The Best DJ Controllers Under $1000 (Review & Comparison) of 2020 – Our Top Picks Reviewed
If you’re starting to mix at home, you’re going to need to invest in a good controller. A DJ controller is going to help you cut down on the physical equipment you need to mix with. What’s more, once you know your way around a good controller, there are zero limits. But do you need to spend a lot on a good controller? Not always. Here’s our guide to the best DJ controllers under $1000.
We have created this buying guide to help people find the perfect controller for them without having to do the hard work and research. Our team have put together this review and buying guide after testing and talking to industry experts to bring you The Best Controllers Under $1000 in 2021.
The Products We Reviewed – Click to go
3 DJ Controllers Under $1000 You Must See – Our Winning Picks
The Best DJ Controllers Under $1000 Reviewed
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 (#1 DJ Controller For Under $1000)
Size: 16.9 x 25.1 x 6 inches – Weight: 11.9 lbs – Audio mixer feature
The DDJ-SR2 is a portable systems that’s likely to be more feature-rich for many DJs in comparison with the above. Again, it was built with Serato in mind. Hot cues and light-up pads should help you memorise where you’re at with your mixing even when you’re playing live. Many DJs might appreciate the fact that it’s easy to switch between phantom power through USB to AC at any point. It’s also got sturdy handles, meaning that if you want a good controller that’s easy to carry with you, it might be a good option.
It’s a DJ controller which might also work well on average computers. You shouldn’t need anything much more advanced than a system running on 4GB RAM. However, this can vary. You have access to two RCA ports, a mic jack and a USB. Therefore, if you really want to keep the connectivity simple, and want to cut down on device footprints, you might want to give this one a closer look
- Serato Pitch ‘n Time DJ
- Software System Requirements – Windows 10, 8.1, 7, macOS Sierra 10.12, OS X 10.11, 10.10
4 GB or more of RA
- Multi-colored Performance Pads
- Large jog wheels
- Audio mixer feature
- Dual Level Meter
- Needle search
2. Hercules DJControl Starlight (#1 Best Value DJ Controller Under $1000)
Size: 13.4 x 3.9 x 1.9 inches – Weight: 1.1 lbs – Built-in sound card
Hercules’ pocket Starlight controller is likely to be a good choice for beginners. It comes complete with Serato DJ Lite, software which should introduce you to all-in-one mixing without any of the hassle. Its built-in sound card should appeal to anyone who wants to make sure their mixes work well in private before playing through public outputs.
This controller might appeal to DJs on the go thanks to its portability and lightweight design. It should also be good value for anyone who wants to take control of digital mixing without much fuss. There’s an added bonus in the fact that you even get a full light show built into the system. That’s something that not even pricier controllers can manage.
- 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
3. Numark NS6II (#1 Premium Pick DJ Controller Under $1000)
Dimensions: 13.8 x 22.4 x 2.6 inches – Weight: 9.2 lbs- 16 velocity-sensitive pads – 6-inch multi-function jog wheels
This DJ controller offers up a handful of USB ports, LCD displays and an impressive four channels for complete control of your DAW. If you’re noticing a pattern, it’s another controller that’s built around Serato. Once again, this isn’t a bad thing, and you might actually find that using the controller with the software helps you to get used to mixing as a beginner.
Available as a standalone unit, you might find the controller worth buying if you need all your functions and features built into one package. It’s got a plug and play ethos, which means most DJs might find it easy to rig up and start using from set to set. It also boasts two jog wheels which are reportedly versatile and offer ‘smart learning’. That might appeal to you if you’re looking for advanced technology at a fraction of the price.
