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Regardless of whether you’re an entry-level DJ or a more experienced one, searching for a Serato DJ controller is a smart decision. It goes without saying that the company offers great professional and entry-level controllers.
By far one of the best audio software producers in the industry, Serato DJ has been a favorite choice of DJs for decades. Its high-end products can sometimes leave you speechless. Even though some of them are a bit pricey, you definitely know what you’re paying for. Let’s dig in!
What Is Serato’s Secret?
A lot of people want to know why Serato is so special and why everyone is recommending Serato controllers or other products by the brand. They produce DJ software, but you also hear about their hardware, which makes it a bit difficult to follow.
Unlike Native Instruments and Pioneer DJ who create official hardware units for their DJ software Traktor and Rekordbox DJ, respectively, Serato has a different approach.
In other words, Native Instruments make DJ software and say: “Our Traktor Pro 3 goes with Traktor Kontrol S2 or S4.”
Not to get confused, Native Instruments did not make software that is compatible only with one controller. There are other third-party controllers that are compatible with Traktor Pro 3, for example.
If this wasn’t the case, you would have very little to choose from. The company has produced four DJ controllers and just as many MIDIs.
This is the only point where Serato loses – less flexibility. Serato DJ is software that is licensed to hardware makers, who then produce their own hardware, and make it ultra-compatible with Serato DJ software.
All they care about is doing their part well, and Rane, Numark, or whoever has the license will build the unit. Serato knows how to do its own thing, which is something I appreciate.
Who Has Serato Partnered With?
Since Serato doesn’t produce its own DJ controllers, they’ve partnered with the best DJ companies that would do that job.
One of the first partnerships, taking us back to 2004, was with Rane. Specifically, Rane produced their SL1 audio interface that’s compatible with Serato Scratch Live. This one is now a legacy that has been replaced by Serato DJ software, both Lite and Pro.
This partnership was a big deal, especially for DJs who used turntables. Now, they could select tracks from their Serato software and still use vinyl to manipulate the tracks. Soon, Rane announced its SL2, SL3, and SL4 interfaces, all running with Serato DJ.
Years later, with digital DJing on the rise, the Serato DJ software grew as well. In 2013, Serato totally rebranded and created an umbrella software that would unite Serato Scratch Live and ITCH. The new player on the market was the one you know today – Serato DJ.
The “testing” Serato DJ controller was made in collaboration with Pioneer DJ, which created the famous Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX hardware unit. This one will definitely be on the best list below.
Apart from Rane and Pioneer DJ, Serato collaborates also with Reloop, Numark, Hercules, Denon, Roland, Mixaris, and others. Each of them does a tremendous job at keeping Serato’s name sacred.
Serato DJ Software
The software that the company offers has evolved over time. Serato started with Serato DJ Intro, Scratch Live, and ITCH, and has had a good run with them. With time, they created Serato DJ, which replaced the existing DJ software platforms.
Serato DJ Lite And DJ Pro
I recently wrote an article where I compare these two software programs by Serato DJ. If you’re interested in more details about their similarities and differences, take a look at it. In this chapter, we’ll only talk about the differences between the two, regarding Serato DJ controllers.
I always advise beginner DJs to start with Serato DJ Lite. First of all, it’s free to download, so you don’t have to worry about losing money in case you don’t like it. Most entry-level controllers will come with DJ Lite.
On the other hand, Serato DJ Pro is made, as the name suggests, for professionals. You should at least know how to beatmatch if you opt for this software. The truth is, you’ll probably want to upgrade to Pro from Lite at some point. That will cost you some $150.
Can You Still Use Legacy Serato DJ Software?
Legacy products are those that have been replaced by a newer version with more features. But this doesn’t mean that you are no longer able to use them. You could still go to Serato’s website and download Scratch Live, or Serato ITCH.
However, this will only give you basic features and effects. That was the whole point of having newer DJ software. For real DJing or music-making, consider a more sophisticated software, like Rekordbox DJ, if not Serato DJ.
By the way, the Pioneer DDJ 1000 was specifically designed to be used with Rekordbox DJ.
Anyway, regardless of the Serato software that you’ll use, the good thing about the company is that they have excellent and highly comprehensive tutorials on how to get started. This is especially good news for beginners.
Top 10 Serato DJ Pro Controllers
Overall Best: Reloop Mixon 4
The Reloop Mixon 4 is a four-channel controller for Serato DJ Pro, which is very easy to use, intuitive, and suitable for all sorts of venues. It’s quite big but very compact and can be carried around town without any major difficulties.
