The Top 7 best DJ controllers on the market [2020 Guide]
The last years, DJ software and hardware equipment that controls it, have made a huge impact in the DJ world. Some of the best DJ controllers of 2020 are now available at under $1200.
In the last decade music production and DJing often cross their paths in order to create something unique.
The ability to work with waveforms and samples, apply effects, connect turntables, CDJs or instruments to your DJ setup is now possible with just a DJ controller and software.
DJ software and hardware equipment that controls it, has been one of the most significant things that happen in the DJ scene in the last few years.
The music and DJ market continues to grow, and people are now able to choose a controller that fits their budget, needs, and expectations. This is great news for DJs, but it can also make the shopping process a bit difficult.
The all-in-one DJ controller:
DJ controllers have risen in popularity very quickly. The main reason is that all-in-one DJ controllers are more affordable and offer the same features as the standard DJ setup.
The standard DJ setup in most clubs and music events, consisting of two or more media players or turntables, and a DJ mixer in between them. The cost of that starts from $6000 and can easily go to 5 digits if we have 4 Pioneer CDJs NSX2 and a DJM mixer. The cost of a DJ controller with similar features and characteristics is way less.
In case you desire the classic DJ setup check the best DJ Media Players and the best professional DJ mixers.
What to look for when buying a DJ controller:
- Features – Knobs, buttons, jog wheels, performance pads, and faders are substandard on any DJ controller out there. Now you have the ability to work with waveforms and samples, apply effects, connect turntables, CDJs, and instruments to your setup. Furthermore, you will see Display screens and high-quality velocity-sensitive performance pads to trigger a bunch of stuff. Such as hot cues, pad FX, beat jump, keyboard mode, beat loop, and more.
- DJ Software compatibility – Serato DJ, Traktor Pro, Recordbox by Pioneer and Virtual DJ are the most common DJ softwares in the market. Expensive controllers, such as the ones we will see in our list, they might include the supported software. So, if you haven’t pick your software yet, the purchase of a DJ controller will solve that problem. You can always check out the best DJ software in the market.
- Portability – It’s easily understandable that if you are planning to buy hardware that you will constantly transfer it needs to be light and small. Ideally, it would fit in your backpack but since we will be looking for controllers with premium features it will be hard to find them in a very compact size. High-end controllers have more robust components, and usually bigger jog wheels, as well as more indicators and LED screens. So you might end up with a bit more heavy tool but at the same time extremely durable.
Note: Even if many of these controllers have been designed for specific software, these are all MIDI controllers that are mappable for any MIDI software. You can do the mapping manually by yourself. However, you might find online someone who has already posted mappings that match the hardware to your preferred software.
How to decide which is the best DJ controller on the market?
The proper question is “Which is the best DJ controller for YOU”. It all comes down to personal needs and desires. Do you scratch often when DJing? Then jog-wheels are essential. Do you want to big display screens to view track info and waveforms? What about performance pads? How often are you going to use them?.
High-end DJ controllers like those in our list are for DJs who are quite a while in the scene and make a living out of it. If you are a beginner I would suggest you take a good look at one of the best DJ controllers under $400.
We did our research, read customer reviews, compare features, prices, and specifications and we give you the best DJ controllers for under $1200.
The Top 7 best DJ controllers on the market – Reviews
1. Pioneer DDJ-1000 DJ controller
Pioneer’s DJ equipment is probably the most commonly used gear in the DJ world. Pioneer DDJ 1000 is here to offer powerful features while still being compact enough to easily transport it between events.
The most impressive feature of this unit is the two jog wheels which are exactly the same with the CDJ-2000NXS2. Yes, they are the same size and as sturdy and accurate as you would expect. On top of them sits high-definition full-color LCD screens that display several functions. The screens, however, are tiny and the amount of information displayed on each of the jog wheels is a bit much. You will either have to lean on and take a closer look or use the Rekordbox DJ software to remove any info you might not need.
