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: September 15, 2023
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Scratching is an art, and to get it right, you need gear that works and feels right to you. With the emergence of digital gears, turntables are increasingly getting phased as a tool for scratching. Whether you are a DJing beginner or a turntable and vinyl record purist, who would like to get their spin and scratching on with digital gear, a DJ controller will always come in handy. The best DJ controller will give you warm tones and artistic expressions in your music mix more conveniently.
Numerous brands and models of DJ controllers flood the market, and choosing the best to meet your music mixing needs can be daunting. We identified the top DJ controllers in the market and curated this guide to help you make the best buy. We considered over 20 products and ended up with a list of 7 finest DJ controllers in the market. The Pioneer DDJ-SX2 was our best pick. Its high-quality build, first-rate performance, excellent value, ease of use, and multiple professional features could not be matched.
You can trust all the products we reviewed to be the best in the market as we used the best sources and spent an adequate amount of time on research. Some of the features on which we based our choices and rankings include desk control, connectivity, channels, software, dimensions, and weight. There are a comparison table, detailed product reviews, and a buying guide in the end with all the information you need to know before buying a DJ controller.
"A 4-channel DJ controller compatible with Serato Flip and Traktor’s TSI and featuring an updated jog wheel, 16 multi-colored velocity-sensitive pressure pads and amplified MIC input with a built-in audio interface."
"A 4-channel DJ controller compatible with Serato software and featuring 4-deck control, dual USB audio interfaces, 16 velocity-sensitive performance pads, 6-inch touch-capacitive platters with tracking LED."
This is one DJ controller that has earned its place and trust among many DJs. It packs a number of top-notch features that will let you bring your DJing A game in thrilling your fans to the best groove they have ever been to.
The 4-channel controller comes in a lightweight and compact design with a unique design. Some users claim it is too colorful, but its slickness in the dark is spot on.
The controller has a plug and play functionality that makes it easy to operate. Any DJ looking to give their career a boost can use it.
It features 4 dedicated buttons for Serato Flip and an updated jog wheel with Hot Cue countdown that has improved wheel time.
The controller’s ability to pair with the new Serato Flip is its best standout feature. This gives you seamless ways of editing your tracks, including; extended intros, outros, transitioning, breakdowns, tempo, and beat structure change. Plus, it also works well with Traktor’s TSI, and you get a voucher for downloading the expansion pack for free.
Another plus for this controller is that it offers 16 multi-colored velocity-sensitive pressure pads. Though a bit smaller than most MPCs, they feel nice and get the job done.
You will also love the fantastic amplified MIC input with a built-in audio interface. Though not as powerful as a separate audio interface, you would get for a condenser microphone. You could combine them for the best results.
With 4 channels, you can hook up the external gear like mixers, tables, and much more.
The slip mode is another noteworthy feature. It allows you to have silent playbacks for easy transitions.
Overall, this is a solidly built DJ controller with superior features that make it one of the best options for any DJ interested in the Serato flip.
This is what you should get for a premium quality upgrade, especially if you are a producer DJ. It is the closest controller you will get to an integrated solution that combines producing or step-sequencing with traditional digital DJing. It is easy to use, and since it has Roland’s blood in its veins, you will love its iconic drum sets.
The controller has a rock-solid build with multiple high-end features that offer reliable performance (typical of Roland). It features pro hardware for your most demanding sets, including intuitive knobs, faders, RGB buttons, adjustable curves, and built-in phono pre amp, among others.
The controller has been designed carefully to make the most out of the Serato DJ Pro. It has dedicated loop buttons for Serato Flip, and key sync, which allow you to make adjustments for a particular deck quickly.
With the built-in connectivity for turntables, synths, and microphones, you can take your craft to another level as a producer or DJ. You only need a single USB connection to inject your DJ sets or productions that have various exciting musical elements which you can easily sync to your Serato DJ Pro songs.
Other than a high-quality MIC input, DJ-808 has a dedicated vocal processor known as VT (Voice Transformer) that can transform your voice drastically. It also has an auto-pitch function that will automatically re-pitch any incoming signal to match that of your Serato tracks.