It’s very well built, and it has a huge mixer section, with EQ filters above each channel. It’s an amazing Serato controller with big and shiny platters that are smartly placed so as not to interfere with the other controls. Otherwise, an accidental scratch could occur if the platter is in the way.
Below the jog wheels, the Reloop has eight performance pads per deck, making it possible to trigger various Serato DJ effects (FX), such as hot cues, sampler, slicer, loop roll, and other features that will make your DJ mix sound better.
The Mixon 4-channel controller is a cross-platform unit, meaning that it has support for Android and Windows, as well as for iOS and Mac. It’s a plug-and-play method that makes the DJ controller ready for use with a laptop that has Serato DJ installed.
Versatility is a strong side of this Serato DJ controller, as you can connect up to four turntables to it. It has multiple inputs and outputs for DJ booth monitors, headphones, microphones, or any other third-party device.
On the other hand, while reading reviews I stumbled upon some comments criticizing the audio output, due to a poorer-than-ideal sound card. Another user reported that the jog wheels started malfunctioning soon after use.
The controller can be bought for some $600.
- Good for practice at home and gigs at the club;
- Good interface;
- Cross-platform DJ controller;
- Flexible connectivity;
- Audio output not so powerful;
- Jog wheels’ quality is questionable.
Runner-Up: Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3
The DDJ SB3 is one of Pioneer DJ’s leading Serato DJ controllers. Officially, it came out with Serato DJ Lite, so the unit is obviously designed for entry-level DJs. However, once you get better, you can upgrade to Pro and start using more FX.
The Pioneer DDJ SB3 DJ controller became very popular thanks to the pad scratch effect, which was designed in collaboration with DJ Jazzy Jeff. With the new feature, you can scratch without using turntables, but with a simple push of the pad scratch.
Mixing has been made easy with the Pioneer DDJ SB3 using the FX Fade feature, which reduces the volume and applies effects simultaneously. This will cause the tracks to blend smoothly together, even if their energy levels are not the same.
Build quality is another strong side of the Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3. It’s made of high-quality materials while being light and compact. With two handles on the sides, you’ll be able to carry this one everywhere you want.
It’s a two-channel DJ controller, but with four decks. This means that you can upload up to four tracks but will only be able to manipulate them through the two existing channels. The Pioneer DDJ SB3 operates with a clear and bassy audio output.
If nothing else (and there’s a lot going for it, anyway), the Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 controller is pretty affordable, as you can find it even for some $300. At the same time, it has many inputs and outputs on the back and a simple USB plug-and-play connection.
- Good for beginners;
- Great for scratchers;
- Good build quality;
- Pretty affordable.
- “Only” two channels;
- Comes with Serato DJ Lite.
Best For Live Mixing: Roland DJ-808
The Roland DJ-808 Serato controller is a four-channel DJ controller that runs with Serato DJ Pro. It is very nicely built with high-quality materials. The unit is a bit bulky, but still light and elegant when it comes to transporting it around town.
But the biggest move by the Roland Corporation was the introduction of a built-in drum machine step sequencer, reproducing sounds from the company’s old drum machines such as the TR-S 808, 909, 707, and 606.
If this doesn’t mean anything to you, you must’ve forgotten that Roland was the first company to produce drum machines back in the ‘80s. Anyway, the Roland DJ-808 has 16 =0step sequencers, meaning that you can use 16 buttons to program drum hits, inspired by the company’s old drum machines.
To apply the sequencer you have to choose a drum kit. This is done by holding the shift button and pressing the drum kit button you want to have. You then have to decide whether you want a bass drum, a snare one, and so on. Then, you choose one of the 16 buttons to save the pattern.
The Roland DJ-808 Serato DJ controller has three EQ filters above each channel, accompanied by an FX knob. There is a very smooth crossfader as well as a switch for the fader curve. Below the jog wheels, there are eight performance pads per deck, joined by an FX section.
I love the jog wheels on this DJ controller. They are quite big and thick, and hefty – which you want in a controller. When you touch them, you have the feeling that you’re working on a Pioneer DDJ controller. In other words, great quality on the platters.
- Four channels;
- Built-in drum machine;
- EQ filters, FX section;
- High-quality jog wheels;
- A niche product, meaning it’s not made for wide usage;
- Might be complicated for beginners.
