Getting a DJ controller that is right for you can be difficult as there are many factors involved. These are the questions below that I asked myself when purchasing my DJ controllers, which really helped narrow down potential controllers. We all have personal preferences and what might be a perfect DJ gear for one person might not be for the other.
DJ Controller Buying Guide
For instance when I was first learning about DJ controllers I purchased the Mixtrack Pro as it was very beginner friendly and was relatively cheap, so if I did not like it, it was not going to cost me a fortune. Fortunately I did and it was an excellent choice.
Yep that was exactly the scenario when I first purchased a DJ controller and exactly the same for this guide.
The reason being is that I had to take into account various things:
Prices for DJ controller range heavily from $100 to up to $1200 for the very top end models. Price is always a key factor for any purchase and has been taken into consideration. BUT you may need other parts if you read below…
When I first looked into buying a DJ controller I discovered you need certain things along with your controller to make it work with your laptop. If you are not an expert you could easily become confused and this is why I have specifically looked into this.
The first thing you need is an audio interface. Why do you need an audio interface? Well when you are DJing you need to hear the second track you are wanting to cue separately in your headphone so you can successfully match the beats. Since the music is on the computer, you will have problems as there is typically only one output ( the headphones socket) which is where your speakers will be plugged in. To solve this problem you will need an audio interface.
Some DJ controllers do come with an audio interface so this has to be taken into consideration when I picked the top 5. In fact the top 5 all have audio interfaces built into the decks so this is something you do not have to worry about.
These include outputs and inputs- Line/Phono Inputs. Mic, Balanced Ouputs, Booth Out (used for DJ’ing in clubs), Records Out (remember the software can record anyway).
How many decks the controller has ( 2 is the standard, although some have 4 – this is really a moot point though as most prefer just the 2 decks) how it is powered (generally speaking you need external if you are DJing in a club. USB is fine for bedroom DJs. Reasoning being is that USB powered decks offer a low volume output.)
Most (especially lower to mid-level) come with the standard 2 decks. More high end ones come with four. Some DJs like these although many think it is unnecessary.
Others include dimensions and weight. Some people may need a space alternative (especially for over cramped DJ Booths)
Usage of DJ Controller
What exactly will you be using it for? Will it be for DJ bedrooming/bit of fun/learning how to DJ or for something more serious. Here we need to find which DJ controller is suitable for you by determining how you will use it.
Some DJ controllers are more suited to beginners, whilst pros need that bit extra to stand out from the crowd.
DJ controllers are trying to replicated classic decks in a digital form. But Novation has come up with a DJ controller a bit different that takes advantage of the controller being digital
Some DJ controllers only come with light editions of the software and you’ll probably need to upgrade. if you have your own DJ software this is not an issue. If you don’t it will be as it is more cost.
All the DJ controllers do come with software needed to be able to DJ, however many (especially the cheaper ones) only come with limited versions of the software (LE) meaning less features and the lack of the ability to record your mixes.
So you’ll be looking to upgrade to the full version which costs more money (upwards of $200). This may mean that a cheap DJ controller model looks an attractive proposition but in reality you will probably need to shell out extra money for the software.
There are of course different DJ software programs ranging from Virtual DJ to Traktor. I’m not going to go into too much detail in this article (I will be doing a article for software in the future) but bare in mind about the point on LE software.
Best DJ Controller
Want to know which is the best DJ Controller to buy? We highlights the best 5 DJ controllers currently on the market and gives honest feedback on them all.
I know from personal experience getting the right DJ controller can be very confusing so this article covers all the relevant factors and help you make the right decision.
Intro about myself
As a youngster I had a dream of being a DJ ( I was captivated by early trance music such as Cygnus X – The Orange Theme) and eventually saved up enough money to get some Technics 1210. I did learn the basic skills and was pretty decent, even DJ’ed a little whilst at University. However it was very very costly and carrying around the decks and vinyl without regular transport was no fun!
Over time, life took over and needed to sell my trusty 1210s, I still listened to the music of course but never really had the money nor the time to get back into it. Until one day I was introduced to this Virtual DJ on a PC by a mate. I was blown away, it was accessible and so much fun. However, you could not replicated the feel of deck with a mouse and keyboard until DJ controllers were introduced.
