10 Best DJ Controllers for 2018

In this article, we'll give you a list of the best DJ controllers of all time. But before we do, let's cover what these DJ controllers are and what they do. A DJ controller is a device that helps DJs mix music with their DJ software. The DJ controller has components such as knobs, jog wheels, encoders, faders, touch strips, backlit buttons etc. and by using these components, DJs can mix music.

Mixing music is complex. To do it correctly, you'll need to make sure that every instrument or device involved in the mixing delivers top quality sound. Since DJ controllers play a pivotal role in music mixing of any sort, it's important that you choose your controller well. The market is flooded with different kinds of DJ controllers and deciding on the best one out of the lot can be difficult for anyone, whether they're a beginner or a pro. We've identified the top DJ controllers out there and broken down key considerations to keep in mind when you're shopping around.

At a glance: Our top 3 picks
Your shortcut to our team's top 3 recommendations
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Portable 2-channel Controller for Serato DJ Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX DJ Controller System Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller with Integrated Audio Interface and Trigger Pads
  • Comes with all of the same features as the famous Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB in addition to new professional features like trim pots, level meters, pad trans effect etc.
  • Easy to use.
  • USB powered.
  • It's a compact controller that can fit in the smallest of DJ setups and is extremely portable.
  • Comes with a built-in LCD screen that makes practicing and mixing easy for pros and first-timers alike.
  • Easy setup. Simply plug in the power, speakers and add a music source.
  • It works with Pioneer's own software, Rerkordbox, which means that you don't have to use it with your laptop.
  • Includes every feature you need to make quality mixes such as extensive inputs and outputs, a pro mic input, EQ, and much more.
  • Easy to use and compatible with Serato DJ software.
  • Lightweight and compact for easy travel.
  • Comes with an auto-loop feature.
  • Outstanding durability.
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List of the Best DJ Controllers of 2018

1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Portable 2-channel Controller for Serato DJ

Pioneer-DDJ-SB2-Portable-2-channel

Pioneer has a long history of manufacturing state of the art electronic equipment. It's easily one of the industry leaders and offers a complete range of products.

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 is the next-gen version of the highly successful Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB. The original was a huge hit two years back when it was first launched. It was considered the top entry-level DJ controller with some professional features. The DDJ-SB2 has all of the qualities of its predecessor with some added professional features which bring it closer to pro-level.

Pros

+ Comes with all of the same features as the famous Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB in addition to new professional features like trim pots, level meters, pad trans effect etc.
+ Easy to use.
+ USB powered.
+ It's a compact controller that can fit in the smallest of DJ setups and is extremely portable.

Why We Liked It - The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Portable 2-channel controller for Serato DJ is one of the top entry-level controllers that also works well for a professional, thanks to its new and improved features.

2. Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX DJ Controller System

Pioneer-Pro-DJ-XDJ-RX-System

If you don't like lugging your laptop to gigs, this DJ controller is an absolute revelation. Pioneer has impressed its customers with some of the best products of all time, including many of its music devices. It's the preferred brand of professionals and audiophiles alike the world over.

With its lower price point and amazing features, this DJ controller is definitely a winner. It shares many features with high-end, expensive models with a pretty expensive price tag., making it a fantastic value.

Pros

+ Comes with a built-in LCD screen that makes practicing and mixing easy for pros and first-timers alike.

+ Easy setup. Simply plug in the power, speakers and add a music source.

+ It works with Pioneer's own software, Rerkordbox, which means that you don't have to use it with your laptop.

+ Includes every feature you need to make quality mixes such as extensive inputs and outputs, a pro mic input, EQ, and much more.

Why We Liked It - If you're looking for a laptop-free solution as a DJ or the Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX DJ Controller System is the perfect pick for you.

3. Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller with Integrated Audio Interface and Trigger Pads

Numark Mixtrack Image

This setup is a continuation of the Numark Mixtrack Pro. It has all the features and the same high-quality of the original, with an improved design and some new features to boot. The design is much more compact compared with the original version.

It includes illuminated touch-activated low-profile platters and 16-backlit multifunction drum pads. If you're looking to DJ with your computer, you can't beat this controller. it is just the right DJ setup for you.

Pros

+ Easy to use and compatible with Serato DJ software.

+ Lightweight and compact for easy travel.

+ Comes with an auto-loop feature.

+ Outstanding durability.

