Best DJ Effects Controller to Drop Special FX & Samples

Dj using a dj effects controller and software
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A DJ effects (or FX) controller is a powerful tool that can instantly boost your DJ rig into a powerhouse of looping and sampling capabilities.

Although it definitely takes a complete beginner a bit of a learning curve to setup up and use your DJ effects controller, this can typically be done within a day or so of time. 

DJ FX controllers are generally very small and affordable. Therefore, finding a cheap DJ FX controller is really easy to do. 

On this page, we will start by looking at some of the overall best DJ effects controllers, then finish by showing you how to set up a DJ effects controllers and various other FAQs. 

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Comparison Chart

1. Novation MK2 Launchpad

2. Novation Launch Control XL

3. NI Mikro MK3

4. NI MK3 Full Version

5. Reloop NEON USB

6. NI Maschine Studio

7. Pioneer DDJ-SP1

8. Pioneer DJS-1000

9. NI Traktor Kontrol F1

10. PreSonus ATOM

Best DJ Effects (FX) Controllers

To get started, let's go ahead and explore some of the best DJ effects (FX) controllers. 

Each of the following controllers was chosen in terms of versatility, affordability, and overall capability. 

1. Novation MK2 Launchpad DJ Controller

Novation MK2 Launchpad Review

This portable DJ effects controller has 64 mini pads arranged in a grid format. These mini pads are used to trigger samples, play drum sounds, create loops, and so on.

It is affordable and can be carried anywhere. As a whole, it's versatility and level of potential customization make it a wonderful choice for any DJ. 

What's to like about the Novation MK2 Launchpad?

The device can work seamlessly with any other device without the need for any drivers and can be connected using a USB cord.

You can mix sounds, create loops, control device volume, and much more.

You can also create music on the controller with Ableton Live Lite, and use virtual instruments and drums by Novation Bass Station.

What's not to like about the Novation MK2 Launchpad?

Due to its small size, the Novation MK2 is prone to mechanical damage.

If this concerns you, you can always consider getting a hard travel case. When inside the case, it is dust-proof, shockproof, and resistant to water.

PROS
  • 64 customizable drum pads
  • Can be used with most DJ software
  • Easy setup process
  • Very affordable
CONS
  • Easy to break without a case

2. Novation Launch Control XL DJ Controller

Novation Launch Control XL Review

The Novation Launch Control XL provides a lot more knobs and faders than your typical DJ FX controller.

Like many other top DJ effects controllers, the Novation Launch Control XL is very affordable. 

It features 16 sampler drum pads, 8 different faders, and 24 different knobs which can all be customized. 

When paired with the right samples and DJ software, the Novation Launch Control XL can turn your DJ rig into a live FX and drum machine.

What's to like about the Novation Launch Control XL?

This is a wonderful DJ controller for those who use software like Ableton Live, which leaves plenty of room for FX such as reverb, delays, and so on.

The average FX controller simply cannot keep up with the capabilities provided with a top-quality DJ controller like this one. 

Although this controller doesn't do much outside of effects, samples, drumming, and so on, it is a very affordable tool which DJs can instantly use to boost their skills.

What's not to like about the Novation Launch Control XL?

As affordable as this controller is, the last thing you will be concerned about is whether or not you will be able to purchase it. 

The biggest concerns DJs usually face with a product like this is finding opportunities in your live sets to use it. At least while they are still learning how the controller works, and what it can do. 

Many DJs are so accustomed to spending all their time with other aspects of DJing that it can be difficult to find proper times to use this product and its endless capabilities.

PROS
  • Tons of MIDI knobs, faders, and buttons
  • A great addition to your setup for FX, drumming, looping, and samples
  • Small and portable
  • Very affordable
CONS
  • Could use a little more drum pads
  • Initial setup is usually hard

3. NI Mikro MK3 DJ Controller

NI Mikro MK3 Review

Although a DJ controller like this one might otherwise be used solely in the studio, the NI Mikro MK3 is a powerful addition to any DJ setup.

The Mikro MK3 has 16 different drum pads and the ability to customize various actions of the controller, including the ability to control EQ and pitch or create drums and chords during your live sets. 

What's to like about the NI Mikro MK3?

There are many features to like about this model. For starters, it is the most affordable option among an elite set of DJ effects controllers from Native Instruments.

You can conveniently switch instruments and presets, and change sounds without altering the music playing live on the PA.

It is also equipped with a smart strip, a feature on other similar DJ FX controllers made by Native Instruments. The smart strip helps to modify sounds and create effects, and even create sounds like guitar and drum sounds

It has multi-colored ultra-sensitive responsive pads which respond to the touch and work in four different settings.

