If you love listening to music, listening to music, playing music, or anything else in between, DJing can be an exciting hobby.
It can also be a career if you decide to put your time and passion into the craft.
However, just like any other skill, you will need to learn the ropes.
In this article, I will show 10 best DJ controllers for beginners.
Not only are these controllers excellent for beginners, but pros can also use these for small gigs and events.
Once you have learned the fundamentals of DJing, it is up to you if you want to buy more gear in addition to these controllers or buy a new controller with expanded features.
After the list, I will also include some tips when choosing your first ever DJ controller.
In a rush? Here is a quick rundown for you:
Now, let's get to the reviews:
Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 DJ Controller
My initial impressions with the Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 are how well constructed it is for a controller that costs under $300.
My number one impression is the jog wheels.
My second impression is the layout, and lastly, it comes at a very affordable price.
They are well-constructed compared to its competitors and other controllers in its price range.
It has a good feel and weight, so you can really feel the record turning and the impact of your movement.
The weight of the jog wheels makes it easier for doing more accurate to beat matching and drops.
If you are aspiring to become a club DJ and play gigs in small or big clubs, the DDJ-400’s layout is perfect.
Why do I say it’s perfect?
It shares the same layout as pro-level DJ controllers such as the DJM 900 Nexus and CDJ 2000 Nexus.
If you get really good with the DDJ-400, upgrading to pro DJ controllers will be an easy step.
- Club DJ layout
- Built-in soundcard and audio interface
- Mic input circuit
- USB input
- Grab handles on each side
- Works with RekordBox DJ for Mac and Windows
- 2 channels
- 2 jog wheels
- 16-slot sampler with 4 banks
- Pad effects
- 8 hot cues
- Manual loop
- Beat jump
- Weighted jog wheels
- Club-style layout
- Filled with the essential features
- Smooth knob and fader feel
- Pads feel cheap
Overall, the DDJ-400 is a robust controller with a solid build.
It is very affordable, and it looks good aesthetically as well.
It is something you can learn on and use for future gigs.
The DDJ-400 is hands down one of the best entry-level controllers on this list.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 DJ Controller
(Best Budget Option)
Just because the DDJ-200 is a small controller, does not mean it is terrible.
In fact, the DDJ-200 is small for all the right reasons, such as:
Not only is the DDJ-200 portable, but it is also mobile. It works with iOS and Android devices.
It can be used with apps such as Algoriddim Djay, WeDJ, and EDJing.
If you decide to use it with a laptop, it works with the desktop version of Algoriddim Djay and RekordBox DJ as well.
It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and it is powered by a USB connection.
You can use a power bank to power it up and practice without any wires and complicated connections.
However, the DDJ-200 does not include a built-in soundcard.
You need to use the soundcard of your phone or your computer to connect it to your headphones or speakers.
It does come with a split wire to connect it to headphones and speakers at the same time.
The developers intentionally did not add a soundcard to cut down the price and because the DDJ-200 is aimed for mobile users.
Because the DDJ-200 is more of an entry-level DJ controller, it comes with a smart transition feature that easily mixes your track just by moving the crossfader.
You don't even need to sync the tempo to get a clean transition.
Some people call it cheating; I call it innovation.
However, you should still try to invent your own transitioning techniques instead of relying on this feature.
- 16 pads
- 8 hot cues
- Effect knob
- Headphone/speaker split mode
- Beat sync
- Smart transition
- Can use with smartphone and smartphone apps
- Lightweight and compact
- Bluetooth connectivity
- USB powered
- Smooth fades
- Pads feel a little cheap
- No soundcard
The DDJ-200 is an excellent choice for beginners that want a smaller and compact setup that is worth the price.
It works seamlessly with mobile devices. The Bluetooth works perfectly with little to no latency at all.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 is a beginner DJ controller.
You would probably think that just because a product is introduced as entry-level, it will not have many bells and whistles that pro DJ controllers have.
That is not the case when it comes to this entry-level DJ controller.
The DDJ-SB3 can be compared to premium controllers in terms of features and functions.
The DDJ-SB3 is still classified as a beginner controller despite its potential.
I think it is affordable because of the limited outputs and plastic construction.
However, even though the controller s made out of plastic, it still feels durable enough to withstand excessive use.
The jog wheels have the right amount of tension, and it does not feel too sensitive.
It has the right amount of weight for the user to spin it more accurately through muscle memory.
The separate play and pause buttons make the performance pads more functional as you can assign a function for each of the 8 pads.
This detail makes the DDJ-SB3 ideal for performing.
