Round-Up: Controllers Under $250

With a rapidly expanding market for MIDI controllers, the options DJs now have before them can seem overwhelming at times. Even though some popular controllers on the market can run you up to $2,000, fortunately, you don’t have to plunk down a huge amount of cash to experiment with digital DJing, as there are plenty of controllers for under $200. Unfortunately, its tough to tell which of these entry-level controllers offer the best value,  so we did the leg work for you and compiled a comprehensive list of all the popular options and their features. Whether you’re an established controllerist looking to add new components to your setup or a beginner mulling over that first purchase, our side-by-side comparison is guaranteed to save you countless hours of browsing time and a possible trip to the optometrist.

Our Pick – Vestax Spin/Typhoon

Despite being the newest entrant into the entry-level market, Vestax has consistently proven that its controllers have lasting power. Touting a built-in audio interface and touch-sensitive jog wheels the Spin packs a good bang for the buck. A relatively large surface and intuitive layout creates a great work flow for beginners, especially considering the tight integration with the included djay software. Even intermediate DJs should take a look into the Spin as a backup controller, but beware of its plastic construction and less-than-pro components.

Above all, the Spin seems to be holding at a steady price point and high demand for the controller will undoubtedly translate into decent resale value for those ready to move on. Given its recent release, mappings for software other than djay are still limited, but its popularity will likely give rise to community support for new mappings. Check out our first look at the Spin.

Note: Typhoon was announced at NAMM as the Spin’s equivalent for PC users.


Our Picks – The APC20 or the X1

It’s tough to pick a single winner in this category, as both the APC20 and the X1 offer really good values. The APC20 has the lowest price per control out of all the controllers ($2), and the X1 has the best build quality of the bunch. Both controllers offer plug-and-play integration with their respective software. Even though you will have to map it yourself, the APC20’s row of faders look promising for controllerists. We didn’t get to try the buttons yet — so no word on how they feel — but we will have an in-depth review up soon. The X1’s buttons are on the smaller side, but the knobs and encoders are double injected rubber molded and feel great.


Our Pick – The Midi-Fighter

If you’re looking for the best all-around value, the MPD-24 is hard to beat with 16 pads, 6 faders and 8 endless encoders for only $170. If you’re into the most unique offering under $200, you cant go wrong with 16 high-performance arcade buttons.

Even before its release, our own Midi-Fighter generated more community discussion than nearly any other controller. Out of the box, it has fewer controls than Akai and M-Audio’s offerings and  has the highest cost per button, but the one-of-a-kind expansion ports allow for an amazing opportunity to create your own setup in virtually any way you desire. As an open-source system, expect great minds to tinker endlessly with the Midi-Fighter’s flexible platform for years to come.


Our Pick: The Oxygen 8 V2

The Oxygen 8 V2 is our first choice, mainly because of the highly popular mapping by Ean Golden but also because of its portable size and durability. If you don’t mind the keys, they offer a unique layout of 25 responsive buttons in close ergonomic proximity. This is extremely useful for performance mappings where quick intuitive actions are required. It’s also small enough to carry in almost any backpack (the Axiom is much larger) but has enough controls for many digital DJ applications.


Depending on what you’re looking for in a digital setup, my picks may not necessarily be the best suited for your personal needs. The cool thing about digital DJing is that each person’s needs are unique, and so your controller probably should be too. Start off by brainstorming what kinds of things you plan on doing with your software and how much time you can invest in developing your own interface. Use this list as a starting point for your research and then visit the forum to see what others who own that gear have to say.  Not only will it save you valuable time and money, it’ll also give you a much clearer idea of what to expect out of your gear. In the meantime, check out Ean’s piece comparing the Korg Nano Series with the Akai LPD controllers. Otherwise, I encourage all of our readers to comment on both the equipment we have compiled and any experiences with those that aren’t listed in this article.

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  • Anonymous

    Anybody have a template for the MPK 49 and Taktor Pro ?



  • phil france

    Im getting a midi fighter could i do more with a mpd 24 as well or is tht pointless to have both ,i use traktor pro with the vci

  • wikkid1

    pretty decent article, i really wish you guys went into more detail as to why you picked those particular controllers as opposed to the other options from the same grouping… like why Vestax Spin and not BCD3000, what was it about the BCD that you guys didnt like… aside from the lack of touch sensitive jog wheels 😛

  • Pet Giraffe

    My first controllers were the NanoKey and NanoPad.

    They both still work quite well, and since 100% of my studio, including my laptop stand and portable sound booth, can be carried in one hand, I love them. I didn’t have a butt load of options financially back then if I wanted a controller, and I’m happy to say I still recommend the Korg Nano’s for beginner to intermediate mixers/DJ’s.