With these responsive drum pads, you can drum in Pad Mode, play your own riffs in Keyboard Mode, create chord progressions in Chord Mode, and program in step-sequencer style with Step Mode.

What's not to like about the NI Mikro MK3?

People who want the absolute most from their DJ FX controller tend to look towards the other NI products since this is the entry-level product in the highly-acclaimed Maschine Series from Native Instruments.

If you have the extra money to invest, you should consider some of the more expensive Maschine products in order to receive the most features.  

For its very reasonable price, the Mikro MK3 stands out as a great first DJ FX controller. 

PROS
  • 16 drum pads that work in 4 settings
  • Programmable and completely customizable
  • Works with most DJ software and DAWs
  • Reasonable price
CONS
  • Other Maschine products have more features

4. Native Instruments Maschine MK3 DJ Controller

NI Maschine MK3 Review

This is a slight upgrade from the Native Instruments Mikro MK3.

The MK3 DJ effects controller comes with its own audio interface and features its color own screens.

With the Maschine MK3 Drum Controller, DJs can mix live sets with a lot more FX and tools in their disposal. Like the other similar controllers from NI, the device can work for sampling, mixer, FX, and drumming. 

This one also comes with a built-in audio interface. Overall, this is a premium DJ FX controller and heavily worth considering if you have the money. 

What's to like about the NI Maschine MK3?

One feature which stands out with this model is that it comes with two hi-res color screens.

Altogether, these can be used to help browse, preview, edit and slice saved projects.

Or in this case, throw in a DJ effect, sample, or some drums. 

The device features 16 colorful smart pads to program your sounds, samples, FX, and so on as drums.

They are also sensitive to velocity, making it so heavier hits have a louder sound than lighter ones.  

A smart strip is also included in the device to control pitch, twist sounds, add in some FX, or add in some live samples and drums.

The benefit of this device stems out from the ease and convenience in creating DJ effects and drum beats.

It is very easy to use and it also helps to improve creativity.

What's not to like about the NI Maschine MK3?

This is a DJ controller which is considered by many to be the overall best DJ effects controller.

There are some clear potential problems such as the devices large size, heavier weight, and comparatively expensive price.  

Only if you have the extra space and funds, then, should you consider getting this DJ controller. 

PROS
  • 16 drum pads that work in 4 settings
  • Hi-Res color screens
  • Comes included with a large sample library ready to use
CONS
  • Not in everybody's budget
  • Larger than what some DJs can take on the road

5. Reloop NEON DJ FX Controller

Reloop NEON Review

When it comes to portability, the Reloop NEON takes the crown.

This is a DJ effects controller which is only 11 inches by 6 inches. It weighs less than two pounds.

Featuring a 2-year limited warranty, the Reloop Neon DJ controller can be used for a wide array of potential techniques and tricks.

Designed to work flawlessly with a Serato Sample Pack, it can also be used successfully with many different types of DJ software

What's to like about the Reloop NEON?

The affordability and portability of this product are what make it one of the best DJ effects controllers. 

You can easily throw in DJ sound effects, create loops, add in some drum sounds, and so on without taking up too much space on your soundboard. 

For the affordable price of this model, those who are completely new to using DJ FX samples and controllers usually make this one of their top choices. 

What's not to like about the Reloop NEON?

This is a great DJ FX controller to learn on, but it doesn't quite compare to other models with well over 20 different drum pads for you to use. 

In addition, many people may find that this product is a little lacking in features. If you already have a DJ controller with 8 drum pads as an example, this controller won't add too much onto your rig. 

PROS
  • Very Portable
  • Used for loops, samples, drumming, cueing, and sound FX. 
  • Extremely affordable
CONS
  • Only 8 drum pads
  • Buttons are a little small

6. Native Instruments Maschine Studio

NI Maschine Studio Review

A device like the Maschine Studio is quite the tool for a professional DJ.

If you like the other NI DJ FX controllers featured here, this one will likely be the one you want the most.

This is the ultimate Native Instruments DJ FX controller. ​​​ 

The Maschine Studio Features 16 drum pads, a library of synth, samples, FX, and the MIDI functionality to make it work with your favorite DJ software. 

The device is also very easy for a beginner DJ to set up and use.

What's to like about the NI Maschine Studio?

The device features two hi-resolution color screens multi-color drum pads. It is backed up with a vast 8GB sound library that contains lots of different DJ FX and samples.

The software also features a sequencer, used to edit patterns. This same tool can be used to modify the velocity of synths and drum sounds. This makes a tool DJs can use both at home for making their own mixes, as well as for live sets. 

The Maschine Studio is a perfect bridge between software and hardware. This is the ultimate tool to help DJs boost their creativity. 

What's not to like about the NI Maschine Studio?

Getting a high-quality DJ effects controller like this one usually comes at a cost.

