In recent times Pioneer have gone from a company that seemed to be ignoring the surge in demand for hardware controllers, instead concentrating on their CDJs and mixers to now becoming arguably one of the rulers of the roost in the DJ Controller market with options to suit every budget as well as all of the most popular DJ software titles around. Pioneer’s latest shining star is the DDJ-SX a Serato specific controller which is likely to bring delight to Serato DJ aficionados the world over.
The DDJ-SX is Pioneer’s flagship Serato controller with all of the bells and whistles one would expect along with a few surprises that will no doubt cause much delight in the Serato community. By being so late to the party Pioneer have cunningly managed to include all of the best features to be found on other currently available controllers and tightly integrated them with Serato DJ to create a “best in class” product ensuring it is streets ahead of the competition when it comes to a professional option for all Serato loving DJs.
One of the most attractive features of the DDJ-SX is the fact that it is a proper four channel mixer as well as being a four channel controller with some rather clever integrated touches that make this controller very intuitive when using four decks. The DDJ-SX has four proper audio channels complete with faders, EQ and filters on each channel.
One of the slick tricks with the DDJ-SX is that both of the controller sections can be selected to control either two decks independently or by using the Dual Deck control feature - two decks can be controlled simultaneously, which is a rather neat trick indeed especially for clever DJs who like to trick out their mixes. The controller sections also feature a ‘Soft Pick-Up’ function that eliminates jumps in parameter settings when switching between virtual decks a problem found on some other manufacturers controllers. The DDJ-SX also has LEDs next to the pitch fader to give a visual indication when the ‘Soft Pick Up’ mode is active.
When it comes to filters and effects the DDJ-SX has taken something of a ‘belt and braces’ approach to things. Each channel on the mixer comes equipped with the ‘one knob filter’ found on many of Pioneers mixers which is software independent and will work on external input sources as well as Serato’s virtual channels.
The DDJ-SX also takes full advantage of the lovely new iZotope powered effects recently added to Serato’s arsenal with an effect control section found at the top of each controller section. Effect control is taken care of by three knobs each with a button below them used to engage the effect or select effects when used in conjunction with the shift button. Finally each of the effect control sections has another knob used to control the beat settings in addition to a button which can be used to tap in the tempo manually as well as toggling single or multi FX mode.
At the heart of the DDJ-SX is a stand-alone four channel mixer with a layout that will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has used a Pioneer mixer before. Each channel has three EQ knobs, a gain knob as well as the previously mentioned one-knob filter, an up-fader, cue button and cross-fader select switch. At the top of each channel is a nicely sized Track Load button along with two smaller FX engage buttons.
As this is also a stand-alone mixer each of the channels can use various input sources such as CD players or decks in addition to being a Serato DJ channel. Channel sources are selected via switches on the front of the unit next to the headphone volume controls and headphone socket, while this location is much better than at the back of the unit it is a poor second to having these switches located on the control surface at the top of the channel, as is usually the case with Pioneer mixers. Each of the channels has also has a nicely sized 10 segment UV meter but the master UV meter is half this size but still perfectly usable for checking that everything is within the green and not clipping.
At the top of the master section of the mixer is a large push button knob and two buttons which take care of track browsing duties along with a master gain knob, booth gain knob and a headphone mix control knob. The sampler volume and cuing are controlled via a master cue button along with a channel fader found at the bottom of the master section of the mixer. At the front of the DDJ-SX we find knobs to control the crossfader curve, headphone volume levels as well as a headphone connection points with both a large and small jacks being catered for.
The controller sections of the DDJ-SX are immediately familiar and have borrowed heavily from the latest range of CDJ players both in layout as well as controls. Each of the two control sections is dominated by a nicely sized silver jog wheel with an LCD display at the centre to give visual feedback as to the current track position. The jog wheels are very high resolution giving great performance and can be used in either CDJ mode or Vinyl mode. A feature taken from the latest CDJs is the Slip mode with can be engaged via a button which is located next to the jog wheels and is an inclusion that will make a lot of DJs very happy indeed. At the top of the controller sections in addition to the filter control sections is a touch sensitive needle search strip that can be used to skip though tracks. A bank of eight nicely sized back-lit drum pad style buttons dominate the area underneath the jog wheels providing hot cue, roll, slicer and sampler triggering functions along with a loop control section found on the right hand side of the trigger pads. The mouth-wateringly good deck select and dual control function rounds out a feature packed controller section to ensure the DDJ-SX stands head and shoulders above the competition.
For the layout of the controller sections of the DDJ-SX Pioneer have opted for a side-by-side approach ala CDJs rather than a mirrored approach, while this will be viewed favourably by many DJs it has led to some compromises with the layout. The left deck’s pitch fader is very easy to knock when using the EQs on channel one of the mixer and both sides suffer from the proximity of the pitch fader to the jog wheels which makes it very easy to knock the pitch while using the jog wheels. While these issues are a possible annoyance they are not major flaws and will likely become less of an issue once DJs become familiar with the DDJ-SX.
The build quality and sound quality of the DDJ-SX are both excellent and compliment a very well thought out controller. Due to the size of the DDJ-SX it is not very portable and will be a pain to fit into most DJ boxes and while this is a drawback it is not surprising given the amount of features packed into this box of tricks.
|Ease of use||8.5|
|Value for money||8.0|
Free upgrades to Serato DJ for life, dual deck control mode, slip mode and a four channel stand-alone mixer come together to make a seriously good controller.
There are some small niggles with control placements which could lead to disaster for the unwary but nothing that should put potential owners off purchasing this controller.
Pioneer have managed to combine the best features of their various products to create a fantastic four channel, four deck hardware controller for Serato DJ that is streets ahead of the competition.
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.