Even though iPad DJ software can be very expansive and well thought out, the iPad itself is not the best device to use as the control hub.
Controlling everything live on a small screen will increase the chances of error and ultimately limit your abilities.
A good DJ controller is a much more intuitive and enjoyable way to play your music. Not only do they provide an amazingly satisfying tactile experience, but their layout is designed to give you more control and facilitate awesome performances.
So, In this article, we’re going to be reviewing five of the very best DJ controllers on the market that you can wire up to your iPad.
We’re also going to spin through a quick buyer’s guide and FAQ section so you know exactly what to look for. You already have the passion and talent. All you need now is that perfect bit of gear.
Got a Spot at Your Favourite Club This Weekend?
It’s cool, we’ve got your back. Here’s our top pick ready to go right here.
OUR TOP PICK
Chopping things up in the number one spot is a controller with great connectivity. The Traktor MK3 comes with a dedicated iPad USB port.
Other controllers are a little more complex to wire into an iPad, so this is a great feature. In addition, it has recesses in the backplate for fitting an iPad stand, another really nice touch.
All the buttons are made of durable plastic and have a really nice feeling click. In regards to pads, they’re rubber with RGB color backings and have an incredibly fast response rate.
Turning the jog wheels, you get a really nice scratch response and their weight offers a lot of control. The rubber perimeter of the wheels has a herringbone grip pattern to help with nudging too.
The up/down faders have that satisfying amount of tension that’s normally indicative of quality components. You also get a really cool blue LED meter gauge in between them.
Unfortunately, the crossfader is a little bit looser than the up/downs, which can make scratching kind of difficult; however, the fluidity makes it quite effective for mixing.
The tempo fader is a little smaller than you’d like, but the tension allows for precision adjustments.
The two-channel mixer is pretty classic and not all that much different to our other picks to look at, but the built-in Traktor effects sound amazing.
The filter is highly resonant and smooth, the reverb is otherworldly and cavernous, the delay is subtle and practical, and the flanger is airy and lush. You also get ‘transport modes’ which are essentially a couple of extra time-based effects.
This isn't the most advanced DJ controller on the market, but the fact it’s been designed with iPad usage in mind makes it the perfect number one spot on this list.
- Designed specifically for use with an iPad
- Great built-in effects
- Nice up/down and tempo faders
- Nice feeling buttons and colorful pads
- Nice grip and tension on the jog wheels
- Not too pricey
- Sleek design
- Good build quality
- Effects aren’t as tweakable as we’d like
- A little heavy for a portable design
Tearing things up at number two is an incredibly compact device designed specifically for use with iPads and iPhones.
This miniature music machine has a built-in dock at the back of the front plate for your phone or tablet to sit. This is such a nice feature as it adds a oneness to the separate devices that will improve your flow.
The layout is a little bit confusing because it’s so far removed from a classic design, but once you get the hang of things, it shouldn’t be a problem.
The jog wheels are smaller than normal but feel really nice and the response rate is great. Three effects and the loop functions are assigned to buttons around the top halves of the jog wheel.
The performance pads have been replaced by some space-kind hot-cue buttons that arc around the base of the jog wheels. We prefer pads but agree buttons work better on a smaller controller.
The faders could definitely use an upgrade as they feel a little loose, but they’re still perfectly functional and serve the device well.
In regards to software, DDJ -WeGO4 comes with intuitive RekordBox DJ software which is great for beginners and intermediate DJs.
This is by far one of the most conveniently sized dj controllers ever made. If you play a lot of parties or some really small booths, this is absolutely perfect for you.
- Super lightweight and portable
- Has most of the functionality of a much bigger device
- Jog wheels have a lovely feel
- You can work the effects and fader with on hand if necessary
- Has dock for iPad or iPhone
- Compatible with Pioneers iPad DJ app
- Dock doesn’t fit new generation iPads
- Lights can get distracting
- More tension in the faders would be nice
Featuring a classic ‘club’ layout, the 400 really gives you the feeling you’re at the helm of a quality in-house system without sacrificing any portability.
