The Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 was the first controller announced for Serato DJ Lite, and both were designed to welcome aspiring DJs into the scene. With an intuitive layout mimicking those found in more professional gear, the DDJ-SB3 made learning how to DJ easier. Plus, when you’ve mastered the basics using Serato DJ Lite, you can unlock more advanced effects and features by subscribing to Serato DJ Pro and continue to develop your skills on the same device.
If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you’ve reached the point where you’ve outgrown your entry-level DJ controller. First of all, congratulations! The journey couldn’t have been easy at all, and you should be proud of your progress. Before you excitedly hurry off and buy new gear for your Pioneer DJ system, make sure you’re really ready and aren’t just about to needlessly spend money on something you can’t handle yet.
When To Upgrade Your Pioneer: DJ DDJ SB3
Becoming a professional DJ means more than just owning expensive DJ equipment, but you will indeed need better gear sooner or later to fully realize your potential.
You should upgrade your hopefully well-used Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 if you can say yes to all of these:
- You’ve mastered all of the Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 buttons and dials and can easily find which one you need without thinking about it.
- You know exactly what to do to get the effect you want while performing live and not just while practicing.
- You feel limited, not overwhelmed, by the number of things you can do with your controller.
Recall the time when you first got your hands on your Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 and were awed by its plethora of buttons. If you find this difficult because the entire interface just looks so familiar by this point, and you need even more buttons, you should be ready to step up your game for the next challenge.
What follows is a brief list of recommended upgrades for the intermediate-level DJ hungry to advance. Note that whichever piece of gear you buy next is a significant investment in your DJ career, as this can by no means be considered cheap.
Pioneer DJ DDJ SZ2
The Pioneer DJ DDJ SZ2 is the new flagship four-channel DJ controller for Serato DJ Pro. It’s built with dedicated buttons specifically for the new features introduced in the latest version of the software that it comes bundled with, such as pitch play, key sync, key shift, and Serato Flip. Moreover, it has multicolored backlit performance pads that provide instant information on modes and playback status.
The full-sized aluminum jog wheels on the Pioneer DJ DDJ SZ2 provide improved scratching precision and responsiveness via lighted cue point markers and countdowns. There’s also a Jog Feeling Adjust setting you can use to optimize its resistance to better match your preferences.
You’ll love its crystal-clear sound, thanks to a high-performance converter from Cirrus Logic and low-jitter oscillator that replicates club sounds with authority. Moreover, you can rely on its sturdy build and Magvel crossfaders to retain their sensitivity even after long and continued use.
Overall, if you want a fully equipped DJ controller that radiates a professional vibe, the Pioneer DJ DDJ SZ2 is a top-notch choice, especially if you don’t care how much it costs. It’s big and heavy, with plenty of space for all the controls you might want in a DJ controller that’s still portable enough.
Layout mirrors CDJ-style set-up with dual USB port for Native support, with FXnd dedicated controls for new Serrate DJ features smooth DJ changeovers.
Pioneer DJ S9
With customizable crossfaders, buttons, and pads, the two-channel Pioneer DJ S9 mixer lets you tweak it to match your style. It has a robust build with the same high-quality audio output that can be found on the DJM-2000NXS, Pioneer’s flagship four-channel mixer.
Tune its Magvel Fader Pro crossfaders the way you want with adjustable curve and reverse settings, and control its rebound with three different types of bumpers. Two large style levers let you quickly trigger effects or lock them on or off with satisfying responsiveness. Furthermore, the Pioneer DJ S9 has 16 touch pads in different colors that can also be mapped to other live mixing functions to line up with visual cues that work for you.
What makes the Pioneer DJ S9 great for people who are new to mixers is that it’s very easy to understand and use. You’ll be able to connect it to the rest of your gear in a few minutes, and it’s even better if you’ve been using Serato DJ Pro, as its buttons are designed to be fully integrated within the software.
If you want to develop your turntable skills while still retaining controller techniques, the Pioneer DJ S9 is a great premium battle mixer that will not disappoint.
With durable magnetic crossfader that delivers a smooth response, customizable FX Buttons. Rotate the dial to add a high/low pass filter to FX on each channel.
Pioneer DJ SYSTEM XDJ RX2
For something that will probably feel completely different to someone who learned on the Serato DJ software duo, consider the XDJ-RX2, an all-in-one Pioneer DJ system for rekordbox dj. It’s an upgrade of the previous Pioneer XDJ-RX, inheriting the features and design elements of the popular NXS2 series, and it can be used even with just music stored on a flash drive via USB. That’s right; you won’t even need to bring a laptop along when you play at venues if you’ve got your tracks prepared and uploaded.
You’ll definitely appreciate how premium the two-deck two-channel XDJ-RX2 feels, with its large touchscreen enabling track searching via QWERTY keyboard. It has double the pads of its predecessor, with eight per deck instead of four, and they’re more in line with the standards set by other Pioneer controllers as they’re tactile instead of clicky. The layout of the mixer on this Pioneer DJ system is taken straight from the professional club mixer Nexus 2, and the actual buttons and knobs themselves feel sturdier and thicker.
As mentioned, the XDJ-RX2 already comes with a free license for rekordbox dj, and you’ll want to really dive into this new software to get the most out of this unit. The USB connection lets you import tracks you’ve prepared directly from your library. Even better, you can mix videos and images from your laptop or even live footage using rekordbox video, which also lets you add real-time overlays and effects.
There’s nothing that says “budget controller” on this Pioneer DJ system, making it a big step up from your beginner-level controller. Despite that, it’s still reasonably affordable as it offers the best perks from the NXS2 series at a fraction of the price.
7-Inch large touch screen and other features from the CDJ-2000NXS2. Great layout and performance with multicolored performance pads.
Leveling up your DJ game
Ultimately, whichever piece of gear you go for next will depend on how you want to develop your DJ skills. If you learned how to DJ using the Pioneer DJ DDJ SB3 with Serato DJ software, it makes sense to stick with it and choose equipment with native support for it, so you don’t have to relearn everything. However, don’t be limited to your first choice, especially if you feel like it doesn’t match your style at all.
While the recommendations listed above are probably more on the higher end of their price range, they do offer a lot of room to grow and expand your abilities as a DJ. It can be daunting to spend so much on just one piece of equipment, but there’s no substitute for quality, especially if you want reliable gear tough enough to survive hundreds of performances. Moreover, once you’re able to deftly handle mixers and controllers as advanced as these, you’ll feel even more ready to finally take that next step and go pro.