Do you want a DJ controller that is the smallest available, that you can throw in a bag and take anywhere? Are you interested in a tiny device for practising your sets when travelling, using just your headphones?
If so, read on, as we give you our five favourite micro DJ controllers for 2021.
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What is a micro DJ controller?
DJ controllers plug into your laptop or sometimes your tablet (or even phone) and give you a way to control DJ software. Micro DJ controllers are simply very small versions.
They will only usually control two “decks” of your software, but like bigger controllers will give you controls to load tracks so you don’t need to touch the laptop to do this. They get their power directly from the laptop or tablet where the software is running (so no need for an external power supply).
So while a beginner might choose an entry-level DJ controller such as the Pioneer DJ DDJ-400, the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX, or the Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500, micro controllers are a step down in size from those more traditional entry-level types of device.
Of course, if you’re shrinking a controller down, something has to give. These units tend to have fewer features than bigger controllers. They are also by definition tiny, and so fiddly to use. But they’re lightweight, portable, and solve a use case that no other type of DJ controller does.
About this article
In this article, we’ve selected five of our favourites for 2021. Unlike most roundup posts like this, this one is written by real DJs, and we actually have our own full hands-on reviews and video reviews of the controllers for you to click through to if you want to know more.
In truth it’s not a crowded market, because the majority of DJs prefer something a little bigger. But if you are assembling an ultra-lightweight, portable DJ set-up, maybe for livestreaming on location, or you just want something to prep DJ sets away from your usual DJ gear, one of these may just fit the ticket perfectly. So here are our top five:
5 Best Micro DJ Controllers 2021
1. Reloop Ready
New for 2021, the Reloop Ready is a micro DJ controller for Serato software. It comes with Serato DJ Lite, but you’ll really want to use it with Serato DJ Pro, because of all the controllers in this list, this one has the most features. However, do know that to unlock those features, you’ll need the pro version of the software.
Size-wise, it literally fits perfectly over the keyboard of a 13″ laptop, and can be DJed with in that way – useful for DJing on the tray table of a plane, for instance.
It has a built-in audio interface (so you can plug your headphones and, if using, speakers into it), and can control a staggering amount of what Serato has to offer.
It is aimed primarily at pro DJs wanting a preparation controller. As such it has full-sized RGB performance pads, all of Serato’s pad modes, control over both Serato FX units, two-band EQ, gain controls, per-channel filters, slip mode, key sync, and many more features sometimes not even found on more pro controllers.
The faders feel a bit cheap, the RGB pads are dim, and it is far from cheap for what you get – but it’s a worthy number one in this list due to its sheer versatility.
2. Hercules DJControl Starlight
Another Serato DJ controller, this one really is micro: While the Reloop Ready can sit over the keyboard of a 13″ laptop, this can sit over the trackpad area!
It is very similar to another controller, the Numark DJ2GO2 Touch, and if you can’t get the Starlight, the DJ2GO2 Touch would be a good alternative. Both have tiny jogwheels that still work like they do on bigger controllers, both have basic DJ controls and rudimentary touch pads.
Learn to DJ on controllers like these: The Complete DJ Course
However, where the Hercules Starlight wins is that it at least has an attempt at a tone control, with a one-knob bass/filter control – this is a lot better than the nothing offered by the DJ2GO2 Touch, although not enough for serious DJing.
Again, it has a built-in audio interface (so you can plug your headphones and, if using, speakers into it). It wins our number two spot due to its size – it fulfils the brief of “micro DJ controller” admirably, for when only the smallest will do. It works with the supplied Serato DJ Lite, which will be all many DJs ever need to DJ with it.
3. Reloop Buddy
Another new controller for 2021, this one has the same form factor as the Reloop Ready, its sister controller, but is actually a very different beast.
For a start, it is designed to use with a tablet or phone (an iPad makes most sense), and has a slot on the back of the unit where the iPad can sit, which then angles it towards you. This turns it into a self-contained full DJ system.
Secondly, this controller is designed to use with Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI software, and as such has controls that are specifically labelled and mapped to use with that software’s features, including its “Neural Mix” real-time stems separation feature.
It has two-band EQ, performance pads, loop controls, per-channel filters, and paddles to control the effects. This latter function is the way scratch DJs prefer to trigger effects, and this is the only controller on our list that has these.
It can be used with a laptop, too, and is mapped to Algoriddim’s laptop versions of djay Pro. It has an audio interface, but software is not included, and so your software purchase or subscription will cost you extra.
4. Numark Party Mix
This dinky little Serato controller has a trick up its sleeve – it has a built-in “light show” in the shape of three LED lights behind plastic prisms mounted to the back of it. It is actually quite an effective addition for DJing in small rooms, and you can turn it off if you don’t need it.
It’s an unashamedly casual/just-for-fun controller, but nonetheless it has all the basics, including audio interface, two-band EQ, pads that control the software’s sampler (as well as the usual pad cues and loop), and reasonably good jogwheels.
Its best feature, really, is how good value it is. It is nearly the same price as the Hercules DJControl Starlight, but has more controls, plus that light show – perfect for hotel room DJ sets and indoor livestreams!
It comes with Serato DJ Lite, although if you want the full version of the software (not really necessary for this controller), you have to buy that separately.
5. Pioneer DJ DDJ-200
The biggest of the controllers in this list, and also the only one for Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox software, the DDJ-200 has good points and bad points.
On the good side, it unlocks the full version of Rekordbox, making it the only controller in this line-up that works out of the box with pro software. (It also works with Pioneer DJ’s WeDJ app for portable devices, and with Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI.)
Learn to DJ on controllers like these: The Complete DJ Course
As it is just that tiny bit bigger, it also squeezes in a three-band EQ plus gain and filters per channel – although the Reloop Buddy’s pads are much better.
On the downside – and it’s a big minus – it has no audio interface built-in, unlike all the other controllers on this list. That means you can’t plug your headphones and speakers into it. For the money, that feels mean.
Instead, it comes with a “mono splitter cable” to plug into the headphones socket or a headphones adaptor on your computer or tablet, that “splits” the stereo signal into two mono signals, one for your headphones and one for your speakers, This is a fudge – albeit a time-honoured one.
If you’re attracted to (at least some of) these controllers because they’re very cheap, do bear in mind that they are not giving you the full DJ experience, even against the entry-level controllers we name-checked at the start of this piece.
For most new DJs, you’d be better off getting started on one of those. These micro DJ controllers are best suited to DJs who know what they’re getting and what the compromises are.
The possible exception to that rule is the Numark Party Mix, which is just so cheap that it may be the only controller a super-casual DJ would ever want or need. But the best in class right now is the Reloop Ready. Many Serato DJs with bigger gear will want one of these, we predict.