How To Choose A DJ Controller For Your Kid

Phil Morse | Read time: 7 mins
beginner dj tips Djing for kids
Last updated 18 September, 2021

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So your child wants to DJ. It’s not surprising – from video games to Tik Tok, DJs are everywhere nowadays, and at a younger and younger age, kids want to emulate what they see.

But what is the best DJ controller for kids? What else should you buy for them? You don’t want to waste money on something they will use a few times then move on from, and you don’t want to buy something that is too hard for them to use. And let’s be honest – you’d quite like to have a play yourself, right?

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The truth is that once your kid reaches 12 or 13, they can use anything adults can use – and will pick it up about ten time faster! But for younger children, from about six or seven upwards, while they can easily pick up aspects of DJing, the requirements for both encouraging them to do so and avoiding expensive mistakes (or expensive accidents) are more nuanced.

Watch the show


Prefer me to talk you through this? In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I talk you through everything in this article, and we take questions from our community too on the subject.

In this guide, I’ll cover what you’ll need, and to keep it simple, give you just a single example of every item. You could just go and buy exactly what we suggest, or use our suggestions to tailor your choices to what makes most sense for you. (Go to our Reviews section for reviews of all controller models.)

By the way, as the founder of Digital DJ Tips, the leading online DJ school, and also a father of two kids, both of whom love music and DJing, I am right in the thick of this – what I’m sharing with you here is based on experience.

What You’ll Need

Let’s break it down:

  • Your kid will need easy access to music – You cannot expect kids to care about buying music, as it is all about streaming nowadays. So what you buy will need to let your kids use streaming music. Luckily, most solutions do nowadays – but remember, usually you need to be 13+ to use streaming music, so you’ll have to sign up for an account on their behalf and police the music they have access to
  • They’ll need to use something expensive, somewhere in the set-up! Whether that “something” is a laptop, or an iPad, or just an expensive all-in-one DJ console (that has the pricey stuff built in) – the “brains” of the gear needed to DJ costs money. Think hard about whether you really want a seven-year-old using your laptop to DJ with, or whether you’d be better off getting gear that works with a tablet, where they’re less likely to be able to break something
  • They’ll need a few bits of extra kit too – They’ll want a “controller” to do the DJing on (assuming you don’t go for a pricey all-in-one DJ system such as the Denon DJ Prime GO), of course, but there’s more. While at this age DJing with headphones is not really necessary, you may want to get them headphones anyway to give you a break from the noise, and they may want them because they see DJs using them! They will also need a speaker or speaker system to play on, and they may want lights too, for an instant party

Getting these things on a budget and in durable form factors can be challenging, but we have some solid, proven suggestions below. Here are is our suggestions of actual kit to buy:

What To Buy

Software: djay Pro AI ($6.99/month)

djay Pro AI is a subscription DJ app that has everything – access to music from streaming services (you still have to be subscribed to one, though), ability to DJ with video files as well as music from those services, and much more. It has easy access to DJ effects (including fun X/Y pad control), auto mix, and simple music production tools built in, along with access to lots of samples, so your child can dabble with making music too. In short, it’s a musical playground.

And because it is subscription, if the kid gets bored, you stop paying. Best of all, it can work entirely on the iPad – no need for anything extra if you don’t want to spend more. (That said, your subscription also covers a Mac subscription for you to DJ on when the kids have gone to bed…)

In truth, you can get a sub to this software, give them a pair of headphones, and you’re done. You don’t actually need much of what else is to follow, at least at first. However, you do need the next item…

Computer: iPad (from $329)

djay Pro AI works best on Apple kit, although you can get versions for Windows and Android. Probably the best hardware to use it with is iPad, because many kids already use iPads, and (apart from the screens of course) they are relatively indestructible.

The modern iPads (with USB-C connectors) are best, and the new iPad Air ($599) would be great, but the entry-level $329 iPads are great too, and you can connect nearly any DJ controller to any iPad with the correct cable or adaptor – more on cables and adaptors at the end. No need for large capacities as all their music will come from the cloud anyway. And yes, you can use an iPhone, but it’s not a lot of fun trying to DJ on a phone.

Controller: Numark Party Mix ($119)

Party Mix

So yeah, you don’t NEED a controller (you can control via the iPad screen) – but your kid will want one. The controller is the “DJ decks” part of this. The Numark Party Mix is probably best for younger kids. It is relatively cheap (around $80), has a built in “audio interface” (meaning you can plug your headphones and speakers into it – this is important), and has all the basic controls needed to DJ – in fact, I have played a “proper” DJ set on it just to prove that is the case (you can see me doing it here).

