Best beginner DJ controllers 2024: Top picks for budding mix masters

It’s never been easier for beginners curious about DJing to take the plunge; provided you’ve got a computer to hand, all you need is a competent controller and you’re ready to get started. But with so many options on the market, which is the best beginner DJ controller? 

There are numerous approaches to DJing to explore in 2023, each of which will depend on the gear you choose to use and the way you choose to use it. For those taking their first steps, the combination of a laptop and controller is the most accessible and affordable choice. There’s a range of full-featured DJ software apps that can be tested for free or purchased relatively cheaply, and the learning curve has been vastly reduced in recent years thanks to smart tools like automatic sync that help even total newbies mix like the pros. 

Although it’s entirely possible to get the hang of basic DJ mixing with just a laptop, tablet or even a mobile phone, DJ controllers deliver a number of benefits that these devices can’t offer. Most importantly, it’s the satisfyingly tactile experience of using jog wheels, twisting dials and pushing buttons that touchscreens struggle to replicate; additionally, DJ controllers are often equipped with useful hardware such as built-in audio interfaces that enable you to connect your set-up with a speaker system and microphone.

Simon Truss author profile image
Si Truss

Si is Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. He's been messing around with music tech in various forms, from interfaces to DJ gear, for over two decades. He's also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. You can find him in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past his bedtime.

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The best beginner DJ controllers available today

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Best overall

pioneer

(Image credit: Pioneer DJ)

1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4

The best controller for aspiring DJs or those looking for an affordable at-home setup

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop, mobile (via USB or Bluetooth)
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: Yes
Inputs: Mic (1/4inch TS Jack)
Outputs: RCA master out, 3.5mm headphone out
Software: rekordbox (performance feature unlock included), Serato DJ Lite, Djay

Reasons to buy

+
Equipped with some pro-level controls 
+
New features make it easier to DJ than ever
+
Bluetooth connectivity for DJing with mobile devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of balanced outputs
-
Build quality may not hold up to heavy and frequent use

Pioneer’s CDJs are essentially the industry standard - at least for club DJs - and their extensive range of mid and pro-grade DJ controllers rarely fail to hit the mark. The 2-channel DDJ-FLX4, replacing the popular DDJ-400, offers a simplified take on these high-end options that delivers the essentials - jog wheels, performance pads and a simple mixer - without threatening to overwhelm beginner DJs with too steep a learning curve. 

The FLX4 is built to work with both the included Serato DJ Lite and rekordbox, Pioneer’s flagship piece of DJ software. This brings with it access to sophisticated performance features and lets you hook up the USB bus-powered controller via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet running rekordbox’s mobile app; meaning you can spin an entire set wirelessly and without a laptop in sight, streaming tracks directly from Beatport, Beatsource, Soundcloud or TIDAL. 

The DDJ-FLX4 was designed with beginners in mind, from the easily accessible layout right down to the brand new Smart Mixing features that simplify the process of beatmatching, EQing and effects processing to make mixing a breeze. The Smart Fader automatically tweaks volume, EQ and BPM to help create smooth transitions between your tracks, while Smart CFX instantly applies a selection of multi-effects to help emphasize climactic moments in your sets. 

All in all, Pioneer’s DDJ-FLX4 is one of the most versatile beginner DJ controllers on the market, offering more than enough in terms of hardware specs and software compatibility to help novices to develop their skills on the decks and perform confidently.

Best for style

Best beginner DJ controllers: Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2

(Image credit: Native Instruments)

2. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

Plenty to keep beginners and improving DJs happy

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop, mobile
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: mic in
Outputs: RCA main out, headphone out
Software: Traktor DJ 2, Traktor Pro 3 (full license included)

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish and well-built  
+
Includes a full Traktor Pro license  
+
Can work on mobile or desktop

Reasons to avoid

-
Two-deck only

Now in its third generation, NI’s entry-level Traktor controller is one of the most stylish-looking devices you’ll find at this end of the market. It’s sturdily built too, and certainly feels more ‘pro’ than its price point suggests.

The S2 is a controller specifically intended for Native Instruments’ own Traktor ecosystem. It’s designed to work with both the cross-platform, beginner-friendly Traktor DJ app, and the more fully-featured Traktor Pro 3 – and the fact that it ships with a full license for the latter of these is a major selling point.