- Dual USB ports for DJ handoffs
- 2-inch color LCD display integrated into each jog wheel
- Digital mixer with (2) phono/line inputs that can be mixed directly without software
- Touch-capacitive knobs
- 6-inch multi-function jog wheel with smart learning capacitive technology
- Stereo XLR outputs, Master RCA outputs, Booth RCA Outputs
- Replaceable crossfader
4. Novation Launch Control XL
Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.4 x 1.5 inches – Weight: 2.16 lbs – 16 buttons, 24 knobs and eight faders
A little more complex than the Hercules model above, this is a controller built for Ableton Live. It’s the XL system, which means it might appeal to DJs who are looking for maximum functionality over portability. That being said, you might not find it too clunky to carry around as it is! One of the key features of this system is the fact that you can line it up with your digital interface on Ableton. You don’t have to use the software to make the most of it, but it might help.
DJs who want to customise their mixing through shortcuts and quick launching can do so without fuss. That’s thanks to the cross-functionality with Ableton. The unit boasts 24 multi-colour LEDs for ease of function management during production. Plenty of DJs might like the fact that you can plug in and play without having to fiddle around with any extra cables or widgets.
- Total integration with Ableton Live’s mixer and devices; HUI compatible.
- 24 high-quality knobs with multi-color indicators.
- 8 60mm faders for precision level adjustment.
- 16 multi-color buttons for immediate Track Focus and key mixer controls.
- Fully customizable with the included software editor.
5. Pioneer DJ SB3
Dimensions: 10.7 x 19 x 2.3 inches – Weight: 4.6 lbs – Channels : 2
Pioneer DJ is a name that seems to want to bring everything to the table in a tight package. It boasts dual jog wheels to emulate real scratching, and most DJs might find the simple fading controls to help them mix while performing. To the naked eye, this controller can seem a little complex, however, it might actually benefit beginners as much as pro DJs.
What might also appeal to users is the fact that this controller is surprisingly robust. Most of what you need is here for you in a single panel, which obviously means ease of use is a priority. Cue up inputs over two channels and throw in a handful of effects for good measure. You should also be able to use this with a variety of DAWs, however, Serato is likely to be your premier choice for cross-functionality.
- USB Bus Powered
- Intuitive layout, all of the features were designed to be where you need them, when you need them
- Add scratch effects to cued and currently playing songs without a turntable thanks to Pad Scratch
- Mixing is Seamless with the FX Fade feature. 5 inch durable aluminium jog wheel. Weight-4.6 pounds
- Constructed from premium materials and audio circuitry
- Large, low-latency jog wheels to give you great scratch response and accuracy
6. Denon DJ MC4000
Dimensions: 12.3 x 19.9 x 2.7 inches – Weight: 8.9 lbs – Channels: 2 – Compatibility: Windows: 7, 8, 8.1,10, Mac OS X: 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, 10.11
Offering two channels, this is another feature-rich controller that will likely do more than you expect it two. It’s another Serato-based system with dual jog wheels, which reportedly offer a good amount of scratching accuracy. Your experience may vary, of course, as all DJs scratch a little differently! There are plenty of pads and LEDs on board, too, which means you might not find it too tricky to jump from one effect or trigger to the next.
While it seems you can only use the MC4000 with Serato’s range of DAWs as well as Traktor and Virtual DJ, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Serato is excellent for beginners and should give you more than enough to play around with. In fact, the MC4000 should be a solid beginner controller despite its dazzling array of buttons and features.
- Premium 2 Deck controller for Serato
- Includes Serato DJ Intro; user upgradeable to Serato DJ
- Touch activated jog wheels for accurate scratching and track cueing
- Dedicated Hot Cue and sample trigger pads with illuminated feedback
- Long throw 100mm pitch faders
7. Numark V7
Dimensions: 14.2 x 12.7 x 3.8 inches – Weight: 16.5 lbs – 24-bit Audio interface
Let’s look at something a bit more specialised. This DJ controller offers a single turntable for control, however, that might work well for anyone who prefers to work with one disc at a time. It certainly shouldn’t overload you with functions and features. It emulates a traditional turntable with a direct drive and changeable torque. What’s more, you might find it very flexible with a variety of DAWs and digital platforms.
DJs looking to rig up multiple digital decks might find that this controller slides in fairly easily. For example, you can control two decks with one unit, or you can rig up four virtual platforms. You might also find this controller works well with most mixers and devices – meaning it should be a good all-around unit for vinyl fans.
