The Best DJ Controller for beginners under $500

The best dj controller for beginners with under $400 and what to look for.

The Best DJ Controller for beginners under $500

The Best DJ Controller for beginners under $500 – Updated 2019

A few years ago you needed at least two turntables or cd players, a DJ mixer, and a big budget to start DJing. Now you can have one of the best DJ controllers for beginners with under $500 and start mixing right away.

In 2019 and with the current technology you can have one tool to do the whole job. In the market exist start-up controllers with mixer controls and two player simulators with jog wheels and cue points. But the truth is that with just a few extra bucks you can get a middle-range tool with extra drum pads, auto loop, FX controls and extreme connectivity to popular DJ softwares such as Serato DJ and NI Traktor Pro. And the best of those models we will see here are available for under 400-500 dollars. A fantastic time to be a beginner DJ, when a few years ago for two middle range Pioneer CDJs and a DJM mixer you wiould need a budget of minimum $2000.

What is a DJ controller?

DJ controllers emulate the traditional DJ mixer and turntables in one piece of equipment. They allow you to mix music through the software in your laptop with the use of knobs, encoders, jog wheels, faders, assignable performance pads, and more.

The revolution of DJ MIDI controllers has give the ability to today’s DJs to perform anytime and anywhere. With the help of a reliable computer, with the installed software, and a very compact controller you will be able to perform an amazing DJ set.

Two major factors that define the best DJ controller.

First is the compatibility of the controller with the DJ software that you are currently using. If you just start and you haven’t decided yet, don’t worry because most of the best DJ controllers come with a trial version of the supported software. In addition, DJ controllers transmit MIDI messages, and like that they can be re-mapped to function with the majority of DJ softwares. However, we would suggest if you are a beginner to just get a controller made to function with the DJ software that you choose, so you can get to playing right away. Otherwise, you will have to spend the time to manually map each button, fader, knobs, and function. Serato Dj, NI Traktor Pro, and Ableton Live are the most common softwares for live performances.

And the second thing to consider is whether or not you want a built-in audio interface. Most DJ controllers have one and all models in our list too. An interface is necessary to get upgraded sound and ensure high-quality recordings. As well as extremely low transfer delay. In case there is no built-in audio interface, in the controller you found, you can take a look at the best audio interfaces under $200.

What to look before you buy a DJ controller

So, except for the compatibility of the DJ controller with your desired software such as Traktor Pro or Serato DJ, there are a few more things to consider.

  • Built-in audio interface: The interface transmits audio and MIDI signals and effect processors and PA systems. Thankfully all items in our list for the best DJ controller for beginners have a built-in interface.
  • Controls and functions: Control surface with dedicated knobs, fadders, buttons, jog wheels, and performance pads, are necessary. With a job wheel, you will perfectly beat-match your tracks and scratch at your desires. Performance pads, buttons, and faders maximize capabilities to get your mixing technics to the next level.
  • Portability/Build quality: You need a portable, light and small tool that you will easily transfer it to your gigs. Furthermore, if the controller won’t have a permanent place, it is critical to look for a sturdy construction that will last hardship and frequently transportations. Even if all DJ controllers are built to take abuse, some brands stand out for their durability.

List of the best DJ controllers under $500 for beginners and professionals:

  • NI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
  • Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
  • Pioneer DJ DDJ 400
  • Roland DJ 202
  • Numark Mixtrack pro 3
  • Denon MC4000
  • Behringer CMD Studio 4A

What you will need to start DJing with an all-in-one DJ controller and How to connect your controller with your DJ equipment.

DJ SETUP WITH DJ CONTROLLER

As you saw from the graphic above, the tools and connections are pretty simple and standard.