While the S2 lacks the more complex effect and sampling controls of bigger Traktor controllers, there’s still plenty here for beginners and experienced DJs alike to get their teeth into. It’s far from the cheapest beginner controller out there, but the S2 is likely to satisfy improving DJs even as their needs and ambitions grow.

Read the full Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 review

Best for scratching

Best beginner DJ controllers: Pioneer DJ DDJ-Rev 1

(Image credit: Pioneer)

3. Pioneer DJ DDJ-Rev 1

The best beginner controller for budding scratch DJs and turntablists

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 4
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: mic
Outputs: RCA master out, headphone out
Software: Serato DJ Lite, Serato DJ Pro (licence not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Better jog wheels than most rivals at this price 
+
Battle-style layout 
+
Lightweight and portable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Serato DJ Pro licence will cost you extra 

On the whole, scratch DJs and turntablists are fairly poorly served by entry-level DJ gear, which often features cheap crossfaders and small, unresponsive jogwheels. This affordable entry into Pioneer’s new DDJ Rev range aims to address that.

The REV-1 works with the free Serato DJ Lite. Its mixer section is based on the design of Pioneer’s higher-end DJM-S, flanked by jog wheels based around the brand’s PLX turntables. The Rev 1 is positioned in a ‘battle’ layout – meaning the tempo sliders are positioned above, rather than alongside the jogwheels, which is a set-up generally favoured for scratching and rarely seen on beginner gear.

The Rev 1 also features jogs that are noticeably larger than most other entry-level controllers, which is another factor that should aid those trying to develop their scratch skills. Other key features include an array of performance pads – these can be used for sampling and cue point tricks – and a mic input to suit budding streamers.

Best for total beginners

Best beginner DJ controllers: Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

(Image credit: Pioneer DJ)

4. Pioneer DJ DDJ-200

A great, easy-to-use package for absolute beginners

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop, mobile (bluetooth or USB)
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: no
Inputs: None
Outputs: None
Software: WeDJ (full unlock included), rekordbox (performance feature unlock included), Djay, edjing Mix

Reasons to buy

+
Well priced  
+
WeDJ app can help you learn to mix   
+
Also works with rekordbox

Reasons to avoid

-
No audio interface

A smaller sibling to the DDJ-400, the DDJ-200 can be used with Algoriddim Djay, edjing Mix or Pioneer’s own rekordbox and WeDJ applications. The latter of these is an iOS/Android app with some great tutorial features aimed at getting newbies up to speed with the basics of DJing. 

The ability to step up to the more pro-featured rekordbox software offers a nice route into advanced mixing too. That said, although DDJ-200 users can still unlock some of rekordbox’s advanced performance features, there’s less in the way of hardware control when it comes to things like looping, sampling or effects.

The DDJ-200 is Bluetooth-equipped to connect to mobile devices or laptops wirelessly, and its power demands are low enough for it to happily run off a portable USB charger. The WeDJ app allows users to mix with tracks from SoundCloud Go+ or Beatport LINK too – although separate subscriptions to these services are required.

The notable downside here is the lack of an audio interface, meaning you’ll need a separate device for a proper master out/headphones DJ set-up – which is reflected in the low price. There is a split audio cable included in the box though, which allows for a rudimentary workaround in order to monitor tracks.

Best value DJ controller

Best beginner DJ controllers: Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

(Image credit: Numark)

5. Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

The best bang-for-your-buck beginner DJ controller

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 4
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: mic in
Outputs: RCA out, headphone out
Software: Serato DJ Lite

Reasons to buy

+
Packs in a lot of features for a good price  
+
Great effects controls  
+
Control for four decks

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest

Numark’s Mixtrack range is one of the more longstanding names in entry-level DJing and has always brought a great balance of features for a low price. Its latest addition, the Platinum FX, might be the best value yet when it comes to bang-for-your-buck.

The Platinum FX is the top end Mixtrack controller, meaning it boasts pro features such as 4-deck mixing, sizeable jog wheels with hi-res displays and a mic input. The FX part of the name signifies the inclusion of a range of cool performance/remix tools such as Hot Cues, Auto Loop, Sampling and Fader Cuts. There’s also a pair of neat paddle switches designed for quickly accessing Serato’s built-in effects. It all adds up to a lot of potential fun, making seemingly advanced DJ tricks easy to achieve.

