In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking 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 even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: July 24, 2023
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Do you want to play incredible DJ sets and learn how to become a world-class DJ? If so, it all starts with getting the best DJ controller. They’ll allow you to mix music like never before with a wide range of functions and features, including modern DJ tools. But it can be quite tricky to find a suitable option. To make things easier for you, we’ve picked top-rated options available on the market and collected all the info that you can see below.
What makes the best DJ controller? We took several features into account, such as the software it’s compatible with, the number of channels, deck control, frequency range, and the connectivity. Specifications such as dimensions and weight are also vital along with your budget. With the right model, you will master new skills in no time. Do you want to learn more? Let’s find your perfect DJ controller!
"An outstanding Serato DJ controller that also works with Rekordbox software. Additionally, it has a fantastic build quality.2-channel, 2-deck controller.7-inch touch screen.8 multi-colored performance tabs."
"With this premium option for Serato, you get a free Rekordbox DJ license key, stand, headphones, and polishing cloth.4-channel, 4-deck / dual controller.Intuitive layout.16 back-lit rubber performance pads."
"A marvelous DJ controller for Serato PRO because it offers multi-platform support and comes with OTG cables.4-channel, 4-deck controller.Real-time vocal and instrumental separation.16 RGB velocity-sensitive pads."
"This is a lightweight Serato DJ controller with two 4.3-inch full-color screens, adaptive learning platter technology, and 10 pad modes.4-channel, 4-deck controller.Pro-grade crossfader.16 velocity-sensitive pads."
If you are looking for the best Pioneer DJ controller, you don’t need to look any further. This model is compatible with Rekordbox, which is the software of choice for many users, and contains a Rekordbox license key. Also, it’s the best Serato DJ controller with a wide range of inputs and outputs and two channels available. The 7-inch touchscreen is innovative and makes DJing easier than ever. It’s a professional level model but one that is still easy to use.
What stands out? While it’s not the lightest model on this list, it’s not heavy either. When you add that to its solid build quality, it makes it highly desirable. The usability is high, which allows beginners to try it while having the quality of a professional model. With the screen, you can also use it via USB without the need for a laptop.
What cons did we manage to find? The crossfader is good, but you wouldn’t say it’s at the elite level of performance. Also, while two channels are enough for most users, we do wish that it had four.
We thought this was the best budget DJ controller due to its great price and range of impressive features. It’s compatible with Virtual DJ and gives you four channels to play with. The simple usability helps to make it the best starter DJ controller but has enough quality to guide you to an expert level. On top of that, it only weighs a little over 11lbs, making it easy to carry. With the large jog wheels, we also thought it was the best DJ controller for scratching. It has quality throughout but doesn’t come with a license key.
Why are we impressed? If it’s your preferred software, then this is a great contender for the best controller for Virtual DJ. It has a solid level of build quality and comes with jog wheels that offer exceptional control. Just because it’s simple to use, it shouldn’t put off more experienced DJs. The quality is excellent, and you’ll have a lot of fun with it.
What negatives must you be aware of? While this may be the best Virtual DJ controller, it doesn’t come free with it. You have to pay for it separately, which adds to the overall cost. Some may prefer this, but others may find it annoying.
Here is another fantastic Pioneer model, which we think is the best DJ controller for beginners. It is compatible with both Serato and Rekordbox software, which are both easy to navigate. It also comes with accessories such as a stand and headphones. Next, there are four channels, plenty of inputs/outputs, and it has an intuitive layout. The quality is excellent, and you have the added bonus of it coming with a Rekordbox DJ license key.
What are its best features? This is probably the best beginner DJ controller due to its ease of use. You’ll be able to pick it up quickly, but it also has that quality if you want to move up to expert level. The durability is excellent, and this is a DJ controller that is going to last for a long time.
What could be improved? There weren’t many pick holes in this DJ controller as it has a fantastic quality throughout. While it’s good that it comes with accessories, the headphones aren’t great, and you’ll probably want to upgrade sooner or later.
