So, you want to be a DJ? That’s wonderful! DJing can be an exciting, fulfilling experience, allowing you to mix your favorite tunes and put your own, special twist on them. The first piece of equipment you’re going to need is one of the best DJ controllers for beginners. You’ll probably want to start out with one that isn’t too advanced, and can become overwhelming if you’re just starting out, but will allow you enough room to develop your skills. If you, yourself, aren’t interested in DJing, but are purchasing for someone else, we can also help you find the best one.
To make our selections, we had to look at various features: the included software, how many channels the controller has, how big and heavy it is, as well as other features, like how easy and intuitive it is to use, price, and other features it may include. Software is going to cost more if it’s not included, and is often an extra $100, so it’s important to take this into consideration as well. The number of channels is usually two in a beginner controller, but sometimes, you’ll find four, which allows for more room for advancement.
Top 7 DJ Controllers for Beginners Review 2020
We’ve spent the last few weeks researching thoroughly through each of the best DJ controllers for beginners to come up with a resource listing each of the top for you. We’ve laid out our guide by starting off with a user-friendly table so you can compare and contrast each item. Following, you’ll find in-depth, unbiased reviews of each controller, and finally, you’ll find a buying guide and FAQs. Let’s get started, shall we?
Denon DJ MC4000 – Editor’s choice
- Software included: Serato DJ Lite
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 19.9 x 12.3 x 2.7 inches
- Weight: 8.95 lbs
Extra features: touch-activated jog wheels
While Pioneer is undoubtedly the most popular DJing brand on the market, Denon is the only that comes close. The sleek, gorgeous design of their MC4000 comes with everything you’ll need to start out, and has enough features to allow you to develop your skills without having to buy a new controller.
The durable steel chassis is sturdy, but lightweight and small enough for you to transport to gigs. It features the basic inputs/outputs, so you won’t require additional equipment to get things done. The controller includes Serato DJ Intro, and you can upgrade to the full Serato DJ software, but keep in mind you’ll have to pay for this. If you’d like, it’s also compatible with Traktor 2, Algoriddim Pro, and Virtual DJ 8. Remember, if you choose a software other than Serato, you’ll have to MIDI map your controller to other software.
The jog wheels are touch-activated so you can precisely cue tracks, and can even get you started with scratching. Below the jog wheels, you’ll find dedicated Hot Cue and sample pads with illuminated feedback so you can explore your creativity even more. Long-throw 100mm pitch faders are great for beginners, as you can more easily adjust the pitch where you want, and learn to beatmatch by ear easier.
The only real issues we had with the MC4000, was that the jog wheels weren’t great with scratching. You can definitely get a small idea of what it’s like, but you won’t be able to scratch like DMC champs. Secondly, we would’ve liked to see a more pronounced “click” once the pitch fader hits 50%.
- Includes Serato DJ Intro, upgradable to Serato DJ
- Long-throw 100mm pitch faders
- Solid steel chassis
- Dedicated Hot Cue and sample pads
- Touch-activated jog wheels
- Pitch fader doesn’t “click” much at 50%
- Scratching isn’t great
- Only has 2 channels
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 – Highest Quality
- Software included: Traktor Pro 2
- Channels: 2+1
- Dimensions: 17.2 x 12.1 x 2.6 inches
- Weight: 5.7 lbs
Extra features: charges your iPhone or iPad while you DJ
In a market so packed full of controllers that look and behave the same, the Native Instruments’ Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is more than welcome, setting itself apart with hardware and software.
The box includes a Traktor Pro 2 license and hardware registration, a USB 2.0 cable, a USB-to-30-pin iPad connector, and a wall connector with various international adapters. The duo-tone design is gorgeous, as well as the HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) LEDs to provide stunning colors. The build is sturdy, the controller is not that heavy and is compact. Its silicone-damped jog wheels with aluminum top plates are just as durable – perfect for high-res cueing and scratching.
One thing that really sets this controller apart, is the 2+1 channel and flagship software with Remix Decks, so you can be even more creative, and allow for more potential to boost your skills. The mixer section is pro-grade, featuring 3-band EQ so you can properly learn how to EQ mix, as well as multi-effect units easily accessible. In addition, you’ll find pre-listen cue buttons to hear the upcoming track, and durable volume, pitch, and crossfaders.
A great selection of loops and sounds are also included by Loopmasters. 40 loops and 10 full tracks cover drums, bass, percussion, and synth loops. Two FX units with 30+ effects are also available to you. You’ll receive your typical effects like delay, reverb, and flanger, along with more unique ones like Beatmasher and BeatSlicer.
The only thing we weren’t real fans of, was the fact that the pitch faders were short throw, so again, not exactly the best for hitting right on the desired BPM quickly.
