5 of The Best Mid-Tier DJ Controllers in 2021

5 of the best mid-tier DJ controller 2021

Overview

As part of our ‘best DJ controller’ series, this buyer’s guide provides a simple overview of the 5 best mid-tier DJ controllers in 2021, together with everything you need to make a buying decision.

As some of the market leaders in this category, these are the best mid-range controllers under 1000 USD.

The idea of this post isn’t to give an exhaustive review of each DJ controller that we include, but instead to help you quickly identify the best options for your circumstances.


Need some help before we get started? 

Depending on where you’re at as a DJ, you might want to consider checking out these two posts before we jump in:

Post #1: A quick introduction to DJ Controllers: This post is mostly for beginners …it explains everything you need to know before splashing out on a DJ controller.

Post #2: A quick introduction to DJ software: This post provides an overview of the 4 biggest players in the DJ software market right now. It’s worth a read if you’re new to digital DJing, or even just skimming over if you need a recap on the key players and what that means for you.

DJ Courses Online

Who are these DJ controllers for?

Assuming that you’re currently in the market for a DJ controller (or soon going to be), these controllers will be most applicable if you roughly fall into one of these 3 categories:

  1. You’re a passionate bedroom or party DJ looking for some professional-looking kit.
  2. You’re a working/gigging DJ that’s looking for a ‘budget backup’ controller to add to their existing home or studio setup.
  3. You’re a mobile DJ looking for a portable (yet professional) controller for their gigs that won’t break the bank.

How to choose?

As all of these controllers are in the same price bracket (we’ve already done that bit for you), their specs are going to be fairly similar by comparison. With that said, we’d suggest it’s more about which one you prefer and what your objectives are rather than getting too caught up in the specs.  

Once you have an idea of which DJ software you’ll be using, what’s MOST important is to consider their unique selling points and what that means to YOU and your situation.

An important note before we get started

One common problem with some of these ‘best controller’ blogs you see online, is that they tend to date very quickly – mostly due to the rate at which new DJ controllers hit the market.

This post, however, is regularly updated by our team as things change, or appropriately when new controllers get released. So you can rest assured it’s as up-to-date as you’re going to get!

So, let’s jump in to the 5 best mid-tier DJ controllers in 2021…


1: Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800, one of the 5 best mid-tier DJ controllers in 2021

Description:

The DDJ-800 is a middle-market (or mid-tier) DJ controller from Pioneer DJ. It’s designed to be used with their proprietary music management and DJ software, Rekordbox, which it comes with.

Released in 2019, the DDJ-800 is part of Pioneer’s flagship series of Rekordbox DJ controllers, which for reference, also includes the DDJ-400 for beginners and the DDJ-1000 in the higher price bracket.

Power supply:

Powered by USB-connection to your laptop – it has a built-in 24-bit soundcard so you can directly plug in headphones, microphones and speakers. It’s also ready to go out-of-the-box for PC or Mac.

Product slide show:

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 (birds-eye angle #1)

Birds-eye angle #1

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 (birds-eye angle #2)

Birds-eye angle #2

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 (rear view)

Rear view

Pioneer DJ DDJ-800 (laptop setup)

Laptop setup

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability within Rekordbox.
  • Layout designed to emulate Pioneer’s CDJ media players and DJM (mixer) club setup.
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large 8-inch aluminium jog wheels.
  • High-definition LCD screens built into jog wheel displays (settings are customizable within Rekordbox to show preferred data).
  • 8 multi-colour rubber performance pads for each channel to trigger hot cues, Pad FX, Beat Jump, Sampler, Keyboard Mode, Beat Loop and Key Shift.
  • ‘Jog adjust’ knob to customize the jog wheel resistance, for preference and optimized scratching.
  • Built-in ‘Beat FX’ taken from Pioneer’s DJM (pro) club mixers.
  • Microphone feedback reducer.
  • External output to connect turntables or CDJs; includes all professional inputs & outputs that you wouldn’t get from a lower price bracket.
  • Rekordbox DVS, upgrade-ready.
  • Size: Width 632mm x Depth 334mm x Height 70mm.
  • Weight: 4.7kg.