While the top-end Platinum FX is probably the best value, if you can live without 4-deck mixing and the jog wheel displays, the Mixtrack Pro FX packs many of the same features for around $/£50 cheaper than the Platinum.

Best compact model

Best beginner DJ controllers: Numark DJ2GO2

(Image credit: Numark)

6. Numark DJ2GO2

The best balance of size and features

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: none
Outputs: 1/8-inch main out, 1/8-inch headphone out
Software: Serato DJ Lite (mapping for Traktor and other software also available to download)

Reasons to buy

+
Compact but well-equipped 
+
Crams in jog wheels, pads and more

Reasons to avoid

-
No channel faders 
-
Fiddly to use

In terms of balancing size and features, Numark’s updated DJ2GO is one of the most jam-packed DJ controllers on the market. Its slim form factor could, just about, legitimately be called pocket-sized, but the device still finds space for two jog wheels, a crossfader, built-in interface and four performance pads for each deck.

Numark claims the DJ2GO2’s touch-capacitive jog wheels are capable of handling scratching duties, which is technically true, although their compact size means they’re too fiddly for moves with any real finesse. Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.

The controller is designed for use right-out-the-box with the free Serato DJ Lite, but it’s mapped and ready for use with the full paid version – as well as other software – if and when you’re ready to upgrade.

Best built-in drum machine

Best beginner DJ controllers: Roland DJ-202

(Image credit: Roland)

7. Roland DJ-202

A great option for budding beatmakers

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 4
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: mic in
Outputs: master RCA, headphone, MIDI out
Software: Serato DJ Lite

Reasons to buy

+
Includes great drum machine emulations 
+
Mic input with vocal effects  
+
Comprehensive Serato control

Reasons to avoid

-
The drum and vocal effects make it more expensive than other controllers

Roland is a relative newcomer to the DJ gear realm, but its range of controllers has a great USP – packing emulations of the brand’s iconic 808, 909 and 707 drum machines into the controller itself.

There are fewer controls here than on the higher-end DJ-505 and DJ-808 controllers, meaning that sequencing those drum sounds is a little more fiddly. That said, the well-sized performance pads are still more than enough to allow users to jam-out drum patterns on the fly, mid-mix.

The DJ-202 also includes a mic input and several onboard vocal effects, including a gate, filters, reverb and echo.

Software-wise, the DJ-202 is designed for use with Serato Lite (included), but if you own or purchase a Serato Pro license, the 202 is fully mapped to make use of the software’s more pro-level features. You’re paying for those quality drum sounds and vocal effects here, so if those appeal then this is a decent value package, otherwise you may get more for your money elsewhere.

Best for learning

Best beginner DJ controllers: Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 300 Mk2

(Image credit: Hercules)

8. Hercules DJ Control Inpulse 300 Mk2

An easy-to-use beginner package that can act as a bridge into Serato

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: Yes
Inputs: none
Outputs: RCA master out, headphone out
Software: DJUCED, Serato DJ

Reasons to buy

+
Light guide and video tutorials
+
Beat align and track assistant help newbie DJs 
+
Can be used with Serato 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Looks a little toy-like 

Hercules’ Inpulse range is aimed squarely at beginner DJs. Not only are they affordable and easy-to-use, but they’re specifically set up to teach you how to mix.

The controllers come supplied with Hercules’ own DJUCED software, which makes use of integrated video tutorials and a light guide on the controller itself to demonstrate what-does-what. These tools are coupled with visual ‘beat align’ guides to help visualise the sync of your two decks, along with an ‘Intelligent Music Assistant’ tool, which will automatically suggest the next track to keep your mix going.

The 300 is the highlight of the range, largely because – as of a recent update  – it offers integration with Serato DJ. As a result, there’s an obvious route of progression for beginner DJs, who might want to transition to Serato’s pro-level software as they get to grips with the basics of mixing.

The hardware itself still looks a little toy-like, and the short faders don’t allow for much in the way of nuanced mixing, but there’s a decent amount of functionality here for the money. 