  • DJ Headphones – With a huge variety on brand, characteristics, and budget you can choose between some great pair of DJ headphones. Simply connect to your DJ controller or external audio interface, if your controller doesn’t offer one. If you are looking for a professional pair of DJ headphones that all famous DJs prefer, take a look at the best DJ headphones.
  • DJ Software – If you haven’t given thought on which DJ software to pick, we suggest you read more at the best DJ software for mixing. Serato DJ, NI Traktor Pro, and Ableton Live are the most common software out there.
  • Laptop or Desktop – Last but not least you will need a powerful and reliable laptop to install your DJ controller and software. That’s why we research and find for you the list with the best laptop for DJing.

The ability to work with waveforms and samples, apply effects, connect turntables, CDJs or an instrument to your setup will get you to the next level. DJ controllers that offer those capabilities are over our budget and you can find them at “The best DJ controllers of 2019“.

If you have a brand preference, NI, Pioneer, Numark, Behringer, and Denon are just some of our options. All our choices below are ideal for beginner DJs who still want premium features on a fair price. Their size makes them perfect to easily install and practice in your home recording studio.

There is no point to limit your research on what is the best DJ controller for Virtual DJ, Traktor, or any other mixing software. All DJ controllers below will serve you the same well wheher you are using Seraro, Traktor Virtual DJ or Rekordbox.

Once again, the word “best” is subjective, and you can not perfectly compare any DJ or music tool with another. Our choices have been made according to features, budget, personal experience, and user review ratings.

TOP 7 BEST DJ CONTROLLERS FOR BEGINNERS UNDER $500 – REVIEWS

1. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

Native Instruments have countless controllers that offer deep integration with their DJ software. Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is the perfect controller for every beginner. The package comes with Traktor Pro, so you are good to go and mix your first tracks with professional DJ software.

The Traktor Kontrol S2 has two channels and a three-band EQ to adjust the low, mid and high frequencies of your track. The high sensitivity jog wheels with aluminum plates deliver pressure-sensitive track control, scratching, and easy pitch bending. Jog-wheels are however a bit small but typical for this controller size. It also offers song management with direct iTunes integration are features that cannot go unnoticed. The controller will integrate very well with your iOS device either iPad or iPhone.

The interface includes two FX units with over 30 effects such as delay, reverb, flanger, will add color to your mix. A selection of loops and sounds are also included to get you started. Under the jog-wheels, there are eight RGB performance pads on each deck to trigger cue points and your own samples.

Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3, has all the features that qualify to be on a list for the best DJ controller for beginners.

Kontrol S2 MK3 is compact, portable and with a high-quality build that will last for years. One of the nice additions on the controller is the two library knobs that make browsing and selecting tracks through your software very easy. The built-in audio interface offers superb sound quality making it powerful enough for advanced DJing and mixing. It also provides precision control, cueing, and club-ready output levels.

Conclusion: As we mentioned before, NI Kontrol S2 MK3 comes with the Traktor Pro, but it can also get mapped to Serato DJ. Its available for a reasonable price, so if you are a beginner with a tight budget, don’t worry, this DJ controller worth every penny. If you can invest a lot more, you can go for the Kontrol S4 MK3 with four channels where you can connect 2 CDJS or turntables.

Musicians who use it: Dj Pierre, Ilan Bluestone

Software compatibility:Traktor Pro and all major
Features:8.5/10
Portability:9/10
Value for money:9/10

2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 

Check price on Amazon.com

The best seller DJ controller in this category and with the most flattering reviews is the Pioneer DDJ SB3. It is compatible with Serato DJ software, and it comes with a Lite version for you to start DJing without spending much. Although, eventually you will have to upgrade to Serato Pro to perform at its full capabilities.

Same as the NI Traktor Kontrol S2, the DDJ-SB3 has two channels and two desc. The two 5 inch durable aluminum job wheels offer a precise scratch and mix. There are 2 big buttons similar to CDJ’s that give immediate access to Play, and Cue. Under the jog’s there are 8 performance pads that gives you access to Hot Cues, FX Fade, Pad Scratch and Sampler.

Each channel offers 3-band EQ, filter and gain knob per channel, good quality faders (with VU meters to check the volume), and a crossfader. The filter function applies High and Low Pass filter to either channel. T

There are two effects engines, each containing three effects.