It comes with built-in tutorials you can view on your iPad to help you master the techniques that are going to help you go the distance as a DJ. It comes with the same RekordBox software as our second pick.
The performance pads feel responsive and add a great tactility to your session. The Beat FX module gives you access to a bunch of professional-grade effects that automatically match your track tempo.
The two-channel mixer has master, trim, 3-band EQ, and filter controls all set up in a familiar and intuitive manner. The tempo sliders are a little bigger than other Pioneer designs which allows you to be more precise when it comes to beat-matching.
The cross and up/down faders also feel like they’re made with quality components. They’re firm but not too stiff, perfect for quick mixing and cutting.
The DDJ-400 is powered by USB, has an RCA master out, and a single unbalanced mic input with basic level control if you like to do the odd bit of MCing.
The jog wheels feel particularly nice to use thanks to the grooves around the edges providing loads of grip.
The DDJ-400 is the perfect controller for helping a new or intermediate DJ develop their skills. It’s not oversaturated with complicated functions, neither is it so simplistic you’ll outgrow it any time soon.
- Built-in tutorials to help you refine your skills
- Decent looping function
- Quality performance pads are great for triggering and manipulating loops
- Large tempo-sliders for precision beat-matching
- Well designed and responsive jog wheels
- Comes with easy to use RekordBox software
- Lightweight and portable
- Has a classic club layout
- Not suitable for more advanced DJs
- RekordBox doesn’t suit everyone
- Some customers had problems with the headphone jack
This is the ultimate, all in 1, DJ controller, equipped with everything you could ever need to chop, mash, mix, scratch, and get people throwing some serious shapes.
Let's start with the performance pads. They’re a super low-latency and pressure-sensitive design that gives you access to 11 Serato Pro features. It’s this quality of pads that really makes the SX3 feel like more of an instrument than a control hub.
Pioneer have also given the jog wheels a low-latency update that provides a great scratch response. The wheels also have illuminated cue markers so you never have to spread concentration between the controller and your laptop.
We really love the social potential of this controller. It comes kitted with dual USB ports so two devices can connect simultaneously. This means you can do shows with another DJ, cue up a double-length show, or use a backup computer.
With 3 mic inputs, you can collaborate with friends or other artists for some truly awesome shows.
Each input has a dedicated mixing section with 3-band EQ, low pass filter, compressor, and reverb options so you can manipulate vocal performance in real-time to suit your cued tracks, builds, and drops.
The SX3 is for people who really take their music seriously. It’s a high-performance controller designed for use by professionals. If you want the best of the best, look no further.
- Low-latency pads for precision triggering
- Low-latency jog wheels offer great scratch response
- Full deck controls with 4-way mixer
- 3 mic inputs with dedicated mixing options
- Dual USB port for connecting to two devices
- Comes with Serato DJ Pro software and expansion packs
- Needle search to navigate songs
- Connects to external hardware such as turntables and CDJs
- Will require a USB power hub to connect to iPad
- Not suitable for beginner
Here you get what appear to be normal 3-band EQs, but by clicking the small touch fx button on the left-hand side, most of the knobs on the NV2 become buttons.
You can just touch effects or EQs on and off and create amazing sudden tonal shifts. The touch fx on the right-hand side has even more secondary touch functions.
One of the coolest things about the Numark NV2 is the built-in full-color display. Instead of having to menu dive on your iPad or computer, you simply use the button layout on either side of the screen to order playlists into key, BPM, or artist.
Moving on to the hardware, the jog wheels are quite small for a controller this size, but they’re really responsive and feel nice under your fingers.
The ergonomic metal grip is pretty refreshing too as they’re normally rubber. The pitch fader is a professional grade design that feels smooth no matter where you take it.
The pads are quite small as well, but they’re great quality, finger width apart, velocity-sensitive, and backlit. You can also assign them to 10 performance features.
This beast comes with Serato DJ software and it has 6 effects banks that can be split between the channels or layer up on a single channel. This means you can get really experimental and even venture into ambient territories.
This is a really special machine and it would be way up on our list based on pure functionality, but it may be a little bit harder to sync up with your iPad than some of the other more specialist designs.
