Every successful DJ, beat-maker, and music producer knows that choosing the right controller can mean the difference between performing at your peak level and having a total musical meltdown. No matter how big or small your setup, you’ll need a DJ controller to act as the brain of your electronic music performance rig. Different varieties can accomplish everything from simple tasks (like fading between music and triggering samples) to complex heavy lifting tasks (like synchronizing entire ensembles of equipment in perfect harmony). From multitrack sequencers to portable jog wheels, there’s a DJ controller for every type of situation and musical context.
Here’s a list of our favorite options.
Great For Performing
Sequencing brain power for every rig. Amazon
The Toraiz Squid from Pioneer DJ sports some of the best sequencer functionality and rig control available. Use it to control up to 16 different instruments in perfect unison, and sync them up using a wide range of interfaces including MIDI and USB. The memory onboard hosts a massive 128 projects via instant recall, and the sequencer holds up to 16 tracks with 64 patterns each. Experienced producers and beginners alike will appreciate the flexibility afforded when you use the Toraiz Squid as the communication bridge of your entire setup—it allows you to flawlessly sync up your modern DAW with vintage and modern synths with ease, and you can edit patterns on the fly for impromptu performances and live recording.
Check out these aluminum wheels. Amazon
Replacing the tonearm and needle record players of yesteryear, this DJ controller from Pioneer DJ is equipped with jog wheels that effectively behave with the same touch, feel and purpose as their old-school counterparts. Use it to control your digital music libraries and scratch out beats, interface it with the compatible DJ Serato Lite software for your computer and use the microphone input with trim control to talk to the audience.
Make Custom Transitions
Play in real-time with the 16 trigger pads to give your songs that extra something and blur the line between your live improvisation and your tracks. Amazon
This four-deck controller from Roland features large low-latency platters for scratching and an onboard sequencer for on-the-fly beat creation, but the true standout feature is the included Roland drum machine and sound synthesis built right in. Four classic drum kits live onboard including 909s and 808s, and each kit includes eight samples.
No Wider Than A Laptop
Use it as your main rig, practice on the plane or in the car, or toss it in your bag and keep it as a backup. Amazon
For DJs on the go, the Hercules DJControl is a tiny and mighty option that includes all the essential functions of a controller. It has two 2.95-inch jog wheels, easy-to-access transport controls right in the middle, and it’s USB powered so there’s no need to worry about wall warts. It also includes ten control buttons plus a shift key as well as equalizers and a crossfader while still weighing less than 1.24 pounds. Use it as your main rig, practice on the plane or in the car, or toss it in your bag and keep it as a backup.