The 7 Best DJ Controllers for Beginners in 2022 (…mostly under $500)

7 of the Best DJ Controllers for Beginners in 2022

LAST UPDATED: 19th November 2022

Overview

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll provide a simple overview of the 7 best DJ controllers for beginners in 2022, along with everything you need to make a buying decision!

As the leading contenders in this category, these are the best entry-level DJ controllers on the market right now. Apart from one of the controllers, they’re all priced under $500 (US).

Not what you’re looking for? Check out higher price brackets here.


Partner offer:

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Who exactly are these beginner DJ controllers for?

Assuming that you’re currently in the market for a DJ controller, these controllers will be most appropriate if you fall into one of these 4 categories:

  1. You’re an aspiring/beginner DJ just starting out.
  2. You’re a ‘just for fun’ or party DJ on a tight budget.
  3. You’re a ‘just for fun’ or party DJ that wants something basic and portable.
  4. You’re a working DJ of some sort looking for a budget backup controller to add to their existing home or studio setup.

How to choose?

As all of these controllers are roughly in the same price bracket (we’ve already done that bit for you), their specs will often be fairly similar by comparison. With that said, we’d suggest focusing more on their unique-selling-points and and what that means to YOU and your situation

Depending on where you’re at as a DJ, you might also 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 6 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.

So then, here are 7 of the best DJ controllers for beginners in 2022!


1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 

Overhead photo of the Pioneer DDJ-FLX4

Description:

The DDJ-FLX4 is the flagship beginner/entry-level DJ controller from Pioneer DJ. It comes with their proprietary music management and DJ software, rekordbox, and also works with Serato DJ.

Others in the series include the middle-market DDJ-FLX6.

Best suited to:

Aspiring club DJs looking to get started with Pioneer/rekordbox, hobbyists who are looking for a versatile beginner unit with streaming and multiple software options – and just anyone looking for a budget controller for house parties, etc.

Approximate price:

$300 USD | £320 | $630 AUD (see buy links below).

Power supply:

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

Product slide show:

Birds-eye view

Side angle

Front angle

Front view

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-deck, 2-channel DJ controller
  • Works with Pioneer’s rekordbox DJ software and Serato DJ Lite out-of-the-box (subscription needed to activate Serato DJ Pro)
  • Integration with streaming services: TIDAL, Beatport Streaming, Beatsource Streaming, and SoundCloud Go+.
  • Layout designed to emulate Pioneer’s CDJ media players and DJM mixer club set up
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel
  • Beat FX and sound color FX
  • 8 back-lit rubber performance pads on each channel for Hot Cues, Pad FX, Beat Jump and Sampler
  • ‘Smart Fader’ – adjusts the volume, bass, and BPM as you transition (think of it like a ‘do it for me’ transition)
  • ‘Smart CFX’ – executes a combination of FX with a single knob (beginner friendly)
  • Connected via USB-C for a more secure connection compared to the standard USB-B
  • USB audio output for recording mixes as well as microphone audio
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input
  • 1 x 4-inch headphone jack
  • Size: Width 482mm x Depth 272.8mm x Height 59.2mm
  • Weight: 2.1kg

Key takeaways/conclusion:

Released in November 2022, the DDJ-FLX4 effectively replaced the popular DDJ-400 as Pioneer’s flagship controller for beginner DJs.

As well as being a more versatile unit than the DDJ-400 – in part because it also works with Serato DJ – Pioneer has introduced beginner friendly features on the FLX4, such as the “Smart Fader’’ (think of it like a ‘do it for me’ transition), and also “Smart CFX”, which executes a combination of FX with a single knob.

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Other than that, in terms of build-quality and layout – so Jog wheels, faders, knobs, buttons, and performance pads, etc. – the FLX4 is very similar to its older counterpart. And as with most beginner DJ controllers these days, it’s also works with DJ-relevant streaming services including TIDAL, Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, and SoundCloud Go+.

