A DJ controller is one of the most valuable tools that you’ll have as a budding music maestro! So picking the best DJ controller for your needs is critical! Whether you’re a beginner in the field, or you’re expanding your skill set, these controllers give you the freedom to experiment with sounds and create new experiences.
The only problem? Finding the best DJ controller is often easier said than done.
How do you make a choice when there are countless DJ Controller alternatives on the market, designed for different kinds of DJ and music mixes? Today, we’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best DJ controllers that we’ve seen for this year, and who they’re best for.
Best DJ controller Over $1000 Options
These are the devices that you’re likely to choose if you’re looking for something to take your mixes to the next level. If you just can’t afford to compromise on sound quality or capability, try the following products.
The Pioneer DDJ-1000 DJ controller is a state-of-the-art replacement to the XDJ-RX2 Rekordbox controller. It’s one of the most advanced products on the market, packed with features like an LCD on-jog display. There is a range of FX options to choose from, and a host of performance controls to experiment with. There are also four channels included with this device, which control up to four decks, two full-sized CDJ joggers, and so much more.
The biggest issue with this product is just how long it takes to get used to using it. The Jog wheel could be a little smoother in it’s spin too.
Similar in style and performance to the SZ2, with a few functionalities different, the Pioneer DDJ-RZ is a professional-grade flagship controller. Designed to provide next-generation control, this native solution for Rekordbox DJ gives you the flexibility you need to prepare amazing tracks. There are two USB sound cards, a club-quality crossfader, and a new Oscillator sampler included.
The intuitive layout of the Pioneer DDJ-RZ is one of its best features. You’ll get full control over everything from hot cues, to sound and colour FX, to Beat FX, and more. Additionally, you get a Rekordbox DJ key license bundled with your controller too.
On the downside, this controller has a vast and heavy footprint, making it hard to carry with you to gigs. Additionally, it only works with the Rekordbox DJ tech.
Easily the most impressive piece of Traktor Kontrol tech on the market today, the Traktor Kontrol S8 DJ controller shifts away from the traditional layout of the standard DJ gear in the market in favour of a design that focuses on Remix deck capabilities and Traktor stems.
The touch strips are available to use in the place of a standard jog wheel option, and you can scratch tracks easily. There’s even the option to use seek mode so that you can jump to any part of your track in an instance. The absence of any pitch faders will be a bit of a problem for some professionals, however.
Best DJ controller Under $1000 Options
Not everyone will have a limitless budget when it comes to choosing the best DJ controller. With that in mind, it’s worth checking out some of the slightly cheaper products on the market. These are the options for you if you need a combination of quality and affordability.
The Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is a fantastic mid-level control that comes with all the dedicated key controls you need for Serato DJ pro. There’s a 2-channel controller included here, which mimics the professional gear you would expect from Pioneer.
One great thing about this product is that although it comes with a wide range of fantastic features, like a 4-channel club-standard layout and multi-colored performance pads, it’s also highly portable. This could be an excellent product to take with you to last-minute gigs when you don’t have time to fiddle around with a full setup.
The Pioneer DDJ 800 DJ controller is one of the best two-channel DJ controllers on the mid-market. It feels and performs very similarly to the more expensive 1000 option we covered above. However, you do only get two channels and smaller jog wheels.
Despite this, the Pioneer DDJ-800 feels like an amazing piece of DJ equipment, with components that are a joy to use. The sound coming from the speakers is loud and compelling, and all of the switches and buttons feel amazing too. On the downside, you won’t be able to accomplish as much with this controller as you would with a larger device like the Pioneer DDJ-1000. Additionally, the effects only work with Rekordbox DJ.
Best DJ Controllers under $500 Options
If you’re looking for something even more affordable than the options we covered above, then you’ve come to the right place. These controllers fall under the $500 mark, and they still deliver a huge amount of excellent quality audio, along with some fantastic feature sets.
The Pioneer DJ-400 is arguably the best DJ controller for beginners on the market. It comes with the same design language built-in as the larger DDJ-1000 and DJ-800, which means that the decks have some loop sections instead of traditional effects sections on the top.
Visually,, the Pioneer DDJ-400, as a beginner DJ controller, is great to look at, moving beyond the base-level DJ controllers that you often get at this price-tag. Additionally, even though this device is made primarily with plastic, it feels high quality – like something you would feel comfortable using on a daily basis.
This is a fantastic option for budding DJs that want a controller that helps them learn as they play. The Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ controller comes with a sophisticated pad scratch feature that teaches you how to use various scratching sounds on your own.
The DDJ-SB3 of the most affordable high-level machines on the market, and it’s portable enough that you shouldn’t have too much trouble carrying it around. The out-of-the-box functionality means you can plug and play in seconds and start learning as soon as you like.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is a fantastic entry-level DJ controller that’s designed for the new Traktor Pro 3 software. This is an excellent product at a fantastic price. It comes bundled with the software that you need to start mixing music. What’s more, the compact footprint of this device means that it will fit into most tight spaces.
The S2 MK3 DJ controller comes with bigger jog wheels and a better RBG performance pad section than the previous version of the same controller. However, you shouldn’t expect quite as much of an advanced build quality from this device as you would from the S4 MK3, for instance.
Best Standalone DJ System
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for your best DJ controller, then you might prefer a standalone system. This is something that you can pull out of the box and use immediately to create a fantastic DJ set, without having to worry about installing extra software.
The Denon Prime 4 is a state-of-the-art all-in-one DJ controller that immediately makes your entire music collection available and ready to use. There’s four-deck hardware control included and an advanced touch-screen workflow to help you jump into action as quickly as possible. What’s more, the multi-core processor means that you’re getting a sensational performance.
