Best Beginner DJ Controller: Pioneer DDJ-SB2 Review

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best beginner dj controller - pioneer ddj sb2 front - resized

The Pioneer DDJ-SB2 is by far the best beginner DJ controller on the market. I know from personal experience – this is the first controller I ever owned!

After researching controllers for weeks I was going back and forth between the Pioneer DDJ-SB2 and the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 from Native Instruments. Ultimately it all came down to price. At the time (and likely still when you’re reading this) the DDJ-SB2 was nearly half the price of the Kontrol S2 MK2.

I’ll walk you through some of the questions I had when I first researched what controller would be best for a beginner DJ like myself and give you an honest and to the point Pioneer DDJ-SB2 review.

What exactly does a controller do? What else will I need?

Traditionally DJs would use turntables and mixers during their sets – the turntables supply the music and the mixers manipulate the sound – adding filters, changing volume, etc.

Instead of having two to four turntables or CDJs along with a mixer, controllers allow you to have all of that functionality combined into one single piece of hardware.

Controllers allow you to control and manipulate sound (e.g. mixing music together) through the use of effects, EQ knobs, hot cues, loop buttons, jog wheels, etc.

Some of the more expensive DJ controllers (like this Denon DJ MCX8000) have built in displays that eliminate the need for a laptop or computer. However, most intro to intermediate level controllers require you to be connected to a laptop.

The screen, whether on the controller itself or on a computer, helps you prepare and visualize tracks.

You’ll also need a pair of headphones. Speakers aren’t necessary to get started, but eventually you may want to mimic the feel of playing a set at a real venue and use your headphones to cue up the next track while you’re playing the master track out of the speakers.

How hard was it to get setup?

Even though this was the first controller I ever got my hands on, setting up the DDJ-SB2 was a breeze. I was up and running in less than ten minutes. Eight of those minutes were probably used downloading and installing my copy of Serato.

Do I need to use Serato?

Nope! I’ve used the DDJ-SB2 with Virtual DJ, and it’s also compatible with other DJ software.

I’ve seen other controllers that have more decks, knobs, and brighter displays. Will this do everything I need it to?

As a beginner you don’t need all of the extra functionality offered by higher-end DJ controllers. It’s easy to get sucked in when more expensive controllers tout their seemingly endless number of effects, have nice bright light up buttons, and big LED screens.

If you’re like most of us, you don’t really want to spend a ton of money on your first controller. Remember, you can always work your way up to more expensive controllers.

At first you won’t be using more than two channels, so the two decks offered by the DDJ-SB2 is plenty. If you do feel the need to use four channels, the DDJ-SB2 does offer the ability to switch to control channels 3 & 4 through the two decks available. Deck 1 can control channels 1 & 3, while deck 2 can control channels 2 & 4.

Features

  • best beginner dj controller - pioneer ddj sb2 padsTempo control slides with key lock functionality
  • 8 light-up rubber pads on each deck – the top four control Hot Cues, Loops (both auto and manual), and the Sampler, while the bottom four allow you to Play/Pause, Cue, Sync, and Shift
  • The jog wheels are comfortable and easy to work with. They have a good feel and the can be switch to Vinyl mode, mimicking the turntable feel some traditional DJs crave. I would imagine most of you wouldn’t use this feature, but it’s here in case you want it.
    • One pro tip about the jog wheels – if you need to jump quickly through a song you can hold down the shift button while you rotate the jog wheel and it will move more quickly through the track
  • Two FX knobs – each knob can control up to three effects at a given time. One limitation is that each deck only has one FX knob, so if you have two effects activated they’re both controlled by the same knob. It limits some of the things you can do with effects, but if you’re just starting out activating one effect per deck at any given time should be enough
  • Cue buttons with master/cue volume control
  • Volume sliders for each deck with a smooth crossfader
  • 3-band EQ control with high and low-pass filter controls for each deck
  • Filter fade feature – basically whenever you’re moving the crossfader from one deck to the other it automatically gives the high-pass sound you hear during buildups. If you aren’t comfortable with manually mixing from one song to the other this may be helpful getting you started

Is this really the best beginner DJ controller?

Absolutely. Nothing beats the price, quality, and functionality you get from the Pioneer DDJ-SB2.

You’re going to find yourself spending hours playing with this thing – it’s a ton of fun and a great introduction into the world of DJing.

Check out the Pioneer DDJ-SB2 on Amazon.

See it in action