Best DJ Controllers Under $300 — Our Top 4 Picks for 2023

DJ controllers under 300 dollars

DJing has exploded in popularity over the last decade. With the advancement of technology, DJ controllers have become compact, portable, and more affordable than ever. This opens up mixing opportunities for bedroom DJs looking to develop their skills without breaking the bank on expensive gear. While high-end DJ controllers can cost upwards of $1,000, you can get started for under $300 these days.

In this article, we’ve compiled our top picks for the best DJ controllers under $300 in 2023 based on hands-on testing and reviews. We’ll cover four feature-packed yet budget-friendly controllers perfect for beginners or hobbyists. Whether you’re looking for your first controller to learn the basics of mixing or want an affordable upgrade from your entry-level gear, we’ll help you find the right fit. Let’s dive in and explore the standout DJ controllers available for under $300!

Our Top 5 DJ Controller Picks Under $300

When shopping for an affordable DJ controller, you want features to help you mix and scratch while staying within a limited budget. The controllers below have proven incredible values, offering professional capabilities at entry-level prices.

Pioneer DDJ-200 ($159)

Pioneer DJ DDJ 200

Packing a punch in terms of features while maintaining a sleek, portable form factor, Pioneer’s DJ DDJ-200 stands as an exceptional initiation tool for budding DJs. With its consumer-friendly interface and instinctive control elements, this controller is priced at around a wallet-friendly $159, serving as an ideal gateway for those venturing into the DJ realm. What sets the DDJ-200 apart is its groundbreaking integration with smartphone compatibility. This ingenious feature empowers newcomers to seamlessly blend their choice tracks directly from their mobile devices, leveraging an array of top-tier DJ software applications.

Designed with a streamlined 2-channel configuration and touch-responsive jog wheels, the DDJ-200 offers an authentic, tactile DJing experience for novices. Adding to its versatility, the unit boasts compatibility with multiple streaming platforms, unlocking an expansive catalogue of music right at your fingertips. Its diminutive, lightweight architecture renders it impeccably suited for in-home practice sessions or intimate social gatherings where you’re in charge of the beat.

Pros:

  • Ultra-compact and lightweight body makes it easy to transport
  • Works with DJ apps on your smartphone or tablet via USB or Bluetooth
  • Straightforward interface perfect for new DJs learning the basics 
  • Split output allows cueing songs in your headphones

Cons:

  • Lacks an internal sound card, so you’ll need an audio interface
  • The small size means it feels a bit flimsy and plastic-y

Pioneer DDJ-400 ($249) 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-400

Retailing at an economical $249, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 controller stands as a formidable piece of DJ equipment, meticulously designed to accelerate the learning curve for newcomers to the DJ scene. Leveling up from its junior sibling, the DDJ-200, the DDJ-400 elevates the experience with RGB-illuminated performance pads and expands its software compatibility horizons to include both complimentary Rekordbox DJ software license and Serato DJ Pro. Don’t let its entry-level status fool you; the DDJ-400 is replete with an array of advanced functionalities that are typically reserved for higher-end models. The unit is fortified with Beat FX, CDJ-influenced loop controls, and tactile jog wheels that facilitate flawless mixing and scratching.

To bolster your skills, it incorporates interactive tutorials, guaranteeing that you master the basics in record time. If you’re considering a foray into DJing, the Pioneer DDJ-400 presents an unparalleled amalgamation of value, feature-richness, and cost-effectiveness.

