Discover the Best DJ Controller for You

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.

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. There are many great options out there these days, and you should take your personal needs and preferences into consideration before taking my word for it.

I’d also like to invite you to listen to my weekly talk show: The Passionate DJ Podcast. Featuring exclusive interviews, tips, stories, entertainment, and inspiration for DJs… it is the first (and only) show of its kind. We would love for you to join us in our journey to become better DJs through passion and purpose.

If you aren’t sure where to start, episode 20 is a direct audio companion to the guide you’re reading right now.

🔥 Never miss an episode: subscribe on SoundCloud or iTunes!


Using This Guide

How to find a controller that fits your needs!

Below, you will find a series of “top lists” which contain information on the top DJ controllers (sometimes called “MIDI controllers”, though that’s not always the case).

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 street price to see what retailers are actually selling the controller for (typically, way cheaper).

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.

traktor51599A 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 All-in-One 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!

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.

s8imgTraktor Kontrol S8

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

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

See Video

  • 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

ns7Numark NS7II 

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

Advertised price: $1599 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

See Video

  • Pros: Motorized platters and 7″ vinyl platters feel like playing records, feature-packed, fun.
  • Cons: Huge, heavy, no hardware filters (for standalone)
  • Choose If: You love the feel of mixing records, but the convenience of an all-around digital setup.
  • Read Numark NS7II Reviews

ddj-szPioneer DDJ-SZ

Everything CDJ fans want from an all-in-one controller.

Advertised price: $2399 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

See Video

  • Pros: Most fully-featured Serato controller in existence, pro-grade quality, closely emulates Pioneer CDJ workflow. Dual USB is awesome. Great performance pads.
  • Cons: Prohibitively expensive for many, large, no Rekordbox functionality
  • Choose If: You want a club-standard feel, you want the best option offered for Serato, you want high-quality pads.
  • Read Pioneer DDJ-SZ Reviews

sx2Pioneer DDJ-SX2

Pioneer’s second revision of the well-received SX brings new features to the table.

Advertised price: $1199 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

See Video

  • Pros: Inherits high-quality pads and digital cue display from SZ, quality build, CDJ feel.
  • Cons: Bulky, no DVS support (without $99 upgrade).
  • Choose If: You want fantastic Serato control, and a similar feel to the top-notch SZ, but a more reachable price.
  • Read Pioneer DDJ-SX2 Reviews

xdjPioneer XDJ-R1

True laptop-ditching power with lots of options.

Advertised price: $1099 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software:

See Video

  • Pros: Standalone device in every way (mix from CD, USB stick, Rekordbox, or use as a controller), iOS control adds functionality.
  • Cons: Even though it functions as a standalone device, its functionality is limited when not controlling software.
  • Choose If: You are a mobile DJ and want lots of playback options, you only need two channels.
  • Read Pioneer XDJ-R1 Reviews

Help Me Decide…

For Traktor, the S8 is hands-down the most fully-featured and well-integrated controller currently available. 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!)

The NS7II is great for those DJs who want the feel of vinyl, but the convenience of digital. The platters are tension-adjustable and you can even switch between 33 and 45 RPM modes. Like all others in this section, the NS7II works standalone. Unfortunately, the filters don’t.

Pioneer holds the remaining 3 entries. The DDJ-SZ might just be the best DJ controller ever made, overall. It’s certainly the priciest.

However, it’s still cheaper than the CDJ/Pioneer mixer combo it seeks to emulate. For a similar feel and approach, with a less astronomical price, the SX2 is the ticket. Two great options for Serato users.

The XDJ-R1 is the oddball of the list. It’s the only two-channel entry, and doesn’t rely on software whatsoever. This is a great option for mobile DJs needing lots of options. It also provides control functionality via a wireless iOS device. These can be found for around 900 bucks, so overall, it’s a pretty good value.

Choose the XDJ for options, the NS7II for a vinyl “feel”, the S8 if you prefer Traktor, the SX2 for the best fully-featured Serato controller for its price, or the DDJ-SZ if you really wish you had CDJ 2000s and a 900Nexus mixer.

Pioneer's DDJ-SZ, also available in blingy gold finish.

Pioneer’s DDJ-SZ, also available in blingy gold finish.

Mid-level All-in-One DJ Controllers (Top 5)


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.

mc6000Denon DJ MC6000MK2

Denon’s well-built controller crams in loads of features.

