DJing is an exciting and fulfilling experience. This is especially true if you have the right equipment. My best DJ controller for beginners is the Pioneer Dj DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller. This model boasts a host of impressive features that make the life of a novice DJ easier to progress to the full pro-level equipment.
In addition to having a controller, you also need the following to complete your DJing set:
- A pair of headset
- A laptop
- DJ software
Here Are My 7 Best DJ Controllers For Beginners:
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller – Editor’s ChoiceI find the Pioneer Dj DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller to be a worthy improvement of the DDJ-SB2. With its controversial pad scratch feature, 8 performance pads, and an added loop section, this equipment has something for everyone. It makes an excellent option for newbie DJs.
Unlike the two previous versions, it gets separate pause/play buttons meaning you can dedicate the eight performance pads strictly to performance features. I still dislike the unpractical and small pitch fader but that’s the only negative attribute I don’t like.
As always, I find the jog wheels to be great. For track nudging, the tension surely feels right. For DJs into scratching, the SB3 will serve you just fine.
In terms of quality, it’s well built as expected. While it remains a plastic controller, it does not feel like it’ll fall apart anytime soon.
Because it’s an entry-level unit, its output is somewhat limited to a headphone output and RCA master output. Nevertheless, for its intended use, I suppose that should be good enough since chances are high you’ll not be hooking up it to premium club sound systems with a dedicated booth monitor.
DecksThis controller has an established design that was defined by the premier SB controller. At the top, you’ll find the effects section that has an undersized pitch fader. At the middle section, it has various controls and jogwheels. The underneath area houses the performance and transport sections.
The Effects Section
The SB3’s effects section has three knobs to fire off three Serato DJ effects. By having buttons rather than knobs, it means you can’t bring in effects slowly. The single level knob controls the amount of effect for the simultaneously activated effects. You can easily choose the number of beats you apply to the effects. It’s also possible to choose effects using the shift and effect buttons.
The Jog Wheels
This controller’s jog wheels are as great as you can expect from a high-end Pioneer DJ controller. They are large enough with a great amount of tension as well as generally high quality. Around the jobs, you can find a series of buttons like a sync button, a vinyl/slip button and deck switch button.
Are you aspiring to be a professional scratch DJ? If yes, then these jogs are decent to learn on. That being said, I feel that the creators of this controller should have been a little bit more creative with the equipment’s jogs center section. For instance, I like the way Numark crammed a highly useful LCD screen into their Mixtrack Platinum’s jogs while at the same time keeping their price reasonable.
The performance section
The performance section of this controller has evolved drastically from its previous iteration. Primarily, the Play/Pause and Cue buttons are divided from the performance pads. I find it to be an excellent thing because you can assign all the eight pads per deck to the performance functions.
HOT CUE is one of the available performance functions. The other one is the FX FADE, which offers a number of fade-out effects, which you can use in transitions.
- Small pitch fader
2. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 – Easiest to Progress OnNumark is without a doubt one of the leading innovators in the world in terms of DJ technologies and equipment. The incredible Mixtrack Pro 3 is designed with the aspiring professional and skilled DJ in mind. This controller is the latest addition to the company’s family of DJ solutions.
It offers a host of top-notch features and exceptional performance that sets it way above the traditional controls. What I love about it is taking it anywhere with you is a snap. Secondly, I liked the fact that it offers precise control over each track and transition courtesy of its advanced low-profile platters, which are made of metals. In addition to being dual-zone, the platters are also capacitive thus giving you the utmost ability to stop or scratch a track by touching the platter’s top.
Adjusting pitch is also possible through manipulating the platter from the controller’s side. Night after night, you can rest assured that the metal platter is able to stand up even to the hottest action.
If you have been looking for a controller that is class-compliant with both PC and Mac, then you should look no further than this equipment. All you need to do is plug in and begin mixing your music straight away – no complicated set-up or drivers are necessary.
