In addition to being a private violin teacher and having a degree in music from USC, Alecia started writing music-related articles and product reviews six years ago and has enjoyed this experience greatly. She likes to learn new instruments and write new compositions in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners can enjoy really good music.
Last updated: October 07, 2023
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If you want to get into DJing, you’ll need the right controller to get started. A good DJ controller is not only easy to use, but can easily sync with your software, so you don’t need to spend hours mapping the controls.
Our team of researchers assessed more than 20 DJ controllers to review functionality and performance. We’ve created a list of top picks and our editor’s choice, the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 offers a superb balance of portability and functionality with easy mapping, play and cue buttons and lots of useful features. However, we’ve also ranked other DJ controllers to ensure a top pick for everyone.
Our researchers deliberated for hours to discover the best DJ controller under $200. Whether you’re just getting started DJing or need a lower cost backup unit for your set up, we’ve assessed the functionality and performance of each model, so you can have total confidence in your purchase. First and foremost, we assessed software compatibility and the ease of mapping, which is crucial to get started. We’ve also looked at the connectivity and portability of each model. The weight and dimensions not only impact durability, but also the ease of transportation to your gig. We’ve presented our findings in a simple overview table and a list of detailed reviews. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you to make your final purchase decision.
Connectivity: RCA, ¼” and 1/8” headphone, ¼” microphone, USB 2.0
Dimensions: 9.1” x 1.1” x 21.6”
Weight: 3.98 lbs.
Other features: two-deck, on-board audio interface, 2 mixing channels, auto/manual looping and sample playback, 100-millimeter pitch controls, a multi-function touch strip, Prime Loops Remix Toolkit, 5-inch high resolution jog wheels
This is our editor’s choice because it’s a budget friendly controller designed for use with Serato. This is an ideal DJ controller for a beginner, but it has enough features for intermediate users too. The Numark Pro 3 should not be confused with the standard Mixtrack 3 controller because the Pro 3 has the built-in sound card that allows you to preview the next track directly to your headphones.
The Mixtrack Pro 3 is very portable and it has all the functionality that you need for a typical setup using a pair of decks. There are plenty of useful features, such as: a crossfader, a pitch fader on both channels, a high pass/mid/low filter, up and down pitch bend, headphone cue, cue gain, a pitch fader and a master gain know. The headphone buttons allow the DJ to access either of the tracks and load tracks as needed. There is a solid metal job wheel for each channel and an accompanying button to turn them on and off.
The Pro 3 is easy to use, a play and cue button is available for each channel, there are three effects and a haptic strip for extra expression and sixteen multi-function performance pads. This controller can be powered via USB, it’s 21.6” wide and it only weighs a few pounds. This makes the Mixtrack Pro 3 very portable and easy to fit in a crowded DJ booth.
Why are we impressed?
This mapping on the Pro 3 is easy so you can use this controller with Mixx, VirtualDJ or TRAKTOR.
Users have reported that the built quality is good for a controller at this price.
This is a great controller for a beginner or intermediate user or a backup controller for a professional DJ.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The output is an RCA left/right channel and a splitter cable is needed if you want to monitor from the booth when performing.
Other features: 2 FX decks, multi-purpose touch strip, touch-sensitive browser and loop controls, RGB cue point trigger buttons, 7-segment displays, LED indicators, reactive encoders, 5V 500mA bus power
The Traktor Kontrol X1 MkII is the replacement for the well regarded X1 controller and our premium pick. For this latest X1 version Native Instruments has added plenty of functionality. The standout features include: a pair of LED digital readouts, a touchstrip and RGB backlit buttons. Many DJ’s need a 2nd or backup controller for their digital vinyl system or they want a custom system with more control options. For those users, the Kontrol X1 MkII is a fantastic purchase and it comes with a $50 discount for the full version of Traktor.
A handy “Flux” control feature allows the DJ to use the slip mode in the Traktor software at the press of a button. The DJ can quickly switch between activated loops and the underlying track will continue to play to retain cohesiveness. Pressing “Shift” plus “Flux” gives the DJ tap tempo, “Shift” plus “Sync” sets a deck to master and “Shift” plus any of the four cues will erase that particular cue. The cues change color according to the specific cue type and the touchstrip is a great tool for manual beatmatching on the fly.
The Kontrol X1 MkII is an excellent controller much like its predecessor. However, the new RGB backlit buttons and dedicated LED loop length readouts for loop length are a real step up. This is an excellent controller for any DJ and as you might expect it’s particularly well suited to the latest Traktor software.
What are its best features?
This controller feels more refined than the previous model.
A well-made controller
Setup is simple
What could be improved?