Best Budget-Friendly: Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
Numark has launched its Mixtrack Pro series in collaboration with Serato DJ, and the Pro 3 is perhaps the best one so far. Other well-known Serato controllers from the Mixtrack series are the Pro II, FX, and the initial Numark Mixtrack Pro.
The Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 is a budget DJ controller and it will cost you only $200. This makes it one of the best entry-level controllers and will give you a great sense of DJing. Soon, you will be ready to take on something bigger and more professional.
It comes with Serato DJ Lite since it’s made to give you the basics. If you want to upgrade it to Serato DJ Pro, you’ll have to pay $150 for lifetime use or subscribe for $9.99 a month.
The unit itself has a modern design and decent jog wheels covered in LED lighting. Beneath them, you have eight performance pads per deck, including the usual FX such as auto loop and a sampler.
A downside of the Numark Mixtrack Pro is the knobs and pitch faders that aren’t really of the best quality. They do resemble the price, but it would be nice if we had knobs that we’re not afraid to manipulate.
Flexibility is a good side of the Numark Mixtrack Pro as you have several RCA and XLR outputs, in case you want to hook up a third-party device or an instrument. Plugging in a microphone is also an option, while the unit itself has a very easy USB plugin.
- Super affordable;
- Great for beginner DJs;
- Has all basic FX;
- Good connectivity;
- USB plugin.
- Knobs and pitch faders of questionable build quality;
- Comes with Serato DJ Lite.
Favorite Old-School Design: Mixars Primo
Mixars Primo, as the name suggests, is the company’s first DJ controller for Serato. With a very simple design, it’s quite easy to use, yet it has all the necessary features and effects that a professional DJ would need.
The price is quite low if you take into account that it has everything you need from a high-quality DJ set. Plus, it comes with a Serato DJ Pro license which would cost you $150 otherwise. This way, it comprises almost half of the controller’s value, which is around some $330.
Primo has big jog wheels that feel comfortable under your fingertips surrounded by LED lights. It’s a two-channel controller but with 4 decks, so you can cue up the next tracks in advance. It has a high-quality sound card integrated guaranteeing crisp sound output.
For your DJ skills, the Primo DJ controller offers sixteen performance pads in total or eight per deck. It includes all the necessary FX such as a slicer, sampler, hot cue, and roll. There are also other effects apart from the basics that you can launch with Primo, such as echo, for example.
Apart from the echo effect, there are others dedicated to each channel. Those are the filters dedicated to smoothen up the frequencies, but also the crush or noise effects. In other words, your creativity can truly find an outlet with the Primo Serato controller.
Although it has a sturdy build, the controller is still very compact and easy to carry around. There are two auxiliary inputs on the back to hook up your stereo system, as well as connections for a microphone or another device.
- Easy to use, professional;
- Includes all necessary FX;
- LED lighting;
- 4 deck controller;
- Good build-quality, compact.
- Outmoded design.
Best With Huge Platters: Pioneer DJ DDJ 1000-SRT
The famous Pioneer DDJ 1000 is a familiar face for most DJs. It’s a powerful 4-channel controller with a unique and smooth club layout. The progressive design has been one of my favorite things regarding this DJ controller.
This Pioneer DDJ controller has quite big CDJ jog wheels, excellent for scratching and manipulating tracks in any way. There is a wide mixer section, as the whole layout is full of buttons and knobs, but somehow intuitive.
The jog wheels have LED lighting and display important information about the songs that are playing on the decks, such as BPM, track position, etc. The crossfader is smooth and made with care and quality, so I guarantee that it’ll last a long, long time.
The Pioneer DDJ 1000 has eight performance pads per deck, with built-in sound effects that come with the Serato DJ Pro software. Bear in mind that the DDJ 1000 can be used with the Rekordbox DJ software as well, you just need to transition it.
This Serato controller also offers a lot in the way of connectivity. It offers dual USB ports, meaning that you can hook up two computers and perform back-to-back with someone. At the same time, there are RCA and XLR master outputs on the back.
The price is a bit high for this Pioneer DDJ controller and will cost you a bit over $1,200. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re a DJ who knows that this is one of the best DJ controllers on the market.
- Four channels;
- Cool design and excellent build quality;
- Huge CDJ jog wheels;
- High-quality knobs and faders;
- Versatile connectivity.
- A bit pricey;
- Not for beginners.
