dj controllers featuredWith all the advances in DJ software it is certainly possible to DJ with just about any midi device; in fact you could DJ with just your computer keyboard or your iPad. However, if you try to do this you’re going to quickly realize why DJ controllers were invented – we need hardware to control our software intuitively allowing us to focus on the music, not pointing and clicking. And that’s what the best DJ controller will do – let you be a DJ.

Top 6 Best DJ Controllers Comparison Table

Product Name

Software

Input and Output

Compatibility

Our Rating

Price

Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk2
Traktor PRO 25 inputs
4 audio output
1 Headphone output
Windows 7,8 or 10
Mac OS X 10.9
5

$$$$

Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ-SX2
Pioneer DDJ-SX2

Serato DJ6 input
3 audio output
2 headphone output
Windows 7
Mac OS X 10.7.4/10.6.8

4.5

$$$$$

Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk2Traktor PRO 21 input
4 audio output
1 headphone output
Windows 7 or 8
Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

4.5

$$$

PIONEER DDJSRPioneer DDJ-SRSerato DJ2 input
3 audio output
2 headphone output
Windows 7
Mac OS X 10.8.4/10.7.5/10.6.8

4

$$$$

Reloop Terminal Mix 8Reloop Terminal Mix 8Serato DJ1 input
2 audio output
2 headphone output
Windows 7
Mac OS X 10.6.+ / 10.7.+ / 10.8.+ 

4

$$$$

Traktor Kontrol X1 – Mk2
Traktor Kontrol X1 – Mk2
Traktor PRO 2NAWindows 7,8, or 10
Mac OS X 10.9, 10.10 or 10.11.1

4.5

$

What to look for

There is a range of factors to consider when you’re choosing a DJ controller. Perhaps the single most important factor is your choice of software. This is more of an issue for Serato users than other software, but it’s still important to consider; if you’re not comfortable with midi mapping and customizing a piece of gear than you’ll want to be sure it’s ready to work with your software right out of the box.

The good news here is for Traktor users. Every piece of Native Instruments gear comes bundled with Traktor and sometimes even Komplete or other production software. This means you can save a few hundred dollars right up front and you’ll be up and running quickly.

The second most important factor is your sound interface – will it be built in or will you need to purchase a sound card. You’ll also want to consider expandability of your audio interface. In other words, will you be connecting turntables and CDJs or other digital devices now or in the future?

In addition to software and soundcard, you should also consider size, build quality, and overall value for money.

Top 6 DJ Controller Reviews

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk2

Native-Instruments-Traktor-Kontrol-S4-MK2The Kontrol S4 Mk 2 is Native Instruments’ flag ship DJ controller and is quickly becoming industry standard. Now in its second version, the Kontrol S4 features a full sized four channel mixer, two very responsive jog wheels and full control over Traktor’s. Native Instruments have also included pitch control as well as the option to toggle or shift between cue point access or remix deck access via the trademark shift button. You also get easy access to all four decks in Traktor. Of course all of this also comes with an onboard soundcard and a full version of Traktor tailored to work with the S4.

Build quality

The overall build quality of the S4 is probably the best in the industry. It is very light yet also very strong. This comes from the use of a two-piece body comprised of hard plastic, the bottom of which is very thick and resilient. Similarly, the knobs, faders and buttons used throughout are extremely high quality and will withstand years of play and performance.

Sound quality

The S4 features an on-board 24 bit/96 kHz sound card. Expect a warm and dynamic sound with plenty of volume and headroom. In addition, is the ability to handle inputs from any analog device, such as a microphone or turntable, as well as digitally via midi.

Features

In addition to the ability to easily mix with all four decks in Traktor, as well as accessing all effects banks, the S4 gives DJs the added bonus of an on-board loop recorder. This allows a DJ to create loops live in the mix. The S4 also allows for integration of several other devices, both analog and digital, as well as a microphone.

Value for money

The S4 is becoming an industry standard for a reason – it offers everything you would find in traditional DJ booth all in one package. What’s even more appealing is that the S4 is sized well enough to let you work freely yet it maintains its portability. If you’re looking for an all-in-one controller that you can grow into and not out of this is the best dj controller for you.

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Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk2

Native-Instruments-Traktor-Kontrol-S2-MK2-DJ-ControllerThe S2 is the S4’s smaller brother. Also in its second iteration, the S2 features a 2-channel mixer and a somewhat stripped down effects bank. Thus, we can think of the S2 as a more stripped down version of the S4. If you don’t envision yourself taking advantage of a 4-channel mixer, then the S2 is worth considering. Like the S4, the S2 comes with a full version of Traktor and is ready to go out of the box.

Build quality

Despite the fact that the S2 is not as feature rich as the S4, Native Instruments has not reduced the quality at all. The materials used throughout the S2 are the exact same as the S4, including all knobs, faders and jogwheels. The casing is also the same rugged yet lightweight design that Native Instruments has become known for.

Sound quality

As with the S4, the S2 features a 24bit/96 kHz soundcard producing pro-audio quality sound. Sound wise, there is no difference between these units.

Features

While the S2 doesn’t get access to the loop recorder and the remix decks, at least not without some tweaking, there are still some noteworthy features. The S2 does come with access to Traktor’s Flux mode, which you can learn more about here, as well as compatibility with the Traktor DJ app for iOS.

Value for money

If you’re looking for a highly portable yet also high quality controller, the S2 is certainly worth a further look. With a pro-audio sound card and industry standard build quality the S2 represents a great value for any DJ.

