Best Beginner DJ Controllers 2018
So you wanna be a DJ, champ?
Firstly, this is great news, as jumping behind the 1’s and 2’s to play music you like, to people you like is very satisfying, and has never been easier to get into! There’s a huge range of DJ controllers and software available, all with the basic principles of getting from one track to the next. One of the first questions posed to us is: ‘Whats the best DJ controller for beginners?’ This article will help you navigate your way through the maze of software and hardware and hopefully give you a better idea of what suits your needs to get started on your DJ career!
Lets start with the Best Beginner DJ software
If I went on a wild Google hunt for all the different DJ softwares available right now, the list would be massive – well over a dozen options. However to keep this post away from the boring category I’ll keep it narrowed down to the most popular ones, which are the easiest to use with plenty of potential to expand as you develop your skill. All of the main DJ software companies offer demo versions or trial periods, so you can give them a whirl and try them out before making a purchase – I strongly advise you do this, as you’ll gravitate to one software or another just for the aesthetic or how you find the navigation/home screen etc. Another reason this is worth doing is to make sure your computer is compatible with the software, for example most DJ software doesn’t always play nicely with AMD processors. This is an important step in the ‘DJ purchase process, as the hardware (in this case the controllers) will have a strong link with particular software, for example a manufacturer may make a controller dedicated for software they make in-house that cant be used with other software. The three main DJ programs are: Serato’s DJ Pro, Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ and Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro 3.
Serato DJ Lite and DJ Pro
Serato DJ is an incredibly powerful DJ software, which started off life as Scratch Live; a system which allowed DJs to use their vinyl turntables or club CDJs to control their laptop. In it’s latest form, it now supports an extremely wide range of controllers from many of the top DJ hardware manufacturers. This is a massive plus, as you can progress from a controller costing as little as £59 up through to others with more and more features whilst retaining the same software. Cool eh! So look out for controllers with a little Serato icon for this software. Only gripe I can imagine people having with Serato is if a controller DOESN’T have this icon or Serato approval, then it won’t work. The upside to this is the ones that are ‘approved, certified or ready’ for Serato work flawlessley, every time. Most controllers under the £300 bracket come with Serato DJ Lite, and can be upgraded to Serato DJ Pro once you’ve got to grips with the setup. Fear not, this is a one-time license purchase and you can use it with all other Serato DJ controllers.
Best DJ controllers for beginners with Serato compatibility
This dinky controller from Numark is the cheapest Serato controller around – read more about it in one of my previous posts here. In a nutshell, its a compact unit designed to fit on top of your laptop trackpad. Used by many DJs to prepare DJ sets or travel and do house parties with, too!
There have been 2 previous versions of this popular controller from Pioneer and this third version is awesome; with club CDJ like buttons and plenty of controls over FX, EQ and samples make this an excellent contender for the best DJ controller for beginners.
Numark also brings the largest controller to this lineup of beginner DJ controllers; its wide format has meant feels pro without being cluttered. The Mixtrack Pro 3 has long pitch faders, allowing for an accurate mix as well as touch strips which can be used for FX or scanning through tracks with ease.
Pioneer Rekordbox DJ
The newest software to take the DJ world by storm, Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ began as a virtual record box (hence the name, duh) allowing you to prep, analyse and sort your music before loading up a USB stick and playing on CDJ900 or CDJ2000 media players. Since it’s creation in 2009 the software has grown bigger, faster, stronger and more capable than ever, especially after the ‘DJ controller’ side being included into the software in 2015. Why is the software awesome? Well, Pioneer DJ is the biggest DJ brand in the world which hosts many other features you may later learn and find useful, such as Karaoke song playback, lighting control (via RBDMX) and video compatibility. Usually, a full version of Rekordbox DJ would set you back £99 if you purchased the software on its own….. BUT: all Pioneer Rekordbox DJ controllers include this, for free! Considering the cheapest controller is £249 (read below about the DDJ-400), you get great value for money for both a great controller and a powerful piece of DJ software.