Advertised price: $899 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

See Video

  • Pros: Compact and mobile, rugged, high quality.
  • Cons: Need to add $129 (full Serato DJ) for full use, cramped design, no pads.
  • Choose If: You want a fully-functional Serato controller (with software upgrade) with a small footprint.
  • Read Denon DJ MC6000MK2 Reviews

s4Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2

The enhanced and updated version of NI’s iconic Traktor controller.

Advertised price: $899 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Traktor Pro 2

See Video

  • Pros: Ergonomically pleasing, great Traktor integration, iOS support.
  • Cons: No standalone mode, few customization options.
  • Choose If: You’re a mobile Traktor user who needs 4 channels, but doesn’t want/need the features or expense of the S8.
  • Read Kontrol S4 Reviews

ddjsrPioneer DDJ-SR

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

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

See Video

  • 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

tm8Reloop Terminal Mix 8

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

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

See Video

  • 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

nvNumark NV

Numark’s NV was the first one with screens (and still the only one for Serato).

Advertised price: $799 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ

See Video

  • Pros: Built-in screens, incredible value, slim.
  • Cons: No standalone mode, smaller pads.
  • Choose If: You want to use Serato, and you don’t want to stare at your laptop.
  • Read Numark NV 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, and as of the time of this writing, is still the only one in existence for Serato. 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).

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

The Denon MC6000MK2 is a lot of power in a modest footprint, and is a great option for digital DJs wanting a lot for their hard-earned dollar. However, it’s worth noting that unlike other controllers at this price point, it ships with “lite” software (Serato DJ Intro). In order to get the full experience, spring for the $129 software upgrade.

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 watch the above 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.

Serato users are swimming with options at this price point, where the decision is easier for those that prefer Traktor. Similar to the way Apple products work, Native Instruments software works optimally with Native Instruments hardware.


The pleasing aesthetics of Reloop’s TM8

Budget All-in-One 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. They are also 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.

mt3Numark MixTrack Pro III

Numark’s popular budget controller has a lot to offer.

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

See Video

  • Pros: Very spacious, long-throw pitch controls, touch strips, channel metering.
  • 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

wegoPioneer DDJ-WeGO3

Compact controller with sleek design and versatile software support.

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

See Video

  • 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

beatmixReloop BEATMIX2

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

Advertised price: $399 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

See Video

  • Pros: Large/sturdy jog wheels, build quality, well designed.
  • Cons: No LED meters.
  • Choose If: You want high build quality on a budget.
  • Read BEATMIX2 Reviews

g2vGemini G2V

Lots of value for the money.

Advertised price: $479 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Virtual DJ LE

See Video

  • Pros: Connectivity options (I/O), build quality, channel metering.
  • Cons: “Clicky” buttons, heavy.
  • Choose If: You prefer Virtual DJ, you want lots of inputs & outputs.
  • Read Gemini G2V Reviews

ddjsbPioneer DDJ-SB

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

Advertised price: $399 (View Current Street Price)
Bundled software: Serato DJ Intro

See Video

  • 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-SB Reviews

Help Me Decide…

You’ll notice that all 5 of these options ship with “lite” software, so these controllers will be limited to the functions of the programs they are working with unless you pay to upgrade. In general, however, they are enough to get the job done as-is.

The Gemini G2V is a surprising entry to the list, both because it’s the only Gemini product and because it’s the only one intended for Virtual DJ. While this manufacturer wasn’t always considered a producer of top-tier products, this G2V is surprisingly versatile and well-built. It has zillions of connectivity options (balanced RCA/XLR/booth out/AUX in/mic in) and many other features normally reserved for higher-end controllers.

Pioneer gets yet another spot with the DDJ-SB. 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. 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.

Numark has had a good handle on the budget controller range for many years, and the Mixtrack Pro III 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.

Finally, Reloop returns with the terrific BEATMIX2. Massive jog wheels, sturdy pads, clean design, and sturdy build quality make this a choice for any digital DJ. If you want four channels, you can always upgrade to the BEATMIX4.

Numark Mixtrack

The impressively spacious Mixtrack Pro 3

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.

Complete solutions are great, but 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:

Kontrol Z2 and D2

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. 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!

Thanks for reading. I would love to know what equipment you have decided on in the comments section below!