You can implement plenty of effects on this device with a high level of customization. What’s more, you can have different effects ready to go and switch between them as you work.
Another contender for the best DJ controller, if you’re looking for a standalone solution, is the Pioneer XDJ-XZ. This sensational device is an all-in-one mixing solution that’s used by pros around the world. There’s a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, four channels to experiment with, and 64-bit audio quality, so you know you’re getting premium functionality.
The performance of the device is phenomenal, with multiple FX options to choose from and the option to connect to two external devices at the same time. The Pioneer DJ controller is built for professional high-level DJ performance, and it’s sure to stay strong with years of use.
The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 is another piece of highly flexible DJ controller gear. It works fantastically as a standalone solution and improves on other technology too. This innovative device is loved by mixers all around the world, inheriting the features of the flagship NXS2 collection from Pioneer.
There’s a large 7-inch touchscreen included with a QWERTY search function, and you also get a range of high-level features like multi-colored performance pads, and a rotary selector, short cuts, sound and beat FX. This device won the pro mobile awards at one point too.
Best DJ Controller for Rekordbox
Rekordbox is one of the market leaders as the best software solutions for budding and professional DJs. If you want to get more management over your music, then this is the software for you.
The ultimate DJ controller for Rekordbox has to be the Pioneer DDJ-RZ. This might be a more expensive product compared to some of the other options on the market, but it’s brimming with incredible performance. The jog wheels and mixer are much better than the ones on the RX, and while the device is pretty heavy, it still manages to be portable.
One of the larger models on the market by Pioneer, the RZ is packed full of features like Pad FX, beat jumps, and slicer effects. It’s an excellent device with a sturdy build and professional features, including double USB inputs.
Best Controller for Serato
If you prefer Serato technology, then you’re going to need a very different kind of DJ controller. As long as you don’t mind spending a little extra for quality, we have just the DJ controller for you: the Pioneer SZ2
The Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 is an upgrade of the SSJ-SZ DJ controller that we mentioned above. Although most of the features are very similar to the original unit, there are some added controls for things like the key and pitch features from Pioneer.
If you’re looking for a fantastic Serato DJ controller and you don’t mind spending a little extra, you get a real pro-gear feeling from this device. The big jog wheels and a double USB input means that you get a truly immersive experience from this device. The SZ2 is also fully equipped with sound-color FX, and it supports all performance features of Serato DJ Pro.
Best DJ Controller for Traktor
Finally, if you’re a fan of the Native Instruments Traktor software, which is rapidly becoming more popular in this industry, then you might prefer a device specifically tuned to that tech.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is one of the most reliable and attractive options in the market for Traktor technology. Designed to the highest DJ standards, this solution allows anyone to jump into the DJing world with very little prior knowledge, and experience excellent results.
This device is filled with features that the standard DJ might need, including pitch control, a four-channel mixer, and a dedicated section for Remixing decks and personal layering. Additionally, the unit feels very solid too. You don’t have to worry about it losing its quality over the years. However, there are no line fader or curve and reverse functions. Additionally, you can only use one effect per module with the onboard controls.
An alternative to the option mentioned above is the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2. This popular device comes with a useful touch strip for more granular control over your decks. The dual double-digital LED readouts, and the backlit buttons are some of the standout features of this device. If you’re looking for a fallback DJ controller, or you want to build a more modular solution, this is the tool for you.
This DJ controller comes with everything you need to take tactile control of various effects. However, there aren’t any Jog wheels included, so you’re not going to get the same full experience that you would get from a bigger device.
How to Choose the Best DJ Controller for You
We’ve covered quite a few options here when it comes to the best DJ controller on the market. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There are a lot of different things that are going to affect your decision, including what your skill level is, and which features are most important to you.
Let’s cover just some of the things that you’ll need to think about:
- What level are you at? If you’re a beginner in the DJ world, then it’s unlikely you’re going to need the most expensive DJ controller on the market. The Pioneer DDJ-400 or the NI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is likely to be a better choice. These two options will help you to learn how to master your skills without spending a fortune. On the other hand, if you’re more advanced, then you’re going to need something more extensive, like the Pioneer DDJ-1000 DJ controller, as it allows you to get more granular control over your music.
- Connectivity options: What kind of connections are you going to need? CD and USB connectivity usually come as standard. However, if you have a lot of music libraries to browse through, you might need more than one USB connection. This can also be useful for attaching your phone to your device.
- What is the best DJ software? There is a range of software options to choose from in the market today. For lovers of the Rekordbox technology, we’d recommend the Pioneer DDJ-RZ, as it gives you a full in-depth level of control over this software. On the other hand, if you prefer Serato, consider the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2, just make sure that you have plenty of room in the back of your car for transportation. For Traktor, the NI Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 is probably our favourite option. It gives you a more complete experience than the Traktor Kontrol X1 MK2.
- What’s your DJ controller budget? You’ll notice above that we included a lot of different tools for different price ranges. It’s worth noting that if you can’t afford to buy one of the most expensive items on the market straight away, you can always build out the functionality of your tech stack over time. A lot of the smaller products available today are extensible.
You may also want to consider how you’re going to be using your kit. If you’re planning to use it at home for a little hobby-based mixing, then you don’t need something quite as advanced. On the other hand, if you’re a professional, then it might be easier to look for a full all-in-one system that you can take with you to any gig.
The Best DJ Controller FAQ
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “What is the best DJ controller.” Ultimately, as you continue to hone your craft and learn new skills, you’ll get a feel for the kind of tech that works best for you. For some people, that will be the technology from Native Instruments, with options like the Traktor S2 MK3.
For others, you might find that you end up investing in a more comprehensive all-in-one system, like the Pioneer DDJ-1000.
What do you consider to be the best DJ controller on the market right now? Let us know in the comments below!