What is the Best DJ Controller? Buying Guide and Reviews

If you are looking for a simple, all-in-one option to add to your collection of DJ gear, then you have come to the right place. This list of the best DJ controllers has seven options to choose from that are a perfect mix of value and quality.

We did extensive research and tested various options to help you find the controller that matches your style and gives you the tools to spin tracks all night. These seven controllers let you customize your sound with advanced features that are sure to get people out of their seats at any club, wedding reception, or house party.

Not all DJ controllers have everything you need to breathe life into the party, and to be honest, most of them are low-quality and a waste of money. But have no fear, every one on this list is used by professional DJs in various settings.

Choosing the right one that fits your needs is important. You might not want or need a massive, fancy full audio system, especially if you travel long distances to your venues. At the same time, maybe you want a few bells and whistles to give your music that unique sound with a beat that gets everyone out on the dance floor.

We tried our best to make it simple so you can find the DJ controller that has the options you need.


The 7 Best DJ Controllers


1. Pioneer DDJ-1000

pioneer ddj1000

Professional DJs worldwide use the Pioneer DDJ-1000 for their events and parties. It offers incredible technical mixes designed for use with Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ software across four channels.

Many DJs know this model as the last stop before moving into Pioneer’s move expensive and complicated RZX models.

Features and Specs

The Pioneer DDJ-1000 comes with capacitive jog wheels that glide beneath your hands. Its integrated HD screens show all the information you need, from BPM to waveforms and Hot Cues to playback time.

You can customize how the screen displays information, so you don’t have to worry about taking your eyes off the action on the floor or losing track of your tunes.

The 14-Beat FX lets you experiment. With 16 multicolored performance pads, you get a professionally synthesized sound with your improvised mixes. The Magvel crossfader gives you over 10 million movements to get as adventurous as you want.

Make the most of intuitive scratching with the full-size club-style layout and durability of this DJ controller. Its high-quality features give you the freedom you need with dual USB slots for two laptop connectivity ports, so you don’t miss a beat.

We also like that this unit comes with dual USB inputs and two headphone jacks for easy changeovers in back to back sets.

Performance

The Pioneer DDJ-1000 has a 4-channel system. If you’ve used anything similar, like Pioneer’s previous CDJ systems, you’ll have no problem with this controller’s four decks.

It looks a little like the NSX2 in terms of the layout, but it comes with improved performance. Pioneer wants you to find your groove with this DJ controller, so they give you the tools to experiment and explore.

Its efficient design puts everything in close reach, and you’ll find yourself working by muscle memory once you get going. The Magvel crossfader makes for a nuanced and versatile control panel, while better latency gives you faster and more natural control.

With analog inputs, you can incorporate turntables for more adaptability. Its lightweight and portable design means you don’t have to feel like you’re lugging around a massive set to every gig.


2. Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3

traktor kontrol s4 mk3

The Traktor Kontrol S4 gives you everything you need to unleash your creative side. Take the club wherever you go with this DJ controller’s comprehensive controls and intuitive features when you mix across four decks.

Features and Specs

The motorized, touch-sensitive jog wheels give you the flexibility to adjust the torque, along with start and stop times, to suit your style and comfort.

You can also use three different jog modes:

  • Turntable
  • Jog
  • Beatgrid Adjust

You get RGB light rings that illuminate your jog wheels and other controls, so you can avoid getting jammed up between songs. Adapt to your venue with Mixer FX that give you filters, reverbs, delays, and everything else you need to match the mood of your surroundings.

Color displays show your waveforms, looping, and more, so you don’t have to keep looking at your laptop. Plus, with the Traktor Pro 3 software, you get better sound, an improved audio engine, Hot Cues, Flux Mode, and the chance to expand your entire soundscape.

With an integrated, club-grade 24-bit/96kHz audio interface, you have external input for every channel. You’ll notice the improvement in the club when you combine it with Traktor Pro 3.

Don’t worry about bumps or spills. The Traktor Kontrol S4 comes with carbon protect faders to increase its durability and reduce potential damage from liquid and dirt.

At 9.5lbs, 21.34” wide, and 2.38” high, this device is super portable. We found it to be one of the best DJ controllers for anyone who spins are multiple venues per week.

Performance

The Traktor Kontrol S4 has made its reputation as the best DJ controller from Native Instruments. Its user-friendly interface makes it perfect for beginners, while more experienced DJs love its versatility and advanced options.