Now onto the legendary drum sounds and sequencing, you will get the most iconic sounds from hi-hats to wall-shaking booms with the controller’s built-in TR drum machine and 16 step sequencer. They both stay in sync with Serato DJ Pro. They will allow you to build various drum parts as well as mix and match drum sounds with your creativity alone being the limitation.
In conclusion, this is one of the best DJ controllers for scratching with world-class hardware and software that offers professional quality and performance.
What makes it special?
Can DJ and produce
Easy to use
Excellent drum sounds
High-quality MIC input
Built-in connectivity for various musical elements
Here is a DJ controller that you can use without a computer in 3 different ways. As a standalone with USB sticks, as a hardware mixer for turntables and CDJs and as a Serato DJ controller. It is also not very expensive given it has superior features found in high-end controllers.
This Denon controller has a look of its own with a lightweight and compact body that has a nice touch to it. It sports a metal chassis all around and features a dual hi-res screen for playback information.
You will get full Serato DJ compatibility when you connect to a computer. What sets it apart the most is its engine music management software that allows you to use it without a computer. In fact, it is the first Serato DJ controller that can be used without a laptop.
It is also worth noting the 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pressure pads the controller comes with, which help you to control various cues.
Its jog wheels have a reasonable size, are capacitive, and highly responsive. It also features long-throw pitch faders that feel great and come in handy for the mobile DJs.
If you are a Pro or mobile DJ that prioritizes versatility, you will love the output and input options and the source switching capabilities of this controller.
As for feel and sound quality, there is an enormous amount of metering on the face of this controller, both for the output and individual channels. It lets you ensure you are sending sweet and clear signals through to the unit.
Overall, this Denon controller is the cutting edge of controller technology with a great mixture of versatility and functionality. It is one of the best Serato DJ controllers for scratching in the market.
Why are we impressed?
An excellent choice for mobile DJs
Serato DJ compatible
4 channel mixer
Can be used in 3 different ways
Does not need a computer to operate
Accurate jog wheels
16 velocity-sensitive pressure pads
Great feel and sound quality
What negatives must you be aware of?
Only 2 decks available in Denon engine mode
Cannot search the library or sort crates without a laptop
Are you looking for a robust controller that you can use in the studio and on stage, here is your best bet. The Prime GO is the closest cousin of the fantastic MCX800 reviewed above. It is well built and specified with a myriad of options and inputs that a DJ of any level will appreciate.
You will be impressed with the controller’s solid feel and build. It’s design and size are similar to the MCX8000, very compact and lightweight thus, the most ideal for mobile DJs.
It, however, cannot be operated without a laptop as it does not have built-in screens. On the flip side, it is compatible with Serato DJ Pro and the Virtual DJ 8.
The 4-channel controller features 2 5-inch jog wheels that are highly responsive with a nice heft and pitch faders for matching tempo accurately. Additionally, with the key sync and key adjust controls, you can easily change tunes directly on the unit, which is pretty good for harmonic mixing.
Like many other DJ controllers, this device has performance pads that allow you to change to various cues. Only, they are 8 per deck, and every deck has 10 pad modes.
Furthermore, there is a knob that allows you to adjust the musical key of the tune in the deck and a key sync button that lets you match the musical key of the track on the play. You will find these 2 features very useful for harmonic mixing or when you need to perform long blends across various tracks that must be in a specific musical key.
All considered, the DJ Prime GO is one of the best DJ controllers for scratching. It gets the basics right, has a solid build, and is highly reliable though its features are a bit sub-par given the controller market is so advanced.
This is by far the best Traktor controller offering to the beginner DJ. It is favorably priced, is packed with multiple beginner-friendly features, and performs perfectly well for anyone who just got their head into DJing.
Surprisingly, this controller feels well built, given it is an incredibly lightweight plastic box. Its jog wheels have just the right amount of weight and are slightly bigger than you’d imagine. They are highly responsive with a nice feel despite their lack of haptic feedback.
