September 2016 update! Now contains the latest and greatest recommendations, much cleaner styling, and an updated audio version!

In the past few years, the market has exploded with a plethora of great choices for the DJ searching for a dedicated, all-in-one controller. This article is meant to help you find the best DJ controller for your needs.

For those who prefer to listen instead of read, here’s the audio version of this guide:

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Deciding on hardware can range from mildly difficult to fairly stressful. What controllers work best with my choice of software? How do their features differ? What should I look for in a controller?

In this guide, I have done the preliminary research for you so that you can make an informed decision before pulling the trigger. However, in the end, this guide is based around my own opinion. Individual needs vary.

Discover The Best DJ Controller For You

Below are a series of “top lists”, which contain information on the top DJ controllers.

The lists are in no order, and the choices are based on a number of criteria and various sources. My personal experience, Amazon ratings, external reviews, and pure fact comparison all played a role in deciding which controllers to include.

Below each listing, you will see the original advertised price, as specified by the manufacturer. However, click View Current Price to see what retailers actually sell the controller for (typically, way cheaper).

So, don’t skip a controller based on its price, without checking the street price first!

I’ve also added an introductory video for each controller, so that you can get an idea of how it works by watching it in action. Click on any of the pictures for a close-up view.

A Note About Software…

Part of your decision is going to be based on the DJ software you prefer to use. If this is your first time DJing digitally, you may not be sure which you prefer.

Deciding on software is outside the scope of this article. I added controllers to these lists based on the quality and design of the hardware, as well as the integration with its intended software.

Most controllers are MIDI assignable, which means they can be manually set up to work with most DJ software. However, you may miss out on certain features if you use it with unintended software. Traktor often feels notoriously “spongey” when using a third-party controller in MIDI mode.

While there are many great software options for DJs these days, the pro market is dominated by Traktor Pro 2 and Serato DJ (in addition to Pioneer CDJ/Rekordbox users). Therefore, I focus primarily on these platforms for the premium and mid-range controllers.

Premium DJ Controllers (Top 5)bcyEGAqqi copy

Price range: $1000 (USD) and above

These controllers are the cream of the crop when it comes to full, in-the-box DJ solutions. They are professional grade, have a high level of hardware/software integration, and are feature-rich. They also come with a premium price tag!

Due to expense, these full DJ mixing stations are geared towards the club DJ on the go, the performer who is interested in taking advantage of the live/remix elements of the included software, or the serious hobbyist willing to make an investment in their digital DJing habit. For many, they might be categorized as overkill.

In the premium lineup, you can’t really go wrong. It all comes down to a matter of what DJ software you want to control, the amount you’re willing to spend, and personal preference.

Pioneer's DDJ-RZX is the best DJ controller around from the hardware giant.Pioneer DDJ-RZX

Like a (slightly?) cheaper Pioneer CDJ and DJM setup, plus Rekordbox video.

Advertised price: $2997 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Rekordbox DJ + Video Plus Pack + DVS Pack

  • Pros: The most feature-lade pro controller in existence, enables video mixing.
  • Cons: Although successfully mimicking a CDJ setup, it still requires a laptop. Expensive.
  • Choose If: You want top quality; video mixing is important to you.

Read Pioneer DDJ-RZX Reviews

The S8 might be the best DJ controller around for Traktor users.

Traktor Kontrol S8

Highly integrated flagship controller, mixer, & audio interface from NI.

Advertised price: $1199 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Traktor Pro

  • Pros: Very “smart” controller, best Traktor integration in existence, built-in screens (close the laptop), timecode enabled.
  • Cons: Some may miss the jog wheels.
  • Choose If: You want the laptop out of your face, you are “all-in” on Traktor, you need flexible standalone options.

Read Kontrol S8 Reviews | Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide

Numark's NS7III is one of the best DJ controllers around from a "third party".Numark NS7III

Numark’s beastly flagship features real rotating vinyl, slipmats, and color screens.

Advertised price: $1499 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

  • Pros: Motorized platters and 7″ vinyl platters feel like playing records, feature-packed, fun.
  • Cons: Huge, heavy, no hardware filters (for standalone), imperfect screens.
  • Choose If: You love the feel of mixing records, but the convenience of an all-around digital setup over DVS.