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The final clincher is that the Party Mix has built-in party lights – there are three LED coloured lights behind plastic prisms mounted on the back which you can turn on or off, and which automatically flash to the music. They are surprisingly effective indoors at night.

There are loads of cheaper DJ controllers though and all will do the job – I’d avoid the often-advertised Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 as it doesn’t have a built-in audio interface and so is inferior to most others, and there is a list of all those that work with Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI for iOS here.

Speaker: Anker Soundcore Motion+ ($99)

Soundcore

Again, you don’t NEED a speaker – but who wants to DJ to themselves, on headphones? (Or through a tinny iPad speaker…) Now, you probably have a Bluetooth speaker lying around at home, but for DJing, it is important to actually plug the speaker in to the controller with a wire. This fixes “latency”, or the inevitable “Bluetooth delay” that you get with nearly all Bluetooth speakers. So if yours doesn’t have that option, you need to use something that does.

(Actually, even with most modern Bluetooth speakers that have a “line in” option for you to plug a cable in, doing that doesn’t kill all the latency, but it’d be good enough for kids.)

If you’re buying, we recommend the Anker Soundcore Motion+, which sounds great and is confirmed as having no noticeable latency. It’s waterproof, and will double up as a family Bluetooth speaker too.

Truth be told though, any speakers that allow an aux in or line in will work – could be your TV surround system, an old hi-fi, whatever.

Headphones: Tascam TH-02 ($20)

Again, the thing here is “wired” – they need to be attached to the DJ controller, so Bluetooth ‘phones are out. One durable, good sounding and bargain pair that are suitable for DJing are the Tascam TH-02, which you can’t go wrong with for $20.

But there is so much choice and again you may have some knocking around – but the important thing is to go for “closed back” headphones (they cut out backgorund noise better, which is important for DJing), something with a headband (so they can easily be put on and off) and something durable – they will get stepped on and sat on, 100%!

Music subscription: TIDAL ($10/month)

Most DJ apps will work with a choice of music subscriptions, but most of them are specialist DJ services and it may be a bit too soon for a kid, who may also want to listen to music not featured on such services.

The best all-rounder choice is TIDAL, which is like Spotify, except it also has music videos (great, as you can DJ with them in djay Pro AI). Sadly you can’t get Spotify or Apple Music to work with any DJ apps or software.

Other things you’ll need

Nothing worse than your child setting up his or her new system and you realising you are missing something, with the shops closed. So here are the leads and cables you’ll need to ensure it can all work out of the box.

If you have a modern iPad (with a USB-C connector), you can plug DJ controllers straight in. With the Numark Party Mix, the lead is unusually hard-wired into the unit and has a computer-style USB-A plug, so you’ll need a “female USB-A to male USB-C adaptor” to plug it in (Apple sells short cables that do this). For older Lightning iPads, Apple sells a “Camera Connection Kit” to achieve the same.

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Or you could get really flash and buy a cable like this that also lets you charge an iPad while DJing – let’s face it, no parent wants to handle a kid with a flat iPad…

Also, get a “2 x RCA to stereo minijack” cable to plug from your DJ controller to your speakers – the DJ controller doesn’t come with one. They look like this. Go for one at least two metres long.

You’ll want some kind of stand for the iPad. Many parents love the soft plastic “bouncy” style of iPad protectors where the handle also turns into a hinge, but the standard Apple or Apple-style protector covers that can also prop the devices up work well too.

Just remember that the angle for DJing is raised slightly at the back, not upright as if you were watching a film on the device – DJs need to touch the screen to interact with the software, so make sure your choice can be put in that position, and is stable in that position.

Training: Rock The Dancefloor! / DJing Made Easy

DJing made easy

If you don’t have a copy of our Amazon best-selling book on DJing, Rock The Dancefloor!, and are serious about teaching your child to DJ, grab one – or, join Digital DJ Tips for free and download a PDF of the book, on us.

A video course will really bring learning to life. Our DJing Made Easy course is the best introduction to all of this. It’s not aimed specifically at kids, but it is for total beginners – and you can follow it with your child and learn together.

(If your child takes to this, I suspect it won’t be too long before it’s them teaching you things, not the other way around!)

Finally…

That’s it – while of course other systems and set-ups are available, I hope this has given you an idea of what is out there and what it is likely to cost you.

Whatever you go for, this should have opened your eyes to some of the practicalities, and things you should consider before spending your money. Good luck, and feel free to ask any questions below.

Read this next: Have Controller, Will Travel: 5 Best Micro DJ Controllers For 2021

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