Cheap DJ Controllers


native-instruments-22180-0A lot of DJ controllers are scary expensive. Most of the mid-range controllers end up going for $800 and up. However, there’s a lot to choose from around the $300 mark, but most of these are easily broken plastic junk. Here I’ll show you some of the best ones, and one in particular to avoid.

First of all, make sure you pick your software. Controllers come with some kind of DJ software free in the box, and this will be the biggest factor in selecting your deck. Avoid anything with Virtual DJ. Avoid it. This software is useless. Very limited effects, poor quantization, unfriendly user interface, and hard to read at a glance. Junk software. Traktor is much better for its customisability, wide range of effects and amazing beat recognition algorithms. However, if you find a controller for sale that has a copy of Serato DJ or Serato Itch, buy it! What Serato is doing right now with effects and slicing is changing the face of digital DJing. Also, any controller that comes with Serato Itch gets a free upgrade to DJ, so it’s well worth it.

Novation Twitch

In terms of the hardware, the Native Instruments Z1 is a great starting point. It has a great sound card, good build quality, and comes with Traktor. The Z1 is a modular system, so you can add to it with X1mk2 and F1 controllers, expanding your capability without having to chuck your old equipment. Unfortunately the Z1 only has unbalanced RCA output, and overall the product is fairly limiting until you get the expansion units. At $279, it’s one of the cheapest ways to start up.


If you want to get everything in one go, the Pioneer DDJ-SB is a great unit. It comes with Serato DJ Intro, has plenty of hot cue and effect controls, plus the sturdiest aluminium jog wheels on any cheap entry level unit. This is a big factor, as jog wheels will be essential to your ability to properly cue up and make smooth transitions. A cool toy included is the optional filter fade mode on the crossfader, allowing you to sweep from one track to the other using a filter spectrum instead of ducking the volume. Also have some fun with the sample and loop pads. The Pioneer DDJ-SB drops in at $299.

However, if you can get your hands on a Novation Twitch, buy it! This is by far the most powerful unit in the lower price range. The Twitch was the first ever single piece controller to have a multifunction slicer deck, and they also ditched the jog wheels in favour of two jog touch strips. This means less moving parts and less things to go wrong.

With an aluminium faceplate and sturdy, dust-protected dials, it’s roadworthy and has the unique feature of being able to switch the vertical channel faders into effects faders. The sound card is actually cut straight out of a Focusrite and comes with two balanced TRS outputs as well as two RCA booth outputs. Originally, this product launched at over $700, but now you can pick up these items for under $300. The Twitch has been my favourite portable deck for over a year now, but move quickly as there’s very few of these gems still new in the box.