If you don’t want a music box to confine you, the Traktor Kontrol S4 lets you break out and find your unique sound. Its touch-sensitive jog wheels let you adjust the beat and run with it. You can also use Beatgrid Adjust mode to track the beatgrid as you go.

With an intuitive function and layout, you get a robust mixer engine with award-winning effects.


3. Pioneer DDJ-SZ2

pioneer ddj-sz2

The Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 offers the best modern DJ control technology. You have all the controls you could dream of and way more than you could do with a keyboard.

This DJ controller also comes with a Serato DJ Pro license. You’ll see as soon as you open the box that this machine was designed for professionals.

Features and Specs

With better jog wheel latency than previous Pioneer models, the DDJ-SZ2 means you get scratching sounds that mimic actual vinyl.

Combine its instant feedback with the key shift, key sync, and pitch play tools, and you have the ingredients you need for spontaneous mixing. If you like a more predictable flow, you can also assign Hot Cues.

The pro oscillator lets you track your overlay and texture, along with three Serato DJ functions upgraded from earlier versions. Speaking of Serato, the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 comes with Pitch n’ Time and Serato Flip expansion packs for more features you can use immediately without paying more.

When you use Jog Feeling Adjust, you can create the resistance that works for you and give yourself more precision with your cues. Backlit performance pads make it easier for you to remember them and keep an eye on the modes you have playing.

Performance

According to customers who have used it, this DJ controller gives you more precision, control, and a better layout than the first-gen flagship Serato DJ controller, so you can mix by touch alone.

While you might not think of the basics first, the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2’s essential functions boost the power and potency of its bells and whistles. It has low latency, a minimal need for laptop controls, and it maps your laptop to Serato DJ Pro for easy access.

The Needle Search function helps you find any song you need. If you want to browse, the controller gives you convenient song library navigation, too.

With strong Magvel features, you have the ideal DJ controller for your first venture into Serato DJ. Whether you want to match your beat manually or set it up automatically, you have performance that syncs up with you, the crowd, and your collective vibe with cue, loop, and quantize settings.


4. Pioneer DDJ-SX3

pioneer ddj-sx3

With four decks, plenty of cue points, and its Flip function, the Pioneer DDJ-SX3 has more features than the SX2. It’s a great controller to explore, whether you’re new to the scene or have been mixing for years.

Features and Specs

The Pioneer DDJ-SX3 has big jog wheels for superior timing, excellent grip on the knobs, and accessible cue points for you to switch things up fast. Multicolor performance pads mean you can learn its setup quickly and mix by touch rather than looking for one monochrome button among dozens. Its 64-bit system outshines the SX2’s 32-bit version, so you have a robust song library.

This DJ controller supports other DJ platforms. It comes with Serato Flip and Pitch n’ Time expansions, so you don’t have to purchase these advanced features separately.

It also has a mic input terminal, which is crucial these days. With a portable and modern design, you can take this controller anywhere.

Performance

The Pioneer DDJ-SX3 comes with a practice mode that lets you match up and mix songs while watching TV or traveling to your next gig. Likewise, Sound Color FX allows you to create live mixes on a whim.

This DJ controller feels like industry-standard mixers and works well for new DJs and old school pros. It has versatile and flexible equipment that you can adjust to your level and preferences.

The few complaints we found about this controller mentioned recalls for defective units. Some users have trouble with the controller shutting down mid-gig.


5. Pioneer DDJ SR-2

pioneer ddj-sr2

The Pioneer DDJ SR-2 excels at harmonic mixing and syncs well with Serato DJ Pro. It’s the best DJ controller for anyone who has moved beyond beginner level but don’t want to go all out with a super-advanced (or super expensive) system.

Features and Specs

With large jog wheels for plenty of rotation, multicolor performance pads, and a visual beat indicator, you have everything at your fingertips. This controller even has controls explicitly made for its included Pitch n’ Time and Serato DJ Pro.

With Needle Search, you can find the songs and features you need without scrolling for days. However, with a 2-channel mixer, it’s not as high-tech as some of the other DJ controllers we reviewed.

The Pioneer DDJ SR-2 is one of the most portable DJ controllers at 8.1lbs.

Performance

With functionality adapted to Serato DJ Pro, this controller gives you some of the most harmonic mixing thanks to Key Sync. It has fine-tuned resistance on the jog wheels, but you can’t adjust that resistance as you can with some newer controllers.

Some users have had issues with the jog wheels not reacting to touch. While Pioneer claims the jog wheel problem relates to grounding issues, many people have seen the issue happen randomly and in various environments.