Jog wheel displays 17 different pieces of track information such as BPM, waveform, playback position or Hot Cue and Loop points. Thus, it removes the need to look at your computer all the time.
Below the jog wheels, there are 8 rubber Performance Pads per deck to trigger Hot Cues, Pad FX, Beat Jump, Sampler, Keyboard Mode, Beat Loop, and Key Shift. Pad FX1 and FX2 give you immediate control of over 32 pre-assigned effects.
This Pioneer DJ controller offers 4 channels and two USB ports to control two computers. Each of the four main channels offers a 3 band EQ with trims and VU meters for keeping the sound levels properly. A dedicated Sound Color FX knob, as well as, Beat FX that can be applied to any individual channel. To name a few effects, Multi-Tap Delay, Echo, Reverb, Flanger, Phaser, Pitch, Slip Roll, Mobius (Saw), Mobius (Triangle), and Low Cut Echo.
Plenty of connectivity with 2 lines, 2 phono/line, 2 MIC inputs, 2 master, 1 booth and 2 phones.
DDJ-1000 comes with Rekordbox and you start DJing from day one. The aluminum build and acrylic-finished top panel give DDJ-1000 the look of a professional DJ setup. All buttons, knobs and the improved Magvel Fader which will last over 10 million movements, guarantee durability and long term use.
Conclusion: Pioneer DDJ-1000 is probably the best alternative option for the club-standard setup. With the looks, design, layout, and features that were pulled directly from the CDJ and DJM series make it an excellent value for money choice. DDJ-1000 with Rekordbox is pretty close as playing with a pair of NXS2 and DJM 4 channel mixer.
2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8
Native Instruments has been around for years making great quality hardware and software for all musicians. Especially in the DJ scene NI gear and software cannot go unnoticed. Traktor Kontrol S8 has a bit different interface compared to the above. It doesn’t look like an all-in-one controller (pair of players with a DJ mixer), but it is a controller dedicated to your DJ software. In this case, it’s Traktor Pro.
S8 has no jog wheels to correct your beat-match but there is small need of that when you can focus on a variety of other features to create an extraordinary DJ set. This DJ Controller is much more than what it shows. Traktor Kontrol S8 is beast in a small package. It gives control over 4-channels with 3 band EQ and perfect integration with Scratch Pro software. Which is included in the package. The timecoded CD and vinyl, however, it is not.
You can also connect up to 4 CDJs or turntables to switchable phono/line inputs and mix without a laptop.
Its top feature is the two bright high-resolution color displays. They are significantly bigger than the ones on DDJ-1000. You can easily browse through your music collection to find and pick your next track. As well as, track info, effect, and filter values, but the most important the running track’s ultra-crisp vector waveform.
Below the LED screens you will find 8 multi-color performance pads on each side. So, you can launch samples, set-up cues, jump around loops and the unique new Freeze Mode. Freeze view instantly slices a track in eight parts to deconstruct it live with the performance pads.
Conclusion: The Traktor Kontrol S8 is clearly a quality piece of equipment. It looks fantastic, it has a very good quality built, and offers great features for a reasonable price. It is a perfect fully-featured Traktor controller that can instantly be turned into an independent mixer with EQ and filters, removing entirely the computer from the equation.
For more option for your Traktor Pro DJ software. check out the best Traktor DJ controller of 2020!
3. Denon DJ MC7000 Controller
Denon has been making great quality DJ equipment for a very long time. They haven’t received the proper attention, and for that have always been on the shadow of Pioneer DJ. MC7000 and MCX8000 are two high-quality Serato DJ controllers and a great alternative from the ordinary Pioneer equipment.
Denon MC7000 is a professional DJ controller with 4 channel Serato DJ capability and audio interface with two USB ports. Connect 2 computers simultaneously and enable two DJs to play together on their preferred DJ software. Each of the 4 channels has analog inputs to use as a stand-alone mixer as well as 3 band EQ, LEDs, and individual filters.
