There are a lot of DJ controllers out there. So many, in fact, that it’s a little overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out. So, to help you find the best one for you, check out my picks for the best DJ controllers of 2019.
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 DJ Controller
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 is a really good DJ controller for beginners. It runs on Serato DJ Lite software, a pared down version of the pro package, which is more than enough to get you started. Set up is exceptionally easy, too, you basically just have to go to their website, register, and download the software. Plus, when you’re ready, you can upgrade to Pro and continue to use the same controller.
While this mixer is pretty lightweight at only 4.6 pounds and it’s primarily made of plastic. That said, it still feels durable and is easy to transport using the easy-grab handles. The design is really well thought out and features asymmetric decks, 8 performance pads on each side, as well as standard control panels and channel filters. The jog wheels are a little on the small side but they’re made of aluminum so you know they’re durable. And they don’t just get the job done, they actually work really well.
The button controls are firm and easy to use and laid out as they are on professional gear. The pitch controls are a little on the small side but they’re pretty accurate. As for effects, you can transition between tracks using FX Fade and try out differed scratches using the Pad Scratch function. It also automatically beatmatches for smoother transitions.
There are some small downsides to this controller. There’s no audio lead provided so you’ll have to get your own and there’s no external power. This mixer is actually powered with a USB cable which can be both a blessing and a curse.
✓ Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3, See Best Price on Amazon.
2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2 Professional DJ Controller
The Pioneer DDJ-SX2 is a professional performance grade 4-channel controller that’s designed to work with Serano DJ software. Because it has 4 inputs, this is a really flexible controller. It’s completely upgradable to Serato DVS and can connect to CDJs, old-school turntables, or directly into a professional PA set up.
Updated jog wheels show countdown markers so you can keep your eyes on the controller instead of staring at your laptop screen while waiting for cues. That’s not all, these jog wheels are also tight, smooth, and capable of accurate scratching.
Another cool thing about this controller is the multi-colored backlit LED pads. They mimic what you’d see on your laptop and provide a bright, hard-to-miss visual reference for any presets. Plus, there are 3 buttons dedicated specifically to Serato Flip, a pretty incredible new add-on that creates cue points for fast and easy edits then stores them for playback. While you can do this on your laptop, being able to do it right on the controller is really convenient and much faster.
✓ Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX2, See Best Price on Amazon.
3. Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 Professional DJ System
The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX2 is a 2-deck, 2 channel all-in-one system that has features of both a CDJ and DJM. You can use it with your laptop by connecting it to Rekordbox DJ or simply access your music by plugging in a USB drive.
A large touchscreen features a QWERTY keyboard so it’s easy to search through your library as well as a rotary selector, track filter, and shortcuts. The 8 rubber performance pads feature LED backlights that light up just around the edges for a cool effect that isn’t at all tacky. These pads trigger cues using Hot Cue, place loops with Beat Loop, play loops while the beat continues with Slip Loop, and move forward or backward with Beat Jump.
Another thing work mentioning about this controller is the jog wheels. First, they’re a lot looser than you might be used to. They’re also “touch capacitive” which means that they respond with a light touch instead of having to actually press down on them. Overall, these two features might take a bit of getting used to but they’re really responsive and effective when you get the hang of them.
You actually get a lot of effects with this controller, too, including Filter, Dub, Noise, and Sweep. There is also Beat FX, too, which are effects that are be applied using time or note values. Specifically, the Beat FX are Delay, Echo, Flanger, Pitch, Reverb, Roll, Spiral, and Trans. Plus, you can choose from multiple channels as to where the Best FX is applied, either the mic or aux input, individual channels, or the whole master output.
✓ Pioneer DJ XDJ-SX2, See Best Price on Amazon.
4. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
If you’re looking for a great controller on a budget, I recommend the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3. This is a simple, well thought out two-channel controller that’s pretty well equipped for a basic unit. Setup is simple and easy, just download the Serato software and you’re ready to go. This is a great choice for basic DJing or anyone just starting to learn. It’s compatible with any software but comes with Serato DJ Intro but can support a full upgrade when you’re ready.
One of the best things about the Mixtrack Pro 3 is how intuitive it is to use. It’s easy to figure out and everything works the way it should. The jog wheels are touch-sensitive and responsive and the faders, knobs, and buttons work reliable and do what they’re supposed to do.
