Start DJing Now: Five Great Entry Level DJ Controllers Under $400

Being new to the DJ/Producer world often is confusing, with all the constantly changing available technology. How many kinds of entry level DJ controllers are there? What software do you use? Just choosing the right DJ software can be difficult – let alone a controller to go along it. Want to get started or know someone who does? Here’s our list of solid beginner controllers to help you find you start your journey!

WHAT’S THE BEST DJ CONTROLLER?

This is a very common question for us (the DJTT livechat team). Like the secret of life, there’s no right answer (aside from some who claim it’s 42). The truth is: the best DJ controller is whichever works best for you. We have 5 great beginner all-in-one DJ Controllers to recommend below.

Looking for more advanced solutions? Check out the Traktor Kontrol S8 and the Pioneer DDJ SX. Also check out the latest players from Pioneer and Denon if you feel like leaving your laptop at home.

DJTT’s Recommended Entry Level DJ Controllers

DDJ-RB (click to zoom)

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB

  • Price: $247 (on DJTT’s Store)
  • Native support: Rekordbox DJ
  • Ships with: Full RekordboxDJ license and USB cable
  • Built-in Audio: Master RCA out, 1/8th” headphone out, 1/4″ Mic input
  • Mixing Section: Two channels, crossfader, dedicated EQ, filters, and gain

This portable two-channel controller comes with a full license of Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ (129$), something many entry-level controllers lack. This means a new DJ can jump right in and have access to all the functions of the program from the start.

Small enough to pack in most bags, it features eight performance pads per side. This is more than the standardized four in most of the competition – more buttons to play with for hotcues, samples, loops, effects, etc. Using Pioneer’s own DJ software, your music collection will always be ready if you want to jam on CDJs, just export out to a USB stick and you’re good to go!

Rekordbox DJ ain’t your thing? We have mappings for the DDJ-RB with Traktor in the MIDI Maps section of DJTT.

Kontrol S2 MK2 (click to zoom)

Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2

  • Price: $399 (on DJTT’s Store)
  • Native Support: Traktor Pro 2
  • Ships with: Full Traktor Pro 2 license, USB cable, lightning to USB cable, full Chroma Caps set
  • Built-in Audio: Yes, balanced Master 1/4″s, unbalanced booth RCA, 1/4″ headphone out, 1/4″ Mic input
  • Mixing Section: Two channels, crossfader, EQs, no dedicated filters (you have to use shift+gain)

Native Instruments’ two-channel controller comes with a full license of Traktor Pro 2 ($99), making this the second and last controller on this list to come with a full license for DJ software.

This controller can be used with a laptop or iPad with the Traktor DJ app. It has everything you need for the basics of mixing and boasts full control over 2 effect units, something other options tend to handle with pads for a single knob. If you prefer a more traditional approach and a sturdier unit then the S2 is most likely the best option for you. Price might scare you a bit but it’s not really far off compared to a DDJ-SB2 + Serato license upgrade and you still get a much more rugged device.

DDJ-SB2 (click to zoom)

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2

  • Price: $247 (on DJTT’s Store)
  • Native Support: Serato DJ, Rekordbox DJ, VirtualDJ, CrossDJ and Djay 2/Pro
  • Ships with: Serato DJ LE license, USB cable and Chroma Cable of your color choice
  • Built-in Audio: Yes, Master RCA out, 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone out, and 1/4″ Mic input
  • Mixing Section: Two channels, crossfader, dedicated filters, EQ, gain

The DDJ-SB2 is capable of four-deck control in Serato DJ, and has a nice trick – Filter Fade – which engages the filter for each deck when using your crossfader. When engaged, this applies a high pass filter on the deck you’re moving away from to help blend tracks smoothly. This is great for new DJs to help get the feel of mixing tracks together.

Unfortunately, both of these features rely on a $99 Serato DJ license upgrade (it only comes with a LE license), but the SB2 still has more than enough punch on its own to make a great mix, Out of all other options it has the broadest software compatibility – meaning it’s basically a really neat DDJ-RB alternative that will work out of the box with all the big DJ softwares on the market.

