One of the first questions beginner DJs always ask is: What DJ equipment do I need? The best place to start is the DJ controller. A DJ controller is an external, attachable device that is typically hooked up to a computer to mimic the setup and workflow of a traditional DJing setup. Some standalone controllers do not require a computer to function. A traditional DJ setup consists of two vinyl turntables and a DJ mixer. DJ controllers are all-in-one solutions that provide an affordable alternative to purchasing the separate elements comprising a traditional setup. Beginner DJs seeking to purchase a controller face a tough choice in determining the appropriate controller based on budget, software, desired musical style, and requisite functions.

The Numark Mixtrack III DJ Controller

The Numark Mixtrack 3 is an excellent controller for beginner DJs. The price of the system is $113 (at the time of writing), making it one of the most competitive units on the market. Numark is a well-known brand that offers a wide range of DJ controllers. Although affordable, the unit comes equipped with several pro-grade features, such as the ability to control FX right from the controller, multi-function performance pads and dedicated filter knobs for each channel. The device’s mixer does a solid job as it provides all the essentials, such as EQ, a crossfader and a dedicated knob for track browsing. For the price, there are few better controllers out there for beginners.

The Hercules DJ Control Compact USB

Easily the most affordable controller for a beginner DJ ($64 at the time of writing), this is the go-to option if your budget is limited. This controller is an ultra-light and portable solution, which will not overwhelm beginners. This compact system is used to feature jog wheels, and features 4 pads, 2 EQ knobs and a dedicated volume knob per virtual deck. It comes pre-equipped with little-known DJ software known as DJUCED, which is suitable for beginners, though it is compatible with pro-level software such as Traktor. This controller lacks pro features, but is near ideal for beginners.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2 Controller

Pioneer has a long history of producing sturdy, reliable and high-quality DJing equipment. A highly rated bestseller on Amazon, this model is a little bit pricey at nearly $250 (at the time of writing). It comes with an incredible array of features, including 8 performance pads per virtual deck, massive jog wheels and a built-in sound card that provides extra features such as sampling functions, hot cue, filter fade and manual loop. It has a simple plug-and-play interface and is delivered with the popular Serato DJ intro software. The software can be upgraded to the pro version of Serato DJ if desired.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol Z1 DJ Mixer

One of the pricier DJ controllers for beginners, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol ZE is a small, compact and portable controller. It comes with a three-band equalizer and a high-quality built-in sound card. Although this model can control the laptop version of the software, it is designed to also function with an iPad/iPhone, and it comes with a comprehensive software application. The controller is perfect as it comes with some nice pro-grade knobs, and you can directly integrate it with iTunes.

When you’re a beginner DJ, your choices usually come down to budget, and it’s wise to stick to the less expensive equipment when you’re just starting out and before you’ve determined what style of DJing you enjoy. Remember to leave a little room in your budget for a beginner DJ course that helps you get to know your equipment and the art of DJing.