The Best DJ Controllers Available Now (2022)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This guide compares the top DJ controllers, so that you can feel confident before spending your hard-earned money! It has been continuously updated since 2014, helping thousands of DJs like you decide which is the best DJ controller for them.
DJ controllers are pieces of hardware which allow hands-on control of music mixing software. The development of robust DJ software, along with the hardware to control it, has been one of the most significant things to ever happen within the industry. As the market continues to grow, we’ve found ourselves with many wonderful options. But how do you know which is the ideal choice for you?
Best DJ Controllers Over $1000
These controllers are the cream of the crop when it comes to full, in-the-box DJ solutions. They are professional grade, have a high level of hardware-software integration, and are rich in features. They also come with a premium price tag! These full DJ mixing stations are geared towards the club DJ on the go, the performer who is interested in taking advantage of the live/remix elements of the included software, or the serious hobbyist willing to make an investment in their digital DJing habit.
1. Pioneer DDJ-1000 (Rekordbox)
The Pioneer DDJ-1000 is my pick for best DJ controller over $1000. It’s a great choice for Rekordbox users (plus there’s a Serato version), providing loads of visual feedback thanks to the high-res screens located in the middle of its large jog wheels. With tension adjustment, you’re able to dial in the exact jog feeling that you prefer. Dual USB opens up possibilities for tag-team sets and easy changeovers, and it’s loaded with FX (modeled after the flagship DJM-900NXS2 mixer). 4 channels, 16 performance pads, external inputs with DVS support, and a build quality we’ve all come to expect from Pioneer… what else can you ask for? It’s a terrific deal for the money.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-1000
2. Native Instruments Kontrol S4 MK3 (Traktor)
I happen to think the MK3 version of the Kontrol S4 is among the most handsome devices on this list, but that’s not the reason you should choose it. NI is smart about their UI design, and together with high-res screens, motorized platters, and unique haptic feedback… it offers a terrific next-gen Traktor experience.
3. Roland DJ-808 (Serato)
Geared towards the DJ/producer, the Roland DJ-808 contains a built-in Roland TR drum machine with 606, 707, 808, 909 kicks, snares, claps and hi-hats. It melds the power of Serato software with the genre-defining sound of Roland hardware… allowing you to get extra creative with your DJ sets.
Help Me Decide!
It’s hard to argue the value of the DDJ-1000 (or DDJ-1000SRT, for Serato DJ users). The center jog screens help keep your eyeballs out of the laptop, and everything feels very Nexus-y. It was the first Pioneer controller to be exclusively designed with Rekordbox in mind, as opposed to being essentially a repurposed Serato controller (as many before).
Traktor users will find a lot of joy in mixing on the Kontrol S4 MK3. It stands out among the competition, thanks to motorized jog wheels that provide haptic feedback (like when you type on your phone). It provides tight integration with Traktor, and is the current flagship from Native Instruments since the S5 and S8 began quietly slipping out the door.
For Serato users looking for something a bit different than the usual getup, you’ll want to give some serious thought to the Roland DJ-808. Thanks to its built-in drum sequencer, it’s a great fit for DJ/producers. If you’re into live remixing (in addition to playing full tracks), it’s an intriguing option.
The “over $1,000” category of this guide has shrunk over the last year or two, for two reasons. First, much of this price bracket moved into standalone DJ systems. These are similar to DJ controllers, but don’t require the use of a tethered laptop.
The second reason is that I’ve put certain special controllers in their own category. Check out the motorized DJ controllers below if you’re a scratch DJ!
Best DJ Controllers Under $1000
“Bang for buck” is what digital DJing is all about, and this range of controllers (between the mid- and upper-hundreds) is a perfect demonstration of this. While perhaps not as feature-rich as some of the premium options, today’s midrange controllers are very club-oriented and complete. These devices provide everything you need to DJ digitally, and are the Premium controllers of yesterday.
