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Choosing your first USB DJ controller can be overwhelming.
Which controllers are the best for beatmatching, FX, and streaming?
Check out the 7 best USB DJ controllers for beginners.
The prospect of becoming a DJ is as overwhelming as it is exciting. Fully-fledged CDJ setups, vinyl turntables, and mixers can all cost a very pretty penny, and there can be a steep learning curve depending on which path you take.
Thankfully, the invention and adoption of USB DJ controllers has reduced a huge amount of entry-level cost, flattened the learning curve, and reduced the overall footprint of a standard DJ setup, with a focus on portability, ease of use, and affordability.
What Are The Best USB DJ Controllers For Beginners?
First place for overall best beginner controller goes to the S4 MK3. Being moderately priced but future-proofed with features like haptic feedback, motorized jog wheels and insane creativity-focused options, this USB DJ Controller has the most room to facilitate learning and growth.
The winner of the value for money award goes to the Roland DJ 707-M for the inclusion of 2 instrument inputs and a TR 808 and 909 drum machine, effectively turning this DJ controller into a portable DAW/instrument with the ability to save up to 10 different mix setups.
Overall, here are our picks for the 7 best USB DJ Controllers for beginners.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 (Our Pick)
The Traktor Kontrol S4 MK3 is Native Instruments’ flagship USB DJ Controller. Built with ease of use in mind, this controller boasts some of the most forward-thinking features on any USB DJ controller currently on the market and uses Native Instruments’ world-class Traktor DJ software.
The resistance on the faders and knobs is second to none and gives a really premium feel to the device. Indeed, one of the main selling points of the Traktor S4 MK3 is the inclusion of motorized jog wheels.
The jog wheels rotate on their own and provide a premium alternative solution for those looking to get into vinyl scratching. The jog wheels also have LED lights that circulate the edge of the wheels, which flash different colors to indicate that you are nearing the end of a track.
Haptic feedback is a really cool addition here that allows you to feel a vibration or ‘nudge’ through the top of the jog wheel plate when you are doing things like beat matching or locating cue points.
This unique feature allows you to focus on your mix so you’re not constantly looking at your computer screen to check on visual aides.
The S4 MK3 also sports a 4 channel mixer and has phono/line inputs allowing for you to add extra CDJ turntables or vinyl turntables and mix outside of the box, as well as having up to 4 separate tracks playing in Traktor’s included software.
The FX capabilities of the S4 MK3 are nothing short of epic.
Native Instruments have given the S4 MK3 the ability to group multiple FX to one trigger button. This means you can now layer your FX to be triggered together simultaneously.
XLR direct output from S4 MK3’s built-in soundcard, as well as booth monitor output and 2 separate microphone channels, making this an ideal controller for people who frequently play functions, weddings, and events with multiple guest speakers or emcees.
Each side of the controller has 8 pads (16 total) that can be used with the built-in remix deck capabilities of the S4 MK3.
Remix deck technology (created by Native Instruments) allows you to load individual loops, spare mixer tracks, FX, samples, mic channels, songs, stems, or anything you like onto any of the 16 pads.
This gives you a huge amount of creative freedom when mixing, especially for producers who want to trigger stems and layers of their own productions as part of their DJ sets.
The DJ 707M from Roland is a fantastic USB DJ controller which utilizes Serato DJ software and puts a huge amount of control in the hands of the user.
One of my favorite things about this mixer is also the most unique feature – the inclusion of four individual ¼” inputs is already really cool, but to make two of those inputs capable of receiving instrument signals is bonkers.
You could essentially incorporate electric guitar, electric violin/strings, synths, V-Drums (or whatever you want) into your DJ set and perform alongside your tracks.
This instantly makes this controller perfect for anyone who has wanted to incorporate live music into their performance.
Roland has been kind enough to also include a TR series drum machine with 808 and 909 one-shots, loops, synth stabs, and sequences into this controller.
Essentially buying this controller will also provide you with a Roland TR drum machine as well!
There is a built-in oscillator that makes synth sweeps and stabs, which can be combined with the drum machine functionality and the instrument inputs to create a unique performance outside the normal scope of traditional DJ abilities.
It is also worth noting that the full suite of onboard FX is active across the mic and instrument channels, essentially making this DJ controller an instrument and a stripped-back DAW of sorts.
The DJ 707M also has the ability to save ‘scenes’, meaning if you frequent a number of the same venues, you can save each venue as a preset scene to be recalled instantly, saving time on soundcheck every time you come to the same venue.