- High-resolution turntable software controller
- Direct-drive, motorized turntable platter with high and low-torque settings
- Includes Serato ITCH software, compatible with Serato Scratch LIVE libraries
- Works with all DJ mixers for custom system configuration
- Extensive loop, cue, and track-access controls
- Strip Search virtual needle-drop control
- Complete effects controls for audio manipulation
- Premium, rugged, all-metal construction with high-end knobs and buttons
- Audiophile-grade audio circuitry with line inputs, system and cue outs
- Industry-first handoff between two DJs using two different computers for up to four virtual decks
- Link two V7s together or use a single unit to control two decks
8. Pioneer DJ DDJ-400-S
Dimensions: 22.8 x 13.6 x 5 inches – Weight: 6.9 lbs – Sound Color FX and Beat FX
Heading back towards Pioneer DJ, the DDJ-400-S might be a good choice if you’re looking to keep all of your mixing and editing to one simple package. Its design is inspired by other mixers and controllers in the Pioneer DJ line, meaning that it might appeal to you if you are already au fait with their other tech. If not, there’s no reason why beginners can’t hit the ground running. It boasts a unique ‘Beat FX’ feature which might make it easier for you to blend FX with tracks you play.
The DDJ-400 is flexible with various DAWs, which should make it appealing to anyone who dabbles with various controllers and hardware. The controller might also help you a lot if you are looking for an all-around unit that professional producers head for. It’s clearly inspired by the most practical units in the business.
- The DDJ-400’s buttons and knobs are arranged in the same way as those on our professional NXS2 set-up
- Enhance your mixes with Sound Color FX and Beat FX featuring curves taken from DJM-900NXS2 mixer
- Apply professional FX that match the tempo of the track that’s currently playing by using the Beat FX feature
- You get a rekordbox dj licence key bundled with this controller
- The DDJ-400 supports Algoriddim’s djay app for iOS and djay Pro for PC/Mac
How We Chose The Controllers In Our List
As stated, we wanted to find a good mix of controllers that not only work great for beginners, but also for seasoned DJs. Most of the picks on this list are great entry-level controllers, however, we wanted to make sure our picks were adaptable. We’re confident these picks will grow with you as a DJ, meaning that there will be little to no need for you to switch things up as you go.
These DJ controllers are great value in that they should replace the need for clunky mixers and extra bits and pieces. Take it from us – you shouldn’t need to spend more than $1000 for the best functionality and the best quality in sound.
DJ Controllers Under $1000 Buying Guide
What Are the Benefits of Using a DJ Controller?
DJ controllers give mixers and producers incredible power over digital music creation. The best controllers are adaptable at home as well as on the go. Plenty of DJ controllers are designed with professionals in mind, however, the best systems are those which ease you into the functionality. There are actually more differences between DJ controllers than you might think.
As music continues to grow ever-more digital, it makes sense that people invest in controllers. Controllers are generally easy to plug straight into a computer and to hook up with various inputs. You’ll also be able to ‘scratch’ and toggle effects from one interface. This can make things much easier for those who are just getting started with mixing in general.
Can I Use a DJ Controller on Stage?
Yes. In fact, most of the high-end controllers are built for this purpose. This means that you should be able to plug in and start mixing live with very little fuss. Many people prefer DJ controllers to full decks as they are compact and easy to understand. Once you know what you’re working with, and how to use a controller to its full functionality, you can start to throw in more advanced effects and work with more inputs on stage.
Does a DJ Controller Make Things Easier for All Users?
A DJ controller is going to help you manage your EQ, your crossfade, your inputs and your distortion effects without the need for fiddling around with extra pedals or parts. However, we need to make a distinction between modular controllers and all-in-one systems. Modular controllers give you the option to swap different sources in and out. However, this can mean more juggling, which isn’t always going to be great on stage.
All-in-one systems are probably better for beginners. There are plenty of these controllers available to buy online, making them some of the most popular standards between DJs and home producers. Of course, the features you get from controller to controller are going to vary.