As we look through the feature list of this product, the Maschine Studio clearly stands out as one of the overall best DJ effects controllers.

Just be willing to pay the extra cost if you want to get a premium effects controller like this one. 

PROS
  • The most versatile product in the Maschine Series from NI. 
  • 8GB sound library included
  •  24 built-in DJ effects
  • Included premium software
  • Hi-res color screens
CONS
  • A little expensive
  • Too big and heavy to some

7. Pioneer DDJ-SP1

Pioneer DDJ-SP1 Review

The Pioneer DDJ-SP1 is a premium DJ effects controller which is great for people who do not have enough drum pads or FX knobs and faders in their current setup.

For an affordable price, you can quickly add in 16 different drum pads, and 8  different customizable FX knobs to your rig

This product is capable of natively controlling Serato, but can also be easily used Rekordbox DJ software, Virtual DJ, Traktor, or your favorite MIDI DJ software.

What's to like about the Pioneer DDJ-SP1?

This product has also been mapped to able to control each of the best DJ software options. It can control features such as looping, cueing, samples, FX, and drum sounds.

For the price and portability of this product, it is a great option for anyone who doesn't already have the MIDI capabilities offered by this product in their setup.

What's not to like about the Pioneer DDJ-SP1?

Many people who already have one of the best DJ controllers from Pioneer will already be able to do all the tasks granted by this product.

In addition, the price that you pay for a product like this one can also be used in getting a controller like the Pioneer DDJ-SB3, which already has just about all the capabilities of this product and a similar price.

PROS
  • Small and portable
  • Native support for Serato
  • Great add-on to a setup without drum pads or FX
  • Reasonable price
CONS
  • Priced similarly to various DJ controllers which can do just about all the same features and more

8. Pioneer DJS-1000

Pioneer DJS-1000 Review

This is the DJ effects controller that DJs dream of having. The ultimate tool in creativity, the DJS-1000 is a wonderful choice if you have the budget. 

This controller features a touch screen, tons of different drum pads and sequencer pads, the ability to create live audio samples, change the pitch on a touch strip, and much more. 

What's to like about the Pioneer DJS-1000?

There is an endless level of creativity that a DJ has with this device. From included drum and synth loops, to letting the DJ create their own samples to chop up and use.

This device works perfectly alongside a DJ controller, making it the perfect tool for live remixes and sets. 

This is the ultimate DJ effects controller that, if you can afford, will help you boost your skills overnight.

What's not to like about the Pioneer DJS-1000?

One feature which can be critiqued about this device is the large and heavy size that makes it a little more difficult for a controller DJ to incorporate into their small and humble setup.

Also, be sure to save up some money for this DJ FX controller. To get a premium device like this one, you need to be ready to pay the big bucks. 

PROS
  • The ultimate tool for creativity and FX
  • Touch screen controls
  • 32 different drum pads
  • Can create loops, adjust pitch, and tempo
CONS
  • A little pricey
  • Big & heavy

9. Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 DJ Controller

NI Traktor Kontrol F1 Review

The Traktor Kontrol F1 is the ultimate DJ FX controller for anybody who uses Traktor.

It is designed to work flawlessly with each of the remix sets on Traktor and comes included with a 2GB sound library.

Best of all, this is a MIDI device which can easily be programmed for use on your favorite DJ software.

For the price and portability of the Kontrol F1, it is no wonder that this continuously stands out as one of the best DJ effects controllers.

What's to like about the NI Traktor Kontrol F1?

This is probably the best DJ FX controller that is as portable as this one is. Despite its small size, it still manages to include 16 different drum pads, four faders, and four knobs.

When paired with the shift button, these buttons create endless levels of creativity. 

All other buttons are used to control which mode that you use the Kontrol F1 in. You can also customize them to your own desired functions. 

You can import numerous samples of popular DJ effects, use the included ones, and/or add in your own personal DJ effects.

The device comes equipped and ready to use the included beats, bass, leads, and samples which are great for Hip-Hop, Techno, House, Dubstep, Pop, and so on. 

What's not to like about the NI Traktor Kontrol F1?

The Traktor Kontrol F1 stands out for its portability and affordability

However, one thing we really don't like is the level of difficulty typically entailed for those who want to use this on software other than Traktor.

Additionally, although the product can add up to 64 different sounds on each channel with the drum pads, you need to use the shift button constantly to access these capabilities.

PROS
  • Can create up to 64 different samples on each channel
  • Doesn't take up much space
  • Very affordable
CONS
  • Best for Traktor users
  • Only controls one deck at a time
  • Shift button needs to be used a lot

10. PreSonus ATOM Production and Drum Pad Controller

PreSonus ATOM Review

The PreSonus ATOM is another great choice for those who want an affordable DJ FX controller that comes with the standard features necessary.