The 16 velocity-sensitive performance pads are very durable, and with the 10 available pad modes, its time to become creative. The jog wheels are nothing impressive, nevertheless, are thick, responsive and will get the job done. On top of the jog wheels, you will find track browsing and loading, touch strip for needle drop and assignable effects. The dual 6-inch platters have a touch-capacitive design with rotational LED displays, giving you plenty of room for track manipulation in real-time.
10 pad modes are Cue, Roll, Sampler, Slicer, Velocity Sampler, Cue Loop, Saved Loop, Slicer Loop, Serato Flip, and Pitch Play.
The MC7000 comes with a full version of Serato DJ Pro, and 3 creative expansion packs (Pitch ‘n Time, Flip and Video). It will work great with the Virtual DJ software as well.
Conclusion: MC7000 comes bundled with a deck-saver DS-PC-MC7000 for extra protection. It has a very similar layout with the DJ controller that we will see next but it has 2 channels and it costs less. So if you can’t afford that one, wait and see the DDJ-SR2 by Pioneer.
4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 Controller
With the next Pioneer DJ controller, we are cutting down on size and channels, but not on features. Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is designed to work perfectly with Serato DJ. The software is included in the package so you won’t have to make an extra purchase. SR2 is an upgraded version of the popular DDJ-SR. The improvements that made it enter our list are many.
Beginning with the 16 multi-colored performance pads to trigger Hot Cues, Roll and Sampler features. The onboard buttons for quick access to new Serato related “Key Sync”, “Key Shift” and “Key Reset” functions are a necessity. But most important the hardware mixer with Serato DVS support to connect Pioneer CDJs or turntables offers great potential and makes this DJ controller a wonderful value-for-money choice.
This lightweight and portable DJ controller features large, low-latency jog wheels. They are not as impressive as the ones on DDJ 1000 but they will get the job done with great scratch response and accuracy. The 2-channel mixer offers the standard 3 band EQ, a trim knob and VU meters per channel. The line faders, however, offer little resistance and that may be tedious after long hour performances.
The jog wheels are similar in size to what you would find on a Denon MC7000.
The only minus of this controller is that is lacking on display screens. So, you will have to spend time in front of your laptop to search for tracks, track info and waveforms. In addition, you may find interesting is the two touch strips on top of the jog wheels that allow you to search within a track very easily.
Conclusion: Pioneer DDJ-SR2 is a great two-channel DJ controller for every DJ, who desire perfect integration with Serato software. You get a nice set of features, cool design, and product reliability of Pioneer for a very sweet price. Not to forget that new DDJ-SR2 is one of the lightest DJ controllers in its category.
If you are determined to buy a Pioneer model, find out at the best Pioneer DJ controllers on the market.
5. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3
The smaller sibling of Traktor Kontrol S8 is here, and it comes with some very interesting features. Kontrol S4 MK3 is a four-channel controller for Traktor Pro DJ software.
What makes Kontrol S8 stand out from the rest are the motorized jog wheels with haptic feedback in three modes. Jog Mode, Turntable Mode, and Beatgrid Adjust Mode to spin and react to nudging, scratching and pitch-fading. Beneath the jog wheels, there are 2 small high-resolution color displays that show track ID, key, BPM, waveform strip with track position, phase meter, loop length, and more. The screens are not sufficiently large but will help you perform live without constantly looking at your laptop.
Except for the 3 EQ band, the mixer offers some new effects that can be applied on each channel. You can choose from 8 FX (Reverb, Dual Delay, Noise, Time Gater, Flanger, Barber Pole, Dotted Delay, and Crush. ) and 3 filter types in addition to TRAKTOR deck effects. The interface also gives you 2 microphone inputs and 2 headphone outputs to meet every need.