  • dj stylus


  • DjaneHillary

    My nanokeys lost a key (popped out with broken plastic bits) after about 20 hours of light use– just laying around with simple things. I completely agree with Ean.

  • Devonfer

    Hey Ean, what software do you think will be bundled with the Typhoon? I’m asking because Spin doesn’t seem to have plans on being multi platformed.(No Signs/hints on their Website either).

  • James B

    You’re welcome. Glad I could help 🙂 And I don’t mean to say the VCI-100/300 aren’t good controllers (they are), just that the RDJ2s seem to be the underdog winner that many fail to notice. A $470 Interface Edition or a $900 VCI-300. Hmm, let me think about that…

    After a bunch of searching I found Juno to be the best place to order:

    Don’t be surprised if you receive it just a couple days after hitting ‘Place Order.’

  • Anonymous

    @James et al, thanks for your input! I’m really looking for a controller with jogs, and it seems the DJ2 is the one to get. Thanks for giving me your opinion on the Spin – it’s hard to find much useful info on it. I think I’ll definitely be getting the DJ2 IE.

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=”27010″]The Spin is practically a toy IMO. Don’t bother.

    Numark makes a decent product but it won’t best the DJ2 in terms of overall build and features. I couldn’t be happier with the DJ2 and the price makes it even better. Shipping was also shockingly fast (nearly overnight) from Juno. If Ean were to do a DJ2 Interface vs. VCI-300 I wouldn’t be surprised if Reloop came out on top.[/quote]

    +100 on the DJ2.
    Proud Reloop DJ2 user here as well.

  • Anonymous

    you can’t go wrong with an X-Session Pro (transport & mixer controls) + an Akai LPD8 (cue points, loops & effects controls).
    this combo has never failed me.

  • James B

    The Spin is practically a toy IMO. Don’t bother.

    Numark makes a decent product but it won’t best the DJ2 in terms of overall build and features. I couldn’t be happier with the DJ2 and the price makes it even better. Shipping was also shockingly fast (nearly overnight) from Juno. If Ean were to do a DJ2 Interface vs. VCI-300 I wouldn’t be surprised if Reloop came out on top.

  • creedpatton

    Hi. First post on this awesome site.I´m looking to move up from an X-Session Pro and Connectiv to a controller with jog-wheels. For the privcr range I’m looking at, I narrowed it down to the Vestax Spin, Nummark Stealth and more recently, the Reloop Digital Jockey 2. I don’t necessarily want a controller with a souncard, but the Reloop interface edition has touch-sensitive jogs and the controller editioin doesn’t. I’m a rock Dj, but would like to dabble with light scratching and effects. I really like the idea of the Spin (and like the Djay software too) but it just doesn’t seem made to last or gig worthy. Can anybody prove me wrong? Between the 3 is the Reloop the best quality, most flexible choice? Does the fact that the Stealth doesn’t have touch sensitive jogs make it much worse (and unsuitable for even light scratching)? I’d appreciate any help. Thanks.

  • James B

    I’m with Pieter and Phoebe on this one. As a Reloop Digital Jockey 2 user, I have to say that I’ve been extremely impressed with the unit overall. Build quality is quite good (nearly every surface is brushed aluminum), knobs don’t exhibit the cheap-plastic-y feel, and the integration with Traktor Pro is damn close to flawless. Not to mention a button layout that mirrors Traktor much better than the VCI. The touch-sensitive jogs can be used for FX madness as well using dedicated buttons.

    Sure most people don’t feel like taking the plunge by spending the money to import this controller but it’s a shame since the unit beats just about every controller I’ve come across.


  • phoebe d

    Reloop Digital Jockey 1 is the business. Little out of the price range and discontinued but my, what a unit!!!
    Up there (if not more favoured by me) with the VCI 100. Pity

  • tekki

    [quote comment=”26841″]lol
    I knew you would come here and quote me tekki
    Tekki aka “the BCR GranMaster”

    I just love the idea of having all my knobs endless with led feedback, it gives you better use of “Shift” buttons because you don’t have “relative possition” issues[/quote]
    True that. ONe of the most flexible controllers for that money.
    No need for modifiers, as that you have 4 banks and loadsa presets at your disposal. 😀

    [quote comment=”26842″]Tekki, I will trade mine for your MF 😛
    You need an extra one![/quote]
    LOLz, sorry, that is not an option. 😉

  • matt haegen

    one of the reasons i switched from Serato to all digital was because wiring the amp into a club sound system every time got to be a hassle. The new version of that IMO is having a multitude of devices hanging off your laptop that all need to be plugged in, wired, etc. is it too much to ask that at least one of these has an audio interface built in? if the VCI had one i’d snap it up in a heartbeat. talk about simplifying!