Reloop Beatmix 2 (click to zoom)

Reloop Beatmix 2 MK2

  • Price: $290 (on Reloop’s website)
  • Native Support: Serato DJ, Traktor Pro 2 and VirtualDJ
  • Ships with: SeratoDJ LE license and USB cable.
  • Built in Audio: Yes, Master and Headphone outs along a Mic input
  • Mixing Section: Two channel, crossfader, dedicated EQ and gain – no dedicated filter

Reloop’s two-deck Serato DJ compatible controller is another great solution for beginners. Like the Kontrol S2, it packs full control over two effects units – but it has the largest jogwheels in this segment. It also has RGB-lit pads so navigating the performance modes can be easier to follow.

The main drawback is that it only packs Serato DJ LE, so you might want to upgrade if you’re happy with Serato DJ and want all features at your disposal. The LE version of the software is still a great place to start.

Mixtrack Platinum (click to zoom)

Mixtrack Platinum

  • Price: $299 (on Amazon)
  • Native Support: Serato DJ and VirtualDJ
  • Ships with: Serato DJ LE license, USB cable and Prime Loops Remix Tool packs.
  • Built in Audio: Yes, Master RCA out, 1/4″ and 1/8″ Headphone out, and a 1/4″ Mic input
  • Mixing Section: Two channel, crossfader, dedicated EQ, filter (unique placement!)

Like the last two, the Platinum packs a 4 deck LE license and requires an upgrade if you want all the bells and whistles. This controller comes with Serato DJ Intro and is Serato DJ upgrade ready.

What makes this unit really stand out is that it’s the only one in the range with jog displays. These show needle/track position and some basic track info to help you keep your eyes off your computer – but you’ll still need to keep your screen around to browse your music collection.

This unit is also one of the only ones at this price point with a touchstrip for scrubbing through tracks – handy!

CONCLUSION

There’s really no wrong choices in this range, every option is great in its own way. As long as you are passionate about DJing and practice enough, there’s nothing stopping you from success. Let’s not forget, it’s all about having a good time and making people dance in the end!

OVER TO YOU! What’s your favorite unit? Are you using one of these already and have some feedback to share with your peers or can recommend a better option?

 

New to DJing? Not sure where to get started? Want amazing 1 on 1 advice?

Chat with the with the authors of this article in our store. You’ll be shocked how helpful they are. 

beatmixbeginner controllercontrollerDDJddj-rbDDJ-SB2djkontrol s2MixtrackNative Instrumentsnumarkpioneerrbreloopstart
Comments (43)
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  • Kristina Julia

    Learning to become a DJ can be a great way to connect with the audience through the free flow of your own musical expression and by expressing yourself with a dose of creativity. But it is not only about matching and mixing beats with a bit of stretching over songs. Being a DJ means you need to be observant about your audience, know how to empathize with them and be reactive of that particular emotion. How to Be a Successful DJ

  • Emil Doubleplusgood

    I am the Traktor addict. I just love S2, and I think it is great and cheap controller, with great software. I have S2, Audio 2, X1 mk2, and F1: it is great how can I combine them depends on the occasion.

  • Tricksta

    I disagree with the recommendation of an S2. An Audio 2 and an X1 mk 2 is a cheaper and better combo, and a Z1 with an X1 is the same as an S2.

    NI’s modular series are the way to go for Traktor – just what you need to use all the software’s features and super portable.

    • Emil Doubleplusgood

      How can Audio 2 and X1 be better than S2?

      • Tricksta

        Probably there should be an entire article about Traktor specific options.
        Compared to Serato’s best selling controllers, the S2 is the most comparable so I guess it makes sense for this article.

        EQs with an A2 + X1 mk 2 requires someone to map the FX section to be EQs. Both the S2 and the A2 rely on Traktor’s internal mixing and the output levels are comparable.

        Here’s my personal experience with controllers. My very first controller was a VCI 300, then a Novation Twitch. After the Twitch’s balanced outputs broke, I switched to Traktor because I’d heard so many good things about NI sound cards and I wanted to mix more by ear and less by matching wave forms. I dropped a toe in by purchasing the Z1 because it had nice meters and gains like I’m used to plus a sound card.

        I got an X1 mk 2 when that was released and am very happy with it. The LED + endless encoder that the let you specify anywhere from a 1/32 to a 32 beat loop is a great tool and the best implementation of loop control aside from an Allen & Heath DB4. I also think that the original X1 got the FX unit control totally right and NI has continued to use it on everything. Traktor was more full featured in its effects implementation at the time than Serato; note that Serato uses the X1’s controls for FX on basically every traktor product now too.