Read Numark NS7III Reviews

Pioneer DDJ-RZ: Rekordbox version of the DDJ-SZPioneer DDJ-SZ and DDJ-RZ *

Top-tier Serato and Rekordbox controllers, for fans of the CDJ workflow.

Advertised price: $1997 (Current Price for SZ) (for RZ)
Bundled software: Serato DJ or Rekordbox DJ

  • Pros: Pro-grade quality, closely emulates Pioneer CDJ workflow. Dual USB is awesome. Great performance pads.
  • Cons: Prohibitively expensive for many, large.
  • Choose If: You want a club-standard feel,  you want high-quality pads, you want the best screenless Pioneer controller available.

Read Pioneer DDJ-SZ Reviews | Read Pioneer DDJ-RZ Reviews

Pioneer DDJ-SX2: Serato DJ ControllerPioneer DDJ-SX2 and DDJ-RX *

Pioneer’s revisions of the well-received SX bring new features to the table.

Advertised price: $1199 (Current Price for SX2) (for RX)
Bundled software: Serato DJ or Rekordbox DJ

  • Pros: Inherits high-quality pads and digital cue display from SZ, quality build, CDJ feel.
  • Cons: Bulky, though smaller than SZ; no DVS support (without $99 upgrade).
  • Choose If: You want fantastic in-the-box control, and a pro-grade feel, but a more reachable price than SZ.

Read Pioneer DDJ-SX2 Reviews | Read Pioneer DDJ-RX Reviews

* Why Are These Listed Together?

Initially, Pioneer was primarily focusing on designing controllers for the Serato platform (such as the DDJ-SX, now known as the DDJ-SX2). Lately, Pioneer has been repurposing slightly modified versions of these controllers (the “R” equivalent, such as the DDJ-RX) meant for Rekordbox DJ. Since they are functionally similar devices, it did not make sense to separate them. Confusingly, the “S” versions can also be used with Rekordbox DJ, but not the other way around.

Help Me Decide…

For the Pioneer fan who wants to use the Rekordbox system, or anyone wanting to also mix video, the DDJ-RZX is truly a killer piece of hardware and one of the best DJ controllers ever made. It mimics a standard CDJ/DJM setup, includes DVS and video mixing support, and exhibits the professional quality that we’ve come to expect from Pioneer DJ. The screens and interface are all very smart, providing you with lovely parallel waveforms and allowing you to push the laptop to the side. Frustratingly, that laptop is still a requirement.

For Traktor, the S8 is hands-down the most fully-featured and well-integrated controller currently available. This happens to be my current “weapon of choice”. The touch-sensitive knobs, high-quality onboard screens, and smart UI design make for a pleasant experience. However, you have to be willing to give up jog wheels… something that hasn’t bothered me, personally (though I love using it between my turntables with timecode records!)

If you’d like to know more about the entire lineup of Traktor controllers, check out The Unofficial Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide.

The NS7III is great for those DJs who want the feel of vinyl, but the convenience of digital. The motorized platters are tension-adjustable and you can even switch between 33 and 45 RPM modes. Like all others in this section, the NS7III works with external inputs as a mixer. Unfortunately, the filters don’t function in that mode. Also, the screens are detachable, which does add an extra setup and teardown step, as well as a potential point of failure.

Pioneer changed the game with the Serato-based DDJ-SZ (and now its sister Rekordbox controller, the DDJ-RZ). This is one of the best CDJ-like experiences available without actually using them: the jog wheels are top quality, the workflow translates to an industry-standard setup, and is Pioneer’s premium screenless option. They are also immediately DVS-capable.

For a very similar feel and approach, with a less astronomical price, the DDJ-SX2 for Serato (or the Rekordbox equivalent DDJ-RX) is the ticket.

Choose the RZX if you want to do video and you want the “best” controller available, the S8 if you prefer Traktor, the DDJ-SX2/RX for the best bang for the buck in the Premium market, or the DDJ-SZ/RZ if you really wish you had CDJ 2000s and a 900Nexus mixer.

The Pioneer DDJ-RZX is a sight to behold.

The Pioneer DDJ-RZX is a sight to behold.


Midrange DJ Controllers (Top 5)bcyEGAqqi

Price range: $500 – $1000

“Bang for buck” is basically what digital DJing is all about, and this range of controllers makes for a perfect demonstration of this.