This is a great feature and would be good to see on more controllers.
Roland also put in 3 separate outputs for the dancefloor, booth, and zone. Zone is a great option as it allows for a separate feed of the mix to be sent to an outdoor area, restaurant, or chillout room without compromising the quality of the main mix.
Each of the 3 outputs also has its own dedicated 3 band EQ making it a highly customizable selection of outputs.
Each microphone input includes feedback suppression technology making speeches, toasts, and performances a stress-free experience.
The main mixer panel of the controller has 4 channel faders and a really nice 4 band EQ, once again giving this controller a slight edge in terms of mixing flexibility.
The one downside of all this gloriously thought-out design is the small yellow LED screen and the smaller tempo sliders/pitch faders.
While some DJs might not mind this or consider it a downside, other DJ’s really value larger pitch sliders as they can deliver more precision when beatmatching and scratching.
This beauty of a controller from Pioneer is a prime example of why Pioneer has been at the top of DJ’s shopping lists since the dawn of time.
The DDJ-800 is designed to sit in between Pioneer’s DDJ-RR and DDJ-1000 models. This delivers the best of both worlds in terms of the inclusion of more premium top-end features found on the DDJ-1000 and the value and simplicity of features found on the DDJ-RR.
But Pioneer definitely didn’t skimp on the big full-color screens in the middle of the jog wheels. These displays can be set to show only the album artwork or to include all the necessary BPM, pitch, waveform info, etc.
The tempo sliders are massive and take up a significant amount of real estate on the face of the controller, although not in a bad way.
The tempo sliders are accessible, functional and are a welcome addition to the design, delivering a higher level of precision when trying to tightly match beat tempos quickly and efficiently.
Fraction of the cost of traditional beginner scratching setup
Rane have been innovating the world of DJ controllers for some time now, with a strong focus on the emulation of vinyl mixing and scratching.
The Rane One is up there as one of the most unique controllers on the market right now.
It features enormous 7.2” motorized jog wheels shaped like vinyl turntable platters, machined aluminum FX paddles, the ability to adjust the torque of the motors on the jog wheels, capacitive touch strips for easy track navigation, and the flexibility to function with Serato, Virtual DJ, and DJ Pro.
The Rane One is essentially a one-stop shop for beginner turntablists. Although it has a bigger price tag than most of the USB DJ controllers on this list, it is the only one that comes close to emulating a proper vinyl scratching setup.
Needing 2x decent needles, 2x turntables, and a mixer; the cost of a proper turntable scratching setup can be well over 2 or 3 times the price of the Rane One.
In conjunction with jog wheel motor torque adjustments, the jog wheel brake speed can be adjusted so that when pressing play/pause the jog wheel speed will wind up or down like a classic vinyl turntable. If you’re not into this, you can also change it to stop and start instantly.
The tempo sliders are quite big on the Rane One and give a really premium feeling when matching tempos thanks to the precision that larger tempo sliders seem to deliver.
The Rane One has a healthy 8 RGB color pads per channel (16 total) which are assignable to any samples, one-shots, FX, or loops that you may want to trigger.
It is worth noting that the Rane One does not have dedicated built-in FX, and when triggering or controlling FX with the aluminum paddles or any of the RGB pads, you are limited to the FX that are provided by the software you are using.
For example, if using Serato, you will only have Serato’s FX available to you, as opposed to a controller like the Pioneer DDJ-800 which has built-in DJM-style beat FX as well as the ability to control FX from the software it is connected to.
Although this controller weighs a bit more than most typical controllers, this adds an extremely premium feel to this device, and in my opinion adds to the sturdiness that you need in a scratching setup, allowing minimal transfer of vibration throughout the unit while remaining portable.
The Rane One also features dual USB connections, making seamless handovers a breeze and adding tons of compatibility and flexibility to the way this controller can be used in conjunction with other DJ setups.
Coupled with Denon DJ’s legendary build quality and superior 24-bit audio reproduction, this is a no-compromise controller perfectly suited to both mobile and club DJs looking for the next evolution of the Serato DJ controller.
Serato pro/Serato DVS compatible comes with Pro bundle
Connect two laptops, Perfect for DJ duos and 2 person acts
The MC7000 from Denon is a very interesting DJ controller with a bright colorful faceplate sprinkled with LED lighting.
The MC7000 features one of the most unique features on this list, a dual USB audio interface connection, allowing two laptops to simultaneously run their own mix software through the shared controller.
