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The Top 7 DJ Controllers For Beginners

There’s never been a better time to learn the art of DJing.

Once upon a time, you had to buy turntables and a mixer to replicate a professional DJ set up. Now, you can connect your laptop, computer or tablet to a DJ controller, which combines the features of a mixer and turntables on one device. It’s that simple.

Plus, thanks to rapid technological advancements in recent years, there are controllers on the market to suit every type of beginner – whether you’re a complete newbie or want to hone your mixing skills.

Here are what we consider to be the top 7 DJ controllers for beginners.

(Please note – the quoted prices are the cheapest online prices for the newest versions of these controllers as of January 2020).

Pioneer DDJ-SB3 

The Pioneer DDJ-SB3 is as good as it gets when it comes to DJ controllers for beginners. The third iteration of Pioneer DJ’s entry-level controller for Serato DJ Lite, the SB3 is tailor-made for those looking to transition from novice to pro.

With the SB3, you have access to a wide array of creative features without feeling overloaded. These features include 8 performance pads per deck, separated cue/play-pause buttons and the somewhat controversial Scratch Pad mode (more on that later).

Let’s look at the SB3 in more detail…

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Responsive and accurate jog wheels
  • Simple plug and play through the built-in sound card
  • Original performance functions
  • Independent auto loop section
  • Complete mixer section

Cons:

  • Shorter faders make mixing and beatmatching more difficult than it could be
  • Awkward auto looping

Recommendation:

If you’re looking at getting into turntablism, the Pad Scratch mode allows you to imitate 8 different scratch techniques recorded by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Whatever track you’re playing, you can automatically match the scratch up to the right tempo by simply tapping a performance pad. This feature has received mixed reactions from the DJing community, but most SB3 users seem to favour it.

Price: £199

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Great value for money
  • Slick, easy-to-navigate layout (as shown in the video above)
  • Extensive range of features
  • Compact and easy to transport

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

The release of this controller was hotly anticipated – and, in a sense, long overdue. The Mk3 came out 5 years after its popular predecessor the S2 Mk2 first came on the market. However, if customer reviews are anything to go by, good things really do come to those who wait.

The S2 Mk3 has all the software and performance features a beginner could want – and comes at a very reasonable price.

In fact, it’s almost exactly the same price as the SB3. So, if you’re choosing between the two and want to find out the main differences between them, check out this video.

Anyway, back to the S2 Mk3. Here’s what you need to know…

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Supports iOS devices
  • USB-powered for simple connectivity
  • Effortless setup through a plug-and-play operation
  • Portable and compact (lighter and smaller than the S2 Mk2)
  • Responsive and playable new precision jog wheels which enable you to scratch and adjust the beatgrid
  • High-quality pitch faders which can adjust up to 1/100th of a BPM
  • Integrated high-end audio interface

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have XLR ports
  • Lacks the haptic drive system found on the Kontrol S4

Recommendation:

Before connecting the S2 Mk3 to your PC or laptop, watch this instructional video on how to register and install a Native Instruments device. This will save you valuable time further down the line.

Price: £198

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Great value for money
  • Easy to use
  • Flexible across different devices

Pioneer DDJ-SR2

If you’re a serious beginner DJ who is looking at playing live regularly, this controller is best suited to you.

The Pioneer DDJ-SR2, an update to the popular DDJ-SR, includes dedicated key controls for the Serato DJ Pro software. This allows you to control multiple software features with the push of a button – in a nutshell, you can get very creative with this controller.

At £575, it’s the most expensive DJ controller in this article, but don’t let the price put you off. You’re getting a reliable, robust and, above all, high-quality piece of kit for your money – as you’ll see from reading below…

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Small, light and easy to transport
  • Durable construction
  • Professional XLR outputs enable you to connect to a variety of equipment including PA systems
  • High-quality, colour-coded performance pads allow you to trigger hot cues, sampler and roll effects
  • Added touch strip to simplify track searches 
  • Solid, responsive and high-resolution jog wheels
  • Pitch ‘n Time feature allows you to match the keys of different tracks with the push of a button

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Small pitch sliders
  • Non-replaceable crossfader

Recommendation:

The SR2 is a hardware mixer so, if you wanted to, you could connect turntables and/or media players and use the SR2 in conjunction with the Serato DVS Expansion Pack.

Price: £575

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Easy to use
  • Built to last
  • Extensive range of features

Numark Mixtrack Pro 3

The Serato – enabled Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is arguably the most popular member of the Numark family of DJ controllers – and with good reason.

Due to its compact size (550 x 30 x 232mm), it’s ideal for mobile and bedroom DJs who want to save on space. It’s also the perfect controller if you’re performing at a small venue with not much room for equipment.

A significant upgrade on its predecessor, the Mixtrack Pro 2 (which was criticised for its overly simplistic design) boasts a sleek shape, an aesthetically pleasing design and lots of interesting features. Below is a flavour of them…

Pros:

  • Solid build
  • USB-powered for simple connectivity
  • 8 multi-functional touch pads
  • Simple plug and play operation
  • Integrated 24-bit audio interface for clear audio playback
  • 1/4″ jack and a 1/8″ mini jack input for your headphones
  • Smooth crossfader which is perfect for mixing and scratching
  • Separate channel VU meters to prevent distortion

Cons:

  • Headphone volume isn’t very loud
  • Fairly basic crossfader
  • No trim controls

Recommendation:

The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 only comes with Serato DJ intro, so you might want to make a further software purchase if you want the full Serato experience.

Price: £148

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Simple design
  • Easy to use

Hercules Inpulse 300

Hercules is up there with the very best when it comes to providing affordable and high-quality DJ controllers – and this is epitomised through its Inpulse 300. This created a lot of buzz when it was launched at NAMM earlier this year and it’s lived up to the hype ever since.

If you’re new to DJing, you’ll quickly learn a plethora of techniques through this controller, as it’s packed with different features (a selection of which are listed below – the Beatmatch Guide is an especially helpful feature for beginners).

For the modest price of £148, it’s about as complete a controller as you can get.

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Very portable and lightweight
  • Built-in Intelligent Music Assistant (IMA) and Beatmatch Guide (see ‘Ideal for beginners because’)
  • Integrated soundcard
  • 16 touch pads to work with
  • Slick touch detection jog wheel

Cons:

  • Small faders can make precision movements tricky
  • Only compatible with DJUCED (see below)

Recommendation:

DJUCED is the supported software for the Inpulse 300. If you don’t want to use this software, you’ll need to purchase software separately.

Price: £154

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to install and set up
  • The Beatmatch Guide provides step-by-step guidance during a set

Roland DJ-202

The DJ-202 is Roland’s entry-level, Serato DJ Lite controller which punches well above its weight in terms of features and functionality.

With this controller, you have the same layout and features of a full-size professional controller, but for a much cheaper price. Its standout features are the Roland TRS drums and jog wheels, which you can see in action in the video above.

As Jamie Hartley from Crossfader alludes to, it’s a compact controller which you can take anywhere and which isn’t overloaded with complicated software.

Essentially, like most DJ controllers, you get a lot for your money – which is perfect if you’re a beginner.

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Very portable and lightweight
  • USB powered for simple connectivity
  • Easy-to-navigate layout
  • High-quality jog wheels
  • Large, low-latency platters which are optimised for scratching
  • Onboard sequencer that controls Serato DJ Lite’s sampler for on-the-fly beat creation
  • 8 dedicated performance pads
  • Great over output sound

Cons:

  • No additional AUX inputs or booth outputs
  • Some settings need the unit to be unplugged to change
  • Performance pads aren’t always responsive

Recommendation:

As with the Numark Mixtrack 3, this controller comes with Serato DJ Lite software. If you want more production capability, upgrade to Serato DJ Pro for free. By doing this, you’ll have access to 32 sync-able sampler slots over 4 banks, software recording capabilities and more.

Price: £207

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to set up
  • Reasonably priced
  • Has a professional feel to it

Denon DJ MC4000

As with the Pioneer DDJ-SR2, this controller is slightly more expensive than others in this article. But judging from the reviews, it’s well worth the extra investment.

In fact, the Denon DJ MC4000 is one of the best controllers out there in terms of value for money. It has all the attributes you’d expect of a professional, high-performance device, several of which are listed below.

Whilst it’s perfect for both beginners and professionals, it’s probably more geared towards DJs who have a year’s experience under their belt.

Pros:

  • Solid, durable, pro-grade steel construction
  • Spacious control layout for effortless workflow
  • USB-powered for simple connectivity
  • Each microphone input has its own 2-band LF/HF EQ for exact sound customisation
  • Dedicated hot cue and sample pads for on-the-fly creativity
  • Separate level knobs for FX
  • Reliable jog wheels which enable accurate scratching and track queuing
  • Long-throw 100mm pitch faders to help you make fine pitch adjustments

Cons:

  • Slightly more on the expensive side
  • Limited number of performance pads
  • Bulkier and less portable than other controllers in this article

Recommendation:

DJs will often take a small mixer to accompany their controller to live performances. However, due to the MC4000’s range of capabilities and features, you wouldn’t necessarily need to add a mixer. All you need is a PA system and you’re good to go.

Price: £369

Ideal for beginners because:

  • Reasonably priced considering its range of features
  • Easy to set up
  • Has a professional feel to it

This concludes our picks of the best DJ controllers for beginners. We hope you can make an informed decision on your next controller based on our article.

Whichever controller you go for, you need to protect it with Equipment Cover – especially if you plan on using it to play live.

Our DJ insurance includes Equipment Cover against loss, theft and damage, both in and out of the home. This starts from as little as £26.99 a year – not much to pay for added peace of mind.

To find out how we can protect your gear, get an instant online quote with Insure4Music today.

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