Serato Dj Intro Software
Do you already have a preferred DJ software platform? If no, then you do not need to worry. The Numark Mixtrack 3 is bundled with an impressive Serato DJ Intro – a killer program that gets you up and running within no time. With the software, you can match scratch and beats with the utmost ease. On top of that, juggle loops and cue points as well as add crazy effects such as flanger, phaser, echo and more courtesy of the groundbreaking colored waveforms of Serato DJ Intro. The best part is that you can do all that without taking your hands off the controller.
Multipurpose Trigger Pads
On top of its dedicated effects knobs, precision crossfader and 3-band EQs, this controller offers two sets of rubber trigger pads, which go miles in enabling you to improve your show. What I like about them the most is the fact that they are incredibly responsive. This feature makes them perfect for laying down new beats and launching samples on the fly. Each of the two pads serves triple duty hence allowing you to easily control playback loops as well as jump from one hot cue to another within seconds.
The Effects Section
Its effects section is specially tailored to control 3 single effects on either side. I really like its simplicity. Nonetheless, I’m of the opinion that one additional knob for dry/wet would have been much better compared to shoehorning the function right into the touch strip along with the scrubbing function. That being said, I believe having a touch strip is an excellent feature although I would have preferred its main use to be scrubbing through tracks.
Output and Input
In terms of output and input, the controller features a 1/4’’ TRS (simple mic channel) with a volume that is routed to a twin RCA master out and master output. You can also expect to find one or two headphones socket.
- Cumbersome auto looping
3. Denon DJ MC4000 – SturdiestI love the MC4000 mainly because of its solid build. It is great for the contemporary professional DJ. If you’ve been searching for a professionally looking and well-built device that ticks all boxes for mobile work and brings with it plenty of features for full-on beat mixing and club-style, then you should consider this one.
One of the issues I have with this controller has to do with channel sliders and the crossfader. I find them to be pretty short. Secondly, there’s no VU’s per channel. While these might be minor issues, some folks might find them to be a minus.
Serato DJ Intro
Just like any other premium DJ controller, this one features the impressive Serato DJ Intro. There’s a half-price voucher code if you upgrade to the full version. This capability allows the company to initially maintain a low price point. As always, Serato ensures that installing and utilizing the software is very easy. If you are using, you have to install a driver, which isn’t the case for those using Mac. Once you install the software, the only remaining part is plugging it in. You don’t need any extra settings.
This controller’s mic channels are combo (XLR & 1/4″ jack) and 1/4″ jack. They are nice and versatile. I would have preferred to see reverb than echo when it comes to the built-in Mic effect since it has the ability to get all gangster as you echo up high. The Mic function, which effortlessly feeds the mic into the main speakers is a ‘’Post’’ option which helps DJs avoid feedback.
There’s no doubt that the sound quality of this controller is top-notch. It’s an improvement (24-bit) from the 16-bit interface of the previous controllers. While this isn’t an indication of the excellent or otherwise nature of a controller, in this particular case, I discovered that this model is not only loud and clear but also pro-sounding.
The MC4000 features only four performance pads. However, in actual fact, you’ll still get to enjoy the eight-pad functionality. You just have to press the ‘’Pad Mode’’ button in order to toggle between these. Therefore, for hot cues, you’ll have four upfront and when you press the Pad mode, the other four reveal themselves if you had set them up. There’s more to the pads than just cue point. For instance, if you hold down the Pad Mode, you can press any of the four pads to activate functionality – a loop roll and cue loop mode.
- Lacks four software channels
4. Pioneer Pro DDJ-WEGO4-K – Highest Quality
The Compact DDJ-WEGO4-K has a Pad FX, Hot Cues and a sampler to help you bring more creativity to your playing sets. Just plug in your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and begin to play. This controller boasts all the essential features a DJ would need to keep a dance floor vibrant and moving. I found it to be the ideal size for all grab-and-go DJ rigs. It has intuitive controls that revolve around a set of easy to handle and small jogwheels.
Its onboard 24-bit sound card usually takes care of all your audio connections. A full complement of software for iPad and laptop is included.
The controller’s simple design certainly delivers amazing control. Most if not all of the essential controls you’ll need are at your fingertips. Pull-off your serious beat-juggling tricks, load up tracks, pour on effects, or even fire off samples and hot cues from a complete set of ergonomic controls.