They are nearly as good as the real thing and it made Virtual DJ so much easier to control, plus they are far far cheaper than vinyl and CD decks and these DJ controllers are increasing in popularity all the time. Let’s begin by looking at the best DJ controller buying factors.
The Best Five DJ Controllers By Price
1. Numark MIXTRACK PRO III DJ SOFTWARE CONTROLLER WITH AUDIO I/O – Price: $199.00
The Mixtrack Pro III is the perfect DJ controller for any budding DJ (or a DJ who wants to familiarize themselves with DJ controllers). It now ships with a full version of Serato Intro DJ software making an even more attractive proposition.
Just because it has a bargain price tag it does not mean that the PRO is not powerful, it has every function you need and is great for any bedroom DJ or an intermediate DJ. In fact many mobile DJs swear by it! I won’t even mention the intuitive jogwheels or design or how easy it is to mix as you will have to find that out for yourself!
Mixtrack Pro Overview
The Pros About Numark Mixtrack PRO
- Quality Large Jogwheels – These super intuitive jogwheels makes DJ’ing a lot of fun and great for those just wanting to experiment around. About as close as the real thing
- Great Effects Buttons- Makes adding extra effects very easy and give lots of flexibility
- Sync Button – This makes mixing tracks very easy.. Perfect for beginners or even experienced DJs new to computer mixing. Great tempo slider and there is a LED which tells you when you are in rhythm.
- Complete System – You can do everything ranging from looping to scratching, so great for all genres of music
- Comes With Serato DJ Intro Software – The normal mixtrack does not come with this, but PRO does. You can download the full version of this too for FREE so you have a great bit of software, making this controller a more attractive proposition.
- Great EQ- Best for the price range, when all 3 are zero you get no sound which is exactly what you need
- The Price Professional kit at a super cheap price. Absolutely perfect entry point for beginners or intermediates.
The Cons About Numark Mixtrack PRO
- Usage Level – Not really suitable for professional gigs (due to lack of balanced outputs) More suited to parties and home usage.
2. Novation Twitch Touchstrip Hardware Controller for the Digital DJ – Price: $231.91
Are you looking for fancy DJ controller that is totally innovative and has a new take on DJing mp3s? Well the Twitch is for you.
Instead of the good old twin jogwheels this DJ controller comes with ‘TouchStrips’. Here you simply grab the tracks and swipe them forwards and backwards like you would do with a touchscreen. This offers new exciting infinite possibilities into manipulating music. You can very easily chop up some funky beats and drop them in on the fly. The possibilities are only matched by your imagination.
Let the Serato ITCH software (full version) do the hard work of beat matching so you can concentrate on making the tracks totally unique and great. The Twitch is one of the smallest and lightest DJ controllers out there so it really is a perfect system for any DJ on the move
Novation Twitch Overview
Innovative Touchstrips – A totally new way to manipulate music and understands that mp3/ipod music is not vinyl. It’s almost like swiping on a touchscreen (think iPhone). This is the major pro for this product, as these touchstrips make DJ’ing a lot of fun and is a very original way to DJ. This also allows for very creative and unique mixing on the fly so for DJs wanted to get noticed this is an ideal choice. It also makes DJ’ing very user friendly so this is an excellent bit of kit for beginners.
- The Bundled Software – The Serato Itch 2.0 is a full software and an excellent bit of kit (you can also use Traktor if you have it). The ITCH though is absolutely perfect to use with this controller.
- Full Effects – No need to worry if the DJ venue has an effects deck as the build in effects are excellent
- Compact and Lightweight – Perfect for taking to gigs and houseparties. All you need is this, a few cable and your laptop and you are ready to go. Many pro DJs are using this kit as backup and with good reason.
- No Jogwheel – Personal preference for some is to have a jogwheel, some might feel uncomfortable using touchstrips
- Low Output Volume – Due to it being USB powered some might not like the low output volumes (although can be compensated by increasing the gain. This is only an issue for professional usage of the controller.
3. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 DJ Controller – Price: $339.13
The S2 can be described as the professional DJ controller at a very intermediate price. The S2 comes with the cutting edge Traktor Pro software which goes perfectly with the controller. This kit is compact and now has a Booth out (unlike the S4) so you can DJ anywhere you want with it.
The S2 has lots of potential for any DJ but is also very accessible for a novice DJ learning his trade. The jogwheel and fader are top quality and there are plenty of effects and features to practice with. The advanced sync functions take care of beat matching so you can focus being innovative.
Want to take it to the next level? Well there is a third channel where you can add your own sample effects decks making this controller even more versatile.
- Ease Of Use – Has everything you need so you can DJ out of the box.
- High Quality Components – Jogwheel allows for precise control, beautiful Xfader. You feel in total ‘kontrol’
- Flexible Mapping – You can map the controls to your personal preference
- Truly Portable – Especially compared to the Traktor Kontrol S4. This DJ controller is perfect from mobile DJs.
- Booth Out Present -A major oversight with the S4.
- Accessibility – Despite it’s mid-range price pricepoint, this controller is an excellent choice for beginner DJs. You won’t find a better professional kit for this price. Perfect for those tempted with the S4.
- Third Channel – You can add an effects deck thus increasing the potential of this DJ controller.
- Bundled Software – The Traktor Pro (version 2.5) is brilliant and integrates perfectly with the DJ controller. It really cutting edge software and you get the FULL version here.
- No External Inputs – If DJ’ing professional this could be an issue, as a software crash means no emergency solution
4. Denon DNMC6000 DJ Mixer Controller – Price: $685.69
This high quality DJ controller offer 4 decks and 4 outputs, meaning you can attach audio/mixers/effects from other sources such as iPods and vinyl decks. This comes with plenty of features plus has state of the art sound quality. You can use any DJ software with this Denon plus you are free to use this as a standalone mixer.
Despite all of these features and high quality, Denon has made this controller lightweight and compact meaning it is perfect for mobile DJs.
Denon DNMC6000 Overview
- Very Flexible – 4 channels. 8 sources. You can use audio from many different sources. The choices are endless.
- Versatility – Can be used as a standalone analogue mixer (comes with the ability to record too) so you can use it with your vinyl/CD decks. Full 4 deck control (especially useful for uses of VDJ with it’s audio/video crossfader)
- Design – Very solid, very high quality design. Extremely well built, everything screams of quality
- Software Choice – You can use any DJ software with this controller and it can be mapped
- Features – Absolutely tons of features with this DJ controller, coupled with it’s versatility you can practically do anything
- Mobility – Due to the compact design and super great microphone/pro outputs this really is the ideal choice for mobile DJs
- LE Software – Only comes with LE of the software, you can’t use a piece of kit like this without the full versions so bare in mind you’ll need to spend some more money if you don’t have a full DJ software package
- Initial Ease Of Use – Not the best. Poor instructions and not the easiest or best integration with DJ Software
5. Numark NS6II USB DJ Controller 4-Channel and Mixer – Price: $783.78
If you want a very professional looking DJ controller that has the very best build, the very best jogwheels/platters, can be used as a standalone mixer with fantastic DJ software included and can be easily set-up then look no further than the Numark NS6II.
This professional DJ controller really ticks all the boxes with it’s four decks, four external source outputs and has so many features it would take all day to list. This really is the ultimate in DJ controllers.
Some would say that this is the best dj controller around !
Numark NS6 Overview
- Quality – A very very well built unit. A real professional looking unit. Solid, durable and very beautiful. Perfect for DJs moving away from vinyl
- Jogwheels/Platters – Top quality jogwheels and platters. Absolutely perfect for controlling pitch and very precisely touch sensitive platters which makes it a great dj controller for scratching.
- Versatility – A highly flexibly controller. Tons and tons of features, very powerful looping, lots of effects. This is DJ heaven and the four decks will be ideal for some DJs.