Native Instruments have made this model, which is a serious contender for the best 4-channel DJ controller nomination. It is a 4-deck model, and it has all the features and input/outputs that you could possibly want. The jog wheels are sensitive, and they are a great addition to the 16 RGB pads. All this comes in a package with a weight of under 10lbs, making it very easy to carry.
Why did it make our list? If you want a high level of feedback from your jog wheels, then you’ll love this. It feels great to use but also looks brilliant with the bright displays. You get a full range of onboard effects, and the likes of stem remixing couldn’t be easier.
What is not ideal about it? you get a premium level of quality with this DJ controller, but that also means a higher price tag. But we still feel it’s worth the money if you have the budget for it.
Many of these DJ controllers look fantastic, and this one is no different. There are four channels available, and it offers you a wide range of available connections. The overall weight of the unit is just 11.7lbs and is easy to carry. Additionally, you will find a wide range of features such as the RGB pads, vocal/instrument separation, and OTG cables. The setup is very good, and the controls have a solid feel.
What stands out? We mentioned that the DJ controller has a low weight, but it does that while also being sturdy with the solid build quality. Its set up makes it ideal for use with tablets, and the overall look and feel of the unit is very impressive.
What cons did we manage to find? There are a few users who noted the poor crossfader. While there weren’t other common issues, this one is worth mentioning.
The Denon DJ MCX8000 is another brilliant DJ controller and one you’ll enjoy using, especially if you’re already comfortable with using Serato or Engine software. It offers a wide frequency range and excellent connectivity. On top of that, a stunning feature of this DJ controller is the two displays that offer you great feedback. The metal construction is very solid, and this controller will serve you well for many years.
What makes it special? If you’re constantly on the road, then this would be ideal. The 18lbs weight means it is not too heavy, but the quality is robust, so it will easily cope with knocks and bangs. The layout is perfect for most DJs, and the overall sound quality is fantastic. You’ll be impressed with how it performs.
What cons did we find? The various fader switches are fairly loose, which means they can be switched easily. We’d prefer it if they were slightly firmer, but this is unlikely to cause you any issues.
Connectivity: RCA, mic, XLR, aux stereo mini inputs, XLR booth, TRS, RCA, phones, USB, midi outputs
Dimensions: 18.7 x 13 x 2.9 inches
Weight: 7.7 lbs.
More features: built-in feedback suppression, Serato DVS upgrade-ready, independent gain, low-cut switch and noise gate on each mic channel, includes Serato DJ PRO and 90-day subscription to BPM Supreme Premium
Roland is a famous name when it comes to musical equipment, and you can’t go wrong with this controller. One of the standout features here is the low weight at just 7.7lbs. Despite that, it is still able to offer excellent build quality, and it also has a range of fantastic features. Serato DJ PRO is included with the controller, and you get to test out a 90-day subscription to BPM Supreme Premium. It’s a perfect way to get started on a controller that gives you professional quality.
Why are we impressed? The versatility on this DJ controller is excellent, and it’s suitable for many different styles of DJing and all levels of ability. It’s perfect for mobile DJs due to the level of functionality, but also the size and weight. While it’s a more compact model, that doesn’t stop it from having a range of excellent functions.
What negatives must you be aware of? The control set up on this model may not be to everyone’s taste. Some may find it a little difficult to control due to smaller jog wheels.
Here, we see another exceptional Pioneer model. You can use it with four channels, and it has all the connectivity options you’ll ever need. It only weighs 13.5lbs and comes with a great range of accessories to get you started. This controller’s two great features are the large performance pads and the stylish jog wheels, which have low latency. The case that it comes with will not only protect your controller, but it will also act as the perfect stand when you’re playing.
What stands out? Aesthetics aren’t everything on a DJ controller, but you want it to look good, and you get that here with its beautiful lighting. The portability of this unit is exceptional, and so is the strength, giving you the best of both worlds. Add this to the intuitive controls and the high level of sound quality, and you get a brilliant device.
What cons did we manage to find? This can be quite expensive, but the extras, such as the high-quality case, help to soften that blow.
This is possibly the best-looking controller on the market today, but it has a lot more than just looks. It’s also incredibly light at just 7lbs with a fairly compact design. On top of that, it offers exceptional functionality for all users with its 16 pads, adaptive learning, and plenty of different modes. While some cheaper models let themselves down with the crossfader, it is exceptional on this device. It gives you the perfect level of control and includes Serato DJ software.