In-built Sound Card
The DDJ-WEGO4-K has an in-built sound card that adds to its amazing versatility. You can leave the audio interface at home, as you hit the road with the controller either with your iPad or laptop. This streamlined and slim equipment features a complete 24-bit/48kHz interface. Its standard RCA outputs usually connect to virtually any speakers or DJ gear. The two headphone outs that are independent of the master output allow you to cue tracks as well as share all the fun with the other DJs.
Whether you are working in the studio or taking it mobile, Pioneer’s high-quality DJ software allows you to obtain the most from your DDJ-WEGO4-K. For starters, you get the company’s acclaimed rekordbox dj app that comes included. From hot cueing to basic multi-deck workflows, crazy effects, sampling, slicing to looping, there’s so much you can get from this controller.
Compatible with 3rd-Party Apps
On top of providing full support for rekordbox DJsoftware, this controller also works seamlessly with a good number of other top DJ platforms. For example, you can combine your controller with Algoriddim djay 2 that’s running on your iPad. Do you know that this controller even has an iPad stand that’s built right on top of the panel? Oh yes! It’s also possible to pair this model with the amazing Atomix Virtual DJ software to enjoy powerful performance across all your mobile devices and computers.
In the past, the WeGo series has really got some flak for resembling a ‘’toy controller,’’ mainly because of its quirky button layout, jogwheel lights and chunky design. Although the buttons and jogwheel lights have stayed on, the company has opted for a sleeker and mature design that’s more pro. If you are into looks, then I personally recommend this as one of the best-looking DJ equipment out there. It has a killer design to say the least.
- Advanced control
- Simple layout
- In-built soundcard
- Customizable EQS
- Easy to connect
- Supports WeDJ
5. Numark DJ2GO2 Pocket DJ Controller – Best PortableThe Numark DJ2GO2 Pocket DJ Controller is top of my list of best portable DJ controllers in today’s market. In addition to being dirt pocket-friendly, it is small and works perfectly with Serato DJ. This is a solid beginning point for any aspiring DJ that desires to become a pro but doesn’t want to break the bank. It also fits the bill if you already own a controller or you already spin at clubs to act as a backup.
This USB powered equipment has 2 banks of 4 performance pads and 2 jog wheels all at an affordable price point.
With its lightweight and compact size, this model is such a featherweight. Its control surface has a friendly layout, which includes level and pitch controls, a crossfader, and two platters. The same layout also has headphone/Master gain controls, Deck A and Deck B. You can not only load but also assign tracks to either of the deck control sections without touching the mouse. With this controller, you enjoy the flexibility of instantly syncing two tracks as well as monitor each deck section by using its headphone and sync buttons.
Portability is undeniably one of the strongest selling points of this incredible equipment. The fact that it has a small footprint means you can carry it with you every time you are on the move. In fact, during my last European trip, I took mine with me. It wasn’t a big deal since I’m always having my headphones and laptop while on work duties. When I threw this controller in my bag together with my Minirig mini speaker, the combination was all I needed to spin hotel balconies with stunning views.
This explains why I think every DJ needs to have this particular model. During your trip, you can be able to record videos, live stream, or even record one month’s worth of performances and sets. Buying it is not bad for a piece of equipment that perhaps costs less than what most people spend on a weekend out.
Manual Beat Mixing
The DJGO2 has short-throw pitch faders, which means it’s possible to perform your beat mixes without having to reach for the sync button. If you are a DJ that prefers to perform manual beat matching or you’re a beginner that would love to learn how to professionally do that, then I believe this is a wonderful feature. If you have been used to bigger controllers of full-size media players such as CDJs, you might take some time before learning how to effortlessly handle the small jogs. Some of the common issues beginners experience when handling the tiny jogs include overshooting the pitch blends. However, with time, you’ll get used to it.
Each deck has 4 performance pad buttons. They have 4 pad modes. The cues enable you to set hot cues in the Serato DJ. The Manual and Auto loop allows you to easily set loop out and loop in points. With the Sampler, it’s possible to trigger sounds from the Serato DJs sample banks. Today’s model has clicky buttons unlike the previous ones, which has soft rubber pads. I find them to be fairly usable. The only thing that I’d advise you is to not expect any finger drumming or lightning-fast quick cue.