The controller’s knobs and buttons are all made of plastic except the 16 colored rubber performance pads, which produce a pleasant click sound when used. You can use the performance pads to trigger one-shots or loops that are stored in the decks.
The controller includes a full version of the Traktor Pro 2, which is not the easiest software to install, but improvements have been made with time.
Designed to make the most out of the limited controls, the S2 features a MIDI mode for controlling other MIDI gears.
Just like the Kontrol S4, this controller has a high-quality 24/96 soundcard that provides iconic sounds with killer effects and robust looping. Its track browsing scheme is a bit yesterday, but it still keeps your hands off the computer. A browse push encoder and 2 load buttons do the trick.
The controller’s 2 decks, built-in Mic and samplers are also worth mentioning. They give you the kind of functionality you would want from a high-end 3 or 4 deck controller.
With its laid back design and affordable price, this is the best entry-level DJ controller for scratching out there.
Here is another premium quality DJ controller that doesn’t weigh a tone or cost an arm and a leg. It is one of the best Serato DJ controllers in the market in its price range.
The 4-channel controller comes in a plastic-metal body with a nice silver finish on the sides. It has a cool, sleek design with robust construction. Some of its parts are made of plastic but don’t worry. All the knobs have metal underneath them.
The controller features a standalone mixer mode, and you can upgrade to the Serato DVS. Therefore, as long as you have time code, you can attach turntables to it and use them with Serato DJ.
Deejay change-over has never been easier with this controller. It has a dual USB that allows 2 deejays with 2 different libraries. It also makes teaming up easier for DJs.
The controller has one of the finest jog wheels. They are pretty solid and weighted. You will like them for speeding up and slowing down while scratching, scrubbing, or beat-matching tracks. Plus, they have a center wheel display that shows you all of your tracks information, saving you the hassle of checking your Serato DJ screen every time.
Moreover, the controller has highly responsive mini MPC Akai pads for the best Serato DJ performance.
Overall, this is one rare gem with a sturdy build, premium features, and solid controls. It doesn’t bring much on the table in terms of innovation, but it is a winner with regards to quality.
This is another DJ controller built for the beginner DJ. Since it draws inspiration from other high-end Pioneer controllers, it is also a great back-up for professional DJs. It is the cheapest on this list, but it does not operate cheaply. It has a myriad of cool performance features like a pad scratch, a nice mixer, and many others that can give a beginner DJ a head start.
As much as this controller is mainly made of plastic, it is solidly built. It is remarkably lightweight, thus perfect or mobile DJs.
The controller comes bundled with Serato DJ lite, which will allow you to access all the basic features you need to start DJing. Just keep it in mind that when you will need to expand your skills, you will have to spend again to get the advanced Serato DJ Pro.
For an entry-level controller, its mix section is fully featured. It has a full 3-band EQ, 2 channel fader, a crossfader, individual cue buttons, and a browse knob.
Its jog wheels are pretty solid with a decent size. If you are a scratching enthusiast, you will love their high responsiveness. There are even extra controls around them to alter how they respond, so; you can have them behave like CDJs or vinyl.
Also featured are performance pads that allow you to set hot cues, use a trans effect, and activate one-shot samples. It also has a couple of effects, only, you have to upgrade the software to unlock all of them.
The only drawback to this controller is that it is more of bare-bones when it comes to connection options. It also has mall pitch faders. Otherwise, it is a fantastic option for DJing enthusiasts as it is one of the best Serato DJ controllers.
What are its best features?
High-quality jog wheels
Excellent FX options
What could be improved?
It comes with Intro Software
Its scratch effects are subpar
Things to Consider
Now that you know much about the ins and outs of or 7 best DJ controllers for scratching, how will you pick what is right for you? This section has all the essential information you ought to know before choosing a DJ controller, whether you are a seasoned DJ or a beginner. You will get to know how a DJ controller for scratching works and the features to consider when buying one.
How does a DJ controller for scratching work?