Why We Liked It - The Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ setup is another top entry-level controller that has professional features. Perfect for both beginners and pros.

4. Akai Professional AFX | Dedicated FX Controller for Advanced Serato DJ Performance

Akai Professional AFX

Everything you could possibly need to create great quality mixes comes with this DJ controller. Akai is one of the best brands around, with a long history of manufacturing state of the art music gear and equipment. It is one of the go-to brands for most professionals worldwide.

The Akai Professional AFX | Dedicated FX Controller makes your mixes a lot more fun and enhances your learning. It comes with FX-specific controls, making it ideal for any professional DJ. It not only works with Serato DJ but is also compatible with most other DAW software.

Pros

+ Capable of providing hands-on audio command with Serato DJ.

+ Gives you the power to do anything with your mixes. Manage loops, tweak effects, set cue points, trigger samples and so on.

+ Capable of controlling 4 decks of Serato DJ.

+ USB connection.

+ Comes with 9 touch-activated knobs for customizing effects and EQs.

Why We Liked It - This DJ controller is perfect for Serato DJ while enhancing your creative performance capability.

5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ Controller

Native-Instruments-Traktor-Kontrol

Native Instruments' Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ controller is one of the best options for using with the Traktor DJ software. It's essential for any DJ controller to completely integrate with the software it is designed for and this DJ controller does exactly that.

The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 is the upgraded version of the S4. When compared to its predecessor, the S2 is more compact and lightweight which is perfect if you play a lot of gigs. It's durable and can accompany you to even the darkest of clubs thanks to its RGB backlit buttons.

Pros

+ Comes with plug-and-play support for hands-on control with iPhone and iPad. Great for mobile DJ use.

+ High-resolution cueing and scratching. Comes equipped with silicone-damped jog wheels with aluminum top plates.

+ Can be played with a desktop, laptop, iPhone or iPad.

Why We Liked It - The amazing tricks you can pull off with the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 make it one of the top digital units for mixing with TRAKTOR DJ.

6. PIONEER DDJSR Pro DJ Controller

PIONEER-DDJSR-Pro

Whether it's the simple setup, the durability, the amazing sonic character or some of the most professional features available, everything you get with this DJ controller is the absolute top quality. Pioneer never stops to amaze its customers and this digital audio setup is no exception

If you're a DJ who wants to upgrade to a mid-professional, you should seriously consider picking up the PIONEER DDJSR. It's designed to be used with Serato DJ and is both compact and portable.

Pros

+ Equipped with 16 performance pads to execute functions like hot cue, slicer, roll, and sampler.

+ Large jog wheels to enhance its scratching and the mixing capabilities.

+ The setup is very simple and is USB operated.

+ Comes with all the features necessary to provide you with quality mixes.

Why We Liked It - Easily one of the best mid-professional digital units around, this controller is made to last. With its compact design, it's easy to take on the go.

7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 DJ Controller

Native-Instruments-Traktor-Kontrol

Native Instruments is a company which is well-known for coming up with amazing DJ controllers. They come up with constant upgrades to their gear, staying one step ahead of the competition.

This controller has a complete package perfect for quality mixes.

Pros

+ 4-deck product specifically designed to work with TRAKTOR DJ software.

+ The look, feel and the visual feedback of this unit have been upgraded from previous models.

+ Plug-and-play, with TRAKTOR DJ for iPhone and iPad.

Why We Liked It -  Looking for professional functions, extreme portability, and instant usability? This DJ setup is the right option for you.

8.  Reloop Mixon 4 High Performance 4-Channel Hybrid DJ Controller

Reloop-Performance-4-Channel

This is the first hybrid DJ audio-setup specifically designed for two different software programs, Serato DJ and djay Pro. It comes with color-coded pads which can trigger sounds and performance modes such as hot cut, slicer, loop roll and much more. It can be used with your PC or laptop but also an Android or iOS device.

Pros

+ Industry-first hybrid designed to work with djay Pro and Serato DJ software.

+ Capable of supporting multi-platforms such as IOS, Android, PC, and Mac.

+ Comes with multiple inputs and outputs.

Why We Liked It - The Reloop Mixon 4 High-Performance4-Channel Hybrid DJ setup is a trendsetter and houses some great features.

9. Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-SX2 DJ Controller

Pioneer-Pro-DJ-DDJ-SX2

Pioneer Electronics has a complete range of DJ equipment to satisfy the various needs of every DJ, including you! The Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-SX2 is specifically designed to work with Serato DJ and has all the features needed for creating quality mixes.