        I bought an S2 mk 2 with the idea that I could use it with my z1 and X1 for four channels, and eventually sold the S2. I admit I’m being picky but I found that the shortened meters relative to the Z1 caused me to only get out the S2 if I wanted to play 3 or four channels. I liked real pitch faders but found the jog wheels too small and thus too different from actual scratching or pushing/dragging; the X1’s touch strips seem just as an awkward an approximation as a jogwheel but I also owned a Twitch mk I (balanced outputs broke) so I’m more pro touch strip than most.

        Much later, I got an F1 when stems came out so I can say that in combo with the X1 mk 2, Traktor’s major unique features are easily controllable with just these two modular controllers.

        Ultimately, there are three good options at $399 for a DJ considering Traktor. An S2 mk 2 is all in one and closest in features to the top selling controllers in the US so perhaps a new DJ is best suited with this one item. However, for the same price an X1 mk 2 plus a Z1 or an F1 might be better suited for an experienced DJ who knows they need a full featured mixer or want to play with stems and remix decks

        • Emil Doubleplusgood

          “EQs with an A2 + X1 mk 2 requires someone to map the FX section to be EQs. Both the S2 and the A2 rely on Traktor’s internal mixing and the output levels are comparable.”

          Of course, i made that mapping for my lightweight setup: 4 X1mk2 filter knobs are volume, treble, mid and bass, and 4 buttons are kill frequency buttons and the fourth is cue for headphones. With A2 it works fantastic. And I often use that mapping WITH my S2 to control 3rd and 4th deck.

          My point is that comparing S2 on one hand, and X1mk2 + A2 on the other is senseless. Okay, you can have EQ, but you are missing whole effects, gain, filter. Even Z1 + X1mk2 is worst solution than S2.

  • Earnest

    It might be worth noting that there are modular, jogless setups like the Z1 and X1 that can be had within this price range.

    • Matías J. Padilla

      You still need to buy a software license with the Z1+X1 combo, rising the price above the $400 budget

  • Chris Roman

    The reviewer is not accurate. Numark mixtrack platinum comes with 4 deck serato dj intro.

  • Marcel Mono

    I started on an S2 (MK1 though) as well. I outgrew it pretty fast and wanted to upgrade to a 4 channel controller. I bought an S4 (mk1) and i wish i had done so in the first place. Even if you’re not using the 2 additional Channels when starting out, they are there when you are ready – without the need of buying a new controller.

    I personally would recommend the Reloop Beatmix 4 MKII (around 290€) as a budget 4-channel controller.

    Of course i know this is a money is an issue if you’re starting out and don’t know if you are going to be djing in the future. A lot can be done already with a Simple 2 deck controlller. But if you are sure you will be keeping at it, i would say go for a 4 channel.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  • Miozz

    reloop 239e its the best controller in this option, but u put price higher just make easy choose.. BEATMIX2 mk2 is the greatest of all

  • CUSP

    I still say that the Novation Twitch is a great controller (It’s still my backup controller). but one of the best features about it (other than having touch strips) is that it’s got an overlay for Traktor (it has a Serato DJ layout printed on the metal). It’s a little bit quiet, but that shouldn’t matter when you plug it into a mixing board and turn the gain up.

    • Jacob Stadtfeld

      It definitely was back at release. How has your held up over time?

      • CUSP

        I still use it as my backup DJ controller (I have a Kontrol S8 now). The faders, knobs, and buttons are still great, but it still needs to be gain-boosted (ie turn up the gain knob on the mixer it’s plugged into). All-in-all I still can’t bear to part with it because it’s such a great controller (still.. Especially for Traktor).

      • underd0g

        My twitch is still going strong. Love it.

  • ?The Other Denzel?

    I’d be afraid of driver updates, but a used vestax vci 380 can be had for cheap, has the best jogs, and is feature packed

  • QCube

    I have build my own midi controller that happens to work as a mixing unit in my temporary setup with an hercules mp3 e2.

    I have everything essential to mix with these two components.

    I even did a successfull gig at a friends 10 years of mariage party with this “setup” and though it’s not realy appealing to the eye or has fancy functions you do have everything you need to provide constant music for dancing, even some hotcue jugling and working with effects is possible. I made use of the slipmode of traktor pretty well too and could create some nice effects and transitions.