This is not only a cool way to deal with seamless handoffs, it also gives a huge amount of flexibility to DJs who perform in pairs or groups.
For a DJ duo that performs back to back (B2B) sets, this can only be seen as a huge selling point, allowing the DJs to use their own separate laptops and share the controller, doing away with the need for loading up tracks onto USB sticks or deciding whose computer will be used, etc.
The jog wheels lack a display, but make up for it with their 6-inch diameter and segmented LED outlines.
The LED ring surrounding the jog wheel gives an accurate representation of track position and will flash upon the end of a track approaching.
The MC7000 has a 4 channel mixer and features line/phono inputs allowing the MC7000 to be connected to vinyl turntables or CDJs for added flexibility when handing over or just getting creative with your mix.
The MC7000 uses Serato PRO and Serato DVS, allowing for classic vinyl control using Serato timecode vinyls, which is really cool.
The 16 pads have a nice clicky feel and can also be used to trigger cues, loops, FX, samples, and more within Serato. It’s also worth mentioning that there is an option for pre-fader or post-fader FX which is always a nice feature to have.
Denon have packed a huge amount of stuff into such a modestly sized controller, with capacitive ‘needle drop’ touch strips used for instantly searching through waveforms and tracks, dual mic inputs with individual mix and EQ options, big roomy tempo sliders, nice bright LED buttons, and tempo/pitch nudge buttons as well.
The final cherry on top of this particular USB DJ controller is the inclusion of Serato DJ Pro, which includes Serato DJ Pro and 3 expansion packs.
Two of these packs are cool audio utilities that can be used for sampling, repitching, and creating cool vibes on the fly but the third pack is Serato Video, which allows DJ’s to connect to a visual setup and mix, project, stream and broadcast awesome video FX including loops, animations, transitions and more.
Additionally, the ability to add your own custom graphics and animations for display and promotion during your set. All up, it’s a really awesome bundle and shouldn’t be overlooked when window shopping for a new DJ controller.
Mix up to 4 tracks at once using Traktor (included)
Same mixer, FX, and features found in flagship models
16 pads, built-in remix decks
This is where the list delves into the barebones of beginner DJ Controllers, doing away with a significant portion of the cost and features with a focus on the basics, and a much more affordable price.
The Traktor S2 MK3 comes in at a fraction of the price of its bigger brother the S4 MK3, costing about ⅓ of the total price of a Traktor S4.
The Traktor S2 still packs a punch in terms of features and functions. The jog wheels aren’t motorized like the S4 MK3 but they are the same size and have capacitive top plates with sides that can be used to nudge and are actually quite viable for basic scratching.
The ultra-portable form factor is epic – this thing can easily fit in a decent-sized backpack.
The 3.5mm headphone port is a really great addition, meaning any headphones can be used without fussing about with ¼” jack adapters.
The mixer only has 2 channels but can still mix up to 4 tracks at once in Traktor’s software.
The Mixtrack Platinum FX builds on the popular Mixtrack Platinum DJ platform, with high-speed USB connectivity and a high-fidelity 24-bit dynamic range for seamless interaction with your Serato software.
The Mixtrack Platinum FX from Numark is probably the quintessential beginner DJ Controller. This controller features some really premium features but tends to only have them where they matter, doing away with a lot of the bells and whistles.
This controller doesn’t have a booth output or a mic input, so having an emcee won’t be an option when it comes to performing.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as someone who was just beginning would not need a booth or anything like that, all you need is a standard L/R output and a set of speakers (preferably studio monitors) to hear yourself on.
The jog wheels on the Mixtrack Platinum FX are a bit heavier than others on this list and make it a bit harder to scratch on, but if you’re buying a controller to practice scratching, you wouldn’t choose this one anyway.
The heavier jog wheels do feel nice when mixing songs together, and the large tempo sliders also play a major role in the accessibility of this device, making it much easier to make minute adjustments when beat matching and tempo matching.
The Mixtrack Platinum FX also includes a really nifty feature in the form of being able to stream songs directly from Soundcloud and TiDAL directly to the decks, allowing them to be mixed on the fly.
An internet connection is obviously required but will allow you and your friends to build playlists of your favorite songs as you’re jamming.
The FX paddles found on the Mixtrack Platinum FX controller are a really fun way to get to learn how to use FX and give you the option to access all of Serato’s different sound manipulation tools.
The 16 individual pads are also a brilliant inclusion, especially for the price of the unit. You can use the pads to control fx, loops, samples, and more through Serato software and learn how to combine different elements to create cool, unique mixes to suit your style.