The 10 Best DJ Controllers (Review & Comparison) of 2021 – Our Top Picks Reviewed
Ask any DJ, and they’ll probably tell you that a great controller makes their lives a lot easier. But what should you really be looking for? We’ve set up a full buying guide to help you narrow down The 10 Best DJ controllers of 2021, all at an affordable price.
We’ve gone to the effort of looking through the biggest and best controller for djing available right now. We’re testing and trialing manufacturers such as Pioneer, Hercules, Native Instruments and Numark. DJ controllers are getting more and more advanced – and the best of them are incredibly easy to use.
Whether you’re just starting out, or are looking for a new model to upgrade your hardware, we’re confident you’ll find some fantastic choices in our guide. We’ve recently updated it too, so you can take a look at all the best DJ controllers 2020 has to offer.
The Products We Reviewed – Click to go
3 DJ Controllers You Must See – Our Winning Picks
How We Chose The DJ Controllers In Our List
How do you find the perfect DJ controllers in 2020? Let’s just say it takes a lot of time, testing, and DJ experience to build a post such as this! We wanted to look for equipment that was not only appealing to pros and experienced DJs, but which offer enough ease of use for beginners (check out this post of the best DJ Controllers for beginners) and home mixers to get their teeth into.
It was important for us to bring together products which offer professional quality sound and build. Everything from jog wheels to dials and sliders need to be sturdy and easy to use. What’s more, the look of an interface is just as important. You will find that these are very easy to get used to and offer stacks of great features and functions without need for confusion. Beyond that, we also want to focus on value – is the quality of product build and the functionality you receive really going to be worth the price?
What’s more, we wanted to look into connectivity and portability. A DJ will be looking for portability and ease of movement to some extent, whether at home or working from gig to gig. We wanted to make sure we also offered hardware which connects will with various systems and DAWs. Crucially, the more flexible and versatile a DJ controller is, the more likely it has a space and slot on our post.
Working with a tight budget? We’ve reviewed the best DJ Controller under $1000 here.
The Best DJ Controllers Reviewed
1. Pioneer DDJ-SR2 (#1 Top DJ Controller)
Size: 10.7″ x 19.2″ x 2.3″ – Weight: 6.65 lbs – Channels: 2 – Deck Control: 4
The best DJ Controller we reviewed, the Pioneer DDJ-SR2. Boasting sensitive jog wheels, a professional interface and flexibility across a variety of DAWs, the Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is our top pick for DJ controllers in 2020. The Pioneer Pro DDJ-SR2 is, in our opinion, thebest DJ controllerfor professionals without spending 7-8K. Also ideal for beginners, this lightweight DJ controller is easy to get a handle on, and is adaptable to AUX. All you will need is a phono adaptor, which is unlikely to cost you much more on top of the controller’s retail price.
Pioneer DJ is a great manufacturer of deck controllers. It’s definitely still holding up well in 2020, and it’s likely to appeal to anyone just getting started with jog wheels and controllers in general. It’s built for Serato, too, which you’ll get the entry-level version of when you plug in and play. However, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version for the best experience.
The DDJ-SR2 offers a complete audio mixing interface alongside plenty of performance pads. You’ll also have access to a dual level meter, and you can upgrade it to DVS when you’re ready. What makes this such a great pick is the fact that it’s ideal for beginners, but you can really grow into it, too. It also allows you to sync your sets up to DJ software and a computer. A pro DJ won’t find that it cuts back too much on the features, either.
- Serato Pitch ‘n Time DJ controls
- Multi-colored Performance Pads
- Large jog wheels
- Audio mixer feature
- Dual Level Meter
- Needle search
- DVS upgrade-ready
2. Numark Party Mix (#1 Best Value DJ Controller)
Dimensions: 7.8″ x 12.8″ x 2″ – Weight: 1.76 lbs – Channels: 2
Numark’s Party Mix DJ controller, it is as exciting as it sounds – from the start, colorful buttons and dials are likely to leap out at you. However, it’s what’s inside that really counts! Numark’s fantastic value DJ controller offers you a built-in sound card and easy setup for various speakers. You can even blast out your own light show if you really want to.
The Party Mix is a great choice for anyone who is just starting out as a DJ. It has plenty of features, with a selection of 8 different performance pads, scratch platters and two channels for use with Serato DJ Lite. Once again, you’ll probably need to upgrade to the pro version of the DJ software to really make the most out of this DJ controller. Not only a DJ controller, but it’s also a stand-alone mixer as well.
