In this article, I will look at the best USB controllers for Djing that you can buy.
If you are unsure what this means I am referring to simply what are the best USB controllers that you can use for djing.
When you think about how technology has evolved, especially when it comes to djing, it’s quite remarkable that now you can do pretty much everything with a USB DJ controller.
Using a controller is now very much part of djing and they have even had the most hardcore CDJ mixers, laptop mixers and die-hard turntable fans convinced.
Controllers used to be seen just like the portable option or something to go to when you wanted something convenient.
But now they are so much more.
They have turned into proper fully-fledged devices that help DJs carry out insane performances.
USB DJ controllers are highly creative devices.
They give you a ton of features all packed into a small device.
They are simple and streamlined with an emphasis on focusing on the music and transitions.
They can be anything a DJ needs them to be and that is their greatest strength.
They have power, flexibility, portability and value.
They also combine decks and mixers into one overall unit.
They can save you a ton of money on top.
That’s because the price of a good turntable and mixer is far more expensive, that even applies to high-end controllers.
These will cost you significantly less so bear that in mind before you take the plunge and invest in an expensive turntable for your vinyl collection.
In a rush? Here is a quick rundown for you:
Now, let's get back to the article!
Controllers also put CDJs to shame when it comes to providing value.
Remember though that before we get into the nitty-gritty, DJ controllers come in many shapes and sizes.
They offer various features at varying price points.
Remember that a DJ controller is called a controller because it allows you to control the software installed on your computer.
Think of it almost like a mouse or keyboard for your DJ software.
The software you have on your computer is especially important.
This will guide you on what controller you should buy.
You can always change your software, and if you use Serato then you get more flexibility than most, but every USB DJ controller will come with software for you to use with it.
To put this into perspective, anything from Pioneer uses RekordBox, Native Instruments uses Traktor and nearly all other manufacturers use Serato.
You could, in theory, use a Pioneer controller with Serato, but it won’t be easy.
So, it is best to stick with the preferred software to get the best results with the minimum fuss.
Best Software for USB Controllers for DJing
Here are some of my to-go DJ software applications to pair with controllers:
Serato has been there from the start.
It has many modern features, such as pitch-stretching.
It comes with a ton of great FX for you to use and allows for multi-layout displays with 4k support.
It used to be known for its vertical waveforms (which you can now set to be horizontal) this has what is arguably the most popular UI and GUI when it comes to DJ software.
It is supplied with many controllers which makes it the most popular software out there.
This Native Instruments long-term software.
It’s innovative with its remix deck feature.
This turns a deck into a 64-slot remix deck for working with loops and samples.
It also has added peripherals, such as the Kontrol K1 which makes it popular with producers.
This is used by Pioneer, who originally used to use Serato.
It has all the features you would expect from Pioneer.
Including time-stretching, great FX, and a very slick interface that is in high-definition.
It also has integration with other Pioneer equipment, such as CDJs.
But you may be wondering which software is best for you.
That depends entirely on you and your needs.
For example, Rekordbox is for those who like Pioneer, and Serato fills most other gaps.
And with that, I am going to give you my list of what I think are the ten best USBs you can get for djing right now.
10 Best USB Controllers for Djing of 2021
Let's get to the list already!
This DJ controller looks cool, is strong, and is highly effective.
On the base of things, you get a simple 2 channel controller, with small decks.
2-band EQs, and two sets of 4 pads for loops, cues, FX, and samples.
Made from hard plastic it’s very durable.
It can survive even the hardest knocks.
But it is also light and very portable, so it is great for house parties or an outdoor session.
It also has a neat little feature.
This is its own built-in LED light show.
3 LED lights sync with the music you are playing.
All you need to add is a smoke machine.
One of the best USBs for djing in terms of price and performance.
Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3
This gives you a proper 4-channel controller that works with the latest version of Traktor so you can be super creative.
This is an updated version of the MK2 controller.
And whilst isn’t as cheap as other DJ controllers on my list it is made from high-quality parts and it looks and feels fantastic.
You do get a ton of pro features crammed into such a small form factor.
Being a 4-channel controller, you can connect this with CDJs, timecode vinyl, or vinyl and CD decks.
You get a 24-bit output which gives great sound quality.
Its jogwheels are high-tech and feature haptic feedback for realistic controls.
A 3-band EQ combines with high/low pass filters, mappable RGB pads, and deck and master FX.
You also get two superb LCDs per deck to display key song information.
Being from Traktor this controller works great with the remix deck feature.
Allowing you to operate two normal channels and two channels of remix decks for custom loops and samples.
Producers will love Traktor for making technology aimed at them.
This is a creative and innovative DJ controller.
Hercules DJControl Starlight
This is a tiny and effective controller that is great if you are a traveling DJ.
It can go wherever you go and is perfect for parties, practicing or performing.
It’s one of the smallest controllers you can get.
But it’s portability is a great plus point.
It has two jogwheels and precise tiny tempo faders.
There is nothing missing here that can stop you from creating a proper mix.
With a reasonable price, Pioneer gives you the best pro controller on my list.
It’s an excellent club-ready device.
It’s designed for pro use but not to be super expensive.
It looks great and is very sturdy.
The two large decks feature LED displays for song information, and it has 24-bit output and space to connect external decks or CDJs.
It also has a great I/O selection.
