When I got DJ gigs back in the 1990s, the best-case scenario was that the venue already had a set of Technics SL-1200 or 1210 decks. So, all I had to do was bring along my records. Carrying a couple of flight cases filled to the brim with vinyl was hardcore enough and gave me biceps like Arnie.
But since then, everything went digital…
All I need now is a memory stick with my tunes on it and access to the best DJ controller with the decks and mixer integrated into one easy-to-use package.
But, there is an issue with using popular digital DJ decks. Some models are cheap and flimsy, so you must be using at least the most solid and dependable DJ controllers.
Modern-day DJ controllers are so lightweight and easy to transport around that I take mine wherever I go. Regardless of the club or bar I am working at. So, let’s take an in-depth look at the very best digital DJ controllers currently in the marketplace. All are perfect for any gig, from a wedding to a dance club.
Top 10 Best DJ Controllers in 2023
1 Numark Party Mix DJ II Controller – Best Beginner DJ Controller
This is the sort of DJ controller I would buy if looking for excellent quality and value for my money. And, for this price, it’s one of the best controllers you can buy.
I have been messing with Numark products since the 1990s because they always had a knack for offering top-quality DJ equipment at a price you can afford. This one has everything you need. Two integrated decks with scratch wheels, a DJ mixer, audio interface options, and USB connectivity.
If this is your first soiree into the world of digital DJ controllers…
This is the ideal device. It was made for digital DJ beginners and gives you all the options to mix, cue, sample, and sync with its large touch-sensitive jog wheels.
The built-in audio interface means you can plug it in and play all your tunes via USB connectivity from your PC, MAC, or even IOS while using the Library Controls to flick through your music.
Hands-on DJ delights…
The integrated performance pads allow you to set up samples at a single touch to add layers to your mixing in the heat of the battle. There’s a bunch of filter knobs and buttons to change the pitch in a split-second that gives you total control of your mixes when you need it.
The pads are extremely responsive and ensured I never missed a beat. You can’t ask for more than that as a professional DJ.
Serato DJ Lite system included…
This lets you stream music into the decks live from Soundcloud, Spotify, Beatport Link, and Beatsrouce link. You can’t beat these types of options for this kind of price. I suggest that all fledgling DJs looking for a high-quality DJ controller should check out this beauty.
- Merges affordability and quality.
- Audio interface with USB connectivity.
- Integrated decks and audio mixer.
- Performance pads for mixing and sampling.
- Serato DJ Lite system included.
- Perfect for beginners.
- Not suited to high-end professional DJs.
2 Hercules DJ Control Impulse 200 – Best Budget DJ Controller
The Hercules Impulse 200 is the sort of digital DJ device you buy when quality is important, but you don’t have the big bucks on hand to buy the most expensive models.
The best of both worlds…
It’s both ideal for beginners and also for professional DJs looking to switch from a vinyl setup to a digital one.
With two integrated decks with scratch wheels, a solid audio mixer, and eight touchpad options, it has everything you need for under $150. Exclusive features like beat and tempo aligning guides that light up and show you the way are perfect for those new to this type of digital controller.
Simplicity and reliable performance are the cornerstones of this model, and that’s just what any DJ craves from their gear.
Comprehensive DJ software…
There are a bunch of DJ software options that come with this controller. Integrated tutorial videos and their Discover the Basics of DJing interactive guide are all things that will help DJs transition to using digital decks for the first time.
Track selection functionality is also very easy to use with the Intelligent Music options. You can choose the hottest tunes of the moment to play in a super-quick fashion. It’s compatible with PCs, smartphones, macOS 10.11 and higher, and Windows operating systems from 7 to 11.
- Top quality for immense value.
- Perfect for beginners and professional DJs alike.
- Eight touchpad options.
- Integrated tutorial videos for an easy transition.
- Compatible with most devices.
- Limited options that are more suited to beginners.
3 Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1 – Best Controller for DJ Battles
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1 is the type of controller you buy when you need undoubted quality. The Pioneer name is like royalty in the DJ equipment game, making this one of the best DJ controller devices that I have ever used.
When DJ equipment started to move away from analog vinyl decks and mixers, Pioneer was one the first to manufacture and develop digital DJ decks and controllers.
The oversized jog wheels make scratching and blending much easier than controllers that have fiddly little wheels. This one gives you room to move and mix at breakneck speeds. The hands-on interface is the type used by professional scratch artists in DJ battles, so you don’t have to worry about quality.
Live or streaming sets…
You can use this device in both a live DJ setting and when streaming a mix live across YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch.
This is the first-ever Pioneer DJ controller of this level to use the output of the master audio that can be mixed with a microphone. So, you don’t need an external sound card to run them separately.