    After all the music is what maters most for the people, not what fancy gear you’re using.

    Instead of the mp3 e2 some turntables or cdjs or midicontroller that mimic two decks would work as well or even better. But I probably will upgrade to a normal setting again soon.

  • Unreallystic

    …small favor please? Can we get something similar for vinyl? I currently have a S2 MK2, don’t like the feel of the platters” and have decided to migrate to vinyl.

    • ?The Other Denzel?

      guitar center was selling the epsilon inno propak (two super oem turntables and a dif 1s clone with a mini innofader) for 299 last time i went… best deal in dj’ing

      • Dubby Labby

        Add vinyls or dvs…

    • Dubby Labby

      In the same range you only will find second hand. Your best bet could be upgrade to s4 and buy a turntable to start without too much hasle.
      Any other combo will be over 400$ or not worth the money expent…

      • Unreallystic

        Not necessarily in the “same” price range if you, but low entry point for vinyl/transitioning. I haven’t had much luck talking with friends on the topic because (1) they are all on Serato while I’m the lone Traktor guy, and (2) while some may have vinyl, they don’t actually use it. Trying to find good tips online – especially coming from a Traktor environment – has been difficult…heck NIs own information on their own products is a bit poor for someone trying to make the transition.

        • Dubby Labby

          Yes that’s another “issue” nowadays with vinyl setup. Most of the Serato vinyl users get them stuck with SSL (or complaining about serstodj at their forum) meanwhile Traktor users are going towards stems/remix decks (and vinyl is getting secondary) so cheap is opposite to turntable (and starting in djing IMO as the last article trying to point this shown us also)
          But focus on you my best advice is first decide your priorities and buy step by step like…
          For traktor? Audio6dj if you want to keep yourself compatible with future updates (and iPad dvs software since is class compliant. A8dj/A4dj or s2/4 mk1 aren’t)
          For Serato? Akai Amx. Cheap against Rane hardware, mixer and again class compliant…

          Turntables? Second hand superOem like stanton st8, akyama acura, reloop rp7000 and so… or (revised) vestax. Direct drive for scratch and serious mixing… but also the new portablism scene could be “cheap” and useful start with Numark pt01 scratch as entry level and leaving some room for upgrading (and again amx could be a great companion). If you are interested in this route then go digitalvertigo forums or search for djfocus at facebook.
          At last a second hand ns7 could be found over 500$/€ but not sure about issues with software and OS updates…

          Hope it helps.

        • Oddie O'Phyle

          Hey man, your decision will be based on what style you play and how you play it. If you felt like you were outgrowing 2 channels it’ll cost a bit more. For Traktor DVS you have a few current options for hardware. If you want to be “light and on the run”, you have both the A6 and A10. Although you may want to look into an X1 for extra control and a mixer to go with it. If you want something with a bit more control built into it, there is the Z2 (although it mixes internally). These options come with Traktor Scratch and control vinyl.

          A decent modular set up cost you a small mint, it’s the nature of the beast. There are a few upsides to it, but it’ll dent your pocket like a synth junkies addiction.

    • Tricksta

      This is why getting an X1 rather than an S2 is ideal for some starting to use Traktor. If you want the feel of a platter you’ll get DVS and the X1 is great with a DVS set up too. Keep in mind that Serato and Recordbox are focused on supporting controllers with jog wheels and NI is focusing on Stems.

      • Oddie O'Phyle

        You can’t really have an X1 rather than an S2. You would still need an audio interface like an A6. Personally, I find Traktor to be “tighter” than other DVS that I have used (Serato and Cross DVS). It might have something to do with sine frequency being attenuated at roughly twice the rate as other DVS, 2 Khz as opposed to 1.2 or 1.3 Khz. Just an observation…

        • Tricksta

          There are three NI options for an interface with an X1. Combined with a new X1, an Audio 2 is a $299 option with a full license. You get a $50 credit from NI you can put towards Traktor Pro if you buy either an X1, A2 or Z1 ($399) so combining two gives you the full license for Traktor Pro just like the Ddj RB.

          The A6 plus an X1 ($499) is a great setup, but the at least one hundred bucks you’d spend on a mixer is why the Z2 ($599) is probably the best hundred dollar mixer on the market.