- 8 performance pads
- Pad scratch feature
- RCA output
- Headphone Output
- Loop section
- Separate pause and play button
- EQ section
- Pitch and volume faders
- Works with Serato DJ
- Vinyl slip function
- Pad scratch
- Large jog wheels
- Durable design
- Smooth transitioning
- Club DJ layout
- 3 effect knobs
- Plastic pads
- Small pitch fader
The DDJ SB3 is one of the best beginner DJ controllers that you can get at a very affordable price.
It has the essential features of a great DJ controller and more.
It has a fresh, attractive layout and design.
I would say that this controller can function very close to a $1500 controller, performance-wise, making you get more than what you paid for.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ Controller
(Best to Learn With)
Numark is slowly becoming well-known for making pro-audio equipment.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is designed for beginners and pros alike, offering some of the best features for performing live gigs or just practicing at home.
The platters are very functional and responsive, and it has different functions such as pausing a track, fast forward, or rewinding with precise control.
They are also made out of metal, making them more durable, primarily if you rely on the jog wheels a lot when performing.
The rubber trigger pads can be used to enhance your performance by mapping certain functions such as hot cues or triggering samples.
The pads are made out of rubber, and it is definitely built to last.
I think that rubber pads have a better feel than plastic ones.
The pads are very responsive and work the way you want it to.
Equipped with three effect knobs per side, the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 can boost someone’s creativity and think of better ways to transition from one channel to another.
- RCA master output
- ¼” TRS Mic channel with separate volume
- Headphone jack
- 3 effects per side
- 8 performance pads
- EQ section
- Effects knobs
- Hot cues and loops
- Functional shape and layout
- Excellent pitch control sizes
- Cool filters and effects
- Deep and functional jog wheels
- Comes with free Serato Intro software
- Multi-purpose pads
- Pad mapping
- Looping could use a little improvement
With the Numark Mixtrack 3’s intuitive layout, it is an excellent DJ controller that beginners can quickly learn on and improve their skills.
Numark DJ2GO2 Pocket DJ Controller
Now, if you still think that the Pioneer DDJ 200 is too big for you, there is a smaller and compact option that comes at a very affordable price.
It is none other than the Numark DJ2GO2.
It literally fits in your pocket!
It might be too small for people with big hands and stubby fingers, but trust me, this DJ controller works.
One of DG2GO2's strongest suits is its portability.
It makes it easy for you to take it with you anywhere you go, so you can practice and pass the time on bus rides, plane rides, and cab rides.
If you are a person that always has your laptop with, throwing this DJ controller in the same bag would not be a bother.
Despite its small size, this DJ controller is a functional controller that works like a dream.
You can do anything that a DJ controller does, such as manual beat mixing, launching samples, using hot cues, and looping.
I have seen some people scratch with the tiny jog wheels on the internet too.
This DJ controller has short mix pitch faders, making it possible to perform and sync beats manually.
Some new DJs forget how important it is to learn how to mix tracks manually.
The 4 performance pads have 4 different modes.
You can switch from hot cues to loop mode with a press of a button, making them work as a full-sized controller despite the limited number of pads.
- Headphone and master gain control
- Level and pitch controls
- 4 performance pads
- Loop and hot cue toggle
- Sync button
- Built-in soundcard with headphone output
- Highly portable
- User-friendly layout
- It works the same as a regular-sized DJ controller
- Works well with Serato DJ
- Has library navigation
- Built-in soundcard
- Lacks EQ options
- Too small for people with big hands
If you are a fan of all things portable, the Numark DJ2GO2 is an excellent choice for you.
It is a compact and fully functional DJ controller option that comes with a friendly price tag.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
(Best New Release)
The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is an excellent choice for beginners who want the essential functions of a DJ controller with more features to work with, such as mixer effects and sample looping and editing.
This controller has everything you need and more, and it is an excellent choice for people who want to be creative when learning transitions with the use of effects.
With this controller, you can learn how to mix with everything all in one place.
You can use the EQ to cut the kick, add reverb, and set a cue point to drop the next track quickly with its intuitive club DJ layout.
The significant jog wheels feel really great.
It has enough resistance, making it easier to beat match tracks.
It also features slip vinyl mode, and it is fun to do some DJ controller scratches with the quality and feel of the platters.
Everything from nudging, rewinding, and scratching is easy to do with these exquisite jog wheels.
These one-touch mixer effects are everything.
You can create unique transitions such as dub delays and filters with a press of a button.
This feature is what I admired most about the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3.