1. Pioneer DDJ-FLX6 (Rekordbox + Serato)
The Pioneer DDJ-FLX6 is my pick for top DJ controller under a grand, because it squeezes tons of features into a very convenient package. While I think it contains some unnecessary scratch gimmicks, its value is undeniable. Controllers in this segment often support two channels, but you get a full four with the FLX6… and it’s equally compatible with Rekordbox and Serato. The tradeoff (compared to other Pioneer options) is you can’t connect external sources. If you don’t care about connecting turntables or CDJs, it’s a great choice. Also, you can easily mix different styles of music with a feature called Merge FX – no matter the BPM or key of the next track, artists can create an exciting transition whenever they choose.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-FLX6
2. Native Instruments Kontrol S3 (Traktor)
The Kontrol S3 provides a Traktor option for 4ch. mixing, with upsized jog wheels, large faders, light rings (which give visual feedback/warnings), iOS support, and 8 RGB pads. An extremely smart option for Traktor users, who don’t need the extra frills (expense) of the S4/S8, but don’t want to be limited to dual channels on the S2.
✅ Buy Kontrol S3
3. Pioneer DDJ-800 (Rekordbox)
Pioneer’s DDJ-800 provides big-time Rekordbox DJ functionality, plus mixing of external sources, DVS capability, and lovely onboard screens. It’s the same concept as the popular DDJ-1000… but with 2 channels instead of 4. However, you save about $300 compared to its big brother.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-800
4. Roland DJ-505 (Serato)
The DJ-505 is a two-channel, four-deck controller that blends the capabilities of Serato with the legendary sounds of Roland’s TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606 drum machines. Great for DJ/producers who want to do some live remixing, but at a more reachable price point than its DJ-808 sibling. Supports Serato DVS.
✅ Buy Roland DJ-505
5. Pioneer DDJ-SR2 (Serato)
The DDJ-SR2 has a spacious layout, while still managing to be pretty small (18% lighter than the original DDJ-SR). Dedicated controls on top of the device allow you to get creative with your song’s key and BPM… even in extreme tempos. It supports connecting CDJs or turntables, and allows for DVS control.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-SR2
Help Me Decide!
Pioneer has truly solid entries in this segment. The DDJ-FLX-6 is both a great starter controller, and a device with plenty of room to grow. The DDJ-SR2 packs lots of Serato functionality into a very Pioneer package: visual feedback on the jog wheels, needle search, great key/tempo manipulation capabilities, and beat grid adjustment right on the unit itself. However, its convenient size does come with a few sacrifices (two channels, small pitch faders). The DDJ-800 costs a little more, but has full color screens in the jog wheels and a more spacious, CDJ-style layout.
The Kontrol S3 is an obvious choice for Traktor users. It supports the iOS version of Traktor right out of the box (though it’s designed around Traktor Pro 3) and allows you to mix in four glorious channels. You miss out on some functionality of the S4 (like motorized platters), but you save good money by passing on those luxuries.
Finally, the DJ-505 is like a smaller version of the DJ-808 mentioned in the first section… but with two mixer channels. You can control four decks, but you can only control two “volumes” at a time. If you’re a DJ/producer type and you’d like to try your hand at sequencing or live remixing, give this one a shot.
A little off the beaten path, the MIXON 4 tries to do a bit of nearly everything (and it does a pretty good job). It’s fully compatible with both Serato DJ and Algroddim DJay, and supports full four-channel mixing even when using a tablet instead of a laptop. The MIXON has made it onto this guide for years now, and it’s still a solid choice for the price.
Best DJ Controllers Under $500
These entry-level controllers are great for new DJs wanting to get their feet wet without making a huge investment. They’re also well suited to seasoned DJs wanting a backup (or extremely portable) solution. While you won’t always find the extremely sturdy construction of the professional grade stuff, the market has matured in this price segment… today’s budget offerings feel more like pro audio gear than the toys they used to be. If you’re a beginner DJ, you’re on a strict budget, a casual hobbyist, you primarily play another media format, or you simply want the best bang-for-your-buck… these could be the digital mixing devices for you.
1. Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (Serato)
An extremely popular budget offering from Numark, the Mixtrack Platinum FX sports a well-built compact design, includes touch strips for track searching, and is a solid all-around beginner DJ controller for those wanting to use Serato. In this edition of the long-standing Mixtrack series, Numark has added 6 fun quick-launch effects with dual paddle triggers. The big, capacitive-touch 6″ jog wheels house lovely digital displays, which give basic BPM and track position feedback. It’s great for learning how to beatmatch, especially with those long-throw pitch faders. It’s one of the best values in the controller market. It even supports streaming millions of tracks within Serato DJ Lite, from SoundCloud and TIDAL.
