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Best DJ Decks for Beginners

When you're just starting out with your DJ hobby, you don't need to overpay for all the bells and whistles - but you don't want to end up with a low quality deck, either. Here are the best models of DJ decks for beginners.

Before dropping your hard earned cash on a DJ deck that won’t serve its purpose, it is vital to be informed on what features are important, what can be skipped, and most importantly, what you need for your skill level. First, understand that decks come in all shapes and forms. Some are cheap and others expensive, some come in low and others high quality making it extremely hard for a novice to choose from the crowd. The most essential element of a beginner DJ’s career is a deck. 

How much should I expect to spend on a DJ deck for a beginner?

DJ decks have advanced far from the old school turntables DJs used to utilize, to electronic modern controllers. Understand that you can only take an educated approach to choose the most appropriate mixer by understanding the important features to look for in a DJ deck.

  • The Channels: The number of channels determines the range of sound sources you can possibly mix. The minimum channels for a mixer you won’t regret buying should have at least two.
  • The Inputs: Although the number of channels can go as low as two channels, the number of inputs has to be four. This is because each of the channels comes with a switch that indicates where each of the channels should get the signal. This means that when you have a 2-channel deck you can have a turntable and a CD deck on either side to help you make switches at your discretion. However, note that you cannot mix more than two decks in one round.
  • Mic I/O: This refers to inputs and outputs of the audio console. The type and number of outputs and inputs needed largely depend on how you plan to use your mixer. Depending on the speaker you are using, the console may need to generate power to drive the monitor and the main speaker. Your calculations for I/O should include devices that will be integrated into the recording process and the signal chain. Some of the elements you need to consider are the instruments, the monitor speakers, the microphone preamps, and the effects processors connecting to the mixer.
DJ decks have advanced far from the old school turntables DJs used to utilize, to electronic modern controllers.

What are more advanced features that I should get in a high-end DJ deck?

  • Slip Mode: Full DJ mixing stations are professional grade and have high levels of hardware-software controls. Slip mode is one of the most significant elements of a high-end mixer, that when turned on, allows you to manipulate the play head of the track you select. Simply, slip mode adds another dimension to hype your track without losing the original position.
  • HID Support: First, understand that not all DJ software supports Human Interface Device (HID) controllers and the software you have may not support your model. If you are not sure if your software is fully supported, check with the company that makes the software to find out if it has an HID support. The good bit is that you no longer have to depend on purchased control discs, CDs, or an USB stick to play the best jams. HID makes it easier for you by allowing a hardware unit to send command data to and from the computer. HID responds instantly with no delays. It sends commands such as play, pause, stop, loop triggers, reverse, among other functions to the DJ software. It also allows the CD to receive information such as LED data and the track information. Higher-end controllers must have larger screens to allow the DJ to play the jams without the need to look at their laptops.
  • Build-in Audio Interface: The missing link between a DJ laptop, the dancefloor, and the sound system is the audio interface. As such, it is vital to have an easy-to-use and reliable interface if you want to play constantly without hitches.

1) Pioneer DDJ-SB2 available for $621 on Amazon

Key features
  • Manual filters
  • Quantized pad trans effect
  • Dynamic DJ play
  • Large jog wheels

The Pioneer DJ DDJ=SB2 is a 2-channel super compact 4-deck controller that has trim knobs with 3 band EQ on either channel. It boasts popular features building on the layout of the original DDJ-SB and comes with a dedicated filter; pads transform FX and filter fade crossfader setting.

The controller has been upgraded with 4-deck control and comes with dedicated buttons for switching between channels easily. Compared to other models ranging from $ 1,000 and above, Pioneer DDJ-SB2 has fair pricing and can be classified as a budget model.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

This is perhaps one of the best entry-level Serato controllers. Unlike most other mixers, DJ DDJ-SB comes packed with professional features including browse knobs, a pan Trans effect button, level meters, trim pots, and a dedicated filter. It also has switchable four-deck controls, trim pots, and level meters. This is certainly the controller to beat within the sub $250 range.

