Best DJ controllers under $250?

So you’re looking to start your career as a DJ and want to know what the best DJ controllers under $250 are?  Let me be the first to welcome you to The DJs Guru family!  Since 1998 we’ve been working directly in the DJ and mobile entertainment market.

Although the equipment and technology has changed, our commitment to the industry is the same. Our goal is to help you learn, grown and succeed.  With that being said, let’s get into it. It’s time to get educated on the best selling DJ controllers under $250 for beginners.

Before we start, let’s make sure you’re prepared.

The first pro tip we have before you purchase your new DJ controller or starter package is to make sure that you have a good library of music.  There is nothing more boring than mixing the same songs over and over. As you prepare for this new journey make sure you’re curating some great tunes.

Not just music you like, but the music you think will rock the crowd. The music that will make people want to dance & be happy.  Whether your music is in file form (recommended) or on a service like Spotify or Tidal it’s imperative that you start to craft your “Sound” as a DJ is only as good as the music they have.

Also, be sure you have a computer, laptop or smart device.

A DJ Controller is designed to control DJ software of some kind.  That can be a software based program from a computer like Serato, Rekordbox, Virtual DJ or Traktor.  Or an application based software from a smart device (phone, tablet) such as DeeJay, WeDJ or Beatport Link. You will need another piece of equipment to source the music from and operate the controller itself.

With either of these, you will be able to control any of the DJ controllers we will discuss in this article. You’ll be ready to go right out of the box!  Now you’ll have plenty of tools in your arsenal too!  So without further delay let’s dive into the meat of this post. It’s time to talk about what I think are the best DJ controllers for starters under $250.

Numark Party Mix DJ controller with built in sound card & light show

Adopting the familiar layout of two turntables with a mixer in the center, the 2-channel Numark Partymix was engineered with the aspiring DJ in mind.  It is the least expensive full featured DJ controller with a built in sound card.  The sound card is what allows you to connect directly to a sound system and play out loud.

The 2 platters emulating turntables allow you to move the tempo faster or slower. The pitch control allows you to dial it in.  The headphone output allows you to hear your cued song discreetly while the other song is playing out loud which allows you to “Mix” it.

Getting more advanced

Although a basic DJ controller, the Partymix has some more advanced features as well.  4 pads with 3 different effects will prepare you for the more expensive DJ controllers should you decide to move forward.  The 3 band equalizer on each channel will allow you to control the bass, mids & treble of each track. This allows you to contour your mix even more.  Numark surely packed a lot of value into a small controller and price tag.

Did we mention it has a built-in light show?  What would be cooler than jamming to your own mix with a built in led light show beaming from the back of the unit?  The Partymix is the perfect DJ controller and is extremely budget-friendly while still having enough features to have a lot of fun. It makes it easy to learn the basics and even intermediate skills of being a DJ.  If you’re looking to DJ right out of the box, the Partymix with its included software is a great choice for a beginner.

PROS – Inexpensive, all the basics, built in soundcard, built in light show, 4 pads.

CONS – No microphone input, no touch sensitive platters so you can’t scratch, all plastic construction.

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Pioneer DJ DDJ-200 Smart DJ Controller

Pioneer DJ is world renowned for manufacturing top quality DJ gear. When they came out with the DDJ-200 the price point kind of blew people away.  The DDJ-200 certainly is a “Smart” DJ controller and is perfect for beginners. Its modern design and more advanced features and layout allow you to use it with almost any device imaginable.  You can control DJ software with a computer or any application based software via a smart phone or tablet.  Although no built in sound card, there is an adapter cable that will allow you to split the headphone output and play out of a sound system.

What is also super cool about this controller is that depending on the device you are using, you can either access music from Apple Music, itunes library or stream from a service such as Beatport Link, Deezer, Soundcloud Go or even Spotify.  So no matter where you are, you can always access and be in the mix even in the car!  Having this flexibility to play music from so many sources makes the DDJ-200 an extremely versatile DJ tool. It’s a great controller to learn on as it can be a great backup as you advance or be used for gig preparation.

