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
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.
2. Pioneer DDJ-SB3 DJ controller
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.
3. Numark MixTrack Platinum FX
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.
4. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 DJ Controller
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.
5. 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.
6. Numark Party Mix DJ Controller
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.
7. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
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.
8. Denon MCX8000
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.