The Numark Party Mix is seen by many as a value alternative to some of the manufacturer’s bigger and bolder tech. That might be true, but the Party Mix does what it sets out to do and more besides. It might not be the most professional of tech if you’re looking for something to build a career on, but for occasional gigs and parties, it’s really easy to get to grips with.
You can rig it up with all your tracks and plug headphones directly into the controller to start listening to your mixes as you create them. There aren’t many controllers out there with a built-in sound card, so this is likely to be a big draw for lots of DJs.
- Portable two channel DJ Controller for Serato DJ Lite (Included)
- Compatible with Mac and PC
- DJ Lights Built in light show with three room filling LED light arrays that auto sync to your music
- Built-in sound card
- 4 responsive performance pads
3. Pioneer DDJ-SX3 (#1 Premium Pick DJ Controller)
Dimensions: 13.9″ x 26.1″ x 2.7″ – Weight: 13.4 lbs – Channels: 4
A fitting upgrade to the already excellent DDJ-SX2, Pioneer’s Pro DDJ-SX3 goes all out to be the best DJ controller in 2020. In fact, it’s definitely one of our top three. Multicolor performance pads are easy to find and use, and don’t distract from what remains a really intuitive layout and interface. It’s the categorizing of dials and functions that really helps the DDJ-SX series stand out, though sheer power and sound engineering really don’t hurt, either.
The DDJ-SX3 djing controller boasts up to 20kHz in frequency range and offers multiple input and output jacks. There’s a clear separation of mixing and playing here, which means even those just starting out with professional controllers will likely find it very easy to manage. However, much like the SX2 before it, the SX3 is definitely a premium DJ controller. There are more FX and tweaks available on the decks and sliders here than we can possibly detail – it’s well worth exploring for yourself.
The SX3 might seem a little heavy on features to beginners, but it’s seriously intuitive. It may well appeal to a DJ who is looking for professional results without the hassle of having to relearn everything from the beginning. Anyone who has worked with Pioneer products before can expect the same great engineering and functionality, and while you’ll need a pretty fast machine to plug in and play, it’s likely to be more patient for you to adapt to it than you may think. Trust us on this one.
- Low-Latency Jog Wheels
- Pitch ‘n Time DJ and Serato Flip Expansion Packs are included
- Sound Colour FX
- Slip Mode
- Needle search
- Dual USB ports
- Professional interface
- Large multicoloured Performance Pads
4. Numark NV II
Dimensions: 13.4″ x 21.6″ x 2.1″ – Weight: 7.05 lbs – Dual High Resolution Displays
Heading back to Numark, the NV II is a great DJ controller for those budding DJs who want to start out with a simple interface, but who have big dreams of making it big. You’ll benefit from four decks and a series of full-color screens. What sets the NV II apart from much of the pack is the fact that there’s really no need to keep checking your computer or plugged device. Everything you need to know from your mixes is right there on the screen. What’s more, it should appeal to those who really want to make the most of Serato, even at entry-level.
You’ll be able to manage effects, track positions, cues and more thanks to the intuitive displays, but it also helps that the NV II’s controls are just as easy to adapt to. Even if you want to carefully tweak your EQ, you can do so with a simple touch or twist – it’s very easy to change things up with minimal effort.
The way the Numark NV II is built – with fantastic displays, multiple decks, and trigger pads – means that this is built as an all-in-one unit. A DJ looking to control and mix everything in one place will likely find the NV II to be a breath of fresh air. Real-time mixing in line with Serato also means there’s even less need for you to keep an eye on your DAW through a separate screen. You’ll be able to set up nice and easily through USB, and the sensitive platter controls should give you a nice emulation of what you’d expect from vinyl.
- 4-decks of Serato DJ software control in a sleek, low-profile design
- Full-color displays provides 1:1 real-time visualization of Serato DJ
- Gridlines on screen enable perfect beat matching
- Dual 5-inch hyper-responsive metal platters with search and scratch modes
- 16 velocity-sensitive trigger pads with backlit RGB feedback
- 10 pad modes for hot cues, loop slicing, and sample triggering
- Plug and play via USB cable to computer with Serato DJ software (included)
5. Pioneer XDJ-RX2
Dimensions: 20.9″ x 32.4″ x 8.2″ – Weight: 24.9 lbs – Channels: 2
The Pioneer XDJ-RX2 is a behemoth of a controller, heavier and bulkier than most, but with all the power and functionality you’d expect in return. Pioneer, if you haven’t realised by now, is a leading name in controller tech, and there’s more to come from the brand in 2020. The XDJ-RX2 stands out even from other Pioneer controllers thanks to its brilliant color display – a 7-inch screen should offer you everything you need in on-board mixing control. Is there really any need for a PC or laptop?