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Pioneer DDJ-SX

Pioneer-DDJ-SXThe DDJ-SX is Pioneer’s flagship DJ controller and is also the flagship Serato one. Similar to the Kontrol S4, it offers a 4-channel mixer with two jog wheels and multiple inputs and outputs; obviously the mixer follows Pioneer convention and styling.

Serato and Pioneer worked very closely together on this piece of gear and it shows – every control surface, knob, button, pad and wheel links to a feature in Serato DJ. While this is the most notable feature, the first thing you’re likely to notice is that it is absolutely massive. At 26 inches long and 14 inches deep and weighing 12 pounds this is an absolute monster of a controller.

Build quality

Pioneer makes some DJ controllers that are rather toy like, both in design and build quality. However the DDJ-SX is a far cry from Fisher Price. With an aluminum top panel covering the entire controller and additional aluminum paneling throughout the sides and bottom this is a very sturdy controller. Similarly, both jog wheels and all the buttons and faders are very high quality. Of particular note are the 8 trigger pads, which sit below each jog wheel. These pads are more sizable and responsive than on other controllers, meaning it will be much easier to utilize them during performance.

Sound quality

Sound quality on the DDJ-SX is industry standard, coming from a 24 bit/96kHz sound card. However, there is a noticeable difference in the output level. This is due to it relying on an external power source.

Features

The DDJ-SX really shines with its integration with Serato DJ. Users can easily manipulate every Serato feature, such as dual deck control and slip mode, solely by using the controller. Also, the pads offer control over hotcues and effects like loop roll and the beat slicer.

Value for money

it is not cheap, but if you’re a Serato user this is one piece of gear worth looking at. To be fair, it is very big and not at all portable. However, if you’re looking for a rock solid, all-in-one Serato ready controller for a home studio this may the best choice for you.

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Pioneer DDJ-SR

Pioneer-DDJ-SRJust as the S2 is the younger brother to the S4, so too is the DDJ-SR the younger bother to the DDJ-SX. This controller is essentially a two-channel version of the SX. Again, this controller is designed and intended for use with Serato DJ, which comes bundled with the controller. Despite being smaller, the SR actually has larger jog wheels, something which will likely appeal to the scratch crowd.

Build quality

The DDJ-SR has the same rugged and solid build quality of the DDJ-SX and is made from the exact same materials. DJs can expect this controller to last.

Sound quality

As with the DDJ-SX, the sound quality on the SR is top notch. The only noticeable difference was the somewhat lower output level compared to the SX.

Features

While most manufacturers are downplaying jog wheels, Pioneer has decided to cater to DJs who still want jog wheels for cueing and scratching by using larger than average jog wheels.

The DDJ-SR also utilizes something called “Pad Plus Mode.” This feature transforms the 8 pads below the jog wheels into controls for four distinct functions: hot cue roll, trans, combo fx and sampler roll. DJs can use the pad to trigger the effects in a number ways to enhance their mixes and performances.

Value for money

For Serato fans this is probably the best choice of a DJ controller at the moment. Coming in at nearly half the cost of the DDJ-SX and considerably smaller yet still bundled with Serato DJ software, the DDJ-SR is a great value.

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Reloop Terminal Mix 8

Reloop-Terminal-Mix-8The Terminal Mix 8 is Reloop’s best-featured controller, offering a 4-channel mixer and control over all four decks in Serato. In many ways, this is Reloop’s answer to the Kontrol S4.

Build quality

Housed in a completely metal case, the Terminal Mix 8 is certainly a well-built controller. Similarly, all knobs, buttons and faders are rock solid and will last quite a long time.

Sound quality

Reloop has included an onboard 24bit soundcard that delivers a dynamic range at output levels comparable to Native Instruments and Pioneer controllers.

Features

While the Terminal Mix 8 looks like many other controllers, with 2 jog wheels and a 4-chanell mixer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as everything you need is here. Like the S4, the Terminal 8 also includes additional inputs for a microphone as well as other devices. The Terminal 8 also comes bundled with Serato DJ Intro to get you started right out of the box. However, pads are what really make the Terminal Mix 8 standout. There are four modes to use with the pads – slice, sample, cue and loop. The feel of the pads is quite intuitive and Reloop has also thoughtfully color-coded them as well.

Value for money

For Serato users looking for something more than the Mixtrack Pro II but not ready to splurge on the pricier Pioneer units the Terminal Mix 8 is a great choice.

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Traktor Kontrol X1 – Mk2

Traktor-Kontrol-X1-MkIIThe Traktor Kontrol X1 is the biggest name in the modular controller field. Now in it’s second version, the X1 is a very common sight in the DJ booth. The X1 is a slim line controller that connects to a laptop via USB and offers control over Traktor’s track decks, library and effects units.

Build quality

Using the same materials as the Kontrol S4 and S2, the X1 is housed in a resilient plastic casing. The knobs and buttons are solid and responsive and will hold up to many hours of play.

Features

The Mk2 version of the X1 introduced the use of a touch strip on the controller, something that is still quite rare on controllers. The touch strip has a few different uses, the most obvious one being to allow DJs to skip through a track. However, it’s now possible to map the touch strip to manipulate effects and perform other functions in Traktor.

Value for money

It’s hard to find a better value than the X1. You get full control over two track decks and effects units, plus the ability to re-map the controller to suit your needs, all in a well built slim line device. When paired with even a modest mixer and sound card, the X1 is a top-notch controller that delivers.

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So what is the best DJ controller?

Overall, it’s impossible to say which controller is the best. While there is a range of excellent controllers to choose from, it’s really going to come down to your own needs and how you see yourself using the controller.

We’ve looked at six controllers here, and there certainly are more out there. However, if you focus on overall value and software compatibility, we feel these really are at the top of the class.