The Best DJ Controllers for Beginners (Review & Comparison) of 2020 – Our Top Picks Reviewed
When you’re starting out as a DJ, you are going to need all the help you can get. Many of us start out at home with various pieces of software and mixing suites. That’s why there are so many great DJ controllers for beginners on the market. Here’s our full buying guide to what you can expect, and assisting you on your new controller purchase.
Our main goal of this guide is to give you a better understanding on what DJ controller you need, we have tried to cover most things when buying a controller for beginners. Our experts have compiled a list of The Best DJ Controllers For Beginners in 2020.
The Products We Reviewed – Click to go
3 DJ Controllers for Beginners You Must See – Our Winning Picks
The Best DJ Controllers For Beginners Reviewed
1. Hercules DJControl Starlight (#1 DJ Controller For Beginners)
Size: 13.4 x 3.9 x 1.9 inches – Weight: 1.1 lbs – Built-in sound card
Hercules is a great brand to get started with. If you’re just getting into DJing, the Starlight could offer you all the features you need to immerse yourself in the craft. It boasts its own sound card built in, and what’s more, you get access to the Serato DJ Lite software package. This controller is built for use with the software, meaning you may well find tutorials easier to get into. Are you looking for something affordable and portable at the same time? The Starlight aims to cover both bases.
It’s pretty lightweight, meaning that anyone keen to get into mixing on the go might find it an appealing purchase. You’ll have access to all the basics, too, meaning filters, basic lopping, jogwheels and more are all on board and ready to go.
- The perfect DJ controller to introduce you to DJing, with Serato dj Lite included
- Built-in sound card to pre-listen to the headphones and speaker outputs
- Control the back lights on the base: RGB and strobe effects
- All the essential features: bass/filter, Hot cue modes, loop, FX, Sampler, pressure sensitive jog wheels, etc.
- Compact and easy to carry wherever you want
2. Numark DJ2GO2 (#1 Best Value DJ Controller)
Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.9 x 1.3 inches – Weight: 11.8 Ounces –Built In Audio Interface
Numark is a brand you will likely come across a lot while shopping for DJ controllers. That’s no bad thing, as they are one of the best-loved names in the market. Many beginners should find the clear controls and dials a breeze to use, with obvious sliders and dials marked for all your basic EQ needs. You’ll have access to a jogwheel and multiple cueing, as well as a simple crossfade function. If you want to take DJ controlling nice and slow, this could be a good match for you.
Like the Hercules system above, it’s another DJ controller built for use with Serato DJ Lite. Therefore, anyone likely to need a little help in getting started could load up the software tutorials and mix along. What might be even more appealing is the fact that you can patch in sounds and samples from popular streaming platforms such as SoundCloud.
- Compact 2 channel Serato DJ Lite (Included) USB DJ Controller for Mac and PC; MIDI mapping for use with other popular DJ Software (including Virtual DJ)
- On board audio interface with 1/8 inch headphone output and 1/8 inch main output for complete hookup flexibility with DJ equipment including DJ mixers, speakers & PA systems
- 2 DJ decks with a crossfader, jog wheels and pitch faders; access to all the must have tools for seamless blending are right at your fingertips
- Stream everything from the freshest underground sounds to certified classics directly in Serato DJ Lite from leading providers including SoundCloud and TIDAL
3. Pioneer Pro DDJ-1000 (#1 Premium Pick DJ Controller)
Dimensions: 14.2 x 27.9 x 2.9 inches – Weight: 13.2 lbs- Channels: 4 – Full sized jog wheels
We’re going a little beyond the beginner controllers for this choice, but for a good reason. It’s because the Pioneer Pro DDJ-1000 might be your best choice if you want to easily transfer from beginner mixing towards something a little more advanced. Some users may find the number of dials and sliders a little boggling, however, we think the controller is easy enough for beginner and intermediate mixers to really get to grips with.
Everything is clearly labelled, and you have full control over what’s in the mix. Boasting performance pads for quick FX and sample launches, we think this controller might be a good choice for anyone who wants to move beyond the very simplest of systems on offer. It is, however, a considerable investment!
- Jog Display
- Improved Magvel Fader
- Club-Style Layout
- Performance Pads
- Brand New FX
- Full-sized jogs
- Channels : 4
4. Pioneer DDJ-200
Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.4 x 4.2 inches – Weight: 3.62 lbs – Channels: 2 – Wireless System: Bluetooth Low Energy
The Pioneer DDJ-200 is what is known as a ‘smart’ controller. This means it should pair easily with plenty of different apps and platforms, making it a great potential starting point for beginner DJs. It’ll match up with your smartphone as well as connect to Mac and PC systems. Beginners should also find the DDJ-200 easy to use thanks to its entry-level tutorials, which you’ll find ready to launch into once you’re up and installed.
Its lightweight structure and dual discs, as well as all the basic dials and sliders, should also be appealing to more experienced DJs. This could be a great little controller to start at home with before taking to the live stage. As mentioned in our buying guide, the best controllers let you practice easily at home before gaining more confidence when going live.
