Best DJ Controller Roundup

Here is our review of the best DJ controller options on the market today, showcasing modern features with impressive analog feel that will enhance laptop-based setups.

While tablets or laptops can certainly get the job done, DJ controllers provide improved control and add an element of excitement and creativity which is crucial to live DJ sets. These controllers serve as hardware extensions of your favorite DJ software, allowing you to create great mix improvisations in real time, and lets you do that while looking really cool! We selected the ones that provide the best technology, the most responsive controls, and the controllers that retain some of the old DJ turntable charm. Note that while some of these DJ MIDI controllers are meant for specific software, they can work with other popular DJ programs.

The following controllers are the Premium units - if you're looking for something a bit more affordable, check out our guide to Cheap DJ Controllers.

Vestax VCI-380

Vestax VCI-380
Manufacturer: Vestax

The Vestax VCI-380 is a straight forward 2-channel DJ controller with a built-in mixer and audio interface. It may not have as many buttons or knobs as other controllers, but it more than makes up with its highly responsive controls, intuitive work flow and audio quality. We tried looking for something better, but ended up agreeing with the consensus that the Vestax VCI-380 is the current best dj controller available. Its most notable feature is its jog wheels - Vestax made jog wheels are considered by many to be the standard by which other DJ controllers are compared to. Vestax improves on this well received jog wheel design by making the platters a bit bigger and adding a LED indicator for needle position. Other notable features include pitch bend, 2 x 8 velocity and aftertouch capable performance pads and padfx. This mid-sized DJ deck was designed in cooperation with Serato for full Serato Itch integration, and comes bundled with the software for quick plug and play setup. Another plus for the Vestax VCI-380 is its portable size and rugged construction.

Pioneer DDJ-SX

Pioneer DDJ-SX
Manufacturer: Pioneer

Building on the popular DDJ-S1, the Pioneer DDJ-SX takes its rightful place among the top DJ controllers. It is expected to live up to its Pioneer brand name, which is known for quality audio hardware. The main selling point of this DJ MIDI controller is its tight integration with the new Serato DJ software, it lets you take total control of its new features straight from the hardware. Pioneer DDJ-SX comes with 2 CDJ-type jog wheels with LCD displays, 16 touch-responsive trigger pads, a 4-channel mixer (2 mic inputs, XLR master out and TRS booth out) and a built-in 24-bit soundcard. Another fun feature of this versatile DJ controller is the "slip mode" which silently continues playback while you do your DJ tricks, allowing you to resume the track with timing precision. Other fun features include dual deck control, performance pads and built-in effects.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4
Manufacturer: Native Instruments

Traktor Kontrol S4 is a four deck DJ controller and audio interface in one package that will turn your laptop into a fully functional DJ rig. Although it works well with other DJ software, it is designed to integrate with the Traktor Pro S4 software seamlessly. It utilizes a special protocol that is faster that standard MIDI, resulting in near-instantaneous response when using the jog wheels on a track. The well spaced and responsive knobs, sliders and buttons are favored by many DJs, making the Traktor Kontrol S4 very easy and convenient to operate. Audio quality is top notch as expected from Native Instruments and it comes in a sturdy housing that will protect all the goodies inside.

Numark NS7FX

Numark NS7FX
Manufacturer: Numark

Traditional DJs and turntablists who want to try their hand on digital DJ setups will definitely love the Numark NS7FX. It is designed to follow the layout of classic dual-deck and mixer setups, bridging the gap between digital and old school DJ setups. Its main feature is its twin motorized turntables which are made of real vinyl and feature adjustable torque. Compared to other jog wheel designs, the Numar NS7FX is meant to capture the feel and control of traditional turntables. The retro style hardware is complemented with modern DJ features thanks to its compatibility with Serato Itch software. With its quality controls, Serato software, built-in mixer and audio interface, this DJ MIDI controller already covers all the bases - but Numark wanted to go the extra mile and added the ability to manipulate effects in real-time. All of these great features are packed inside a heavy duty all metal chassis.

Allen & Heath Xone:4D

Allen & Heath Xone:4D
Manufacturer: Allen & Heath

Although it's been around for a while now, the Allen & Heath Xone:4D is still considered by many as one of the top DJ MIDI controllers, and its lasting prominence is a testament to its impressive audio quality and intuitive work flow. Xone:4D is designed to integrate computer-based digital media into top notch analog quality DJ workspace. It has the ability to handle any combination of DJ decks and software, and it can provide extended MIDI control for up to 4 software decks simultaneously. Simply put, this is a jack of all trades type of hardware, but without any sound compromises thanks to its true analog mixer. Other notable features include a 20-channel USB 2.0 soundcard, BPM counter and great sounding Allen & Heath designed filters. As with their other products, the Allen & Heath Xone:4D comes in a rugged and sturdy housing.

Related Articles:
The Best DJ Speakers
You might also like to check out our DAW Controller roundup

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Best DJ Controllers

Great list - top selection of controllers!

I really like the Pioneer DDJ-SX as it seems to be best overall DJ controller and has some great performance pads. It nicks the slicer feature off the Novation Twitch as well. The S4 is an excellent choice, although I think it pales compared to the SX now but Traktor for me is a better software than Serato.

I haven't really used the NS7 FX, but really looking forward to seeing the NS7 ii, which should be released some time this year!