Users have reported that there is no light Traktor LE software included
Other features: 4-deck control for Slicer, Cue and Loop; USB bus-powered, 8 touch-sensitive RGB performance drum pads, 8 intuitive performance modes, new Flip mode, 5 different trigger variants per sample slot
The Reloop NEON is a new pad controller designed for Serato DJ Pro users. This is the perfect tool to interface with DVS with 8 touch sensitive and ultra-low latency RGB backlit drum pads. The pads are a super responsive way to trigger, loops, sample slices, FX and cues. Each sample slot has LED feedback displaying mode and status information for easy reference when performing.
The Reloop AMS-NEON is a plug and play performance controller with a gig ready sturdy design ethos. This controller is easy to store and carry in a standard DJ bag and when you’re ready to go it can be set up in a few seconds. The DJ can connect a pair of NEONs together using a “smart link” setting to save USB ports and perform in new ways.
What are its best features?
Users find this controller easy to use and durable.
This is a very affordable pad controller for the feature set.
What could be improved?
Users have reported that this controller is native for Serato and a MIDI map is required for other DJ applications.
The Numark DJ2GO2 is our best value pick because it offers a remarkable amount of functionality at a bargain price. This controller has a built-in 16 bit/44KHz audio interface and if offers an easy way to interact with your favorite DJ software. This is a very portable unit, it weighs less than a pound and transporting it to a venue in a backpack or DJ bag is simple. For those with a more premium controller the Numark DJ2GO2 would serve well as a backup unit.
The user can set up manual or automatic loops, there are four handy cue points and the sound quality is better than you would expect to find at this price point. There is a separate cue level knob for your headphones and a handy curve crossfader. The jog wheels have pitch bending, there are load buttons on both sides and 4 trigger pads at each for the cues.
Numark includes a copy of Serato DJ Lite allowing new DJ’s to get up and running right out of the box. This controller provides plenty of fun at an affordable price and it’s a perfect unit for beginners.
Why did it make our list?
Users have reported that this controller is light and portable.
The layout is simple and easy to navigate.
The low entry price makes this an ideal way to get into DJing.
Serato Lite and a 15-day trial for Serato Premium are included.
What is not ideal about it?
Some unlucky users have received defective units so a warranty is a must.
This controller is very lightweight and it will not survive a fall.
The SKP Pro Audio SMX-800 may well be the friendliest entry level controllers on the market right now. The layout is super simple making it an ideal unit for a beginner. The controls, buttons and sliders are all clearly labelled and Virtual DJ LE is included to get up and running quickly.
The SMX-800 is a simple 2 channel controller and it’s powered via USB. The unit is plug and play so the setup is extremely simple and hassle free. Although the SKP Pro Audio SMX-800 may lack some of the more extensive function found on more expensive controllers the basics are all there. This controller is very portable, but it’s not the most durable unit on our list and dropping it is not advisable.
What are its best features?
New users find this controller easy to understand.
All the basic functions are present making this a great way to learn how to DJ.
What could be improved?
Some users have reported audio problems so don’t rely on this controller for professional performances.
The case is not very durable.
Things to Consider
If you want to get into DJing, a controller is a vital piece of equipment. However, with so many models on the market, it can feel a little overwhelming to try to make a purchase decision. Here we’ve created a buying guide to assist you including the features to look for, things to consider and answers to some common questions.
What is a DJ controller?
A DJ controller allows the user to control their software without using a mouse or touching their computer keyboard. The best DJ controllers have a complement of faders, jog wheels, touchstrips, backlit buttons and other encoders. These controls allow the DJ to interact with their music in an expressive and tangible way. This is a better way to perform; the DJ can interact with their audience better and they are not tied to their computer screen. The DJ controller is not a DJ USB mixer that sends audio into the software for mixing. Many DJ controllers do have built-in sound cards to output audio for previewing using headphones and main outputs that go out to a connected sound system.
What to expect from a DJ controller Under $200
At this price point you may think that it’s not possible to get a good DJ controller to use live. This isn’t true, the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a very capable unit and it’s available for a touch under $200. A pro DJ will probably have far more money to spend and this opens up the field with more elaborate control surfaces and dedicated DJ mixers to incorporate physical decks. However, for new, intermediate and casual DJ’s a “budget” DJ controller will provide plenty of functionality. At this price you are unlikely to get a durable metal case, solid metal jog wheels and a multiple high-end audio channel. But even a seasoned pro may carry a cheaper DJ controller as a back-up unit to a live show.
Features to consider when buying a DJ controller under $200
With so many DJ controllers on the market, it can often be tricky to try to choose the best one for your requirements. Here we’ll explore the key features to consider, so we can help you to narrow down your options to choose the best model.
A DJ controller must be light and portable for easy transportation to a party or other live event. But, most controllers at this price will not be made out of sturdy metal that can survive a fall. A DJ controller such as the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MkII is more likely to be made from plastic. Using plastic helps the manufacturer to keep the price down but it can be surprisingly durable. Many of the controllers on our list are shock resistant but dropping one is not advisable.
Software and system requirements
A DJ controller is designed to control your DJ software and the software you choose to use will affect your choices. Many people have tried a few different types of software and found one that they are comfortable using. But, if you’re just starting out or you want to change to a different DJing application this can create problems.
