Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000
Having used a computer to DJ from since 1989, I’m a MASSIVE fan of controllers. Over the years I’ve used so many and they say that you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince so is the DDJ-1000 the ultimate DJ controller that ticks all the boxes? Let’s find out.
The DDJ-1000 is the very latest dedicated rekordbox dj controller from tech-giants Pioneer DJ. Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, the DJ controller marketplace is incredibly crowded. Even in its current line-up, Pioneer DJ offers a whopping ten devices to choose from to suit every kind of budget. This makes it a little difficult to see where the new DDJ-1000 fits in. I mean, is it a replacement for the DDJ-RX or the RZ…or both? Physically, it’s bigger than the RX and a bit smaller than the RZ, which perhaps gives us a good indicator as to where this is pitched. It has also been designed to control the new features of rekordbox dj version 5.2, which was released in January this year, so includes some elements that you won’t find on any other controller.
In fact, Pioneer are touting the DDJ-1000 as a controller that’s exclusive to rekordbox dj (the first designed from scratch, as the R Series controllers inherited the design of the S Series of Serato models). So before some of you get all doe-eyed over a future MIDI-map being available to use with Virtual DJ, I’m afraid it will be a long wait. Whilst the DDJ-1000 is effectively a MIDI-controller, some parts of it just cannot be mapped for use with other software packages… such as the jog wheels, and I don’t just mean the new fancy-pants screens in the middle of the wheels, but the whole actual wheels themselves.
The reason for this is very simple. Pioneer want the synergy between the DDJ-1000 and rekordbox dj to be the very best it can be, therefore they were designed to work fluidly with each other. Including support for other software just doesn’t allow the same level of integration or user experience. Does this remind you of any other tech company? Apple, maybe?
I’m all for this to be honest, any piece of hardware that is designed to be used solely with a specific piece of software is always going to be more reliable and offer a more robust user experience. It means that the DDJ-1000 and rekordbox dj will become one of the greatest pairings of our time, just like chips & gravy, peas & carrots, Mark & Eddie, etc!
So, let’s look at the controller. Like I’ve already said, it’s slightly larger than a DDJ-RX and smaller than a DDJ-RZ, so if you’re looking to get one you’re going to need a new flightcase! [Pioneer DJ have a dedicated bag on the way - Ed]
For those of you who feel at home with the traditional Pioneer layout, you will immediately feel comfortable using the DDJ-1000. A quick glance could very easily fool you into thinking you were looking at a pair of CDJs with a DJM mixer in the middle.
The jog-wheels immediately catch your eye. Not only are they full-size and feel just like those you find on the CDJ-series, but you’ll also find a high-resolution full-colour screen in the centre of them. These are incredibly useful and allow you to see loads of essential track data without having to look at your laptop.
For such a small area, these screens really do show a lot of information. This includes: which deck is currently being operated on, the artwork of the currently-loaded track, its key, BPM, elapsed / remaining time and the current tempo / pitch slider % value. Across the centre there is also a colour waveform along with indicators for any Cue, Hot Cue and Loop points you have setup.
There’s also a really useful section on the display called the CUE SCOPE. This shows you all of the Cue and Loop points in the interval from 4 bars before to 16 bars after the current playback position. You also get indicator marks in 4-bar intervals, which is a great visual reference for mixing purposes.
The screens are bright, vibrant and incredibly easy to read and I certainly found myself looking at them more during playback than at the screen of my laptop. In rekordbox dj’s settings you have full control over the information displayed and can easily turn on or off different parts of the display to suit your own preferences. You can also adjust the brightness if you wish but you can’t turn them off, not that you’d want to!
Above the jog wheels you’ll notice the absence of the needle drop strip and FX sections found on Pioneer’s other top-flight controllers, so the DDJ-1000 really is going against the design blueprint of almost every other DJ controller on the market right now. I guess the idea is that the jog wheel can be used – in conjunction with its screen – to accurately jump to a specific point within a track (there's also a new Quick Search feature that helps with this), while FX are approached in a slightly different way, which I’ll discuss later.
