Connect with us

DJ Equipment

The 5 Best DJ Controllers

Published

on

DJ & DJ Controller

If you’re in a hurry and want to know what the best DJ controller is, we recommend the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000.

What are the best DJ controllers?

DJ controllers are an excellent piece of hardware for the modern DJ.

They’re not essential by any means, but they do make DJing easier and a lot more enjoyable.

In this roundup, we’ve assembled a list of the top 5 DJ controllers on the market right now, based on thousands of reviews, user feedback, and our own unbiased opinion.

We’ve included industry-leading brands like Pioneer, Native Instruments, and Numark and answered the most frequently asked questions about DJ controllers at the end of the roundup.

So, let’s get started.

The DJ controllers we’ll be reviewing are:

  1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
  2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
  3. Numark NV II
  4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
  5. Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

FYI: Using links on our site may earn us an affiliate commission.

The 5 Best DJ Controllers 2021

1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000

Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000

(Image Credit: Pioneer)

Why Buy This?

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 has customizable high-definition color LCD screens in the center of each jog wheel, making it easy to see your BPM, playback position, and loop points.

Thanks to the updated software processing of the jog wheels and crossfader, latency has been significantly reduced, which means you can be even more precise with your transitions.

The controller features an improved Magvel Fader that allows you to perform more than 10 million movements and four new Beat FX and Sound Color FX, which have been integrated from the DJM-series mixers.

Hot cues and key shifts have never been more straightforward, thanks to the 16 back-lit rubber performance pads, and its club-style layout has many similarities to club-standard CDJs and DJM flagship technology.

Why We Liked It

The LCD screens bring a lot to the table in terms of efficiency.

They allow you to keep your eyes on the controller instead of continually turning to look at the laptop.

The full-size jog wheels are smooth and robust, the Magvel fader is like butter, and the controller’s overall build quality is superb.

Highlights

  • High-Quality Customizable Color LCD Screens
  • Familiar Jog-Wheels & Layout
  • Improved Magvel Fader – 10 Million Movements
  • Four New Beat FX & Sound Color FX
  • 16 Back-Lit Rubber Performance Pads

Watch It In Action

 

 

2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3

(Image Credit: Native Instruments)

Why Buy This?

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is the brands latest DJ controller.

You’ll find the classic spin-to-nudge function that was on previous models, as well as the scratch capability and beat grid adjust mode, which allows you to modify the beat grid in Traktor manually.

The controller offers a familiar club-standard layout with a two-channel mixer and identical decks.

The Kontrol S2 MK3 comes with 16 RGB trigger pads, eight on each deck, that you can use for Hot cues, samples, loops, and 3-band EQs, which model industry standard mixer EQs so you can tweak your music just the way you like it.

You can also build exciting transitions using the one-touch mixer FX controls, and the reverse button lets you play each deck backward without falling out of sync.

Why We Liked It

It’s simple to set up, thanks to Native Instruments easy to follow online tutorials and comes with a full copy of Traktor Pro 3, a real plus as DJ software can be expensive.

You can use an iPad instead of or alongside your computer, and the layout has been improved from the previous model. It’s a great controller if you’re starting DJing.

Highlights

  • Jog Mode: Classic Spin-To-Nudge Function & Scratch Capability
  • Manual Beat Grid Adjust Mode
  • Club-Standard Layout – Identical Deck Design
  • 16 RGB Pads For Triggering – 8 On Each Deck
  • 2 Channel Mixer & 3-Band EQs

Watch It In Action

 

 

3. Numark NV II

Numark NVII DJ Controller

(Image Credit: Numark)

Why Buy This?

The Numark NV II DJ controller includes a high-resolution full-color display on each deck, allowing you to visualize what’s going on in real-time and focus on your set instead of your computer.

The dual 5-inch metal platters come with search and scratch modes to easily skip or cue your next tracks.

Numark has included 16 velocity-sensitive performance pads, which are RGB backlit and feature ten individual pad modes, allowing you to customize the pads with hot cues, samples, loops, and key shifts.

The controller comes with a USB 2.0 audio interface, auxiliary and balanced mic inputs, and balanced XLR outputs, which makes connecting it up to DJ speakers and headphones an absolute breeze.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of its integrated BPM metering and sync button, which allows you to beat match manually.

Why We Liked It

Without question, the NV II DJ controller is one of the best-looking controllers on the market, thanks to its impressive full-color LCD screens and RGB performance pads.

Aside from its looks, it also comes with the world’s most popular DJ software, Serato DJ Pro, and Numark’s Toolroom Remix package of pro-grade stems, which is handy for build-ups and drops.

Highlights

  • Full-Color LCD Displays
  • Dual 5-Inch Metal Platters
  • 16 Velocity Sensitive RGB Backlit Performance Pads
  • Balanced Mic Input/Outputs & Balanced XLR outputs
  • Includes Serato DJ Pro

Watch It In Action

 

 

4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

Pioneer-DJ-DDJ-SB3

(Image Credit: Pioneer)

Why Buy This?

Pioneers DJ DDJ-SB3 has an intuitive layout that lets you reach everything you need in no time.

Its simple design is excellent for beginners, and Pioneer has incorporated many features from the popular DDJ-SB2 to make learning to use a DJ controller more accessible than ever before.

It comes with 2-channels, and you’ll be able to easily add scratch effects to cued or current songs using Pad Scratch.

Also, beginners will appreciate its FX Fade feature as it makes mixing seamless, and the 5-inch low latency aluminum jog wheels provide you with a precise scratch response.

Lastly, it has premium audio circuitry and is constructed from high-quality materials, so you’ll be getting a robust yet stylish DJ controller.