Capable of working with any top DJ software, this affordable DJ effects controller also has 20 total customizable MIDI buttons.

What's to like about the PreSonus ATOM?

This controller features 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads, and 20 total MIDI buttons which you can customize. 

To get started out of the box, there is included software which you might use solely for testing.

​Although you could thereotically run the included Studio One Artist software in the background while using your favorite DJ software, we recommend finding the ATOM MIDI map for your DJ software

This usually is as simple as searching your software manufacturer's website. 

​Since this is a MIDI device, though, anybody with basic technical skills can customize this controller to do whatever they wish during their live DJ sets.

What's not to like about the PreSonus ATOM?

The fact that this product doesn't come with a license to one of the top DJ software options may be a concern to some.

This typically means that you will need to spend some time setting up your own custom settings before you're ready to take this controller out for a gig. 

If you already have a software in mind, the, make sure that there is a MIDI map available for this controller. Otherwise, you will need to use the included Studio One Artist software. 

PROS
  • 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads
  • 20 overall MIDI buttons
  • Can be used on mobile phones & tablets
  • Compatible with most DJ software
  • 8 assignable pad banks
  • Very affordable price
CONS
  • Doesn't come included with top DJ software
  • You need to set up samples yourself if you don't use the included software

Buyers Guide & FAQs

Now that we have broken down some of the top DJ effects (FX) controllers, let's go ahead and cover some of the major aspects behind these products that you need to be aware of. 

Below, we will cover the most important details behind DJ FX controllers such as the setup and installation process, and basic features offered by all DJ FX controllers. Finally, we will answer some of the most common questions people may have. 

What are DJ Effects (FX) Controllers?

DJ effects (or FX) controllers are gadgets used to add various DJ sound effects to a DJ set. Although some DJ mixers and gear have in-built effects section, they don't always have the same capabilities and level of versatility.

To describe it simply, DJ effects controllers are equipment which DJs use to add in sound FX, drum sounds, loops, and adjust the overall sound of their mixes.

Some DJ effects controller are loaded with their own popular DJ sound FX and samples for you to mix into your sets and remixes. To do this, they will typically use performance pads (or drum pads) which the DJ uses like an instrument. 

How to Set Up a DJ Effects (FX) Controller?

In the best case scenario, setting up your DJ effects controller is as simple as plugging it in and pressing play. This isn't always the case, though.

Start by checking with your favorite option to confirm that it can work with your specific gear and software. Typically, a DJ FX controller is MIDI-ready and capable of being used on all popular platforms.

In other cases when the DJ FX controller doesn't work right out of the box, you typically need to download drivers, firmware, and the latest MIDI maps. If your favorite software supports your DJ FX controller, you will easily find the latest MIDI map.

In the event that your DJ software doesn't offer a MIDI map for your DJ effects controller, you may need to manually create your own MIDI maps.

Are DJ Effects Controllers Easy to Setup & Use?

DJ effects controllers are designed to help both beginner and experienced DJs to elevate their game and start mixing in new sounds and with new techniques.

The average DJ FX controller comes with a clear instructional manual and certain software. When you follow the instructions and use the software the controller was made for, there are typically little-to-no problems during the setup process.

Since these are MIDI devices, though, you can use a DJ effects controller on many different types of software and for many potential types of setups. In these circumstances, they can be a lot more difficult to set up and use.

What Can DJ Effects (FX) Controllers Do?

DJ effects controllers are built to add in some more room for customization and live remixes into your sets. Although some may be used at home for studio and production purposes, they also can be used by DJs during live sets.

Here are some of the popular DJ FX controller features:

  • Create cues
  • Chop up tracks and create samples
  • Make drum loops
  • Add in sound loops
  • Add in sound FX
  • Adjust tempo & volume

What Software Can Use DJ Effects Controllers?

To use a DJ effects controller, you will also need to have software and a laptop. Many DJs will add a DJ effects controller into their existing set up to make it easier to add in effects and live samples. 

Usually, DJ effects controllers are built to make them compatible with all types of MIDI-ready software.

However, unless you plan on doing manual MIDI maps, it's important to check with your favorite software beforehand to confirm that they support your DJ FX controller. 

Do Professionals Use DJ FX Controllers?

DJ FX controllers are one of the most coveted and widely sought after tools to a professional DJ. In many cases, a professional DJ would prefer to use a DJ FX controller in their setup but is limited by either space or money. When money and space aren't a problem, just about any pro DJ wants a nice FX controller in their setup. 

FINAL VERDICT

In the above selections for the best DJ effects controller, there are tons of high-quality options presented that could make a wonderful addition to your setup. Due to its high level of versatility and drum pads, though, we think that the Novation MK2 Launchpad is a great first option. 

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