Pros:

  • User-friendly layout modeled after club CDJ setups
  • RGB pads provide visual feedback when you trigger cues and samples
  • Works seamlessly with Rekordbox and Serato DJ Pro
  • The intuitive browser and menus to find and load tracks  

Cons:

  • Limited to only 2-channels
  • The headphone audio output is quieter than expected

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX ($279)

Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX

Priced at a competitive $279, the Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX DJ controller redefines the game, particularly excelling with its capacitive touch jog wheels and specialized FX paddle controls. These jog wheels provide an uncannily tactile vinyl-esque experience, amplifying the precision you can exercise over your mixes. Simultaneously, the FX paddles are a gateway to creative liberation, granting you a diverse range of sound-shaping options directly at your fingertips. As a DJ controller, the Mixtrack Platinum FX epitomizes the ideal amalgamation of inventive design and functional brilliance. In a market brimming with options, this particular DJ controller stands out as a paragon of both quality and creativity. Its cutting-edge features not only augment your DJing expertise but also catalyze your artistic flair, making it an indispensable asset for those in pursuit of high-performance, responsive DJ controllers.

Pros:

  • Large capacitive jog wheels emulate vinyl for authentic scratching 
  • Quick-launch FX paddles for intense effects like echo and filter
  • The built-in 24-bit audio interface provides studio-quality sound
  • Comes bundled with Serato DJ Lite software

Cons:

  • Included Serato DJ Lite has limited features  
  • The construction feels plastic-y despite the metal top plate

Roland DJ-202 ($299)

Roland DJ-202

Retailing at $299, the Roland DJ-202 is a marvel in the DJ controller landscape, setting itself apart with ultra-low latency platters and integrated drum pads. These platters offer unprecedented responsiveness, giving you exceptional control over your mixes. Meanwhile, the onboard drum pads introduce a live drumming element, allowing you to elevate your sets with a rhythmic pulse that’s typically absent in standard DJ setups.

Showcasing its multifaceted utility, the Roland DJ Controller is equipped with an onboard sequencer and a microphone input replete with high-quality vocal effects. Elevating the vocal performance, the unit boasts a low-cut EQ to crystallize audio clarity, coupled with a noise gate designed to eliminate intrusive background disturbances automatically. As a DJ controller, the Roland model asserts itself as a comprehensive audio solution, adeptly fusing vocal enhancements and sequencing capabilities, thereby offering DJs a broad spectrum of creative possibilities.

Pros:

  • Low latency platters allow accurate scratching and cue points
  • Integrated drum pads let you trigger samples and drum sounds 
  • Professional microphone input with various vocal FX
  • Serato DJ Pro software bundled with the purchase

Cons:

  • Lightweight plastic construction
  • Performance pads feel unresponsive

If you want drum pads in a compact controller, the Roland DJ-202 is a top choice for under $300. The Serato DJ Pro inclusion makes it even more enticing. 

What to Look for in DJ Controllers Under $300

When evaluating budget-friendly DJ controllers, there are a few key factors to consider beyond just the price:

Software Compatibility

In the sub-$300 price range, many DJ controllers typically include scaled-down versions of software, such as Serato DJ Intro or Virtual DJ LE. These “lite” software packages are often sufficient for beginners but may lack the advanced features that more experienced DJs crave. Before making a purchase, it’s imperative to assess whether the bundled software aligns with your needs, or if you’ll eventually need to invest in a more feature-rich version. Another essential consideration is ensuring that the DJ controller of your choice is compatible with the software you either already own or plan to use. Overlooking this critical compatibility aspect could result in a less-than-optimal mixing experience, potentially requiring additional financial outlay to rectify the issue.

Portability

When selecting a DJ controller, paying close attention to its physical dimensions, weight, and build quality is crucial. If your career or hobby will have you shuttling between gigs, opting for a more lightweight and compact DJ controller becomes imperative. Robust construction, particularly in components like metal jog wheels, offers greater durability, making it well-suited for frequent transport. Don’t overlook the footprint of the DJ controller either; it should fit comfortably within your existing or planned setup, whether that’s a home studio or a stage. Ultimately, balancing portability with robust construction can significantly influence your overall satisfaction and performance with your chosen DJ controller.