          Of course software preference determines whether S2 relative to X1 is even a consideration.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            Audio 2 doesn’t do DVS.

          • Tricksta

            Great point. However, an A2 plus a phone/tablet/laptop can rock nearly any sound system because of the high output and they keep a decent proportion of their value so you can sell it used so you aren’t going to have a redundant piece of gear like you would with most jog wheel controllers.

            Frankly if a new DJ wants to scratch a Numark Pt01 scratch turntable with an appropriate slip mat is better than any jog wheel or touch strip and is much more affordable than a controller. A jog wheel doesn’t require a light touch which is the most important aspect of having record control to scratch. A jog wheel doesn’t have the resistance that a needle does against a groove either. You are likely learning a ton of bad habits from a controller if your goal is to scratch with DVS because of how a jog wheel dumbs things down. A real portable fader to chirp, flare, etc. is not expensive either but you can easily do forwards, reverses and transforms with the ‘scratch switch’ on the Numark.

            An A2, X1 and an A6 are the same price so its a very close call. All of these options should have been explained in the article rather than the recommendation of an S2 which is feature limited and overpriced – especially compared to an X1 with F1 $399 combo.

          • Unreallystic

            Bah so much info *bows and claps in approval though*
            I was trying to keep my personal needs out of it and keep it more open to “in general” – as my setup is a bit weird falling into the Producer-DJ group with more focus on production and wanting vinyl for production purposes. *Personally* I am trying to figure out the most cost efficient way to add scratch capabilities to my setup, using vinyl as scratching with a controller as a first step has not gone well, not impossible, but it just isn’t fun, at least on the S2…the platters just don’t feel good, while fiddling around on my cheap turntable for sampling feels so much better. My setup is actually based around the Roland MX-1 with a Push2 controlling all my other gear. With the MX-1 functioning as my center if you will, I’m looking for something with an audio-card built in so I can easily run it through the MX-1. I was looking at the Z2 as it seemed like the easiest out the box solution, but $600 is steep when I ALSO have to get a couple quality turntables.

            So then I have to wonder “do I need to stick with Traktor? With all the Serato and RB options comapred to Traktor, would that possibly be cheaper?” and that my friends is when I throw my hands in the air as I’ve struggled to find good answers by talking with folks (all my DJ friends are 100% Serato and do ‘straight’ DJing and mixes, with no serious scratching), and answers online tend to not be informative enough to compensate for bias.

          • Tricksta

            That Akai modular mixer has DVS and Serato – sounds perfect for your needs if you don’t want to go with the least expensive Traktor option of a Z2

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            Also, you don’t need the Audio 2 in conjunction with a Z1. The Z1 has it’s own audio interface, but that’s irrelevant… he wants to use Traktor Scratch, not Traktor Pro.

          • Tricksta

            I’m responding to the article topic as well as the OP. Clearly this article isn’t contemplating Serato DVS or Traktor DVS. As I said above, if you want the option of DVS the X1 is suited for that purpose. Even scratch DJs need to mix at least to some degree to rock a party and the push/drag of a real turntable is simulated just as well by a jog wheel or the NI touch strip. The difference between a line or a circle to simulate how to do mixing tweaks is not vastly different in my opinion.

            For the reasons I stated and you state below, the Z2 is a great value especially if DVS is important. An X1 is still useful with a Z2 because it has more expansive effect and transport controls, while an S2 is redundant.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            If I remember my old Z2 properly, the X1 becomes a little redundant. Sure, the FX section on the Z2 isn’t as expansive as the X1, but with the use of macros the amount and wet/dry were enough. When using DVS, I find that I use my X1 MK1 for browsing more than anything. I doubt he’ll use Traktor FX as Unreallystic uses a Kaos Pad.

          • Tricksta

            Great point. There is a Korg Serato controller that works as mixer too which might be ideal. It has touch wheels not jogs but has an integrated Kaos pad.

          • Oddie O'Phyle

            BTW, I answered this guy due to my personal hardware progression. I went from an S4 MK1 to a Z2, then to an A6 that my daughter now has (due to unstable ASIO for my DJM 850), then finally my A10. I also used an Audio 4 with my old Ableton setup, before I got my S4. I was just giving him the benefit of my personal experience.

  • ksandvik

    Reloop Mixtour, that’s really all you need.