Best beginner DJ controller

We’re finally going to settle which beginner DJ controller is best for you. So we’re going to compare the following the DJ controllers:

  • #1.DDJ-SB3
  • #2.DDJ-400
  • #3.Tractor S2 MK3
  • #4.Hercules IMPULSE 300

And we’re going to compare these controllers in the two following important categories that really matter in the real world.

  1. Layout hardware and overall usability.
  2. Software features.

#1.Pioneer DJ DDJ-400 (Recordbox DJ)

DDJ-400 Recordbox DJ, Pioneer DJ

Software: Rekordbox DJ|Specifications:18.98 x 2.3 x 10.72|Weight: 4.63 lb|Soundcard:24 bit/44.1 kHz|Channels: 2

So let’s start with the DDJ 400. The overall layout of this unit is more to pioneer deejay equipment such as CDJ and mixers. This is because the deck section and the mixer section look quite the same. And this is a good thing for beginner deejays who see themselves using clubs and equipment in the future.

But for a professional deejay like myself, I personally find the effect section of this unit quite disappointing because you can only activate one effect at a time on one specific deck.

One effect at a time

But if you’re a beginner DJ this is perfect because it makes you focus on one thing, which is a good thing if you really want to master one specific effect at a time like an echo.

About the knobs, faders and jog wheels, well they all feel pretty solid. The knots aren’t too tight. The faders feel very smooth and the jog wheels have a nice weight to them.

Mixing and Scratching

When it comes to mixing and scratching the DDJ 400 is super responsive. Basically mixing is a breeze on this thing and doing more advanced stuff on it is possible. This offer this unit utilizes its record box deejay and a full version of it which means nothing is held back at all.


So you can use all the functions and the features built-in this controller. Like the ability to use sixteen cue points, b jump mode, pad effects, key shift and more. Records box deejay works and functions just like any other deejay software.

But what I personally don’t like about it is its look. I just find it too convoluted complicated and kind of daunting especially for beginner deejays were just starting out. But if you’re willing to learn record books deejay then you’ll find familiarity with it soon enough.

Now the best feature of record box DJ for me is this exclusive feature to transfer cue points with CDJ. This means when you export a cue point song onto a USB the user CDJ the cue points will transfer.

And this is huge because this is the only software that has that function. So if you’re thinking of getting the DDJ 400 as a steppingstone controller to use more exclusive inexpensive equipment from pioneer deejay then get this unit, it is built for you.

#2.Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 (Serato DJ Lite)

DDJ SB3 Serato DJ Lite Pioneer DJ

Dimensions: 19 x 2.3 x 10.72 |Weight: 4.63 lb |Software: Serato DJ Lite|Soundcard:24 bit/44.1 kHz

Now the DDJ SB3 and DDJ 400 are both made by the same company which also means they share similar parts with each other. Like knobs, faders buttons and jog wheels. But what really sets the DDJ SB3 apart from the DDJ 400 are the three following things.

  1. The effect section.
  2. The bigger job wheels.
  3. The tempo Fader section.

And because of that, this controller for me has the best layout of all the controllers in the bunch and that’s because of the flexibility and usability of three effects on one deck.

You simply have more options to play the music and having those options is very valuable for a technical deejay like me that experiment and play around.

On top of that, I also like the size of the jog wheels a lot more. Since they’re bigger they offer more control and though it may not be much it does make a small difference. Having bigger jog wheels just feels better.

So the software for the DDJ SB3 comes out of the box with its Serato DJ light. And it’s a very stripped-down version of the Serato deejay pro and to be honest with you it’s quite disappointing. Especially when you compare it to record box DJ, Tractor and Dejuce.

For example, on Serato DJ Lite you can use a few points on your controller. You also get used to features that lay within your controller as well. You can’t even record your mixes. This is by far my least favorite software out of the whole bunch.

But you still can scratch and do basic mixing in for a beginner DJ. This controller with Serato deejay light will indicate it to your beginning DJ needs. But trust me down the line you really want the greatest Serato deejay pro to access more features like beat drum mode, beat jump mode, slicer mode and a whole lot more.

Serato deejay pro compared to the other software is at the forefront of providing DJ what they want and need. So new equal features often come first for Serato deejay pro users.

So if you’re a beginner deejay getting a DDJ SB3 which Serato DJ Light is okay. But if you really want to unlock the DDJ fullest potential get Serato DJ Pro. So factor that upgrading costs when you purchase this controller.

