Purchasing First DJ Controller

Hey Guys!

So I’ve been thinking about getting into DJing and making it a career somehow. I find it so fascinating and want to be like one of those guys who works at night clubs and tours around the country and stuff.

I already have an old mixer and some old turntables and am looking into how to hook than all together and stuff, but I’m still pretty new.

Although I am really a little worried because it all seems so complicated, and I’m not sure if turntables are a really good idea. Like I said, I want to make this my job somehow. If possible

This is why I started looking at DJ controllers. I found this website that compares some of the best DJ controllers, and am starting to consider purchasing the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 reviewed here:

I simply cannot afford to spend more than $250 on a controller right now, so I thought this one looked good. What do you guys think?

Ideally, what I’m looking for is something that doesn’t require too much skill or knowledge for a beginner.

Thank ahead for all the help!

I don’t mean to sound dismissive but at that price point I would look closer at the software the controller is meant to be used with. The controllers themselves will be pretty similar.

If you really want to tour nationally eventually youll want to learn to mix on Pioneer CDJs. That is the industry standard. That or vinyl.

I currently use Pioneer XDJ 700s but the Pioneer Rekordbox Software isn’t great IMO.

Personally Id look into Traktor and and an NI controller then migrate to Pioneer hardware when you can afford it. I think they are better controllers for the money at the price point you are talking.

Unfortunately this isn’t a cheap hobby to get into.

Thanks for the reply. I WISH I could purchase a couple XDJ 700s :slight_smile: I see that the Pioneer SB3 comes with Serato, but here is a site that says it can be used with Traktor:


What do you think about starting off with a SB3? Could I still book some of my first gigs with a controller like this? Or will clients know I’m a total NOOB? I have to start from somewhere??!!

After the controller, there are speakers, amplifiers, and an audio interface to purchase too??? I think this is why I might need a budget option like the SB3 to start

I would recommend you start with budget, powered studio monitors. Mackie, KRK Rokits, Presonous etc. And frankly if you summed the signal to mono you could get away with one monitor (for the purposes of DJing you don’t absolutely need two monitors, its just nice to have two).

Personally I’d rank the major DJ software as:

Controllers are pretty well accepted, except by the “vinyl purist” community. I played with some vinyl DJing but I’ve been all controllers and CDJs otherwise. The big thing with controllers (whether they are connected to a laptop or not) is that when you show up to a gig you and/or the sound guy have to get shit all plugged in and functioning ideally while someone else is still playing so there is no interruption in the mix. Believe it or not this can be a huge pain in the ass for all involved. With Pioneer gear all you have to do is walking with your USB stick or CDs and you are good to go.

I’d also temper your expectations a little bit. You are probably going to want to build up you skill level for at least a year before playing live in front of a crowd that isn’t just friends over for an evening. I don’t care one way or the other if people use sync (I use it depending on what I’m trying to accomplish in a mix). But learning how to blend tracks is more than just beat matching.

Whether it is fair or, yes, some people will judge you for showing up with an entry level controller and a laptop to a gig. Whoever is giving you the gig would need to know that in advance for logistical reasons (and I think that even if they don’t ask, you should tell them so it isn’t an issue at the gig).

I cut my teeth DJing gigs that were not EDM events. I played gigs were then needed a DJ to play music for 15-20 minutes between whatever was happening on stage. I played Top 40 at regular bars. I did house parties.

Yea, so your shopping list is (if using a computer to DJ):


A couple things…if you buy a better controller you can get an interface and a controller all in one. When I recently got back into DJing after a long hiatus and wasn’t sure if I really wanted to get back into it I got a Traktor Kontrol Z1. No platters, but it is an interface and controller all in one for like $199. It only comes with Traktor LE, which is probably enough to get you started. Traktor 3 is $99.

I like this controller because it is basic–it gives you all the controls over the standard functions of a DJ mixer and pretty much nothing else. So you’d be building up you skills in a way that would transfer to virtually any other DJ system and you won’t be relying on functions you might loose when you upgrade.

There are plenty of other controllers that include an audio interface and I’d strongly suggest you look into that as you might save yourself some money.

As far as inexpensive DJ headphones there are a zillion “shoot outs” on that topic on the internet. Just pick something, frankly, if your budget is low.

As for monitors I’d defo by powered monitors and they don’t have to be studio use accurate. Again, these don’t need to be super expensive. Loud and with hyped bass is fine for DJ monitors.

Honestly man, I"m just starting out DJ’ing as well - and if you have a decent laptop or computer, the Pioneer DDJ-SB3 has been great to me. I think it’s around $230 (mine was a bday gift from the wife, but it’s not expensive). The serato software is just the light version, and I think full version is like $200… but… the lite version has everything you need to at least learn the basics with some great features.