How Much Do DJ Controllers Cost?
As we’re about to discover in this guide, this really does vary. Many professional DJs spend thousands on equipment, while others will try and keep things relatively budget-friendly. We don’t think there is much reason for you to spend over the odds on a DJ controller. However, the more you pay, arguably, the more professional a sound you are likely to receive. That’s generally what people believe.
However, you shouldn’t always expect to pay more to get access to the most features or the most functionality. In fact, you will probably find that you get all the features you want and need from a DJ controller for much less. The costs of modular controllers are obviously going to vary more depending on the inputs you want to use.
What’s the Difference Between a DJ Controller and a Mixer?
DJ controllers will generally give you an all-in one experience. Mixers, like modular controllers, will bring together various inputs that you can manipulate in one go. With a DJ controller, just about everything you need is right there at your fingertips. That means you have less to lug around with you if you are on the road. It’s also going to be preferential for home users, too. Think about how much space you have to mix and produce at home – unless you have a dedicated studio space, it’s likely you’re going to need all the elbow room you can get.
Should You Buy Classic Controllers?
There are going to be plenty of reasons why you might want to use a classic or older controller. For example, you may find that old-school DJing just appeals to you more. However, newer systems might be easier to use, and will likely help you keep up with demand. Music tastes are always going to change and evolve. To appeal to the most people, you should probably think about using the latest tech. However, that doesn’t mean you have to pay extortionate amounts of money.
Are DJ Controllers Easy to Use?
DJ controllers are built for ease of use. However, some models are trickier to get used to than others. The controllers we picked for this guide do vary in terms of learning curve. However, we wanted to make sure you got a good cross-section of what to expect from the variety of controllers and mixers out there.
Some DJ controllers can seem confusing at first. That’s because many of them have a vast array of sliders, knobs and toggles. However, when using a controller with software, or with a tutorial, you might find it relatively easy to find your feet.
If you’re just getting started with DJ controllers, make sure to check out our full guide on the best DJ controllers for beginners.
Do I Need a Mixer With My DJ Controller?
No – not normally. A good DJ controller offering all-in-one functionality will do the job of a mixer and more besides. In fact, it helps to condense things down to make things easier on you.
Do I Need Any More Equipment to DJ?
You should always make sure you have a PC or Mac if you want to DJ on the go or if you want to mix at home. That’s because you’ll need something speedy to load up a DAW to, as well as to connect a controller through. You should also be prepared to stock up music, of course – digital or physical – as well as a good pair of headphones. Don’t forget your output, as if you’re playing live, you’re going to need a solid pair of speakers!
Which Controller Do Most DJs Use?
There’s no one or two controllers that professional DJs use, however, big brands that many professionals sway towards include Pioneer DJ and Numark. However, a brand name isn’t always going to be the mark of the best controller for you. As you can see from our list, there are a variety of fantastic controllers out there which will help you make the most of your music. You don’t have to be swayed by the pack!
Are Modern Controllers Getting Better?
There’s a divide on which controllers work best for which purposes. Older controllers might offer you a lot of control and some of that old-school style, but there’s a solid argument that modern controllers will help you work with the latest software and will help you play to modern audiences.
Can DJ Controllers Work with All DAWs and Software?
Not always. Most of the controllers listed here work with entry-level software such as Serato, which you may actually find in a bundle in some cases. Make sure to check with controller manufacturers, as well as verified users, who can help you narrow down your options.
How Many Channels Do I Need?
If you want to streamline your DJing experience, you probably won’t want many channels! However, between two and four is generally a good set to work with. Many DJs won’t want to blend too many sources together as this can make things get a bit cluttered.
DJ controllers are helping to make mixing and producing easier for everyone. But do you really need to pay more than $1000? No. Many of the big brands listed here offer fantastic functionality at value rates. It may be a good idea to look for an entry-level controller at a simple price before leaping straight into a more expensive, professional system. Most of the controllers on this list, if not all of them, allow you to grow as a DJ – meaning there may not be a need for you to invest in more hardware!