Performance pads are a standard for most controllers nowadays, and this controller offers 16 RGB to trigger Hot cues, loops, or samples. The pads may be a bit smaller than some but will get the job done.
Conclusion: Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 has a lovely design and professional layout combining it with sturdy materials, buttons, knobs, and carbon protected faders that will last for years. It is small enough to fit in your bag and sturdy enough for long-hour performances.
6. Reloop Mixon 4 DJ Controller
Mixon 4 by Reloop is a 4 channel DJ controller, with 3 band EQ, dedicated filter knob and cue button on each channel. As well a big and weighted library knob to make the research live a lot easier. These are not the features that make it stand out. Mixon 4 offers a docking station to add your iPad 12.9″ and experience great performance on top of your decks.
The jog wheels are slightly more flat than the rest, but the overall size and feel, are in the same range. Under them you will find 16 RGB, velocity-sensitive pads to trigger Hot Cue, Loop Roll, Sampler and Slicer modes. Very interesting is also the new Pitch Play mode that allows us to perform and create live remixing of cue points at different tones and pitches.
A expected it offers extreme integration with Serato DJ software. However, it cannot be used as a standalone mixer to connect your CDJs or turntables. Mixon 4 comes with a Serato DJ license, but if you want the Pitch ‘n Time plugin you will have to buy it separately. Mixon 4 also supports several DJ software on Mac and PC and there are available mappings for Traktor Pro and Virtual DJ.
Conclusion: Its price may make you think twice before buying it, since, for a few more bucks you can buy a DJ controller for more professional use. Nevertheless, If you’re looking for a reliable and portable Serato controller that will perfectly integrate your iPad, then the Reloop Mixon 4 is the choice for you.
7. Numark NVII DJ Controller
Numark is a brand well-known for producing equipment with pro features that were only available on very expensive platforms. It is very rare to find a DJ controller with jog-wheels and two high-resolution display screens woth this price tag.
Numark NVII is a 4 channel controller with extreme integration with Serato DJ. It also works with Virtual DJ and can be manually mapped with other popular DJ software.
The stand-out feature is the two 4.3-inch full-color screen for real-time feedback of the Serato DJ. The track name, Bpm, key, the time elapsed/remaining, FX levels are all displayed right there on the screen. As well as, track waveform and gridlines to seamlessly beat match your tracks. It also adds five column-viewing options, to sort your songs by name, artist, time, BPM, or key.
Many DJs like to keep their attention focused on the desc rather than the screen of their laptop, and Numark NVII delivers that.
NVII offers from the usual EQs, crossfader and jog wheels, to 16 velocity-sensitive performance pads with backlit RGB feedback. The 10 pad modes allow hot cues, loop slicing, finger drumming, and more to spend hours experimenting.
Conclusion: Numark NVII is the most affordable DJ controller of our list. It offers similar characteristics with the previous models and is one of the cheapest and lightest controllers in its category. if you cannot afford any of the above, and cant wait to start DJing, do not hesitate, Numark NVII is a good value-for-money purchase.
These were our top 7 picks for the best all-in-one DJ controllers on the market!
Every producer, DJ or musician has different tastes, desires, and needs on software and hardware equipment. If you know your preferences on DJ software, features, and budget, you will be able to find the best DJ controller for you.
We gave you 7 very popular DJ controllers that collect great reviews over the years. So, we are confident that you can’t go wrong with any of the above.
Are jog-wheels important to you? Then DDJ-1000 is an ideal option. Do you want to big display screens to view track info and waveforms? Traktor Kontrol S8 and Numark NVII will offer you that. Do your own research if necessary just keep your focus on what you really need.
Don’t forget one of the most powerful weapons of a DJ. Check the best DJ headphones on the market. If you are practising at home, check out the best DJ speakers of 2020!
Are you in search of a new DJ controller to add to your DJ setup? or upgrade your current gear? Leave your comment below, if you would like to add, ask or suggest something to our readers.