Best DJ Controllers For Beginners In 2017

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Best DJ controller for beginners
Best DJ controller for beginners
Last updated on Jun 20, 2017 @ 9:11 am

If you are a starting DJ, spending a lot of money on your first DJ controller and then realizing it’s nothing for you is probably not the best idea. It is best to start small, figure out if you like it, and then move on the bigger and better.

For that reason, we have put together an overview of what DJ controllers beginners should be looking at. We will focus on DJ controllers that cost up to USD 300, for this amount feel like an appropriate budget barrier for starting DJs, or for parents that don’t want to overspend on a Christmas gift that might end up being used only a few times.

Lastly, if you do have a lot of money to spend on your first controller, by all means, do it, the gear manufacturers will thank you.

TOP PICKS in this article

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RBPioneer DJ DDJ-RB
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
Numark Mixtrack Platinum

Numark Mixtrack Platinum

Numark Party Mix Virtual DJ LE Controller

Numark Party Mix
Numark Party Mix

The Numark Party Mix is extremely affordable, setting you back no more than USD 99. It contains all the basic features that you need in order to mix two songs together, and even some fancy additions such as back-lit buttons to trigger samples, cue points, and loops. Additionally, this unit has built in lights that pulse, in selectable patterns, to the beat of the playing track.

The Party Mix even has an audio interface, which is remarkable at this price point, so it doesn’t depend on your PC to generate the audio output. The controller comes with Virtual DJ Le which is an established DJ software package that will help starting DJs get familiar with the basics of Digital Djing.

The Party Mix even has an audio interface, which is remarkable at this price point, so it doesn’t depend on your PC to generate the audio output. The controller comes with Virtual DJ Le which is an established DJ software package that will help starting DJs get familiar with the basics of Digital Djing.

Up The price is awesome, enough controls for basic mixing and some nice extras when using the performance pads. The inclusion of an audio interface is excellent. Decent jog wheels as well.
Down Lights are more a gimmick than a really useful feature.
FOR Beginners strictly. And by a beginner, I mean kids and teens. If you are an adult and want to start Djing, spend a little more and pick something a bit more advanced.

 

Hercules DJControl Instinct P8

Hercules DJcontrol Instinct P8
Hercules DJcontrol Instinct P8

The Hercules DJcontrol Instinct P8 is a nice little piece of equipment perfect for starting DJs. It does look a bit like a toy, but make no mistake, it does its job well. There are 4 performance pads per channel that allow you to cue loops, trigger samples, loops, and FX. The controller is delivered with Hercules’ owns Djuced 40 software, which is easy to set up and use.

The jog wheels are not very effective and are of lesser quality than those on the Numark Party Mix. They look cool and consumers will expect them on entry-level controllers, but they are pretty much useless for any serious nudging and/or scratching. On the other hand, the build, even though it’s fully made out of plastic, feels sturdy enough.

If you are a parent looking for a great DJ Christmas gift for your kid, this is a very good option!

Up Excellent price, all a starting DJ need to mix is there with some nice extras when using the performance pads.
Down The jog wheels are not very usable.
FOR Again, only for (very) young beginners.

 

Now let’s go into more “serious” terrain, as we move up the price ladder towards the 200 dollar milestone.

Numark Mixtrack 3 Virtual DJ Controller

Numark Mixtrack 3
Numark Mixtrack 3

The Numark Mixtrack 3 is the little brother of the Mixtrack Pro 3 controller (see below). It has a very clean layout, and feature wise it has many things you would rather expect on more high-end controllers.

It features nice looking brushed aluminum jog wheels, a 3 band EQ, a filter knob, 8 pads per channel for triggering loops, cues, and samples, a touch strip (!), a high-resolution pitch fader, which is so important for scratching, the possibility to activate 3 effects per deck…

But there is one very important omission here: this controller doesn’t have a built-in audio interface, which means you need to output your laptop/PC sound to your speakers and use a split cable to cue your tracks in your headphones. That is acceptable considering the price (USD 149), but unless you really, REALLY don’t have more than that to spend, I recommend to go for a controller with a built-in audio interface.

Nevertheless, this is a very good offering at the price for those that don’t mind the lack of audio interface.

Up Excellent value feature-wise considering the price. Things like a touch strip and a high-resolution pitch fader are usually found on much more expensive controllers.
Down The lack of an audio interface is a deal breaker here.
FOR If you are on a very tight budget BUT you still want features found usually on more expensive controllers, go for it. But spending a little more to have a built in audio interface is worth it.

 

 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Serato DJ Controller

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 is the successor of the DDJ-SB, and while both are very similar, the SB2 features a VU meter and some additional performance features.

The DDJ-SB2 is delivered with Serato DJ intro, and while that is a good starting software package, it has not all the bells & whistles of the professional version Serato DJ. If you want to upgrade to Serato DJ, you will have to pay USD 99 for the full license.

The SB2 can trigger 3 effects at the same time, it also has a deck switch button making it compatible with 4 deck software.

While also very similar compared to the RB discussed below, it does have a few things the RB has not: the Pad Trans effect, 3 effect knobs per deck and a deck switch button per deck.

Up Good Serato DJ Intro controller, support most features. Deck switch button supports an upgrade to Serato DJ. Pioneer DJ quality build shows. Excellent jog wheels for this price point.
Down Small pitch fader insults serious DJs.
FOR Djs that want a taste of Pioneer but are going the Serato DJ route. Keep in mind that if you choose Serato DJ as your software of choice, there are better options.

