Given modern music production software, a DJ can run on any DAW that outputs MIDI. Connect your MIDI controller and you will have many tactile possibilities for playing live music. In this review, we will focus only on those devices that are designed for digital DJs working with laptops or mobile devices, so there will be no CDJ and other time code systems.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a DJ controller, the largest of which is compatible software. If you prefer SeratoDJ, then it is only available with certain controllers created in collaboration with Serato. In fact, most controllers will be designed with one or two specific components in mind and many of them come with a specific application included in the price – so your choice is likely to be very dependent on the manufacturer.
It is also worth considering whether you need a built-in audio interface – that is, the ability to connect players, CDJs or instruments to your installation. Some of the controllers noted here also work as a separate mixer, without connecting to a computer. In short, it is difficult to recommend any one set of the “best” controller, but we can present you with a list of our currently favorite options.
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3
Best Serato DJ controller up to $ 1200. Audio Resolution: 24-bit / 44.1 kHz. 5 analog inputs and 4 outputs.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX line debuted back in 2012 and may have retained the crown of the highest quality and most powerful Serato DJ controller. The 3rd version was released earlier this year and was a refinement of past models. DDJ-SX3 is very similar to its predecessors. Again, the controller is small enough to transport it quite easily. The wheels are small, but responsive and sturdy, with a feeling that is not similar to what is in the CDJ line from the same Pioneer. DDJ-SX3 is a four-channel. Each channel of its central mixer can be switched between digital inputs from Serato DJ or analog RCA, and control decks can be switched to control up to four Serato decks at the same time. As a result, the SX3 can act as a hub / mixer for four digital decks, four external players, or any combination of the above.
More details: Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX3
2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8
The best upscale controller. Starting Price: $ 1,499. Audio Resolution: 24-bit / 48 kHz. 5 analog inputs and 2 outputs. MIDI: input and output.
Removing one of the most obvious controls from the DJ controller is a bold move, but NI claims that new sensor stripes can be used instead, and there is some truth to this. When a track is stopped, they can be used to “scratch” the current track, and while holding down the “Shift” key, the device puts them into search mode, allowing the user to go to any part of the track. The absence of tonal faders precludes any serious bit match.
More details: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8
3. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
The best controller for beginners. Starting Price: $ 249. Audio Resolution: 24-bit / 96 kHz. 2 entrances and 2 exits. Comes complete with Serato DJ Lite.
DDJ-SB3 is a 2-channel DJ controller designed specifically for use with Serato DJ Lite software. Its location is similar to the more expensive DDJ-S devices and includes rotary switches, work platforms, play / cue buttons and independent auto-loop buttons. Updated with DDJ-SB2, SB3 offers a feature called Pad Scratch, which was created in collaboration with DJ Jazzy Jeff. This allows you to initiate eight of his methods to “scratch” sound.
More details: Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
4. Denon MCX8000
The best upscale controller. Starting price: $ 1299. Audio Resolution: 24-bit / 96 kHz. 6 inputs and 3 analog outputs. Digital Communications: Stage LinQ.
The Denon DJ MCX8000 is the company’s flagship controller, which proudly claims to be “the first true DJ hardware / software controller”. The bold words and characteristics of the 8000 are quite impressive. This device can not only be used to control Serato DJ on your computer, but thanks to the inclusion of Denon DJ Engine software, it can also work completely autonomously. Relatively cheaper than other stand-alone controllers from leading manufacturers, the MCX8000 also includes a Stage LinQ network connection for controlling lighting and video.
More details: Denon MCX8000
5. PioneerDJ DDJ-RB
The best budget DJ controller rekordbox. Starting Price: $ 249. One analog input and two outputs.
The Pioneer entry-level rekordbox DJ controller is relatively lightweight and not too bulky, so it fits in most backpacks. Of course, rekordbox DJ software is bundled with the controller, but DVS is not included, but is a paid update. Further functionality is provided with Hot Cues, Pad FX, Beat Jump, and the 16-site Slicer effect.
6. PioneerDJ DDJ-1000
The best high-end device for productive work. Starting Price: $ 1,199. Connection: 2x USB 2.0. 6 entrances and 3 exits. Swivel wheels 202 mm (HD screens on each wheel).
The DDJ-1000 is designed to take advantage of the new features in the updated rekordbox DJ software version (v5.1). These include the “Linked Tracks” feature, which gives you more options to search for matching tracks. Automix has been added to the Plus Pack – it uses updated track analysis tools to automatically and seamlessly mix music.
More details: PioneerDJ DDJ-1000
7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1
A good budget option for only $ 199. USB 2.0 connection with two analog outputs.
Z1 has the same size and shape as the popular NI F1 and X1 controllers, but the layout is made in a traditional two-channel DJ mixer with a built-in audio interface for monitoring. This is the first Native Instruments controller designed to be used with Traktor DJ software on iOS, which provides very portable setup.
More details: Traktor Kontrol Z1
8. Numark DJ2GO2
The best compact device for $ 99. Audio Resolution: 24-bit / 48 kHz, 1 analog input and 1 output. Comes with Serato DJ Lite. Complete with 3.5mm cable to RCA.
Built-in sound card with master gain, headphone output with channel amplification, makes the DJ2GO2 an ideal portable pocket DJ controller. It has two channels with a crossfader and tone faders for easy mixing, and the pad modes give you access to the performance controls that are usually found on large controllers. DJ2GO2 may not be the best choice for all DJs, but at this price and form, it can be an ideal backup ally.
More details: Numark DJ2GO2
9. Reloop Mixon 4
Best iOS and Android controller. Starting Price: $ 799. 1 input and 3 analog outputs. Digital Communications: iOS (DIN to Lightning). Multi-platform support for Djay PRO and Serato DJ Pro. An integrated dock can hold an iPad Pro.
Reloop’s Mixon 4 is the company’s flagship hybrid controller and the only type of this type in this article. Designed for both Serato Pro DJ and Algoriddim djay PRO, Mixon 4 can mix on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. In addition, there is also Spotify integration with djay 2 software, which will require a premium subscription. The controller includes four control panels, a four-channel audio interface, 16 work sites and a docking station that can accommodate a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
More details: Reloop Mixon 4
10. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol D2
The best addition for the controller. Price: $ 499.
If you want to get ready control over the Stems format without having to spend a lot of money on S8, then D2 is the perfect solution. D2 eliminated from the mixer and offers a single set of functions for managing tracks, performance, effects and viewing in S8. It seems to be aimed directly at DJs who want to incorporate the creative elements of the S8 feature set into their existing settings, allowing them to continue to use their existing interface or mixer.