All in the family

The layout of the buttons and dials on the DDJ-200 inherits the familiar style of Pioneer DJ. This makes it easy to get started with a great feel and advanced performance pads. 8 pads let you edit on the fly and be truly creative with features such as loop and sample. The 3 band eq allows you to contour the low, mids and highs.  The 2 platters have the familiar feel of the legendary CDJ (Only smaller) and are touch sensitive. This means you can SCRATCH on it!

Overall the DDJ-200 is a great option for a starting controller. It is inexpensive yet still packs in a ton of features and for just a bit more will allow you to scratch.  At a bit higher price point compared to the Partymix, you’ll have to decide if the extra performance pads, the ability to scratch and the ability to work with smart devices makes it worth it for you.

PROS – Inexpensive, basics + scratching, unlocks rekordbox software ($99 value), able to use with most devices and computer, able to use with files or streaming.

CONS – No built in sound card, no microphone input, all plastic construction

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Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 2-Channel DJ Controller for Serato

For as long as I can remember the Pioneer DDJ-SB has been our best selling and best overall starting DJ controller. It is simply an amazing value at its respective price point.  The familiar Pioneer DJ layout is also inherited here. It has a solid feeling metal plate as its top and better feeling larger touch sensitive platters.  It also has a built-in sound card, so you can output to a sound system. A headphone input allowing you to monitor your cue.  If you are looking to be a “Serato” DJ then this is the best entry point at a great price & pro features.

Did you have something to say?  Well the DDJ-SB3 has got you covered as it adds in a microphone input with a separate volume control.  Now you can plug in a microphone and speak, rap or sing over the music at the same time!  This now will give you everything you need in a “Mixer” to actually be able to properly do a private event. If you’re looking to do that than the SB3 is definitely the only choice for you out of the 3.  It is truly a professional grade DJ controller. It has everything you need from the basics to more advanced features all for under $250!

Designed for a killer performance

8 performance pads with advanced effects like slicer, roll, beat jump, transposition. There are also built in scratch effects from non other than DJ Jazzy Jeff himself.    By the way, what are scratch effects?  They are sound effects that make you sound like you can scratch, even when you can’t. Get ready to sound like Jazzy J himself while you’re learning to master the skill on the platters.

It also gives you a sampler and looping capability. It has pretty much everything you need to sound and scratch like a pro.  A well designed layout has everything where you need it. It has all of the aforementioned features in this article that you should expect in a 2-channel performance controller.

Wrapping things up

Overall, it is easy to see why The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 has been our best selling DJ controller under $250 for several years. It gives everything you could need to start. Where it lacks is in the robustness of the mixer. As you start you will only need what is within the controller anyway. If at some point you decide to upgrade, the SB3 makes the world’s best backup!

It is the most expensive of the 3, so it may be best for ages 10+. But certainly can be used by people younger than that.  If you are serious about being a DJ then the DDJ-SB3 is the right starting DJ controller choice for you.

PROS – Premium build quality with metal plate, full featured sound card with microphone input, 8 performance pads with advanced features, scratch effects, sound effects

CONS – Only works with a computer and software, limited mixer with rca unbalanced audio outputs, although metal top plate plastic mostly everywhere else

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Honorable mention – Pioneer DJ DDJ-400

It is certainly hard to narrow it down to 3, so we wanted to give 1 honorable mention.  The DDJ-400 is the fraternal twin of the DDJ-SB3 that is designed to work only with Pioneer’s Rekordbox software.  If you are someone who loves Pioneer DJ and wants to use their software, then the DDJ-400 absolutely deserves a look!

Not only does it have almost the same exact design of the DDJ-SB3 (Except it has slightly longer faders & slightly smaller platters), it includes a FREE license key to activate the FULL VERSION of Rekordbox software. This is a $99 value in itself.

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Final Thoughts.

So what do you think, did I miss anything?  Personally I’ve never been a fan of DJ controllers from Hercules, but mostly because I’ve never really used them and the ones that I’v seem just simply did not impress me.  What else is there, I’m sure I’m missing something.

Questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below or feel free to contact us directly.  Let us know how we can help don’t forget about our free buying advice.

Until next time, see you on the flip side

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