Best Cheap DJ Controllers 2020

In this post we will take you through the best budget DJ controllers in 2020.

DJ controllers are a must-have piece of equipment in any collection of DJ gear, whether you are an new DJ discovering a hobby, entry-level DJ or a professional. They imitate the functions of traditional turntables and mixers, with the control surface featuring knobs, jog wheels, faders, touch strips and sample buttons, usually in a club style layout. DJ controllers can be used with or without a laptop, connecting hardware with software and offering easier mixing.

So, which controller does the best DJ use? How do you even pick the best DJ controllers?

The world of DJ controllers is extensive – this post will show you 8 of the best budget-friendly DJ controllers in no particular order, priced between $75 to around $1000. Each are value for money, with a more expensive purchase offering more features and better build quality, suitable for any pro DJ.

If you’re looking to get into the world of DJing a controller is a much more affordable option. Turntables or CDJs could set you back $3-5000+.

1. Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ controller

Pioneer DJ - DDJ-400

Our first product is Pioneer’s DDJ-400 DJ controller, with a built-in sound card and club-style layout of controls. Designed for an entry level DJ, this portable DJ controller sits in the mid-range price point of those discussed here – at around $250 (prices may change) with a very decent range of features.

With USB plug and play connectivity, this controller has 2 channels with the ability for users to blend mixes between the master output and headphone cue. There are 2 deck controls, with this DJ controller offering dedicated play, pause and cue buttons, CDJ-style looping controls, filters, Beat FX and more.

This DJ controller includes the full version of Pioneer’s Rekordbox software, compatible with Virtual DJ. Rekordbox Version 5.3 offers a tutorial feature with step-by-step lessons and video tutorials to help a beginner master the learning curve of DJ basics.

Pros
  • lightweight (0.176 ounces) compact design that is easy to setup, making it perfect for parties or practice sessions on the go, take it anywhere
  • very user-friendly, best for beginners and aspiring DJs just starting out
  • longer pitch faders allow for more accurate tempo matching
Cons
  • might not play as well with other music equipment
  • blue effects can be extremely bright
  • less suitable for pros who want to do more with a controller and would not benefit from tutorials

2. Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ controller

Pioneer DDJ-SR2 with Stand and Headphone

Our next model is the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ controller, made from premium materials and circuitry for a more luxurious feel. The price reflects this at around $350, though there are even more extra features on top! It features 8 performance pads, a separated loop section with an independent auto loop feature, and much more. This portable DJ controller comes with a stand, headphones and an Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth, making it suited for your set anywhere.

Connectivity is covered via 1 USB B port, with no digital connectivity. There is 1 microphone input terminal, 1 master RCA output terminal and a headphone monitor. 2 channels and 4 control decks include some fantastic features like Pad scratch, so scratch effects can be added to cue points and currently playing songs without a turntable. FX fade makes the transition between tracks easier.

The controller comes with Serato DJ Lite software, and is one of Pioneer’s cheapest designs.

Pros
  • accessible intuitive layout (designed for buttons to be where you need them), perfect for a beginner DJ
  • pad scratch function allows for eight trademarked DJ jazzy Jeff scratch techniques, automatically matched to the track’s BPM
  • 128mm durable aluminium large jog wheels are low latency, for better accuracy in scratch effects
Cons
  • some reviews have noted that this control cannot be installed near any heat source (even music gear that might emit heat)
  • auto scratch included where many DJs have a preference for manual scratching
  • lacks some features as it is a budget controller (for example, it lacks master output level metering and FX controls system is limited), with small pitch faders

3. Numark MixTrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Pro FX – 2 with Built-in Audio Interface

Our third DJ controller is the Numark MixTrack Platinum FX, the latest Serato DJ controller created by Numark, offering more features than the Pro FX version with a doubled amount of 4 control decks.

Compared to the previous DJ controllers discussed, this DJ controller has some premium features, with built-in LCD Displays, touch-sensitive 6 inch jog wheels, 16 multi-function performance pads, a touch strip, filter knobs and a full 3 band EQ.

Four channel mixing capabilities are available for you to enjoy, with channel faders and the ability to filter controllers for each channel.

Connectivity is covered pretty well – with an on-board 24-bit class compliant audio interface, two headphone outputs and main output for connection to a mixer or PA systems. It’s also USB-powered and can be connected to your computer easily, with an onboard sound card allowing you to directly plug in headphones, speakers, and mics.

The DJ software included with this controller are Serato DJ Lite and Prime Loops Remix Tool Kit.

Pros
  • good for small gigs and sets with lots of tools for you to craft your own sound
  • balanced performance for entry level and those who are more advanced, with a solid level of mixing capability
  • this controller offers a few pro features to improve your experience, like multiple FX manipulation
  • long, sensitive 100mm pitch sliders are worth a mention since it’s very suited for in beat matching
Cons
  • manufacturing errors noted in some reviews by users
  • be warned that it may produce hums and buzzes when plugged in
  • can randomly stop working and halt sending signals to a computer, jog wheels can be unreliable in controlling the audio

4. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

A club-standard DJ Controller is the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3. With a club-style layout, 2 channel mixer and 2 identically designed control decks, this option offers fast control of key Traktor features with added scratch capability. 16 RGB pads trigger hot cues, loops or samples and full 3 band EQs are at the industry standard – letting you achieve your party mix rewinds, bass-heavy breakdowns and synthy sounds.