Pros

+ 4 channel performance productcompatible with Serato DJ.

+ Comes with dedicated buttons for Serato FLIP.

+ Has multi-colored velocity sensitive pads to support you in any lighting conditions.

Why We Liked It - If you want to use the new Serato FLIP and also want your DJ setup to be packed with features, the Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-SX2 is the DJ controller you need.

DJ Controller Buyers Guide

Top Pick      

Pioneer-DDJ-SB2-Portable-2-channelOur top pick product highlights the best quality within an affordable price group. Allow us to introduce you to the brand that has pioneered DJ gear since the start of the movement. It should come as no surprise that Pioneer is known for helping musicians innovate and mix creatively. With easy yet advanced controls, the DDJ-SB2 by Pioneer is user-friendly for both professionals and beginners and is available at an affordable price.

This guy has rocking tactile performance pads. The top four allow you to trigger hot cue, auto loop, manual loop, and sampler. The bottom four pads give you straightforward access to play, cue, sync, and shift. The DDJ-SB2 makes sure you don’t have to compromise large jog wheels for the sake of a compact design. This DJ setup is equipped with large, low-latency jog wheels for redefining accuracy.

For quickly checking and adjusting the input volume on each channel this product features trim knob and level meters. You get two separate filters on each channel. With low/high pass filter dials, you can adjust the frequency with ease.

It features a filter fade option which adds two high pass filters to the crossfader so you can edit volume and bass filters single-handedly.

With large low-latency jog wheels, filter fade and separate filters on each channel, the Pioneer DDJ-SB2 redefines the DJing experience.

Premium Choice

Pioneer-Pro-DJ-XDJ-RX-System

Looking to invest in some premium pro gear? The Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX DJ system packs all the good stuff into a single device for ultra-polish DJ sets to take your career to the next level.

This product is equipped with a 7-inch full-color LCD display that shows information from both players simultaneously, as well as waveforms, playback position, BPM, and beat grids. With easy access to artwork and hot cue info, you can select and browse tracks with zero problems.

With its beat drum machine sync options you can automatically beat-match up to 2 decks, playing tracks analyzed in Rekordbox. This leaves you free to express your unique style over the mix.

Slip mode lets you add loop, scratch, and reverse to your edits while muting the playing tracks. By releasing the jog wheels. your track comes back exactly to the right place.

With next-gen features like slip mode, beat sync, and a dual waveform display, this DJ controller is one of the best around.

Great Value

Numark Mixtrack

When it comes to great value, nothing beats the Numark Mixtrack Pro II. It has beautifully designed, touch-sensitive control wheels, integrated audio interface, and FX control - potentially everything that you'll ever need. The reason why we've included this product as our great value pick is its affordable price and fantastic features.

Before shelling out your hard earned money for a DJ controller, you'd better do your research. Here are a few things to know. Basically, all controllers are equipped with onboard control components that are linked to DJ software so you can control the software externally. A DJ setup does all the fundamental functions of a MIDI keyboard but in a different way. Talking more about the onboard control components, some products include all-in-one features like FX effects, mixers, turntables, drum pads, and more. Other include only have some mixers while many are specially designed for rotary controls, kill switches, and FX effects.

So how do you choose the best-suited one for your professional needs? Below we’ll outline some points to consider before investing in your new DJ controller.

First you need to figure out the most elementary part, your budget. Identify your needs. If you're a beginner, then a lower end DJ controller might be better for learning the basics. Similarly, if you're a seasoned professional, a high or mid-range controller would be ideal. Identify your needs and set your budget accordingly.

Next up, you need to look for popular DJ applications; they're the heart of a DJ controller. For choosing the highest quality DJ applications, you need to look for compatibility and features in one package. Serato DJ is the most popular application it's compatible with most controllers and provides additional features. Note that Serato DJ isn't compatible with all controllers, so search for a universally compatible application to match your controller.

Controls provide you with access to the specific function of the DJ applications. Different DJ controllers provide you with a variety of controls, so you need to pick the one that goes with your personal preferences. If you're beginner then you can pick almost anything. Mastering all the available controls will help you in the future. On the other hand, if you're looking for specific controls then choosing one with a wide variety of controls won’t be of much help. From stage performances to studio editing, there are all sorts of DJ controllers available.Now we'll talk about the top three setups for different consumer classes of consumers.

