From bank to budget, bass-face to basement, these are our top 7 DJ controller pics for your best partners in crime. Each controller has its own merits, and we’ve taken the best of the best and sorted them according to price, so you don’t have to.
We have included a wide assortment of brands and styles on this list, some of which our writers personally use to play out on, and others which we have received in the office to review. There is a variety of options out there - but, tried and tested, these are a few that we recommend.
Click through the pages below to view our 7 Top DJ controllers.
7. Keith McMillen Instruments QuNexus - $149
It may not look like much, but the QuNexus is definitely the glass cannon of the group, packing responsive and powerful dynamics into a very small container. Each pad brings sound to life with pressure and location sensors to give you full control of your sound while you’re playing it. It’s perfect for any DJ hoping to add flavor to their mixes. The QuNexus is affordable, convenient, and works well with most plug-and-play apps on your iPhone/iPad, but lacks the functionality found in higher priced top DJ controllers.
6. Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 - $249
Simple as it seems, the Mixtrack Pro 2 is arguably the best bang-for-your-buck on this list. The Pro 2 runs like a used pickup, does everything you need it to and more, but isn’t exactly in it for the long haul. Some features include: Complete mixer section with a crossfader, 3-band EQ, music library navigation controls, USB powered and works with both Mac and PC seamlessly. The Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 is an excellent choice for any DJ, but if you’re on a budget, new to the scene, or just want to learn the craft, this is your muse.
5. Vestax VCI-380 - $549.00
Sexy and affordable, the Vestax VCI 380 strikes a beautiful balance. It’s sleek design is backed up by an intuitive and in-depth interface. The FSR trigger pads are programmable, and can be used to Slice, Roll, Sample, Loop, and Hot Cue. One of the most impressive features of the 380 is it’s connectivity. With XLR (mic), RCA, ¼ and ⅛ inch inputs and outputs, and a slew of attenuation knobs for each, the 380 is clearly one of the most versatile of the group. The 380 comes with high-quality 48 kHz/24 bit audio and bit-perfect sound, powered by Vestax’s studio quality USB streaming system. the VCI 380 is a clear choice for DJs on a budget who are looking for a professional controller with near unlimited possibilities.
4. Ableton Push Pad Workstation - $599
Most are familiar with Novation’s LaunchPad, but there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Push. Ableton’s latest innovation features a 64-pad workstation with all the bells and whistles of the program itself, but doesn’t leave you mentally exhausted at the sight of it. The Push offers seamless control of Ableton from your lap, and acts as a canvas for your creativity. The pad intuitively works as a step-sequencer, piano roll, and automation editor, using different quadrants of the pad itself. One of its coolest features is the “Scales Menu” which allows the selection of 20 scales in all key signatures, making anyone an instant virtuoso/soloist. The Push is what you make it. Any DJ, composer, performer, or soloist can squeeze every drop of functionality the Push has to offer and then some. Considering its endless functionality, the price is definitely right.4. Ableton Push Pad Workstation - $599
3. Reloop Terminal Mix 8 - $699
The Terminal Mix 8 promised much before its release earlier this year, and boy has it delivered. Bigger and better than the 4, the TM8 features a larger and more intuitive frame/layout, rubberized backlit (and fully customizable) RGB LEDs, 4 sets of bass, mid, and high dynamic knobs, perfectly weighted faders for smooth automation, and a “Loop Roll” section which allows you to make real-time samples from your tracks and play them at different intervals with a spin of a knob. One downside is its large metal chassis, which is durable but clunky. The price is right, if only because it comes with the full Serato DJ experience (a $129.99 value.)
2. Traktor Kontrol S4 - $799
No stranger to any top DJ controllers list is Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4. While a bit pricey, the S4 provides a platform suitable to all DJs of all skill levels. The S4 comes with 2 RCA inputs for turntables, CD decks, keyboards, synthesizers, and whatever else you can find in your basement. It also comes with Traktor’s infamous software, ideal for plug-and-play action. “Quantize Mode” allows real-time automation for loops and pad sequences and also lets you change how tightly quantized you want your selection in real time. The S4 comes with pressure sensitive jog wheels, allowing you to scratch and scrub your tracks based on pressure. It also comes with 20 standard preset FX, and 6 assignable FX knobs. The the S4 has the all-in-oneness of the TM8, but offers a more in-depth and personal DJ experience.
1. Pioneer DDJ SZ- $1999
Think of this as the showoff of our top 7 DJ controllers. Not a controller for n00bs or grandmas, the DDJ SZ has enough bells and whistles to send the past 6 into the stone-age. Pretty much all of the features of a CDJ/DJM set up, but in one not so compact controller. It's big (in size and price) yes, but the feel of the DDJ-SZ, combined with the functionality, definitely deliver. “Needle Search” features a touch bar above each jog wheel that allows you to instantly scrub to a selection, leaving the jog wheels as free agents.
Pioneer lives up to its name as it delivers the first controller with a “censor button,” to save your sorry behind when you drop Mobb Deep at your little brother’s birthday party. The DDJ SZ is function and form in its purest, its sexy design is backed up by it’s innovative layout and its ability to perform just about any function you ask of it -- you feel like you are on CDJs. One of the most impressive features is in their loop section, which allows for on-the-fly ½ time buildups with the turn of a wheel. Oh, and those effects though -- can you say DJM-900 anyone? The DDJ SZ commands a certain mastery to use, but it can perform all functions of any other controller with the authority of a 1980’s Schwarzenegger.