#3.Tractor S2 MK3 (Native Instruments)

Tractor S2 MK3

Dimensions: 19.13″ / 10.43″ / 2.32″ |Channels: 2|Bit Resolution: 24-bit|Sample Rate: 44.1/48 kHz

Now let’s talk about tractor comeback controller, the S2 MK3. So this controller is the most expensive one out of the whole bunch coming at the 320 dollars.

But it does feel like the most premium one out of the bunch as well. The material this controller is made up of is just better. The plastic cover feels silky and the jog wheels are made of metal which adds good weight to the unit.


The layout is very minimal and simplified looking more into the SB3 and DDJ 400 minus effects section. Just looking at the controller gives you a feeling that is controller is built for some solid mixing. With its big jog wheels and dedicated browse for selecting songs.


In terms of using the controller, the knobs feel tight and the faders feel very smooth and jog wheels have a really nice weight to them. And if you gave me a choice on which controller I like to mix and beat match on, it would be the Tractor S2 MK3 out of everything else out there.


The S2 MK3 compare to S2 MK2 and MK1 has a new feature with his dedicated macro effect knob they can do other effects on the go besides filter.

And this macro effect knob replaces the three effect that obviously we got used to this to the MK1 and MK2. To be honest with you it’s quite limiting and disappointing.

Stripped back

So the S2 MK3 is very stripped back compared to the other controllers on this list.
But for a beginner DJ who is just starting out this actually may be a good thing because it forced the beginner DJ to get used to some very basic DJ functions.

So the S2 MK3 comes the full version of Tractor Pro 3. It operates like any other digital software but does have some unique features like remix decks, practical features like beat roll mode and slicer mode they are all here but with different names and ways to access them.

Difficult mapping

But even though those fun functions are into the software you can’t really access them on S2 MK3 because they really aren’t available on the unit from the getgo. You have to make a custom mapping to do so which for a beginner DJ may be extremely difficult.

So overall the software operates pretty well and the Tractor Pro 3 with S2 MK3 offers everything a beginner DJ will ever want and need when starting out.

#4.Hercules Impulse 300 (Djuced)

Hercules Impulse 300

Dimensions: 480 x 286 x 55mm | Audio: 1/8” stereo (3.5 mm), 24-bit/44.1 kHz|Controls Per Deck: 2 decks

And finally, let’s talk about the Hercules Impulse 300. Now, this controller is the cheapest one from the bunch coming at only 200 dollars. It comes with a full version of Djuced software. What I like most about this controller is that it takes full advantage of every feature Djuce has.

Layout, software, and usability

The knobs, buttons faders and jog wheel all feel pretty standard. The knobs aren’t too tight the buttons are squishy the faders are smooth and the jog wheels are big with a nice adequate weight to them.

So it looks very similar to DDJ SB3 which I really like. And modes like beat slicer mode beat jump mode, and even slip mode they are all here. But there are some features here that are quite unique to this controller only which are quite beneficial for beginner deejays.

One feature is the beat align guidance system which is located near the deck and temple faders section. Having this visual guide in the controller is so helpful because it visually lets you know what direction you should push or pull the plater or just a temple fader too.

And this is extremely useful for the beginner DJ until they getting used to the complicated movements of beat matching.

Now one of the struggles of a beginner deejay is selecting songs and making sure the audience is having a good time. Hercules develops this awesome feature called intelligent music assistant or IMA which helps engage beginner DJs to select the right song at the right time.

And this is based on what’s your library energy level of the song and what’s trending in the world.

I can’t stress enough of how useful this feature is especially for a beginner deejay so are getting used to their tracks and their activity on the dance floor.

And the impulse 300 doesn’t stop there. In the software, they also give you access to in-depth tutorials on how to deejay and use a controller to the best of its ability.

Overall the Hercules Impulse 300 is a perfect DJ controller for a beginner deejay eager to start deejay proficiently ASAP.


So each controller has its own strengths and weaknesses and choosing which controller is best for you, ultimately comes down to your needs as a beginner DJ.

Hercules Impulse 300

If you want to learn DJ ASAP and if you’re on a tight budget and the Hercules impulse 300 it is perfect for you, because of its beginner-friendly and centric features.

DDJ 400

If you see yourself ditching in the club or in a festival with Pioneer digital equipment then consider the DDJ 400 because of record box exclusive features.


If you see yourself using digital equipment and software that is at the forefront of deejay performing then consider the DDJ SB3 for its fun and practical ways to play with music. Just remember to pay a little bit extra for the deejay pro upgrade.

Tractor S2 MK3

And finally, if you see yourself using minimal equipment that has bare features and functionality and you are willing to learn on something like that and you are quite happy with minimal features that focus on pure basic mixing then consider the Tractor S2 MK3.

One Response

  1. oprolevorter September 24, 2019

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