Best Beginner DJ Controller Under $300

Finding the best entry level controller in the summer of 2020

There has never been a better time to purchase an entry level DJ controller. With recent releases by Numark and Hercules joining an already crowded marketplace, the choices vast. We’ve rounded up five of the best controllers on sale, covering all of the big three software platforms to help find the best. Focusing on the topics that matter most to beginner DJ’s, the test should allow each unit to stand out amongst its rivals.

The Categories

Build Quality – Entry level controllers have to stand up to quite a bit of abuse. From travelling in backpacks to be used at house parties to enduring long practice sessions. We’re looking for strong chassis, reliable buttons and premium feeling controls to ensure the controller lasts.

Performance Features – Advanced features such as Quantize, Rolls, Loops and Samplers are all software based features. However, the better controllers will allow easy access to these features, making performances easier and more creative!

Software Features – Essentially all controllers are just MIDI devices that “control” the software running on your computer / iPad. The more features the software has, the longer it will last the DJ without feeling the need to upgrade.

Future Proofing – As a DJ progresses, it’s important to have a controller that can grow with the DJ.  Advanced performance features, high quality connections and the ability to mix external sources are a great example of this.

Price – In such a crowded market place, price is everything. The included software and the controllers own performance in the above categories will all contribute to this score.

The Controllers

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Launched May 2020, Price £250
Build Quality – 4
Performance Features – 4
Software Features – 3
Future Proofing – 4
Price – 3

The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX features the best jog wheels we’ve ever used on an entry level controller. The full size pitch faders add to the superb build quality which also featured both sizes of headphone port. The effects, controlled by paddles, make this controller the ultimate choice for aspiring turntablists. Serato DJ Lite boasts the simplest set ups, however the lack of recording holds it back. Upgrading to Serato DJ Pro allows for more performance features and the controller is mapped to take advantage of Pitch Play.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

DDJ SB3 Front

Launched March 2018, Price £249

Build Quality – 3
Performance Features – 3
Software Features – 3
Future Proofing – 2
Price – 2

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 is one of the best selling DJ controllers of all time. This controller is extremely popular for good reason too, bringing the best of Pioneer DJ to Serato at an accessible price. The mapping of all the pad modes sadly doesn’t allow the SB3 to take full of advantage of Serato DJ Pro. Whilst the build quality is good, the lack of 1/4inch headphone port and basic effects controls now seem dated. The low scores will seem harsh on what is a fantastic controller, however, the newer controllers are now exposing the SB3’s age.

Hercules DJControl Inpulse 500

DJControl Inpulse 500

Launched June 2020, Price £279

Build Quality – 5
Performance Features – 5
Software Features – 4
Future Proofing – 5
Price – 5

The newest controller in the review, the Hercules Inpulse 500 impressed with its large chassis and premium build quality. Built with the intention of taking a DJ from Beginner to Intermediate, the 500 features advanced performance controls. Serato DJ Lite does hold the controller back, however the included DJucied and Serato DJ Pro (Paid upgrade) allow the controller to shine. At £279, this is a LOT of controller for the money, making the other models look expensive by comparison.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-400


Launched June 2018, Price £249

Build Quality – 3
Performance Features – 4
Software Features – 5
Future Proofing – 4
Price – 3

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is a fantastic beginner controller. It’s one of the most popular models and for good reason. The Rekordbox software allows the user to perform advanced routines without needing a paid upgrade. Being a slightly older controller, the unit is smaller than some of the new rivals and sadly only features one smaller headphone jack. The DDJ 400 is a fantastic entry to the Rekordbox eco system, one that includes the infamous CDJ family of players. If playing in clubs is the end goal, the DDJ-400 is a fantastic place to start.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3

Traktor S2 MK3

Launched October 2018, Price £249

Build Quality – 5
Performance Features – 2
Software Features – 3
Future Proofing – 2
Price – 3

The Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 is a controller that sadly is held back by its software. The controller comes bundled with two software to chose from. Traktor DJ 2 is available on iOS and Windows/Mac and although it features streaming, the library management leaves a lot to be desired. Traktor Pro 3 lacks the streaming and isn’t as simple as it’s rivals. The build quality is superb and it’s only the lack of 1/4th inch headphone jack that we can find fault with.

The Results

1st – Hercules DJControl Impulse 500
2nd – Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX 
3rd – Pioneer DJ DDJ-400
4th – Native Instruments Traktor S2 MK3
5th – Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

Thankfully in today’s market, there aren’t many bad entry level DJ controllers. All five of these controllers are brilliant in their own way and for certain use cases each controller has its own perks. The Hercules DJControl Impusle 500 is a controller that out performs its price tag. Built with taking beginners through to an intermediate level, the controller is a clear winner.

The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX scrapes through into second place with its brilliant FX controls. Another superb controller with fantastic jog wheels, it’s hard to separate the Mixtrack from the DDJ-400. The DDJ 400 is unlucky to fall to third here, with the Rekordbox software a fantastic choice for DJ’s of all abilities. The DDJ-400 is one of the best selling DJ controllers and despite being out scored by two brand new units, deserves consideration.

Native Instruments created a wonderful controller in the Kontrol S2 Mk3, however the software feels dated and really requires an update. That said, the loyal Traktor user base will ensure that even without the modern streaming and library management, the S2 MK3 still sells well. The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 falls to last place which will come as a surprise to many. Being one of the best selling controllers, the SB3 is a victim of its age in this shoot out. A great controller, it has simply been exposed by the newer Numark and Hercules models.

Do you agree with our assessments? Let us know in the comments below!

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