What makes it stand out? The weight on of this DJ controller is exceptionally low for the level of performance you get. It’s very user-friendly and perfect for beginners without being too simple. While it lacks the elite level of quality, most users will fall in love with innovative controls and functionality.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? While the durability is high when it comes to controls and switches, this model lacks the level of robustness required for a traveling DJ. It doesn’t handle knocks and bangs very well.
The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 DJ Controller is another model that perfectly combines low weight with a high level of build quality. There are four channels available and a good range of connectivity options, too. Also, there are two impressive color displays, intuitive controls, and bright RGB pads. It feels great to use, and this model has no jog wheels and instead uses a touch strip. This could be perfect for people who want to explore something new.
What are our favorite features? The level of power and performance you get from this DJ controller is impressive. Along with that, you get impressive functionality. This all comes in an extremely durable metal housing. It’s great to use, and you’ll be able to get that feedback from the two displays.
What could be better? Some users have reported power issues with their controllers. This appears to be a manufacturing defect that still can be solved easily with the company offering a replacement.
Things to Consider
There is plenty for you to think about when it comes to a DJ controller, which is why we thought it was a great idea to write a buying guide for you. It’s easy to waste a lot of money and get the wrong model, that’s what we want to avoid. In this guide, we’ll go through all the key features and see if they are relevant to you. If you have any lingering questions, then we’ll be able to clear them up with our FAQs at the end.
How to pick the best DJ controller?
Picking the right DJ controller isn’t just about one feature, but it’s about taking them all into account and getting the right fit for you. Choosing software you’re comfortable with is a huge step, so you’ll have to ensure your controller can do everything you want it to do. Once you know what features are important, you’ll need to think about other key aspects, such as portability and budget. As we go through them, it a great idea to build a mental picture of the best DJ controller for you.
Not all DJ controllers will be compatible with all types of DJ software. If you’re already used to one type of software, then it’s likely that you’ll want to continue with that. Equally, if you’ve already paid for software, you’ll want a DJ controller that is compatible.
If you’re new to DJ controllers, then there are a few to choose from. Virtual DJ is immensely popular with high compatibility, Rekordbox is easy to learn, and Serato has gradual levels that let you learn with them, but there are other options out there too that you can check out. They all have their pros and cons, and it may be best to do deeper research to learn more about their functionality.
A lot of these DJ controllers will come with a free license key for a specific type of software, whereas with some of them, you’ll have to pay for it.
The number of channels has a direct correlation to how many tracks you’ll be able to control in your mix. You’ll see that most controllers will either have two or four channels. Pretty much all expert-level controllers will offer your four channels.
We’d generally recommend four channels, but the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 Professional DJ System is an example of a brilliant DJ controller that has just two. With the right software, you’ll still be able to get full control over your tracks.
You want to have a great feel for your deck, and the jog wheels play a huge role in that. They are made to replace the old turntables that you used to have for your vinyl records. They are still used for the same purpose of speeding up or slowing down tracks.
Modern-day jog wheels have different levels of sensitivity and can either be motorized or not. On top of this, they can also vary quite a lot in size as some replicate the size of old vinyls, whereas others are a lot smaller. This will come down to feelings and personal preferences.
A high-quality audio device will be able to give you the perfect frequency response in all ranges. Cheaper models will give you quality mids but can let you down with lower or higher tones, which are also very important. You want the tones to be well-balanced, and all the controllers that we’ve looked at here are able to do it very well.
To make your mix sound richer and brighter, you’ll want to look for a DJ controller that has a wide frequency range.
Inputs and outputs
The inputs and outputs are vital for being able to set up your DJ controller. You’ll most likely want to be able to connect a microphone and a laptop/tablet, along with having USB connections. Having numerous options will offer your better versatility.
The number of output channels you’ll need will largely depend on the types of speaker systems you’re going to be working with. It’s a good idea to know how you are going to set up your full DJ set before you make a purchase, as this will give you the best idea of what you should be looking for.