These controllers sit between the mid-and-upper-hundreds price range. While they are perhaps not as feature-rich as some of the premium options, today’s midrange controllers are very club-oriented and complete. These devices provide everything you need to DJ digitally.

Essentially, these would have been premium controllers only a few years ago, so don’t be afraid to explore this range! These are all great options for the serious, but budget-minded, digital DJ.

Numark's NV2 may be the best controller for DJs wanting screens without breaking the bank.Numark NVII

Numark’s NV was the first one with screens. Version 2 brings welcome changes and tweaks.

Advertised price: $699 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

  • Pros: Built-in screens, incredible value, slim design.
  • Cons: No standalone mode, smaller pads. Screens not as high-quality as NI controllers.
  • Choose If: You want to use Serato, and you don’t want to stare at your laptop.

Read Numark NVII Reviews

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S5 - Best midrange DJ Controller for Traktor Pro 2Traktor Kontrol S5

The S8’s younger sibling is a fantastic value for Traktor fiends.

Advertised price: $799 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Traktor Pro 2

  • Pros: Portable design, inherits smart interface from S8, full Traktor access.
  • Cons: No standalone mixing of external sources (no DVS), no jog wheels.
  • Choose If: You want a full, all-digital Traktor experience and thoughtful design queues.

Read Kontrol S5 Reviews | Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide

Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2

The enhanced and updated version of NI’s iconic classic.

Advertised price: $599 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Traktor Pro 2

  • Pros: Ergonomically pleasing, great Traktor integration, iOS support.
  • Cons: No standalone mode, few customization options.
  • Choose If: You’re a 4-channel Traktor user, but prefer jog wheels over onboard screens.

Read Kontrol S4 Reviews | Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide

Pioneer DDJ-SR: Midrange DJ ControllerPioneer DDJ-SR

Pioneer DDJ series’ quality, in an affordable 2-channel version.

Advertised price: $699 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

  • Pros: Fully USB powered, very portable, professional look and feel.
  • Cons: Missing standalone mode and RGB pads from upper-tier DDJ units.
  • Choose If: You want a truly portable Serato setup which looks and feels right at home in any professional DJ system.

Read DDJ-SR Reviews

Terminal Mix 8 by ReloopReloop Terminal Mix 8

Top-notch Serato control, at a surprisingly competitive price.

Advertised price: $699 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

  • Pros: Great quality, solid controls, large jog wheels, full Serato DJ included.
  • Cons: No dedicated “Master Out” or 3/4 channel meters, no inputs for decks for standalone/DVS.
  • Choose If: You only plan on mixing “in the box” with Serato, and you want one of the best dedicated controllers for that task.

Read Reloop TM8 Reviews

Help Me Decide…

This may be the most difficult price range to make a decision about, because it’s a very competitive market (which is good for you, the consumer).

The Numark NV was the first controller to include onboard screens. This second revision improves on the original with some nice details, such as smart touch-capacitive jog wheels which “learn” your style. While not as tight and fully-featured as the S8, this is still an awesome option for Serato DJs that don’t want their laptop front-and-center (and at a great price).

One cannot deny the value of the Traktor Kontrol S5 for users who don’t require the ability to mix external sources. It’s basically an S8, with slightly less control over Remix Decks and the loss of DVS support. Everything else is the premium experience that you get out of its more expensive sibling.

I’ve had a long love-affair with the Kontrol S4 ever since the original was released in 2011, and the MK2 version makes a few modest improvements to this now-iconic controller. The MK2 features tight software integration, basic support of Remix Decks and Flux Mode, and complete iOS compatibility (for Traktor DJ).

If you’d like to know more about the entire lineup of Traktor controllers, check out The Unofficial Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide.

Pioneer fans will want to give a serious look to the DDJ-SR, which inherits many features from its bigger brothers at an attractive price point. While it does scrap a few features (RGB backlighting, for example) to make the price cut, it’s still much like mixing on something like a DDJ-SX2. The fact that it’s entirely USB-powered makes for great portability and ease of setup.

