Whether you are buying your first DJ controller or looking for an upgrade, you will want to do your research before you spend that hard-earned money. But finding the right DJ controller is no easy task. However, a quick trip down the Amazon or Sweet Water will show just how many of these controllers there are. So we compiled this list to help you make a more informed decision.
In this article, you will learn what a DJ control is, how it’s different from a mixer, and which DJ controllers are best for 2023. So whether you are a DJ, music producer, or audio engineer, we have you covered.
What is a DJ controller?
You might ask what a DJ controller is if you are new to this whole music thing. A DJ controller is a mixing device used alongside computer software to create or fuse music. They often come with a slew of features, such as programmable knobs, LED lights, touch strips, pressure pads, backlit buttons, and more.
DJ controllers enable you to monitor and alter music while you’re on the fly. They also frequently let you plug in and preview with headphones before playing to an audience.
What is the Difference Between a DJ Controller and a Mixer?
DJ controllers typically have more functionality than mixers. The physical aspects of your music, such as tempo, audio quality, speed, and FX, can be modified with your controller. Conversely, mixers are responsible for blending many audio feeds into a unified entity. Mixers are commonly used to combine audio from many inputs.
Some DJ controllers, nevertheless, may offer more flexible mixing options. In addition, you can find a great multi-function device!
The Best DJ Controllers of 2023
Choosing a DJ controller can be daunting, so here are the best DJ controllers of 2023.
1. Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller
Numark continues its line of Mixtrack Pros with this little batboy, the Mixtrack Pro II. It’s got all the goodies from the previous model with some new features and improvements the previous model was sorely lacking, including a more compact design.
Features include a 16-backlit multifunction drumbeat and low profile, touch-activated platters, hot cues, looping, and effects controls, a built-in professional DJ audio interface, and it even includes Serato DJ Intro software.
- Compatible with Serato DJ software
- Excellently engineered, it feels strong and very durable.
- It is equipped with an auto-loop feature.
- Lightweight, perfect for travel.
- No external audio interface is required.
This controller is perfect for DJs on the go and is great for beginners and professionals alike. You can’t go wrong with the Numark Mixtrack Pro II.
- Next Generation Feature Packed Controller : Ultra Portable two deck DJ Controller for Serato DJ Intro (Included) for Mac and PC with high resolution 5 inch metal jog wheels
- Connectivity Covered : On board pro grade class compliant audio interface with 2 headphone outputs and main output for seamless connection to mixers & PA systems
- Mix Control : Two physical decks outfitted with a crossfader, dedicated browsing controls, individual filter controls, touch capacitive jog wheels and independent transport controls access to critical, must have tools for seamless blending are right at your fingertips
- Enhance Your Performance : 16 multi function back lit pads with multiple pad modes for total control of cue points, auto / manual looping and sample playback to add some flair to your performance, plus 100 millimeter pitch controls and a multi function touch strip for dynamic FX control and strip search
- Spice Up Your Performance : Jump start your inspiration with 6 sample packs from Prime Loops including over 380 premium instrumental loops, drum kits, one shots, and more. A $200 value
- Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 - macOS 10.13 High Sierra 1.6GHz Intel Core Duo All Intel i3, i5 and i7 Processors are supported Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 RAM 1GB (minimum) Available USB 2.0 port Windows Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Available USB 2.0 port
2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 DJ Controller
If you have been in the game for any length of time, Pioneer has a history of making some of the finest DJ controllers. This entry is no different.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 is the successor to the DJ DDJ-SB. For a good reason, the DJ DDJ-SB took the world by storm when it was released. It was considered the top entry-level DJ controller with pro features. The second generation takes those features into overdrive. The DDJ-SB2 has all the bells and whistles of its predecessor but with some significant improvements and additional features.
- There are a tremendous number of buttons and features
- A USB can power it.
- Its relatively small and compact design makes it great for portability.
- It has dedicated Serato DJ buttons.
- It weighs only 4.6 pounds.
This controller has been updated several times, and it keeps getting better every time. And it’s the least expensive option on this list, making it attractive for semi-professional DJs on a budget.
- Lightweight and compact with a pro-style layout it’ll help you learn to mix
3. Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX2 DJ Controller System
I know what you are thinking: this is not an entry-level machine, and it is not exactly wallet-friendly, and you would be right. But this list is not about budget or ease of use; it’s about the best. So, with that said, I give you the Pioneer Pro XDJ-RX2 DJ controller system.
Pioneer makes a second appearance on this list with the XDJ-RX2. This is probably one of my favorites because of its built-in screen. You get the benefits of a digital touchscreen display without carrying around a laptop, making it a true all-in-one DJ controller. In addition, the touch screen lets you find tracks in a flash.
- It comes with a Rekordbox DJ license key so you can get to mixing immediately.
- Multicolor pads
- Multiple mic inputs
- You don’t need to use your laptop with it.
- The built-in 7-inch LCD screen is an absolute joy to use.
It has all the features you need to mix in one package. You don’t want to carry around a laptop. This is for you. It’s not a simple controller to master, and it’s certainly not the cheapest on our list, but it’s certainly a top-tier controller.
- All-in-one Digital DJ System with 7" Touchscreen Display
- Rekordbox Software Support
- Nexus Performance Options
- 16 Perfmance Pads
- Onboard Effects
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called 5 Best DJ Controllers in 2021 from The 5 Best YouTube Channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about DJ controllers.
What function does a DJ controller serve?
DJ controllers are devices used by DJs to handle music-mixing software. DJ controllers typically feature knobs, encoders, jog wheels, faders, illuminated buttons, touch strips, and other controls.
What Do I Need to Run a DJ Controller?
In addition to the actual controller, you should have a computer. This could be a notebook computer, desktop computer, Mac, iPad, or another tablet device. Although many top-tier systems already feature DJ software, you’ll still need it to use your controller.
Aside from that, it’s also helpful to have some audio files and samples prepared. If you don’t want to listen to music through your computer’s speakers, you’ll need to plug in external speakers.
Can you DJ with just a laptop?
If you truly want to, you can DJ without equipment. You’ll need to pick up another USB audio adaptor if you want to preview and playback on two channels. Try to keep your DJ performances as straightforward as possible, and if you ever find yourself in a position to do so financially, invest in a Midi controller.
With so many options, it can be hard to choose. That’s why we did all the work for you and reviewed some of the best models in 2023. Some even came with extra features like dedicated effects and more scratch-friendly buttons.
This article covered what a DJ controller is, what they do, and some of the best ones you can buy in 2023. Here are some key takeaways:
- A DJ controller is a mixing device used alongside computer software to create or fuse music.
- DJ controllers typically have more functionality than mixers.
- Pioneer makes some of the best controllers on the market.
- The three best DJ controllers are:
- Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller
- Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 DJ Controller
- Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-RX2 DJ Controller System
So, are you ready to invest in a new controller? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on home recording and production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.