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Best dj controllers 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated July 1, 2020
Best dj controllers of 2018
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your comfort, style, or accessibility, we have picks to fit a variety of needs and budgets. There’s a product for every kind of user on the list of affordable options below. Come with me. There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 3 of the very best options.
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
Why did this dj controllers win the first place?
I was completely satisfied with the price. Its counterparts in this price range are way worse. The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.
Why did this dj controllers come in second place?
Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made.
Why did this dj controllers take third place?
This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. The material is incredibly nice to the touch. It has a great color, which will suit any wallpapers. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time.
dj controllers Buyer’s Guide
All-In-One DJ Controllers
In this article, we’re going to be focusing on all-in-one DJ controllers. That’s where all the components essential to DJing have been combined into a single unit; the two decks (i.e. turntables or CD/media players), a mixer to connect them, and a sound card. All-in-one DJ controllers are meant to work together with DJ software on your computer or laptop.
For these reasons, all-in-one DJ controllers have risen in popularity very quickly. They are more portable, more affordable, and simpler. Back in the day the only options for DJs was to lug around crates full of vinyl records. When CDJs came about, instead of vinyl, DJs just needed to carry their music collection around on CDs. Now even CDs are on their way out, and DJs prefer to keep all their tracks on ultra-portable USB sticks. This has resulted in the “CD” aspect of the CDJ to become largely useless. Pioneer has responded to this by making new media players (dubbed XDJ) which do away with a CD player entirely, and focus on playing media from USB sticks. With this shift to the digital world, it makes sense that the laptop (or even iPad or iPhone) becomes the center of a DJ setup. The all-in-one DJ controller then becomes a way to simply control the software, and retain that feel of having decks with jog wheels, and a mixer with faders and knobs.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol SDJ Controller
A friend of mine has this controller. Let me say, these things are pretty damn close to CDJs. They look and feel almost identical to them and have a really good DJ vibe. If you have the money, this would be a good purchase however I highly recommend the DDJ-RZX because they have Rekordbox compatibility so you can use your USBs with them just like CDJs.
Made by Native Instruments, Traktor Pro is one of the biggest players in the DJ world. They tightly integrate their DJ controllers with their own software, making for an awesome experience.
One of Traktors selling points is its Remix Deck concept, which lets you manipulate the component parts of the tracks by dicing, slicing and stretching the beats and melodies.
Native Instruments produce multiple Traktor based softwares ranging from beginner to pro. The pro grade versions are some of the most intricate softwares around and can get really complex. Traktor also has some of the best MIDI implementation in the game.
Any DJ controller can technically work and can be mapped out to use Traktor, but Native Instruments has done a great job with integrating their own controllers to use the software the way it was meant to. Precise jog wheel performance is a boasting feature, so DJs who plan to scratch might want to choose a Traktor controller.
Serato DJ Software
Many DJs feel that Serato focus on user friendliness a bit more. Serato works well with other 3rd party apps a bit better. A potential drawback to Serato is its inability to run in stand alone mode. You must be plugged into an interface or controller when you DJ.
Serato aims to cover all aspects of your performance. It has multicolored waveform editing that shows your EQ settings. Applying effects, triggering samples and making beats is enhanced with expansion packs.
Flips is a powerful expansion pack that makes beat editing better. The DVS pack gives you a more vinyl mixing and scratching feel. Great for users transitioning from turntables and mixer set up.
MIDI mapping is also straightforward with Serato. DJ Intro versions of the software are usually bundled with entry level with beginner DJ controllers and the full versions or bundled with high end DJ controllers.
Finding a DJ Controller right for you
This guide shows the best all in controllers on the market for each skill level. With each skill level, there is a different price bracket for each one. You can click the links below to jump to your skill level, or continue reading.
Reloop Mixon 4
The Reloop Mixon is one of the most versitile controllers we have come across. Plug this into your mac, pc or even your iPad and get in the mix right away. You can also use this controller with your choice of software. This is a channel mixer allowing you to get seriously creative.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5
The build quality will not be quite as high as the Pioneer options but this is a great bit of kit. If you are looking to save even more money, check out the options at checkout for the MixTrack Pro without the LED displays.