- 2-channel mixer
- 16 RGB pads
- 3-band EQs
- Scratch Spin and Slip Modes
- Real-time sample editing
- Mixer FX
- Bigger jog wheels
- RCA out
- Mic input
- USB input
- Headphone out
- Multicolored RGB LED-backlit pads
- Plug and play support
- Durable and high-quality construction
- Built-in 24-bit/ 96 kHz DAC
- Integrated with Traktor Pro Software
- Dedicated effects and flux mode buttons
- Tons of knobs and EQ control
- Club DJ layout
- Sleek design
- Great deal on the price
- The power supply produces some noise
The Traktor S2 MK3 is one of the best beginner DJ controllers that even pros would enjoy.
If you are a pro and you want a smaller setup for smaller venues, this new release is an excellent choice.
Denon DJ MC4000 DJ Controller
The Denon DJMC4000 is a premium controller that can be used for practicing as a beginner.
It has most of the functions and features you need, and more.
It is highly functional and delightful to use, whether you are a beginner or a pro.
It is a capable learning DJ controller that can be used for professional gigs as well because of all the functions that cover all bases.
The DJMC4000 is an advanced looking DJ controller that is built with quality and attention to detail.
Instead of using plastic materials like other DJ controllers, this DJ controller uses metal materials to ensure a durable and quality build.
This DJ controller can produce high-quality output with its 24-bit sample rate.
Unlike most controllers, the Denon focuses its energy on the most important aspects, such as sound.
When using this DJ controller for live gigs, you can make use of every single pad and knob and change the functions of the pads in real-time.
With features as many as what the Denon DJ MC4000 has, you can surely think of new ways to enhance your performance.
- XLR jack
- ¼- inch Jack
- Built-in mic effect
- Hot cues
- Pad mode
- Eight pads for each side
- Loop mode
- Excellent nods and tables
- Mic channels
- Serato Intro Software included
- XLR output
- Durable construction
- Excellent jog wheels
- Easy monitoring
- Jam-packed with feature
- Needs more software channels
The Denon DJMC4000 is an all-around beast.
With its premium features and excellent build quality, this DJ controller is one of the best ones you can get.
If performance, durability, and style are essential to you, you should probably consider this DJ controller as your next toy.
Pioneer Pro DDJ-WeGO4-K DJ Controller
The Pioneer Pro DDJ WeGO4-K DJ controller is a reliable DJ controller option.
It has a unique intuitive layout with useful buttons surrounding the jog wheels.
It has most bases covered, such as individual knobs for custom EQs, tempo, pitch, and master volume faders, and a crossfader to create smooth transitions.
It is a high-quality compact DJ controller that is perfect for beginners.
Unlike the other compact Pioneer DJ controller option, the DDJ-200, this controller comes with a high-quality built-in soundcard, which makes it more ideal for performing at professional venues.
When you purchase this fantastic controller, you are hitting two birds with one stone.
It will come with a license for the RekordBox DJ app.
This DJ software application is suitable software that beginners would find it easy to learn.
Other than RekordBox DJ, there are a lot more apps that you can use with the DDJ-WeGO, such as Algoriddim Djay and Atomix Virtual DJ.
What I like about the WeGO the most is the unique design.
It features a unique design that is unlike any other DJ controller in Pioneer DJ’s DDJ series.
It is also built with high-quality materials.
It is a little bit heavier than most compact controllers, but I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if it meant better quality.
- Compatible with Mac and PC or iPad OS
- Hot cues
- Pad FX
- Comes with free RekordBox license
- EQ section
- Split headphone and speakers
- Beat sync
- RCA out
- Mic input
- Works with Algoriddim Djay for iPad
- Includes master volume knob for each channel
- Built-in 24-bit Soundcard
- Easy connection
- Intuitive button layout
- Comes with iPad Tray
- Compact and portable
- High-Quality build
- Small tempo fader
The DDJ WeGO4-K is an excellent choice for beginners that want a DJ controller with a solid build and design.
It does have most of the essential functions you need in a DJ controller, plus, it is mobile and ready.
Reloop Beatpad 2 X-Platform DJ Controller
(Best Premium Option)
the Reloop Beatpad 2 is one of the best multi-platform DJ controllers you can buy.
You can use it for learning, for gigs, and many more.
It boasts a fresh and contemporary design that would make you look like a pro.
The build quality is also superb, and it is made to last.
This premium choice is something you can use to learn the fundamentals of DJing and keep for a long time.
If you don't have a collection of tracks to use for mixing, don't worry because the Beatpad 2 works with Algoriddim DJ on any platform.