Highlights:

The high-quality aluminium jog wheels have built-in LCD screens, minimizing the need to constantly look at your laptop. Then there’s the ‘jog adjust’ knobs which allow you to customize the resistance on each jog wheel – same as you’d get on CDJs.

It’s also got a ‘microphone feedback reducer’ that activates within Rekordbox, which would be handy if you have two microphones plugged in at once, or if you have MCs walking in front of the speakers, for example.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

The DDJ-800 is basically a more lightweight and compact version of the DDJ-1000, which is in the upper price bracket to this one. As with the other Rekordbox controllers in the series, it’s designed to mimic a club-style layout/workflow, thus providing a smoother learning curve if and when you use pro gear in a venue.

Whilst it’s the most expensive controller on this list, it has some of the best specs in this price bracket. And considering it’s about $400 USD cheaper than the DDJ-1000, you might say it’s the perfect compromise for price & portability if you’re an aspiring mobile DJ.

As the DDJ-400 is one of Pioneer’s ‘hardware unlock’ devices, unless you choose to upgrade your plan you won’t need to pay a monthly subscription for the software.

Approximate price:

Expect to pay approximately $880-$1,000 USD depending on your location. Whilst it’s usually cheaper with Amazon, always consider the pros & cons of ordering through a local retailer/distributor with regards to after-sales service and delivery costs.

Need more help deciding?

Watch Pioneer DJ’s intro video or check out this full video review. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Where to buy?

Here are some handy buy links based on a few different locations:


2: Roland DJ-505 

Roland DJ-505 - mid-tier DJ controller

Description:

Released in 2017, the DJ-505 is the best mid-tier offering from Roland. It’s targeted at DJ/producers and comes bundled with Serato DJ Pro.

Other controllers in this series include their entry-level DJ-202 and the flagship DJ-808 in the higher price bracket.

Power supply:

External power supply, AC adapter, comes with all necessary connectors and cables – ready to go out of the box for PC or Mac.

Product slide show:

Roland DJ-505 (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Roland DJ-505 (birds-eye angle #1)

Birds-eye angle #1

Roland DJ-505 (birds-eye angle #2)

Birds-eye angle #2

Roland DJ-505 (front view)

Front view

Roland DJ-505 (rear view)

Rear view

Roland DJ-505 (corner view)

Corner view

Roland DJ-505 (jog wheel view)

Jog wheel view

Roland DJ-505 (performance pads)

Performance pads

Roland DJ-505 (mixer)

Mixer close-up

Roland DJ-505 (top view)

Top view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability with Serato DJ Pro.
  • Comes with a Serato Tool Kit license (includes Serato Flip, Pitch ‘N Time plugin plus Serato DJ FX packs).
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large low-latency jog wheels optimized for scratching.
  • 8 multi-function performance pads for each channel with Hot Cue, Roll, Slicer, TR, Pattern and Sampler modes.
  • Comes with built-in drum machine, includes samples from Roland’s classic TR-606, TR707, TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines models as popularized in the 80s with acid house.
  • TR kits contain eight sounds–Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Closed Hat, Open Hat, Tom, Rim, Clap, and Ride–that can be played on the performance pads and triggered from the sequencer.
  • Classic 16-step sequencer that can trigger either TR drum sounds or the Serato Sampler; new features include nudge (TR-S), step-roll, and instrument/sample mute.
  • External output to connect turntables or CDJs – plus all professional inputs & outputs that you wouldn’t get from a lower price bracket.
  • Serato DVS, upgrade-ready.
  • Size: Width 530mm x Depth 402mm x Height 73mm.
  • Weight: 3.5kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

At under $700, the DJ-505 is a fantastic option for any aspiring electronic music DJ/producer with a preference for using Serato. It’s the perfect step-up from the DJ-202 in the beginner price bracket if you want something more substantial and professional-looking. Also, it’s nearly half the price of Roland’s flagship DJ-808 in the upper price bracket, yet still has a lot of the same functionality.