You don’t want to kick yourself for getting software that is compatible with windows when you have a Macbook. You need to think about how it all connects together before focusing on different functions.
This involves getting a controller, laptop/computer, software, and possibly a phone that can all be used together. Getting the right one usually isn’t going to be a big issue, but it is one of those things you’ll want to double-check before buying.
Functions and modes
You’ll want a DJ controller that will allow you to master the basics before expanding your knowledge into expert areas. The functions and modes may feel a little overwhelming at first, but they all serve their purpose. You’ll want a controller that has platters, pitch/line/crossfaders, an EQing mixer, and cue/play buttons.
These are the basic features to look for that allow you to have a brilliant foundation to build on. An example of a controller with exceptional functionality is the Numark NV II Four Deck DJ Controller, and this is very easy to use while also allowing you to develop and master your skills.
A DJ controller may have impressive sound quality and functionality, but if it’s not easy to use, then it’s going to be fairly worthless.
You want to consider the layout and make sure that it’s working for you. While the basic setups are similar, every company will be slightly different in terms of control positioning.
The jog wheels play a big role, and some will struggle if they are too small. Others prefer to have smaller jog wheels, such as seen with the Roland DJ-707M Four-Channel DJ Controller, as this allows them to focus on other areas. It’s about what feels the most natural to you and your style.
A lot of modern DJ controllers reduce your reliance on a laptop with its own screens. For some, it allows them to use a DJ controller without a laptop even connected. Others love them as it means they don’t have to look up to their laptops as much and can free up window space for other information.
You’ll see many different types of screens with some controllers having two or more. There are even models, such as the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 Professional DJ System, which have touchscreens. This can be extremely useful and makes using the controller very simple.
Dimensions and weight
Are you just creating music in a home studio? Or are you a mobile DJ who will be on the road? It’s a huge question as these controllers can vary greatly in their weight and dimensions. A unit such as the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 DJ Controller is very light and easy to carry with you.
You also have to consider the build quality. Some are rugged and built for the road, such as the Roland DJ-707M Four-Channel DJ Controller. At the same time, cheaper models might not have the durability required for everyday travel.
At around $2,000, the Pioneer DDJ-RZ Flagship 4-Channel Controller is the most expensive model we looked at due to its professional level of quality and outstanding features. You also get a stand and headphones with it to get more for your money.
There is a lot of quality competition in the $1,000 to $1,200 range, and many great models can be found here. A great example of this is the Denon DJ Prime GO, which is well worth the money.
Unfortunately, you’ll need more than just a DJ controller to be able to DJ. You’ll need your tracks and an interface that generally comes from having a laptop/computer, but that’s not strictly the case when your DJ controller has a screen. Along with this, you’ll need your speakers (and possibly a PA system) to play your music and headphones to listen to it. Once you have all of this, then you’ll simply need a space to be able to put it all.
There are plenty of places to get music from. Many use MP3 subscription services such as BPM Supreme. Fortunately, you get a 90-day free trial of this when you get the Roland DJ-707M Four-Channel DJ Controller. Other similar sources include the likes of Beatport, Juno Download, Traxsource, and Boomkat, among others. You also have the option of simply buying your music from a record shop or, of course, the modern alternative of buying it from the likes of Amazon Music and iTunes. Some DJs still simply use a service such as Spotify, while others made love finding new music from the likes of Soundcloud and social media.
With many DJ controllers, this won’t be a problem. You want software that will be compatible with your smartphone and a phone that is powerful enough to avoid any issues such as low latency. With the screens that you get on modern-day DJ controllers, it makes using them with phone very simple, and with some, you wouldn’t even need a laptop or phone. While storage may be an issue on some phones, it does open up the options of allowing you to stream directly from your phone. The portability and user experience makes using your phone an exciting possibility.
If we were to choose a favorite, it’d have to be the Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 Professional DJ System. It has a professional level of quality while still having an excellent level of usability and intuitive controls.
These three models are great, but the other seven are also exceptional in their own way. It’s important to get the type that suits you and is compatible with software that you’ll feel comfortable with. All that’s left to do is choose the best DJ controller that matches your needs and enjoy the supreme quality it will give you.