Other top features…
Serato DJ Lite and DJ Pro options, compatible DJ software, performance pads for mixing and adding samples, and scratch-tracking software to help you along the way.
There are too many features and options to list them all in this space. Needless to say, it’s one of the most versatile DJ controllers you can buy.
- Market-leading branded Pioneer DJ Controller.
- Oversized jog wheels for maximum performance.
- Serato DJ Lite and DJ Pro.
- Scratch tracking system.
- Built-in mic input.
- Ideal for DJ battles.
- Highly-priced DJ controller.
4 Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 – Most Affordable Professional Grade DJ Controller
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a step up from the devices I have already reviewed. Taking digital DJ integration to another level, this device looks the part and feels even better.
It merges classic features but with a modern twist via technical advancements. The jog wheel modes allow you to scratch and blend manually. Its spin-to-nudge function gives you more control, like you are using vinyl decks.
Integrated beat grid adjustment features mean you can manually control the beat grid and adjust it in Traktor. It uses a club-standard deck layout that’s familiar to all DJs who have used digital controllers. As well as a two-channel mixer that gives you super-fast control over the Traktor system.
Crafting sets is a cinch due to the cacophony of effects that you have at your disposal. These convenient tools allow you to quickly loop and sync to the highest levels imaginable, which will make you look like a 5-star DJ in almost any situation.
And, with direct access to tools like Traktor Pro 3, you can really define and streamline your DJ style on the go.
Use the 16 RGB performance pads to trigger your cues, samples, and loops with unnerving accuracy. This is the type of DJ controller that you would expect the world’s best DJs to use, with an affordable price tag that can be enjoyed by all.
- Easy-to-use professional DJ controller.
- Integrated with Traktor Pro 3.
- 16 RGB performance pads.
- Manual control jog wheel scratch functions.
- Tools for looping, syncing, and sampling.
- Not for amateurs.
5 Gemini Sound GMX Pro – Best Lightweight DJ Controller
The Gemini Sound GMX Pro is the sort of device that merges value for money with undoubted quality. Gemini is another DJ equipment manufacturer that I have been messing with since the 1990s. And it’s great to see how far they have come from their belt-drive DJ deck days.
This model comes with so many functions and features…
So, it’s going to take time to learn how to use it properly. The GMX Pro is compatible with almost all audio formats. You can load your favorite tunes via USB, MP3, and WAV formats.
It’s essentially an independent media player that can also function as a 24-bit audio interface for PCs and Macs. The vast output options include monitoring, playback, and recording via RCA or balanced XLR outputs.
Fully-customizable beat juggling…
The jog wheels might not be designed for the highest scratch levels, but there are a bunch of things that make up for that. The jog wheel and numerous performance pads and buttons allow you to quickly control beat juggling, track points, hot cues, and auto or manual loops and give you access to lots of filters.
The eight performance pads also give you more options to fully customize this highly-recommended DJ controller.
It’s one of the most portable DJ controllers I’ve ever used…
Anyone who owns a mobile DJ business will tell you how easy that makes life. Convenient compatibility with a host of functions makes this unit very popular and usable for pros and amateurs alike.
- Immensely affordable top-notch controller.
- Compatible with MP3, WAV, and USB formats.
- 24-bit audio interface for PC/MAC.
- RCA and balanced XLR outputs.
- Eight high-quality performance pads.
- A vast amount of jog wheel functions.
- Lightweight and portable device.
- Not a heavy-duty product.
6 Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 Best 4-Channel DJ Controller
This controller is something new and unique, and I should know because I have tried almost every product in the digital DJ marketplace.
Having a 4-channel mixer already sets it apart from the rest, and that’s before we have even used it. Pioneer has once again pulled out the stops to ensure digital DJs have everything they need at their fingertips for a price you can afford.
The 4-channels give DJs more options to move the crowd in real-time. You can easily create mashups and scratches with samples and loops on the fly with this type of four-way mixer.
Sizable jog wheels make it much easier to use for scratching than many other similar models in the market. It feels natural and responsive, which is perfect for timing everything correctly.
All-new Merge FX functionality…
The integrated Merge FX presets can be easily adjusted by turning the knob depending on the preset that you’ve chosen. You can combine samples and numerous effects at the same time with ease. It makes transitions fun and layered every time, so you sound and look like a pro DJ, even if you aren’t.
Take advantage of the plug-and-play compatibility that works in tandem with Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox with built-in sound card capabilities. All you need to do is hook up your laptop or device to the controller via a USB connection, and you are ready to go.
Pioneer has hit it out of the park with this model. Perfectly balancing high-end quality and lots of features with value-for-money prices.
- Market-leading Pioneer branded device.
- Four channels for ambidextrous mixing.
