If you’re looking into starting a career as a DJ, your first step is curating your playlist (the website, DJ Intelligence, lists “Uptown Funk,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the top three most-requested party starters). The second step is picking up a solid mixing deck, that will let you cue up your tracks, sync and scratch like a pro.
While full set-ups can be difficult to move around and run you into the thousands of dollars, these DJ controllers are all travel-friendly and fit into a backpack or tote. They connect easily with a laptop or computer and come with multiple inputs and outputs for your headphones and speakers. The best part: These units take the most essential mixing functions from a large spread and condense them onto one deck, so you can spend less time fussing with the buttons and controls, and more time planning your next track.
We’ve found six entry-level mix makers that let you get your musical side project started without breaking the bank. These portable decks are super intuitive and easy to use, packed with all the essential features for mixing, and will help you get your DJ aspirations off the ground — and onto the dance floor.
1. Numark DJ2GO2 Pocket DJ Controller
This pencil-case–sized DJ controller includes a built-in audio card and comes with handy headphone jacks and USB connectivity. The deck includes two jog wheels, easy-to-use sync/cue/play buttons, four pad modes and a crossfader — basically all the tools you need to start mixing, fading and queuing up your tracks.
The backlit controls are easy to see, even in the dark, and the DJ2GO2 comes pre-mapped with Serato DJ Intro (though it’s compatible with virtually all other DJ software applications too). This controller works with Mac and Windows OS. Purchase: $69.40 on Amazon.com.
2. Hercules DJ
With a built-in sound card, loop and FX sampler, this mini mixer has everything you need to get going. Small enough to take wherever you go, it also comes with vibrant backlights and strobe effects. The built-in headphone jack lets you listen to your mix before sending it to the speakers, while two jog wheels let you scratch, pause and loop songs with ease. Works with Windows 7, 8, 10 or macOS 10.11 or later. Purchase: $79.98 on Amazon.com.
3. Behringer DJ MIDI Controller
Basically everything your average DJ could need packed inside one compact box, this MIDI controller comes with a sleek built-in audio interface and an impressive mixer section with crossfader and two channel faders. It also features backlit buttons so you can see what you’re doing in the dark. The two touch-sensitive jog wheels are well-sized and well-positioned for more natural scratching. For under $100 you get a fast, responsive and powerful 4-channel USB audio interface. Note: this is slightly larger than some of the other decks on our list, but at just over 7 x 10 inches, it’s still smaller than a pad of paper. Works with Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. Purchase: $98.99 on Amazon.com.
4. Numark Mixtrack Pro 3
A more robust option, what makes the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 so great is that it only requires one plug — you can do everything via USB. It also comes with a built-in sound card that connects directly to your speakers or mic. There are a ton of features packed into this 9 x 21-inch unit, including a multi-function touchstrip, two medium-sized metal jog wheels and two dedicated headphone outputs (in case you’re tag-teaming as a DJ duo or need to swap out in between sets). The Mixtrack’s bigger size means it’s also easier to move around the deck and to see all the buttons. Users say the unit is super durable and easy to navigate, even in the dark. Purchase: $199.00 on Amazon.com.
5. Pioneer DJ
There is no name more synonymous with premium DJ gear and quality audio than Pioneer. An Amazon bestseller, this versatile DJ controller features a smart, intuitive layout and a handy FX fade feature that makes mixing a breeze. It also utilizes low-latency jog wheels to help give more “oomph” to your scratch effects.
Ideal for both pros and beginners alike, the two-channel controller mimics Pioneer’s pricier DJM-S3 mixer, which runs twice the price. Users say all the knobs and controls are intuitively placed around the board, for easy access. We like Pioneer’s “Pad Scratch” function, which adds scratch effects to your tracks with a simple touch of the pads. Co-developed with DJ Jazzy Jeff, the effects replicate patterns from eight of Jeff’s most popular scratch recordings.
This is by far the best-reviewed DJ mixer online, with a 4.6-star rating from more than 12,000 reviews. Purchase: $246.68 on Amazon.com.
6. Roland Serato DJ Controller
This best-selling model gets you the functionality and performance of a full-size DJ setup in a lightweight, portable unit. This deck has the largest platters on our list, and they’re ideal for DJs who like to scratch, as they’re outfitted with super sensitive touchpads and optimized with low latency.
This set includes dedicated play/pause and cue buttons, an on-board 16-step sequencer (accessible via the performance pads) that lets you insert samples on the go, and a special “noise gate,” that actively works to filter out background noise and distortion.
In addition to the smart design and included Serato DJ Pro upgrade (the other models just come with Serato Intro or Serato Lite), this Roland DJ controller also comes with stellar built-in drum kits. Each kit has eight unique sounds to give you even more options to mix and match.
Users say this kit is durable and rugged, and can take some bumps and bruises without throwing off the sound. They also like that the kit has multiple inputs, so you can use it in your music studio to produce tracks, or add live instruments to your mix and really turn up the volume on your next gig. Purchase: $299.99 on Amazon.com.
Portions of this article were republished with the permission of SPY. To read the original article, click here. Editorial products are independently selected. If you buy something from our links, PMC may earn a commission.