- Great build, high-quality knobs and jog wheels
- Includes Traktor Pro 2 license and various effects, loops
- Gorgeous, sleek design and unique LEDs
- Pro-grade mixer section
- Pitch faders are short throw
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 – Easiest to Progress On
- Software included: Serato DJ Lite
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 19 x 10.7 x 2.3 inches
- Weight: 4.6 lbs
Extra features: Pad Scratch
The Pioneer DDJ-SB3 is very similar to the DDJ-RB in many ways, but there are still some very notable differences. One, is that the RB features the full license key to Rekordbox, while this one only comes with Serato Intro. Upgrading will cost you almost $100, unless you catch it during a sale or opt for $10/month subscription.
The biggest selling point of the SB3 is that it has many trickle-down features from more expensive gear, providing an excellent way to get started in the DJing world. A somewhat-controversial, yet unique feature Pioneer put on this controller, is a button that literally scratches for you. It’s not going to necessarily teach you how to scratch, but it’s a fun little feature.
With headphones, you must make sure you have an 1/8” mini jack connector, because, unlike the SB and SB2, it doesn’t have the option of using headphones without it. The build is very lightweight, albeit a slightly “plasticky” feeling. Despite this, it’s quite durable. You’ll find 8 performance pads under the jog wheels, as well as trim, 3-band EQ, and individual channel filters, which is quite generous.
Speaking of the jogs, they’re well-made (aluminum construction), responsive, and reliable. While it is a two-channel controller, there are actually four “decks” available, once you hit the switch to go between deck 1 and 3 on one side, and 2 and 4 on the other. The metal transport buttons that look practically identical to the RB’s are a huge improvement on the previous model that had the rubbery ones. The pitch controls are small and short, but are good enough for accurate beatmatching. You can also use key lock for fixing pitch as you change the tempo.
- Features “four” decks
- 3-band EQ, trim, individual effects knobs
- Durable, responsive jog wheels
- Improved transport controls
- 3 effects can be delegated to each deck
- Feels a bit plasticky
- Pitch faders are quite short
- Only comes with Serato Intro
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 – Easiest to Use
- Software included: Serato DJ Lite
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 21.7 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches
- Weight: 4.1 lbs
Extra features: touch-sensitive metal jog wheels, multi-function touchstrip
The Mixtrack Pro 3 by Numark is undoubtedly one of the best beginner DJ controllers on the market, today. It comes with Serato DJ, although you can upgrade, should you like. The two channel controller features all of the necessary requirements and needs a beginner DJ will have, while also being capable of delivering a solid performance immediately.
The USB-powered controller is incredibly easy to set up and use, and only has RCA unbalanced ports on the rear, but overall, the design is interesting, yet intuitive. It isn’t the most compact nor lightweight controller out there, but it makes up for this in terms of features. As it is so wide, it gives you ample space around the control so you’re not contorting your hands and trying to make sure you don’t accidentally bump something unintentionally.
The mixer section is more than adequate, featuring 3 band EQ to kill with a dual hi/low pass filter, which is on surprisingly few beginner DJ controllers these days. Something else that is rarely featured on entry-level gear, are volume meters. This one has them, indicating up to three greens, an amber, and a single red LED, however, it is for the master out only, and not the cued-up track.
The jog wheels are touch sensitive, free-spinning, and can work pretty well for scratching (for the budget, that is), and can also be used to bend the pitch or as a shift-track scrubber. Another feature we absolutely loved, and is extremely hard to find on a controller in this price range, are the full-sized, 100mm pitch faders, perfect for learning how to control pitch without looking at the screen. You can assign 3 Serato DJ intro effects per deck, and these are managed by the touch strip, which we haven’t seen on a controller in this budget range.
- Full-length pitch faders
- Easy to maneuver/navigate
- Unique touch strip
- 3-band EQs
- Volume indicators
- Isn’t the most compact/travel-friendly
- Doesn’t include full Serato DJ software
Pioneer DDJ-RB – Most Complete Package
- Included software: rekordbox DJ
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 19 x 10.7 x 2.3 inches
- Weight: 4.6 lbs
Extra features: comes with stand, polishing cloth, and headphones
The DDJ-RB is inspired by Pioneer’s professional controllers for Rekordbox DJ, the software which is also used with professional-level Pioneer CDJs. The USB-powered, 2-channel controller comes with a laptop stand and headphones, so you literally have everything you need two start practicing and performing.
The laptop stand is high-quality: adjustable, and also gives you the option of mounting it to your desk, so it doesn’t fall off or take up valuable desk space. The headphones aren’t professional-quality, but if you’re just learning, they’ll do. They’re comfortable, and relatively durable, especially considering the price.
The compact, lightweight controller is highly portable and perfect for taking to gigs. Despite being so lightweight, it has some advanced features that are intuitive, yet make advancing much easier. The layout is user-friendly, the jog wheels are highly responsive (although, at times can be too touchy) and tactile performance pads let you trigger Hot Cues, Pad FX, Slicer, and Sampler so you can truly completely change up your favorite songs and add some unique effects.