USB-connected with a high-end audio interface, this DJ controller can be connected to your other DJ gear and can connect to the iOS app. The full version of Traktor Pro 3 software comes with the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol.

Pros
  • lightweight, reliable and solid build quality
  • access features of the TRAKTOR software from the deck
  • budget friendly as software included is $99 on its own, so you get lots of features that won’t break the bank
Cons
  • less suitable for a beginner with a more complex platter
  • has only RCA output, no XLR
  • not rated as highly as its predecessors

5. Denon DJ MC4000 DJ controller

Denon DJ MC4000 - DJ Controller

One of the best, most extensive DJ controllers available is the Denon DJ MC4000. Touch activated jog wheels really make for accurate scratching and track cueing. Some features given by this controller are the long throw pitch faders, dedicated hot cues and sample trigger pads with illuminated feedback. Built in FX include ducking and echo effects.

With 2 channels and 2 control decks, connectivity is great with both XLR and RCA outputs, along with RCA inputs. There are also 1/4″ and 1/8″ outputs and inputs including for stereo headphones and microphones, with a USB port too.

Serato DJ Lite download software comes included, that can be upgraded for Serato DJ pro.

Pros
  • great robust build quality: pro-grade steel construction guarantees long-term durability
  • best for the pro DJ
  • connectivity is easy with plenty of options
Cons
  • one of the higher price point models on this list (around $1000), which can set you back further if want the full version of software
  • VU meters can be confusing as they are a little complicated, maybe then less accessible to beginner DJs

6. Numark Party Mix DJ Controller

Numark Party Mix - Complete DJ Controller Set

The sixth budget DJ controller is an interesting one: the Numark Party Mix DJ controller. A complete DJ Controller set for Serato DJ with 2 control decks and 2 channels, this is for a budget DJ that wants to up the excitement of their party mood. Party lights for your own light show, headphone output, four responsive performance pads and crossfader are just some of the features to give you total control of cue points, looping and sample playback. This portable controller comes with a built-in sound card and on-board headphone cueing.

Connectivity needs are met with an on board audio interface, headphone output and one main output for connection to DJ mixers, DJ Speakers & PA systems, with USB.

Serato lite DJ software is included.

Pros
  • very cheap and budget DJ friendly answer to party DJing, low price at less than $100
  • fun way to learn how to DJ, mix tracks and perform live without investing too much whether practicing or performing your playlist
Cons
  • more suited to small events than anywhere else, like other larger settings
  • limited for house party use

7. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000

 

Pioneer DJ - DDJ1000SRT

Next is another budget DJ controller from Pioneer: the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000. Full-size jog wheels, a Magvel fader, portability with a club-style layout, and colour on jog display to keep your eyes off your laptop, along with professional FX – this controller has some fantastic DJ features with 4 channels and 4 deck controls.

With 4 inputs, this controller will let you connect to CDJs or analog turn tables with ease, and even use it as a stand-alone DJ mixer. You can also connect directly to PA speakers and microphones because of a Booth, 2 Master, and 2 Mic inputs.

Fully licensed Rekordbox DJ software is included, with (full license included). Serato DJ Pro compatibility is also present.

Pros
  • large jogwheels for easier use with HD screens that are pressure sensitive
  • an updated mixer section and Magvel crossfader
Cons
  • significant size and weight footprint make portability more difficult
  • software does not have the reputation of other options like the Serato DJ software or Traktor software

8. Denon MCX8000

Denon DJ MCX8000 - Standalone DJ Player

The only standalone, all in one DJ controller to make this list of budget DJ controllers is the Denon DJ MCX8000 Standalone DJ Player/Controller, perhaps the only device for your DJ setup you’ll need to impress people. As the company describes this to be their flagship controller, quoted by them as “the first true DJ hardware/software controller” the specs include 4 deck controls and 4 channels. Not only can this controller be used to control Serato DJ on your computer, but the inclusion of the Denon DJ Engine software means it can also operate without.

Connectivity is achieved through two USB ports. Digital connectivity is also possible with the included Stage LinQ network, letting you control lighting and video.

Pros
  • comparatively cheaper than other standalone controllers from leading manufacturers, arguably good value
  • all in one, one of the best for its standalone capability, dedicated filters and two high quality HD displays
  • digital connection options
Cons
  • not the largest of platters
  • not for a cheap DJ, with less affordable price that can set you back over $1000 dollars, however this might be to be expected with the bells and whistles

Quick guide to buying the best DJ controller for you

After reading those, you might ask: what is the best DJ controller for an aspiring DJ? Which is the best overall? Before answering, there are a few things to include in your decision making process.

