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The Best DJ Controllers for Beginners in 2024

The best entry-level DJ controllers for compatibility with rekordbox, Serato, Traktor and more. Beginner DJs - dive into this comprehensive guide to help select the perfect device for you.

A DJ using his CDJ dj controller at a performance.

With the rise in popularity of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) over the past two decades, DJing has become an increasingly popular choice for music lovers. Not only has it grown in popularity, but thanks to the emergence of high quality and affordable DJ equipment, as well as online & in-person DJ courses, the art form has become more accessible than ever.


Many people ask us, "What is the best DJ controller for beginners?". Whether you're looking to buy your first controller to get started or looking to upgrade your decks, choosing the right DJ equipment is crucial for your success and enjoyment. In this comprehensive buying guide, we'll examine the top DJ controllers for beginners in 2024, all of which have been carefully tested by Greater Toronto Music School's expert DJ teachers. We'll discuss their compatibility with DJ software, best features, pricing, and why they make excellent choices for new DJs.

 

Quick Menu: What is the best DJ Controller for Beginners?

 

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 is a top choice for beginner DJs. It comes equipped with a license for both rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ Lite software, providing flexibility and versatility. This dual compatibility is not possible with all controllers and allows new DJs to explore two top-notch software ecosystems in order choose the one that best suits their needs.


One of the most attractive features about the DDJ-FLX4 is its 8 high-quality performance pads. These pads have great feel for an entry level controller, allowing DJs to trigger samples, loops, and hot cues, adding a creative dimension to their sets easily. Additionally, the DDJ-FLX4's layout closely resembles that of professional CDJs, which are a standard fixture in most clubs. Getting familiar with standard CDJ layout helps aspiring DJs transition seamlessly to professional equipment.


The DDJ-FLX4 is highly portable for DJs who will need to transport gear frequently, thanks in part to its compact and lightweight design. It features built-in tutorials, available through the rekordbox DJ software, providing interactive lessons that show new DJs the basics of mixing and performing, helping to build skills & confidence.


However, the DDJ-FLX4 does have some limitations. It only supports two decks as opposed to four, which may be restrictive for DJs looking to expand their mixing capabilities. Moreover, the controller can only apply one effect to each output, which might limit creative options for some more advanced DJs. Like many entry-level controllers, the DDJ-FLX4 lacks standalone functionality and requires a computer to operate. Despite these limitations, its price point of approximately CAD $359 makes it an affordable and attractive option for beginner DJs.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★★★

Notable Features: ★★★★☆

Design and Portability: ★★★★★

Price: ★★★★★


Conclusion:

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 is a fantastic option for beginner DJs, offering dual software compatibility, high-end performance features, and educational tools. Its minor limitations do little to detract from its overall value, making it a top recommendation for those starting their DJ journey. With a star rating of 4.5 out of 5, the DDJ-FLX4 stands out as a versatile, user-friendly, and highly capable piece of equipment.



The Pioneer DDJ-400 beginner DJ controller.

The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is a wonderful choice for beginner DJs, offering a wide variety of features that make it both versatile and user-friendly. This controller comes equipped with Serato DJ Lite software, a highly respected platform known for its intuitive interface and vast performance capabilities. With Serato DJ Lite, beginners can start mixing right out of the box and have the option to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro for more advanced features as their skills progress.


One of the most outstanding features of the Mixtrack Platinum FX is its support for four decks, a feature not commonly found in beginner DJ controllers. This allows DJs to layer tracks and samples, creating more complex and dynamic mixes. Moreover, this beginner DJ controller also boasts 16 highly responsive multifunction performance pads, which can be used to trigger samples, loops, and hot cues, adding a creative element to any set.


Another key feature is the 6-inch jog wheels with high-resolution displays. These jog wheels offer precise control, making them super handy for scratching and beatmatching. The onboard displays provide users with crucial information about the track cued up on each deck, such as BPM, platter position, time remaining, and key lock, allowing DJs to keep their focus on their performance instead of having to glance between their computer screen and controller.


The Mixtrack Platinum FX also boasts dedicated FX controls, including quick-access paddle triggers that allow DJs to activate effects like echo, reverb, and flanger quickly and easily. This feature enhances the controller's usability, allowing starter DJs to play with effects and transitions smoothly.


The Mixtrack Platinum FX is a lightweight and compact controller, making it easy to transport to gigs and practice sessions. Its body is made from plastic, and while not as durable as some higher-end models, is robust enough for regular use. Like almost all entry-level DJ controllers, it does require a computer to operate and lacks standalone functionality.