- Versatility (II) – Can be used as a standalone mixer. You also have the four external souces so you can attach vinyl decks, ipods or even other DJ controllers
- Ease Of Use – Despite the high professional looks and the tons of features offered, the NS6 is very easy to understand and use. It truly is an out of the box 4 deck DJ controller
- DJ Software included – Comes with Serato Itch 4 software and it does intergrate very well as well as being very easy to set up. You can also use Traktor software (but the integration isn’t as good as say on a Kontrol S2/S4 ) or of course VDJ
- Not portable – The DJ controller is way too big and heavy. You will need a car!
- Limited ITCH effects – You cannot use the ITCH effects on external sources, which will be frustrating for some.
Which Is The Best DJ Controller For Me?
Which One Should I Purchase?
This is a tough question and it all comes down to personal use and preferences. All the five DJ controllers are excellent at what they do.
The main deciding factor (if not price) is your skill level and where you are going to be using it.
Which is the best DJ controller for a beginner or a bedroom DJ?
If you have an interest in learning how to DJ and want to learn then you need to choose a user friendly entry level DJ controller. The Denon or NS6 would simply be overkill and may be too overpowering.
You should instead look at the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 which is beautifully priced or the Traktor Kontrol S2, which is more professional (and can be used for DJ gigs) but at a price (although saying that the software bundled with the Kontrol S2 is far far superior).
The Twitch is also an excellent choice if you have not done any DJ’ing before as the touchstrips are a very innovative feature which could become more common in the future.
Overall I’d say the Numark Mixtrack PRO 2 (an excellent choice for a kid as well. Perfect Christmas present) due to the price plus it’s a very good and powerful DJ controller. Do not even consider getting another DJ controller that is under $200 as you they are not as user friendly, have as many features or missing an audio interface/software. The Pro now comes with a full version of Serato DJ software which makes it more of a bargain.
Which DJ controller is the best for Mobile DJs?
I would say the Twitch which is tiny, innovative and highly functional. You can do some crazy stuff with it that you can’t do with the others. The lack of jogwheels might not be to your taste though. The Denon would be perfect. Lots of outputs, highly versatile for any situation and a very professional bit of kit. The S2 is also an excellent choice for those on a budget.
Which DJ controller is the best for more professional DJs?
I would personally choose from the S2, Denon or NS6. The NS6 is a thing of beauty, terrifically built and actually quite easy to use, but it is heavy and large. So if you play in tightly cramped booths this might not be the best choice. The Denon is quite similar but does not integrate well with the software, but still a very pro bit of kit.
However, do not rule out the S2. OK it’s not as versatile (due to lack of outputs), but this is a serious and powerful DJ controller. It interacts beautifully with the Traktor Pro software and is quite a bit cheaper.
That conclude this best DJ controller article. I truly hope you have found it useful and you have an idea on what you want buy – any of these 5 DJ controllers would make you very happy, although the Traktor Kontrol S2 for me is the best all rounder (and I own it!)
Best Brand New & Used DJ Controller For Beginners
The key for a good DJ controller for beginners is that is has all the standard features so you learn the fundamentals. It is also wise to go for cheaper DJ controllers to begin with as you may not like DJ’ing and it will become an expensive ‘toy’ that you do not use. In this newly updated article I give to you the best used DJ controller for newbies (for under $300) the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2.
UPDATE – I have also added 3 new cheaper controllers that are worthy to practice your DJ’ing on. One is the earlier version of the Mixtrack Pro – the Mixtrack II, Mixtrack pro 2, and the under $100 controller, Hercules Instinct P8. This may prove to be a better buy for some (reasons are explained).
MIXTRACK PRO 2 Price: Used from $291.06
The Numark Mixtrack Pro is ideal for beginners because simply put it is a terrific overall package for the price. There are no limited features on the full software provided (Serato Itch). It integrates well with other software if you prefer that like Virtual DJ.
The Mixtrack Pro is also a lot of fun to use. You are free to experiment with sound levels, key, cue, loops, effects, samples etc. It is so easy to use it is almost a joke. My friends love playing with it too and so will yours.
It is compact so if you fancy doing gigs at house partys then you are ready to go!