Make a decision on your chosen software

Most DJ controllers usually come with and are compatible with DJ software, which can help your budget if included in the package. Some DJ controllers only work with specific software as they are designed specifically for it, whilst the best DJ controllers are more flexible in their compatibility.

4 established ones, and best known are Traktor, Virtual DJ, Serato, Rekordbox (pioneer). Not all controllers come with full versions, which is something to keep in mind for your budget if an upgrade from intro to pro would include features you want. Most DJ controllers are designed to work well with their own software – like a Pioneer model with Rekordbox software. Be certain that you don’t end up with a DJ controller that can’t be used with your laptop – e.g. some software may only offer features for iOS.

Avoid Older Models

Although they may seem to be best for your budget or appealing with discounted prices, older controllers may only run on outdated DJ software, and you will miss out on all of the recent upgrades and improvements – make sure to check if any are unsupported, and that every button is not hard to activate or too loose. Cheap DJ controllers do not always mean great value, and anyways, the best DJ deserves a newer model which is unlikely to have faults, the need for an upgrade or additional repair costs.

Features and Functionality

Depending on your experience level and whether you want to make a job out of your DJing hobby, beginners might find more complex controllers with much more knobs, buttons and sliders intimidating to use. The navigation on entry-level DJ controllers can be easy to use in comparison, and feel comfortable with a simpler deck layout design. Your skill level also can help in deciding what you’ll need. Beginner DJs may find 2 channels enough to play with over 4, and smaller platters may be friendlier.

Size is important, and the feel of material can help you decide how well a controller may function – if flimsy, it may be budget DJ controller, but maybe not the one of the best purchases if it does not last that long. Or if it’s too bulky, setting up DJ controllers may be hard to take to parties, gigs, or shows. Lightweight materials would be best if you’re on the move.

Mixer (channels)

A mixer will either control analog or digital signals. Depending on where you are planning to be DJing: a set in your room, a club, a gig or so on… the higher your channel count, then much more things can be connected to your DJ controller. Consider what instruments or devices you would like to use before checking the channel count: typically controllers accept less inputs than output channels. The less they have, the more basic the audio solution – many on this list had two, which would be a good choice for any mixing by beginners.

Jog wheels

Jog wheels may all do the same thing but each type will have its own characteristics. Firstly, the durability matters as they are touch sensitive – longevity is best for stretching your money, and making sure any jog wheel aren’t too sensitive will be good for your patience. The best DJ controllers will be designed with easy use in mind, to different preferences – it’s completely your choice. Some controllers offer for vinyl modes to be disabled, so nudging the dial won’t affect the speed of audio like for most precision jog wheels – which can be useful if playing videos.

Some jogwheels require pressure, or move mechanically, which you might see as best if you want less sensitivity or have previously used turntables and want to replicate the feel of them through a jog wheel.

Crossfaders

Crossfaders are probably best known for battle DJing or hip hop. You may not prioritise these but they are super fun tools that can tease your next track and make for clean transitioning, that even the best DJ would benefit from. Some software allows for you to adjust the crossfader curve – i.e. how the volume of each channel changes, which can make your mixing more professional.

Pitch Faders

Pitch faders will change the beats per minute of your audio, but the extent to which it can do this is limited by the length of your faders. Shorter pitch sliders can be frustrating to those increasing in their progress, especially if you favour playing by ear and manually beat matching. The longer the pitch fader, the more precisely you can match beats, so if you think this might be an issue – go for full length pitch faders.

Connectivity

There are several types of connectivity to consider that depend on what devices you have already i.e. laptops, an iPad etc.

Most controllers have USB ports, but it is also worth mentioning to think about whether you need any audio inputs built in – the capability to connect turntables, CDJs, CD players or an instrument to your setup – and if you might want to expand with timecoded vinyl or CDs in the future. A musician would need much more connections.

Digital connectivity can simplify your sound system, and offer a better level of convenience if apps on your smartphone can be used in DJing, or just in reducing a mess of wires. Be prepared to pay more for this though as it is not commonly included with DJ controllers.

SFX

Sound effects can add a whole other dimension to a song, changing the dynamic of whatever playlists you produce at your DJ setups, but not all DJs need this feature. Some DJ controllers will have SFX included with their software packages or their own effects section, but most will allow for them to be added on through samples and tracks on your laptop.

What is the best DJ controller for a beginner?

We think Pioneer’s DDJ-400 DJ controller is the best budget DJ controller for someone just starting out with its user friendly design and possibility for tutorials, with scope for mixing at small events too. Perfect for any beginner DJ controller.

Pioneer DJ - DDJ-400

Which DJ controller is the best?

Our pick for the best budget DJ controller is the Numark MixTrack Platinum FX DJ controller. There are so many cool additions and premium professional features that make it a great DJ controller for both a beginner DJ and a DJ that is more of a pro, with plenty of opportunities for your DJ skills to grow and performance to impress.

Numark Party Mix - Complete DJ Controller Set