- Full-color display reduces attention on iPad or computer
- 6 separate effects banks can be split between or stacked on channels
- Expansive four-channel capabilities
- Touch function turns dials into buttons
- Quality jog wheels
- 16 RGB performance pads with versatile applications
- Comes with Serato DJ software
- Stand-alone unit. Doesn’t connect to external hardware such as turntables or CDJs
- Might be tricky to hook up to your iPad
Best iPad DJ Controller Buyer’s Guide
It’s always good to set yourself a budget, especially when the product you’re shopping for has such a wide range of price points.
Some DJ controllers are very complex. Try and find one that caters to your skill level.
If you buy a really complicated system, you’re probably wasting money on features you don’t need or understand.
You should also avoid designs that are too simplistic for you or ones you think you’ll outgrow quickly. The sweet spot is one that pushes you a little bit out of your comfort zone.
Most DJ controllers come with at least some built-in effects. It’s good to read up on how many come with each controller, what they are, and how they’re applied to the music.
It’s not a big problem if the control doesn't have all your favorites. You can get more effects via your software.
If you prefer the tactility and sound of hardware, lots of DJs use guitar pedals to get the sounds they want.
This may not seem like a big deal, but one of the best things about a DJ controller is their tactility.
Buying a controller with flimsy or excessively loose faders is really going to effect the feel of the device and in some cases, may even stilt performance.
A good fader should have a measured tension. You don’t want it flapping around because it will be impossible to perform with precision.
On the other side of things, it shouldn’t be too stiff either as you do need to be able to move them quickly.
Performance pads are awesome!
They’re used on DJ controllers and samplers mostly and they provide a more enjoyable rhythmic experience.
Performance pads need to be highly functional as they take up quite a bit of space on your controller. You should try to find out how many functions can be assigned to them and how responsive they are.
They need to be incredibly quick otherwise they’ll trigger off-beat and ruin your performance. If they have a sampler function, it’s best that they’re velocity-sensitive. This means you can control the volume of the sample in a very natural way.
Durability is also a big factor here. Being that you’re essentially using them like drums, they need to be able to take some force.
Performance pads should also feel great.
They should be made of high-quality rubber and feel comfortable under your fingers.
DJ controllers need to be incredibly well built as they’re likely going to be used as portable devices. They need to be able to handle the rigors of travel.
Try and find out what materials a DJ controller is made of, and check out plenty of customer reviews.
You’re going to want to take your new setup to hangs, parties, festivals, and clubs, so it needs to be as lightweight as possible.
Most DJ controller manufacturers also produce specialist bags for each model, so a practical shape isn’t as important as the weight.
If you do want something that’s going to fit in a backpack, look for some compact designs like the Pioneer WeGO4.
DJ controllers almost always come equipped with DJ software.
If you’re not familiar with a particular program or it’s not compatible with your iPad, it might be worth opting for a different product. Some of the best iPad programs are Traktor DJ, djay2, and deej.
There’s almost always a way to connect an iPad to a DJ controller, but it might be a little confusing.
If you want something that’s plugin and play, try to find a controller that was designed with iPad use as a priority. Some might have dedicated iPad USB ports or docks.
Take note of the generation of iPad you use. A DJ controller might not be compatible with new or old iterations of the device.
There will likely be adaptors to solve these issues, but it’s good to be aware of before you buy.
If a DJ controller has a single USB power port, it means it’s phantom powered by your computer.
To use it with your iPad, it’s likely you’ll need to invest in a USB power hub adapter. This will act as the power source for the controller in the absence of a computer.
If a DJ controller comes with its own sound card, you’ll be able to check audio via headphones before you hook it up to a bigger audio system.
If that sounds appealing, make sure you check your controller comes with one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Serato run on iPad?
Serato Remote is a program specially designed for use on an iPad.
Can you use Spotify to DJ?
Yes, you can, but it depends on what software you use.
Some aren't yet compatible.
A DJ controller that’s compatible with an iPad is an awesome investment. It’s a party you can take with you anywhere.
We hope this article helps you accomplish some of your DJing goals, whether you aspire to be a professional or if you just want to make a few friends move at house parties.
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