✅ Buy Mixtrack Platinum FX
2. Pioneer DDJ-400 (Rekordbox)
Pioneer’s bang-for-buck Rekordbox controller, the DDJ-400 boasts a club style layout, CDJ-style loop controls, and Beat FX controls. It will work on USB power (handy!), and even comes with tutorials to teach you how to use the gear and master various DJ techniques.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-400
3. Pioneer DDJ-REV1 (Serato)
The DDJ-REV1 is for Serato fans focused on scratching and open-format mixing. The paddle FX, and the “battle style” pitch faders above the jog wheels emulate a Pioneer DJM-S & turntables setup. For beginners, the Tracking Scratch feature silently takes the music back to the cue point as soon as you lift your hand away.
✅ Buy Pioneer DDJ-REV1
4. Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 (Traktor)
The Kontrol S2 has been bringing stellar Traktor functionality to budget-minded DJs for years now, and the MK3 edition is the latest and greatest of the bunch. Get access to easy-to-use tools like looping, syncing, and sampling… not to mention those lovely Native Instruments FX.
✅ Buy Traktor Kontrol S2
5. Reloop Ready (Serato DJ)
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Reloop, and the Ready makes today’s list because of its functionality for the space. It has a very compact layout ,which is designed to perfectly rest on top of a 13″ laptop keyboard. It’s USB-powered and contains 16 RGB Pads, 9 Performance modes, and 2 FX units.
✅ Buy Reloop Ready
Help Me Decide!
The Pioneer options make sense for those DJs who want to become familiar with the “club standard” Pioneer hardware, with the DDJ-400 aimed at Rekordbox and the REV1 being for Serato. While they don’t offer the same functionality as a CDJ-2000NXS2 and DJM-900NXS2 rig, the entire Pioneer lineup is designed to familiarize you with their ecosystem. The REV1 is better for DJs wanting to scratch, where the 400 has a more standard club layout.
The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is nice because of how portable and ergonomically sound it is, especially for what it costs, and the Kontrol S2 will obviously be ideal choice for people who live that Traktor life. Choose the Reloop if you’re a Serato user who likes to support the underdog… and you want something that packs a lot of features into a small package.
In addition to these systems, there are some very affordable options to consider. The DDJ-200 by Pioneer saves you $100 over the 400, and is a great tool for learning how to DJ (though it’s based around an exclusive WeDJ app).
Numark is also well-known for making entry level controllers that do a lot for the money…. for example, the Party Mix II gives you a very inexpensive entry to Serato, while giving you a built-in light show at the same time. The Party Mix Live is similar, but comes with the addition of built-in speakers.
Best Motorized DJ Controller
A motorized DJ controller is meant to emulate turntables, with mechanical rotation and resistance to make it feel like mixing real records (without the tone arm). The jog wheels spin under their own power, allowing you to cut and scratch with a traditional feel.
The Rane ONE is a motorized DJ controller for Serato, aimed squarely at turntablists. It has multi-function performance pads which give access to hot cues, saved loops, roll, sampler, slicer, and Serato’s Scratch Bank. Using its 6 radio-style FX buttons, you can instantly activate any combination of software FX, fine tune them with depth and beat parameter controls, and activate them with the aluminum paddle controls. It also features RANE’s lightest and smoothest crossfader ever, the MAG FOUR, to help stand up to the rigors of cutting and scratching. On top of all this, the ONE is truly built like a tank… which inspires a lot of confidence.
✅ Buy Rane ONE
OTHER GREAT OPTIONS…
The Pioneer DDJ-REV7 was released shortly after the Rane ONE, and is its closest competitor. The Pioneer eliminates the use of spindles entirely, due to its use of high-resolution displays in the jog wheels. I found that this meant the Rane was more stable during rigorous scratching… however, the screens on the Pioneer are truly innovative for this kind mixing. Both are great options for scratch DJs. If you’re not sure which to choose, watch my reviews of the Rane ONE and the DDJ-REV7 available on my YouTube channel.
Traktor enthusiasts can enjoy motorized platters on the Kontrol S4, though it’s not truly oriented around turntablism in the same way as the others. However, its haptic feedback is a unique feature that adds a cool, “techy” feeling to your DJing.