Despite these few limitations, the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is priced competitively at approximately CAD $359, making it an excellent value for beginners. Its combination of advanced features, including four-deck support, high-resolution jog wheels, and performance pads, make it an attractive choice for those new to DJing.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★☆☆

Notable Features: ★★★★★

Design and Portability: ★★★★☆

Price: ★★★★★


Conclusion

The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is a great choice for beginner DJs, offering advanced features such as four-deck support, high-resolution jog wheels, and 16 versatile performance pads. Its integration with Serato DJ Lite and dedicated FX controls make it both user-friendly and capable of delivering professional-quality performances. Despite requiring a computer to operate, its affordable price and robust feature set make it a top recommendation for those starting their DJ journey. With a star rating of 4.25 out of 5, the Mixtrack Platinum FX stands out as a versatile, powerful, and highly capable piece of equipment.


The Numark Mixtrack Platinum beginner DJ controller

The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a popular choice amongst starter DJs exceptional thanks to it's stellar combination of ease of use and its suite of powerful features. This controller comes equipped with Traktor Pro 3 software, a well known platform praised for its professional-grade features and intuitive user interface. With Traktor Pro 3, DJs can start mixing right out of the box and have access to a wide array of tools to elevate their performances.


A standout feature of the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is its club-standard layout, which copies the layout and functionality of higher-end CDJs. This feature allows users to seamlessly transition to professional equipment once they are ready to perform in a club setting. The controller includes two channels, each with its own mixer section, allowing for smooth and intuitive control over tracks. Moreover, the S2 Mk3 boasts sizeable 5.5-inch jog wheels that provide precise control, making beatmatching and scratching both fun and accurate.


The Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 also features 16 highly responsive RGB-backlit performance pads. Users can trigger hot cues, loops, samples, and more with these pads, adding a creative dimension to any DJ set. The controller’s intuitive FX section, equipped with dedicated controls, allows for quick and easy application of Traktor's high-quality effects, allowing DJs to create extremely dynamic mixes.


Its lightweight and compact design makes this controller easy to transport, ideal for DJs who need to move between gigs or practice sessions with their decks. This controller is built strong, with a solid plastic construction that feels durable and reliable. Priced at approximately CAD $429, the Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 offers excellent value for its feature set. Its professional layout, high-quality jog wheels, and versatile performance pads make it a compelling choice for aspiring DJs.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4 out of 5

  • Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★★☆

  • Notable Features: ★★★★☆

  • Design and Portability: ★★★★☆

  • Price: ★★★★☆


Conclusion

The Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a top-tier option for beginner DJs, featuring a professional layout, high-quality jog wheels, and versatile performance pads. Its seamless integration with Traktor Pro 3 and intuitive FX controls make it user-friendly while offering the tools needed for professional-quality performances. Though it requires a computer to operate, its competitive price and robust feature set make it an excellent choice for those beginning their DJ journey. With a star rating of 4 out of 5, the S2 Mk3 stands out as a powerful, versatile, and highly capable DJ controller.


Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is a top choice for beginner DJs looking for an entry level controller
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3

The Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 is a versatile DJ controller designed for both beginners and intermediate DJs. The Inpulse 500 beginner DJ controller offers a host of features that elevate learning and performance capabilities. This controller comes bundled two powerful softwares: DJUCED and Serato DJ Lite. This provides flexibility and a smooth entry into the world of DJing. With DJUCED, users benefit from a comprehensive tutorial system, while Serato DJ Lite offers a seamless upgrade path to Serato DJ Pro for more advanced users.


One feature that sets the DJControl Inpulse 500 apart from other entry level DJ controllers is its Beatmatch Guide feature, which uses light indicators to help users with beatmatching, an essential skill for any DJ. This unique feature makes it easier for beginners to get started and build confidence in their mixing abilities.


The DJControl Inpulse 500 boasts 16 backlit RGB performance pads, which are highly responsive and versatile. These pads can be used to trigger hot cues, rolls, slicer effects, and samples, adding a creative flair to any set. The controller also comes equipped with large, touch-sensitive jog wheels that allow the user to precisely control scratching and pitch bending, making it a valuable tool for both learning and performance.


Another feature that sets this controller apart is the integrated hardware mixer with an auxiliary input, allowing users to connect external devices like smartphones or media players. This adds an extra layer of versatility, enabling DJs to mix and match between different audio sources seamlessly. The controller also boasts a sturdy, metal-backed construction, ensuring durability for regular use.