FAQs

What is a DJ Controller?

Have you seen those MIDI keyboard controllers? Well, basically a DJ controller serves the same function as an external DJ software control.

They are equipped with knobs, encoders, jog wheels, faders, backlit buttons, touch strips, and many other components for controlling DJ software externally. But if you can control the application on your MIDI keyboard, what’s the point in buying a DJ controller? A DJ controller allows you to easily access the controls via equipped onboard components without having to access the application's complex commands on a computer or phone.

Don’t confuse the DJ mixer with the DJ controller; the latter sends signals to the computer DJ software for how to mix the audio.

DJ controllers help engineers to physically edit their music through onboard components. Many high-end DJ controllers have built-in sound cards with up to four outputs for connecting headphones to preview music before playing it on the main outputs. Handy, isn’t it?

Like the electronic digital keyboard controller, DJ controllers use standard MIDI or HID protocols to communicate with the computer via a Universal Serial Bus (USB).

Typically, they are equipped with two turntables/CDJs (click for full reviews on turntables) and a DJ mixer. The two turntables are used to access the software function stored by the manufacturer to add that specific effect into the beat. Some DJ controllers allows the user to remap the two turntables and other components to output different functions. Other onboard components are used to add more complexity to the music.

They are only accessible via a DJ application as it translates the signals to the unit and vice versa. Without a DJ application, you cannot control the output. Most DJ controllers are packed with one company-made or recommended software, but they can often also work with other sofeware. The majority of DJ controllers use MIDI or HID communication protocols that make them compatible with many software. However, this isn't universally true; not every controller is compatible with every application. Looking for wide compatibility is your best bet.

Can a DJ Controller be Used for Events?

So now let's get back to the main question, can a DJ controller be used for events? The answer is both yes and no, as it depends on the type of event.

For instance, a wedding ceremony or house party will require you to pump up your music game. Would you consider a DJ controller in this situation? No, right? You'd probably hit up Amazon for the best speakers or amps. On the flip side, if your playing an EDM party or on-stage music performance, a controller is perfect as you’ll need those real-time mixing features to produce bass drops.

What Else is Required for a DJ Setup?

Many DJ controllers allow you to connect external headphones for monitoring the mix before outputting to the main speaker. We’ve highlighted the one as rated by both professionals and every-day consumers.

There is a difference between monitoring and professional monitoring. ATH-M50X by Audio Technica makes sure that your experience stays at a world-class level.

Their headphone engineers know the worth of pinpoint monitoring as a slight mistake can destroy the vibe. 45mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum voice coils make sure that you hear the slightest details. This headphone set picks up clarity over a wide range of frequency with deep, accurate bass response. Circumaural design around the ears ensures outside noise is blocked out.
They're ultra-comfortable too thanks to the professional-grade earpad and headband material.

With 45mm drivers, comfortable ear pads, clarity over a wide range of frequencies the ATH-M50X is great support gear for your DJ controller.

Laptop

DJ software only works on a computer. Since you can’t carry around your entire desktop setup, you need a laptop for gigging. DJ applications don't require a full-fledged, heavy-duty system. Most software requires 2 GB of RAM, 10 GB of storage and a Core 2 Duo CPU, which you’ll find under the hood of every laptop out there. But don’t get too comfortable with the fact that DJ software only requires low specs to run. Below are some bullet points to keep in mind while you're shopping around for a laptop..

Battery Life

For long sessions, you’ll need a laptop that can go along with you for hours without needing to be charged. Check the battery specifications, as many laptops can't go for more than two hours unplugged.

Screen Size

Although DJ applications don't require a lot of processing, they include a lot of features. For accessing a lot of features with ease you need a bigger screen as you can’t scroll up and down all the time for picking the right feature.

How to Choose the Best DJ Controller

To choose the best DJ controller for you, look for one that's within budget, required controls, and is compatible with a diverse number of DJ applications. There are low to high priced DJ controllers. Decide how much you want to spend and go from there.The next step is to prioritize your personal preferences right after the decided budget. Beginners should opt for a controller with a wide range of controls to help them learn the ropes.

DJ software is the soul of your controller. It translates or decrypts the signals to/from the DJ controller. The best option would be to consider a setup that comes with software as many are not fully compatible with every controller on the market.

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