As the controller is bundled with the Rekordbox DJ license key, you don’t have to purchase any extra software to have full access and benefits. Mixer knobs and faders do feel a bit cheap with light plastic, although this is often typical with beginner controllers.
The biggest downside for us, with the DDJ-RB, is the fact that the pitchfaders are so small. They’re not easy to adjust the pitch to get the correct BPM, as they’re so short and touchy. Not only that, but if you’re looking to beatmatch by ear, it’s not the easiest feat with these.
- Hot Cue, Pad FX, Slicer, and Sampler performance pads
- Comes with full Rekordbox DJ license key
- Comes with high-quality laptop stand and headphones
- Lightweight, compact build
- Mixing pots and pitchfader made of cheap plastic
- Pitchfader is extremely short
Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4-K – Most Convenient
- Software included: rekordbox DJ
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 14.9 x 9.4 x 2.3 inches
- Weight: 3.9 lbs
Extra features: supports WEDJ
Pioneer’s DDJ WeGo4 is a two-channel controller with two band EQ, a dedicated filter knob, cues, short throw channel faders, and unique-looking, light up jog wheels. The biggest “pro” of the controller is the fact that it’s compatible with virtually all DJ software, and is also one of the most portable controllers on the market today.
Let’s go back to the compatibility with DJ software, first. TheWeGO4 is compatible with various software/DJ apps on all kinds of platforms. For mobile devices, it works with djay 2 on Android and iOS. On a laptop it can be MIDI-mapped to Rekordbox DJ, djay Pro, and Virtual DJ. IT can also be used with Pioneer DJ’s newer WeDJ software, made for iOS. This opens up the controller to all types of consumers, most notably for those who don’t have a laptop to use for DJing.
It features buttons for cueing the left and right decks, as well as the Master output. The volume faders, pitch faders, and the crossfader are all short throw, so the resolution isn’t the best when you’re adjusting levels/BPM, but they’re fine enough.
While it’s definitely convenient, there are a couple of things that weren’t as well-designed as we’d hoped. First, we would’ve liked to have seen at least 3 band EQ, but instead, this controller just has the lows and highs. In addition, the design of the controller is quite “toy-like” due to the jog wheel lights and chunky design.
- Very convenient size/weight
- Compatible with all kinds of platforms/software
- EQ knobs
- Only 2 band EQ
- Volume/pitch/crossfader are short throw
- Design looks like a toy
Numark DJ2GO2 – Budget Pick
- Included software: Serato DJ Lite
- Channels: 2
- Dimensions: 16.9 x 3.4 x 1.3 inches
- Weight: 11.8 ounces
Extra features: portable
This ultra-portable, pocket-sized controller is perfect for everyone: kids as well as adults, and absolute beginners as well as pros who want to practice while on the road. Despite being so small and weighing in at a mere 11.8 ounces, it has everything you’ll need to get started: a built-in sound card, plug-and-play connectivity, and Serato DJ intro. You can opt to upgrade to the full software version if you’d like, and it can be MIDI-mapped to virtually any DJ software.
The controller features all of the essentials: two channels, a crossfader, jog-wheels, and pitch faders. It also has four different pad modes so you can easily choose cue points, auto/manual looping, as well as sample playback.
While this mini controller has plenty to offer, there are certain aspects we weren’t fans of. First of all, if you really want to learn how to EQ mix, you can’t do it on this unit, considering it doesn’t have them. Rather, you’ll have to mix between songs through the crossfader, and the crossfader, alone. Second, it’s easy to accidentally bump the jog wheels considering they’re so small. You’ll have to really be careful with that, as well as accidentally hitting the crossfader or pitch faders. The pitch faders are also quite short, which can make hitting the proper BPM a bit more of a challenge, but it’s definitely possible.
All in all, if you’re looking for a controller that’s perfect for traveling, taking to gigs, and just about anywhere else, then this is undoubtedly the easiest one to pack along.
- Extremely portable and lightweight
- Comes with Serato DJ intro/can be mapped to any other DJ software
- Great for adults, children, beginners, and pros
- Pad modes feature easy cue points, auto/manual looping, and sample playback
- Doesn’t have EQs
- Jog wheels and pitch faders can be easy to bump
Reasons to get a DJ controller for beginners
If you are an aspiring DJ and are just starting out, or are purchasing a gift for a beginner DJ, then having a beginner DJ controller is just a good idea. It will give you a solid foundation to learn basic skills necessary to mixing a proper set, while also allowing you the opportunity and room to improve upon your skills. A beginner controller has the basic controls, while occasionally throwing in some extras, however, it doesn’t have so many features that it will intimidate you, which can actually discourage you from practicing.