Touch-capacitive metal platters and let you stop a track by touching the top of the wheel then bend it by touching the side. There are also full 100-millimeter pitch sliders and filter knobs dedicated to each channel as well as touch strips that make it easy to search for tracks.
The pads don’t give the range that a more expensive unit would, they’re more like additional buttons that are used for loops and samplers. There are 16 rubber trigger pads in all, backlit with blue, yellow, or red. That’s not all, it also includes 6 sample packs that contain more than 380 samples so you’ll be putting these pads to good use.
As far as input, there are spots for a mic and headphones as well as a twin RCA output. The Mixtrack Pro 3 is powered by a USB connection and connects directly to your computer or laptop.
✓ Numark Mixtrack Pro 3, See Best Price on Amazon.
5. Denon DJ MC4000
For a sleek, innovative 2-deck design that’s ready for professional work, check out the Denon DJ MC4000. The durable steel chassis is perfect for a mobile DJ and the basic design and mixing capabilities reduce the amount of equipment you need to set up. It also includes Serato DJ Intro and is ready for a full upgrade whenever you are. That’s not all, there’s even a voucher included to save you some money when you do decide to upgrade.
One of the goals with this controller was to make it as easy to use so it was designed for optimal flow. There’s nothing confusing about it, each and every pad button has a designated purpose instead of multiple functions. The 2-deck controller feature dual microphone inputs that can easily put vocals at the top of the mix.
Touch activated jog wheels are solid and responsive with just the right amount of tension for natural movement. There’s also classic pitch ben buttons, long throw pitch controls, and 4 sample trigger buttons with their own volume control.
While it looks like there are 8 control pads. There are actually only has 4 as the bottom row of buttons is for sync, shift, cue, and play/pause. The top 4 buttons control all 8 cues using a button to shift from one to another as well as a cue loop mode and loop roll.
The MC400 is obviously not on the same level as a 4-channel controller but if you’re looking for a 2-channel controller for professional mobile use, this is a great one to check out.
✓ Denon DJ MC4000, See Best Price on Amazon.
6. Pioneer DDJ-SZ2 4-channel Controller for Serato DJ
One of the best controllers anywhere is the Pioneer DDJ-SZ2. This is Pioneer’s top-of-the-line model that’s loaded with features that will make it the centerpiece of any club setup. This is a big controller with a price tag to match but if you want the best of the best, this is it. This is probably not the best choice for newbies.
The center of the jog wheels shows you track progress, time to cue, and more about what’s playing you your CDJs. That’s not all, one of the best things about the jog wheels is the stiffness control which lets you adjust them to be as stiff or loose as you like. They’re full-sized which really delivers an amazing hands-on experience.
Another cool feature of the jog wheels is that they sense the actual touch of your fingers but this also leads to one of their few downsides. The electrical source can actually cause some problems as far as how well they can actually sense your touch so you may find that you occasionally need to press down a little harder to get the response you’re looking for.
This controller comes with a full version of Serato DJ and setup is really easy. It has Color FX set up on the left for effects like echo and filter and Oscillator FX on the right to trigger more specific effects during key points of your performance. You can also use it as a stand-alone mixer and plug in vinyl decks, CDJs, or any other sources and mix them in with whatever’s coming from your laptop, too.
The DDJ-SZ2 is big but it’s not nearly as heavy as you might imagine. That’s because it’s primarily made of plastic though it’s durable and well-made. In fact, it’s so impressive that one of the few downsides is you won’t be able to get it from place to place very easily.
✓ Pioneer DDJ-SZ2, See Best Price on Amazon.
7. Denon DJ A- B Box
Next up is the Denon DJ A-B Box, an impressive DJ controller and digital mixer that was designed for mobile DJs who excel at their craft and really know what they want. The slim design features a durable steel chassis that’s easy to transport and weighs less than 10 pounds.
This is a great option if you’re looking for something with 4-decks and functions as both a controller and a stand-alone mixer. You can integrate just about anything you want into the setup using the auxiliary inputs, whether it’s CD or vinyl decks or USB audio. Another cool thing about it is it’s really easy to set it up to record, something that’s becoming more and more desirable as technology improves.
The control layout is very accessible as the faders, dials, and buttons are positioned in a way that just naturally feels right. For example, the top panel lays out pitch, EQ, loop, and hot cues in such a way that it will optimize your performance by reducing errors and helping you create smooth transitions.