Make sure you check out this video for the very impressive Reloop Terminal Mix 8, as I will give you my overall opinion on this controller in my own voice. Overall, it’s a very solid (feels like a tank) and very pretty controller that is a pleasure to mix on. Its one of those pieces of hardware that feels more expensive than it really is.

Traktor users should choose the S5 if they prefer screens or the S4 if they prefer jog wheels. Serato users should choose the NV2 if they want onboard screens, the SR if they prefer to stick with Pioneer gear, or the TM8 as a beautiful alternative for all-digital DJs.

Terminal Mix 8 by Reloop

Budget DJ Controllers (Top 5)bcyEGAqqi copy 2

Price range: Under $500

These entry-level controllers are great for new DJs wanting to get their feet wet without making a huge investment. Furthermore, they are well suited to seasoned DJs wanting a backup, or a hyper-portable solution for small house parties and such.

While you won’t find the same extremely sturdy construction of the professional grade gear, the market has matured to the point where you can now get affordable controllers that don’t feel like plastic toys. I took build quality into consideration when adding controllers to this list.

If you’re a beginner DJ, you’re on a strict budget, a casual hobbyist, you primarily play another media format, or you simply want the best bang-for-your-buck… these could be the digital mixing devices for you.

While none of these controllers should be considered pro gear, these are all very price-conscious ways to either try your hand at DJing, or to act as an add-on for the vinyl DJ who needs to play the occasional digital track. People a little more serious about mixing digitally (or anyone wanting more than two channels) may want to opt for a midrange option.

Numark Mixtrack PlatinumNumark MixTrack Platinum

Numark’s extremely popular budget offering gets a techy upgrade.

Advertised price: $299 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

  • Pros: Very spacious, long-throw pitch controls, touch strips, terrific visual BPM feedback.
  • Cons: Annoying loop functionality, so-so pads.
  • Choose If: You have “fat fingers”, you want to learn manual beatmatching, you like chunky jog wheels.

Read MixTrack Pro III Reviews

Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3

Compact controller with sleek design and versatile software support.

Advertised price: $359 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro/Algoriddim Djay 2

  • Pros: Small footprint, great software support, iOS compatible, clean design.
  • Cons: Unorthodox layout may require adjustment, a bit “toy”-ish, tiny pitch faders.
  • Choose If: You aren’t sure which software platform you want to try, or you want a lot of functions in a tiny space.

Read DDJ-WeGO3 Reviews

beatmix4Reloop BEATMIX4

An ergonomic and clean layout with well-sized jog wheels.

Advertised price: $299 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

  • Pros: Large/sturdy jog wheels, build quality, well designed. Full four-deck control.
  • Cons: No LED meters.
  • Choose If: You want high build quality on a budget.

Read BEATMIX4 Reviews

Traktor Kontrol S2 by Native InstrumentsTraktor Kontrol S2 (MK2)

Budget-friendly access to big Traktor power.

Advertised price: $399 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Traktor Pro 2

  • Pros: Access all basic functions of Traktor in 2 decks, great mobile support with Traktor DJ.
  • Cons: “Booth output” is half-assed.
  • Choose If: You’re an iOS DJ, you’re a Traktor user who prioritizes portability.

Read Kontrol S2 Reviews

Pioneer DDJ-SB2Pioneer DDJ-SB2

A smart budget choice, with similar look and feel to its bigger brothers.

Advertised price: $299 (View Current Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

  • Pros: Jogwheel tension feels like CDJs, more professional looking than many budget controllers.
  • Cons: Limited FX controls.
  • Choose If: You like the “Pioneer style” of design/feedback, you want to try scratching.

Read DDJ-SB2 Reviews

Help Me Decide…

First of all, you’ll notice that these options ship with “lite” software (S2 excluded). These controllers will be limited without a paid upgrade. But, they are fully capable and functional devices in their own right.

Numark has been a noteworthy player in the budget range of controllers for many years, and the Mixtrack Platinum is a continuation of that legacy. It has individual channel metering, nice chunky jog wheels, and even touch strips like more expensive controllers… though its pads leave something to be desired. This spin on the ever-popular Mixtrack III adds visual BPM feedback straight to the unit – a nice touch, to be sure.

The obvious choice for Traktor in this range is the popular Kontrol S2. Not only does it ship with the full version of Traktor Pro 2, but it’s perfectly suited for iPad DJing with Traktor DJ. It even allows you to access Remix Decks on a third channel. The S2 is a proven performer in booths across the world.