- Sizable jog wheels for scratching.
- Brand new Merge FX functions.
- Compatible with Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox.
- Simple USB connectivity.
- Immense value for money.
- Might be too expensive for amateurs.
7 Roland Two-Channel DJ Controller – Best Portable DJ Controller
When you need the quality of a high-end Pioneer model but don’t quite have the cash on hand, this DJ controller should be where you look.
It’s one of the best value for the money DJ controllers, and no one will argue against that. It’s a two-channel, four-deck controller that is optimized for scratching while having low latency due to its large platter design.
You can really get creative with this controller…
It comes equipped with built-in drum kits from the legendary Roland catalog. Their patented 909, 808, 707, and 606 drum patterns are the stuff of legend, and you get access to them all via this controller.
There are eight sounds in each of these kits, with a fantastic choice of bass drums, snares, closed and open hi-hats, claps, and rims that can fatten up any mix.
On-the-fly beat creation…
This controller is a creative DJ’s wet dream on steroids. You can use the onboard sequencer, sampler, and Serato DJ Pro to make unique beat patterns on the fly.
That means you can be a beatmaker and DJ all at the same time with this beauty. And you can even synchronize external devices in Serato by using the integrated MIDI outputs.
The best part of all…
…is how light and portable this DJ controller is. You won’t believe how easy it is to carry around from venue to venue. The optimal portability is off the charts. And any working professional DJ will tell you how compact-designed equipment makes life much easier on the road.
- Portable and lightweight DJ controller.
- Two-channel, four-deck model.
- Extensive Roland drum kit options.
- Make beats on the fly in Serato.
- Integrated MIDI outputs.
- Superb value for money.
- Might not suit high-end pro DJs.
8 Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 – Best Overall DJ Controller
This Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 2-Deck Controller might well be the best DJ controller I have ever used, and that’s saying something. And, with prices from $1000 to $1200, it represents immense value for money considering the quality of this product.
I know this is the third Pioneer DJ controller on the list. But that’s because they know what they are doing, and you can’t substitute that with frilly features and trending technology. Fashion is temporary, but style and quality are forever.
I like this model more than Pioneer’s pricier and higher-end 4-channel DDJ-1000 model because it has all the same features and functionality in a smaller package for less money. So, I’ve added this model to the list instead of the DDJ-1000. Please don’t lynch me for that, guys.
Club-standard DJ controller…
This is a club-DJ standard quality product that will not be out of place in any dance club in the world. It comes equipped with two integrated decks, a mic input channel, and RCA and XLR stereo master outputs. In other words, one of the best live performance DJ controllers you can buy.
The audio resolution is 24-bit/44.1kHz and is compatible with Pioneer’s own Rekordbox software that has cloud storage/syncing and DVS. Although, you’ll need your own subscription to make that work.
The cool jog color displays, the oversized scratching wheels, and the excellent 16 performance pads with multi-color functions make it look and feel so awesome. I love this digital DJ controller, and you will too. You just can’t go wrong with Pioneer in regards to undoubted quality and a fair price to boot.
- Highly-recommended Pioneer DJ Controller.
- Looks and performs like a club-standard device.
- Cool jog color displays.
- 16 multi-color performance pads.
- Compatible with Rekordbox software.
- Mic input channel.
- RCA and XLR stereo master outputs.
- You’ll need a subscription to use Rekordbox.
9 RANE ONE Integrated DJ Controller – Best Premium Multi-Function DJ Controller
This RANE ONE Integrated DJ Controller is right up there with the best digital DJ decks in the world, bar none. This one can hold its own with any Pioneer device out there, and that’s saying something from a Pioneer addict such as myself.
A complete DJ system…
One that is compatible with a host of software, such as Serato DJ Pro. The two integrated decks both have access to dual USB laptop connections that makes mixing between your tune painless.
The 7.2” motorized deck platters give the product real solidity and leverage. They have quick-release acrylic disks that have some real drag like you would expect from vinyl decks, which gives you more control over your mixes.
Perfect set personalization…
Personalizing sets is very important to a DJ. So, having access to lots of effects and functions really helps. There are six quick-launch FX paddles made from metal and a bunch of instant loop controls. Each deck has eight individual performance pads that can be used for triggering samples, setting up cues, mixing, matching slicing, and much more.
If you are a creative DJ that likes to keep your sets fresh, this is one of the best controllers you can use.
And that’s not all…
You can choose from RCA or XLR outputs and lots of other features, such as dual XLR/TRS microphone inputs. This controller gives you options to control almost everything about your set, and that’s what makes these decks so desirable.
- Market-leading DJ controller.
- Compatible with Serato DJ Pro.
- Dual USB laptop connectivity.
- Solid motorized deck platters.
