Last updated on May 24, 2018 @ 7:50 pm: Added the Roland DJ-202!

 

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 feels 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.

WINNER

Numark Mixtrack Platinum

  • Price range*: $$
  • The Numark Mixtrack Platinum is a perfect controller for beginners: affordable, well layed out and with built-in screens! Read more

 

RUNNER UP

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB

  • Price range*: $$
  • The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB is not only a great controller, it comes with a full license for Rekordbox DJ in the box! Read more

 

THE REST
  • Roland DJ-202: Roland’s newest controller, the DJ-202 has everything to control Serato DJ, plus the added benefit of a built-in sequencer and drum machine!
  • Numark Mixtrack Pro 3: The Mixtrack Pro 3 is a screenless version of the Mixtrack Platinum if you don’t want/need them.
  • Numark Party Mix: The Party Mix is a fun basic controller with an added light show!
  • Hercules DJControl Instinct P8: Another basic DJ controller, well build and with very good performance pads.
  • Numark Mixtrack 3: If you are on a very low budget and can live without a built-in soundcard.
  • Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2: An excellent entry level controller for Serato, but that supports Rekordbox DJ as well.
  • Hercules DJControl Jogvision: Biggest jog wheels of all entry level controllers!
  • Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4: A versatile IOS/Android DJ controller, that plays nice with Rekordbox DJ and even Virtual DJ on PC and Mac.

 

WINNER

Numark Mixtrack Platinum Serato DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Numark Mixtrack Platinum

Great Serato DJ controller, large pitch fader and jog wheel screens are great for beatmatching!

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: 1 x microphone
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (4.5 / 5)
  • More information: Mixtrack Platinum full review and video

 

PROS CONS
  • Excellent value for money
  • Full Serato DJ support
  • Integrated LCD screens
  • High resolution pitch fader
  • No AUX input
  • Pad functions are a bit confusing

 

The Numark Mixtrack 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.

RUNNER UP

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB Rekordbox DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB

The DDJ-RB is very compact, well featured and has great value and it comes with a Rekordbox DJ license included!

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: 1 x MIC input
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone output, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Rekordbox DJ
  • DjTechZone Rating (4.5 / 5)
  • More information: Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB review and video

PROS CONS
  • Great value for the price: Rekordbox DJ license included
  • Supports most Rekordbox DJ function
  • Layout & design mimics CDJ/DJM setup
  • Small pitch fader
  • No AUX input
  • No deck switch button like on the SB2

 

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 (discussed below), 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, and that won’t help to learn how to beat match properly, but that shouldn’t be a major drawback for beginners.

Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ controller

IN SHORT

Roland-DJ-202

Compact and very complete, the DJ-202 even features a sequencer and drum machine!

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: 1 x mic input
  • Outputs: 1 X RCA master output, 1 X headphone output
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (4.5 / 5)
  • More information: Roland DJ-202 review and video

PROS CONS
  • Great value for the price
  • Very good jog wheels
  • Sequencer and drum machine are a nice addition
  • Full plastic body
  • Sequencer and drum machine functions a bit hard to operate.

 

The Roland DJ-202 is the newest addition to Roland’s line of DJ controllers. It delivers a serious amount of features for its price, even including a sequencer and a drum machine.

Overall, the DJ-202 is well built and the design is very similar to its direct competitor, the DDJ-SB2. It has very high-quality jog wheels, that not only feel good in use but also have very low latency. The performance pads are not the rubber, responsive type but they are good enough considering the price.

The sequencer and drum machine are a great addition, but using them can be a bit confusing since the pads and buttons that activate it are not clearly marked to do so.

Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 Serato DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Numark Mixtrack Pro 3

Great value for the price, and good support for Serato DJ

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 100 and USD 200
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: 1 x microphone
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (3.8 / 5)

 

PROS CONS
  • Excellent value for money
  • Serato DJ support is excellent
  • Integrated audio interface
  • No AUX input (normal at this price)

The Numark Mixtrack 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.

Numark Party Mix Virtual DJ LE Controller

IN SHORT

Numark Party Mix

Basic mixing features for a sharp price, disco lights included!

Price: $ check the price on Amazon Between USD 50 and USD 100
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: 1 x microphone
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (3.8 / 5)

PROS CONS
  • Excellent value for money (comes with an audio interface)
  • Enough controls for basic mixing
  • Usable performance pads
  • Jog wheels are usable as well
  • Lights are nice but feel gimmicky

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.

Hercules DJControl Instinct P8

IN SHORT

Hercules DJcontrol Instinct P8

Good price and nice features, especially the inclusion of 4 performance pads per deck!

Price: $ check the price on Amazon Between USD 50 and USD 100
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: none
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Djuced 40
  • DjTechZone Rating (4 / 5)

 

PROS CONS
  • Excellent value for money
  • Enough controls for basic mixing
  • Nice performance pads
  • Jog wheels are not very usable

 

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!

Numark Mixtrack 3 Virtual DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Numark Mixtrack 3

Basic features for a sharp price. No audio interface included so that needs to be handled by your laptop

Price: $ check the price on Amazon Between USD 50 and USD 100
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: none
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone
  • Supported DJ software: Virtual DJ
  • DjTechZone Rating (3.5 / 5)

 

PROS CONS
  • High-resolution pitch fader
  • Touch strip is nice at this price
  • Excellent jog wheels
  • Lack of audio interface

 

The Numark Mixtrack 3 is the little brother of the Mixtrack Pro 3 controller. 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.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Serato DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2

Basic features for a sharp price. No audio interface included so that needs to be handled by your laptop

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb only
  • Inputs: none
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (4.1 / 5)

 

PROS CONS
  • Pioneer DJ build quality at a sharp price
  • Nice set of features that support upgrade to Serato DJ
  • Excellent jog wheels
  • Small pitch fader makes beatmatching a bit of a challenge

 

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.

Hercules DJControl Jogvision Serato DJ Controller

IN SHORT

Hercules DJControl Jogvision

The construction is very solid and if you want giant jog wheels, the Jogvision has them.

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb powered/power supply
  • Inputs: 1 x microphone, 1 x AUX
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master, 1 x RCA booth
  • Supported DJ software: Serato DJ Lite
  • DjTechZone Rating (4 / 5)

PROS CONS
  • Fantastic jog wheels
  • Air FX is cool to use
  • Excellent sound quality and input/output options
  • Confusing ergonomics, particularly in the effects/loop section

 

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.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4 WeDJ Controller

IN SHORT

Pioneer DJ DDJ-Wego4

A lot of flexibility and choice in a compact, well build controller.

Price: $$ check the price on Amazon Between USD 200 and USD 300
  • Level: beginner
  • Power: usb powered
  • Inputs: 1 x microphone, 1 x AUX
  • Outputs: 1 x headphone, 1 x RCA master
  • Supported DJ software: Rekordbox DJ, djay Pro on IOS and Mac
  • DjTechZone Rating (4.2 / 5)

PROS CONS
  • Very good build quality
  • Clean and simple design
  • Lot’s of flexibility (support for IOS and Android devices, Rekordbox DJ, djay Pro…)
  • Ergonomically a very different approach from other (DDJ) controllers, upgrading could bring a steep learning curve

 

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 a 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.


*Price ranges: In order to avoid showing incorrect price ranges for the gear discussed, we work with price ranges. Click on the “check current price” link to find out the current price on Amazon.com at any time.

Between 0 and 200 USD $
Between 200 and 300 USD $$
Between 300 and 400 USD $$$
Over 400 USD $$$$