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8 Best DJ Controller for beginners under $500 (2021)

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

8 Best DJ Controller for beginners under $500 (2021)

TOP 8 Best DJ Controller for beginners for under $500 [2021 Guide & Reviews]

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 2021, you can have one tool to do all the jobs. In the market exist starter DJ 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.

The best of those models we will see here are available for under 400-500 dollars. It’s a fantastic time to be a beginner DJ, when a few years ago for two middle-range Pioneer CDJs and a DJM mixer, you would need a budget of around $2000.

The ability to work with waveforms and samples, connect turntables, and CDJs 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 in the world today“.

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 at a fair price. Their size makes them perfect to easily install and practice in your home recording studio.

There is no point in limiting 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 whether you are using Serato, Traktor Virtual DJ, or Rekordbox.

Once again, the word “best” is subjective, and you can not ideally compare any DJ tool with another. Our choices have been made according to features, budget, personal experience, and buyers’ reviews. 

TOP 8 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 natural pitch bending. Jog-wheels are, however, a bit small but typical for this controller size. It also offers song management with direct iTunes integration, a feature 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, which 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 to 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. It’s available for a reasonable price, so if you are a beginner with a tight budget, don’t worry; this DJ controller is 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 favorable 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 two big buttons similar to CDJ’s that give immediate access to Play and Cue. Under the jog’s, eight performance pads give 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 a High and Low Pass filter to either channel. There are two effects engines, each containing three effects.

It has a built-in interface with high audio quality as expected by Pioneer DJ. The construction is sturdy and will handle abuse. It is also very lightweight 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 software used by professionals, and it’s an excellent 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

3. Pioneer DJ DDJ 400

The DDJ 400 is a Pioneer beginner DJ controller with Recordbox 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-900 NXS2 DJ mixer. It also features the new Rekordbox DJ 5.3 and tutorial lesson to help learn how to DJ.

4. Roland DJ-202 controller

You will see Roland’s innovating electronic music instruments, probably in every recording studio in 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 three full kill EQs, trim, and filter knobs per channel, as well, a basic music library management is everything you need to perform a unique DJ set smoothly.

Under each jog wheel, eight performance pads can be used to trigger hot cues, loops, samples, and sequencers. 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 an excellent club-style beginner DJ controller.

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

5. NUMARK MIXTRACK PRO 3 DJ controller

Numark is a well-known brand that produces innovative, high-quality DJ equipment for many years. A proof is the Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ controller, the big brother of the successful Mixtrack PRO 2, with features you would expect to find on higher-priced USB DJ 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 are 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 wide variety of features such as a browse knob for easy track access along with a button to load a track and 16 effect controls (flanger, phaser, echo, etc.). It is one of the easiest DJ controllers to use.

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

6. DENON MC4000 DJ controller

Denon has a big selection of audio devices for professional DJs, 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 a 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.

This entry-level USB DJ controller 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

7. BEHRINGER CMD STUDIO 4A

The last pick of the best DJ controller under $400 is by a brand based in Germany. Behringer is famous for its 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 a 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 of one of these, they added a software called Deckadance LE software.

Conclusion: If you don’t care about the brand name, then the CMD STUDIO 4A is perfect for you. The MIDI 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

 

8. Hercules Inpulse 200| Portable DJ Controller

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 200

Check price on Amazon.com

If you are looking for the best Hercules DJ controller in the market, search no more, the Inpulse 200 is the perfect choice for you. 

This is an extremely small and compact DJ controller. However, Hercules still managed to add eight pads, eight modes (hot cue, roll, fx, sampler), and two touch-detection jog wheels to practice your scratching skills. The knobs are also full-sized, but the buttons and pads, on the other hand, are pretty small.

The Inpulse 200 comes with DJUCED DJ software to help you learn how to DJ with integrated tutorial videos. As well, “track recommendations” displays a list of the best songs to play next, recommended by DJUCED artificial intelligence.

Conclusion: Without a doubt, this is the best DJ controller for beginners with under 200 bucks. Plus, it comes with free DJ software so you won’t have to make another buy. 

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 in 2020!

FAQs:

Q: What is a DJ controller?

A: 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 given 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 complete a fantastic DJ set.

Q: Are DJ controllers good for beginners?

A: DJ controllers are specially designed to serve the needs of beginner DJs. If you start DJing from your bedroom or small events then DJ controllers offer the portability and features to start your career without spending a fortune.

Q: How do I choose my first DJ controller?

A: First is the DJ software 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. Also, DJ controllers transmit MIDI messages, and like that, they can be re-mapped to function with the majority of DJ softwares.

However, we will suggest if you are a beginner to get a controller made to operate 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 on our list too. An interface is necessary to get upgraded sound and ensure high-quality recordings. As well, 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.

Q: What to look for before buying a DJ controller for beginners?

A: 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 surfaces with dedicated knobs, faders, 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 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 frequent transportations. Even if most starter DJ controllers are not built to take abuse, some brands stand out for their durability.

Q: What is the best DJ controller for beginners?

A: List of the top 8 best DJ controllers to start with:

  1. NI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3
  2. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3
  3. Pioneer DJ DDJ 400
  4. Roland DJ 202
  5. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
  6. Denon MC4000
  7. Behringer CMD Studio 4A
  8. Hercules Inpulse 200

All DJ controllers we reviewed are incredibly portable and affordable for what they offer. The built-in audio interface and robust construction build, that make them perfect for mobile DJs, beginners, club DJs, scratching DJs, and professionals. Avicii and DJ Pierre were using Traktor Kontrol S2, Fatboy Slim was DJing with Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3. So yes, I guess the above MIDI DJ controllers will serve beginners and professionals as well.

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

Q: What you will need to start DJing, and how to connect your DJ controller with your equipment:

DJ SETUP WITH DJ CONTROLLER

A: As you see in the image above, the tools and connections are pretty standard and straightforward.

  • DJ Headphones – With a massive variety of brands, characteristics, and budget, you can choose between some great pairs of DJ headphones. Simply connect to your DJ controller or external audio interface, if your controller doesn’t offer one. 
  • DJ speakersStudio monitors and powered speakers for DJs are important to do proper mixing.
  • 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 researched and made a list of the best laptop for DJing.

Final thoughts…

To recap, the best USB controllers for beginner DJs are compatible with your DJ software and are also mini and portable for easy transportation. Plus, you do not want to spend a lot on your first DJ controller.  Pioneer DJ, Native Instruments, Denon, and Numark, are recognizable brands in the market with affordable DJ controllers. Their equipment adorns 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 they 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.

Feel free to post your thoughts, comments, or concerns…

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