Best Quality: Numark NS7
The Numark NS7 DJ controller captures our attention with the glamorous look, lights, and screens that are all over this unit. That’s a big pro for the NS7 because you always know which track you’re playing and have all the desired information communicated via visual effects at any time.
This Serato controller is the favorite among turntable enthusiasts as it offers real 7” platters that are touch-sensitive just like real ones. There’s even a featured direct-drive motor beneath for the complete turntable experience.
The build quality is superb, comprising a rugged, full-metal construction. You will notice the quality once you lift it and feel it in your hands. The NS7 is by far one of the most durable and firmest Serato controllers.
The interface comprises touch-sensitive knobs used to control the EQ filters. The same goes for the performance pads, of which 16 are available including all the FX.
Apart from the regular effects, it offers additional ones such as extensive loop and cue. It has a 4-channel, built-in audio mixer as well as 4 decks. It opens up great possibilities for DJs to upload as many audio files as they wish.
The controller’s size, however, is something that I don’t like. It’s big, but with so many options and screens, it’s impossible for it to be smaller. Although it’s not that heavy, its size makes it tricky to transport around town.
Overall, I find the price to be super fair compared to what this controller offers. It can be yours for some $700, almost twice the price of some other Serato controllers that we reviewed in this article.
- LCD screens;
- Real 7” jog wheels;
- 4-channel, 4-deck controller;
- Touch-sensitive knobs and pads;
- Fair price.
- Size is big – so it’s a bit tricky to pack it and carry it.
Most Portable: Pioneer DJ DDJ SR2
The Pioneer DJ DDJ SR2 controller is a successor of the SR model, with enhanced hardware capabilities that completely take advantage of all the features offered by Serato Pro. It has two channels but is a 4-deck DJ controller.
You can connect turntables and use the controller semi-digitally, but to do so, you’d have to upgrade to Serato’s DVS expansion pack. This will allow you to select tracks from your laptop, but manipulate them via turntables.
The Pioneer DDJ SR2 DJ controller comes with 16 performance pads, all executing the best Serato FX. Moreover, on the left-hand side, it has the Pause and Play button, as well as the Sync button, which will match your tracks by BPM once you activate it.
On the back, it has several inputs and outputs, including RCA, XLR, and TRS slots. You can hook up a microphone, an instrument, or another controller if you like. It comprises two phono and line outputs, meaning that you can connect more than “just” one stereo system to it.
It has a USB slot that you can use to connect the controller to the laptop or to charge the SR2. This Pioneer DJ controller can also be used as a standalone digital mixer.
The jog wheels and the mixer section are very broad and easy to use. Each channel has its own EQ knobs, including knobs for the master channel. The headphone output is placed on the front of the unit, making it more accessible.
- 4-deck controller;
- Can be used as a standalone mixer, DVS;
- Has sync button;
- Plenty of connectivity options;
- USB charge;
- Clear interface.
- A bit pricey.
Best Splurge: Denon DJ Prime 4
The Denon Prime 4 DJ controller is a magnificent unit comprising four channels and DJ Pro. Apart from the software, it has paid access to Serato’s DVS expansion pack, meaning that you can spin using turntables at any given moment.
It has great performance features, packing sixteen pads with the newest Serato FX, divided eight per deck. The platters, on the other hand, are big and smooth, with excellent sensitivity.
On the top, there is a responsive and smooth touchscreen that will give you all the information regarding the song you’re playing. This could even save you some space since you don’t need to take a laptop in the DJ booth. Of course, that is still an option.
The DJ controller looks well-built, with a fine metal finish. It’s quite heavy when you lift it, which is good for resonance, but tricky if you want to carry it around a lot. I’d advise that you get a case for this one since you have a screen to look after.
The controller comprises a library similar to the one of Rekordbox DJ if you’ve had the chance to use it. It means that you can import songs, artwork, change the titles if you wish, and you can sort them into playlists or crates.
Moreover, you can analyze the library by the key or pitch it’s in, all using the controller alone. Apart from the regular effects, you can add hot cues, trigger autoloop, slicer, and so on. The price of the unit is a bit high at some $1,800.
- LCD screen substitutes the laptop;
- Smart library;
- Dozens of effects;
- High-quality build;
- Firm and durable.
- The most expensive controller on the list.
Best For Entry-Level DJs: Denon DJ MC2000
The Denon DJ MC2000 DJ controller has everything a beginner DJ would need. It’s a plug-and-play controller meaning there is no need to install any drivers to have it running. It comes with Serato Lite but you could use any other software you like, although the Lite would work the best.