Best for house parties

Best beginner DJ controllers: Numark Party Mix II

(Image credit: Numark)

9. Numark Party Mix II

A cheap and cheerful beginner controller for house parties

Specifications

Connectivity: desktop
Mixer Channels: 2
Deck control: 2
Audio interface: yes
Inputs: none
Outputs: RCA master out, headphone out
Software: Serato DJ Lite

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap and easy to use
+
LEDs are a fun gimmick

Reasons to avoid

-
Light show lacks variety
-
Plastic, toy-like feel 

Somewhat gimmicky and toy-ish, but pleasingly affordable and fun nonetheless, the USP of Numark’s Party Mix lies in the trio of LEDs along its front edge. These provide what Numark calls a ‘built-in light show’. This is perhaps overselling it a bit – really it’s three coloured lights flashing in sync with the tempo of your tracks; a neat little effect but with little variation and not enough presence to make a difference in any setting larger than a small house party.

Cynicism aside though, the Party Mix boasts a decent crop of features for its price, including two jog wheels, faders, EQ controls and performance pads for each deck. This version 2 update has recently improved things further too, adding more pro-level features including significantly improved jog wheels and per-track filter controls.

As well as the standard Party Mix model, Numark also offers a Party Mix Live device that adds built-in speakers to the mix. You can turn the lights off when desired too.

Best beginner DJ controllers: Buying advice

Best beginner DJ controllers: Hands on a DJ controller

(Image credit: Future)

Modern DJ controller designs can vary wildly and, for the uninitiated, a lot of the individual features can sound like confusing jargon. Let’s break down the most common specs to look out for.

What are jog wheels?

These are the circular platters seen on CDJs as well as many DJ controllers. Jog wheels replicate the look and function of traditional vinyl turntables, allowing DJs to scroll through records, scratch and ‘nudge’ the timing of a track back or forwards slightly.

If you plan on traditional beat-matching – ie. syncing up the timing of two records by ear – or hip-hop style turntablism and record scratching, then jog wheels are a must. 

They’re not essential if you’re happy to rely on the automatic beat-matching capabilities of your chosen DJ software though, which is certainly a viable option given the power of modern applications.

What are faders/crossfaders?

The main elements of any DJ setup are players – the part that actually plays music, often controlled by jog wheels – and a mixer, used to blend several tracks together. Faders are the main control for a mixer, usually split into vertical channel faders – which adjust the volume of an individual track – and the horizontal crossfader, used to blend between two channels. Most DJ controllers have faders in some form, although smaller devices may opt for a simple volume knob instead.

Can you tell me more about the audio interface?

Some DJ controllers double up as an audio interface, ie. an external sound card. These devices will come complete with some kind of audio output that can be connected to speakers or a PA system. This is generally a much better option than using your laptop’s onboard audio, especially if you’re playing at a party, event or in a club/bar.

In most cases audio interfaces will also include a headphone output, letting users monitor tracks – ie. preview a song without it being heard through the main output. This latter element is an important tool, even for beginner DJs, so unless you’re already using a separate audio interface, looking for a controller with these capabilities built-in is a good idea.

Controllers with inbuilt interfaces may offer additional inputs and outputs too, such as a secondary ‘booth’ output, or an input for a vocal microphone or external sound source (such as a turntable, MP3 player or synth/drum machine).

What about DJ controller software?

As the name suggests, a DJ controller is designed to control something, specifically a piece of software running on a computer or mobile device. As such, none of the devices here can be used standalone, and the brand of DJ software you’re drawn to is likely to be a major factor in your choice of controller.

Some controllers are designed to work with multiple applications, while others are limited to use with one specific piece of software. What’s more, some controllers come bundled with a license or free download of one app or another. 

For help deciding which is right for you, check out our handy guide to the best DJ software applications.

What are common features in DJ controllers?

Along with volume faders, most mixer controllers will offer some kind of EQ control, and often filters too. 

Once you’ve got to grips with blending one track into another using the faders, these will probably be the next tools you’ll want to hand in order to try blending different frequency elements from separate tracks – eg. the bassline from one song under a vocal from another.

The majority of modern controllers also include some form of ‘performance pads’ for each deck. These can fulfill a variety of roles, from jumping to different ‘cue points’ within a track to triggering loops, samples and effects. While pads aren’t essential for mixing tracks by any means, they’re a fun and creative tool to have in your arsenal for future experimentation.

How we choose products for this guide

Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides. 

When choosing what we believe to be the best beginner DJ controllers available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best beginner DJ controllers on the market right now.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.