- A DJ controller is an interface used to take digital audio and manipulate it with physical controls.
- The Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 is the best overall DJ controller with a club-style layout and a wide range of features.
- The Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 is the best option for beginners with its beginner-friendly features and compatibility with various DJ software.
- The Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX10 is the best choice for professionals with its advanced tools, track separation feature, and versatile controls.
- The Denon DJ PRIME 4 is the best option for portability as an all-in-one system that doesn’t require a laptop.
- The Numark Mixtrack Pro FX is the best budget option for beginners with its affordable price and industry-grade software.
Are you looking for a new DJ controller? Just getting started with your DJ career? Looking to go from amateur to professional? In this guide, we’ll be going over the best DJ controllers on the market today.
Being a DJ can be overwhelming with all of the different equipment available. Modern DJing can be even more of a nightmare with the many functions and options you need often restricted by a keyboard and mouse. Here’s where a DJ Controller comes in, giving a more analog feel to whatever software you choose. We’ve looked at dozens of options, and here are our top picks:
- Best Overall: Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
- Best for Beginners: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4
- Best for Professionals: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX10
- Best for Portability: Denon DJ PRIME 4
- Best Budget Option: Numark Mixtrack Pro FX
What Is a DJ Controller?
If you want to DJ, there comes a point where you need to graduate beyond using just your laptop. A DJ controller is an interface used to take digital audio and manipulate it with physical controls. All controllers have a mix of buttons, turntables, mixers, knobs, and faders that you can configure to work with a software of your choice.
There is no one size or set of controls, but you will find some commonalities between most controllers. You’ll have decks with jog wheels and some sliders or knobs to adjust whatever track you have on deck, a crossfader to mix your tracks, and some effects controls in almost every controller.
Besides this, there are many different ways your controller can be set up. The presence of various samples, cues, loops, and additional controls to configure means there is a controller out there unique to your style and needs.
Its main appeal is its ability to provide a more tactile experience. As versatile as a keyboard and mouse can be, DJing has different demands for what you should be able to do. Whether you’re mixing live or putting together a set beforehand, you’ll need more than buttons and a mouse to make full use of your intuition. That’s where the DJ controller states its case. Let’s get into our top picks for the best ones.
#1 Best Overall: Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 has a bit of everything for aspiring amateurs and professionals alike. This controller soars in almost every category. It’s only compatible with Rekordbox, but an alternative model is compatible with Serato DJ Pro. The DDJ-1000 has a tried and tested club-style layout, so going from individual mixers and turntables to this isn’t an issue.
Low-latency jog wheels and faders give a direct feel, and a large range of included FX facilitates creativity in any scenario. If you’re less of a scratch DJ and more into EDM, the 16 performance pads have a wide range of options for cues, FX, samples, and more.
Thanks to compatibility with most other Pioneer products, the DDJ-1000 doesn’t aim to replace your existing equipment but to amplify it. It’s hard to summarize the totality of this pick, but if you’re looking for the best out there currently, consider this one.
|It has full-size, low-latency jog wheels.
|The price is mid-range.
|Features a club-style layout.
|It has full-size, low-latency jog wheels
|It requires a laptop.
|There’s lots of input/output.
|It’s good for any style of DJ.
Check out the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 on Amazon.
Best for Beginners: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4
For beginners just starting or looking for something to go past the beginner stage, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 is a great choice. Not only is the FLX4 tailored to beginners, but it also assists with learning. That’s right, the FLX4 has great features to help aspiring DJs pick up the tricks of the trade with a little less trial and error.
Flexibility is one of the many things that the FLX4 offers for beginners. This controller requires a device, but almost any device works to let you DJ your way. Phones, tablets, and laptops all work, as well as most DJ software. This controller is as close to plug-and-play as they come.
The DDJ-FLX4 is a pretty intelligent controller too thanks to its smart CFX and smart fader. Smart CFX allows you to add some premixed FX allowing you to add 2-3 FX for a complex drop as easy as using a single knob. The smart fader is for making BPM transitions smooth. The software takes care of beat matching and then automatically creates a smooth transition between songs.
With a standard layout and a wide range of tools, the FLX4 allows new DJs to find and refine their style while still using club-style controls. This controller also comes in at a semi-reasonable price despite its full set of features. Consider this if you’re any kind of amateur looking to get pro gear.
|It’s beginner friendly.
|The effects are limited.
|It’s compatible with several DJ software.
|There are only 2 channels.
|It’s usable with laptops, tablets, and phones.
|The input/output is limited.
|Features a pro layout.
|Offers a complete range.
Check out the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 on Amazon.
Best for Professionals: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX10
Everything the FLX4 does for beginners, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX10 does for pros. There’s a lot to love here, from amazing track separation to a variety of advanced tools, as well as I/O, the FLX10 has it all. The form factor seems similar to the FLX4 at first glance, but it is clear to see that the FLX10 is the professional version.
What sets the DDJ-FLX10 apart from other controllers even in its category is the track separation (Stem) it offers. Some amazing software allows you to separate drums, vocals, and instrumentals for a deep level of control over your mix. This system allows you to separately sample, apply FX, or remix almost any part of every song.
