The Pioneer DDJ 400 is the flagship entry-level 2 channel controller for Pioneer’s DJ software, Rekordbox DJ. Let’s dive into the details of what this controller offers new and established DJs.
Pioneer DDJ 400
The Pioneer DDJ 400 promises to offer any aspiring DJ all the tools to learn how to DJ. It also serves as one of the most natural progression paths to more professional gear. Let’s find out what it offers and whether it’s a good controller for beginners.
Let’s dive into the details of the Pioneer DDJ-400 and see what it offers both the beginner and more experienced DJ.
While the DDJ400 is a fantastic controller it isn’t without some faults. One area which could use improvement is the mixer section. It does offer all the basic features you’d expect in a controller.
3 band EQ and a dedicated filter and trim knob for each channel are also present. This gives you full control over each channel and the ability to properly EQ your mixes and transitions. Individual channel meters also allow you to keep an eye on your levels and avoid hitting the dreaded red zone. 2 channel faders and a crossfader sit at the bottom.
An extensive range of features is packed into the central mixer section.
A good variety of FX options are also located on the central mixer but I’ll cover them separately later in this review.
The main change is the movement of the headphone cue/master knob and level knob to the left side of the mixer section. In the past, this has been located in the central part of the mixer. Due to this change, the mixer section has a lot less space to work with. This makes it feel a little cramped and especially noticeable if you have big hands. While not a dealbreaker it seems like a bunch of space is wasted.
This controller comes with a full license for the software Rekordbox DJ. Many other controllers made for other DJ software will only come with an intro or trial version. Keep this in mind when comparing the DDJ 400 to other controllers.
Rekordbox DJ is solid and dependable. Constant updates from Pioneer also shows they are in it for the long haul and are listening to the community. Having a full copy of Rekordbox will save you money when you’re starting.
For the scratch enthusiast, the jogwheels are a decent size. Especially for a controller of this size. They are also responsive.
The Pioneer DDJ 400 offers responsive jogwheels that feel great to use.
A smooth finish on top is coupled with a rubber edge. They have a nice amount of heft and resistance to them and do not feel flimsy. While they will never be as nice as the bigger jogwheels found on more expensive equipment you can comfortably scratch with them.
Another big improvement is the extended pitch faders. Usually, compact entry-level controllers come with small pitch faders. This makes beatmatching by ear more difficult. Having a longer pitch fader allows for more precise adjustments to the tempo. Having this available does make it easier for new DJs to learn beatmatching by ear.
8 rubber pads are located on both decks. This is the other notable change from previous Pioneer entry-level controllers. Previous controllers had slightly larger pads. While not a huge difference it’s still worth mentioning. Luckily the pads still feel great.
The Pioneer DDJ 400 has a great selection of performance pad features.
These pads are used to set hot cues, activate pad FX, enable Beat Loop or Beat Jump as well as Key Shift and sampler. Heaps of creative choices give you more room to explore and expand your DJ skills once you master the basics.
The Pioneer DDJ 400 is a compact controller. It’s ideal for new DJs that don’t want a controller that will dominate their home DJ studio. The small footprint and weight also make it easy to transport if you want to play gigs or at a friend’s house.
Despite a large number of features the DDJ 400 still maintains a small footprint.
Many entry-level controllers move the FX part to the very top of the decks. This can make it feel a little unnatural and detached from the rest of the controller. The Pioneer DDJ 400 has these functions right on the central mixer for easier access. This makes it more natural when you are in the middle of a transition and want to layer in some extra FX.
Beat FX is also available which applies the FX in time with your tracks. This makes adding in effects sound more harmonious and natural for more professional sounding mixes. There is also a range of sound color FX available as well for even more creative options.
Looping has been overhauled from previous Pioneer entry-level controllers. It now has controls more in line with CDJ and XDJ decks. You can set your loops that are stored in Rekordbox DJ for an instant call back as well as set loops on the fly.
An auto 4 bar loop option is also available. You can also halve or double your loop length. The expanded options are a welcome change. This makes it easier to master loops and then apply those skills to more advanced Pioneer equipment.
The DDJ 400 plugs into your laptop or computer via USB. A headphone jack is located on the front for your DJ headphones. This will allow for proper cue monitoring and preparation. The built-in soundcard allows you to play the master directly out of your computer or you can connect your active studio monitors.
As with most entry-level controllers the connection options are limited.
A master RCA out option and an unbalanced mic option are the only other connection options available on the back of the controller.
I don’t expect a massive amount of connection options in a controller at this level. However, it is something worth considering if you have an existing sound system that you want to connect. Having only an RCA out option does limit your choices.
Build Quality & Design
For an entry-level controller, it’s built well. However, don’t expect super-premium materials at this price point. The bulk of the controller is still plastic but it doesn’t feel flimsy.