6. Roland DJ-808

roland dj808

The Roland DJ-808 works with Serato DJ software, and its integrated AIRA technology means you get perfectly synthed and synced beats no matter the gig. With a 4-channel mixer and 24-bit/96kHz audio interface, you’ve got the power and adaptability to command the room.

Features and Specs

With ultra-low-latency and full-color visual displays, the Roland DJ-808 has nearly one-to-one control over four decks. It comes with a built-in VT voice transformer with pitch, formant, ducking, and key matching with the Serato Sampler.

You can customize your mix on the fly with velocity-sensitive RBG color pads that come equipped with Hot Cues, roll, TRS, and more. The expansion and I/O can match any DJ’s unique style, and the two AIRA Link USB ports allow you to add more devices to change things up.

The DVS-ready audio interface lets you go way back and use time-code vinyl for an authentic old school sound with new-age equipment.

Performance

The ultra-low latency gives you precision scratching and exceptional sound output for all venues, from clubs to weddings.

Users love the accurate platters for quality scratches, but some want to see more drum options on the built-in drum machine. Others have had complaints about the play button freezing or not working.


7. Numark NS6II

numark ns6ii

The Numark NS6II makes a solid entrance for DJs ready to take the next step into more pro gigs without too many fancy upgrades. It works with various types of DJ software, including Serato. With all its connectivity features, you have a versatile controller with this model.

Features and Specs

Experienced DJs will fall in love with this setup’s 4-channel controls and capacitive 6-inch multifunction jog wheels. You have a 100mm pitch fader, Serato DJ with the upgrade for Serato DJ DVS, and HD displays to keep you connected with your music.

When it comes to connecting, you have two USB ports to link the controller with two laptops. It also has two phono/line inputs, so you can mix without software and play music with every device from vinyl to CD players.

Performance

The Numark NS6II has an intuitive interface with plenty of performance controls. It’s great for DJs who want to upgrade without spending too much, but there are some downsides.

Some users find that that pitch adjuster sliders respond slowly on Macs, and it doesn’t always work as well with Serato as the manufacturer suggests. Plus, you might run into some broken parts, such as the knobs, which aren’t easy to replace.


Why Buy a DJ Controller?

hundred dollar bills

There are two main reasons that someone would buy an all-in-one controller instead of a DJ mixer and external devices.

First off, DJ controllers are a lot more convenient. If you are a mobile DJ, you know that lugging around a mixer and a pair of turntables can be quite the task. When you combine them with speakers and other stuff, it can add up quickly. On top of that, setting them up takes time as there are a lot more interconnections.

On the other hand, DJ controllers are lightweight option that is easy to setup and start playing. For many mobile DJs, this is really helpful. This is also a reason that many DJs bring a controller with them as a backup in case their main gear breaks.

Secondly, DJ controllers are a lot more affordable than their counterparts. By the time you purchase a mixer and turntables or CDJ’s, you are easily spending several thousand dollars for the complete setup.

On the other hand, some of the controllers on this list are less than a thousand dollars. This makes them great for beginners who do not have a large budget.

What Should I Look For When Buying a DJ Controller?

When trying to find the right controller for you, there are several things that you should keep in mind. Let’s take a look at each of them individually.

The Size of the Unit

measuring tapeFirst off, when you are shopping for a DJ controller, keep in mind the size of the specific one you are interested in. Like anything, they come in all sizes and variations. If you are going to be moving it around a lot, or need it to fit in smaller spaces, then try to focus on the lightweight and smaller choices.

But if you don’t mind having a bigger controller, it is nice to have larger jogwheels and larger buttons.

What Software it is Compatible With

Secondly, if you are set on using a specific DJ software like Serato or Traktor, make sure that the controller you choose is compatible with it. This will make for an easy transition if you already use that software.

If you switch to a unit that supports a different software, you will have to import and set up all your crates. Also, you will have to learn a new software, which could be a good thing in the end.

Either way, it is something to be mindful of.

Price

Finally, find a controller that is within your budget. These devices range in prices depending on what you are looking for. Generally speaking, are you go up in price the controller is made of higher quality materials and is more durable.

Conclusion

Whether you are looking to use it as your primary piece of DJ gear, or intend to use it as a backup, DJ controllers are a great addition to any setup. These lightweight and economical all-in-one units have come a long way and are used by many professional DJs.

All in all, we have listed controller options for every level of DJ. In the end, they are a lot of fun to play with and sound amazing.