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New DJs trying to make a name for themselves, as well as professionals who have been performing at live events for a while, all have their reps on the line when it comes to which DJ controller they bring to the gig.
If you imagine club promoters and owners fighting over your services, you’ll need one of the best controllers for working in the clubs.
We have reviewed a number of the best DJ controllers out there for such occasions and we present our findings to you here.
Before we get into our top picks, let’s look at the characteristics of a quality DJ controller for a club or live event type atmosphere.
Characteristics of a Good DJ Controller
Clear labeling of knobs and buttons / User friendly
No matter what kind of event you are DJ’ing at, any controller worth using has to be clearly labelled so that in whatever lighting, noise level, with all sorts of stuff going on around you, you can easily look at your controller in front of you and know exactly what you are doing with it.
A good controller will be laid out in a very logical way that suits the exact job a DJ has to do, which is mix on the fly, playing songs of various lengths, cater to the wants and needs of an audience, while also setting the vibe and establishing their distinct style as a DJ at all once. In other words, a good controller helps you as a DJ do your job better, not worse!
Because of the inherent logic of DJ’ing and what needs to be done task-wise, ie. order of operations in a repeating manner to keep the gig hype, the controller, as a rule, has to have everything laid out properly, and by this we mean visually. Meaning, the words you see on the device need to be easy to read and logically placed, and coincide with the software you’re using that allows you to perform your job well.
Made by a reputable manufacturer
This is partly why the DJ controller niche is usually either one of two things – you have a product that is received very very well by most DJs and stands the test of time, and the ones that is a flash in the pan that no one uses or likes.
Like most other industries, with platforms like Youtube and Reddit around and active, DJs confer on what is best and what is best is generally known.
At this point, the main players in the controller manufacturing game have their businesses well-established, and most serious DJs know who they are.
These big players, are of course, on this list below. For the most part, if you are serious about DJing, you most likely will be familiar with all of these brands.
Ergonomics simply means being able to work efficiently, and so, in addition to the labels needing to be read-able and make sense, the physical turntables, dials, and pads all need to be ergonomically laid out, and feel good to the touch.
As such, the beefy rectangular control pads have to be easy to see and actually fun to hit. Same with the dials, everything needs to be, basically, quite beefy and knob-y, without being too cumbersome or getting in the way of something else. It should be very natural for you to do literally anything you want with a good DJ controller and not meet with any resistance.
No piece of the controller, for instance, should feel or in effect be easy to damage. If parts start wiggling too much, or fall off, that’s obviously a dealbreaker and it means either you’ve gotten some fluke of a reject controller, or maybe the entire brand and line of controller is a dud. Luckily, nothing on our list is a dud – they are true classics one and all!
In a club, or any other fast-paced environment, DJ’s need to be in the zone, and that means they’re going to be turning a lot of dials to hear things better, or isolate some beat, while also triggering pads to do various things.
If this somehow feels “off” to the DJ, it’s like anything else, they will not want to use it and eventually they’re replace that clunky or unresponsive controller for one which feels right and runs smooth.
The controllers on this list also have reputations for being long-lasting, which is critical in a business where they do take somewhat of a physical pounding.
Let’s dive in to our best-of list!
Pioneer DDJ-SB Controller
This controller is an impressive one for the features available. Usually, you’d see this kind of construction and effects on high-priced controllers.
The buttons can be used to trigger cues you’ve already set up, and it can trigger loops and FX plus samples with ease.
- Performance pads
- Level meters
- Pad trans beat effect
- Four-deck control
- USB powered
This controller is considered an entry level one that can be used with the Serato DJ software.
While it’s considered entry level in price, it has some great features that make it a good option for the new DJ who wants to become a professional and has committed to the craft. At the same time, an experienced DJ would feel at home on this unit – there’s not much to complain about.
Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 Controller
This is another relatively beginner-level controller that is fantastic for those first learning to make their own mixes and get into the club scene.
As a beginning device for learning, you really can’t go wrong with this Pro 3. It has plenty of lights for working in the club, so you can see exactly where your hands are, which is essential in order to get through the night.
- Pads for loops and samples
- Plug and play
- Built-in soundcard
- Beat matching
- Touch Sensitive
There are plenty of selections to be used with the software. There’s actually a selection button that allows you to choose between effects like reverb, flanger, delay, and no effect.
With 16 backlit trigger pads, you’ll be able to learn quickly while dealing with a dark environment like you’ll have in most of the clubs.
Reloop Beatpad 2
This is an affordable unit that’s a step up from the beginner units used by amateurs just getting started. The Beatpad has established itself as a professional system at an affordable price. You’ll notice the layout is a little different from the previous two units.
- Two-channel design
- Responsive pads
- LED rings for scratching
- Harmonic mix option
- Access to Spotify
This last feature is one of the best for professionals. You’ll need access to a huge music library to get your samples and you don’t have to worry about having the memory to store every song on your memory card.
It will recommend music that matches what you’re currently playing, too. This gives you a huge amount of variation for your mixes and freestyle scratching.
Denon DJ MCX8000
This professional controller is a full-size heavy controller that might not necessarily lend itself to being a lightweight grab-your-stuff-and-go unit, ie. it’s a bit bulkier than the others.
It would be more suited for a full-time gig at a club where you don’t have to carry the controller around with you.
- Built-in engine software
- No computer needed
- Room for 2 DJs on the controller
- USB ports for flash drives
- Serato DJ software
- Four channel mixer
When you’re learning the ropes, this might not be the right controller for you, but for those who know the world of DJing inside and out, this is a solid unit.
It’s perfect for performing with another DJ, too.
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 MK2 DJ Controller
This controller can be used with the iPad or iPhone with the flagship Traktor software. You’ll need to download this free of charge from the site after purchasing and receiving the controller.
This is a controller that isn’t for the beginner, but once past the beginning stages, it’s a fantastic controller for the amateur on the way to being a professional DJ.
- Traktor pro 2 software
- Direct and USB control
- Flux mode button
- Preview button overhaul
- Four stereo channels
- Equalizer and filter knobs
The spinner jog wheels use aluminum, aircraft-grade materials, so you know they’ll last for a very long time. The layout is comfortable and the knobs, faders, and buttons are in a place that makes sense intuitively.
The buttons light up beautifully, so you can see them easily in the dark of the club.
These are 5 of the best controllers for the clubs. DJs who want to learn the controller can start with some of the ones at the top of the list before graduating to more advanced versions of the controller at the bottom of this list.
They’re all fantastic for the DJ who wants to advance from beginner to professional pretty swiftly.
We would recommend any of these, so head over and read the full reviews to ensure you’re doing full research on each one. Otherwise, give us your comments below – we’d love to hear what you think of any of these. Also – any questions, just ask!