Entry-level controllers have traditionally all adopted the same familiar club-style layout. But with the release of the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 scratch focused DJs finally have an alternative. In this review, we take a detailed look at the DDJ-REV1 to see if it is the best starter DJ controller for scratch DJs.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 offers a host of unique features not previously seen on controllers at this level. Below are the quick pros and cons before we take a closer look.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is unlike any other entry-level controller on the market. Featuring a battle-style layout and features with the scratch DJ in mind. Let’s dive into the details and see how it stacks up.
One of the most notable points of difference compared to other controllers is the central mixer section. Entry-level controllers tend to stick to the same formula. Two decks with performance pads underneath and a club-style mixer. But the DDJ-REV1 takes things in a different direction.
Inspired by a traditional turntable and mixer setup the central mixer will be familiar to anyone who has used a scratch mixer before. It features a spacious section for the crossfader and up faders. This is great for scratch DJs. Nothing in the way when executing scratch routines.
The mixer section offers a battle-style layout.
Moving up the mixer section is a bank of 16 performance pads. 8 per channel. This is exactly the type of layout found on professional scratch mixers like the DJM-S7 and S9. Above this area is an FX section that features paddles or levers depending on how you want to call them. Then on each side of this section is the 3-band EQ, trim, and filter knobs.
This layout is perfect for new DJs that want to become familiar with battle-style mixers. While the upper half is a little cramped it does provide you with access to all the features you need. Beyond the tight layout, the choice of not having a separate color knob for trim control is a surprising oversight.
The unit is a 2-channel mixer but you do have access to Deck 3 and Deck 4 via dedicated buttons. This is the same functionality that the previous DDJ-SB3 offered so I’m glad it is still around. But it is a little confusing at times switching between the various decks.
Despite a few issues the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 offers a mixer layout never seen before at this price point. For scratch-focused DJs, this is a great stepping stone. It’s also great for pros that want a portable and compact battle-style controller to practice on.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 also features large jogwheels. This is a huge step up from similar entry-level controllers. They tend to suffer from small jogwheels which while capable are not super comfortable to scratch with.
It is worth noting that these jogwheels are not motorized like you’d find on its older sibling the DDJ-REV7. Despite this, they are still a joy to use and offer excellent responsiveness. The lack of clutter around them is also fantastic.
The DDJ-REV1 offers bigger jogwheels than many other entry-level controllers.
Traditional turntables don’t offer a cue button but Pioneer has opted to include a small button here. A smart decision to prevent alienating people that are already familiar with using this button on other controllers.
It doesn’t contain the bells and whistles of more advanced controllers. But it is still excellent compared to the small jogwheels found on other controllers at this price point.
This is one area that includes a potential hidden cost worth mentioning. The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 comes with Serato DJ Lite. This more basic version of Serato DJ Pro does offer you all the tools you need to mix.
But frustratingly some of the features on the controller are not available unless you upgrade to the Pro version. A 14-day free trial is available of Serato DJ Pro if you do want to test out the feature set before committing.
Serato is a fantastic piece of DJ software. It is also the go-to choice for scratch DJs so it makes sense to have it lead the charge here.
But keep in mind to unlock full functionality, including the ability to record your mixes, you’ll have to fork out some extra cash.
Build Quality & Design
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 offers a solid level of build quality. It is on par with other entry-level controllers from Pioneer at this price point. Yes, it is predominantly plastic but everything feels robust and secure.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is a sleek and modern-looking controller.
The jogwheels are great, the knobs feel good, and the faders won’t break easily. The performance pads don’t have that higher-end pad feel but are still robust and dependable. Albeit they are on the smaller side.
Aesthetically the DDJ-REV1 does provide you with a clean and smart-looking finish. The layout is perfect for scratch DJs and the unit doesn’t look like a toy.
The only thing I would have liked to see is RGB pads. The solitary tonality does detract both from appearance and usability.
For a controller at this price point, I think Pioneer has struck an excellent balance. Both in build quality and design.
The location of the pitch faders is also a nod to a turntable turned 90-degrees. This is a common layout for pro-scratch DJs. It removes the potential of moving the faders accidentally while scratching. But it does take some getting used to if you are familiar with other DJ controllers.
It can take some time to get used to the pitch fader placement.
Another excellent update is the length of the faders themselves. Pioneer has always had a habit of offering short pitch faders on their entry-level controllers. It’s great to see longer faders here. It makes adjusting tempo more accurate and beat-matching by ear quicker. You’ll also have access to Sync if you prefer the software to match tempos and beats.
This is one area where I am simultaneously impressed but also annoyed. The pads themselves offer plenty of functionality and modes. But the size may through some people off. They are noticeably smaller. If you happen to have big hands/fingers you’ll find it a bit cramped. There is also the potential of hitting the wrong button in the heat of a mix.
On the mode front, you’ll have access to 8 options if using Serato DJ Pro. Hot Cue, Auto Loop, Sampler, Beat Jump, Roll, Trans, Scratch Bank, and the all-new Tracking. Many of these modes are existing favorites that give you plenty of performance flexibility. In particular, the Scratch Bank is a welcome addition to a controller at this level.
The performance pads are small and a little cramped.
But the new Tracking feature is an ingenious addition. Pioneer has dabbled in the past to make the learning curve for beginner scratch DJs easier. Generally, the results were rather underwhelming but I think they are onto something here.
The Tracking pad mode features a bank of six presets that highlight classic crossfader movements. Activating the mode will apply digital crossfading. This allows you to focus on scratching.
The combination of scratching and crossfader control takes getting used to. This takes the hassle out of one element of that workflow. It’s a great way to focus on your scratching technique before incorporating crossfader work as well.
For new DJs that want to focus on scratching this is a fantastic tool. But seasoned veterans will likely have little use for it.