With this Djay software and app, you can use tracks from the Spotify streaming app with over 4 million songs.
Ever since I tried apps like Spotify, I never downloaded a track again, and that is just for listening.
Who knew someone would integrate streaming with DJ software?
It is pretty genius!
- Color-coded hot cues
- Multi-sensorial pad mode selection
- Sampler mode
- Auto-loop feature
- Bounce loop
- Touch effects
- EQ preset switch
- 3-band EQ
- Works with Algoriddim Djay and Spotify
- Advanced Track Management
- Tons of features
- Cool modern design
- Works with Djay and Spotify
- Portable and mobile
- Touch-sensitive pads
- Might be too expensive for a beginner DJ (definitely worth it)
The Reloop Beatpad 2 is the only premium DJ controller that I would recommend for beginners.
It has it all, and if you think about it, it is not that expensive.
At its price tag, you get tons of features built in a high-quality package.
Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 DJ Controller/Bundle
(Best Bundle for Pros/Beginners)
As a beginner, wanting to learn the fundamentals and techniques on how to become a DJ, you probably want a bundle that can get you started immediately.
No worries, because the Pioneer DDJ- SZ2 is a DJ controller that comes with extra products that you could use for practicing and later on, performing live.
Well, of course, this bundle does not have literally everything you need.
You will still need to provide your own laptop, but the good thing is, it comes with a stand you can use for your laptop and a set of headphones.
When performing live or when practicing, your hands will be on the jog wheels most of the time.
It is a good thing that the Pioneer DDJ- SZ2 made high-quality and full-sized jog wheels that feel great and are built to last.
The performance pads are multicolored for cueing reference, so you can tell which is which at one glance.
Everything on this DJ controller is built to make things easier for the user, which makes it a great DJ controller to learn on.
This DJ controller has tons of knobs.
It might look a little complex to use, especially for beginners.
However, because there is one dedicated control for each function, I find it much easier to understand and use.
This DJ controller is not actually made for beginner, but for pros rather.
I only included it in the list because of the features that make it easy to use.
The DDJ- SZ2 is something you can use for almost any kind of function, from simple house parties to massive music festivals.
- Dual USB ports
- Native Control of Serato DJ
- Needle Search
- Intuitive Touch Strip
- ¼-inch stereo output
- Headphone output
- Large aluminum jog wheels
- Backlit performance pads
- Pitch play
- Professional oscillator
- Dedicated controls
- Serato flip connection
- Dedicated controls for many functions
- Tons of controls
- 4 channels
- Durable faders
- Filter, jet, echo, and pitch effects
- Siren, laser, drop, noise
- Pro DJ option
If you want to buy your first and possibly your last DJ controller, the Pioneer DDJ- SZ2 is an excellent choice.
Now, this bundle may be expensive, but you are getting what you paid for in the form of convenience, quality, and performance.
How to Choose the Best DJ Controller?
After going through the list and you still can’t decide which DJ controller to buy, you can read this buyer’s guide.
I came up with this guide to help you narrow down your choices and choose a DJ controller based on the factors that are important for you.
Some people want an affordable option, while some aim for a controller with a lot of features.
No matter what matters, I am sure you’ll find a DJ controller that will suit your needs.
Why You Need a Beginner DJ Controller?
Pro DJ controllers are more complicated to use than user-friendly beginner DJ controllers.
However, if you think you can handle using a pro-level controller, go for it.
Still, I find it more suitable for beginners to learn the basics on a DJ controller that is easy to use, before moving on to a pro DJ setup.
Once you get the hang of things, you can apply your knowledge to a more complex DJ controller in the future.
Having a beginner DJ controller, however, does not mean you will not enjoy using it. I find any DJ controller fun to use.
Important Factors to Consider
Let's take a look at what one should keep in mind when shopping:
Most consumers base their decisions on their budgets.
Determine your budget first, then chose a controller within your budget range.
However, if you find a controller that costs more than you can afford, you can save up rather than settling for second best.
When selecting a DJ controller, make sure it has the functions that you need, such as:
- Audio interface
Make sure that you are comfortable with the responsiveness and size of the jog wheels, especially if you want to incorporate scratching techniques and dropping a beat by using the jog wheels.
The best material used for jog wheels is aluminum.
The feel and control are close to using vinyl.
The jog wheels are used to beat match, scrub through tracks, and to change the pitch.
Some people want a more compact DJ controller for practicing like the DJ2GO by Numark.
Smaller controllers will have limited functions and smaller jog wheels, but they can still be used for mixing.
Ease of Use
Most beginner DJ controllers are easy to use.