The mixer ships with a USB cable, meaning you will not need to get a power brick. In the back is a USB socket, headphone jacks ranging from ¼ to 1/8, master output’s RCA jacks, and a ¼ mic in the jack. TraktorKontrol S8 is a beast on its own, from its size to its performance. The problem is that it’s heavy and not portable like its counterpart the Pioneer DDJ-SB2, which is way lighter and mobile for any serious DJ.

The biggest problem with carrying large controllers to gigs is that they are too heavy and hard to set at the venue. DDJ-SZ and DDJ-SX2 are also oversized and heavy. In the Pioneer DDJ-SB2, all the features of the original version are present including the switchable four pads bank, the auto loop, manual loop, the Serato SP-6 Sampler, and control hot cues.

What's not so good about it?

Although this controller has gained a lot of support from the DJing industry, it doesn’t come without challenges. The negativity about it is that it does not come with software. The Serato software is available for trials but is not included in the bundle. It is also one of the most expensive mixers. The device is all inclusive making it hard to repair or find a replacement.

Pros:
  • Great audio engine quality
  • Easily portable 
  • Switchable four-deck controls
Cons:
  • All-inclusive device
  • Expensive
  • Lacks software

2) Gemini Slate 4 available for $249 on Amazon

Key features
  • 8 RGB backlit performance pads
  • Quick toggle

  • High-resolution touch-sensitive jog wheels
  • Dedicated filter knobs

In recent years, Gemini has been known to positively redefine its place in the market, and one of the good changes has been the Slate 4. It is a portable software controller and audio interface used for playbacks in certain applications including clubs, DJ setups, bar installations, among others. It is built with tools such as key-lock, advanced effect controls, and pitch fader.

In terms of price, Slate 4 is a budget model and happens to be one of the smallest and cheapest Serato DJ controllers. Perhaps the best part about it is that it is not just easily portable, but highly responsive too.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

The Slate 4 is a controller to beat, bearing 8 multi-color pads and every deck control features an included sampler, hot cues, and the fly auto loops. It gives the user access to the filter controls and the equalizer.

This model comes with special features not too common for its price range such as the sampler, hot cues, and the fly auto loops.

Compared to other items, Slate 4 is thin (25mm) and light making it easy for the serious DJ to travel almost anywhere with it. It also has pre-mapped FX controls for instantaneous results.

What's not so good about it?

Perhaps one of the most annoying things about Slate 4 is that its platters are not as responsive. They barely turn and often give basic scratches if any. It also fails to work with an AMD processor.

Pros:
  • Cheap
  • Light
  • Pre-mapped FX Controls
Cons:
  • Unresponsive platters
  • Basic scratches
  • Does not work with AMD processor

3) Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 available for $199 on Amazon

Key features
  • Advanced low-profile rugged metal platters
  • Serato Intro software
  • Built-in audio system
  • Long pitch fader for beatmatching

This Numark DJ deck is an incredible and perfect console for an entry-level DJ. It comes packed with a multi-function backlit performance pad, unique touch strip X control, and dedicated channel filters. 

The Mixtrack Pro 3 is perhaps one of the cheapest mixers you will get. The good thing about it is that it comes loaded with a host of features that puts it on the bar above traditional controllers.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

The Mixtrack Pro 3 gives you real power in your performance with 100mm pitch sliders making it easy to play the fines pitch adjustments.

Most of the other decks give 60mm pitch sliders which are completely incomparable to the performance the Mixtrack Pro 3 gives.

It also comes with 16 multi-function performance pads that leave no limits on your creativity. In each channel are multi-function touch strips for dynamic FX control.

What's not so good about it?

Despite being one of the best Numark’s productions, the Pro 3 fader may start to bleed audio from one deck after some time. The board may also be subject to random BPM jumps. You may also not get dedicated filter knobs.

Pros:
  • Great performance 
  • Leaves no limits on creativity
  • It’s a budget model 
Cons:
  • May bleed audio from one deck to another
  • Random BPM jumps
  • Undedicated filter knobs

4) Roland DJ-202 available for $295 on Amazon

Key features
  • Remarkable jog wheels
  • 8 performance pads
  • Built-in sequencer
  • 16 pre-recorded drum patterns

This is an entry-level controller that comes with a free Serato DJ lite. It gives DJs the features and the layout of a full-size professional mixer in a portable unit. It gives extemporary flexibility to remix and give great beats while creating in the studio or when performing live.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

Unlike other mixers in its price range, this budget model comes with dedicated pad controls, mic input with professional vocal FX, large low-latency platters, onboard sequencer, and DJ-202 packs.