  • nan

    Great review as always. I have never stopped coming back to the site because of it, but also because I keep having hope that finally one day, the promised Novation 25SL mapping will be available. Will this happen any time soon? I hope it does, it would really make my day. Anyways, I can’t complain. Love what you guys do, and that you keep on doing it.

  • Heatwolves

    Big up to the Behringer BCR-2000. How could you not mention this? I copped one for $50 used in the States, brilliant. Like 64 knobs and four pages…ridiculous. And they all light up!

    It’s a little big to drag around so I leave it at the crib and just bring the Akai pad with me to the club to use with Traktor effects, cue points and mix on the club mixer.

    Agreed the X-Session is pretty decent for the price. Not something I’d take to the club when there’s a Pioneer there but for mixing at home, deece.

    Korg Nanopad is shit. I had two, both broke within a month. Pads suck. X-Y pad sucks. They probably made that shit for like $7/unit in Shenzhen.

  • bigbarcelona23

    Ean… Why don’t you mentioned the Ion Discover Dj??? I know the Vestax Spin is a great piece and has more features than the Ion Discover Dj does… but if you are a beginner the Ion Discover Dj is great and cheaper too. Plus the Ion Discover Dj is compatible with Windows and Mac against the Vestax Spin in which is only compatible with Mac.(and if you are a beginner you would have to spend some cash buying the traktor software). Any thoughts?

  • Sqyquest

    I can vouch for the BCD3000, first and only for me and while it takes some fiddling to configure right in Windows it’s generally a solid controller to midi Trakor Pro. Also light but solid, it’s taken a battering I think some other controllers wouldn’t take too well. Good article!


    +1 for the nanokontrol…best bang for the buck.

    I’ve been using one in the clubs every weekend for over a year…that should tell you something about the build quality.

  • Dj Chris Ta-illon

    I find it humorous that you state, “the nano-series was not mentioned due to poor build quality…” etc. Then I go back and re-read a comment you made on the Spin controller and I quote, “…beware of its plastic construction and less than pro components.” I own the nano-kontrol and for $60 it performs amazing. I use it with Serato, Ableton, Acid, Cubase etc. and I could’t be more happier with its performance. And if it does break, I can buy another 2 and still be under $200.

  • Eddie Dantes

    Hey Dean , It’s the Oxygen 25 working with the same mapping? In germany the Oxygen 25 and the Oxygen 8 are almost the same price. Is one better than the other. Thanks.

  • regend

    The best controller for Ableton I’ve found if you’re on a tight budget is the m-audio torq x-session pro retail it’s $99 but Amazon has it for cheaper

    It has the basics and everything is assignable for Ableton DJing: 12 knobs. 4 up faders. 2 cue buttons. cross fader. 8 buttons (4 on each side).

    Nevermind that it’s for TORQ. Everything is assignable so if you want to do basic Djing trigger a max of 8 clips at a time, have a assignable cue buttojs, it’s doable.

  • wil

    Tekki, I will trade mine for your MF 😛
    You need an extra one!

  • Vinicius Hoffmann

    I knew you would come here and quote me tekki
    Tekki aka “the BCR GranMaster”

    I just love the idea of having all my knobs endless with led feedback, it gives you better use of “Shift” buttons because you don’t have “relative possition” issues

  • djjc

    I wish that M Audio would upgrade the UC33e. A little bigger, thinner and with a view more decent buttons and I’d be interested.

  • Jesse B Andersen

    This is simply amazing! The Vestax Spin/Typhoon looks super sexy!

  • tommy

    Last.Comes.Firtst . thanks for the reply . my email is

  • J.Selma

    I don’t know about MPD18 or 24 but I have the MPD32 (which was supposed to have the best pads of the MPD series). Its pads were crappy and quite hard to trigger. I had to open my machine and fix those 16 pads putting four pieces of duct tape under each one. Now it works great, feels great and really smooth. I think it would be the same thing on the mpd24.

    By the way, I cant make those infinite rotatory encoders work at 100% on Ableton Live. First, because MPD32 can’t receive sync messages from Ableton Live: so if you switch between your memory banks, tweak a knob to 12 and then you return to the previous bank and tweak it again, it starts from 12 and messes up all your control. No matter which was its previous value. Secondly, because Ableton Live doesn’t recognize NRPN signals for a relative midi message control. I can only map 1 parameter to 1 knob.