It has a built-in interface with the high audio quality as expected by Pioneer DJ. The construction is tough and will handle abuse. It is also very light-weight and easy to transport everywhere you go.

Conclusion: Pioneer DDJ SB3 is affordable, but that’s because it comes with an intro software version and not a full one. Serato DJ is a software used by professionals and it’s a good opportunity for you to build a career around it. I highly recommend this tool for any beginner that wants good sound-quality, pro features, brand name, and a budget-friendly tool.

Musicians who use it: Fatboy Slim, Ronan Mullins

Software compatibility:Serato Dj and all major
Features:8.5/10
Portability:9/10
Value for money:9/10

Pioneer DJ DDJ 400

DDJ 400 is a DJ controller with Recordbox DJ software compatibility. It comes with similar features, size, and club-style layout with the DDJ SB3. Plus the jog wheels, buttons, and faders are suchlike to that of the CDJ-2000NXS2 media players and DJM-900NXS2 DJ mixer. It also features the new Rekordbox DJ 5.3 and tutorial lesson to help learn how to DJ.

For more DJ controllers by Pioneer, check the best Pioneer DJ controllers in the market.

3. Roland DJ-202

You will see Roland’s innovating electronic music instruments probably in every recording studio of the world. Pianos, guitars, drums, DJ and music production gear and nearly everything any musician will ever need, Roland, produces it. They cannot skip on DJ controllers and they give us three high quality models (DJ-202, DJ-505, DJ-808) to cover, beginners, intermediate and professional DJs.

DJ-202 by Roland is a two-channel and four-deck controller for Serato DJ. It comes with a Lite version, but if you purchase in the U.S., you also get a free Serato DJ Pro upgrade.

The jog wheels are big, weighted, and very responsive and will satisfy most users. The standard 3 full kill EQ’s, trim and filter knobs per channel, as well, a basic music library management is everything you need to easily perform a unique DJ set.

Under each jog wheel, there are eight performance pads which can be used to trigger hot cues, loops, samples, and sequencer. You can use your loops or Roland’s built-in drum machine samples from the legendary TR-606, TR-707, TR-808, and TR-909 drum kits. These sound samples cannot go unnoticed.

Take a look at the best drum machines under $500 with more Roland hardware.

Conclusion: DJ-202 is compact and will last hardship. It has all the features a beginner DJ needs, for an affordable price. The nice design and primary green color make it a nice club-style DJ controller.

Software compatibility:Serato Dj and all major
Features:8/10
Portability:9/10
Value for money:8.5/10

4.NUMARK MIXTRACK PRO 3

Numark is a well known brand that produces innovated high-quality DJ equipment for many years. A proof, is the Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ controller, big brother of the successful Mixtrack PRO 2, with features you would expect to find on higher priced controllers. The Mixtrack PRO 3 is a Serato compatible DJ controller, and luckily for you, it comes with an Introversion of the software. But same as the above, eventually you will have to invest in the full version.

The tool by Numark has a built-in audio interface but also exists a light edition with no sound card for a budget cut. On each side, there is a touch-sensitive metal jog wheel and below them eight ultra-responsive back-lit pads that can be used to control hot cues, loops, sample triggering and more.

The unique feature of Mixtrack Pro 3 is the multi-function touch strip on top of each jog wheel. It’s an interesting alternative way for dynamic FX control and track search operation.

This little and affordable tool offers a huge variety of features such as browse knob for easy track-access along with a button to load a track and 16 effect controls (flanger, phaser, echo, etc).

Conclusion: Pioneer is “industry standard”, and that’s why DDJ-SB3 is preferable among DJs compared to Mixtrack pro 3. Otherwise, these two controllers are equally worthy. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a great controller for a beginner and intermediate as well. Except for Serato Dj, it is also compatible with Traktor, Virtual DJ, UltraMixer and more.