Native Instruments Traktor Pro 2
The top end of the digital DJ market is dominated by Native Instruments and Serato. Of the two brands’ applications, NI’s Traktor just about comes out top thanks to its endlessly flexible performance features and its all-round intuitiveness and reliability.
Magix Digital DJ 2
Digital DJ is effectively a cut down, entry-level version of Image-Line’s Deckadance. It’s relatively basic and light on advanced features, but it certainly gets the job done.
What’s more, the features it does pack are all of a high quality; its auto beat matching is excellent, the effects sound good and it includes a neat little sample player. It also supports a wide range of hardware controllers, which is a big plus.
Native Instruments Traktor DJ for iPad
Recently launched iOS app Traktor DJ is almost certainly the best of the ever-growing list of DJ tools on the App Store. It’s a stripped back version of its PC/Mac counterpart, offering two-channel mixing, basic effects and the best beat detection capabilities of any iPad app.
Pros: Dual USB ports (easy DJ switch-overs and B2B), DVS capability, key-matching controls and rugged metal construction makes this controller a high-value purchase.
Choose If: You want a premium Serato experience, especially for more than one DJ at a time.
The jog wheels are large and chunky.
Channel metering was added to the SB(and RB), having been notably absent from the original DDJ-SB.
Traktor Kontrol S(For: Traktor) Budget-friendly access to big Traktor power.
Pros: You can access all basic functions of Traktor in decks, and you even get great mobile support with Traktor DJ for iOS.
Often, modular controllers are used for adding functionality to an existing setup (rather than trying to piece together an all-in-one controller a la carte).
You can shop for modular DJ controllers in our online store.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol SMK2
Everybody talks about seamlessness when it comes to hardware/software integration, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than NI with the potent combo of killer TRAKTOR PRO software and the flagship SMkcontroller.
The package includes the full-blown version of Traktor Pro software along with a 4-deck controller that houses a powerful array of mixing functions and sound card. It integrates with your iOS devices and can run up to four virtual decks while Remix Decks can be triggered directly from Shardware.
A lot of attention has gone into the control surface. Newly upgraded faders and jog wheels have received high marks from early adopters and help blur the boundaries between DJing and musical performance.
Native Instruments TRAKTOR KONTROL FDJ Controller
If you can live without physical decks but want access to Kontrol’s ability to fire loops, one-shot samples and work flawlessly with other Traktor’s functions such as Remix Decks, the Traktor Kontrol Fcould be your entree into that world.
The Fworkflow is rooted in DJ culture. Remix Sets, made up of your individual loops and sounds, are loaded into Traktor Pro 2.software. Your drum loops, bass lines, percussion, vocals and lead sounds are ready for dropping into your performance wherever and whenever your heart desires.
Four volume faders and four filter knobs provide full sonic access to the Remix Deck slots. You can also route individual slots through Traktor’s FX units. Scratch your live production via Native Scratch timecode control and then mix and fade into a “traditional” track on another deck – fuse classic DJ workflow with the future of DJing.
Available only online, it gets high marks for functionality but the free “home version”currently will only work with your computer’s mouse and keyboard. Windows/Mac.
A Mac-only program, it has a beautiful interface and works well with iTunes libraries. There’s also an excellent iOS app version.
In the rapidly evolving world of DJ controllers, change and improvements are constant. In this guide we’ve highlighted some of the latest gear, but new controllers and apps turn up with increasing frequency as technology evolves. We recommend you put some some quality time into exploring the many online DJ and beat-production forums to stay current.
Checking out what gear/software other producers and DJs are using and what they’re doing with it is essential to building your skills. Most manufacturers’ websites include community sections where you’ll find fellow musicians talking about the latest technology and sharing techniques. Many include user libraries of sounds, instruments and mapping tools for working with various software/hardware combinations.
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Why DJs went digital
At one time DJs performed solely with two turntables and a mixer, whether they were spinning dance records or scratching vinyl hip-hop style. With the arrival of MP3s and CDs, many DJs switched to these newer formats due to their greater reliability, easy transport and music library management, plus potential for extensive control and music manipulation. DJ gear manufacturers quickly got in on the act producing players and controllers that exploited the ability to slice and dice beats and create jaw-dropping shows beyond the limits of vinyl.