Portability is a key advantage of the DJControl Inpulse 500. Its lightweight design, combined with a solid build, makes it easy to transport to various gigs and practice sessions. The controller’s intuitive layout and well-spaced controls enhance its usability, making it a reliable choice for DJs on the go. Priced at approximately CAD $379, the DJControl Inpulse 500 offers exceptional value with its combination of educational features and professional capabilities. Its user-friendly design, coupled with advanced performance options, makes it an attractive choice for aspiring DJs.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★★☆

  • Notable Features: ★★★★★

  • Design and Portability: ★★★★☆

  • Price: ★★★★☆


Conclusion

The Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 is a top-notch choice for both beginner and intermediate DJs, featuring innovative learning aids like the Beatmatch Guide and versatile performance pads. Its integration with DJUCED and Serato DJ Lite ensures a smooth learning curve, while its durable build and portability make it suitable for regular use. Despite requiring a computer to operate, its affordable price and robust feature set make it a standout option. With a star rating of 4.3 out of 5, the DJControl Inpulse 500 proves to be a versatile, powerful, and user-friendly DJ controller.


The Roland DJ-202 is a dynamic DJ controller that blends traditional DJing elements such as tactile control and precise audio manipulation, with modern innovations like built-in drum sounds and versatile performance pads. Bundled with Serato DJ Lite software, this controller provides a user friendly platform for immediate mixing capabilities, right out of the box. As beginners develop their skills, the option to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro and maintain a familiar platform while unlocking more features always exists.


One feature that sets this entry level DJ controller apart from the competition is its built-in Roland drum machine, which includes iconic TR-808 and TR-909 drum sounds. This allows DJs to incorporate classic drum sounds and patterns into their sets, adding a unique and creative dimension to performances. The controller supports two decks but allows four-deck control through Serato DJ Lite, enabling more complex mixing and layering. This is a feature found almost exclusively in pro-level gear.


The DJ-202 boasts large, low-latency platters that offer precise control, ideal for scratching and beatmatching. The platters' responsive nature ensures that DJs can execute accurately, enhancing the overall performance experience. Additionally, the controller includes eight RGB performance pads per deck, which can be used to trigger hot cues, loops, samples, and more, providing versatility in creating dynamic sets.


Another key feature is the DJ-202’s dedicated transport controls, which are rare in controllers at this price point. These controls make it easy to navigate tracks, cue points, and loops, streamlining the mixing process. The controller also has a built-in 24-bit/48 kHz audio interface, ensuring high-quality sound output that meets professional standards.


Portability and build quality are strong points for the DJ-202. Its lightweight and compact design make it easy to transport, while its robust plastic construction ensures durability for regular use. The controller’s intuitive layout and well-spaced controls make it user-friendly, suitable for DJs who perform in various environments.

Priced at approximately CAD $399, the DJ-202 offers excellent value, combining traditional DJ elements with innovative features like the integrated drum machine. Its professional-grade capabilities and user-friendly design make it an appealing choice for DJs at various skill levels.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★★☆

  • Notable Features: ★★★★★

  • Design and Portability: ★★★★★

  • Price: ★★★★☆


Conclusion

The Roland DJ-202 is a versatile and innovative DJ controller, featuring built-in TR drum machine sounds and advanced performance capabilities. Its integration with Serato DJ Lite and the option to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro make it a powerful tool for both learning and performing. Despite requiring a computer to operate, its affordable price and robust feature set make it a standout option for aspiring DJs. With a star rating of 4.5 out of 5, the DJ-202 stands out as a versatile, powerful, and highly capable DJ controller



The Denon DJ Prime Go is an innovative standalone DJ controller designed for ultimate portability and professional performance. Powered by Engine OS, it eliminates the need for a laptop, and comes equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to 4 hours of use, ideal for mobile DJs.


A key feature is its 7-inch HD multi-touch display, enabling intuitive track browsing and waveform viewing. The Prime Go has two channel strips with dedicated EQs, filters, and level meters, providing precise mix control. Its 8 multifunction performance pads per deck allow for hot cues, loops, rolls, and slicer functions, enhancing creative possibilities.

Notably, the Prime Go includes dual mic inputs with independent controls and echo effects, essential for events requiring microphone use. It supports dual USB and SD card slots for media playback and Wi-Fi streaming from popular music services, ensuring extensive track access.


Our Expert DJ Instructors Rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Compatibility and Software Integration: ★★★★★

  • Notable Features: ★★★★★

  • Design and Portability: ★★★★★

  • Price: ★★★★☆


Conclusion

The Denon DJ Prime Go is an exceptional standalone DJ controller, offering the flexibility of battery power and the powerful Engine OS. Its professional-grade features, including the HD touchscreen, performance pads, and extensive connectivity, make it an outstanding choice for mobile and professional DJs. Despite its higher price, its robust feature set and portability justify the investment, earning a star rating of 4.7 out of 5.