Software compatibility:Serato Dj and all major
Features:8/10
Portability:9/10
Value for money:8.5/10

5. DENON MC4000

Denon has a big selection of audio devices for professional DJ’s and MC4000 is a controller for pros. The model between MC2000 and MC6000 offers everything a beginner needs and with a new reduced price. Includes Serato DJ Intro but is also compatible with most major DJ software such as Traktor and Virtual DJ.

The touch-activated jog wheels offer accurate scratching and track cueing. It has an abnormal layout but you will still find the 3-band EQ, faders, effect knob per channel and a soft crossfader.

This premium two-channel DJ controller has a nice solid metal chassis and high-quality built-in audio interface. The MC4000 also features dual mic inputs with a range of high-quality FX, including a studio-grade echo, and a ducking effect that lowers the volume of the music when you use the microphone.

MC4000 is light and portable, so you can transfer it everywhere you go. Even for its size, DENON still managed to put dedicated Hot Cue and sample trigger pads with illuminated feedback.

Conclusion: The few reviews on the web speak about a durable controller that is good for your home practice and your live performances as well. It is a bit pricey but it is a good investment for every beginner. If you have experience with DENON, and you can spend more, check the big brother MC6000 MK3.

Software compatibility:Serato Dj and all major
Features:8/10
Portability:9/10
Value for money:8/10

6. BEHRINGER CMD STUDIO 4A

The last pick of the best DJ controller under $400 is by a brand based in German. Behringer is famous for it’s inexpensive and trustworthy music equipment. CMD STUDIO 4A is one of the most affordable 2-deck controllers with a built-in 4-channel audio interface you will find in the market.

Behringer CMD Studio 4A doesn’t lack in anything, with touch-sensitive jog wheel, 100mm pitch fader, three bands EQ with full-kill, background illuminated buttons, effects, and loop controller. It is everything you will need to start DJing.

Stand-out features are the LED feedback, a decent built-in audio interface and plenty of hot cues.

It is compatible with the most popular DJ softwares out there. Traktor, Serato Live, Ableton Live are some of them. But instead one of these they added a software called Deckadance LE software. I am a bit disappointed about that.

Conclusion: If you really don’t care about the brand, then the CMD STUDIO 4A is perfect for you. The DJ controller by Behringer has a very attractive price range and some features that overtake its competitors. The only big minus of this controller is that it doesn’t come with any popular DJ software. So inevitably you have to invest extra for Traktor or Serato DJ software.

Software compatibility:All major
Features:7.5/10
Portability:9.5/10
Value for money:8.5/10

These were our top picks for the best DJ controller for beginners with under $500.

All DJ controllers we reviewed are extremely portable and affordable for what they offer. With build-in audio interface and tough construction build, that make them perfect for mobile DJs, beginners, scratching DJs, and professionals. Avicii and DJ Pierre was using Traktor Kontrol S2, Fatboy Slim was DJing with Pionner DJ DDJ SB3. So yes, i guess the above best DJ controller will serve beginners and professionals as well.

Even tho DJ controllers are mostly used by electronic and house music DJs, they are good for every event and every music genre. From EDM and Dubstep, to Hip-Hop and Rock. 

Final thoughts…

To recap, the essentail features to look on a DJ controller for beginner are: Compatibility with your DJ software, sound quality, light, small and portable for easy transportation, and all that for an affordable price, that won’t harm your pocket. Pioneer DJ, Native instruments, Denon, and Numark are recognizable brands in music industry. Their equipent adorn the biggest clubs, bars and music festivals all around the world. 

If you have heard around by others that DJ controllers are for amateurs or for beginners only, they are wrong. All-in-one DJ controllers have risen in popularity very quickly. They are more portable, more affordable, simpler, and if you know to use them properly it can offer more than the conventional DJ setup.  The models by NI and Pioneer are widely more used and preferred by users but you can’t go wrong with any of the above models.

We are here to remind you How to become a DJ, in case you need a small briefing. If you are confident with your skills and want to take the next step check How to masker your skills.

Feel free to post your thoughts, comments or concerns…

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    Great article Ben, I just love your style of writing