Sound Card

Opting for a DJ controller with an integrated audio interface featuring high-quality D/A converters can dramatically enhance the sound output. Yet, it’s worth noting that some controllers within certain price brackets might not come equipped with an onboard sound card. In such instances, an external sound card becomes a necessary addition to achieve optimal audio performance. Your choice in a DJ controller should, therefore, consider not only upfront costs but also any potential supplemental investments in audio equipment. This balanced approach ensures that you secure a DJ controller that meets your sound quality expectations without unexpected future expenditures.

Pad Sensitivity

When evaluating a DJ controller, the responsiveness of its transport buttons and performance pads should be scrutinized. Ideal performance pads should execute samples and cues accurately with a gentle touch, rather than requiring excessive force. A highly responsive DJ controller not only enhances the ease of use but also contributes to a smoother, more fluid mixing experience. Laggy or unresponsive buttons can introduce errors into your performance, causing interruptions that could be detrimental during a live set. Therefore, invest time in testing these elements to ensure that your chosen DJ controller meets the high standards of precision and responsiveness you expect.

Number of Channels

In the realm of DJ controllers, the number of channels serves as a critical factor in determining your creative potential. While entry-level controllers generally offer two channels, more advanced units elevate the possibilities with four-channel configurations. As a budding DJ, ponder your artistic ambitions and mixing complexity when selecting the appropriate channel setup. A two-channel DJ controller might suffice if your goal is straightforward mixing, but a four-channel option offers greater flexibility, enabling you to layer multiple audio tracks or integrate additional instruments. Your channel needs should align with your skill level and the complexity of the performances you aim to deliver.

Connections

A budget-friendly DJ controller that boasts a range of connectivity options—like RCA outs, a microphone input, a headphone jack, and multiple USB ports—significantly enhances your setup’s flexibility. Such comprehensive connectivity empowers you to integrate various audio sources, microphones, and other peripherals, enriching your overall performance. While affordability is crucial, don’t overlook the feature set that aligns with your unique mixing style. 

Identifying the essential attributes will help streamline your search, guiding you to a DJ controller that best suits your requirements without compromising on functionality. Essentially, a well-rounded DJ controller with diverse connection capabilities can serve as a valuable asset in tailoring your setup to meet both current and future needs.

Conclusion

Whether buying your first controller or upgrading from an entry-level model, the options above provide immense value without breaking the bank. Compare the features and pick the best match for your needs and budget. 

Remember to keep an eye out for sales around the holidays to score an even better deal on your next DJ controller. With the proper research, you can land a pro-level controller for under $300.

FAQ About Budget DJ Controllers

What Features Should I Look For in an Inexpensive DJ Controller?

At a minimum, even budget controllers should have a crossfader, pitch faders, EQ knobs, jog wheels, play/pause buttons, and navigation controls to browse your music library. Prioritize responsive, tactile jog wheels and any effects pads or faders for more versatility.

Do Cheap Controllers Have Good Build Quality?

Build quality tends to be plastic and lightweight, but some include metal top plates for added durability. Read reviews to determine if a controller feels flimsy or poorly made before purchasing. 

Should I Get 2 Channels or 4?

2 channels are fine for beginners as you’re mixing between just two tracks. But 4 channels allow more advanced options like adding samples and audio effects as you DJ. Consider what you want to achieve.

What Software Works Best With Affordable Controllers?

Many under $300 come with Serato DJ Intro or Virtual DJ LE. Look for controllers compatible with full Serato DJ or Virtual DJ Pro that you can upgrade to later as your skills improve.

Do I Need to Buy an External Sound Card?

If the controller has an integrated sound card and audio interface, you don’t need an external one. But some budget controllers lack this, so you’d need to purchase one separately.

What Headphones Should I Use With a Cheap DJ Controller?

Look for over-ear DJ headphones with swiveling earcups. Opt for a higher impedance rating, like 50 ohms, for use with DJ controllers and gear. Brands like Pioneer, Sony, Audio-Technica, and Sennheiser make quality affordable options.

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