It preserves the concept of the flagship DJ-505 and DJ-808 but packs the most features of any other controller in its class. It is also lightweight, compact, and rugged for optimal portability.

What's not so good about it?

If you are not running a high-performance PC, the audio quality can suffer. It also lacks booth outputs.  Unfortunately, the Roland DJ-202 has no AUX input which can be extremely inconvenient.

Pros:
  • Great jog wheels
  • Drum machine and sequencer included
  • Compact and rugged 
Cons:
  • No AUX input
  • Performance pads not very responsive
  • Lacks booth outputs

5) Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 available for $546 on Amazon

Key features
  • High-resolution jog wheels with aircraft-grade aluminum plates
  • Bright, color-coded RGB buttons
  • TRAKTOR engine
  • Responding jog wheels

Whether it's steppy synths or bass-heavy breakdowns, the TraktorKontrol S2 has all that is needed for high-level mixing. It is the essential console for beginners and professional DJs alike.

The MK2 pairs with Traktor DJ for both iPhone and iPad. Compared to other models in its class, it can be classified as a budget model. A key feature that this deck comes with is improved fader reliability.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

This model comes with high-tech features that any professional DJ can appreciate. One of them is its compact design; it is mobile and intuitive. It has a 2-1 design containing two decks including the pro-grade mixer and the Remix deck which has multi-effect units.

What's not so good about it?

One negative bit about it is its basic control for remix decks. It also has no dedicated filter knob restricted deck configurations. MK2 also has no additional inputs for emergencies.

Pros:
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Nice responding jog wheels
  • Support for Traktor pro on IOS
Cons:
  • Basic control for remix decks
  • No dedicated filter knob
  • No additional inputs for emergencies
More on Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2
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6) Denon DJ MC4000 available for $369 on Amazon

Key features
  • Value-packed DJ controller
  • Touch-activated jog wheels
  • 24-bit sound card and DSP
  • Serato DJ Lite software

The MC4000 has a perfect combination of features for the beginner and for the professional DJ. It features a sleek new design and appearance continuing the Denon DJ’s reputation for dependability and unrivaled sound quality. Its price range compared to other consoles of its class can be classified as budget friendly. The good thing about this mixer is that it comes with audio manipulation tools in high-class steel chassis for durability.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

The MC4000 is truly one of a kind, given that it comes with additional access to dedicated hot cue and sample pads for better creativity. This is an added advantage on top of its precision touch-activated jog wheels. Unlike most others, this one has long-throw 100mm pitch faders alongside an intuitive control layout to allow for better balancing in complex set elements.

What's not so good about it?

One common complaint amongst customers is the MC4000 must be updated before using otherwise it will not work. You may also experience problems switching from folders to songs. The modules are also not that big in size.

Pros:
  • Good build quality
  • Compatible with many DJ software
  • 2 microphone inputs with EQ and Echo
Cons:
  • Must be updated before use
  • Problems switching from folders to songs
  • No big modules

7) Pioneer DDJ-400 available for $239 on Amazon

Key features

This is an easy to use DJ controller that is not short of all the best mixer features a DJ needs to comfortably perfect their skills. It mirrors that of its flagship the NXS2 and comes with shared elements such as the Beat FX, cue buttons, and CDJ-style looping controls.

Its advanced gears feel natural when using the console. CDJ-400 is a budget model that comes bundled with professional DJ software. Its tutorial features are great for helping a DJ master their creative capabilities.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

First, this pocket-friendly model has a built-in sound card and includes a Rekordbox DJ software license. A DJ using this mixer will also be able to have enhanced sound color FX mixes. It connects straight to the speakers or the amplifier with the help of a single USB cable. This means the DJ is able to record sets to the rekordbox using the USB connection.

What's not so good about it?

This mixer does not come with the traditional DJ controller effects control. It also does not have rubber performance pads click meaning the user is likely to experience rapid hits. It is also important to note that a lot of customers have had a poor experience with tech support.

