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Best Beginner DJ Controllers

With the huge range of DJ controllers currently on offer it’s often difficult to know which will best suit your needs. One of the most common questions we’re asked is which DJ controller is best for beginners.

However as there are a number of software platforms now on offer, ranging from Algoriddim’s Deejay through to Virtual DJ and beyond, the choice will also be down to your preferred software option as much as it will be the hardware controller.

Best Beginner DJ Software

Rather than tackle the huge number of software options that are available we’ve condensed the options down to the three, which offer professional features and upgrade paths that allow you to grow as a DJ. Do bare in mind that switching platforms can be quite a challenge once you’ve become accustomed to the work flow, your choice of platform is as important as the hardware you’ll use to control it.

We’ve chosen to focus on Rekordbox DJ from Pioneer, DJ Intro from Serato and Traktor Pro from Native Instruments, check out the overview of each platform below.

Pioneer Rekordbox DJ

Rekordbox started life as the database management system for the CDJ-2000/900 range when the products were launched back in 2009. Since then there has been constant development, which culminated in the addition of the “DJ” performance features in 2015.

The “performance pack” is usually a £99 upgrade to the standard software and is included with all of Pioneer’s DDJ-R controllers including the £219.00 entry level DDJ-RB which makes the controller incredible value for money.

So what does Rekordbox offer over it’s competitors? It’s the lifeblood of the industry standard NXS2 kit, which is found throughout clubland and as such any analysis performed on your tracks, or cue points saved can be transferred, via USB storage devices, to pro kit. You really are using pro software when choosing Rekordbox DJ as your platform.

Serato DJ Intro

Serato DJ evolved from “Scratch Live” – widely regarded as one of the best DVS (Digital Vinyl System) on the market – and Itch. Scratch Live was originally only available, and compatible, with Rane hardware but since opening the platform to other manufacturers Serato DJ is now supported by Pioneer DJ, Allen & Heath, Denon and Reloop hardware to name just a few.

This compatibility means that when you progress beyond your first controller the options are huge. There are however a couple of disadvantages to this wide range of options – controller layouts differ substantially between manufacturers forcing you to adjust your mixing style, and Serato must approve hardware developed for the DJ platform which might mean that the kit you have your eye on doesn’t make the grade. This also means that Serato controllers carry a higher price at the pro end.

NI Traktor Pro

Traktor Pro was originally the software “brain” behind Stanton’s hugely popular Final Scratch DVS. Before Stanton discontinued the platform Native Instruments had begun development to take Traktor to the next level.

Traktor Pro shares something in common with Rekordbox DJ – the software and hardware are developed by the same manufacturer – offering tighter integration and workflow improvements afforded by the ability to add controls for features while shaping the controller.

Over the years NI have developed an extensive suite of FX that are built into Traktor platform. There’s also a high level of adjustability available – for example you can set your EQ to emulate that of the Allen & Heath Xone 92 or you can adjust your fader curves giving you a greater level of control out of the box.

Best Beginner DJ Controllers Under £300

In order to provide you with a fair comparison we decided to shortlist controllers under £300. When it comes to entry level controllers for Rekordbox and Traktor your options are limited to kit made by Pioneer and Native Instruments respectively. Serato does offer more options and we've pitted the DDJ-SB3 against the Mixtrack Pro 3, stats for the standard Mixtrack 3 are similar but the unit does not offer I/O capabilities due to a lack of audio interface and the Mixtrack Platinum only provides enhanced visual feedback via the jogwheels rather than revolutionising the Mixtrack platform.

When it comes to tactile control there are some interesting points to consider - the Pioneer controllers offer the largest jogs on test while the Mixtrack Pro 3 has the longest pitch faders which will allow for accurate blends. The DDJ-RB and SB3 have the same level of pad control thanks to the inclusion of play and cue buttons (which offer familiarity for users of the pro kit manufactured by the brand). You'll also notice that while the Mixtrack offers those super long pitch faders the gain/trim control has been removed to make way for the channel filters - this is fine if you're willing to put your trust in Serato DJ's auto gain.

For an in depth comparison check out the table below, we've graded the controllers underneath.

  BRAND PIONEER DJ PIONEER DJ NUMARK NATIVE INSTRUMENTS
  MODEL DDJ-RB DDJ-SB3 MIXTRACK PRO 3 TRAKTOR S2 MK2
  IMAGE View and buy Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB Compact Rekordbox DJ Controller online View and buy Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 DJ Controller For Serato DJ online Click for more info on Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ Controller for Serato DJ online View and buy NATIVE INSTRUMENTS Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 online
  PRICE £219 £229 £189 £299
DJ SOFTWARE INCLUDED REKORDBOX DJ SERATO DJ LITE SERATO DJ LITE TRAKTOR PRO 2
DJ SOFTWARE PC MASTER OUTPUT YES NO NO NO
DJ SOFTWARE HOT CUES 8 4 4 4
JOG WHEEL JOG SIZE(mm) 111.6 111.6 97 93
PAD NUMBER OF PADS 8 8 8 4
PAD NUMBER OF MODES 8 4 8 2
PAD MULTI COLOUR NO NO YES YES
LOOP DEDICATED CONTROL YES YES NO YES
EFFECTS DEDICATED CONTROL YES YES YES YES
EFFECTS CHANNEL FILTER YES YES YES NO
MIXER TRIM CONTROL YES YES NO YES
MIXER CHANNEL METER YES YES YES YES
I/O MIC INPUT YES YES YES YES
I/O MASTER OUT YES YES YES YES
I/O BOOTH OUT NO NO NO YES
I/O iOS SUPPORT NO NO NO YES
I/O RECORD OUT YES NO NO NO

Best Beginner DJ Controllers Round Up

Here's how we think these controllers stack up against the competition

Best Rekordbox DJ Beginners Controller – Pioneer DDJ-RB

Best Serato DJ Beginners Controller – Pioneer DDJ-SB3

Best Budget Serato DJ Beginners Controller – Numark Mixtrack Pro 3

Best Traktor Pro Beginners DJ Controller – NI Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2

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