way or another yet, and that’s fine.
If you’re committed to learning your gear and play with it until you’re comfortable with it, it shouldn’t prove to be much of a problem either way.
But this is a good thing to be mindful of.
Affordable Kit – Best Bang For Buck
The controllers featured on this list are relatively affordable and shouldn’t break the bank if you’ve got a bit of a budget to work with.
Still, controllers can cost several hundred dollars, and if you end up opting for a more advanced controller, it will likely cost you double if not more.
So, we always recommend spending responsibly.
Don’t spend money you don’t have.
Don’t go into to debt to buy gear you can’t afford.
Save up for what you need and once you’ve purchased the gear, start playing out, even if it’s just at a community hall or house party.
You might need to play a few pro bono or underpaying gigs to get your name out there, but once you’ve paid your dues, you should be able to get some solid paying gigs in a relatively short amount of time.
You can use this money to reinvest in better gear, which should be a strong enough incentive.
Is A DJ Controller All I Need To Get Started?
Although a DJ controller is kind of like the “brains” of the operation, you still require the “limbs” to make it all work.
In addition to a controller, you will also require:
- A headset and/or headphones for monitoring. Some of the above products come with headphones, but if you’re looking for a good, inexpensive set to start off on, you could give the Pioneer DJ HDJ 500 pair a try.
- A laptop loaded with your music. Entry-level controllers cannot be used without a laptop, but more expensive ones can. Any laptop will do the trick, but the Microsoft Surface Pro is certainly affordable.
- DJ software to organize and manage your music. The beginner kits featured in this guide often come with software, but it’s worth double-checking just in case. If not, you may need to purchase software.
- Speakers. Sometimes the venue you’re playing at will already have a PA system you can connect to but if you want to practice at home, or if you’re called upon to play at a smaller event that has no gear, you’re going to want to set yourself up for success with the right components. The Behringer Eurolive B210D Active speakers are a good choice for getting started since they are relatively affordable.
- Cables. You must be able to connect all your gear.
If you’re planning to perform regularly, then you should have your own kit, even if you find you don’t need all of it as your career blossoms.
What Are The Top DJ Controller Brands?
There aren’t a huge number of brands serving this market, which makes it relatively easy to make a purchase decision you’re satisfied with.
Here are some of the top DJ controller brands out there.
Pioneer DJ, by far, offers the largest selection of DJ controllers on the market.
Owned by Pioneer Corporation, Pioneer DJ was founded in 2014 in Kawasaki, Japan.
They offer everything from DJ mixers, DJ software controllers, decks, headphones, effects units, all-in-one consoles, monitor speakers and other accessories.
Pioneer DJ is a go-to for professionals across the world.
Denon is another Japanese electronics company founded in Kawasaki, Japan in 1910.
They offer a wide range of products in home theater receivers, sound bars and upgrades, amplifiers, CD players, network audio players, turntables, wireless speakers, headphones and more.
Denon DJ offers a range of DJ players, mixers, standalone DJ systems, controllers, interfaces, turntables and more.
Native Instruments was founded in Berlin, Germany in 1996.
They offer both software and hardware for music production and DJing, and their offerings include KOMPLETE instruments and effects, TRAKTOR digital DJing products, Maschine production and performance for making beats and more.
I, for one, believe Native Instruments is only going to get better, making it one to watch.
Numark was founded in 1971 in Cumberland, Rhode Island, US.
Their product offerings include DJ controllers, players, mixers, speakers, headphones, microphones, turntables, accessories, cartridges and more.
With a robust line of products, Numark does a good job of serving DJs.
Reloop has got everything from DJ controllers, mixers and turntables to headphones, cartridges, studio gear, speakers, audio interfaces and more.
The company was founded in 1996 by a young group of music technology experts.
This is another company to watch as it evolves.
Akai was founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1929.
They offer keyboard controllers, pad controllers, software and apps, drum machines and a great deal more to serve the modern music making market.
While they are not dedicated to serving DJs, the company still has a strong reputation and their product offerings are generally reliable.
Roland hardly needs an introduction as it serves a wide range of musical product needs.
It was founded in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1972.
Roland offers pianos, organs, synthesizers, keyboards, guitar and bass gear, drums and percussion, production gear, amplifiers, DJ equipment, pro audio, pro video and accessories.
While they aren’t a DJ exclusive company, their products have a good reputation overall.
Hercules’ product offerings include controllers, DJ speakers, headphones, software and DJ party kits.
They’ve been around for over 30 years and their products were designed specifically with ease of use in mind.
Their roots are in analog musical equipment, an expertise they’ve transferred to the creation of digital gear.
Hercules is another solid brand in the DJ market.
How Is A DJ Controller Different From A DJ Mixer?
A DJ controller comes with transport controls for the decks, volume, EQ, speed control and so on.
Basically, it’s an all-in-one package.
A DJ mixer will take inputs from record decks, CDJs, external soundcards and the like, to be managed from your laptop software.
The difference between the two product types, however, is starting to become smaller.
In time, it’s entirely possible that the two products will become one, and you can already find controllers that are basically mixers as well.
Top Dj Controllers For Beginners, Final Thoughts
As a new DJ, shopping for gear can be a lot of fun.
Just don’t get carried away in the process.
It’s easy to overspend on a lot of gear you don’t necessarily need to get started.
As you move from community events and weddings to clubs and other stages, you can always upgrade.
After all, you’re probably getting paid more for your gigs if you’re getting booked in larger venues that have more of a budget to spend on entertainment.
Have fun, gain plenty of experience and always focus on your audience – get them up and moving!