Looking to buy a DJ controller and want to spend around the $300 to $500 mark? If you’re new to digital DJing, this is a smart move. The good news is that for this kind of money, you can get some great controllers that are not only good for beginners, but that will serve you right up to the point where you’re ready to truly invest in a much bigger system.
Also at this $300 to $500 price point, you get a generally much nicer DJing experience than you get on the truly cheap, “micro” DJ controllers (see our 5 Best Micro DJ Controllers for 2023 article), making this definitely the best place for most DJs getting started in the hobby.
Learn to DJ with us: The Complete DJ Course
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 on the subject.
Here’s what to expect from this level of DJ controller:
- Consumer-focused features, but often very good build quality
- A microphone input – something not found on any cheaper models
- Improvements in features – better jogwheels, often better performance pads, EQs and FX controls, sometimes four-deck control
- Generally a bigger, better layout, making for easier DJing
Best DJ Controllers Under $500 – Contents
- Best all-rounder
- Best build quality
- Best for Traktor
- Best for scratch DJs
- Best for flashiness
- Best for beatmakers
- Best for four-deck mixing
- Best for the space-challenged
A word about software
We cover controllers here for all four big software platforms: Serato, Rekordbox, Traktor and Virtual DJ, for Mac and Windows. However, Serato controllers at this price point usually come with “Serato DJ Lite”, a cut-down version of the software that you’ll want to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro, which costs several hundred dollars, or a monthly subscription.
Also, Rekordbox is subscription only nowadays for anything above what they call “Core” (which is actually much more powerful than Serato DJ Lite), and even Traktor has got in on the act, with Traktor Pro Plus bringing newer features to subscribers only. Factor this in when weighing up the real-world cost of buying one of these units.
Note that if you want to use VirtualDJ software, the good news is that all of these controllers work with it. The bad news is that you’ll have to subscribe to or pay for the software, as none is provided with it “in the box”.
Read this next: Best DJ Software 2023 – Serato, Traktor, Rekordbox, Virtual DJ, djay Pro AI…?
Need help understanding all of this?
Completely lost about controllers, decks, mixers, and all the rest of the gear needed for DJing? Grab a free copy of our beginner DJ book, Rock The Dancefloor!, when you join Digital DJ Tips today – it’s free and instant. Click here to become our latest member.
8 Best DJ Controllers Under $500
Best all-rounder: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4
Pioneer DJ’s two-channel DDJ-FLX4 is the replacement for the much-loved DDJ-400 controller for Rekordbox. However, the new unit also supports Serato, and has USB-C sockets on the back so you can also plug in mobile devices to DJ with Pioneer DJ’s mobile versions of Rekordbox (while still charging your phone/tablet). It also has some cool features to help new DJs to mix.
That all makes it a solid choice for a first controller, a second controller for DJs who already have “grown up” gear, or anyone for whom this price point is around what they want to spend. Rekordbox as provided is decent software, but bear in mind that if you wanted to upgrade to pro, it’s a subscription (and Serato Pro would be a paid upgrade, too).
✅ Update to a proven classic
✅ Designed to work with a wide range of software and devices
❌ Some prefer the old DDJ-400 design
Price: $299 / £279 / €319
Our review: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4
Buy now: Pioneer DJ website
Best build quality: Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX
This is a great value controller, offering two channels with four-deck control of Serato DJ Lite (usual caveats if you want to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro – it’ll be a subscription, for a lot of cash outright), useful and impressive-looking LEDs in the centre of the jogs, and a build quality that – along with the Numark NS4FX below – feels really good for the money.
DJ like a pro using ANY gear: The Complete DJ Course
We like the paddles for controlling the effects (although the FX control is still a little limited, despite the unit’s name). But factor in the decent jogs, long-throw pitch controls, and overall good looks/build quality, and you’ve got a budget winner.
✅ Good jogs and pitch controls
✅ In-jog displays rare at this price point
❌ FX paddles a bit small
Price: $279 / £284 / €299
Our review: Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX
Buy now: Amazon
Best for Traktor: Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
If you want to use Traktor software, this is your choice – because Traktor works best with its own controllers. Luckily, it’s a good choice. This two-channel controller is well designed and built, and is a good introduction to DJing with Traktor.
And while Traktor has recently gone down the path of adding extra features for software subscribers only (Traktor Pro Plus), the version of the software that comes with this controller is very good – much more powerful than Serato DJ Lite, for instance – so you’re good to go with what’s in the box.
✅ Good value as the software is powerful as supplied
✅ Thoughtful control over Traktor’s features
❌ You’ll be subscribing going forward for advanced new software functions
Price: $335 / £259 / €279
Our review: Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Buy now: Amazon
Best for scratch DJs: Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1
A two-channel controller designed for scratch and performance DJs who use Serato software, the DDJ-REV1 is unique at this price point in that it has the “decks turned through ninety degrees” layout that also appears on the much more expensive DDJ-REV7. That also means that the performance pads are tucked into the mixer section, again, similar to how separate mixer-and-turntable set-ups for scratch DJs are laid out.