The XDJ-RX2 offers eight performance pads and clear switches and dials, making it the ideal choice for the casual DJ. However, the sheer array of FX and dials here will likely appeal to pros, too. A nice selection of hot cues on the decks means that you can layer in more sounds and FX as you wish. Easily sync your beats as you go, and tweak filters while checking your track position through the 7-inch screen.
It’s tempting to suggest that the XDJ-RX2 isn’t a beginner dj controller, but we actually think it has a lot to offer a budding DJ. If you really want to start playing around with mixes, there are few controllers out there which offer this amount of choice in quite the same way. Plus, you can trust Pioneer to deliver an all-around professional quality sound and interface, meaning there are few controllers which stand up to the XDJ-RX2.
If you like to know more about this DJ controller then check out our full review here.
- 7-inch, full-colour touch screen
- 8 large, multi-coloured tactile Performance Pads on each deck
- USB connection, you can connect your laptop directly to the XDJ-RX2
- 2 mic inputs
- Plug and Play
- MIDI control
- 2 Channels
- Sound Color FX : Noise, Filter, Sweep, Dub, Echo
- 8 Hot cues per deck, Slip mode, Beat sync, Quantize and waveZoom
6. Pioneer DDJSR
Dimensions: 21.8″ x 12.6″ x 2.6″ – Weight: 9.7 lbs – Channels: 2
What sets the Pioneer DDJSR aside from other controllers? To start, it is much more compact and concise than other Pioneer systems, particularly comparing to the XDJ-RX2 above. In fact, the DDJSR is less than half the weight of the above model! However, while the DDJSR is a lighter model in terms of build, and in terms of features, this controller is actually aimed towards the DJ with experience.
The Pioneer DDJSR benefits from professional, well-built controls which are easy to manage and tweak, meaning that anyone getting started shouldn’t have much of a problem feeling their way around. Beyond the high-end build quality, you can expect Pad Plus functionality to add more to the 16 pads available, alongside sturdy, sizeable jog wheels for those mixers looking to really scratch things up. If you’ve been wondering where the sampler roll and trans features of your DJ controller have been all your life, the DDJSR has plenty to offer you.
We think the DDJSR is likely to be one of the underdogs of the DDJSR range. It may not be the best controller for beginners, but it will likely appeal to experienced mixers and scratchers who are looking for a friendly, lightweight option to mix with at occasional gigs. It’s unlikely to be the fully-fledged controller you’ll need for a full DJ career, however, it’s a nice little stopgap.
- 16 Performance Pads provide HOT CUE, ROLL, SLICER and SAMPLER functions
- New PAD PLUS provide HOT CUE ROLL, TRANS, COMBO FX, and SAMPLER ROLL
- Large Jog Wheels for precise scratching and mixing capabilities
7. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8
Dimensions: 24″ x 5″ x 15″ – Weight: 11 lbs – Channels: 4
But what about native Instruments? The Traktor Kontrol S8 is definitely a different beast, just from visuals alone. It’s a hefty controller to carry around, but with a pleasing interface, four separate channels and clear color displays, there are perhaps few other controllers and mixers which are this easy to understand and get into from the start. It’s simple to keep track of your mixes and positions, and what’s more, the pads and loop triggers are easy enough to work with after a few sessions.
What’s likely to appeal to many people in the Kontrol S8 is the fact that it has an emphasis on creating unique sounds. The interface itself is highly bespoke, meaning that if you’d prefer to put your own slant on your music rather than to fall back on the same old FX and touches, the Kontrol S8 is likely to be one of the best choices available to you.
What’s more, you’ll also have access to DJ software in Traktor Scratch Pro 2, meaning that it’s a controller ready for your DAW as soon as you are. It’s a fantastic pro controller, meaning it might take some getting used to, but it’s one of the best for long-term professional results.