Mixtrack II – Used Price: $158.98
Apart from the missing built in soundcard and DJ Serato Itch software, the Mixtack has exactly the same benefits as the Mixtrack Pro. In fact it is probably better for beginners to get themselves a full version of a DJ software anyway, especially if they are serious about DJ’ing.(Upgrade is $50)
It has all the features you need to be able to learn how to DJ. The controls are intuitive and precise. Plus it does integrate well with Virtual DJ so you will have a blast learning your trade. In fact you will use this Mixtrack for your first gig. I did and so can you!!!
Why Beginners Love The Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 And The Mixtrack II
These are the reasons why many of you will love the Mixtrack Pro/Mixtrack:
- The Mixtrack Pro is very easy to set-up. Pretty much plug in , install and then DJ. Remember you will need to get a soundcard if you buy a Mixtrack.
- The DJ controller has pretty much every essential feature a full deck would have, so great for learning your craft
- Has Sync functions, so you don’t have to worry about beat matching. You can focus your skills on effects/sound levels etc.
- Many cheaper controllers are lacking in features, but the Mixtrack Pro allows you to be creative and innovative (there are plenty of fantastic Youtube videos out there) so there is real potential for developing your skills.
- Build quality is very good and this controller has proven to be reliable.
- Full version of Serato DJ Intro included in the Mixtrack Pro, which is a pretty good DJ Software and very easy to use.
- Both come with a LE Version of Virtual DJ. This is perfectly usable but some features are locked until you upgrade
- Sound output is excellent especially considering the price point
- The jogwheels are terrific. There are touch sensitve and are almost like handling vinyl
Numark Mixtrack / Pro Accessories
So what do you get in your Mixtrack Pro box (apart from the DJ controller of course!)
- Serato DJ Intro Software version 1.0 CD (ONLY WITH PRO)
- Virtual DJ LE Software
- USB Power Cable
- Quickstart Guide
- Safety and Warranty Info
You can use virtually any DJ software you would like with the Mixtrack/Pro. From personal experience it works well with Virtual DJ. European buyers will get Traktor LE instead of Virtual DJ which works very well.
Which one should I get Mixtrack or Mixtrack Pro?
Numark Mixtrack II vs Mixtrack Pro 2
- Wanting a no fuss DJ controller with minimal set up time?? – Numark Mixtrack Pro 2
- Have no experience with DJ’ing or no DJ software?? – Numark Mixtrack Pro 2
- Present for a teenager who wants to learn how to DJ and confused with terminology?? – Numark Mixtrack Pro 2
- On a much tighter budget (you can get $10 soundcards)?? – Numark Mixtrack
- Willing to do some research and get a quality soundcard (some ideal soundcards are below!)?? – Numark Mixtrack
- Got your own full version of DJ Software?? – Numark Mixtrack
Hercules Instinct P8 2-Deck USB DJ Controller – Price: US $99.99
And the newly released Hercules DJ Control Instinct. This is one I’ve been testing recently and is a very good cheaper alternative to the Mixtrack Pro. Although it is not IMO as good as the Mixtrack Pro it is quite a bit cheaper ($50 ) and is an excellent all in the box controller. So if you are on a stricter budget seriously consider this.
Why The DJ Control Instinct is Great For Beginners.
The DJ Control Instinct is ideal for beginners because it offers ultimate value. It comes with a built in soundcard and a full DJ software called DJUCED. This software is good enough for a beginner learning his mixing skills. You want to use Virtual DJ? Not a problem!
The Instinct has everything a beginner needs to learn the fundamentals of DJ’ing and is very light and compact so can easily be used even in the smallest of bedrooms.
Why Beginners Love The DJ Control Instinct
These are the reasons why many of you will love the Hercules Instinct DJ Controller:
- No fuss. All in the box DJ learning tool.
- Easy to set up and use. USB powered, no need for external power supply.
- Easy to beat match as has full auto synch. You can manually learn too with pitch siliders.
- FULL DJ Software. Built in soundcard so no hidden costs
- Compact and light. You can quite literally DJ satdown as it will fit on your lap!
- Many controllers at this price are bascially a novelty toy. This is not has has professionalism about it.
- Every function you need to learn how to DJ is there on the DJ controller. (apart from gain controls – you have to manually do that on the software
- You will be able to use this for your first gigs.
- It is FUN to use. I think it is a great present for teenagers! Your friends will want to use it and you can show off your skills