You can use this model’s jogwheels for scrubbing via a track or pitching bends during your manual beat matching. I discovered that it doesn’t have a ‘’scratch’’ or ‘’vinyl’’ mode which means you can only be able to slow down or speed up the track. Be that as it may, the jogs are useful and responsive when handling beat mixing.
- Lacks EQs
6. Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 – Best BundleWith the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2, Pioneer makes sure that you enjoy direct and low-latency control over the Serato DJ. This model builds on its predecessor’s strong foundations. This upgrade enables DJs to enjoy the latest additions to the Serato DJ Pro, which include Serato Flip, pitch play, key sync, and key shift. The company has also improved the jog wheel latency to ensure scratching is more precise and responsive. Its multi-colored performance pads give you real-time feedback on pad modes and playing status.
Performance Pads and Jog Wheels
With the exception of faders, most of the time, your hands are on the jog wheels and performance pads. This model delivers on these two departments. I have to be honest with you … describing the feel of the large aluminum jog wheels is somewhat difficult. What I can say is that they not only feel satisfyingly hefty, but their texture is also fantastic to say the least. In terms of their feel, you’ll get all the resistance you desire. Countdown timers and mini displays with the cue point markers usually add an additional feedback element that any artist can appreciate.
The DDJ-SZ2 multicolored performance pads offer you cue references. Additionally, you can tell which mode you are in at a glance. Whether you are tearing up vinyl style or juggling cues, I found Slip Mode to be your best friend. In this mode, you can manage to leave the track advancing in the background while you work your magic. Consequently, regardless of how crazy you get, you will constantly land on the beat.
Dedicated controls are handy enabling you to play with your pitch and keys. You can adjust them while mixing with three Serato DJ functions that are embedded in the controller. Pitch play, key sync, and key shift offer you the utmost power to play tracks by your ears.
Backlit Performance Pads
With this product’s backlit performance pads, it’s possible to instantly trigger pitch play, slicer loop, saved loop, cue loop, sampler, slice, roll, and hot cues. What’s more, the backlit LEDs offer a visual reference to the specific modes in play. They reflect cue points, which you have pre-set in the Serato DJ Pro.
The equipment’s professional oscillator helps you create a versatile sound by easily turning the knob in order to overlay tracks with siren, laser, drop, or noise. Using the dial, you can modulate to add tension and texture to your tracks.
7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 – Good Value for MoneySince the very beginning, Native Instruments has been right at the forefront of world-class DJ software tech. I can authoritatively opine that the company’s Traktor package remains its truly professional solution for any scratch artist working with a computer. Ever since, Traktor has managed to build upon its reputation for flexibility, features, stability and power.
The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is a successor of the already impressive Kontrol S2. In addition to the jog wheels been upgraded, Native Instruments has also upgraded the overall quality feeling. Moreover, this model supports Traktor IOS DJ. Although the pads are small, I must admit their quality is striking. In addition to serving as transport controls, the equipment’s upper row offers access to remix decks and hot cues.
RGB LED Buttons
The fully backlit RGB LED buttons are one of the major differences between the S2 MK2 and S4 MK2. The current look more beautiful compared to the old buttons, which were partially lit. Additionally, in terms of visuals, they also stand out, whether in daylight conditions or in the dark. The restyled buttons normally offer better visual feedback for the samples they launch.
Access to Remix Decks
The original Kontrol S units lacked direct access to Remix Decks. The S2 MK2 and S4 MK2 were specially built for it. This is another notable refresh of these units. The feature provides better access to other features in the controller. The new units come with remarkable USB-to-iOS-30-pin cables. They have the ability to work with Traktor DJ easily on iOS of the box.
Redesigned Jog Wheels
This controller sports redesigned jogwheels. The current ones are topped with aluminum rather than plastic. They are heavier enough to enable their use in order to feel hugely more solid when compared to the MK1 platters. The company is clearly making the jogs feel more significant.