- Full-integrated 4-deck TRAKTOR controller including TRAKTOR SCRATCH PRO 2 DJ software
- 30 touch-sensitive knobs and faders for intuitive control over TRAKTOR DJ software
- 2 bright, full-color displays reveal pop-ups displays, views, and panels
- Touch strip provides tactile control over track position, pitch bend and more
- Quickly access track BPM and Key as well as FX, Filter and Remix Deck parameters
8. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
Dimensions: 10.1″ x 10.4″ x 2.4″ – Weight: 4.4 lbs – Channels: 2
But what about the S2? The MK3 increment is likely to appeal to those DJs who are working with tablets and Macs, particularly as there is a lot of flexibility in the hardware connectivity. You can easily connect the S2 MK3 up to an iPad and start mixing through DAW apps to your heart’s content. Unlike the S8, the S2 MK3 is more ideal for beginners – purely thanks to its friendlier layout and smoother design.
However, that doesn’t mean you can expect anything less than professional quality from the tech in store for you here. You’ll have access to sensitive, responsive jog wheels, as well as a handful of pads per deck. You’ll get two channels as standard, as well as all the engineering and tweaks you may come to expect from Traktor tech across the years.
The S2 MK3 is built for pro use as well as for parties, meaning that it could well be one of the most versatile on our list. But what else makes it one of the best DJ controllers in 2020? It’s the fact it’s so easy to get into. It’s very easy to rig up, and unlike some of the most detailed and complex controllers out there, you can expect to hit the ground running after a few uses. That, as stated, doesn’t make it any less capable. In fact, if you were already considering the S8, it might be worth looking back at the MK3 for something a little more user-ready.
- Classic spin-to-nudge function, as well as scratch capability
- Beat grid adjust mode
- Club-standard layout with identical deck design
- 2-channel mixer
- 16 RGB pads for triggering Hot cues, loops, or samples
- 3-band EQs with modeling of industry standard mixer Eqs
- Upsized, touch-sensitive jog wheels
9. Numark Mixtrack 3
Dimensions: 14.1″ x 14.6″ x 3.6″ – Weight: 9 lbs – Channels: N/A
The Numark Mixtrack 3 brings together all of the best elements you’d come to expect from the manufacturer – this controller really is a joy to play around with! Taking the best visual and interface elements from their best-selling controllers and mixers elsewhere, the Mixtrack 3 is something of a ‘greatest hits’ package which will likely appeal to beginners and those who want to grow into DJing fairly quickly.
The layout here is extremely straightforward and is even less busy than you might expect from entry-level controllers Numark serves up elsewhere. It packages with Virtual DJ LE, and offers some of the most sensitive jog wheels you can buy for the money. There are touch strips and simple rubber pads and buttons to control, too. The display functionality and plug and play nature of this hardware will also appeal to those looking to gain experience.
That said, the Mixtrack 3 really isn’t a plaything. It’s impressively rich in tons of great features! While it doesn’t have a built-in sound card, it’s likely to work well with your choice of DAW. You can even load up Prime Loops alongside, with the ability to throw in samples and mix more and more FX in as you go. It’s also really easy to browse through audio files and tracks on-board, too.
All in all, we think the Mixtrack 3 is a great choice if you want to learn mixing as you go, though it may be worth holding out for a more refined or professional Numark controller if you have a little more experience.
- 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
- Powered by USB connection
We have also reviewed the new Pro 3 model Check it out!
10. Numark DJ Controller 20 (Mixdeck Express)
Dimensions: 11.8″ x 20.9″ x 3.8″ – Weight: 9.74 lbs – Channels: 3
Last but not least, let’s take a look at Numark’s entry into the app-friendly DJ circuit. The Controller 20 is another modern piece of kit which will allow you to mix and play through iPad, meaning that you can download DAW apps to easily craft tunes alongside. What’s more, this controller also allows for easy integration of streaming and music libraries, meaning that it really is as easy as tapping iTunes or Spotify into view to start blending your audio together. You can save and retrieve mixes in the cloud, and what’s more, you have three channels to mix across – with built-in LCD screens, too. This means that there are few other DJ controllers in 2020 which give you so much visual access to your tunes on the go.
The controls and FX available to you through the deck itself are also impressively versatile, meaning that if you prefer to take physical control of your music, you absolutely can. You’ll even be able to plug in older music tech such as CD drives and players and play and mix standalone tunes through there. Again, it’s a controller that arrives with Serato Intro, meaning that if you don’t already have a favorite DAW app to hand, it’s nice and simple to start out with something the controller was built for.