Since their introduction, DJ controllers, mixers and interfaces have grown much more powerful. Today, DJ software is often tightly integrated with specific hardware. This makes configuring your controller’s settings much easier while allowing novices to create cool beats and seamless shows. In the next section we’ll look at three of today’s most popular DJ software platforms.
While a controller allows you to manipulate your software or app more fluidly, it’s the software itself that does all the cool stuff that has revolutionized the world of DJing. The software performs all the critical chores that help you manipulate your music files.
What DJ software and apps do
Software and apps designed for DJ use monitor all your mixing moves, apply the filters and effects you select, trigger samples, modify music waveforms and perform dozens of other cool tricks that in the old days would have been impossible or required external gear. Apart from basics like loading your music library into storage, DJ software provides the virtual transport controls for playback as well as creating the virtual decks on which you’ll be mixing.
In looking at software options you’ll find that many include the same or similar functions. In the end, how well those functions will work for you depend two factors: your comfort with the software’s user interface and how well your controller manages it.
Software-specific vs. software-versatile controllers
When it comes to selecting controllers, one of the biggest considerations is software compatibility. Some DJ controllers are designed to work with specific software products. If you are set on the software platform you want to use, these can be an excellent option as they integrate tightly with the software and often provide functionality that you won’t get with controllers designed for use with multiple software products. Since many functions are already “mapped,” (the process of assigning functions to various parts of the controller) software-specific controllers are usually easier and faster to configure.
The downside to software-specific controllers, however, is that they may not be so compatible with other programs. If it’s important to you that your controller be able to work with a wider range of software options, you will want to look at MIDI-compliant, software-agnostic controllers that you can use with many different software types.
Next we’ll look at three of the leading DJ software platforms and some of the controllers that run them to help you narrow down your choices.
Native Instruments Traktor
NI makes various TRAKTOR-based software, each aimed at different budgets and skill sets. A couple incorporate video capability. Advanced versions represent some of the deepest DJ software out there. But with that depth comes a steeper learning curve. TRAKTOR also boasts some of the strongest MIDI implementation in the business.
One of Traktor’s strengths is its Remix Deck concept—an environment in which you manipulate the component parts of the music, dicing, slicing, stretching beats and melodies then freestyling in playback. In this respect it will feel quite familiar to Ableton Loops users. Traktor offers a very customizable interface that can be readily configured to match your work style.
Theoretically, any software controller should be able to be mapped to operate Traktor, but many DJs find NI-made hardware has an edge over software-agnostic controllers. They point to more precise jog wheel performance as an example. For DJs who plan to scratch or have a background with vinyl, this is a big deal.
TRAKTOR KONTROL D- The compact DController is ideal for mobile DJ. Its touch-sensitive, control surface integrates with TRAKTOR PRO for hands-on performance needs. NI conceives of it as a performance instrument combined with a touch-and-seek controller for pro performances.
TRAKTOR KONTROL Z- The ZLightning Controller is intended for the DJ looking for an affordable and compact unit with which to run Traktor Kontrol while integrating an iPhone or iPad. Its simplified work surface provides control over volume, EQ, effects and filters. Adding the XController (see below) gives you advanced functions such as control over remix decks.
TRAKTOR KONTROL Z- Native Instruments has the club DJ firmly in mind with the ZController. Its 2-channel mixer format is designed to sit comfortably between CDJ players or turntables. It has an uncrowded control layout for error-free performance and excellent sound quality to match the best house PAs. In addition to Scratch Pro software, NI bundles timecode vinyl and CDs so you can spin digital files like they were real vinyl. A Macro FX function allows you to assign several effects to a single knob for massive track buildups, breakdowns and track destruction.
With its seamless TRAKTOR integration, the Native Instruments TRAKTOR KONTROL Zmakes a great club mixer used with turntables and DJ digital media players. Its roomy control surface helps prevent mid-performance goofs.
TRAKTOR KONTROL XMK- The XMKController is designed as an add-on to existing Traktor rigs. The Xcan be used to control two decks and Traktor FX units simultaneously. The MKupdate adds a touch strip giving you smoother more precise control over effects, filters and more. It’s a solid choice for DJs who have older gear but want to take full advantage of TRAKTOR PRO’s capabilities.