You can do scratching on both Vinyl and non-vinyl materials like a DJ controller. Your scratching technique matters more than the equipment you use. A DJ controller works when connected to a laptop with USB. The DJ then finds the buttons, knobs, and faders in the menu settings on the software on the computer. So basically, when the auto-sync button on the controller is pushed, it hits the auto-sync button on the software, and the laptop does everything.
Some controllers feature an audio card. In this case, the audio output of the DJ software is sent back to the controller through a USB cable and audio card. The sound cards, just like an audio mixer, let the DJ adjust the audio levels to outputs by controlling the sound system and choosing channels.
Features to consider when buying a DJ controller for scratching
Here are some of the key features you have to consider before buying a DJ controller. They determine the quality and performance of the controller.
This is really crucial. It determines how long the controller will last you. Be sure to go for a solidly built DJ controller with high-quality material. It should also be stylish and sleek since you are in the show business.
Software and system requirements
Ensure you check the software that the controller was designed for. Using the software the controller was made for allows you to be on top of your DJing game as it will be easier trying to find MIDI maps and installing things yourself. Also, it helps minimize the possibilities of any technical issues.
Number of channels
This largely determines the number of tracks you will be able to control on your mix. DJ controllers usually come with either 2 or 4 channels.
If you intend to mix with 4 tracks, you better go for a 4 channel controller.
Easily adjustable crossfader curve
This is very essential. When you start to learn advanced scratching techniques, you will always need to move the cross-fader back and forth very fast. An easily adjustable crossfader curve on the controller or the software should make this easy for you.
Nearly all modern DJ controllers come with jog wheels. They are the pair of platters on the controller designed like vinyl turntables of the traditional DJ systems. They allow you the best control when mixing music. They can be used to speed up or slow down tracks and even create fades in between tracks. They are a must-have for creating scratches in a mix.
Based on your DJing style and preference, you can choose either the motorized or non-motorized wheels with a specific size and sensitivity to touch.
This determines where your audio will be routed. Most DJ controllers come with a microphone input and 1 or 2 USB connections for connecting to your computer or other screens.
If you are working with several audio interfaces or larger speaker systems, then you have to be keen on the number of output channels. Especially the entry-level DJ controllers, they usually have lesser features compared to the professional ones.
Dimensions and weight
This is a big deal, especially for mobile DJs. If you plan to move around with your controller or have a small studio space and you are just tight on space, you best go for a compact and lightweight DJ controller.
Entry-levels controllers tend to be lighter than most professional-level controllers. It’s pretty much what works for you. You wouldn’t give up an excellent set of features for a lighter controller, No?
As expensive as DJ controllers are, there are certain accessories and features that are a must-have to make the DJ set complete. They include a stand, a carrying case, and headphones, among others. Go for a controller that features some or all of these things. This saves you from making extra purchases.
A DJ controller is an all-in-one package. It comes with transport controls for the decks, speed, volume, and EQs. A DJ mixer, on the other hand, is a dedicated mixing suite that takes inputs from record decks, an external soundcard attached to a laptop with a software or CDJs.
Entry-level DJ controllers are the best for any beginner DJ. They are affordable and have all the basic features a beginner would need to improve their DJing skills. They are lightweight and easy to use. The Natural Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 reviewed above is one of the best controllers for beginners in the market.
The DJ controller market is highly competitive with multiple brands and models that picking the best for yourself can be much of a hassle. Well, not anymore! After reading this guide, you will be able to choose the best DJ controller in the market that is within your budget and functional needs.
Of all the products we reviewed, our overall favorite DJ controller was the Pioneer DDJ-SX2. It is made for the expert and professional DJ with a ton of superior features that allow seamless creativity and fun. Its customizability, top-notch performance, solid build, and excellent value could not be matched.
The Roland DJ-808 and the Denon DJ MCX8000 followed in the ranking with versatility, premium quality, iconic sounds, ease of use, and excellent value for money as well. They are also packed with first-rate features that make them ideal choices for seasoned DJs.