The multi-coloured tactile performance pads, eight below each jog wheel, offer a number of different functions. Primarily they are used to jump to Hot Cue points, but can also be used to quickly recall saved Beat Loops, apply FX or fire Samples, which can be really useful if you fancy getting a bit creative in your performance.
You can also use the pads to access the Beat Jump function that allows you to move the playback position instantly without breaking the rhythm of the track. Another super-cool new rekordbox dj feature – introduced with version 5.1 – is Keyboard Mode. This allows you to play a Hot Cue in different semitones, which means that you can perform musical phrases as if you were playing on the keyboard of a synthesiser! To understand this function, and what it can bring to your performances, I really do urge you, if you haven’t already, to watch Pioneer’s DDJ-1000 launch video on their website!
Of more interest to most mobile DJs, the pads can also be used for controlling rekordbox dj's exciting new Lighting Mode. This allows rekordbox dj's detailed analysis of tracks to be used to automatically control DMX lighting. I'll be looking at this in detail next issue.
Moving away from the pads, the iconic Cue + Play/Pause buttons are finished in a nice chic black, unlike the rest of Pioneer’s controller line-up which are finished in the traditional silver. This gives the DDJ-1000 an upmarket feel and really looks great with the green/amber LED halo around the buttons that has become synonymous with the Pioneer DJ brand.
The mixer section of the DDJ-1000 is unlike anything you will find on Pioneer DJ’s existing controller range as it now features a brand-new Beat FX strip down the right-hand-side of the mixer. It is really simple to use and owners of the any of the curent crop of DJM mixers will immediately feel at home as it looks exactly the same – but with the addition of the new effects offered by rekordbox dj. Applying Beat FX is just a matter of choosing the effect you like, selecting a channel to apply it to as well as the depth of effect, and turning it on, simple!
This is a great way for quickly applying a single effect to any of the channels, microphone or master output. However, if you want to chain multiple effects to any of the channels, sampler or microphone you’ll need to jump into rekordbox dj’s FX options on your laptop and set them up in there. I guess this is where having an FX section above each deck was really useful.
The new Magvel Fader is a welcome addition and certainly improves upon the one found on the DDJ-RX. It just feels tighter, more responsive and accurate. Pioneer DJ is also advertising this controller as its lowest latency model to date and you can certainly notice the reduced latency from the jog wheel when scratching.
On the front of the unit you have the standard ¼” and 3.5mm jack headphone outputs and around the back are the usual array of inputs and outputs, including balanced XLR outputs and aux inputs for every channel. Unlike the DDJ-RX, you now have the ability to connect two laptops, each running their own instance of rekordbox dj. These are easy switchable on the mixer, so you could have one laptop on channels 1 and 2 and the other on channels 3 and 4. This is incredibly useful for backup purposes or for situations where you might need to be able to seamlessly transfer between two DJs, for example.
Two microphones can be used simultaneously on the DDJ-1000 and have their own dedicated level controls as well as a shared 2-band EQ. On the rear of the unit there is a combined XLR / jack socket for Mic 1 and a ¼” balanced jack input for Mic 2. Unlike the DDJ-RX, the microphone channels do not occupy any of the main audio channels so even if you want to use both mic channels at the same time, you still get four channels of music.
DDJ-RZ users looking to upgrade their controller may hesitate a while before being drawn in by the fancy jog wheel display and the slightly smaller form factor. Price wise, it’s certainly a lot cheaper than a new DDJ-RZ so I see this unit more as a natural upgrade from the DDJ-RX, and a worthy one at that for the extra features you get.
To conclude, the DDJ-1000 is a no brainer for mobile DJs who use rekordbox dj. It’s sleek, compact, fully-featured, has full-size jog wheels, tons of connectivity and extremely tight integration with rekordbox dj. It’s also keenly priced at just over a grand, so I’m sure it will sell by the bucket-load!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 88, Pages 68-70.