TRAKTOR Scratch A6 – The Scratch Asystem is intended for the no-holds-barred DJ who wants to access digital vinyl and CD scratching with four onboard track decks plus traditional DJ gear like turntables and phono preamps. It harnesses all the power of TRAKTOR PRO 2.software including Remix Deck capabilities, improved BPM detection technology and GB of fantastic loops and samples. The included 12-channel interface (In, out) has premium AD/DA converters, offering up to 96kHZ performance for superb sound and the included timecode CD and vinyl control discs have excellent tracking capability to support your scratching skills.
The consensus on Serato is that while it lacks the deep MIDI mapping capabilities of NI’s Traktor and Scratch, it’s a somewhat easier platform to master. Many also rate Serato highly for its natural performance feel, “fun” factor and highly intuitive interface. Some DJs find the ability to create beatgrids—beat markers to help the software lock into the tempo accurately—easier with Serato.
Another significant factor is the number of controller/interface manufacturers who support Serato software. You’ll find controllers in a range of prices from some of the biggest names in DJ hardware with capabilities that go from entry level to professional.
Serato DJ – The intention with Serato DJ is to give you a complete, single-box solution that covers every aspect of your DJ performance. Colored waveforms that reflect EQ settings give you a very visual way to reshape your sounds on the fly. Workflows are streamlined and extremely visual too. Applying effects, triggering samples and building beats is enhanced by Flip and DVS expansion packs. Flip gives you powerful beat editing and building functions while the DVS pack offers the feel of real vinyl-based mixing. A MIDI panel takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of your mapping workflows.
Serato DJ reveals its Serato Scratch Live heritage with its many features taken from that vinyl emulation program.. When Serato decided to roll Scratch features up into the newly expanded DJ/DVS platform, they made everything backwards-compatible so old Scratch libraries and songs are automatically read. Its also compatible with your collection of Serato control vinyl. Serato DJ is bundled with professional controllers.
Other software and controllers
So far we’ve looked at the big three software platforms that most DJs use: Traktor, Serato and Ableton Live as well as controllers specifically designed to work with them. However, there are many controllers that are software-agnostic—that is they can be readily configured to work with just about any software useful to DJs. Most come with templates for all the major DJ programs, which makes mapping the controller to the software simpler.
The Numark NS7III Controller combines an enormous number of functions, effects, and versatile channel control for amazing shows that draw on all your media libraries and scratching skills.
USB and wireless controllers
There are multiple ways to connect your DJ controller to your PC or mobile devices to interact with your software. A common connection type you will find on many of them is USB. You will find lots of options for USB-based controllers that interact with MIDI-based DJ software programs.
Another option is to ditch the wires completely. Although fewer models are available, you can find a selection of low-latency, wireless controllers that will allow you plenty of flexibility and freedom of movement. Some even include cutting-edge features like accelerometer-based MIDI controls that allow you to run your show using body movements and gestures.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on connecting external, MIDI-based hardware to your controller, you’ll want to have these connections available.
Check out the huge range of DJ controllers and interfaces at Musician’s Friend.
The iOS connection
With a growing number of killer DJ apps and compatible audio gear coming online, iOS has become an option for DJs. With the addition of a few crucial components, your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad can be transformed into a very affordable DJ rig. If you’re thinking about getting into DJing but aren’t quite sure, iOS is a good platform to test the waters. Learn much more with our iOS Gear for DJs Buying Guide and browse our full selection of iOS gear.
The vinyl option
While digital DJ tools offer greater ease of use and flexibility, many vinyl supporters argue this comes at the cost of inferior sound quality. Because digital audio essentially takes a snapshot when capturing analog sounds, it does not reproduce the complete sound waves, and some feel this reduces the music’s definition and impact.
There are also more subjective reasons some experienced DJs prefer vinyl. Many say that it allows more creativity and others will tell you it’s just plain sexier. Other DJs find vinyl’s somewhat more demanding approach both rewarding and way to give their sets more personality. Confirming this, many of the hottest club DJs incorporate real vinyl and turntables into their shows.
If you’re looking to grow your vinyl collection, check out our growing selection of vinyl albums across a variety of genres, including a fresh assortment of rap and hip hop pressings.
The Pioneer PLX-500 Turntableis a well-built, Direct Drive turntable that offers classic sound and performance at an attractive price.