Best Standalone DJ System
Standalone DJ systems are devices play and mix music without requiring a laptop. Like a CDJ setup, you can play from a media source such as a USB drive, and play music directly on the unit itself. In other words, it is the computer. While the laptop is not a requirement of these systems, they will often also act as a controller if you so choose.
Denon DJ PRIME 4
The PRIME 4 features an adjustable 10” HD display which supports multi-touch gestures, rugged metal construction w/6-inch jog wheels, 4 assignable inputs (for connecting media players or turntables), 2 XLR mic inputs with individual control, 8 trigger pads per side, and a suite of effects from the X1800 Prime. It can play music straight from one of its four USB inputs (two around the back, and two on top) or from an SD card. Amazingly, it includes a 2.5” SATA drive bay… allowing you to carry your music on an internal hard drive. With a free upgrade, it turns into one of the ultimate Serato controllers, too.
✅ Buy Denon DJ Prime 4
OTHER GREAT OPTIONS…
The most direct comparison to the PRIME 4 is the Pioneer XDJ-RX3: a 2-channel standalone DJ system which can play rekordbox-analyzed tracks via USB stick (and act as a Rekordbox DJ controller too). The screen has received a massive upgrade over the popular RX2, and it contains proper color on-jog displays. The mixer section has been largely expanded too, essentially providing you with a 2-channel version of the DJM-900NXS2.
Modular DJ Controllers (add-ons)
While complete solutions are great, many people like the flexibility provided by a modular setup. This allows you to buy different “sections” at a time as add-ons, such as a mixing controller vs. a deck controller. Modular DJ controllers add functionality to an existing setup.
Sometimes, companies will release a controller specifically for some new DJ software feature. For example, controlling Remix Decks, accessing Serato’s sampler, or controlling cue points from turntables using the Novation Dicer.
In some cases, these kinds of controllers can bridge the gap between setups. For example, you can use Pioneer CDJs to control Traktor software (as if they were controllers). In this case, it’s helpful to have a Kontrol X1 to help you access Traktor’s looping and FX features.
What to Consider When Controller Shopping
While DJ controllers are MIDI-assignable (and therefore customizable), they are usually designed with some software-dependent features in mind. For example, a controller with onboard screens might show the waveforms of the tracks you’re playing… but this will only work when used with the right software package.
If you’re looking for your first DJ controller, make sure you buy one that’s intended for the software you intend to use.
Types of Gigs
You may want to consider what type of gigs you’ll be playing, before spending your hard-earned money!
If you’re a professional club DJ, or you run a mobile DJing business, be willing to invest in something sturdy and easily moved. If you’re a scratch DJ (or want to learn), good jog wheels and a responsive crossfader are your priority. Bedroom/hobbyist DJs can choose whatever makes them happy, and fits within their budget!
The Dos and Don’ts of Mobile DJing (Passionate DJ Podcast #152)
Connectivity and Ports
To ensure that you can get your sound output to where it needs to go, pay attention to connectivity options. Will your master output need to be delivered to a set of powered speakers? Will you be connecting to a club PA system? Do you need a booth output? All these things should be factored in, when deciding on a controller.
Know Thy Cables (Passionate DJ Podcast #120)
Once you’ve decided what your requirements are, you should decide how much money you’re willing to spend on your hobby or business. There are great options in every price point, which is why this guide is segmented by price.
Never feel like you have to buy high-end gear to be a “real” DJ, or to keep up with the times. Buy the controller that fits your needs, for the amount you have to spend. Even in the “middle” price point, you’re mostly just paying for additional luxuries. All the basics will be covered.
What To Do Now…
Buying DJ hardware is only part of the equation. Our aim is to become better DJs through passion and purpose.
For a steady fix of DJ news, tips, stories, and adventures… follow The Passionate DJ Podcast on your favorite podcast app. Our show features inspiring stories, interviews with famous DJs, tips to increase your DJing skill, industry news, and much more. You can also watch it on YouTube.
New to mixing? Why not check out my Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a DJ? We also welcome you to join our Passionate DJ Community on Facebook, to stay in touch with other DJs and producers just like you.
Enjoy your new controller, and keep on spinning!