- Six quick-launch metal FX paddles.
- 16 performance pads in total.
- XLR/TRS mic inputs.
- Only for pro DJs.
10 Denon DJ SC Live – Best All-in-One DJ Controller
This Denon DJ SC Live DJ Controller might be the last product on my list, but that’s by design, not happenstance. Maybe I left the best until the last, and even if it’s not the best, it’s not far off.
This Denon DJ Controller is an absolute beast and is compatible with Amazon Music Streaming, Virtual DJ, and Serato DJ software. It comes with wireless connectivity, so you can hook it up directly to your favorite online music streaming service or platform to play any tune you like.
A truly laptop-free performance DJ controller…
The Denon DJ SC Live offers something different from everything else on my list. You won’t need a computer or other devices to play your tunes with this beauty. That’s because you can add your tunes via an SD card or by utilizing the two USB ports on each deck.
And you can even use the 7” in-built touchscreen to scroll through your tracks with ease. Mixing tracks on a digital DJ controller has never been this simple.
The complete audio quality experience…
This is a controller that gives you the ultimate in immersive sound and audio quality. It uses built-in speakers, so the DJ booth is in your control no matter where you are playing.
If you make good money as a mobile DJ or you play in numerous clubs, this is a controller that you need to invest in. You’ll make your money back in a week or two, so don’t worry about the price tag.
Other features include two mic inputs, lots of hardware-to-software integrations, 16 performance pads for samples and loop triggering, and so much more. I could write about this product for days, and I wouldn’t run out of good things to say.
- Market-leading branded Denon DJ controller.
- 7” built-in touchscreen.
- Load your music via SD card or USB ports.
- Compatible with Amazon Music Streaming.
- Two mic inputs.
- 16 high-quality performance pads.
- Compatible with Serato DJ Pro and Virtual DJ.
- Built-in speakers.
- Very expensive.
- Not for amateurs.
Best DJ Controller Buyer’s Guide
There are so many high-spec digital DJ controller devices to choose from that it can make your head spin. Especially if this is your first time buying one.
With so many things to take into consideration, you need to know what you are looking for and what suits your situation and user level. So, check out my buyer’s guide to answer all your DJ controller questions and queries.
Should I Buy Branded DJ Controllers?
Yes, you should opt for the best branded DJ controller you can afford. It’s quite an investment, so buying inferior models just because they are a few bucks cheaper is a schoolboy error that you need to avoid.
In this case, I always opt for leading MIDI and musical equipment brands like Denon, Pioneer, Roland, Gemini, and Technic. I suggest you do the same.
Are DJ Controllers Compatible with Laptops?
In most cases, the best digital DJ decks are compatible with laptop computers and other devices, so you can easily load up your tunes. Ideally, you would buy controllers that have SD card access or even individual USB ports for each deck so you can upload and manage your tunes on each channel.
Should I Buy Solid or Portable DJ Controllers?
It all depends on the type of work you do. If you’re using your controller in the same place, I would opt for a more solid and sturdy device.
However, if you are like most DJs, you are probably mobile and moving from club to club. In this case, you should buy lightweight DJ controllers that are portable and easy to take from one venue to the next with the least hassle.
Should They Be Compatible with DJ Software?
Yes, it would be better if your controller is compatible with Serato DJ Pro, Virtual DJ, or other similar DJ software programs. You need these programs because they can help you to create the best set possible. And, if you are, or intend on becoming, a pro DJ, that is very important.
DJ Controller Cost Examples
You can buy digital DJ controllers for $100 or less, but you get what you pay for. The best market-leading DJ controllers cost $1200 to $2000. Although, you can find a very good model in the $300 to $800 price bracket if you do your due dalliance.
Want More Great DJ and Beat-Making Equipment?
Well, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Hardware Sequencers, the Best Beat Machines for Hip Hop, the Best DJ Mixers, the Best Keyboard Synthesizer, and the Best Electronic Drum Pads you can buy in 2023.
Also, have a look at our Roland Aira TR-8 Rhythm Performer Review, our Pioneer PLX-500-K Review, our Denon DJ Prime Go Review, our Arturia MicroFreak Review, and our Denon DJ SC5000 Prime Review for more amazing items currently on the market.
Which of these Best DJ Controllers Should You Buy?
I suggest that you buy the best controller that you can afford from a leading brand. But, if you are asking which one I would buy from this list, the winner is the …
You should’ve known I was going to choose a Pioneer. There are three of them on my list, so that should tell you all there is to know.
I like this model better than Pioneer’s more prestigious DDJ-1000 model because it’s pretty much the same but much lighter and much cheaper. It’s reliable, dependable, affordable, and has everything a modern DJ could want while also being easy to take on the road.
Until next time, let the music play.