The Pioneer DDJ 400 is a compact entry-level controller that retains a pro-level layout.
It’s still lightweight enough for easy transportation over to a friend’s house. I’d suggest you invest in a flight case or bag if you do plan on taking it out of your home regularly.
As for the design, this is where it’s hard to fault Pioneer. With each iteration of their entry-level controllers, they have evolved. The DDJ-400 is no different and is now even more closely aligned in layout and looks to its more expensive siblings.
They have taken inspiration from their flagship NSX2 set-up and tried to deliver the same layout in a compact package. This makes it easier to transition to more advanced equipment. Jumping onto a more advanced DJ setup can be daunting. Anything that eases that transition is a huge benefit.
Another new feature is a dedicated tutorial mode. This covers the basics of connecting up your gear as well as the features of the controller. It also guides you through some basic DJ skills to give you a foundation. While not an amazing all-in-one crash course in DJing it is a nice addition. Learning about your controller and the fundamentals is the first learning curve every beginner DJ has to tackle. Having some help for new DJs to overcome those first steps is a move in the right direction.
What Others Have To Say
I’m enjoying the selection of features and layout that Pioneer has chosen for the Pioneer DDJ400. But what do other people who have purchased it think? It seems most agree that for a beginner DJ it’s one of the best options available.
Why Buy A Beginner Controller?
DJ equipment can be expensive which is why the development of the beginner controller was so important. It has now opened the door for anyone with a passion for DJing to get started.
Selecting an entry-level controller is quite a challenge. I remember when I bought my first controller there were not that many choices available to beginners. These days there is a much larger range of entry-level controllers available. While it is great to see so many options, not all are created equal.
Entry-level controllers serve many purposes. They are more compact which makes them an excellent choice if you don’t have a lot of room. It’s also more applicable if you plan to be a hobby bedroom DJ. Even professional DJs like to use entry-level controllers as a backup to their regular DJ equipment.
A beginner controller has fewer channels and features but is a great starting point for new DJs.
These controllers should offer all the main functions you need to effectively DJ. They won’t have all the extra bells and whistles of more expensive controllers. This is both good and bad. It’s great for new DJs as it’s less daunting to learn the functions and features available. Limiting distractions while learning to DJ can also help in solidifying your core skills. On the negative side of the spectrum, you will begin to feel limited as you become an accomplished DJ.
Luckily buying beginner DJ equipment doesn’t mean you’ll be a worse DJ. I’ve seen some amazing sets performed on entry-level controllers. I’ve also seen some absolute trainwrecks performed on expensive gear!
The other thing to keep in mind is what brand of controller you buy. There are several “toy” DJ controllers out there that claim to be DJ equipment when they are glorified Hi-Fi systems. They offer very basic features and are not what you want to use when learning to DJ.
I recommend sticking to quality controllers from brands that have a long history in the DJ space. These controllers are the gateway to more professional equipment. They’ll also have all the core features you’ll need to learn how to DJ.
The DDJ 400 isn’t the only option available to beginner DJs. There are some other compelling options available.
Pioneer DDJ SB3 Review
One of the most popular Pioneer entry-level controllers is the DDJ SB3. Offering a Serato software option as an alternative to Rekordbox is good for DJs. It also has a higher focus on scratch DJs.
- Offers up to 4 channel mixing with deck swap.
- Quality jogwheels for scratching.
- It only comes with an intro copy of Serato.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ SB3 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ SB3
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX Review
Lots of quality updates to the Mixtrack Pro FX have moved this controller higher up the list of potential options. A capable and affordable option for new DJs.
- One of the most affordable entry-level controllers.
- Long pitch faders for easier beatmatching by ear.
- FX paddles are fun but more restrictive compared to traditional FX controls.
Read our full Numark Mixtrack Pro FX review for more detailed information.
Numark Mixtrack Pro FX
Roland DJ 202 Review
For the more creative and production minded DJ the Roland DJ 202 is a good alternative. Offering features that are not very common for other entry-level controllers.
- A built-in drum machine for on the fly beat creation.
- Midi input option to expand with other Roland production gear.
- Feels a little flimsy and hollow compared to other controllers.
Read our full Roland DJ 202 review for more detailed information.
Roland DJ 202
Should You Buy?
The Pioneer DDJ 400 is one of the best DJ controllers for beginners. Offering everything you need to get started right out of the box with full-featured software. While the entry-level market for controllers is cluttered you can’t go wrong with a brand like Pioneer. Even for experienced DJs, it’s nice to have a compact option that mimics more professional gear.
Offering that natural upgrade progression path to more advanced DJ gear is great. It makes it a compelling option for DJs who have ambitions of playing on better gear or in clubs down the line.
I have no hesitation in recommending this controller to anyone looking to get into DJing.
Pioneer DDJ 400