Many users want a DJ controller that will be capable of controlling their software out of the box. Some manufacturers design their controllers to work with certain types of software. A prime example on our list is the Reloop AMS-NEON, this is a pad controller designed for Serato Pro DJ users. Others may have templates for a variety of software or the controls can be configured using MIDI mapping.
The easiest route is to try free demo versions of the software you’re interested in and choose a controller that works with it out of the box. If you’re tech savvy there are downloadable MIDI maps that you can use to make any controller control virtually any music related application.
The best way to think about a DJ controller is to imagine it as the brain of your DJ setup. It has to act as a natural extension of your creativity or your workflow will suffer. We will cover some of these subjects later, but for now simply understand that these controllers transmit MIDI messages. So if you do purchase a generic DJ controller that really suits your needs you can make it control your software but this may involve a little research.
It’s also worth noting that there are different types of DJ controller available. Some resemble a traditional deck layout complete with simulated turntables. Others may be pad based units that are used for finger drumming and triggering loops or one-shot samples. A new user may want to stick to a more traditional layout until they are ready to expand and experiment with new control surfaces. Many types of DJ software will allow the DJ to use multiple controllers and you can create very elaborate control setups.
At this price, most DJ controllers will be capable of mixing together two different tracks and manipulating them. Every DJ will need features, such as: tempo, pitch and gain controls to ensure that their mixes and transitions are smooth. Even a budget DJ controller, such as the Numark DJ2GO2 has a 16 bit/44KHz built-in audio card these days. But, it is true that you get what you pay for and if you want to get better audio quality it will cost more.
Another key consideration for a DJ is the connectivity to their chosen computer. It’s likely that you will be using a laptop for your live sets and the specs of your machine will limit the DJ controller choices. Some DJ controllers will not work with certain makes of computer or operating systems. So, before you make a final choice carry out a little research and check the specs of the controller carefully. The DJ controller must be compatible with your laptop or it will not work when you connect them together.
As the brain of your DJ setup, the controller you choose needs to have plenty of hands on control. In a smaller form factor this can be a challenge but some controllers such as the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 MkII circumvent this problem by adding shift keys and shortcuts. The best new controllers have RGB backlit lights and pads to help you see what’s happening in a dark club. Another cool feature is a touch strip or jog wheel that allows you to quickly switch between samples. Every deck-based DJ controller needs a crossfader for smooth transitions and some cue buttons to trigger samples, FX and loops.
A controller designed for a specific piece of software is likely to closely mirror the layout that you will see on your screen. This makes it easy to match the exact control to the matching control in the DJ software and this will speed up the learning process. If you have a more generic controller this is not likely to be the case but there may be similarities. Effective MIDI mapping will match the closest type of control to that found in your favorite software. This can be tricky for new or even intermediate users but a custom setup may suit your needs better.
As your skills develop you may discover new functionality hidden in the software or an update may add a new feature. A dedicated DJ controller should have an easy way to add this feature or this may prompt the manufacturer to release a new product. If you have a custom MIDI mapped controller you will need to work out where to map this new feature.
Dimensions and weight
If you just need a DJ controller for home practice, portability is not a major concern. However, if you do aspire to playing live sets it’s likely that you want a DJ controller that’s easy to transport in a DJ bag or backpack. Some DJ’s have extremely portable rigs with a single small controller and a laptop. Others have more extensive setups with multiple controllers, outboard FX, MID keyboards and plenty of other devices for good measure. The size and weight of the DJ controller that you choose should be based on your own personal needs. Avoid the temptation of buying a DJ controller because other people have it and focus on what you need for your liveset.
Many DJ’s carry a main controller and they have a cheaper backup unit in case there is a problem. A good example on our list would be the SKP Pro Audio SMX-800 controller. Because of their plastic construction many DJ controllers under $200 are light and very portable. These controllers are more durable than you may imagine but they are complex electronic devices and it makes sense to protect your investment. It’s always a good idea to transport your gear in padded bags or cases and make sure your DJ rig is insured for extra peace of mind.
A DJ controller is similar to a MIDI controller, but it is specifically designed to be compatible with DJing software. This allows you to sync up your software with ease and comfortably manage your set.
Once you have a great DJ controller, you’ll need headphones, monitor speakers, DJ software and of course tunes, and you’re ready to mix your first set.
As you can see, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get your hands on a great DJ controller. From the plug and play performance of the Reloop AMS Neon with its backlit pads, to the Traktor Kontrol X1 MkII that allows you to switch between activated loops and your underlying track quickly.
However, the stand out as the best DJ controller under $200 has to be our editor’s choice, the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3. This fantastic controller is not only portable, but offers exceptional functionality. This controller is easy to use, offering a play and cue button for each channel with multi-function performance pads and multiple effects. Although you may need to purchase a full version of Serato, this is a great quality controller at this price point to get your DJ setup started.