I would recommend them, it’s a solid deck and been essential to learn on… if you’re on a strict budget. Otherwise relic has you covered on any more intermediate recs. :slight_smile:

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I can’t recommend that controller specifically since I’ve never used it. On paper it looks good feature-wise. @nose seems to like his so there is a good recommendation, I think.

Everything I’ve used that would even be a relative comparison to the SB3 is over a decade old now. The first DJ controller I bought was a true piece of shit–not even fun for fooling around at home on my own. No disrespect intended, but I think they price point your at–around $200–is probably the lowest you can go with the expectation that you’ll really be able to learn on it.

Things I think it has going for it–its Pioneer and I’ve been really happy with their least expensive media players (XDJ 700s). It uses Serato which has got to be lightyears better than Rekordbox which I’ve tried using with my XDJs and I think its pretty garbage lol.

Just a random thought on headphones–I wouldn’t worry about headphones that exaggerate bass for DJing, that’s fine. Defo make sure when you are reading headphone shootouts you are reading ones about DJ headphones or which headphones are good for DJing. A studio headphone shoot out will 100% send you in the wrong direction. You’ll probably also want closed back for DJing. I happen to use open back ones since I can’t afford a nice pair just for DJing ATM and sometimes its hard to hear at a loud party or w/e.

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Also, last note on the SB3. There was a good review that sums it up perfectly so you know what expectations to have. The review said “this thing is slightly above what would be considered a toy.”

And like a toy, you can have a lot of fun with it, but the harsh reality of DJ’ing is that the price of entry for a club-ready set up is fairly high. Relic gave good tips on headphones, and those are a huge one.

Have you thought about doing vinyl encoded MP3? On actual decks, and not digidecks?

Thanks a lot for the information guys, this is really helpful. I think @relic is perhaps right that the SB3 will be great to start out. I need a nice controller to use, this one will seem to work perfectly while I practice and save up for something nicer.

Also, just a random question. Do you guys think the SB3 will be good enough to do my first gigs? Assuming I get enough good enough that I am confident enough to take on gigs. That, and get a PA system of some sort. The PA system question we can save for another post.

I guess the main question I’m trying to get it is:

Would you guys say the SB3 is the best controller to start a business with (eventually)? Or, what should I save up for?

Have you started to get pretty good? Like, can you do basic transitions and stuff? How long have you been practicing?

I was able to stitch together my first mix (of my own music, so that helped, because I knew it) after learning about 10 hours. After about 20-40 hours, I was able to have lots of fun with it and learn the ins and outs of how serato does it’s cuts, hot-cues, and other features.

This is totally capable of live play, in my opinion. Pioneer makes excellent gear, even if this is considered “low end”. It’s been essential for learning. All the knobs, crossfader, and buttons feel very professional and high quality, with no issues out of the box.

It all comes down to the software, really, which I can’t give much of an opinion on since I’ve only ever used Serato. I love it though, I was able to build various playlists and assign them as needed and get them all worked out. Each deck is technically two, as per usual with digidecks, and you can swap between them seamlessly.

The decks themselves don’t turn, there is no motors, however the metal plates on top are crazy sensitive and touch-activated so if you touch them the track stops “spinning”. You can also scratch with them, the simulated scratch on the software is surprisingly great.

It works right out of the box with a simple software install, and plugs in via USB. No interface needed.

I’ve never played live with mine (my great dane stepped on my laptop, cracking the monitor, sadly) but I eventually plan to. Getting good headphones will probably be the next step.

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Some photos for reference:

Well shit, I didn’t notice it had an audio interface. I thought it was just a MIDI controller basically. That’s cool, good eye. So that is something you can strike off your shopping list @DJStella

I won’t say yes or no to would I gig with the SB3 because obviously you could show up to a bar or club or party, plug it and your laptop into a PA and do a gig and have it go great. My issues with controllers that are dependent on a laptop is that they are dependent on a laptop. For myself, I feel like if you are going the controller route that you need a reliable laptop that is basically for DJing only. On the other hand, last year I played three nights at a festival with a non-dedicated mid-range HP Windows 10 laptop and a low-end controller (NI Kontrol Z1) and everything went great the second two nights. The first night I had to use the Z1 with my iPad (which was my back up for the laptop).

Really my suggestion is just get the SB3, @nose seems to like it well enough and I agree Pioneer, even their lower end gear, seems well made. You already seem set on it so just get it, buy like 50 songs you really like and practice mixing them until you have flawless mix recorded.

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