Features to consider when choosing a starter-level DJ controller
There are quite a few features to consider when choosing a starter-level controller. First, you’ll want to look at software and compatibility with various devices, which we’ll cover in-depth in the next section. Next up, make sure the controller is well-built. As you’re just learning, you’re probably going to be pretty hard on it, covering hundreds of hours practicing and learning. Ideally, the pitch fader will be long so you can learn how to beatmatch without relying on visual aids. Jog wheels should be durable, yet responsive to your touch. It’s a bonus if you can also use them for scratching or scrubbing quickly through tracks. We’d recommend making sure your controller features a 3-band EQ so you can learn how to EQ mix properly, to make progressing to pro-level equipment more natural.
Included software and compatibility
Software and compatibility is the biggest thing to consider when making your purchase. If your new controller isn’t compatible with your laptop, for example, then you’re out of luck. In contrast, there are plenty of controllers on our list that are compatible with just about anything you can think of. There are some that even work with iPhones, iPads, Android, PC, and more! Back to software, make sure your controller works with your preferred software, and that the software works on your selected device.
Number of channels
Most entry-level DJ controllers are going to come with 2 channels. Each channel can play one track, sample, vocal, etcetera. Two channels are more than enough to get you started with mixing and honing your skills with EQing, using effects, and more. However, some controllers offer 2+1 decks so you can remix a track, or even 4 decks, where you can really start advancing, mixing up to four tracks, vocals, and samples at once. If the controller you want has 4 decks, don’t feel intimidated. You don’t have to use all four, but it is nice to have the option is you do want to advance to that many.
Inputs and Outputs
It’s important to make sure your controller has the proper inputs and outputs you require to accomplish what you want. Ideally, make sure that it has at least a USB port so you can easily connect it to your laptop.
USB and Internal Memory
You’ll also want to take into consideration how your controller saves cue points. This is important, because if it the controller does not have the internal memory to do so, you’ll have to save it to a USB, and if you for some reason forget your USB, then you’ll be without your cue/loop points. In addition, take into consideration how many USB ports your controller has. Most at this level only have one to directly connect to a laptop, but more means you can hook up extra equipment or even charge your phone!
You’ll want jog wheels to be good-sized, responsive, but not too touchy. Ideally, the jogs will be made out of aluminum, or another type of metal that’s durable. You’ll want to be able to beatmatch, scrub through tracks, and even pitch songs up and down with the jogs.
Extra accessories with your controller are never a bad thing! However, let’s look at both sides of the coin, here. Free is always good, and it’s great that with a package like the DDJ-RB, you have your laptop stand and headphones with your controller, so that’s quite a bit less money you’d have to spend aside from that. However, you may prefer other headphones to the ones that the bundle comes with. They’re usually not going to be as high-quality as your regular DJ headphones, so keep that in mind when thinking that this may be a hot deal.
What are your (or the person you’re buying for) DJ goals? Are you looking to be the next Armin van Buuren or are you just planning on doing it as a hobby at home? This matters because if it’s just going to be for fun, then you don’t really need features that are going to make it helpful with advancing your skills. If you want to do this seriously, then you’ll want to get a controller that makes it easy to move onto pro-level gear more easily.
This is pretty much in the same vein as the last point, but if you’re going to be traveling with your controller, make sure it’s at least under 5 pounds, preferably.
Please briefly answer the following questions:
Not typically entry-level controllers. There are standalone controllers out there, but they’re much more expensive.
In Serato, make sure the “Show iTunes library” option in the Library + Display tap in Setup is checked. Once on the main screen, click on “Library” and you’ll see your iTunes playlists. In Traktor, add your iTunes Music Library path to the Traktor Music Folders under Preferences, then File Management. Check the option “Import Music-Folders at Startup”. Uncheck “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” in iTunes, so it automatically transfers new iTunes music.
You can definitely change up software, but you’ll also have to MIDI-map your controller to that software if it’s not native, which can be a pain.
You definitely can, but it typically sucks laptop batteries up in an hour, so make sure your computer is plugged in, too.
We absolutely fell in love with three of the best DJ controllers for beginners here. Can you guess which ones they are? Well, the first, is the Denon MC400. The steel chassis is a bit heavier, but it’s the most durable in its class. It features touch-activated jog wheels, is extremely easy to use, and has full-sized pitch faders and sample and Hot Cue pads. Second, is the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3. It also has high-quality build and knobs, the full Traktor license, gorgeous LEDs, a pro-level mixer area, and all kinds of effects and loops included. Last up, is the Pioneer DDJ-SB3. It comes with many pro-level features, making it so much easier to progress to full pro-level equipment. It is nice and lightweight, while being durable, has 3-band EQ, 3 effects per deck, and a dedicated filter knob. So, out of these best DJ controllers for beginners, which one will be making their way into your shopping cart?