Pros:
  • Lightweight and easy to set up
  • Responsive pads/platters
  • 8 performance pads per deck
Cons:
  • Poor tech support
  • No traditional DJ controller effects control
  • Rubber performance pads click

8) Behringer CMD Studio 4A available for $159 on Amazon

Key features
  • 4-deck MIDI Controller
  • 4-channel audio interface
  • USB connection for low latency
  • Ultra-smooth crossfader

This is a highly integrated 4-deck console that comes with a built-in 4-channel USB interface for your audio. It comes with all the tools needed to learn the basics of mixing.

It is a budget controller that contains the same features you will find in the larger and more expensive versions. Not only does the 4A include these features, but also improves them.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

Most models tend to have pitch faders that don't necessarily feel right. However, the Studio 4A broke out 100mm faders for its pitch controls.

60mm channel faders are also known to translate into better and smoother mixes so these were also added in the console.

Most other decks fall short when it comes to the platter size. The Studio 4A has 6” touch sensitive platters for better sizing and performance.

What's not so good about it?

The Studio 4A has many features that are great, but there are also some that are not exactly up to par. One common complaint is that although you have the freedom to select at least 8 cues, you have to select the delete button every time you want to delete a hot cue which can be a hassle. It is also not USB powered, meaning it has to be powered by an included DC power supply. It cannot be used as a standalone mixer.

Pros:
  • Has a highly integrated 4-deck controller
  • Compatible with popular DJ software
  • Slim tabletop design 
Cons:
  • Can’t be used as a standalone deck
  • It’s not USB powered
  • Hard to delete hot cues

9) Hercules DJ Instinct P8 available for $109 on Amazon

Key features
  • DJControl Instinct P8
  • DJ software
  • Responsive jog wheels
  • 8 ergonomic sample pads

This is an entry-level console suitable for casual users and house parties. It is a powerful controller in a very small package and is all that is needed to learn the basic fundamentals of DJing. This full-featured deck allows you to mix and remix with ease. The Instinct P8 is a budget model, making it a popular choice amongst beginner and professional DJs alike.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

This controller, unlike most others in its class, has two channel faders, load buttons, a push-button browser dial, cue, two channel faders, play buttons, and sync features. It also comes loaded with a multi-colored LED backlit performance section. Within it are also cue points, loop triggers, and loop lengths.

What's not so good about it?

Although in its merits it is not a bad console, in a highly competitive market there are way better alternatives. First, this mixer has jog wheels that take up most of the space. It also has no learning curve. Another unfortunate factor about this console is its lack of dedicated mode buttons.

Pros:
  • Has free software 
  • Has rich features  
  • Multi-colored LED backlit performance 
Cons:
  • No dedicated mode buttons
  • No learning curve
  • Mixer jog wheels take up too much space

10) Numark Mixtrack Platinum available for $198 on Amazon

Key features
  • 5" capacitive jog wheels 
  • 1.75" hi-res color LCDs
  • 100mm pitch sliders
  • 24-bit audio output

Numark has set the pace as the world’s leading DJ equipment innovator for a long time. Numark now presents the Mixtrack Platinum that enhances the performance of DJs from the amateurs to the advanced professionals. This budget model comes with top of the class features.

Image Source: Amazon

How does this item compare to other dj decks?

Mixtrack Platinum has a host of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd. It has a built-in custom LCD display screen in every 5” capacitive jog wheel, gain and filter controllers, 24-bit audio output, and 4-channel mixing capabilities. The custom 1.75” displays take you to a whole new level, with its colorful high-resolution display that allows you to monitor details on platter position.

What's not so good about it?

First, this console does not have additional outputs or aux inputs. Also, using its performance features can be a little confusing. The Mixtrack Platinum does not work with Serato DJ’s full version.

Pros:
  • Jog wheel info LED display
  • Great price for a perfect feature-set
  • High-resolution pitchfader
Cons:
  • No extra outputs or inputs
  • Performance features can be tricky to use
  • Does not work with Serato DJ’s full version

In conclusion...

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of mixers is their ability to recall mixes and save them. By now, you should have a pretty good idea on what to look out for when considering a mixer, depending on your immediate need. In the most basic terms, your need for the mixer should guide your budget, to ensure you buy something that serves the purpose and not just a low-price-carries-the-day oriented project.