It’s more of a pro-2-channel controller, but you get the usual FX banks and pads to control loops and samples.
It’s ready to rock with RekordBox included and the controller even acts as a license for RekordBox, so you just plug it in and set it up and all features of RekordBox are available to you.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum
This is a large controller that comes with many features.
But it is also slim and comes at an extremely attractive price.
Being made from plastic, it is still durable and strong.
You get quality and value here and a DJ controller that can be used regardless of your experience level.
It’s a 4-channel mixer with 24-bit output and a great array of pro-level features.
It has LCD screens on each deck so you can see the song title and BPM information.
Normally you only get that on super expensive controllers.
For many that additional alone makes this one of the best USBs for djing for them.
You don’t have to keep glancing at your computer all the time.
Each deck has a touch strip for easy song navigation.
You also get a 4-band FX pad selector, large 10mm faders, 3-band EQs, and large-high-quality aluminum platters.
Hercules Universal DJ
This is the only DJ controller I have featured here that has Bluetooth.
And whilst Hercules is something of an unknown brand in DJ controllers, they sure are being innovative.
This convenient device gives you everything you need at an incredibly attractive price.
A 3-band EQ, quality faders, and decks.
It’s all here, along with its software.
But you can also use this with Serato Lite if you wish.
The beauty of this is that it can connect with other devices, hence the ‘universal’ in its name.
That means easily hooking it up to your computer or even your phone or tablet thanks to Bluetooth.
It’s great to use at parties or weddings.
It even allows for automixing if you want to still mix songs but enjoy the party.
Numark DJ2GO2 Pocket DJ Controller with Audio Interface
This is an excellent portal DJ controller.
Like the Hercules which is also on my list.
If you want a portable DJ controller then this may be one of the best USBs for djing that does exactly what you need.
This is a successful ultra-portable DJ controller that works great with Serato.
It may be tiny, but it packs a mighty punch.
It’s only 35cm so you can easily lie it across your laptop.
You can easily put it in a bag when you travel as well.
You get 2 tiny jogwheels, small, but precise BPM faders, and 4 pads per deck for working on loops and samples.
With this DJ controller, you can practice and perform wherever you go.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
Whilst Pioneer is known for creating some great DJ controllers, this one is more middle of the road.
It may not be one of the best USBs for Djing, but don’t be put off.
This is well-engineered and comes with some great features.
It is also built to last.
This is at the lower end of the usual Pioneer price bracket, but it still has great build quality.
It’s a 2-channel controller, with great features like pad scratch, this was designed in collaboration with DJ Jazzy Jeff so you can create beats on it that shake the room.
In terms of software, this may come with either Serato Lite (which you can upgrade to the Pro version) or RekordBox.
You need to check this before buying.
It has an intuitive layout and is small and portable.
You get 8 pads for each deck and dedicated play/cue buttons.
Denon is an industry veteran.
This controller is ready for the club and won’t disappoint you.
It isn’t a new controller but continues to hold its own towards the middle and top ends of the market.
It looks great and you get a build quality and feature list that is far more than you would expect given its price.
It has top quality faders, EQ pots, and gains, 10mm faders all combined with aluminum jogwheels that are smooth to operate.
With a 24-bit output, you get superb sound quality when used with high-end sound systems.
It works fine with any DJ software and its respective mappings.
But Serato is probably the best software to use.
This is a flexible controller that isn’t tied to what software you use.
It also gives you triple-band FX and 4 pads per deck for working with loops and samples.
Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 300
Hercules is new to this game, but they have come up with an attractive and cheap controller that has its special software, DJUICED, to let it hold its own.
It also has especially useful practice modes.
This controller breaks the standard by including its software.
But you can still use this controller with Serato if you want to.
It’s cheap but you still get the main features like 3-band EQs, quality jogwheels, and faders.
With a decent build quality, this is impressive from such a small unit.
You can easily put this in your bag if you are traveling.
DJUICED is designed to help you learn how to DJ and you get access to a DJ academy that has professional tutorials.
It also helps suggest tempo, as well as intelligent beat grids for help with beatmatching.
It can even generate playlists based on song key and BPM.
You also get an ‘energy’ function which is a small LED that glows red or blue based on the energy of the song.
The color is calculated from the song key and BPM information.
This allows you to pick music to keep the same energy level consistent.
Basic Terminology / Buyers Guide
I will now explain some of the terminology involved with DJ controllers.
This stands for input/output.
It allows you to connect other decks to your controllers which means your controller doubles as a mixer.
Controllers usually have either 16-bit or 24-bit outputs.
24-bit is better with a higher resolution.
Not all USB DJ controllers are made from metal.
You may not think it, but plastic is just a better option.
It’s cheaper to produce, stronger, and better at absorbing shocks.
This means the price is kept low and the durability remains high.
Cheaper controllers tend to have the benefit of durability.
All the USB DJ controllers on my list would make an excellent purchase.
They are all different and so I cannot recommend the best one overall.
Instead, it depends on your needs and possibly brand affinity.
You may go for Pioneer because of their fantastic hardware and design or maybe a cheaper controller from Numark or Hercules meets your budget needs more.
Native Instruments and Traktor may also fit your niche.
Whatever you are after there is every possibility covered here.
Because the diversity is wide, and the quality is so high it is awfully hard to go wrong with any of my recommended best USBs for djing.
Last update on 2021-01-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API