- Ultra-Portable 2-deck computer controller with screens and Serato DJ Intro software included
- standalone playback from dual CD/MP3 CD drives and USB Thumb Drives
- High-resolution multifunction Jog wheels for searching and scratching
- LCD screens
- 3-channel mixer with EQ/rotary kills, replaceable crossfader and external inputs
- Dual-channel audio mixer
DJ Controller Buying Guide
Unsure what to look for in the best DJ controllers in 2020? There are plenty of features which separate the best from the average – but do always be careful to look for specifics which matter to you. You’re going to need a DJ controller which is reliable, responsive, portable, and which allows you to get the most creativity out of your mixes.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we looked into as part of our reviews guide above. You may wish to apply the following to your own shopping, too!
Quality of Build
Always look for a DJ controller that’s built well and built to last. If you are likely to take your DJ controller on the road with you, you’re going to need something solid and robust. Otherwise, it’s going to scratch and break down a few months into use. here is a handy guide on how to protect your DJ equipment.
It’s easy enough to spot flimsy controllers, but you may need to rely on reviews from verified users and DJs to get a sample of the best units. Look for a DJ controller that’s built for professional use, regardless of your needs. That goes for outer build, dials, knobs, and sliders.
Does It Work with a DAW?
Of course, many DJs look for controllers which work alongside the best DAWs. The best controllers should adapt well to various suites and DJ software choices. As you can see from our list above, there are plenty of controllers out there which offer free DAWs as part of their package deals. However, these are often entry-level versions.
Therefore, it’s worth looking up controllers which are likely to adapt well to other DAWs out there, such as FL Studio, Garage Band and more besides. If you already have a favorite DAW, this is worth doing all the more.
How many inputs and outputs are you looking for? Are you looking for the best DJ controller which will easily work with your existing speakers? Or, are you looking for hardware which has its own sound card and built-in displays? You might even be looking for the best dj controller which works with tablets or iPads.
Look into channel numbers and input and output demands. The more you get, the more you pay – on the whole. However, you should also be careful to consider your needs, and whether or not you really need those extra inputs if you’re just starting up.
Features and Functionality
Of course, another element that’s going to separate the best is how functional they are, and what they can actually do! Are you looking for realistic jog wheels? What about intuitive touch controls? Want more FX per touch?
Maybe you’re looking for LCD screens, multi-EQ functions and easy access to gain and filter controls. Most of the best DJ controllers out there will follow the same patterns, but one or two are really creative – take a look around and, again, consider what you actually want and need from the DJ experience, too.
Size and Bulk
Naturally, all good DJ controllers should be easy for you to carry around and store away when not in use. The very nature of a DJ’s work is that they are likely to be on the go much of the time. There are some bulky controllers available out there packed with features, but do you really need all that weight moving from place to place?
There are plenty of lightweight DJ controller out there which are just as capable and as professional as some of the bigger systems.
What is a DJ Controller?
A DJ controller is a physical piece of hardware which lets you create and mix music. It is an instrument that DJs use to patch and mix music together, often alongside mixing DJ software or DAWs. These are built to be extremely easy to use on the go, when mixing live, and when playing and mixing at home, too.
DJing controllers will help you to monitor and edit music on the go and will often allow you to plug in and preview with headphones, before playing out to your audience.
What is the Difference Between a DJ Controller and a Mixer?
A DJ controller tends to offer more features than a mixer. Your controller will mainly help you to control the physical features of your music, from your tempo and audio quality to speed and any FX you want to add on top. Mixers, meanwhile, work to mix audio channels and streams together into one whole. You’ll generally use a mixer to blend sounds from various sources and inputs, for example.
However, you may find some DJ controllers which have different mixing capabilities. It’s perfectly possible to get a great all-in-one unit!
What Do I Need to Run a DJ Controller?
Simple – apart from the physical controller itself, you will ideally need some form of computer. This can be a laptop, a PC or Mac, or you might even have an iPad or a tablet. You’ll also need DJ software to work with your controller, though many of the best systems come with DJ software packages included.
Other than that, it’s a good idea to have a few audio files and samples ready to go, too! You may also want to plug in your own speakers unless you are happy to play music directly through a sound card.
DJ controllers come in all shapes and sizes. However, they all help you to achieve the same end goal – unique music that you mix and play live to audiences. Some are better for practicing and mixing with at home, while others will be great for mixing live and to play out to big crowds.
The best DJ controller money can buy in 2020 will also help you to take greater control over your mixes, and to add in various features and FX along the way. Why not take a look through our list above and find yourself a great new controller?
You never know – the best dj controller purchase could help you on your road towards DJ superstardom – everyone has to start somewhere, and you might as well start with some seriously awesome tech. Take a look at the biggest brands and best picks!