Since it looks like music festivals might be far and few in 2021, becoming a DJ as a hobby is the perfect skill to pick up if you’re a music lover.
With today’s technology, you no longer need a bunch of expensive equipment in order to mix music and be a DJ. If you have a computer, it’s even possible to test out most DJ software using just a keyboard and mouse!
However, if you want to take your DJ hobby to the next level, even a budget DJ controller will make it much easier to control your DJ software. If we were to take a quick pick, check out the highly-rated Pioneer DDJ-400 DJ Controller, although it’s difficult to source due to the pandemic.
All of the budget DJ controllers below will replicate a typical club setup including CDJs and a mixer – just on a smaller scale. However, a DJ controller will still include components like knobs, jog wheels, faders, touch strips, sample buttons, and backlit buttons.
Pioneer’s entry-level DDJ-400 controller includes the full version of their Rekordbox software. This is the successor to the popular Pioneer DDJ-RB controller, which is also worth checking out.
The Pioneer DDJ-400 controller features a similar layout to what you might find in a club on common gear like the CDJ 200 NXS and DJM mixer. It’s a solid choice for aspiring DJs.
The downfalls in the older DDJ-RB have been corrected. The DDJ-400 features longer pitch faders for more accurate tempo matching, plus the ability to blend the headphones mix between master output and the headphone cue. There is also beat FX, filters, a CDJ-style looping system and more.
If you prefer Serato as your DJ software of choice, Pioneer also makes a fantastic controller called the DDJ-SB3.
This budget Serato DJ controller comes with a premium feel that is reminiscent of Pioneer CDJs. It features 8 performance pads, a separated loop selection, scratch function, and more.
However, the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 has certain limitations, including no master output level metering and a limited FX controls system.
The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is the latest Serato controller from Numark that replaces the Mixtrack Platinum, which was released back in 2016.
The new model features two 6-inch jog wheels with built-in color LED displays, which is usually only found in higher-end DJ controllers. There’s also a full, 3-band EQ and filter knobs, 16 performance buttons and 25-bit audio output.
Numark are known for providing some of the best entry-level DJ controllers on the market with tasters of more premium DJ controller features.
The refreshed S2 Mk3 was released in 2018 and is a welcomed update from the Mk2. The new design matches its bigger brother, Kontrol S4. This model is geared towards being mobile friendly, with a lighter weight, smaller footprint, and even has iOS compatibility.
If Traktor is your preference, this is a good budget solution as Traktor Pro 3 software is included, which usually costs $99 on its own.
Denon have been doing a fantastic job at stirring things up in the DJ market to try and dethrone Pioneer. Although the MC4000 is 3 years old it is feature-rich and practical. This is a fantastic controller for Serato software, although be prepared to shell out a bit extra for the full version.
While Roland are largely unknown for DJ equipment they have a long history in musical instruments such as pianos, synthesisers and drum machines. In 2017 they launched the DJ202, an affordable controller with a an interesting bunch of unique features and a green-on-black look. This controller has built-in drum kits from Roland’s legendary TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606, realized with advanced ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) technology.
This Inpulse 300 DJ Controller from Hercules is the cheapest on the list, making it affordable to learn how to mix without investing too much.
The help of exclusive features from the DJControl Inpulse 300 and its DJUCED software: light guides on the controller to learn the right moves, the Intelligent Music Assistant (IMA) to help you pick the best songs to play, the energy feature to manage the party mood, and the DJ Academy with its onboard video tutorials. It’s compatible with Virtual DJ too.
The budget DJ controllers above are fantastic pieces of kit and perfect for beginner DJs. Even with these controllers you will be able to perform at events like a professional.
Make sure that you choose a DJ controller and software that you’re comfortable with. The best budget DJ controller is simply a matter of preference.
Can’t find a suitable DJ controller above? Maybe look at our Best DJ Controller over $1000 guide.
What is a DJ controller?
What is the difference between a DJ mixer and a DJ controller?
A DJ controller is an all-in-one package for DJing that provides a compact solution. A DJ mixer is a dedicated audio mixing console, which can take inputs from CDJs, external sound cards, decks and more. A DJ controller can be used without needing a DJ mixer.
Can you use a DJ controller without a laptop?
An all-in-one controller will allow you to use a DJ controller without a laptop, however they are most costly and are covered in a different guide.
How much does a DJ controller cost?
What equipment does a beginner DJ need?
Can you DJ with just a laptop?
While it’s possible to DJ with just a laptop to learn the basics, a DJ controller will be much more beneficial to furthering your hobby.