Best DJ Controller for beginners with Rekordbox DJ
Pioneer’s ‘beginner’ DJ controller comes with a full version of their Rekordbox DJ software, worth £99 which also contains a series of tutorials, videos and tips to help you get started. The layout of the DDJ-400 is similar to the club standard CDJ2000NXS-DJM900NXS setup amongst other controllers (like DDJ-1000), meaning you don’t have to re-learn where controls are if you move up to bigger kit, too.
The DDJ-WEGO-4 is Pioneer’s most compact DJ controller and includes a full version of Rekordbox DJ software as mentioned above. It’s funky design is influenced by the DJAY iPad app as well as Pioneer’s own iPad app WeDJ. So if you’re looking to use ansasdfgz`z iPad in the mix instead of a laptop, this is a contender that you could chuck into your rucksack and go.
Native Instruments Traktor Pro
Traktor Pro is now in its 18th year and famous for developing the super popular ‘Final Scratch’ DVS system. Since Stanton discontinued their hardware Traktor took this over and used the technology within their own platform. Native Instruments now make their own hardware to use alongside Traktor, meaning the controllers will work natively (pardon the pun) with the software, resulting in a more fluid DJ experience. Expect to see Native Instruments’ Traktor software being used by DJs who like to push the technical envelope, as Traktor is flexible to how you want to play. Theres plenty of options including mapping any midi controller to the software, as well as adjusting and customising everything you see on the screen. One of the latest developments with Traktor 3 mean you can now use any mixer with a USB sound card to work with Traktor, giving great long-term flexibility and freedom.
Traktor’s best DJ controller for beginners
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Native Instruments have literally smashed it with the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3. Like the Pioneer, the Traktor controller is made by the company who makes the software resulting in a harmonious user experience. Its matte finish and large jog wheels make it easy to use. Oh and by the way: its iOS enabled, so it’ll work with the Traktor DJ app for iPad and iPhone etc.
Best DJ Controller for Beginners
There is a huge range of DJ controllers you could kick start your DJ career with, theres no doubt about it. However lets set some boundaries and some stipulations for the best DJ controller for beginners:
- Must be under £300
- Must include DJ software to get started
- Must have a sound card, so you can connect headphones for pre-listening and an output to speakers
- Relatively compact and easy to transport/store(or hide!)
- Easy to use with plenty of features, so its not intimidating or boring
We have compiled a comparison table below, where we have compared the main elements and specifications side by side.
|Numark DJ2GO2||Pioneer DDJ-400||Pioneer DDJ-SB3||Traktor S2mk3||Pioneer DDJ-wego-4|
|Included Software||Serato DJ Lite||Rekordbox DJ||Serato DJ Lite||Traktor Pro 3||Rekordbox DJ|
|Jog Wheel Size||111.6mm||111.6mm||139.7mm||109mm|
|Number of Pads||8||16||16||16||8|
|Music Streaming?||Tidal, Mixcloud||No||Tidal, Mixcloud||No||Spotify*|
|* Requires DJay app|
Beginner DJ controller with streaming
In the past couple of years, music subscription services have become increasingly popular amongst consumers and music lovers – the wide range of music on tap and the ability to browse the latest sounds as well as the vast back catalogue within. With this in mind, the boffins at Serato HQ have managed to integrate TIDAL and Soundcloud into their software – so if you have a paid subscription to either of these services the music can be played within Serato DJ Pro and Serato DJ Lite. There is another way to play from a streaming service – DJAY. This software by Algoriddim doesn’t come bundled in any controller boxes but there is a vast selection of controllers that would work straight out of the box – including some of the controllers mentioned above. DJAY links with Spotify, so if you have a paid subscription to Spotify and the full version of DJAY (DJAY Pro) you can link these together.
A summary: what makes the best DJ controller for beginners?
Well as you’ve probably noticed by now there are a multiple of answers to this question, as different controllers contain varying physical features whilst software vary in their style and feature set. For example, a larger controller will feel more pro, with more space to include larger jog wheels and longer pitch faders offering more control when blending tracks together. Other controllers will only work with a particular software so you its worth getting to know the full hardware lineup before choosing which software to use. At their core, they all do a similar job and it’s up to you to decide which additional benefits you’d like to get started with.
I hope you’ve found this guide useful. Any questions? Get in touch with a member of staff at one of our stores, or leave a comment below. Happy spinnin’!