Last week, we took a look at the top five turntables for those who want to get started with a DVS, or for DJs with vinyl collections who want to rip their records to their laptops.
In this article, we look at five of the best starter DJ controllers for casual / leisure use – anywhere from a dorm room or house party, to Sunday barbecues and DJing on-the-go. These fun (and sometimes quirky) controllers all fall under US$300, so they also make decent controllers for beginners or those wanting to see if digital DJing is for them.
5 Starter Controllers
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4 is a portable DJ controller that works with a variety of DJ software. It’s the most specified controller on this list and the most expensive, but it’s also the most versatile. It’s got two jogwheels, an onboard sound card, a mic input, and four hot cue / effect buttons. It’s compatible with Rekordbox DJ on Mac/PC, along with the new WeDJ app on iOS and Android.
Pros: Cross-platform compatibility, great for those who want to get into digital DJing but haven’t decided which software and computer / mobile device to use just yet.
Cons: A bit pricey for a leisure or beginner controller.
Get it on Amazon: Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4
Read our full review: Review & Video: Pioneer DJ DDJ-WeGO4 Rekordbox DJ & WeDJ Controller
2. Traktor Kontrol X1 Mk2
Perhaps the most “pro” of the lot, this modular controller from Native Instruments has been around for a few years now, but it remains a favourite for both beginners and professionals. New DJs like it because it’s relatively inexpensive for the amount of features and control over Traktor that you get, and advanced DJs take it along with them to gigs because of its small footprint.
Pros: Small size, good value considering the functionality you get out of it.
Cons: There are no jogwheels, though there is a touchstrip. That means beatmatching on it has a different learning curve. It doesn’t have an onboard sound card, so you will need a splitter cable for monitoring. You still have to purchase Traktor Pro 2 as well.
Get it on Amazon: Traktor Kontrol X1 Mk2
Read our full review: Review & Video: Traktor Kontrol X1 Mk2 Decks & Effects Controller
3. Numark Party Mix
One of the newer entries in this roundup is a compact two-channel DJ controller that comes with its own mini lighting rig built-in. The Numark Party Mix has two jogwheels, four performance pads per channel, and an onboard sound card. It’s also got three LEDs: red, green and blue, meaning you can place the rear of the unit against a wall and throw some lighting on it to create a cool ambience in your bedroom while you spin. It ships with Virtual DJ LE, so you can get started mixing right away.
Pros: Small and portable, comes with its own unique lighting rig and built-in sound card.
Cons: The jogwheels are quite small, but that’s to be expected in such a compact device.
Get it on Amazon: Numark Party Mix
4. Hercules DJ Control Instinct P8 Party Pack
The Hercules DJ Control Instinct P8 is a tiny two-channel DJ controller that’s no larger than an iPad. It’s one of the least expensive in our list, so if you’re on a budget and you’re curious as to how digital DJing works, the DJ Control Instinct P8 is a good place to start.
The Hercules DJ Control Instinct P8 Party Pack even comes with glowing LED wristbands that light up to the beat of the music you’re playing, perfect for throwing a mini-festival in your living room!
Pros: Inexpensive, extremely compact for a controller with this feature set. Comes with a sound card onboard. Wristbands would be fun for little get-togethers.
Cons: Jogwheels are small and mechanical, so you need to press down on them harder to scratch. Ships with DJUCED 40, which may or may not be your software of choice moving forward.
Get it on Amazon: Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 Party Pack
Read our full review: Review & Video: Hercules DJControl Instinct P8 Controller
5. Gemini Slate
This two-channel controller from Gemini was released a few years back, but it’s still a solid option for DJs who want to get started DJing on a larger controller (it’s one of the biggest in this list), as well as for DJs who use Serato DJ and are looking for a backup controller for home use or for travel and leisure use. It’s got a sound card onboard, eight performance pads (just like what you’d see on more full-featured controllers), and ships with Serato DJ Intro.
Pros: Slim and light, but with more controls on it than the others in this list. Also has the biggest jogwheels out of the bunch.
Cons: Tempo / pitch faders are quite short, which means it could take more effort to do very fine tempo adjustments.
Get it on Amazon: Gemini Slate 2
Read our full review: Review & Video: Gemini Slate 2 Serato DJ Controller
We’ve come a long way when it comes to DJ controllers – all you need to spin tunes can now be packed into a compact device that either fits in your rucksack or can be tucked under your arm. For those who want a DJ controller that they can use for fun times and partying, these controllers fit the bill and are relatively inexpensive compared to full-on DJ controllers that are meant for gigging and serious use.
What’s your favourite leisure / casual DJ controller? Did we miss any items that you’d want to see included in this list that falls in the same price range as these units? Let us know below.