If you’d like to know more about the entire lineup of Traktor controllers, check out The Unofficial Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide.

Pioneer gets yet another spot with the DDJ-SB2. Its pro appearance and CDJ-like performance gives it plenty of bonus points, and also happens to be great for DJs wanting to give scratching on a controller a go. Give it a serious look… the SB2 is one of the top selling controllers in the overall market.

In addition to this, we have the DDJ-WeGo3… a slightly different approach with much of the same functionality. The SB feels a little more “pro” to me, but some users may prefer the WeGo’s unique layout. The WeGo also supports iPad DJing via Algorridim’s Djay software.

Finally, Reloop returns with the terrific BEATMIX4. Massive jog wheels, sturdy pads, clean design, and sturdy build quality make this a solid choice for any digital DJ.

Numark Mixtrack Platinum DJ Controller

Mixtrack Platinum features onboard visual feedback.

Modular Solutions

So far, we’ve discussed all-in-one solutions. But what if you want to put together a setup piecemeal? This is where modular controllers come in.

While complete solutions are great, many people like the flexibility provided by a modular setup. This allows you to buy different “sections” at a time (such as a mixing controller vs. a deck controller).

For example, two Traktor Kontrol D2 controllers + a Kontrol Z2 mixer makes for a great all-around setup:

Modularly speaking, the Kontrol D2 is one of the best DJ controllers for Traktor available.

Check out The Unofficial Traktor Kontrol Mega-Guide for more information on Traktor components.

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).

For example, at gigs around town, I often play on Pioneer CDJs (in HID mode with Traktor, which is like using them as controllers). In these cases, I bring a Kontrol X1 with me. This allows me to handle Traktor’s FX section (and other basic functions) while using a traditional hardware mixer.

Sometimes, companies will release a controller specifically for some new DJ software functionality. For example, controlling Remix Decks with the Traktor Kontrol F1… or adding pads and Serato Flip functionality to your setup with Reloop’s Neon:


Tips for Choosing the Right Controller

There are a lot of things to take into account when trying to decide on which digital DJ system is right for you… not the least of which is your budget consideration. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your money.

  • Many controllers, especially in the budget range, come bundled with “lite” versions of the software. These are somewhat neutered versions of their big-brother programs, but should work right out of the box with the controller in question. Because of this, you may need to upgrade to a higher version of the software in order to enable certain features (such as 4-deck mixing).
  • If you’re into scratching (or want to learn), I recommend staying away from the budget line of controllers entirely.  Just because you’re looking at a “scratching controller”, it doesn’t mean it’s really any good at it.  Lower-end controllers often don’t have the same quality of jog wheels that will be desired when scratching.
  • Be aware that all of these controllers send MIDI data. Just because a piece of hardware ships with a particular software package, doesn’t mean that it can’t be used with other programs. However, it may not work as well, or with as many advanced features. Any of these controllers and their basic functions can be reassigned to control parts of any standard DJ software package.
  • Pay close attention to your connectivity options. How will you be hearing sound? You’ve gotta get that signal to some speakers, after all! Will you connect directly to some powered speakers? Or will you be connecting to a separate hardware mixer as part of a larger setup?
  • Another big thing to ask yourself is how much time you plan on (or hope) to spend on DJing live. If you are a professional club DJ who mixes digitally, be willing to make an investment to your craft and try to go with a higher-end setup that meets your needs and caters to your software of choice.
  • Mobile DJs running a business should also be willing to make an investment. Premium or mid-level setups are great for wedding/corporate/graduation party type DJs. They are comprehensive and compact, and provide everything you need in one portable package.
  • Bedroom/hobbyist DJs can pretty much pick whatever makes them happy, depending on how much money they want to invest.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this guide, and I hope that it has been a great resource for you!

What To Do Next

Whether you’re an aspiring DJ looking for your first setup, or a seasoned DJ looking to upgrade, I’d like to invite you to check out my weekly talk show: The Passionate DJ Podcast.

Within, you can find inspiring interviews, stories, tips, and inspiration in order to become a better DJ through passion and purpose.

Subscribe now via iTunes or SoundCloud, and never miss an episode!