Dual balanced mic inputs have independent echo FX and EQ and balanced outputs mean top-of-the-line sound quality. This controller is 100% MIDI compliant which means it can work with just about any software, though it comes with Serato DJ Intro and supports the full to Serato DJ and Serato Video.
✓ Denon DJ A-B Box, See Best Price on Amazon.
8. Numark NVII DJ Controller for Serato DJ
Another great 4-channel option is the Numark NVII. This is a professional level controller that’s light and compact enough that transporting it from place to place is pretty easy. Plus, the dual screens make it possible to leave your laptop behind so you can focus more on the music and less on the computer screen.
This all-in-one unit features 2 screens optimized for Serato DJ (which is included) and makes the on-screen interface ridiculously easy to use. They even have grid lines on the screen to help you match up beats perfectly. One of the coolest things about the Serato DJ integration is the 5-column sorting feature that lets you find your song by title, artist, time, BPM, or key and then accesses them for you which makes it easy if you don’t have yourself that organized.
The knobs and faders are extremely effective and the large filter knobs have a good amount of resistance that makes it really easy to make precise adjustments. Generally, the layout of this controller is clear and makes sense. You can switch between decks with a single click and
The mic and aux inputs are controlled with the gain knobs on the top of the controller and there are 16 colored performance pads so you can quickly and easily trigger hot cues, effects, samples, and loops. The jog wheels and EQ knobs and filters are touch capacitive which works well most of the time but can be a little glitchy.
✓ Numark NVII DJ Controller, See Best Price on Amazon.
9. Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX is a 4-channel controller that’s intuitive design that makes it easy to mix both audio and videos. There are three 7-inch touchscreens so you have amazing access to your library and information like titles and beats per minute. That’s not all, it shows enlarged waveforms for visual help with beat matching and it allows you to see the loops and cues you’ve added in. That’s not all, these screens can also be used to monitor video and image files. And here’s the best part, you can do it all without touching your laptop. In fact, all you really need your laptop for is scanning your library and choosing your tracks.
This controller included a free license key for Rekordbox video so you can do everything from uploading images to streaming from a USB camera. There’s also an independent sampler section that includes mic FX, combo FX, release FX, sound color FX, and sampler repeat.
As far as downsides, there are a few but most of them are to be expected with a piece of equipment this advanced. First of all, the price tag is a little hefty. Secondly, you need a decent amount of RAM for this thing to run smoothly. While 8 is recommended, 16 is better if you want the best experience. Plus, although you don’t need it for much, you do need to bring your laptop along to use this controller. Still, if you do want to integrate audio and video on a machine that excels at both, the DDJ-RZX is a good fit.
✓ Pioneer DDJ-RZX, See Best Price on Amazon.
10. Denon DJ MCX8000
There’s nothing that can really touch the Denon DJ MCX8000. It’s a 4-channel controller, a standalone USB controlled, and a standalone mixer. As you may have guessed, that means that you don’t need a laptop (but you can use one if you want). It has everything: build in screens, fully featured mic inputs, a range of outputs, and so much more.
To run this controller with Serato DJ software, you’ll need to plug into your laptop or you can add external turntables if you prefer to actually spin. Quickly and easily switching between sources is one of the strengths of a unit like this so take advantage of all it has to offer.
If you want to use this controller without your laptop, you can, thanks to Engine, Denon’s music management software. You can make playlists and set up cues using the Engine software on your laptop then put them on you MCX8000 using a simple USB drive. This software is super easy to use and easily integrates into the controller itself. Don’t worry, if you already have a library in your Serato DJ software, you can easily migrate those playlists, too.
Engine allows you to sort music by beats per minute, album, key, artist, and title as well as an alphabet search so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. One thing you should know, though, is that USB music from Engine only works on 2 of the 4 channels.
The jog wheels are large and responsive with bright blue LEDs around the edges. They rotate when a track is playing with a mark for platter position but you can change this to have a more subtle display of only one light showing your position if you want to.
There’s a lot of amazing features, too, like key sync, beat sync, auto loop, manual loop, a needle drop strip, slip mode, and so much more. This is a great choice for mobile DJs because it’s built really solid and strong. It’s insanely versatile and will allow you to continue to grow and really change the game.
✓ Denon DJ MCX8000, See Best Price on Amazon.
There you have it! Honestly, no matter where you are in your DJ journey, there’s a controller that can help take you to the next level. I hope I helped you get a little closer to finding yours.