The best Pioneer DJ decks have come a long way and are today’s preferred controllers by DJs who move around a lot. Of course, MIDI controllers are still well and kicking and visible in many DJ booths. MIDI controllers feature plenty of tactile options for live performances but for a digital DJ who is keen on leveraging their laptops and mobile devices, grabbing one of these Pioneer DJ decks is the best option.
Choosing The Best DJ Controller
For most DJs starting out, there is one question that is constantly lingering at the edge of your mind. How do I choose the best Pioneer DJ decks for me? If you are one of those who have no idea where to start, let us kick this off with a brief guide.
The first thing you want to look at is the software. Which software are you familiar, comfortable, or do you prefer between the available option? If you are a Serato fan, it’s critical to understand that not all DJ decks will work with the DJ software unless the hardware manufacturer has a deal with Serato.
Talking about DJ software, most DJ controllers will be optimized to work with one or two DJ software. For instance, most Pioneer DJ decks will be compatible with Serato as the two companies have had a long term relationship.
Second, what sort of audio interface will you want? If you’d like to connect turntables, an instrument, CDJs, Vinyl or CDs, you’ll need to choose your Pioneer DJ decks’ built-in audio capabilities carefully.
Yet another consideration is whether you always want to carry your laptop with you. If not, you have a choice of picking a DJ controller that also holds its own as a standalone mixer. Additional considerations include price, size, the look of the controller, and the build quality among others.
The long and short is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to choosing Pioneer DJ decks or other manufacturers for that matter. Lucky for you, we have a round-up of our favorite Pioneer decks to start you off on your DJ controller shopping spree.
Pioneer DJ SB2 Review
A successor to the DDJ-SB, the Pioneer DDJ-SB2 features some nifty extras that were not there before. For beginners who are looking for compact Pioneer DJ decks without the complications of figuring too many things out, the Pioneer DJ SB2 is an ideal beginner.
It is affordable yet has some features you would easily find on the higher end of the Pioneer decks’ spectrum. The build quality is solid as is usual for Pioneer controllers and although the body is plastic, the buttons, jog wheels, and the knobs feel solid and quality thanks to the aluminum construction.
Out of the box, the controller is compatible with Serato DJ Intro, Serato DJ and most recently, Rekordbox DJ. The compatibility with the different DJ software gives it a much welcome flexibility that any DJ will appreciate.
An improved version of the DDJ-SB. Easy to use, which makes it the perfect choice for beginners. Compatible with different software.
On to the features:
The pioneer DJ SBs features low latency jog wheels whose size we can’t help but love. On each deck is a vinyl button to switch the jog wheel between nudge and vinyl mode. Both modes perform a different function. Vinyl mode allows you to scratch while nudge mode is used to change the speed of the playing track – clockwise for faster and anticlockwise for slower. Still, regardless of the mode you choose, you can use the jog sides to nudge as usual.
The more expensive Pioneer DJ controllers differ slightly from the Pioneer DJ SB2 when it comes to transport buttons. In the Pioneer DJ SB2, the top row of the performance pads has four pads reserved for hot cues, samples, and loops. This is unlike on the pricier controllers in the DDJ lineup which have all 8 pads dedicated to those functions. On the SB2, the lower row is reserved for the sync, play, shift, and cue buttons.
The responsiveness of the pads on this controller is a bit lacking and the backlit is only on the edges rather than across the pads. They will do their job but don’t expect to pull off finger drumming sequences.
However, the pad trans effect compensates for these little shortcomings. What this does is that it allows you to time the beat perfectly and cut the volume of the playing track. The result is a dynamic rhythm that works wonders when playing live.
Effects, Mixer, Inputs & Outputs
At the top of the jog wheels are three buttons with which you can manipulate the controllers’ effects. These buttons are accompanied by a knob with which you can control the effect level. Combine the knob with the shift button and you can actively set the number of beats for the active effects.
On the mixer section, the SB2 comes with level meters to help you monitor each channel on this dual-channel controller. This section also hosts the filter fade button which enables the combination of the filter and crossfaders for smoother transitions.
As far as the filter goes, there is one each of a ¼” jack, a mini-jack, and a ¼” microphone input jack. For outputs, you have only one RCA stereo port.
The Pioneer DJ SB2 might not have all the bells and whistles, but for what it’s worth, it’s a decent buy for any beginner.
Pioneer DJ DVS Introduction
The Pioneer DJ DVS system has been a hit with all DJs since its launch. The system allows you to spin using CDs and timecode vinyl. Its stability and responsiveness are some of the qualities that have made it so admirable, practical, and functional. Although Pioneer DJ DVS has come into the ecosystem a bit late, it is still a winner in all aspects.
Pioneer DJ DVS will be available for users who are into Rekordbox DJ. Given, the number of digital DJ decks with tactile and responsive jog wheels out there is immense. However, the lure of playing vinyl records has a huge fan base.
The Pioneer DJ DVS comes as an add-on to Rekordbox DJ. Once you have it, you can proceed and connect turntables or DJ media player to a controller or mixer that is compatible with Rekordbox DVS. That then gives you the ability to add timecode vinyl, USB stick, or CDs and calibrate the timecode signal within the setup page of Rekordbox DVS.
The Rekordbox DVS allows you to use timecode vinyl to spin with surprising precision. With low latency as much as 1.5ms, you won’t have any problems deejaying using it. The system has two modes namely Absolute and Relative. These modes have a similar name across the board with other DVS systems.
If you want access to digital features like hot cues and sync, you’ll want to use DVS in relative mode. In this mode, the needle position on the timecode has no effect on the playhead position Rekordbox. On the other hand, the needle’s position in absolute mode determines the position of the tune.
At the very least the Pioneer Rekordbox DVS gives you an option other than using Serato or Traktor DVS.
As the deejaying hardware market continues to grow, the will be better and more affordable controllers to come. The SB2 is easily one of today’s best controllers for DJs looking for hands-on control over deejaying software.
With the robustness and history behind Pioneer’s DJ controllers, the DDJ SB2 leaves little to chance. The manufacturer has put together a highly-functional yet compact machine at an affordable price that is accessible to a market without surplus money to burn.
Whether you are just starting out on your journey or you are looking for a versatile controller, Pioneer has something for you and the SB2 is a great entry-level deck.