Buying Advice

In order to make the correct decision while searching for a beginner DJ controller, it's essential to understand some fundamental terms. Here is a guide to help you better understand all the terms that we have used in this article.


What Are Jog Wheels?

Jog wheels are circular platters found on CDJs and many DJ controllers, including all the products mentioned in this guide. They emulate the appearance and function of traditional vinyl turntables, allowing DJs to scroll through tracks, scratch, and adjust the timing of a track slightly forward or backward.


If you aim to beat-match manually—aligning the timing of two tracks by ear—or engage in hip-hop-style turntablism and scratching, jog wheels are essential. Even though most DJ software now features automatic beat-matching, making jog wheels theoretically unnecessary, many DJs still use them, even if just for performing a track re-load.


Exploring Faders and Crossfaders

Every DJ setup comprises two main sections: the players (vinyl decks, digital decks, or the jog wheel section of a controller) and the mixer, where songs are blended. Faders are vertical controls on the mixer that adjust the volume of individual tracks. Moving a fader up increases the volume, while moving it down decreases it. A crossfader, on the other hand, is a horizontal control that blends two songs. Sliding the crossfader from one side to the other gradually fades out one track while bringing in another. Most DJ controllers feature faders, although smaller controllers might use simple volume knobs instead.


What Is an Audio Interface?

An audio interface determines how sound enters and exits your computer. While most computers have an internal audio interface, many users opt for external devices for better performance. Some DJ controllers also function as audio interfaces, offering audio outputs that connect to speakers or PA systems, providing a higher-quality audio signal than your computer’s built-in audio, especially for events or club settings.

Typically, audio interfaces also include a headphone output for monitoring tracks, allowing DJs to preview a song privately. This feature is crucial for any DJ setup. Controllers with built-in audio interfaces often come with additional inputs and outputs, such as a secondary "booth" output for a separate DJ booth speaker, or inputs for a microphone or other external audio sources, enabling you to integrate a turntable, MP3 player, or drum machine into your setup.


The Role of DJ Controller Software

To use most DJ controllers, you will require a laptop, the controller, and DJ software. The controller manipulates the software, enabling you to mix music. Most controllers are unable to operate independently and will require software and a laptop.

Most controllers include a DJ software license or free download. Some are compatible with multiple applications, while others work with only one specific software, making your choice of controller also a choice of DJ software. There are many DJ software options on the market, with the most common being rekordbox, Serato, Traktor and DJuced. For guidance on selecting the right software, refer to our comprehensive guide on the best DJ software applications.


Common Features in DJ Controllers

In addition to volume faders, most DJ controllers include EQ controls and often, effects. EQ is usually the next skill DJs learn after basic volume blending, allowing them to cut or boost different parts of the frequency spectrum—bass, mids, and highs. This is an essential tool for effective mixing. For example, while bringing in one track, you can take out the low end from the track that is currently playing to avoid clashing between the two. Filters perform a similar but more extreme function, with many DJ techniques involving both EQ and filters.


Modern controllers also often feature "performance pads" for each deck. These pads serve various purposes, from jumping to different cue points within a track to triggering loops, samples, and effects. While not necessary for basic track mixing, performance pads offer a creative and enjoyable addition to your DJ toolkit. Understanding these fundamental terms and features can help demystify the world of DJ controllers and make it easier for you to choose the right one for your needs.


The Best DJ Lessons Near Me

Now that you have purchased (or at least chosen) your beginner DJ controller, you are probably wondering how to start mixing. First, you will need to build a library of music. There are various options to do so - you can consider subscribing to a number of services or purchase tracks from music stores such as iTunes. Once you have some music in your library, it's time to start mixing. Very few people are fortunate enough to have skilled DJs in their family or friend groups who are willing to help them get started. Some people can get begin by watching tutorial videos on the internet, however, it is difficult to really develop strong technique and master your craft in this way. Therefore, it is recommended to start your DJing journey at a reputable school if you are able, as they build a strong foundation for new learners. At Greater Toronto Music School, our top DJ teachers are available for online and in-person DJ lessons. Contact us today, we would love to help!


Conclusion

Choosing the right DJ controller as a beginner can significantly impact your learning experience and overall enjoyment. Each of the controllers listed above offers unique features tailored to different needs and preferences, ensuring that there's something for everyone. Whether you prioritize portability, advanced features, or budget-friendliness, these top beginner DJ controller will set you on the path to becoming a skilled DJ.


For those looking to enhance their skills further, consider enrolling in DJ lessons in Toronto or exploring DJ courses in Toronto. These can provide invaluable hands-on experience and professional guidance to help you progress faster and more confidently in your DJing journey. Happy mixing!


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