- Smart phone compatible
- Multi-app compatibility and support for music streaming services.
- Tutorial and pop-hint features to help beginners enjoy dj-ing
- Phrase sync, phrase analysis algorithms
- Compact, lightweight body
5. Hercules DJControl InPulse 300
Dimensions: 18.9 x 11.3 x 2 inches – Weight: 3.97 lbs – DJ Academy Tutorials
Heading back to Hercules, this simple DJ controller should appeal to anyone who wants to actually learn how to DJ by doing, rather than reading. It’s a dedicated two-plate system with clearly marked sliders and dials. Beginners might find the inclusion of starter software and ‘DJ Academy’ tools included. The software here is DJUCED, and it’s a full suite – meaning any beginners who don’t want to have to pay out again for full software might find this package particularly appealing.
Boasting two channels, USB capability and 16 different pads, most beginners could find the InPulse 300 a good starting point. It’s a tool specifically designed to help you learn the very basics. However, it might actually transfer well to the live stage, too.
- Tempo and beat Align light guides
- Deuced software provided
- Intelligent music assistant
- 16 pads, 8 modes, large jog wheels and more
6. Pioneer DDJ-SB3
Dimensions: 24 x 18.5 x 8 inches – Weight: 15.5 lbs – Channels: 2 – Deck Control: 4
Pioneer is a name that will be popping up a lot in our list, and for good reason. It’s a reputable brand, and the DDJ-SB3 is another great beginner controller that is built for Serato DJ Lite. Anyone worried about getting fully connected might find the on-board sound card a bit of a relief. What’s more, it offers all the basic controls and dials, from simple EQ tweaks to sample control. It’s a two-channel system, meaning that anyone just getting started could find the controller a good starting point if they’re having difficulty navigating other systems.
What might be appealing to many beginners is the fact that you could progress from the DJ Lite software to DJ Pro using the one controller. This means there is even less hassle or flapping around when it comes to stocking up on the best kit. Pioneer could be the best manufacturer for beginners on the market today.
- Portable design for easy transportation
- On-board Serato sound card
- Clear audio through mic input, even at high input levels
- Compatible with Windows and Mac OS
- 1/4″ mic input
- Pad Scratch
- large, low-latency jog wheels
7. Numark Mixtrack 3
Dimensions: 9.2 x 21.6 x 1.2 inches – Weight: 3.9 lbs – 5-inch High Resolution Jog Wheels
This Numark all-in-one controller might give beginners the confidence they need to get to grips with the basics. Again, it’s built for the Serato DJ engine, and you have access to 16 pads for easy FX 7toggle. Many beginners might find the included software a good deal, especially considering the controller is built specifically for the engine. However, we also think seasoned DJs might find the controller pretty useful for hassle-free mixing on the go. There seems to be a good balance of dials and functions here to appeal to all bases.
You’ll need to invest in an additional cord to connect up to an output, however, many people might see the controller as a great value package in itself. Therefore, it might be worth looking closely at how other packages measure up. Numark are well-known for developing durable controllers and audio tech, and this should be a good all-round unit for most people.
- Multi-function Touch strip for dynamic FX control and Strip Search.
- 16 multi-function performance pads.
- All-new high resolution metal jog wheels.
- Multiple FX manipulation.
- Includes Prime Loops remix tool kit.
- Dedicated track browsing controls from your library.
- Dedicated Filter knobs for each channel.
8. Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-WeGO4-K
Dimensions: 14.1 x 18.2 x 5.2 inches – Weight: 6.4 lbs – Plug and Play – Included DJ Software
Back to Pioneer for our final choice in the list, and again, it’s for a good reason. The WeGO4-K could be the best choice for any beginners looking to take their new controllers on the go with them. The design interface is much different to what you would otherwise expect from a leading controller, with function buttons scattered around two main plates. Most DJs might find the built-in soundcard and included software a breeze to use, and what’s more, beginners might appreciate the visual prompt system so they can start to learn the very basics.
This system is also pretty customisable as well as lightweight. For that reason, we think it might appeal to novice DJs as well as those who have been mixing for a while. The portability and ease of use suggest it might be a good controller to learn with at home, before taking with you to your first shows.
- Plug and Play
- Easy to connect
- Compatible with WeDJ
- Built-in Soundcard
- Customisable EQ’s
How We Chose The Controllers In Our List
We made sure to choose DJ controllers, on the whole, which come built with the beginner in mind. There are one or two exceptions, however, these are systems we feel all DJs might get to grips with over time. Otherwise, we made sure to look for solid brands that most musicians have heard of. Numark, Hercules and Pioneer are undoubtedly the leading names in controller tech, and we therefore thought it worthwhile showing their entry-level systems off in our list.
We also wanted to find controllers that are plug-and-play sensitive. While some beginners may prefer modular interfaces, we feel all the systems we list allow starter DJs to ease into their craft without having to muddle around with extra pieces.