With help from its built-in drum machine and 16-step sequencer, it’s arguably the best in this price bracket with regards to performance/“on the fly’’ remixing capabilities. As with all three of the Roland controllers in the series, the inclusion of the classic drum machine samples from the acid house-era is a great selling point. It’s on this list for good reason!

Approximate price:

Expect to pay between $600-$800 USD.

Need more help deciding?

Check out Roland’s demo video or watch this video review. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Where to buy?

Here are some handy buy links based on a few different locations:


3: Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 - mid-tier DJ controller

Description:

Released in 2017, the DDJ-SR2 is a mid-tier controller from Pioneer DJ that works with Serato DJ Pro (the upgrade from the DDJ-SR that came out back in 2013). It comes bundled with Serato DJ Pro software as standard.

Power supply:

Powered by USB-connection to your laptop – it has a built-in 24-bit soundcard so you can directly plug in headphones, microphones, and speakers. It’s ready to go out-of-the-box for PC or Mac.

Product slide show:

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 (birds-eye angle #1)

birds-eye angle #1

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 (birds-eye angle #2)

Birds-eye angle #2

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SR2 (rear view)

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability within Serato DJ Pro.
  • Comes with a Serato Tool Kit licence (includes Serato Flip, Pitch ‘N Time plugin plus Serato DJ FX packs).
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large aluminium low-latency jog wheels with adjustable torque (optimized for scratching).
  • 8 multi-colour performance pads for each channel for Hot Cues, Roll, Slicer and sampling.
  • Touch strip needle search above each jog wheel to quickly search through a track.
  • Dedicated key sync button makes harmonic mixing easier than ever.
  • External output to connect turntables or CDJs – plus all professional inputs & outputs that you wouldn’t get from a lower price bracket.
  • Serato DVS, upgrade-ready.
  • Size: Width 553mm x Depth 334mm x Height 65mm.
  • Weight: 3.7kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

The SR2 has a nice solid build quality, plus lovely aluminium jog wheels with adjustable torque. It’s is definitely the mid-tier pick for Serato users if you’re an advocate of Pioneer’s hardware, and a perfect portable option for mobile/wedding DJs …or just as a backup in the home/studio. It’s an extremely popular controller this one – and you can see why!

Approximate price:

Expect to pay between $700-$900 USD.

Need more help deciding?

Check out Pioneer’s intro/promo video or watch this video review. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Where to buy?

Check out these buy links below based on different locations:


4: Numark NS6II 

Numark NS6II, mid-tier DJ controller

Description:

Released to the market in 2017, the NS6II is a 4-channel controller from Numark and challenges nicely in this mid-tier price bracket. It comes bundled with Serato DJ Pro as standard.

Power supply:

Powered by USB-connection to your laptop – it has a built-in 24-bit soundcard so you can directly plug in your headphones, microphones, and speakers. It’s ready to go out-of-the-box for PC or Mac!

Product slide show:

Numark NS6ii (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Numark NS6ii (angled view)

Side angle

Numark NS6ii (front view)

front view

Numark NS6ii (rear view)

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 4-channel mixer, 4-deck controller with Serato DJ Pro.
  • Comes with a Serato Tool Kit license (includes Serato Flip, Pitch ‘N Time plugin plus Serato DJ FX packs).
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Rugged 6-inch multi-function touch-capacitive jog wheels, includes scratch mode.
  • 2-inch high-res colour displays in the centre of the jog wheels; details essential track data such as BPM, Pitch, and time remaining.
  • Touch-capacitive knobs (with option to disable).
  • 8 multi-function performance pads for each channel with Hot Cue, Loops, Slicer, and samples.
  • Touch strip needle search above each jog wheel to quickly search through a track.
  • External output to connect turntables or CDJs; unit acts as a standalone 4-channel mixer.
  • Two USB ports for seamless laptop changeovers.
  • Dual Mic inputs with dedicated EQ controls.
  • Serato DVS, upgrade-ready.
  • Size: Width 603mm x Depth 340mm x Height 64mm.
  • Weight: 6.3kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

The NS6II is a solid, well-built unit with the best connectivity specs on this list. As the only 4-channel unit we’ve included in this price bracket, a lot of the specs resemble a top-tier controller.