The company has put real effort into making the MC2000, which can initially be seen from the wide, massive interface, accompanied by precise touch-sensitive jog wheels. It has two decks and just enough effects for you to choose from.
“Just enough” means that there are no more than four per deck, but if you’re an entry-level DJ, that should be plenty. The area above the decks contains the effects, cue, sample, and loop controls.
Moreover, It’s USB-powered, has an unbalanced master output, a connection for the headphones on the front, plus an input for a mic along with an AUX input for your stereo system. That’s a lot of connectivity options for a pretty small DJ controller.
The decks are very precise, although some of you might find them small. I prefer sensitivity over size, but I can understand why some people with larger fingers have had trouble with these platters.
The controller is really simple to set up and offers reliable performance throughout. There are no pages of options that you have to consider, nor are there mapping files or audio configurations to worry about – you can just plug it in and play.
- Huge interface;
- Intuitive software;
- Good connectivity.
- Jog wheels could be bigger.
I hope that the top-10 list met your expectations. The selected items are some of my favorites, and I personally own some of them. Those of you who follow my articles on a regular basis may already have an idea about that.
Anyway, there are some things that you have to know and do before you purchase a DJ controller. By following these tips, you’ll walk out of the store with a controller that you really need and like. So, what’s there to know?
Consult A Friend
If you’re in this business, there is a great possibility that you have DJ friends or at least one DJ friend. Some of them may already own a unit that you have your eye on. Ask about their experience with it, are they happy? Do they regret buying the controller in question?
Asking a friend is more than googling or reading reviews. Although it’s important to read before making a purchase, a friend’s opinion might take you in another direction. So, don’t be ashamed, ask first and buy second!
Know Your Needs
If you’ve only had one gig in your lifetime, do you need a $1,000-worth Pioneer controller? Probably not. Instead, you’d be happy with something around $300 that comes with four pads, two channels, and two decks.
This is not a matter of money and how deep your pockets are. If you’re not hungry, would you buy a large pizza? Probably not. So, if you haven’t mastered some basic DJing skills yet, don’t rush into buying a fancy unit you don’t know how to use.
Do Your Research
This step is very important. Not only when you’re purchasing DJ equipment, but before making any “pricey” decision in life. But, to stick to the point, do some research before you decide on the best DJ controller for your needs.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t think it’s enough that you know that auxiliary inputs are good for connectivity. Instead, Google the features and specs so you get a better feel of what to expect.
The best DJ controllers are out there, you just need to find the right one for you. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into DJ controllers and the offer on the market. All of the controllers differ from one another, but let’s sum up the recommendations.
If you’re looking for something that you can use in a home environment, backyard party, and at the club, I think the Reloop Mixon 4 is a good choice. It’s practically a treat for that price.
However, if you want to own a controller that’s earned its name, the Pioneer DDJ SB3 would be something I advise, especially due to the scratchpad designed by DJ Jazzy Jeff. Plus, this controller is popular for being used by famous artists around the globe.
But if you have enough money, experience, and want something big and super durable, take another look at the Numark NS7. Remember that I said I don’t recommend it to beginners.
If you’re shopping on a budget, I can’t say that there is a better choice than the Numark Mixtrack Pro. Another cool and cheap controller from the list is the Denon MC2000, but I prefer the first one.
Finally, all of the DJ controllers from the list are of high quality and offer great performance. I selected them carefully and read even more reviews and articles before giving you my last call. So, take another look at the list, because your next DJ controller might be waiting there.
Are Serato Controllers Cheap?
Unlike Native Instruments and Pioneer DJ, which are not cheap!, Serato isn’t bound with a concrete hardware producer. That’s why you will find expensive DJ controllers such as the Pioneer ones, but also cheaper versions like the ones by Reloop, for example.
Is It Worth Upgrading To Serato DJ Pro?
Serato DJ Lite is free to use and download and will give you a great introduction to DJing. There is a practice mode where you will learn how to make your first mixes. However, DJ Pro offers much more, but it will cost you $150 to upgrade.
If you’ve mastered the beginner level of DJing, I think it’s totally worth it if you upgrade to Pro. It will open many more features and effects that will take your DJing to the next level.
Is Serato Software Free?
Serato offers two packages of software based on your experience level. Serato DJ software is divided into Serato DJ Lite and Serato DJ Pro. The former is free to download and use (as I mentioned several times), while the latter costs $150 for life or $9.99 per month.