    If I had already know, I’d saved more money for a NI Maschine and combined it with my rock-solid milimeter-programmable BCR2000.

  • J450N N4M3

    [quote comment=”26805″]Another vote for the X-session Pro. It’s a great product and sorely underrated.[/quote]
    +1 brother. I tried to replace this thing a year ago…….guess what, it’s still a vital part of my setup. So cheap, so good, can’t say enough about it.

    Also, I’m really into my APC40 right now for Traktor. Those faders are so tactile for effects, I can’t imagine a jog wheel being so intuitive (though I’ve never tried one). If the APC20 crashes in price like his big brother did I could see DJs grabbing a couple of these guys and going crazy with some sharpies on em. Nice write up guys!

  • Last.Comes.Firtst

    hey tommy, if you give me an email or some other way to get ahold of you i can email it too ya.

  • jaocagado [brazil]

    I love DJTT! thx from brasil

  • seeMARTINbreak

    it says that the mpd 18 and 24 have different special features…
    i was really hoping someone could tell me if they BOTH have the same quality pads???

  • tommy

    Last.Comes.Firtst , in reply to your post you have a map for the mpd 24 ? i would like the map if so . thanks =)


    I own a LaunchPad and I am very happy with it.
    The scalability for its growth and combination with Max for Live is amazing. It really is quite an interesting piece of hardware.
    The fact that you can link up to 6 of them allows for very dynamic and engaging collaborations.

  • Last.Comes.Firtst

    My mpd 24 is still kickin and i can really say that i’d be up for any of those others… Well, i’d like to try the arcade buttons. A controller with 16 x4 pads and 6 faders & 8 knobs thats going for around $100 online right is pretty nice! If anyone wants a copy of my mapping for traktor let me know?

  • TABS

    no Kontrol One or I-Mix Reload? Lol cmon both those are far better than the vestax spin.

  • Pier

    I have owned the nanopad for about 6 months with no problems so far. Sure the build quality isn’t great, but for about 50 bucks… if you treat it right it will last IME.

    Compared to the akai lpd8 you get more pads and the xy which is really fun to play with.

  • Lo.Definition

    Love it! You know a review is good when no one is happy, ambiguity and uncertainty about these controllers is a sure sign they are either being built to the same high cost/quality ratio or being thrown together somewhat hastily, DJTT gear excluded of course.

    The feedback from users is almost as important as the quality review, good work folks. And to the guy who’s nanoPad is still kicking…what’s your secret?

  • theradness

    bit weak and doesn’t include alot of the long established controllers that have been used for years :cough: BCR20000.

    and the midi fighter over the launchpad? LOL.

  • Fatlimey

    Another vote for the X-session Pro. It’s a great product and sorely underrated.

  • Wil

    Ean, please stop comparing those controllers for a while, it makes me nervous because I just ordered the VCI-100 Arcade 🙂

  • Punky

    Your assessment of the SCS.3D’s cost per control is a little inaccurate, given how many different layers of control each “page” on the controller gives you. Press the loop button, and the entire controller becomes loop-focused. Press the cue point button, and the entire controller becomes loop-focused. I’d say, for the money, the SCS.3D has perhaps the best bang/buck ratio out there.

  • Dj Nvidia

    Great Review! Now that I am about to purchase the Numark MixDeck, I should have a lot more space for (on my USB) for an additional controller…

  • halfasemitone

    Good luck button crabbing on a Launchpad, homes.

  • Robbie

    The APC 40 handles very well. Latency is minimal and re-mapping the midi works flawlessly. Buttons feel good, however it does not provide an audio card for cue-ing etc.

  • Matt

    It was not mentioned that the Traktor Kontrol X1 has a shift button on it that essentially gives the user 4 pages of control, essentially multiplying the number of “total controls” by 4!

    The secondary MIDI mode seems like it will offer a huge amount of extra functionality, something the others on the list don’t offer.

  • DJ Phaidon

    Korg padKontrol is missing. It is made of plastic, but isn’t a crappy build.

  • Vinicius Hoffmann

    I agree with the korg nano kontrol review above…
    The nanoPad and nanoKey are really bad quality pieces, but the nanoKontrol must be good, I see a lot of DJs using it, they can’t all be wrong…

  • Anonymous

    My NanoPad is working fine, have had it for at l least 6 months no failure. NanoKontrol is awesome as well =) But admittedly I wouldnt need the NanoPad if I had touch sensitive jogwheels and an apc40. Just not really digging the vci100, Im hoping the American Audio 4 deck mixer is up to the task.