Without getting too lost in what’s new and shiny, the FLX10 also has some great base features. The mixer on this controller is immediately eye-catching with its 4-channel controls and 6 different color FX. The full-size Jog wheels are also customizable with tunable resistance, and built-in screens to display additional information or custom art.
Tempo adjusters, performance pads with 4 different modes, looping, and other features not entirely covered here make this not only a great professional deck but also one that has resources for any type of DJ. When looking at everything this controller has to offer, the price tag starts to feel like a bargain.
|Offers high tier performance.
|The price is fairly high.
|Features stem track separation.
|It’s a bit bulky.
|There are 4 track controls.
|There’s a large amount of input/output.
|Comes with a full suite of mixing options.
Check out the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX10 on Amazon.
Best for Portability: Denon DJ PRIME 4
When it comes to portability, the Denon DJ PRIME 4 is the best all-in-one mixer available for professionals. It may not scream portable at first glance, but there’s more to this mixer than you may initially assume. The Denon DJ PRIME 4 isn’t the smallest controller on this list, but it’s an all-in-one system — so, portability is where it soars.
Being an all-in-one system means that this controller doesn’t require a laptop to assist. The PRIME 4’s only requirement to start DJing is power and speakers from whatever venue you’re at. It can do this through its central computer interfaced through the PRIME 4’s 10” screen.
You can operate the PRIME 4 entirely standalone thanks to the touchscreen and Denon’s Engine DJ software directly integrated into the controller. In terms of controls, the PRIME 4 has some smaller jog wheels at 6”, but this extra space is used effectively in the plethora of controls offered here. Tons of filters and FX can be applied and modified across the 4 channels available here.
A shining feature here is the range of storage options and versatility in software management. The PRIME 4 allows for SDs, USBs, and even a single SATA Drive to be slotted in, and can even prerecord sets to these devices. If you’re a traveling DJ this controller is a must-have. The price is definitely on the higher end of the range. But for being an all-in-one system to perform in any venue, you can’t beat it.
|It’s an all-in-one system.
|It’s locked to built-in software.
|The input/output variety is extensive.
|It’s extremely pricey.
|There are 4 channels.
|It’s not beginner-friendly.
|Comes with built-in Wi-Fi.
|Features built-in set recording.
|Has a rugged metal chassis.
|Has a professional layout and controls.
Check out the Denon DJ PRIME 4 on Amazon.
Best Budget Option: Numark Mixtrack Pro FX
- 2-deck DJ controller
- 6-inch capacitive-touch jog wheels
- Quick-launch FX with dual paddle triggers
- You can stream SoundCloud and TIDAL directly in Serato DJ Lite
For the DJs among us not looking to break the bank or beginners unsure of what they’re getting into, the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX. Designed with beginners and simplicity in mind, the Mixtrack Pro has plenty of great FX and enough controls for any amateur to hone their craft.
The Mixtrack Pro uses Serato DJ software so, despite not being as flexible, you’ll still have access to industry-standard software. This also gives advantages as the Mixtrack Pro makes use of some paddle triggers to activate effects easily, similar to the FLX4. There are also normal buttons available for standard FX, as well.
The software this comes with, Serato DJ Lite, also comes with very beginner-friendly tutorials to walk beginners through but is still powerful enough for amateurs and pros alike. There are also plenty of features you’d expect from a controller, such as EQ, filters, faders, a cross-fader, and even microphone inputs. It may not be the most glamorous option here but don’t feel like you’ll be missing out. If you’re looking at this, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t need more than is offered here to get started.
|The price is low.
|It’s locked into one software.
|Features industry-grade software.
|There’s a limited amount of controls.
|The advanced features are also limited.
Check out the Numark Mixtrack Pro FX on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best DJ Controller: Step-by-Step
When looking at all of the different options and comparisons to make, figuring out what’s best for you can be a bit overwhelming. Despite the many differences, there are more commonalities between most controllers than you may think. Here, we’ll go over the things you should keep in mind when you’re deciding on your next controller, and how to make sure you’re happy with your purchase.
It may not be the most important consideration, but your budget should factor into your decision. It’s easy to get excited over the newest, greatest controller, especially if you’ve been DJing for your friends or started using some software on the computer to make a mix, but getting a $3,000 controller doesn’t mean your house parties will be any better.
There are many great controllers out there for both beginner and amateur markets that still give you pro-level tools. If you’re a professional DJ and it makes sense to get a professional DJ controller, then go for it, but home DJs won’t benefit from the same equipment.
The right controller also means that you have to like the layout it has. Newer DJs may not have to worry about this, but if you’ve been using a certain layout for years, learning a new controller can take away from the time you get to spend expressing creativity.
More and more decks are starting to use more common “club-style” layouts, but there will still be minor differences that can make a large difference. You should also consider your DJing style, jog wheels are vital to scratch DJs, whereas an EDM DJ may prefer versatile pads. If you find yourself using certain controls a lot on your current setup, look for the best of those in your next.
Just as much as the controller needs to fit your style, the right music-making software can make a huge difference. Being locked into one software or being able to use multiple might be important to you, so definitely make sure whatever you purchase can use it.
This is a mostly personal choice, but there are pros and cons for every DJ based on the software you get to interface with. Find something that has the features you want or lends itself to the music you want to make. Some software also comes at a premium cost, so keep that in mind if you get something compatible with only one system.
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