The limitations based on what level of software you are using are disheartening. But that has been the case with entry-level Serato controllers since the beginning. Taking into account all the available options the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 does offer you a comprehensive selection of performance pad modes.
Another noticeable improvement is the FX controls. New DJs love using FX (sometimes possibly a little too much!). But the implementation of FX controls in entry-level controllers has always been a little hit or miss. In the case of the DDJ-REV1, it is a clear hit.
The FX paddles are fun to use and the FX choices are plentiful.
You’ll have access to paddles. Hold down to activate an FX that will stop upon release. Or flick up to keep the FX active freeing up your hands for other matters. A solitary Level/Depth knob allows you to adjust the active FX. Each channel also offers three buttons for activating FX. The selection of FX in Serato is also solid. You can even expand upon them via an upgrade pack.
Once again the placement is familiar to battle-style mixers. It is a logical setup that encourages creative use of both performance pads and FX to create interesting sets.
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to looping on the Pioneer DDJ-REV1. A dedicated loop section is available to activate an Auto Loop. From there you can halve and double the loop via dedicated buttons. Manual loops are also available by using the Shift button in tandem with these controls.
The looping functions are simple and easy to use.
The Performance pads also feature an Auto Loop mode. Using these you can instantly activate loops up to 8 beats. Between the two modes, you have access to the fundamentals. But if you are coming from Denon or Traktor gear you may miss having access to an encoder.
As anticipated the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 doesn’t feature an extensive amount of connectivity. It has become the norm for controllers at this price point from Pioneer. But there is a notable difference worth highlighting.
The DDJ-REV1 features the inclusion of microphone routing to your laptop. You can connect a microphone using the ¼-inch TRS connection and the audio is accessible on your laptop or PC. This makes it easier to add a microphone to a streaming setup. Something not previously available without complicated workarounds.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 features basic connectivity options.
You’ll also have access to a solitary RCA master out. I’d love to see Pioneer offer a balanced output option on an entry-level controller. But I also understand that costs need to be controlled.
On the front panel is the headphone connection point. It supports ⅛-inch connections so if you happen to have a ¼-inch connection you’ll need to invest in an appropriate adapter.
For plug-and-play capability, the DDJ-REV1 does everything it needs to do. Not as expansive as other options out there but at this price point you can’t expect too much.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is noticeably wider than the previous DDJ-SB3 or the DDJ-400. It makes sense considering the layout. Though I would have been happy with it being wider if it meant bigger pads.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is wider than some other entry-level controllers.
On the weight front, it is nimble at just 4.6 lbs. (2.08kg). It’s easy to transport but does lack some of the security that heftier controllers imbue.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 offers an excellent entry point into the world of DJing. Especially for new DJs that want to focus on scratching. There are cheaper controllers available. But Pioneer has struck an excellent balance between quality and price. It is also the only entry-level controller that offers this type of layout.
My only gripe is the hidden cost of having to upgrade to Serato DJ Pro. While not necessary it does add extra functionality that most DJs would want sooner or later.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is still a very new product but the positive reviews are already coming in. Considering the scratch DJ focus and the affordable price point I can already see this becoming a firm favorite for beginners.
Practice And Patience
DJing may appear to be simple on the surface but there is a lot more going on that meets the eye. From preparation, track selection, reading the crowd, and technical skills. There are a lot of moving parts to create an engaging and memorable experience. This is even more evident with DJs that utilize scratching.
Practice does indeed make perfect when it comes to DJing.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer new DJs is to practice and practice often. Muscle memory is a big part of advancing especially when it comes to scratching. If you practice often you’ll develop the skills to execute the scratches you want. Plus the more time spent practicing the better you get at knowing what works and what doesn’t work.
But practicing is just one part of the equation. The other piece of advice is to be patient. No one turns into a world-class turntablist overnight. It takes time. Stay focused and don’t become discouraged. With enough practice and time, you’ll get to where you want to be.
There are plenty of entry-level controllers available today. If you are a new DJ below are a few alternatives to the DDJ-REV1 worth considering.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX Review
The Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX is another entry-level controller for Serato. It is also one of the cheapest controllers that offer jogwheel screens.
- Generously sized jogwheels with onboard displays. Great for seeing important information at a glance.
- Good selection of FX options along with paddle controls.
- Build quality is not as good as the Pioneer DDJ-REV1.
Numark Mixtrack Platinum FX
Pioneer DDJ 400 Review
The other entry-level option from Pioneer is the DDJ-400. This Rekordbox controller features a club-style mixer layout. Better suited to DJs that want to eventually play in clubs.
- The clean and familiar layout is a great stepping stone to more advanced Pioneer gear.
- Comes with full version software. No hidden costs. Excellent value for money.
- The central mixer section doesn’t do a great job of utilizing available space.
Pioneer DDJ 400
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3 Review
The alternative to Serato and Rekordbox software is Traktor Pro 3. The Kontrol S2 Mk3 is a great choice if you want to use that software.
- Solid and dependable build quality with a professional layout and appearance.
- Full access to Traktor Pro 3 without any upgrade costs.
- The plastic knobs are more durable but not as comfortable as rubberized knobs.
Traktor Kontrol S2 Mk3
Should You Buy?
The release of the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 was quite a surprise. Pioneer clearly has a vision of what it wants from its lineup of gear. Want to focus on mixing at clubs go with the DDJ-400. Want to develop your scratch skills, go with the DDJ-REV1. It’s a smart approach.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is a thoughtful and well-executed controller. It delivers on its promise as the perfect gateway to a scratch DJ-style layout. Excellent jogwheels at this price point and a range of great features. The Tracking pad mode is also a fantastic new addition for beginner scratch DJs.
With a great price point, the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is the perfect controller for beginner DJs that want to master the art of scratching.