For the old-school turntablist as well as newbies interested in exploring the world of real vinyl scratching, you’ll find a collection of turntables, plus phono cartridges and replacement styluses to match just about any budget and scratching style at Musician’s Friend.
The Shure M44-Competition DJ Cartridge has been the go-to cartridge for both scratch and mix DJs for decades.
Browse the complete Musician’s Friend selection of phono cartridges and needles.
When buying a digital player, be sure to check out the audio formats it supports; most newer players support MP3s and other compressed digital formats, but if you use less common lossless formats such as FLAC files, you’ll want to ensure the player can read them.Some advanced models that will even let you play audio from wireless sources r the ultimate versatility.
Common DJ media player features
Pioneer’s flagship CDJ-2000NXS2 offers an astounding level of performance controls and has a beautiful 7″ touchscreen for easy navigation and use.
Browse the complete Musician’s Friend selection of DJ CD, MPand Media Players.
Although many DJs now do their mixing on software-based controllers, some prefer the additional connectivity and more traditional worksurfaces found on DJ mixers. While DJ controller/interfaces have taken on mixer-like capabilities, mixers in turn have grown ever more compatible with DJ software. The latest generation of advanced mixers integrate with the major DJ programs.
One of the important differences among DJ mixers is the number of effects, inputs/outputs and channels they offer. For beginning DJs, a basic mixer with two or three channels and enough inputs for your turntables and/or media players will be adequate.
On the back panel of a DJ mixer, you’ll usually find RCA inputs to plug in turntables and aux inputs to plug in CD players. (If your turntables have built-in phono preamps, you can plug them into the aux inputs.) You’ll often find a 5-pin DIN connector to plug in the power cord, balanced outputs to send the sound to your amplifiers and a ground post to ground potentially harmful electricity and reduce hum.
There also may be insert points used to send and return the signal through external signal processors or effects. Some mixers have additional inputs and outputs; just be sure your mixer provides the number and type of connections (RCA, 1/4″ and XLR) you’ll need.
Other inputs include USB, MIDI, and FireWire for connecting digital devices such as laptop computers and MIDI-enabled controllers.
Some mixers offer kill switches that let you turn off the lows, mids or highs. You can pull them down to kill a frequency band momentarily and they’ll pop back on their own, or you can flip them up and the frequency band will remain off until you flip it down.
The hamster switch (usually found on scratch mixers) lets you reverse the crossfader positions so that you move the crossfader to the right to fade into channel and the left to fade into channel This feature allows DJs to scratch using the same motion regardless of which turntable is in use.
Mic input & talkover button
Most DJ mixers offer a mic input, which can come in handy even if you don’t have a microphone; it sounds funny, but in a pinch you can plug in your headphones and yell into the earpiece. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. Some mixers have a talkover button that lowers the level of the music while you’re talking and is often used by mobile DJs to announce tunes and direct the even.
Most mixers have BPM (beats per minute, or tempo) counters, which let you see at a glance if the BPM of your sound files match up in order to create smooth transitions.
The Pioneer DJM-S3 is a 2-channel mixer that’s ready for use with Serato DJ right out of the box.
It’s ultimately your speakers’ job to broadcast your sound to your audience. So clearly, it’s important to have a good set. Whether you need speakers as part of your DJ rig depends on the venues you play in. If you perform in clubs or other venues that have their own PA systems, you will likely simply plug directly into them. If, on the other hand, you perform at parties and places where there’s no sound system, you’ll need to have your own amplification system and speakers. In that case your best bet will be to go with powered PA speakers, which eliminate the need for a standalone amplifier.
Musician’s Friend carries a wide selection of speakers that will suit any setup. And if you need additional guidance finding a good set, you can check out the speaker section in our PA system buyer’s guide.
Remember to include speaker stands when figuring your budget. Elevating speakers is usually essential for projecting your music throughout the venue.
Browse the huge Musician’s Friend selection of powered PA speakers and subwoofers.
Browse the huge Musician’s Friend selection of non-powered passive PA speakers and subwoofers.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your dj controllers wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of dj controllers
- №1 — Pioneer DDJ-SB2 DJ Controller & Magma MGA47989 Control-Case XL w/ Pig Hog
- №2 — Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ Flagship Professional 4-channel Controller for rekordbox dj
- №3 — Numark Party Mix | Starter DJ Controller with Built-In Sound Card & Light Show