Even if some choices have more features and functions, the basic mechanics are mostly the same.
Ease of use does not only apply with the interface only but the ease of setting it up as well.
Inputs and Outputs
The controller you choose should have the essential inputs and outputs.
Some controllers like the simplified DDJ-200 does not include a soundcard, but you can still run the output using the host’s soundcard.
Some DJ controllers are only compatible with specific software like Serrato or RekordBox DJ, and other controllers are universal.
I suggest you check out the controller first before downloading any paid software.
However, if the software is free to access or is available for a trial period, feel free to explore the DJ software first.
Trying out the software and choosing one you prefer can narrow down your choices for a DJ controller, making it a little bit easier for you to decide.
No. of Channels
Entry-level DJ controllers come with two channels that can play one track each.
Two channels are enough while you are starting to improve your skills and techniques.
Learning to transition from one channel to another using two tracks seamlessly will help you improve before moving on to DJ controllers with 4 channels or more.
Once you master mixing 2 tracks, you can try moving up to 4.
DJ Controllers vs. DJ Mixers: What’s the Difference?
Most DJ controllers already have a built-in mixer.
However, more complicated setups that pros use often use a third-party device like an external mixer.
External DJ mixers have more mixing functions that you cannot achieve with a controller’s built-in mixer.
A DJ mixer is made explicitly for mixing functions only.
In contrast, a DJ controller will most likely have the essential DJ functions like separate channels, sample pads, and more.
DJ Software for Beginners
When choosing a DJ controller, you may want to consider one that is compatible with user-friendly software.
Based on the software I have tried, I would say the Traktor Pro software is one of the easiest to use.
RekordBox DJ is also a good choice, and the same goes for Algoriddim Djay.
Make sure the controller you purchase is compatible with the software you want to use.
Lastly, note that DJ software applications are different from digital audio workstations (DAWs) that producers use to make beats.
- Aside from a DJ Controller, what else do I need to start learning how to DJ? To start DJing as a hobby or career, you will need a good, trusty set of headphoneswith the best quality for accurate listening. It does not actually have to be headphones. I have seen modern DJs use air pods or in-ear headphones instead of the big and bulky traditional headphones that DJs use.
You will also need a laptop with DJ software.
Most DJ controllers come with a software license or trial.
Make sure you choose a DJ controller first before buying DJ software because not all controllers support just any DJ software.
If you want to hear the output out loud, you could also throw in a set of good speakers.
I suggest investing in powered bookshelf speakers, so you don’t need an extra amplifier to make them work.
- I don’t have a laptop; can I still use a DJ controller? Some DJ controllers on the list do not require a laptop as a host. For example—the DDJ-200 from Pioneer DJ can be used with merely just your iPhone or Android phone. The software to make the controller run is free, so you don't have to worry about paying a premium. However, for software such as Algoriddim Djay or WEDJ, you will need to subscribe to a monthly plan to unlock all the features.
Some DJ controllers have onboard sounds, and effects can be used without a laptop.
However, these types of controllers are not recommended for beginners, and they are a lot more expensive than the controllers mentioned on the list.
Some people even do it the other way around. Without a controller, some people DJ using a laptop only.
Of course, you wouldn't be able to scratch, but you can still think of creative ways to transition from one song to another using just a laptop.
- Can I use streaming services for mixing music with a DJ Controller? It depends on the software that is compatible with the DJ controller you select. DJ software like Algoriddim Djay allows you to use Spotify tracks for mixing. In contrast, other software such as EDjing and WEDJ lets you use SoundCloud and Beatport.
- Can you scratch on a DJ Controller? Yes, you can definitely scratch using a DJ controller. It wouldn't feel the same as Vinyl, but you can make it work. Make sure you adjust the crossfader fader curve so that the volume is completely cut when sliding the crossfader. Changing this setting makes it easier to cut off the sound with minimal movement with the crossfader. It is a technique that most DJs use when scratching.
I would recommend that you start by learning basic baby scratches first, before moving on to using the crossfader.
DJ controllers are more affordable than ever nowadays, which opens up a door for beginners to gain access to them.
For me, the best DJ controller for beginners is something you can start using for gigs immediately, even without upgrading.
Something like the Pioneer DDJ-400 is a controller where beginner DJs can learn the fundamentals of DJing.
Sooner after, beginners can use for their first gigs as a professional DJ. Don't get me wrong; all the items on the list can be used for gigs.
However, they are much simpler than pro DJ controllers, making it better for beginners to learn the art of mixing.
Last update on 2021-01-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API