At Planet DJ, we've more than immersed ourselves in the DJ controller world. The DJ controller is now at the forefront of the digital dj era, and there are more than enough to choose from. At last count as of this post, there were more than 120 DJ controllers from major manufacturers, and most of them offer something different. So as someone who is just starting out, we wouldn't be surprised that it's difficult to decide on the best dj controller for beginners. Thankfully, we've got lots of experience in this department, and we'll help clear a few things up.
Before you get started, it's important to gain a bit of an idea of what you're looking for. With such a saturated area of the DJ world, you'll get lost in the features, and be completely indecisive as to what you need and what you don't need. It can almost be intimidating as well, with some controllers costing nearly $2,000 (which may not represent the budget of a beginner DJ), and some costing under $100 (which may not have the right features). So read through this, and hopefully, you'll have an idea of what's right for you soon enough.
Things to Consider When Shopping Beginner DJ Controllers
1. Don't Ignore the Software Bundled, but Don't Let it Influence You Too Much
Yes, Serato, Traktor, and Virtual DJ are in fact the most used DJ softwares on the market. But if you've never heard of any of them, then don't let it push your decision one way or the other. There are DJs out there that would argue that the one they use is better, and you should use it. Fact is, the general ease of use and feel to each piece of software is quite similar. Additionally, should you decide that you want to use another piece of software, there are many mappings available to allow you to make the switch without ditching your controller (we'll address mapping in another entry).
2. Remember The Audio Card!
You're probably lost already on this one if you've done no research so far. There's a very simple way to tell if a DJ controller has an audio card. If the controller only has a single USB connection on it, with no headphone jack and no master outputs (like RCA or XLR jacks), then you have no audio card. What this means is that you're relying solely on the audio output of your laptop, or will need to purchase an additional audio interface or specialty cable to use your headphones and preview songs before you play them. If you're looking to make DJing a thing, remember to look for those audio jacks on the back of the unit, it simplifies the entire process of getting yourself set up for the first time. We always recommend XLR (balanced audio) for a better sound, but most beginner DJ controllers have RCA, which will work just fine if you don't have the experience just yet. We know the low price of a controller without an audio card is SUPER tempting, but please take this into consideration. We can't recommend this enough.
3. Consider Your Budget, But Stretch it if You Can
There seem to be several levels of budgeting. If your'e out for the cheapest controller you can find, chances are you're going to be very upset when it arrives. In most cases, there are plenty of DJ controllers dangling just a little bit above your current budget range. Our advice would be that if you can wait it out until your budget grows a bit, then save up for something better! If you settle for a controller in the $150 range, and the $250 range has features that are much more appealing to you, hold out. You'll shoot yourself in the foot if you act too fast. We know the feeling of starting from literally nothing, and we can tell you that these slight improvements in features that you wait for are well worth it, and can seriously enhance how quickly your DJ game moves forward.
4. Start High, Buy Low
In order to understand the features that come with the more expensive controllers, and the features that come with lesser expensive controller, make sure to do your shopping. A little research can go a long way, and you'll quickly understand why DJ controllers cost what they do sometimes. Rather than starting your price range searching under $200, start it under $500. It's not to say that we expect you to buy a $500 controller, but reading up on these things will really give you a feel for what a controller should have and what you're willing to settle for.
5. Consider Your Own Scenario
Your buddy works a nightclub, rocking a top of the line DJ controller. You've decided that you want to get into this too. Great! Welcome to the world of DJing, it's gonna get harder from here. Considering what you're going to do with that controller should play a huge role in your choice. If you're going to just play some tunes in your bedroom here and there and just want to control your music for fun, perhaps a DJ controller without an Audio Card is the perfect choice! But if you want to learn to mix, keymatch, beatmatch, scratch, juggle, flip and any other DJ term that you've come across, you really need to step up your DJ controller game a bit. If you want to scratch and you've got a simple USB only controller, you're going to find yourself struggling a bit. Having the capability to listen to songs before you play them is huge, especially early on.
6. One Final Note
We're pretty sure you've heard DJs say what's the best, the standard, the thing everyone uses. Our advice is to listen to them a little bit. If you buy a higher end controller, while it can be intimidating at first, when you've got the skills to move forward, you've already got the controller to move forward! This is why we say focus on the features. If you move from a low-feature controller to a high-feature controller, you're going to be just as lost as if you went straight to the high feature controller. So if you're looking to make a DJ career out of this, then professional level controllers really are the best DJ controllers for beginners. You'll learn how to use everything in time. Don't sell yourself short if you have high hopes.
Still got questions? Comment below or give us a call or chat! We love talking about this stuff, and take pride in making it easier for you to understand...provided you give us an autograph for when you become famous.