Although it works perfectly well with Serato DJ Lite, it’s probably best sticking with rekordbox as you’ll have the full version out-of-the-box. This way you can utilize 16 pad modes rather than 8 without having to pay for a software upgrade to Serato DJ Pro.

In conclusion… there’s no doubt the FLX4 has everything you could possibly ask for in an entry-level controller. At $300 dollars (US), you really can’t go wrong. Additionally, if you use it with rekordbox on your phone when the update becomes available in early 2023, you’ll be able to connect via Bluetooth or a USB cable – which may appeal to some.

For more resources check out Pioneer’s feature overview video or visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


2.Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 

Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 - the best DJ controller for beginners if you use Traktor

Description:

Part of the broader Native Instruments brand, the Kontrol S2 Mk3 is Traktor’s flagship entry-level DJ controller for beginner DJs. It comes bundled with their proprietary Traktor Pro DJ software as standard.

The S2 is part of Traktor’s latest series of controllers, which also includes the mid-tier Kontrol S3 (a level up from this one) and the Kontrol S4 MK3 in the top-tier price bracket. The unit was released in 2018.

Best suited to:

Beginner DJs looking to get started with Traktor, and anyone looking for a budget DJ controller for house parties, etc.

Approximate price:

Between $250 & 350 US (see buy links below).

Power supply:

Powered by a 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:

Traktor Kontrol S2 (birdseye view)

Birdseye view

Traktor Kontrol S2 (front angle)

Birds-eye angle

Traktor Kontrol S2 (front angle #2)

Birds-eye angle #2

Traktor Kontrol S2 (front angle)

Front angle

Traktor Kontrol S2 (front)

Front view

Traktor Kontrol S2 (back)

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer.
  • Compatible with Traktor Pro DJ software (software can be used offline once installed).
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large silicone-damped, touch-sensitive jog wheels with rubber-coated outer rim (scratch friendly).
  • Simplified FX selectors; includes mixer FX control with eight club-grade effects and three filters.
  • 8 multi-function performance pads for each channel for auto-looping, cue points and sampling.
  • Hyper-accurate pitch fader for better beat matching.
  • IOS input/power supply to run the Traktor DJ app.
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input.
  • 1 x 4-inch / 8-inch headphone jack.
  • Size: Width 486mm x Depth 265mm x Height 59mm.
  • Weight: 2.4kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

The S2 MK3 has a nice build quality and user-friendly feel to it, and it’s the obvious entry-point for an aspiring DJ/producer that’s interested in using Traktor Pro software.

Whilst it has to be mentioned that the software isn’t seen as the market leader it once was, Traktor controllers are still a popular choice amongst DJ/producers of electronic music due to their performance/live-remixing capabilities when integrated with it.

As with the Pioneer DDJ-FLX4, this unit is excellent value for money, and you definitely won’t need to upgrade the software later (apart from an optional add-on, there’s only one ‘Traktor Pro’ license). As with all the controllers in this price bracket, its size & portability make it perfect for outdoor gatherings and house parties as well.

If you need more resources, check out Traktor’s intro video or watch this review/demo video from Sweetwater. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


3. Numark Mixstream Pro

Numark Mixstream Pro - arguably the best DJ controller (or 'DJ system') for a beginner

Description:

The Mixstream Pro is a beginner/entry-level DJ system from Numark. It comes with Denon’s proprietary operating system Engine DJ built into the unit itself. Note that Numark and Denon are owned by the same parent company ‘inMusic’.

Released in October 2021, the Mixstream Pro is the only standalone DJ system on this list, which means it doesn’t require a laptop to operate it. It also has built-in WiFi connectively; another completely unique feature in this category.

Best suited to:

Beginner DJs that want to use streaming services and like the idea of DJing without a laptop. It would also make a good gift for someone without an MP3 collection and/or speakers.

Approximate price:

Upon release: $599 US / 599 Euro / £500 (see buy links below).

Power supply:

It’s ready to go out of the box, either as a standalone unit (just plug it in) or as a DJ controller powered through your laptop/USB port.