Flux Mode Buttons
Above this equipment’s pitch faders, you’ll notice Flux Mode buttons. The buttons replaced the S2 MK 1’s Reset button. With the recent addition, you can fiddle with performance features such as hot cues and loops while a song continues to play. The dedicated button that’s present on this model helps you to easily jump into the Flux Mode and begin playing away on the spontaneous loops with a Loop Set/Size push encoder.
- Some noise when working with USB bus power
Reasons To Get A DJ Controller For Beginners
Unlike the pro-level DJ controllers, equipment for beginners has newbie-friendly features that make your life as a novice very easy. For instance, most of them are lightweight and with simple to use layout.
Features To Consider
The most important features to consider when in the market for a DJ controller for newbies are:
Budget – Just like with any other purchase, you need to have a budget to avoid overspending or stretching yourself too thin. To the best of my affordable, controllers geared towards beginners tend to be pretty affordable.
Function – Which functions do you need your device to have? Some of the necessary ones include performance pads, knobs, sliders for effects, faders, in-built audio interfaces, and scratchplates. You can also desire other external control features to make your music session more lively.
Jogwheels – Jogwheels need to be responsive and good-sized but not overly touchy. The best ones are made out of aluminum. With the jobs, you should be able to beat match, pitch songs up/down, and scrub through tracks.
Outputs and inputs – Your controller must have the proper outputs and inputs to help you achieve what you desire. Ideally, ensure that your prospective equipment has one USB port to help you easily connect with your computer.
DJ software – Some equipment is universal in terms of the software they run on. Others require specific software.
Numbers of channels – Most of the available entry-level DJ controllers come with two channels. Every channel can only play one track, vocal, sample etc. When starting out as a DJ, two channels are enough to help you hone your skills using effects, with EQing and so much more. Some controllers feature 2+1 decks meaning it’s possible to remix a track or four decks. From there, you can start advancing and mix up to four samples, vocals and tracks at once.
Can I Use A DJ Controller Without A Laptop?
Typically, not for the entry-level controllers … You can find standalone controllers in the market. Their downside is that they are way costlier.
Do All DJ Controllers Work With Spotify?
Can I Use My Laptop To Power My Controller?
Yes, it’s very much possible. My only issue is that it can suck your laptop battery in less than one hour. If you must use your laptop to power your controller, always make sure that it is plugged in as well.
What Is The Easiest DJ Software To Use?
To begin with, as a DJ, you need the most industry recognized, used, reliable and user-friendly DJ software in the market. In my humble opinion, the easiest software to use whether as a beginner or a savvy DJ is Traktor Pro, Serato and Rekordbox DJ. Each of these boasts its own set of compatibility options and features. It all narrows down to the model or brand of controller you settle for that will determine the ideal software to settle for. Of great importance to note is that most controllers available today are MIDI mappable. This means that you can use a 3rd party software with the named software. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t recommend it because not all features are completely compatible.
What Is The Difference Between A DJ Mixer And A DJ Controller?
Confusing controllers with mixers is very easy since most of today’s controllers have mixer-like features. What’s more, mixers have become a little more compatible with software compared to controllers.
A DJ controller refers to external equipment that is hooked up to a computer to emulate the conventional disc jockey set up and general workflow. It’s possible to scratch, mix, navigate and control effects through the library that is located on the computer. Controllers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. While some act as all-in-one equipment, others are specific for a set of controls such as standalone scratching platters, mixer or FX control gear.
A DJ mixer is basically a dedicated mixing suite. It takes inputs from record decks, an external soundcard or CDJs that are attached to a gadget that runs the software.
Price is a major difference that distinguishes these two which is attributable to sound and build quality. Mixers tend to be costlier than controllers. However, you can buy them cheap too.
As I wrap up, let me reiterate that my best DJ controller for beginners is the Pioneer Dj DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller. In addition to having high-quality knobs and high-quality build, it also has many other features that will make your experience unique and interesting.
Tech continues to transform the world around us. The DJ’ing realm is no exception. Today, there is an array of versatile and convenient DJ tools particularly for those who are starting out as DJs.
Other useful posts to check: