This is pretty much how I got started and what led me to finally start producing music. DJing and Producing go hand in hand. In fact, if you are a producer, DJing can help improve your music production because you get a good sense of what the people want.
If you are a DJ first, you pretty much already understand the importance of transitions in a track. If not, just like the guys at DMC 😉
Bottom line, to be a successful EDM artist you need to be good at both. Here you’ll find the best dj midi controllers. Included are some good cheap dj controllers as well. In fact, most dj controllers under $300 are featured in this guide as well so you are bound to find something.
If you haven’t played on the turntables before, this is what you need to get started in 2017.
Pro DJ DDJ-WeGO3-K – Best Cheap DJ Controller
Known as the best DJ Controller to start with, the DDJ-WeGO3-K can easily simulate the experience of playing with real vinyl in a two-pound, laptop bag size controller.
Bottom line, it’s the real deal. Pioneer really killed it with this portable, compact and sleek looking controller. Definitely on the top of the list as far as affordable or cheap dj controller for beginners go.
With the included Virtual DJ limited edition software, you can connect the controller to your PC or Mac computer for a screen reference. Or, if you are on the move and would rather travel light, you can always hook it up with your iTunes or Spotify by using your Apple phone with the app, djay 2. This is hands down the best dj controller out there for any beginner.
Plus if you wanted to connect it with a third-party software, then that option is also open to you. Compatible with multiple different software, like djay and Serato DJ Intro, you can connect this controller to your speaker system and amps with its built-in sound card (48kHz).
If you want to enhance the aesthetic and the function of your performance, the DDJ-WeGO3’s Pulse Control lights are also a practical feature the allows the user to see which filters and effects are currently in use, and when your track has finished loading.
Capable of being charged by USB is one of the bonuses of this controller, but also that it is compatible with iOS chargers. With this in mind, you know you can restore the DDJ-WeGO3’s power when you’re travelling or in transit with its Lightning cable (included with the controller).
The free software downloads available to the DDJ-WeGO3 include Serato DJ Intro, TRAKTORPRO, and djay2, and you can also purchase VJay on your iPhone to use with it.
The DDJ-WeGO3-K is available for under $250 (Great for the budget conscious), and you’ll be able to take it with you wherever you go. Now you won’t be killing any clubs or festivals with this little guy but if you are looking for the best dj controller for beginners, this is it bud.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 – Best DJ Controller For Beginners
For under $250, the DDJ-SB2 MIDI controller is designed specifically for being used with the Serato DJ software, though it is complimentary to other popular software as well. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, which is one of the features that makes it versatile. In fact, I consider this one of the best beginner dj controllers out there.
With its sizeable jog wheels and smooth-textured performance pads, it will give you the experience of authentic vinyl play with its manual tools, as well as its digital configuration. It also requires no external battery, as it is entirely USB powered. That DDJ-SB2 also requires no external soundcard.
There is no need for you to go out and find one that is compatible, as there already is one built into the controller. Unlike the previous DDJ-SB, the DDJ-SB2 controller has 4-deck control, and the user can easily switch between its channels.
The input volume on this controller can be adjusted with level meters, as well as the trim knob, and Pad Trans effect beat knobs add to the design of a tool for creativity. Twenty-two inches long and weighing six pounds, the DDJ-SB2 is a portable and sleek design. Despite its small size, the DDJ-SB2 controller is still capable of being played live sets for large audiences.
Numark Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ Controller Review
With features such as the FX controls, the touch-sensitive control wheels, the Mixtrack Pro II USB DJ controller strives for ease on the part of the musician when it comes to seamless playing.
The 16 back lit rubber drum pads with cues allow for quick rotation between the three modes, the sample mode, hot cue mode, and the loop mode. The device includes a crossfader, 3-band EQ, and music library navigation in its manufacturing. AS a result, Mixtrack Pro II performs as a triple threat when it’s played with its mixer.
If you’re concerned about getting hold of software to use with the controller, you really have nothing to worry about, as it comes with a Serato DJ Intro. Mixtrack Pro II is complimented by any Mac or PC computer, with no drivers or additional set-up needed. The audio system is set up for PA system output, microphone input, and headphone cueing.
The Mixtrack Pro II controller’s dual-zone hot wheels can be used to control the platter from the side, and also monitor the pitch. The hot wheel platter also happens to be touch-sensitive, and as such you should be able to fine-tune all the details of your sound and pitch when you use the Mixtrack Pro II.
On top of all this, one of the money-saving features of this DJ controller is the fact that it comes with its own audio interface. With no external audio interface needed, the controller is essentially ready to go as soon as you take it out of the box. At $200, it’s one of the less expensive DJ controllers.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 DJ Controller
Heres the thing guys. If you have the budget. Go with this one. OMG I would LOVE to own one of these.
One of the more expensive DJ Controller’s available, costing $400, the Native Instrument’s S2 MK2 has been upgraded from its previous version. With a reportedly more reliable fader than its predecessor, as well as a duo-tone design in its hardware, it has a greater versatility of it’s features making it a design that’s better for live performance and music production alike.
The a design made specifically for your manual use, and as a result it only needs to be connected to your Mac, PC, or an iPad or iPhone to use with the software that it comes with, TRAKTOR DJ. The jog wheels are made with silicone and aluminum in the top plates, designed for optimal scratching and cueing. The 2+1 channel system is intuitive, and that along with the Remix Decks, and its precision control, the output levels are “club-ready.” With the addition of a Lightning cable, the SK2 MK2 controller remains as portable as any other DJ Controller.
It measures twenty-two inches long, and manages to weigh under ten pounds. Its ergonomic design is ideal for live performance, as well as its rotary control within that contains 1,000 counts for every full rotation. The S2 MK2 might be a little bit bulkier than other designs, and certainly less cost-effective, but as result it has those additional features and internal engineering quality that make it a popular choice for Djs, whether they be novice or more experienced.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
The Mixtrack Pro series has made a lot of progress, and is a line of DJ controllers that have often been considered a good budget choice for novice DJ’s. The Mixtrack Pro 3 of course has many updates and improvements upon the previous models.
The pad features a variety of controls, such as long-throw pitch controls, touchstrips, deep jogwheels, and per-channel filters. These are all fine pieces of the DJ’s toolkit, even the new addition of the VU meters. Unfortunately the “performance pads” have a limited amount of function compared to other controllers. There is also the decrease of quality in the faders and knobs to address.
However, it does serve effectively as a simple layout for basic functions, compatable with Serato. All that is really left to do is to download the software, and you are ready to go. Mixtrack Pro 3 is more than competent for the fundamentals of mixing. The updates to the jogwheels make them responsive and easy to use, and the basic controls are sensitive as well. While the faders and knobs have their drawbacks, they work well enough for a beginner still learning the ropes.
The FX section of the Mixtrack Pro 3 has three separate effects on each side. This has the benefits of being straightforward to use, but the drawbacks of not having much in the way of wet and dry functions. If you’re a big fan of scrubbing, this controller will limit you. As for the pads, they offer a limited amount of function compared to the more “user-friendly” buttons on other controllers. It is not so much that the pads aren’t effective, but rather that the auto-loop function can be clumsy when it comes to the flow of production.
For input/output, a ¼ “ TRS mic channel has a volume control – this connects to an output that is part of the hardware; connected to this also is a twin hardware output, and a socket for headphones. With that, there is the standard fare of headphone volume, cue mix controls, a library select encoder, pitch bend controls, and a master gain. This is all what you would expect for $300 controller.
Even with some minor drawbacks, the MIxtrack Pro 3 is certainly an improvement from previous Numark controllers. It comes with Serato DJ Intro, with the option to upgrade. Ultimately, it’s a good choice for any beginner
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB Controller
DDJ-RB is certainly a sophisticated looking controller, with its lighter frame and sleeker appearance, a compact controller over all. The DDJ-RB is a portable device, making it handy for someone who has to travel for performances or gigs. It has smooth jogwheels, and a two-channel mixer with faders and a crossfader.
It is comparable to its predecessor, the DDJ-RR, for these reasons, but it still has its share of upgrades. The front of the controller contains a headphone connecter measuring 1/8”, and the back has a USB socket, two RCA master output jacks, and 1/4″ mic input with volume control. The DDJ-RB comes with its own software, Rekordbox DJ, so that’s one less thing for you to worry about.
Now, time to discuss those upgrades: The jogwheels have been well-received, primarily for the fact that they are quite large in proportion to the controller. Thanks to this proportion, they are a lot easier to use than the alternative. They also have a nice aesthetic appeal, black, smooth, with a glossy finish. Typically a smaller controller will equal smaller jogs, but in this case, the ease isn’t sacrificed for the sake of convenience and portability.
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB also has something not seen in its previous model, a selection of eight full-featured performance pads. These can be used for multiple functions, including FX, Slicer, and hot cues.
These functions are easy to control thanks to a play/pause button and cue buttons in the left side of each deck, separate from the performance pads. The mixer section of the controller has controls for trimming, filtering, and it also has three band EQ’s. The crossfader is loose and easy to use, and this makes it ideal for cutting tracks.
The five different, segmented LED volume meters in the mixer section are each made up of smaller LEDs. This improves the overall resolution. Unfortunately, the mixer section is absent of a Filter Fade, instead leaving you to manually combine forces of the filter and the crossfader.
However, some think this is hardly a downgrade. Yet you are only able to use two decks at a time, which can be a limiting aspect to the controller. As it is a smaller controller, it also has a small amount of functions for the FX section. To some this could be a hindrance or a relief. DDJ-RB is certainly not high-grade at $250, but it will still do the job.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum Serato DJ Controller
The Mixtrack Platinum is a favourite of budget items, specifically geared towards those just beginning to absorb themselves into the world of DJing. Similar in appearance to Mixtrack Pro 3, it takes a second closer look to appreciate what sets the Mixtrack Platinum apart.
Complete with touchstrips that allow for ease of track searches, as well as four-deck use and long-pitch controls, it has the foundations of a perfectly good portable controller.
This is part of why it has such a reputation among DJ’s who move around a lot to perform. Of course it also has the typical features of headphone sockets in both 1/8” and ¼” inches, a USB socket, and an RCA out.
An innovative update for the Mixtrack Platinum is the EQ’s relocation to the top left and right of the mixer. Now there is more space for the gain knob. Serato, being a straightforward software, is included with all the instructions needed to start out with your Mixtrack Platinum. The VU meters are easy to use, particularly for cueing, and the pitch faders are precise. All in all, the mixer section of Mixtrack Platinum is a fully-functioning beginner’s set.
For the displays within the jog wheels, you have a set of easy to read figures with the two-coloured text. There are two rings of light (the exterior is red, the interior pale blue). With the exterior ring you can see what deck is playing by its rotation. The pale blue interior indicator naturally indicates how much of that track has been played. Within both of these rings you can see the amount of time left on these tracks.
These features are extremely useful when it comes to keeping which tracks you’re playing straight. There are small arrows that direct you which way to move the pitch control so as to match the speeds of your tracks. Because of all this additions to the jog wheels, it can make it harder to control them, as they are heavier and a bit less sensitive than other small controllers – they can take some getting used to.
If you want something flashy-looking, the lights on the Mixtrack Platinum will certainly serve that purpose with all of its lights large controls. The controller remains light and easy to carry while still giving a professional look. While the price might only match others, it’s still a worthwhile budget controller for a beginner.
DJ Controller’s Buyer’s Guide
You can make a lot of noise with a DJ controller, and control multiple aspects of the editing and production with its tools. Although in most clubs, they still use Pioneer CDJs (Proper Digital Turntables), if you can master or get really good on your DJ controller, it’s pretty much the same thing.
All you really need is your laptop and speakers to get the whole place lit. One thing to keep in mind though is most clubs, use a software called Serato. Basically anywhere you go, that’s the one. So if you start out with Serato, that would be a key winning step for you.
By combining your DJ controller with software (tools like Serato or TRAKTOR) in you set up, you can simulate the analog experience of traditional DJing with turntables made of materials like aluminium and silicon. This goes beyond surface-level aesthetic or physical comfort.
By allowing musicians the manual handling over the controller, the DJ can implement a finer touch in their playing. In this way they are able to manipulate the music as a musician really should, instead of being at the mercy of virtual buttons and dials. This makes the DJ controller an adequate alternative to vinyl, the sensation that is sought after in a more modern format.
Unlike vinyl, the various controllers are nearly all typically compatible with many different software, and many also come with that software for no additional charge. This software is essential for creating exactly the kind of music you want. With it, you can mold your tracks to suit your needs that go beyond the initial process of composing or producing.
Of course, the use of this software would be minimal without the array of tools that you can find on some of your DJ controllers.
The FX that you can create with the DJ controller make up a great variety of options compared to the alternative. The reason why a DJ controller is such a worthwhile investment for a musician is the fact that you can produce so many different sounds with these sampling tools.
The Need For A Computer
I mentioned before that you can connect your DJ controller to your computer, but the fact is that you do not need to physically interact with your computer while playing in order to use your DJ controller to its full capacity. Instead, your monitor acts as a reference for your racks and the tools that you engage in the production process.
Given how physically limiting your computer keyboard and mouse can be for these kinds of projects, the DJ controller proves to be the perfect alternative for this purpose.
And with the advancement of computer technology and the competition of brands, DJ controllers level the playing field by being functional with nearly all mainstream types of computers, whether that be PC or Mac, laptop or desktop, or even phone or tablet, DJ controllers tend to cut down on the wasted energy of determining compatibility.
Recording Your Mixes
One of the main benefits of a DJ controller is being able to use it for recording your tracks. That’s also one of the advantages of being a DJ as opposed to being a guitarist or pianist, you can take your recording equipment with you wherever you go. Being able to record your work easily and in nearly any location is important not just for the sake of saving or archiving your play-lists, but also for the sake of playback.
By hearing your own work, from the perspective of an individual who would be casually or critically listening, you can take stock of what needs improvement and where. Having the opportunity to practice between the other menial tasks of the day, or while travelling, is important for a musician. Being able to record your progress is the icing on top of the cake, because that’s how one really starts to improve their skills.
Each DJ Controller Has It’s Own Feature
The DJ controller is a platform for music composition with multiple facets – the fact that you can make use of so many features makes the controller ideal for multitasking. Which is why it is so invaluable for live performance. The DJ is the master of his or her own orchestra.
Like any conductor, they need to be able to to direct all the sounds and aspects of their performance. These factors make even composing and producing at home a smoother session, and the opportunity to practice using different parts of your brain will bring out a deftness from the most novice producer.
What Do You Need To Get Started
Even DJ controllers aren’t as easy to use (Like most people who are selling them make it sound). DJ controllers can be quite complicated, and those just starting out probably will hit a few roadblocks on the way.
These could range from having to purchase a new soundcard if one isn’t included in your computer, controller set-up, choosing companion equipment that can in fact be used with the controller (you should be very careful to figure this out before making any purchase), or delays or latency with jog shuttle controller.
You will also need to make sure you have a MIDI with your controller, and that the computer you use with it isn’t too slow. The result of these is that you may have to work with your controller a little bit and play around with its configurations, possibly even having to make upgrades with your equipment and software where necessary.
But that is also an important part of the learning process when it comes to producing your own music, being able to customize your tools. And just like with any instrument, a DJ controller requires practice. So there’s no need to be discouraged by those roadblocks – just as long as you do your research.