One of its unique features is the ‘touch-capacitive knobs’, which allow you to activate or disable each knob by touching the top of it (you can disable this in Serato if you want). The built-in LCD screens on each jog wheel mean you don’t have to look at your computer all the time, as all the essential track data such as BPM, Pitch and ‘track time remaining’ will be on the screens.

Bottom line: If you’re a mobile DJ that uses Seratoand, if you’re looking for a solid 4-channel gigging-ready unit that won’t break the bank, this is definitely one to consider!

Approximate price:

Expect to pay somewhere between $650-$850 USD.

Need more help deciding?

Check out this video review or visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Where to buy?

Here are some handy buy links based on a few different locations:


5: Mixars Primo 

Mixars Primo, mid-tier DJ controller

Description:

Released in 2019, the Mixars Primo is a mid-tier controller that comes bundled with Serato DJ Pro.

Power supply:

Powered by USB-connection to your laptop – it has a built-in 24-bit soundcard so you can directly plug in headphones, microphones, and speakers. It’s ready to go out-of-the-box for PC or Mac.

Product slide show:

Mixars Primo (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Mixars Primo (angle view)

Angled view

Mixars Primo (front view)

Front view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability with Serato DJ Pro.
  • Full control and assignment of Serato FX with familiar Serato layout.
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large aluminium jog wheels with on-jog display and LED ring.
  • 8 multi-colour performance pads for each channel for Hot Cues, Roll, Slicer and sampling.
  • Touch strip needle search conveniently positioned below each jog wheel to quickly search through a track.
  • Adjustable crossfader curve.
  • Dedicated key sync button, making harmonic mixing easier than ever.
  • External output to connect turntables or CDJs – plus all professional inputs & outputs that you wouldn’t get from a lower price bracket.
  • Works as a standalone mixer with filter effects.
  • Auxiliary RCA input with dedicated volume.
  • Pro Combo Mic Input with Independent Volume, Tone Control, and Echo.
  • Serato DVS, upgrade-ready.
  • Size: Width 635mm x Depth 406mm x Height 114mm.
  • Weight: 5kg.

Conclusion:

The Mixars Primo is in direct competition with the DDJ-SR2 (no.3 on this list), and it’s about $150 cheaper. With a sturdy, mostly metal build, it’s worth considering if you’re not fussed about going with a popular controller brand like Pioneer …and if you prefer using Serato.

Whilst it’s the first DJ controller Mixars have released to date, Mixars already have a solid reputation for making quality turntables and DJ mixers.

Approximate price:

$500 USD / £395 / €440 / $700 AUD

Need more help deciding?

Check out this video review or visit the product page.

Where to buy?

Here’s a link to Musicians Friend in the U.S., although feel free to check your local retailers/distributors.


6?? Traktor Kontrol S3

Traktor Kontrol S3, mid-tier DJ controller

Based on a number of factors, we decided not to officially include the Traktor Kontrol S3 as one of our top 5 best mid-tier DJ controllers in 2021.

Whilst it’s a perfectly capable controller (and nothing against Traktor necessarily), it received an overwhelmingly lukewarm response across the board when it came out.

If you use Traktor, then we’d recommend either the entry-level S2 MK3, or even better, spend a little bit more and get the S4 MK3. Alternatively, you can buy the Kontrol S3 on Amazon.com


Other ‘best DJ controller’ posts:


More DJ resources:


We do our best: Although we’re very confident we’ve selected market-leading products based on their budget ranges (ie, the best mid-tier DJ controllers on the market), we’re still only human. Our suggestions & opinions may not necessarily reflect the best thing for your situation, so please feel free to do your own research if there’s anything you’re unsure about!

Also, many thanks to Kareem from DJBooth.net, Jamie from We Are Crossfader, and Phil from Digital DJ Tips for the awesome product review videos we linked to in this post!

Affiliate Disclosure: To help fund our operation, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you choose to make a purchase we’ll make a small commission from it. It’s important to mention that this commission NEVER comes at an additional cost to you. Ever!


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