REVIEWED: Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6
BOOM! Right in the middle of HM Govt Lockdown II, this little box of tricks comes out of nowhere and drops from Pioneer DJ! The DDJ-FLX6 is Pioneer DJ's latest stand-alone plug n play controller, powered directly via USB and bringing new tricks to the party, enabling less experienced DJs to cut their teeth with all-new advanced features for mixing and scratching.
Sitting between the DDJ400 model and the DDJ 1000 (the controller I use), it comes with four channels, a brand-new Merge FX effect and a jog cutter, so that even the most inexperienced DJ can now take his or her set to new levels.
The first things you notice when you unpack the box are just how big the jog wheels on this controller are, and that it has four channels. It is made of smart dark-grey matt plastic, with a shiny finish highlighting the vertical effects section, and the layout roughly mimics Pioneer DJ's higher-end controllers such as the DDJ-1000 and the CDJ/DJM combinations found in clubs. This is done purposefully by Pioneer DJ with all their latest products, helping to ensure that any DJ can transition easily when faced with an alternative Pioneer DJ play out system (due to a change of venue, for example).
The DDJ-FLX6 is quite a large controller, maybe only slightly smaller than the DDJ-1000 unit. It’s capable of working not only with Pioneer DJ's Rekordbox software, but also Serato DJ Pro via laptop or computer. For the purpose of this review, I will focus on Rekordbox, as it’s the software I use; from what I can tell, the functionality for Serato software users is similar.
The jog wheels feel great and are the same size as those on the flagship CDJ-3000, although on this unit they detect jog movement electrostatically rather than mechanically. Unlike the DDJ-1000, there is no full on board jog display. Instead, you’ll find an LED position indicator, with some markings for the jog cutter function.
The mixer section has what you would expect for a good-quality mixer: trim, three-band EQ, a cue button for monitoring, channel fader, and a filter effect for each of the four channels. Channel four can be used as a normal channel, or, by using a switch, the sampler can then be routed through its fader and EQ section. There is also a level indicator on each channel to show you when things get too loud!
A crossfader is supplied, which is assignable and configurable in your software. The browser section is very well laid out and easy to use. I like the fact that each channel has its own track load button just above the trim control. The Beat Effects section is also very clearly laid out. At first sight, it looks like there are just six effects available, but the good news is that each of these six effects can be assigned in Rekordbox from any of the 22 effects available, which is amazing. Let's take a look at the two deck sections next.
Another new feature that jumps out is the all-new Merge FX knob at the top right-hand side of each deck, for Recordbox users, designed to help the DJ be very creative when transitioning from one track to the next. A quick look at the usual Facebook groups and you’ll see all the ‘pros’ out there poking fun at this feature! Of course, this is a bit of a toy that could be over used. However, for a newcomer to mixing, it will add some excitement and bring another level of creativity to their sets, giving them the huge confidence boost they need to master new tricks, which has to be a positive.
To the experienced DJ it may look like a novelty feature at first glance, but the Merge FX knob is aimed at enabling much more exciting, next-level transitions, regardless of style of music or BPM. It’s actually really clever in how it works. There are four configurable presets that are quantised to the beat of the track you are playing. And here is the key thing: the effects are quantised, so in theory, even a seasoned DJ can use the Merge FX function to great effect when mixing, including at the same BPM or with similar music genres. It’s difficult to describe how well they work, though there are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating it – or just go and have a play with one!
You’ll find one other new feature of this controller in the deck section – the Jog Cutter. When enabled, this emulates one of 10 different professional-sounding scratch effects, based on what you have loaded on that particular deck. You simply turn on Jog Cutter and move the jog wheel to apply the effect to the last hot cue or playback position you used on that deck. You can switch from one effect to another by moving the play head position, shown on the jog wheel’s display. This may be the very thing that gives you the confidence to master scratching, and, based on first-hand experience, I would recommend following through on this interest by booking onto one of Terry Ryan’s awesome – and very well-priced – courses at On the Rise Academy!
The rest of the deck sections are as you would expect, with loop, cue, play/pause, tempo slider and jog wheel. As a DDJ-1000 user, there are a few familiar buttons missing from the controller, but to my relief, I found them in Rekordbox, so not a problem – phew! Finally, under each jog wheel you will find eight performance pads. These facilitate nonlinear mixing techniques with assignable hot cue points and loops, or can be used to trigger assignable pad effects or beat jumps. Of course, they are also great for triggering your samples. The Sample Scratch allows you to load one of your own samples into the player and have some live fun with it, and the key-shifted loop effects, which I only really discovered about a year ago, are there to get your creative juices flowing.
The DDJ-FLX6 rear panel provides a Kensington Lock slot; a ¼” mic socket and attenuator control; a USB socket to connect to your computer, running Rekordbox or Serato; a pair of phono RCA connectors for the booth output; and a pair of phono RCA connectors for the main output. As already stated, there is no need for a power supply as the controller gets all its power from the USB connection.
On the front, you will find both ¼” and mini-jack headphone sockets, with headphone level and mix controls, and a mic level control. At just under 4kg, this unit feels sturdy, and the rubber feet ensure it’s sturdy on any surface.
So, what do I think about this new offering from Pioneer DJ? Let's face it, how many four-channel controllers with cutting-edge effects controls and full-size jog wheels can you get for £539? The price tag for the DDJ-FLX6 is very attractive, and everything works really well. The options are all there to stimulate creativity and encourage learning, so new DJs are going to love this as a step up from the DDJ200 and the DDJ400. As a full-time mobile DJ, I would really struggle to move down from my DDJ-1000, but it will be more than enough for most. The controller is also a great low-cost option as a backup for those who insist they need a four-channel controller.
In conclusion, this must be the best-value tool to help less-experienced DJs (plus some more experienced ones!) learn new tricks and step up their transitions. I highly recommend you go and have some much-needed fun with one!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 105, Pages 70-72.