DJ Controllers For Beginners Buying Guide
Why Buy a DJ Controller?
The modern DJ needs access to digital music. It’s safe to say that modern DJ controllers and software have really helped to cut down the physical need to lug CDs and records around. Many of us still like spinning and scratching vinyl, but for the most user-friendly approach, it is generally easy enough just to plug in a controller and to start mixing from the comfort of your own PC and Mac.
Buying a DJ controller means you’re making the decision to streamline your mixing. However, while this may seem easy at first, there can be a bit of a learning curve. We therefore recommend you look for a DJ controller for beginners, so you can get used to all the various dials and sliders that come attached.
Where Can You Use a DJ Controller?
The beauty of modern DJ controllers is that they can be used almost anywhere. This means you can use them at home for personal mixing, or you can use them to play to the crowds. When looking for a DJ controller for beginners, you are likely going to find hardware that is going to be best for use in a bedroom scenario. However, there are plenty of controllers out there which are user-friendly and fantastic to use when playing live.
In fact, some of the best DJ controllers are super adaptable. This means you can start easily enough by learning the ropes at home, and then taking your hardware with you when you’re confident enough to use it on the live stage.
Modular vs All-in-One
When you start looking for DJ controllers, you may find that they split into two distinct types. Some are referred to as modular, while others are inclusive, or all-in-one.
Modular DJ controllers, on the whole, let you pick and choose your inputs and sound sources. Therefore, you could bring together different music players, a turntable and a mixing suite. All-in-one controllers, meanwhile, let you take control of everything from one platform. Everything you need is right here in one bundle. That means all your sliders, knobs and dials are easy to access, and it means you can get into mixing quicker than you would through modular interfaces.
But what’s best for beginners? Arguably, both have their merits. Modular controllers give you a good training ground to begin with, as you will need to learn about each of the various components in turn before you master the whole package. However, all-in-one systems are generally easier to manage and are quicker to get into once you know what you’re doing.
We think the best choice for beginners out of the two types will depend really on what you’re looking for. It’ll also depend on how you learn, on the whole. If you are likely to pick up mixing easier by muddling around with various parts, then you are going to likely get on well with a modular system. Some people can find all-in-one systems a little baffling to begin with, which makes it all the better than there’s a clear choice on offer!
All good DJ controllers for beginners come with all the usual knobs and dials a DJ needs. The absolute basics are hard to disagree on, at least between seasoned DJs and mixers. For example, all good DJ controllers should come with a variety of channels for various inputs, crossfade functionality and EQ tweaking. You should have good control over features such as gain, reverb and even flanger.
If these terms are starting to confuse you a little, don’t worry. All of the best DJ controllers for beginners should hold your hand, at least a little bit, while you’re getting started. However, while getting to grips with your first DJ controller, you should be ready to learn alongside.
A great way to do this is either to invest in software with practical tutorials, or to learn alongside video guides and tutorials on YouTube. Either way, it makes sense to immerse yourself in your craft as early as you can. Even the biggest superstar DJs started somewhere, and many of them took a look at their first DJ controllers wondering where on Earth they were going to start!
Old or New?
It stands to reason that some of the older DJ controllers out there may be easier to use as they are from a simpler time. However, newer DJ controllers are easier to use on the whole. That’s because the tech has refined itself well over time. What’s more, having access to modern technology means you’ll be at the front of the pack.
The last thing you will want to do is get started with a piece of technology that’s either unsupported or completely obsolete. In our collective opinion, you should look for a DJ controller that’s both fresh out of the box and in a current line.
What Are DJ Controllers Used For?
DJ controllers help DJs to build mixes and to control sounds. All-in-one systems help DJs bring together samples, change levels and add FX. It’s a simple way for DJs to create music without having to bring in too many extra instruments.
What is the Difference Between a DJ Mixer and a DJ Controller?
DJ controllers bring together everything you need in one package. A DJ mixer is just one module. You will find that all-in-one DJ controllers have mixing features built in, along with a variety of other functions. It is perfectly possible to use a mixer alongside a controller, though you may not need to.
What’s the Best DJ Software for Beginners?
There’s no one software choice that’s best for beginner DJs. However, as you have seen in our guide, Serato is a name that comes up a lot. We recommend Serato DJ Lite for beginners as it welcomes starting DJs nice and slowly, allowing you to practice as you go. What’s more, you can steadily progress with Serato, meaning that once you are confident enough to move onto the next stage, you can upgrade to Pro with ease.
Is Serato DJ Pro Free?
No – not always. However, many of the packages and controllers listed above include a Serato licence as standard, which means you may be able to upgrade to Pro without expense. Take a look at available controllers and choose a package that you can affordably build as you go.
DJ controllers don’t have to be confusing. Thankfully, there are plenty of great choices out there for beginners, meaning that anyone starting out as a DJ can choose a simple interface and software to ease into. We think the controllers listed here should give you enough of a helping hand into basic mixing and should also help you move into more advanced DJing, as well as live play, as you progress.