Bear in mind that this only comes with Serato DJ Lite, so unless you’re happy to stick with that or subscribe to the pro version, the outright purchase cost of the software works out higher than the cost of this controller!
✅ Innovative layout will appeal to scratch DJs
✅ Better control layout for Serato than the FLX4 (which is primarily designed for Rekordbox)
❌ Those pads feel mighty cramped squashed into the mixer
Price: $249 / £279 / €309
Our review: Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1
Buy now: Pioneer DJ website
Best for flashiness: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500
You’re getting a big controller that’s unique among all of those here, in that it has fold-out feet to raise it higher, which we think is a genius move. There is even a light underneath to make the unit glow once you’ve raised it, which is impressive in the dark! It only controls two decks of the software, but nonetheless it controls lots of what Serato can do.
We’d have preferred to see better control of Serato’s effects, and the build quality – while OK – is not brilliant (the paint wore off of our jogwheels pretty quickly, for instance), but this big, imposing, value-for-money controller is nonetheless good value. Oh, and it also comes with an alternative DJ program, DJUCED, in the box, should you want to try something different, too (as Serato’s pro version is pricey).
✅ Looks more impressive than some of the others here
✅ Comes with an alternative choice of software, which is decent
❌ Limited effects control
Price: $300 / £259 / €279
Our review: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500
Buy now: Amazon
Best for beatmakers: Roland DJ-202
A Serato DJ Lite controller that’s been around for a long time, the 202 has a built-in basic drum machine, includes samples from Roland’s classic TR-606, TR-707, TR-808 and TR-909 drum machine models, that adds a sequencer to Serato’s sampler. If you fancy making your own beats and DJing alongside, then it’s a fun way to get started.
Bear in mind that this only comes with Serato DJ Lite, so unless you’re happy to stick with that or subscribe to the pro version, the outright purchase cost of the software is higher than the cost of this controller.
✅ Unique in offering a software-based sequencer
✅ At the time of writing, comes with a free Serato DJ Pro upgrade for US customers buying via Amazon – well worth it if you can get it
❌ Some will find the drum machine gimmicky/unneeded
Price: $300 / £298 / €329
Our review: Roland DJ-202
Buy now: Amazon
Best for four-deck mixing: Numark NS4FX
On the face of it this is a good controller for the price: It has four-deck control, with four actual physical mixer channels unlike any others on this list. It also has an Aux input, and balanced XLR outputs. Apart from all of that, it’s pretty similar to the excellent Mixtrack Platinum FX as far as layout, controls and build quality go, which is good news.
Learn to DJ on controllers like these: The Complete DJ Course
Once again though, it is only Serato DJ Lite, and you’ll want Pro, especially with a controller that has more advanced features than some of the others on this list – and that’ll be a subscription, or hundreds more outlay. Added on to the higher price than some of the other units here, and you’re getting into the territory when you can find better controllers that have the Pro version of Serato supplied as standard.
✅ Four physical channels
✅ Superior inputs and outputs
❌ Too expensive when you add on Pro software
Price: $519 / £431 / €485
Our review: Numark NS4FX
Buy now: Numark website
Best for the space-challenged: Hercules DJControl Inpulse 300 Mk2
The previous Hercules Inpulse 300 was a decent little controller, with some interesting features to help new DJs learn to mix, including cute little beat counters by the jogwheels. However the killer feature of the Mk2 is that it is also compatible with Serato DJ Lite, and Serato DJ Pro with a subscription/software purchase.
It has tiny little tempo faders which is a shame, but on the upside, it has decent VU metering (most controllers here don’t have a master VU like this does), and deeper control over Serato’s effects than some. Plus, the alternative software provided, DJUCED, is good.
✅ Good for beginners due to beatmixing aid built-in
✅ A free powerful software package alternative to Serato provided
❌ Tiny pitch controls making manual beatmixing harder
Price: $200 / £174 / €190
Our review: Hercules Inpulse 300 Mk2
Buy now: Amazon
When people ask us “how much should I spend on my first DJ controller?”, we always recommend spending about this amount. Any less, and you’ll be missing features you’ll likely wish you had soon enough. But any more, and you may just make an expensive mistake.
Read this next: What DJ Gear Is Worth Spending Extra Money On?
The truth is – it’s the software and your laptop that do all the work – the controller is really just a simple audio interface and a set of controls for the computer. You can do pretty much everything you hear DJs doing on one of these, and you can learn to DJ to a very high standard on one of these too. And if you decide the hobby isn’t for you? You won’t have committed too much to find out.
And the final argument for only spending around $300 to $500 on your first DJ controller is that when you do choose to upgrade, a relatively small device like this can hang around as your second, backup controller. You’ll probably have fallen so in love with it by then that you won’t want to see it go anyway!