Product slide show:

Mixstream Pro - birdseye view

Birds-eye view

Numark Mixstream Pro - angled

Front angle

Numark Mixstream Pro - open view

Open view

Numark Mixstream Pro - front view

Front view

Numark Mixstream Pro - rear view

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer.
  • Engine DJ embedded operating system for laptop-free DJing.
  • Built-in WiFi for access to streaming services: TIDAL, Beatport Streaming, Beatsource, and SoundCloud Go+ (subscriptions required) / option to stream your music library straight from Dropbox.
  • 7-inch multi-touch high-definition touchscreen (you can swipe, plus zoom in-and-out with your fingers).
  • Built-in speakers with volume control for home use/practicing; could also be used as monitor speakers at house parties or a small venue.
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with gain controls on each channel and a large filter knob on each deck.
  • 6-inch capacitive-touch jog wheels with Smart Scratch feature for on-beat scratching.
  • 2 x USB / 1 x SD Card input in the back for loading music files/MP3s.
  • Engine Lighting embedded lighting control for Philips Hue smart home and DMX lighting.
  • Dedicated FX section with 4 x effects and 2 x spring-loaded toggle switches (1 for each deck).
  • 4 x dual-layer performance pads on each deck (Cue, Saved Loop, Auto Loop, Roll) (dual-layer means that 4 can become 8 if required).
  • Pitch Bend buttons and dedicated Pitch Slider with 6 different selectable pitch ranges.
  • Balanced XLR / RCA Main outputs; meaning you can connect to professional sound systems.
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input.
  • 1 x 4-inch / 8-inch headphone jack.
  • Size: Width 566mm x Depth 284mm x Height 74mm.
  • Weight: 3.68kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

Not only do you not need a laptop to operate the Mixstream Pro, it also has WiFi connectivity and built-in speakers. So technically, all you need to get going are a set of headphones and an applicable streaming subscription.

It’s the fact that it has Engine DJ’s operating system built-in, together with that large, high-definition touchscreen (with all the same functionality found on Denon’s Prime gear), why it’s easily the most expensive option in the category. At around $600 US, it’s roughly double!

As the only standalone DJ system on this list, the Mixstream Pro is, in many ways, in a league of its own. As a present for a brand-new DJ with no laptop or digital music collection, it’s certainly the best out-of-the-box option. And whilst you may wish to use digital music files (MP3s, etc) and get some better speakers, if you’re only using this unit in your bedroom you don’t necessarily need to.

If you DO have a laptop, you can use the Engine DJ desktop software to export your music library or playlists (if you own MP3s or other music files) onto USB drives and load it straight up. The unit can also read third party playlists/USB sticks, such as Rekordbox for example, and will convert them into an Engine playlist.

The Mixstream Pro has a solid, mostly plastic build, which is consistent with the competition in this beginner range.

For more resources, check out Numark’s feature overview or watch this video review from DJ City. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


4. Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX 

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX - one of the DJ controllers for beginners

Description:

The Mixtrack Platinum FX is Numark’s flagship entry-level DJ controller for beginner DJs. It comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite, which is standard for Serato controllers in this price bracket. It was released in May 2020.

Best suited to:

A beginner DJ looking to get started with Serato in the most cost-effective way; one that’s not necessarily decided on a particular direction yet.

Approximate price:

Between $250 & 350 US (see buy links below).

Power supply:

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

Product slide show:

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (front angle)

Front angle

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (birds-eye angle)angle)

Birds-eye angle

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (front view)

Front view

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX (rear view)

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, with 4-deck mixing capability.
  • Comes with Serato DJ Lite (Serato DJ Pro upgrade available/optional)
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs for each channel.
  • Large 6-inch jog touch-capacitive jog wheels.
  • Hi-res color LCD multi-function displays on each jog wheel; details essential track data such as BPM, Pitch, and time remaining.
  • 6 x onboard Serato FX  in the center of the controller with convenient on/off toggle (as found on some scratch/battle mixers)
  • 8 multi-function backlit performance pads on each deck for auto-looping, cue points and sampling.
  • Dedicated loop controls; positioned at the bottom-right of each deck
  • Long, sensitive 100mm pitch faders for accurate beat matching.
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input.
  • 1 x 4-inch / 8-inch headphone jack.
  • Size: Width 536mm x Depth 246mm x Height 51mm.
  • Weight: 2.3kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

It has to be said, the build quality of the Mixtrack Platinum FX is excellent – the buttons, performance pads, and jog wheels all feel great. Also, it’s the only DJ controller in this category that offers high-res, ‘on jog’ displays – minimizing the time you’d usually spend staring at your laptop.