Why We Liked It

If you’re starting DJing, then this controller has everything you need.

You won’t get any fancy LCD screens, but if you’re looking to learn the ropes and want to use one of the best DJ controllers on the market, then the DDJ-SB3 won’t let you down.

The Serato DJ Lite includes a decent amount of features to get started with, and the Fade FX are a nice touch when transitioning between songs.

Highlights

  • Easy To Navigate Intuitive Layout
  • Add Scratch Effects To Songs Using Pad Scratch
  • Seamless Mixing With FX Fade Feature
  • Dual 5-Inch Aluminium Jog Wheels
  • Serato DJ Lite Software Included

Watch It In Action

 

 

5. Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

(Image Credit: Pioneer)

Why Buy This?

This smart DJ controller from Pioneer will get up to speed with the basics of DJing in no time, so it’s an ideal controller for beginners.

Thanks to its simplistic design, you’ll be able to learn how to mix correctly and develop your DJing skills quickly.

You’ll be able to play tracks via your computer or smartphone using various DJ software and apps, or use Pioneers dedicated free apps WeDJ, djay, and edjing Mix.

You’re also able to mix songs directly from streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, Beatport LINK, SoundCloud GO+, or iTunes.

Pioneers WeDJ app will also help you develop your mixing skills by offering handy tutorials and Pop hint features, so you’ll be able to learn the basics of mixing and your way around the hardware in no time.

Pioneer has also added transition effects to help you match phrases correctly and transition smoothly between songs.

Why We Liked It

As far as entry-level DJ controllers go, you won’t go wrong with Pioneers DDJ-200, as it’s just about as basic as it gets.

All the fancy bells and whistles have been left of this controller, instead just focusing on simple knobs, faders, performance pads, and jog wheels, which is everything you need to learn DJing.

Highlights

  • Compact, Lightweight Body & Pro-Style Layout
  • Compatible Apps & Streaming Services
  • Helpful Tutorials & Pop-Hint
  • 2-Channels, USB Input, Split Output & Transition FX
  • Rekordbox DJ Software Included

Watch It In Action

 

 

Buying Guide & FAQs About DJ Controllers

DJ Controller

1. What Is A DJ Controller?

DJ controllers are devices that help DJs mix music with compatible DJ software.

This is achieved using the controller’s knobs, encoders, faders, jog wheels, performance pads, and other components to manipulate the software instead of using a keyboard.

They’re typically designed to imitate the classic CDJ and mixer setup; however, controllers have come along way since they were first introduced and now offer a lot more versatility, components, and options than traditional CDjs and mixer setups.

They also more or less replaced some of the best DJ turntables, which are the OGs when it comes to DJ equipment.

2. How To Use A DJ Controller?

DJ controllers allow you to map specific menu settings and functions from the software to each of its components.

Without a controller, you’d have to do all your mixing using a computer or mobile device, by pushing buttons on a keyboard or tapping on a screen.

Depending on how you like to DJ, the absence of a controller can significantly hinder your performance, making it unnecessarily complicated and far less enjoyable.

3. How Does A DJ Controller Work?

DJ controllers work by sending audio signals directly to your DJ software and then tell it how to mix the audio it’s receiving.

You start by connecting a controller to a computer via USB and then map your preferred settings to the controller’s components according to your preferences.

The computer is the one that’s doing all the work. The controller is merely “controlling” what the software is doing, hence the name “controller.”

However, once you’ve mapped your settings and everything’s set up correctly, you don’t need to touch your computer anymore as that’s what the controller is for, so you can use your laptop as a monitor instead.

You can expect most high-quality DJ controllers to be compatible with most modern DJ software, but you’ll need to double-check this before purchasing your controller.

4. Can I Mix Without A DJ Controller?

Yes, you can, but controllers make mixing a whole lot easier and more fun, in our opinion.

If you’re not keen on using a controller, you can get by with a laptop and some DJ software, especially if you’ve already mastered the basics, like understanding the tracks you’re playing and knowing how to read a crowd.

Even though a controller won’t make you a better DJ, it can help you understand how individual settings work in your software and help you think more creatively, as clicking a mouse and tapping keys on a keyboard does get tiring after a while.

So, depending on your ability, experience, and budget, DJ controllers can either be a shiny object or excellent addition to your setup.

5. How To Choose The Best DJ Controller?

Choosing a DJ controller is going to take some time unless you already have one in mind.

If you haven’t, we recommend setting a budget and listing out a few “must-haves” that you’re not willing to compromise on.

From there, you should look for top DJ controllers that offer the most bang for your buck in terms of software compatibility and components.

Then, single out your favorites, match up your must-haves, and choose a controller that ticks all your boxes.

Summary

Thank you for taking the time to read through this roundup.

We hope you enjoyed our list of the 5 best DJ controllers.

In short, you can’t go wrong with any of them, to be honest, as they will all do just about anything you need.

Choosing an overall winner was difficult as each controller has its benefits, and personal preference plays a big part.

However, based on our research, as well as thousands of reviews, testimonials, and user feedback, in our opinion, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000 is the top DJ controller.

It’s high-quality, customizable LCD screens allow you to focus 100% on mixing, and its build quality is second to none!

Here’s a quick recap of the 5 best DJ controllers:

  1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
  2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
  3. Numark NV II
  4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
  5. Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

What’s your favorite DJ controller? Leave a comment below.

Matt's the guy behind Audio Captain. He's a qualified sound engineer and self-confessed music nut who's passionate about electronic dance music. When he's not writing about all things audio, you'll find him in the gym or working on his next EDM track.