When looking into today’s Digital DJing Hardware, DJ controllers are one of the most popular hardware types. Those are basically just MIDI controllers, that control a DJ Software on a PC or Mac. While they usually have a classical DJ Setup layout containing two decks and a mixer, all they do is controlling software that takes care of the sound processing itself. While you can pay several thousands of euros for a professional DJ controller, you can get one for beginner DJs for a few hundred euros or even less.
In this blog, we will be looking at what you should look at when buying your first DJ controller and present you our choice for the best 5 beginner DJ controllers.
What you should look at when buying a DJ controller as a beginner
When buying a DJ controller, there are a few things you should always look at.
First of all, you should make sure that the controller has a built-in soundcard. This will make it possible to connect the controller directly to the sound system and it will also make sure that you can use the pre-cueing option directly on your controller. This means that you can connect your headphones and use them to listen to the track you will play next without playing it through the sound system, which is an absolutely necessary feature for beatmatching!
The second thing you should look at, are the features of the controller. You should make sure that your controller has got two decks and at least a two-channel mixer. Each deck should have a jog wheel, a cue and play/pause button and a pitch slider, while the mixer should have two line faders, a at least two band equalizer, individual gain control for each channel as well as the controls for pre-cueing (cue gain, cue mix and individual pre-cue buttons for each channel). Also, as a beginner you will probably want to connect your speakers over RCA two your setup, so make sure the controller got an RCA output (as well as headphone output as mentioned before).
What your choice will depend on
Your choice for a specific controller will depend on several factors.
The most obvious one is your budget: Controllers on our list reach from €82€ to €350 but you can definitely spend even more and maybe also less money on a beginner DJ controller.
The second thing, your choice should depend on is the DJ software the controller works with: as already mentioned above, a DJ controller just controls a software. So, it’s REALLY important that you buy a controller which works with your favourite DJ software. The reason why it’s so important is, that the software will be the way the controller works (yeah, every DJ software works a bit different). Everything from the layout of the controller to the functions built into it will depend on the DJ software. If you are a music producer, you could kind of compare the software to a DAW. And would you switch to another DAW just because a MIDI controller works with it? That’s the reason why I recommend you to download Virtual DJ, Serato DJ Lite and try out Recordbox and Traktor (30-day trial) first and then buy a controller for the Software you liked the most!
Our list: The 5 best DJ controllers for beginners
For this list, we picked our top 5 favourite beginner DJ controllers. You will find a picture, the price, the DJ software, pro’s and cons and a quick review for all of them. So, let’s get straight into it!
Brand: Pioneer DJ
Software: Serato DJ, (Virtual DJ)
+ good build quality
+ most important features
- pretty high price for that amount of features
Perfect for you if: you are looking for a high-quality Serato controller for beginners and you can pay the price.
In today’s market of DJ equipment, Pioneer DJ is still the #1. By this reason we had to include two of their controllers. Pioneer’s beginner DJ controller for Serato DJ is the DDJ-SB3. This controller brings most of the features you will need as a beginner DJ and it comes with Serato DJ Lite (paid upgrade to Serato DJ Pro possible) but it can also work with Virtual DJ when you have a license. It has a standard Serato DJ controller layout which will make it easy for you to switch to a professional controller later. The only bad thing about it is the pretty high price for the still not too huge amount of functions, which is often the case with pioneer’s hardware.
Brand: Pioneer DJ
Software: Recordbox DJ, (Virtual DJ)
+ club setup styled layout
+ good build quality
- no effect controls
Perfect for you if: you want to become a club DJ who will play on Pioneer Nexus setups and wants to use record-box
Our second Pioneer controller on this list is the DDJ-400. This is definitely one of the coolest beginner DJ controllers. For less than €300 you get a controller with almost completely the same layout as the Nexus setup (which is the worldwide club standard). I personally still hope that Pioneer will make a Serato version of this one day! The 400 comes with Pioneer’s own Recordbox DJ software and again, can also work with Virtual DJ (if you own a VDJ license). The only feature we are missing here is the effect controls on the decks, which most good DJ controllers have. We can understand that this is due to the CDJ styled layout (CDJ’s don’t have those controls as well) but it’s still a bit annoying.
Numark Party Mix
Software: Serato DJ, Virtual DJ, (Traktor DJ)
+ extremely low price and good price-performance ratio
+ works with most DJ software
- missing a few features
Perfect for you if: you can’t spend much money on your first DJ controller and you’re looking for a cheap Serato/Virtual DJ/Traktor controller that brings the most important features
This one is the cheapest controller own our list and it also has the best price-performance ratio. For only €80 you get a controller that brings all the features you’ll need to get started as a DJ. The Party Mix comes with Serato DJ Lite as well as a Virtual DJ LE license and there is a great working mapping for Traktor DJ available on DJTechTools. Of course, the build quality ain’t perfect but it’s more than ok for an 80€ controller. Anyway, it would have been cool if Numark built a Filter and effect controls into this unit instead of the flashy lights on the background that are pretty useless!
Brand: Denon DJ
Software: Serato DJ, (Virtual DJ, Traktor DJ)
+ incredibly good build quality
+ all features you need
- high price
Perfect for you if: money isn’t a thing for you and you’re just looking for the best beginner DJ controller for Serato DJ/Virtual DJ/Traktor DJ
This is the last controller on our list and my personal favourite beginner DJ controller. The build quality is fantastic and the controller feels almost as good as an MC7000. It comes with Serato DJ Lite but also works with Virtual DJ and Traktor. Featurewise, this console brings everything you need as a beginner and even advanced DJ and it also has some pro features such as full-sized pitch fader and mic inputs. It’s almost unfair to call this a beginner controller! But this unit is also the most expensive one on our list! €340 is a lot for a beginner controller and many people won’t be able to spend that much money on their first DJ setup.
Hercules Inpusle 300
Need more information about Hercules Inpusle 300? Read our review here: Hercules new DJControl Inpulse 300 'most impressive controller Hercules ever released'
Conclusion on the best DJ Controllers for beginners?
In the end, your choice for a specific controller will depend on many factors such as personal preferences, the design, the money you can spend, your preferred DJ software and so much more. If money isn’t a thing for you and you’re not a Recordbox user, get an MC4000. If you really can’t spend a lot of money on your first setup, get a Numark Party Mix. If you like record box and want to become a club DJ get a DDJ-400 and if you can spend €200-400 and want to use Serato then get a DDj-SB3. In the end, it’s up to you!