Like the other 6 controllers on this list, it has all the necessary functionality (and more) required for a beginner DJ that’s just getting started. And whilst there’s no doubt it’s fantastic value for money, just don’t forget to factor in the software upgrade to Serato DJ Pro later on.

If you need more resources, check out Numark’s intro video or watch this short review from Digital DJ Tips. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


5. Roland DJ-202

Roland DJ-202 - one of the best DJ controllers for beginners/electronic producers

Description:

Targeted at DJ/producers, the DJ-202 is Roland’s entry-level controller for beginner DJs. It comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite.

Released back in late 2017, it’s part of their flagship series of DJ controllers that also includes the mid-tier DJ-505 and the DJ-808 in the upper price bracket.

Best suited to:

Aspiring electronic music DJ/producers and musicians that currently use (or want to use) Serato.

Approximate price:

Between $300 & 400 US (see buy links below).

Power supply:

The DJ-202 is powered by a USB connection to your laptop and 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:

Roland DJ-202 (birds-eye view)

Birds-eye view

Roland DJ-202 (birds-eye angle)

Birds-eye angle

Roland DJ-202 (birds-eye angle #2)

Birds-eye angle #2

Roland DJ-202 (front view)

Front view

Roland DJ-202 (rear view)

Rear view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability.
  • Comes with Serato DJ Lite (Serato DJ Pro upgrade available/optional)
  • 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; for Hot Cues, Loops, Sequencer and sampling.
  • 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 80’s with acid house.
  • Onboard sequencer that controls Serato DJ Lite’s sampler for on-the-fly beat creation, with independent sampler volume control.
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input.
  • 1 x 4-inch headphone jack.
  • Size: Width 478mm x Depth 297mm x Height 62mm.
  • Weight: 2.1kg.

Key takeaways/conclusion:

There’s no question the DJ-202 is a fantastic option for Serato users, and/or if you’re an aspiring DJ/producer of electronic music. In addition to its excellent performance capabilities, the inclusion of the classic drum machine samples from the acid house era of the late 80s is a fantastic selling point.

Just remember, you’ll want to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro at some point if you’re half-serious. Once again, its size & portability make it perfect for outdoor gatherings and house parties!

For more resources, check out Roland’s intro video or watch this full video review from DJBooth.Net. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


6: Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1

Pioneer DJ ddj-rev1

Description:

Released in January 2022, The DDJ-REV1 is an entry-level DJ controller from Pioneer DJ that’s specifically targeted at aspiring scratch DJs.

Same as the Numark Platinum FX and the Roland DJ-202, it comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite, which is standard for Serato controllers in this price bracket. It also works with Virtual DJ.

Best suited to:

As well as aspiring scratch/battle DJs; just any beginner DJ on a tight budget that likes the look of/layout of the controller.

Approximate price:

$249 US when it came out (see buy links below).

Power supply:

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

Product slide show:

ddj-rev1 main

Birds-eye view

ddj-rev1 frontangle

Front angle

ddj-rev1 angle

Angled

ddj-rev1 rear

Rear view

ddj-rev1 front

Front view

Key features/specs:

  • 2-channel mixer, 4-deck capability within Serato DJ Lite.
  • Comes with Serato DJ Lite (Serato DJ Pro upgrade available/optional)
  • Also works with Virtual DJ.
  • Layout designed to closely mimic a battle-style/scratch DJ setup, ie two turntables turned 90 degrees with the tempo adjust and other controls at the top.
  • Battle-style Paddle FX controls on the mixer; layout mimics Pioneer’s DJM-S7 and DJM-S11 pro mixers.
  • 3-band EQ as standard, with filter and gain knobs on each channel.
  • Large, touch-capacitive, 4.5-inch jog wheels optimized for scratching.
  • 8 x performance pads for each channel for Hot Cues, Auto Loop, Tracking Scratch, Sampler, Trans and Scratch Bank.
  • Multiple ‘Tracking Scratch’ pad modes for assisted scratching.
  • ‘Scratch Bank’ pad mode allows you to load scratch samples from 4 banks that you’ve assigned in the software (works in Serato DJ Lite).
  • Long 60mm pitch controls for accurate beat matching.
  • 1 x 4-inch microphone input.
  • 1 x 4-inch headphone jack.
  • Size: Width 526mm x Depth 256mm x Height 59mm.
  • Weight: 2.1kg

Key takeaways/conclusion:

The DDJ-REV1 is the follow on from the DDJ-SB3 (from 2018), and Pioneer has gone all-in with regards to targeting aspiring scratch/battle DJs.

As you can see, all the deck controls (pitch fader, etc.) are located at the top as if you’d turned an actual turntable on its side. Also, the layout of the mixer is designed to closely mimic Pioneer’s DJM-S7 and DJM-S11 pro battle mixers, with the performance pads located on the mixer rather than on each deck (battle style), creating more room to manoeuvre for scratching.

It’s worth noting that the buttons are slightly smaller than you’d typically get in this price bracket, which might cause an issue if you have big hands.

It’s a fairly simple equation this one: Unless you’re an aspiring scratch DJ, there are probably better options on this list, simply because of the layout/workflow of the unit. However, if this is you, then the REV1 is definitely a no-brainer in this price bracket.

When you do have more cash, the logical step up from here would either be to get the REV7 in the upper price bracket or a set of turntables with a battle-style DJM-S11 pro mixer (or the S7 mixer).

For more resources, check out Pioneer’s intro video or watch this video review from Deckademics on YouTube. Also visit the manufacturer’s product page.

Overall Rating:
★★★★★
★★★★★

Best places to buy:

Note: Commissions may be earned from the above links. See our affiliate declaration.


7. Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 Gold Edition

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 Gold Edition - one of the best DJ controllers for beginners

Lastly, another one of our favourites is the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 Gold Edition! The DJControl Inpulse 500 is the most advanced DJ controller Hercules has released to date. And as you can probably guess, this is the special edition model of that same unit!

Priced at around 450 USD, it has an excellent build quality and is very feature-rich for the price. And whilst it’s the second most expensive controller on this list, it comes with Serato DJ Pro, saving you a $100 software upgrade from the Lite version later. It also comes with a smart-looking carry case, overall making it excellent value for money.

To buy it, head to the Hercules website for more details, or check on Amazon.com.


Summary: Best DJ Controllers for Beginners

Just to recap, these were our 7 favourite DJs controllers for beginners:

  1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4
  2. Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
  3. Numark Mixstream Pro
  4. Numark Mixstream Platinum FX
  5. Roland DJ-202
  6. Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1
  7. Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500 (Gold Edition)

More buyer’s guides:


FAQs

What is a DJ controller?

A DJ controller is simply an all-in-one unit that’s designed to replicate the traditional ‘two decks and a mixer’ DJ setup. Most DJ controllers require a connected laptop to operate them, although some have a ‘standalone mode’, which simply means you don’t need a connected laptop to operate it. These units are usually referred to as ‘standalone DJ systems’.

What is the best DJ controller for beginners?

Whilst it partly depends on which DJ software you plan on using, some of the best DJ controllers for beginners include the DDJ-FLX4 from Pioneer DJ, the Mixstream Pro from Numark, the Kontrol S2 MK3 from Traktor, and the DJ-202 from Roland. All of these units have everything a beginner DJ could possibly need to get started.

Affiliate Disclosure: To help fund the website, 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. This comes at NO extra cost to you!

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