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The Top 6 DJ Controllers in 2021
Your DJ controller is essential equipment for the professional DJ. But what is the best DJ controller in 2021, and what features are most important to consider? These are good questions and ones we hope to help you answer today.
You might have seen our recent article about our take on the best virtual DJ controller. Now, we are going to take a more comprehensive look at DJ controllers in general. When it comes to comparing the best DJ controllers, there are few key considerations, which include the following in order of importance:
- A seamless software interface, so you aren’t managing glitches on the fly.
- Robust construction so you know you can haul your equipment around without worrying too much about it.
- An intuitive user experience so you can concentrate on your mixing, not your process.
Ok, so we might have left one consideration out that is also significant: budget. Controllers come in all budget ranges and with different outputs depending on various factors. For example, the best DJ controller for beginners might not need the same pioneer DJ controller that is best for a seasoned professional.
To that end, here are our top picks for DJ Controllers in 2021:
Best Full-Size DJ Controllers:
The Pioneer DDJ-1000 gives you four channels and a professional layout, club-style. Also, it’s portable, which is essential for many professional DJs that do gigs on-location. The large jog wheels have HD screens, which we love, allow you to customize what you see on the display screen. Plus, the jog wheels are pressure-sensitive, which gives them a pro-mixing feel. It’s also handy to have the screens right there, so your focus stays on the deck. Another significant improvement for this pioneer DJ controller is the Magvel Fader, which they updated on this version. The designers made the fader more durable, which helps since it’s meant to be portable and increase the DJ’s ease of use.
The RANE ONE is so great it was sold out for a long time. This professional DJ controller features motorized 7” turntable platters, which we like for the vinyl throwback feel it gives you combined with all the tools and effects of the digital world. Also, the RANE ONE amps up the flexibility with three stereo outputs, dual mic, and dual USB laptop connection, and Phono/Line aux inputs. The MAG FOUR crossfader, enhanced with the Serato DJ Pro software cut-in adjustment functionality, helps you control your cuts with a light touch and a smooth fade. In addition, we like the eight multi-function performance pads that give you all the tools you need for creative control.
The Pioneer DDJ-SX3 is another popular Pioneer DJ controller. MusicRadar calls it “the best Serato DJ controller under £1,200,” which is around $1,700. Here in the states, it retails at approximately $1,000. Aa another four-channel Serato DJ controller, it is also meant to be portable (and durable) and look familiar to DJs. The low-latency jog wheels also provide smoother scratching. Also, the inputs and outputs have improved connectivity, which is essential when you collaborate or plug into other systems and speakers. The dual USB ports are helpful, allowing you to have your laptop there as a backup and help transition between hardware. But perhaps the reason it is considered a Serato DJ Controller because the performance pads and expansion packs let you see what the software can do. Plus, the Flip and Pitch N’Time is included with it.
Compact DJ Controllers
The Numark DJ2go is an excellent portable DJ controller with a simple setup. It fits in a backpack, and you attach your laptop with a USB and go. The setup isn’t the only simple thing with this Numark DJ controller; the layout is too. Some DJs describe the design as “feeling natural.” This versatile DJ controller works with almost any DJ software and can be a go-to DJ controller for spontaneous gigs or backup if the primary system fails. Plus, at under $200 (and $100 in some cases) at most retailers, it’s affordable for pretty much anybody.
Another great Numark DJ controller is the Numark Party Mix! DJ controller. This 2-channel DJ controller allows you to “get the party started,” playing and mixing your tracks with the Serato DJ lite software that is already loaded. Another great feature of this Numark DJ controller is that you can manually sync the beat or auto-sync your playlist. Also, it has a built-in, synchronized light show. Plus, each deck has four cue points that have accessible pads for effects. In addition, you can create eight, four, two, and one-bar phrase loops with its auto loop function and add instant effects to the music. Best of all, it’s easy to use; you can start mixing as soon as you take it out of the box.
Best DJ Controller for Beginners
The Hercules DJ Control Starlight is an excellent DJ controller for beginners with its compact and practical design. It has DJ Serato Lite software loaded and a built-in sound card so that you can preview your mix. Also, it’s small, making it easy to tote around and affordable. This Hercules DJ controller also has the essentials to help you transition between tracks, such as the bass equalization filter knobs and touch-sensitive jog wheels, making it easy to scratch, even if you are still learning how. Moreover, we think the RGB backlighting and strobe effects help beginners learn how to mix. All in all, it’s a great DJ controller for artists who are just starting.
Best iPad DJ Controller
The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review is HomeDJStudio’s pick for the best iPad DJ Controller. Using the Traktor Pro 3 software, this DJ controller has one Mic input, two master outputs, and one headphone monitor. It weighs a little over five pounds and is just under 20 inches wide. HomeDJStudio rated it high for its durable design for protecting it during transport, the professional level layout that makes it easy to adapt to for new and experienced DJs (as well as making it a good backup controller option), and the jog wheels, which they described as generous in size. Their only complaint was that the controller isn’t compatible with other software systems.
There you have it—six excellent options for DJ Controllers in 2021. Stay tuned for more information on what other DJ equipment you should know more about, coming soon.
“How to Choose the Best DJ Equipment.” www.thehub.musiciansfriend.com 19 April 2019. Web. Accessed 24 May 2021. <https://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/DJ-gear-buying-guides/how-to-choose-the-right-DJ-equipment#controllersdo>.
“The best DJ controllers 2021: Top mixing devices from Traktor, Serato, rekordbox, and more.” www.musicradar.com. Web. 24 May 2021. https://www.musicradar.com/news/the-best-dj-controllers-in-world-today
“What DJ Equipment is iPad Compatible in 2021?” homedjstudio.com. 18 May 2021 Web. 24 May 2021. < https://homedjstudio.com/best-ipad-dj-controller/>.