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=”26773″] The nano was not put in there because of its terribly poor build quality. Every one of ours has failed and we have seen countless messages from others complaining about the same thing. [/quote]

    I’ve had two nanoPads and they’ve both broken within about a month of use. My nanoKontrol, however, is still going strong and it remains the best bit of kit I have. Until someone brings out something so cheap, portable, and with the same vast array of controls, I’m sticking by this beauty!

  • Pete L

    kORG gets credit for Pioneering the Slimline Nano revoliution, too bad AKAI jumps in and makes a much better quality and reliable line for the same price. KORG Nano Series is a Joke, has anyone ever touched that Keyboard…are they serious?

    I love the APC pad, can i use that with TRAKTOR. Will I be able to assign LED colors to specific buttons (blue = cue green = loops white=beatmarker orange=load point) get what im looking for? anyone?

  • Paul B

    I have to say… I have the LPD8 and I find I am using it more than my APC40!
    It’s just nice and easy to use and easy to move around rather than pulling out the big APC40…
    Might even take the 40 back. Very happy with the LPD8 🙂

  • Abyrne7

    I love how alot of DJ gear now a days is not overly priced just for the “coolness” factor.

  • djjc

    For a very cheap option the M Audio X Session Pro is worth a mention at least.

  • Alexandros Roussos (DJ Neural)

    I think a great mapping on the Novation Remote SL 25 MKII would make it the best and highest-end performance-oriented controller in the world, though it’s more expensive than the ones cited above (289€ at Thomann).

    It probably has the best quality controls I’ve seen on a controller so far including: touch pad, joystick, drum pads, sliders, buttons, LED-backlit rotaries and keys.

    BTW, if anyone has a great performance/FX oriented mapping for Traktor on it, let me know!

  • Lo.Definition

    “terribly poor build quality”, quite right. We also use the midi fighter and a standard VCI-100, just wish I had one of my own. Great reviews, I’ll definitely be using it as I upgrade.

    I can’t wait for a digital DJ bag roundup! Keep up the great work, your snappy response is proof you guys live this. Are you doing a >$250 review as well?

  • DJSDive

    Well the launchpad and the midi fighter serve different situations. If I have 200 USD and no controller yet, the midi fighter would probably be the wrong controller to buy. A launchpad however can cover the entire range of interaction you would need, even including working as a mixer or production with Live.

    Now if you already have a setup and just want some very interactive buttons for beat juggeling or FX presets, then the midi fighter looks a lot more appealing. Especially if you want to take it futher with a soldering iron.

  • Dav1d11

    I don’t quiet understand how you could possible compare the ACP 20 and X1… I suppose you could say there both controller made for specific software’s but the similarities end right about there. Maybe try comparing the Nocturn 25 to the MPK 25 or the new iPK 25. Just some constructive criticism.

  • Ean Golden

    [quote comment=”26770″]Did you really just blow through a review like this without mentioning the Korg Nano series? I.[/quote]

    Fair enough, the smaller controllers should have been included so I added the AKAI LPD8 (the nano equivalent). The nano was not put in there because of its terribly poor build quality. Every one of ours has failed and we have seen countless messages from others complaining about the same thing. The LPD8 however, is much more reliable and a great controller under $100.

    [quote comment=”26771″]Also consider the Novation Launchpad. Makes the MIDI Fighter look a little weak I’m afraid to say…[/quote]

    The launchpad was included in the pad group- those multi colored LED’s are nice but
    you should try each controllers buttons side by side and then let us know which you prefer.
    As a musical instrument, the mappings and performance of the midi-fighter cant be beat (in my humble and totally objective opinion) 🙂


    Novation Nocturn = Endless possibilities @ 99 bucks

  • Rebel Royal

    Also consider the Novation Launchpad. No faders or pots, but loads of multi-colour backlit buttons. Makes the MIDI Fighter look a little weak I’m afraid to say…

  • Lo.Definition

    Did you really just blow through a review like this without mentioning the Korg Nano series? I’ll forgive you this time. I love my nanoPad and the nanoKontrol for their tiny footprint and that you can move them around the booth without much bother. The pads on the nanoPad are great, and I’ve kitted out my nanoKontrol with the DJTT fluorescent green knobs. I love the control over the effects i get with this setup, and it is super-affordable. For negatives I would say the quality is very budget, my nanoKontrol took one bad spill and went ass-up as the usb hookup got Loose and had inconsistent transmission and power. Though I don’t think too many controllers are built to take falls…good roundup otherwise.

  • Pieter

    Don’t forget the reloop digital jockey, it maybe isnt in the price range but a very good controller! And also cheaper than the vci100…

  • braden

    great article once again, saves about of time and helps confirm my decision. thanks again tech tools for everything.