Once you reach the part of the market where you’re spending four figures on a DJ controller, you’re into truly pro territory. Whereas with controllers between $500 and $1000 you start to get some top features, with these you can expect everything you desire! So in this article and video, we look at controllers in this bracket, to help you decide the best choice for you.
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What to expect at this price point
You’re looking at great build quality, substantially sized pieces of gear (those covered here go from “big” to “huge”), multiple microphone inputs and audio outputs, standalone mixer capabilities, often the ability to plug in two laptops at once – basically, pretty much every feature you can think of.
But additionally (as you’ll see), once you get to this price bracket some units can work without an attached laptop running DJ software at all; they have a “standalone” capability, too.
A word about software
Software-wise, these devices tend to work with Serato or Rekordbox (there are simply no Traktor controllers that cost this much!), and they usually work with Virtual DJ too, as that software is optimised to work with pretty much all DJ gear anyway.
Note that for this article we’re primarily looking at units as far as using them with DJ software goes. So while we’ll mention the standalone capabilities of the units we cover, for a piece of equipment to be included here, it has to have the ability to work with DJ software.
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5 Best DJ Controllers Over $1000
5. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT
This is the Serato version of the DDJ-1000 Rekordbox controller (here’s our DDJ-1000 review), and is identical in construction, apart from the fact that it ships with Serato DJ Pro and is mapped to work best with that software.
It’s a hugely popular controller, laid out in a similar way to club gear from Pioneer DJ, with big jogwheels, a club-style mixer with hardware effects and external inputs, and a high-end look and feel.
However, it remains – at least for this price category – relatively manageable in size, meaning you can still pop it under your arm and take it somewhere without a trolley and a car.
It is “software only” (ie you cannot plug in a USB stick and DJ with it minus the laptop), the way looping has been implemented is a bit clunky, and by design you can’t access Serato’s software effects from the hardware – but overall, it’s a winner.
4. Rane One
If you love the look and feel of Rane’s high-end mixers and control turntables, you’ll love the Serato-enabled Rane One. It’s Rane’s first DJ controller, and this premium, metal-built unit with two 7” authentic motorised turntable decks is a real head-turner.
It’s relatively small, although heavy, and has a two-channel “battle”-style mixer with paddles to control the effects, and all the usual inputs and outputs you’d expect at this price point.
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For scratch DJs looking for a genuine turntable feel in a current DJ controller, this is the one. Although they’re only 7”, the platters – with their slipmats, “real” vinyl and high torque motors – are utterly convincing, and we’ve seen DJs squeal with joy on first playing on one of these.
Again the Rane One is software only, and unlike the other units here it is only two-channel (as is the norm with scratch/battle gear), but if you like to scratch, you’ll find it hard to look past this one.
3. Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ
If you’re looking for a controller that is truly “full size”, this is it. It’s a beast. If you were to put two full-sized Pioneer DJ CDJ media players and a pro DJM mixer together, this unit would still be overall a bit bigger (because unlike the “pro” gear, it has big, fat, controller-like performance pads – a feature you’ll find on all the units in this roundup).
Working with Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox software and a laptop, it gives you a fully featured four-channel DJ controller. But it also has another trick: It is a pretty decent two-channel standalone DJ system too. By analysing your music ahead of time in Rekordbox software on your laptop and then exporting that music to a USB stick, you can DJ on this without the laptop.
In that way it is exactly the same as “pro” Pioneer DJ club gear. And although it is not as powerful a piece of gear in this “mode” (again, you can only use two channels out of the four this way), this is still a good way to use the unit.
Other than that, it has everything you’d expect, and will make you look utterly professional in any venue.
2. Denon DJ Prime 4
With its big central screen, metal build and sleek look, the Prime 4 may be a relatively large DJ controller for Serato DJ Pro software, but it’s also a stylish one. And coming at this price point, it of course has most of the features you’d expect – Denon DJ gear has always been designed for working DJs, so all the inputs and outputs you’d need are covered.
Despite the fact that the Prime 4 works natively with Serato DJ Pro (supplied), it is also a hugely capable standalone all-in-one DJ system. Working with Denon DJ’s Engine software on your laptop to prepare your music for a USB stick, it gives you a four-channel standalone DJ system that has much more power than the Pioneer DJ XDJ-XZ in standalone mode, with features like key shifting, beatgridding and wifi/streaming music.
If you want the best of both worlds – a good software controller, and a brilliant standalone unit – and you’re not scared about deviating from Pioneer DJ, who lead the market, you should look closely at the Prime 4.
1. Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
This is quite simply the most popular high-end DJ controller of all time.
When Pioneer DJ first released the DDJ-1000, the company broke the mould for DJ controllers. Here was a DJ controller with a club layout. It ditched the fiddly per-deck effects of software controllers up until then, instead offering built-in hardware effects exactly like Pioneer DJ club mixers. It also put club-style jogwheels into a mainstream controller for the first time.
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People absolutely loved it, only bemoaning the fact that it didn’t work with Serato DJ. (Pioneer DJ eventually relented and released the DDJ-1000SRT for Serato, which is number five in this list.) However since then, Pioneer’s software platform Rekordbox has improved hugely, and is now neck-and-neck with Serato DJ.
If you want a big-but-not-too-big DJ controller, you aren’t worried about standalone use, and you want something that you can use equally comfortably at home, on the road, or in the club, this is it. You can’t really go wrong with the DDJ-1000, our rightful number one.
If you’re reading this as a DJ with experience who is ready to “step up” to a device like one of these, you don’t need to hear this. But if you’re a beginner, it’s worth me reiterating that you simply do not need to spend this type of money to get something great for learning to DJ on.
While I don’t recommend micro DJ controllers for beginners (unless you’re super casual or have good reason for wanting something so small), getting started with a controller in the $300 to $500 range is right for most people – or if you’re sure you want to get something a little better, there are great choices in the $500 to $1000 range.
As you pay more, you get more features and bigger-sized devices. You may never need any of the former, and you may find the latter to be annoying – so do consider carefully before spending as much as this. The gear doesn’t, and never has, made the DJ.
If you’re sure though, you won’t find better than the five we’ve listed here.