 

TOP PICK! Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB Rekordbox DJ Controller

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB

The DDJ-RB comes with a full license for Rekordbox DJ. And since Rekordbox DJ is part of the free Rekordbox music management software, any tracks that are analyzed there are ready to be used with high-end professional gear such as the Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000nxs2.

So, for starting DJs that want an upgrade path to more professional gear, the DDJ-RB is a very good choice.

The DDJ-RB has a cleaner layout compared to the SB2, more in line with Pioneer DJ’s professional line of gear. The eight pads per deck are all reserved for performance features, the play-pause/cue buttons are similar to those on high-end Pioneer DJ gear. On the SB2, the bottom row of the pads is reserved for transport control.

Both have very small pitch faders that won’t help to learn how to beat match properly, but that shouldn’t be a major drawback for beginners.

Up Great value for the price: a Rekordbox DJ controller and a full Rekordbox DJ license. Also, the fact your collection becomes compatible with high-end CDJ gear is a big plus. Hardware wise the RB support most Rekordbox DJ functionalities.
Down The small pitch fader will not help starting DJs to learn how to beat match properly. No support for 4 decks.
FOR If you want to start Djing and get into the Pioneer DJ ecosystem, which is until further notice the industry standard, this is the cheapest way

 

TOP PICK! Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 Serato DJ Controller

Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3

The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is very similar to the Mixtrack 3, with two big differences: first of all, it has a built-in audio interface so you can route sound straight to your headphones for cueing and to your speakers from the controller, and secondly, it supports Serato DJ. The controller comes with Serato DJ Intro in the box, upgrading to Serato DJ will cost you USD 99.

This controller, priced at USD 249, is probably the best option to start Djing with Serato DJ for under 250 USD. I put it over the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 because of its touch strip, the high-resolution pitch fader, and the overall more spacious layout.

Up All the goodies of the Mixtrack 3 + audio interface equal excellent value for money. Very good support for Serato DJ.
Down At this price point, not really. An aux input would have been nice.
FOR Starting DJs that are going the Serato route. Will allow to properly learn the basics, and since the Mixtrack Pro 3 supports Serato DJ (it comes with Serato DJ Intro in the box) there is an upgrade path without moving to a more expensive controller.

 

Hercules DJControl Jogvision Serato DJ Controller

Hercules DJcontrol Jogvision
Hercules DJcontrol Jogvision

The Hercules DJControl Jogvision stands out for one important thing: The enormous, CDJ like jog wheels. This controller will sure make an impression and probably up the Dj’s “street cred”, but the jog wheels have also some functional aspects: a LED ring indicates the progress of the track and another led indicates needle position. All very handy when playing and it helps to keep your eyes away from your laptop screen.

The layout of this controller is quite special, and some DJs might be put off by a few choices made. The whole looping and FX area above each jog is a bit complicated but when you get the hang of it, it works fine.

Lastly, this controller features what Hercules calls Air FX, which allows you to control the amount of filter applied with hand movements. Pretty cool when playing out and for sure something that can be used as a performance element in a set.

Up Excellent build quality and jog wheels that only have to accept professional gear jog wheels as their superiors 🙂 Air FX is a cool performance feature.
Down The ergonomics are a bit of a hit & miss. Loop & effects section can be confusing.
FOR Starting DJs that want to have pro feeling jog wheels from the get go, and want a controller that supports Serato DJ (license not included).

 

Pioneer DDJ-WeGO4 WeDJ Controller

Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4
Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-Wego4 has an unconventional look, with all its transport controls such as cue, play, FX and looping wrapped around both led illuminated jog wheels. The controller works with a wide range of software and devices, as it has a slot to fit an IOS or Android device. It supports Algoriddim djay software for IOS or Android, or you can use Pioneer DJ’s new WeDJ IOS application.  Apart from that it also supports Rekordbox DJ on Mac or PC, and it comes with e free license key in the box.

You will have to deal with the small pitch fader (a common flaw on Pioneer DJ entry level gear), but considering the target audience that should not be a big issue.

Up Pioneer DJ build quality, and the support for so many different hardware devices (IOS  & Android devices, PC & Mac) and DJ packages (Rekordbox DJ, djay Pro) mean a lot of flexibility.
Down The particular design screams consumer. DJs using the Wego4 to learn that move on might have a higher learning curve as the gear differs radically from more pro-oriented DJ gear.
FOR DJs that want to go the IOS/Android route, or at least want the option to be there.

 

TOP PICK! Numark Mixtrack Platinum Serato DJ Controller

Numark Mixtrack Platinum
Numark Mixtrack Platinum

And to finish, we have a look at the brand new Numark Mixtrack Platinum. The Platinum is very similar in layout and functionalities to the Mixtrack Pro 3, with one big difference: it features a central led screen on every jog wheel that shows essential track information.

This is the first sub 300 controller to feature this to my knowledge, and it’s fantastic use of space. Having the BPM readout right in front of you helps enormously when mixing, especially because finding the BPM readout on your laptop screen can be a challenging task.

The controller is shipped with Serato DJ Intro but works with Serato DJ if you have the license.

So while the Mixtrack Pro 3 is our pick under 250 USD, the Platinum is our overall pick in this feature. It’s pro features (touch strip, high-resolution pitch fader, onboard screen, audio interface) give a (serious) starting Dj all the goodies needed to be off to a good start.

Up Excellent features overall (very similar to the Mixtrack Pro 3), and the addition of the central LED in each jog makes this the best Serato DJ controller for under USD 300.
Down None
FOR DJs that want maximum functionality for the best price and are willing to go the Serato DJ route.