The DDJ REV5 is the latest mid-tier DJ controller from Pioneer. It slots in between the entry-level REV1 and the premium REV7. It offers a noticeable upgrade from the REV1 while incorporating new features that even the top-tier REV7 lacks.
But is it the new benchmark in mid-tier offerings? In some ways, very much so, but it also has some notable drawbacks. In this review, we take a closer look at the newest member of the Pioneer REV family.
Pioneer DDJ REV5
I have to give credit where credit is due. Pioneer has recently leaned heavily into new features within its product lineup, and the brand-new REV5 continues this newly found ambition from the industry juggernaut.
The DDJ REV5 represents the next evolution on this path with comprehensive Stem controls and features that will appeal to scratch and open-format DJs.
The Pioneer DDJ REV5 offers a battle-style layout with CDJ-style jogwheels. It blends in various features that lean heavily into a creative mixing approach. With tight Serato integration, it’s among the best options for DJs that want to move beyond entry-level gear. But as with all mid-tier controllers, it also has notable omissions, which might be a dealbreaker for some. Let’s check it out.
The Pioneer DDJ REV5 continues the battle-style layout focus present on both the REV1 and REV7. Inspired by Pioneer’s DJM-S7 and DJM-S9 mixers, it offers an excellent gateway to club standard scratching-focused mixers.
The heart and soul of the mixer section are within the top third of the controller, with dedicated three-band EQs for the two channels on offer. These EQs also pull double duty as level controls over Stems, albeit with a slightly perplexing mashup of Bass and Melody.
Trim and Low/High Pass Filter controls hug the outskirts with an FX select bank underneath, giving you access to three FX. Noticeably absent is any hardware FX so you’ll have to make do with software FX options, but more on that later.
The mixer section takes inspiration from the DJM S7 & S9.
Down the center, you’ll have access to both Master and Booth Level controls, and completing this section is a pair of paddle FX, Beat FX buttons, and a Level/Depth knob.
Moving further down is a large bank of 16 pads (8 per channel) with associated Performance Pad Mode buttons. As you progress down, you’ll have access to the two channel faders and a bright Level Meter to monitor your levels.
Completing the section is a Magvel Fader. It’s a fantastic fader but not quite as enticing as the Magvel Pro crossfader you get with the more expensive REV7. Despite this, it is buttery smooth and more than enough to execute precise scratch routines.
There is nothing groundbreaking here, and to be fair, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The existing DJM-S7 and S9 layout offers a natural workflow for scratch DJs that encourages creative mixing and gives you ample space at the bottom for the faders. I also like the delineation between the core mixer and Pad and Fader sections.
No complaints here. The REV5 offers everything you need in a logical and relatively spacious layout. If you are a veteran of this style of Pioneer mixers, you’ll be right at home, and it’s a natural progression from the entry-level REV1.
The DDJ REV5 features CDJ-style jogwheels which is a departure from the motorized platters found on the REV7. It’s an interesting choice and a noticeable downgrade for scratch DJs that want a more authentic scratching experience.
Despite this change, the jogwheels do feel nice to use. If you are an existing open-format DJ that likes occasional scratching, they are more than good enough for the job.
The screens in the center of each jogwheel are another notable downgrade. They still display some information but are not as detailed and varied in display styles compared to other screens available on Pioneer controllers.
CDJ style jogwheels.
Each deck features a Deck button that can switch control from Deck 1 to Deck 3 and Deck 2 to Deck 4. The REV7 was a strictly 2-deck controller, so in this area, the REV5 offers a bit more flexibility which will appeal to open-format DJs.
Each jogwheel also features a Jog Feel knob to adjust the resistance of the jogwheel with a gradual range from Light to Heavy. A great way to customize the feel of the jogwheels to suit your preference.
The departure from the motorized platters will likely be the most significant determining factor as to whether this controller suits you. For dedicated scratch DJs, the jogwheels on the REV7 are notably better. Still, equally, that controller is also a lot more expensive. But while they are better, that doesn’t mean the REV5 is subpar. It’s a solid, albeit different, experience.
This is another area where the REV5 differs from its more expensive sibling. The REV7 is a dedicated Serato DJ controller, while the REV5 also features support for Rekordbox.
On the surface, this might make you think the REV5 is a better choice, and in some ways, you would be right. Access to both Serato and Rekordbox allows you to explore different software platforms and go with the one you prefer.
Complete software access to the world’s most popular DJ platforms.
In practice, the REV5 is still a primarily Serato-focused controller. The core functionality and layout focused on Serato features, and all the pads and functions highlight Serato features first and foremost.
If you are a die-hard Rekordbox user, this might not be the best controller for your needs. But if you are new to DJing, this controller unlocks the two leading options in the space, adding much value to the REV5.
It’s also worth mentioning that Serato Pitch’nTime is an included unlock. Pitch’nTime is critical for key manipulation. I’m a bit miffed that this is still a separate add-on in the modern era, but at least it is included here.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV5 also features direct control over Stems on the controller. This opens up some creative mixing opportunities by giving you access to the individual components of a track. You can isolate Vocals, Melody, Bass, & Drums with dedicated buttons.
The analysis is decent, but expect some artifacts and a drop in audio quality when using this functionality. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with stems, which is a fantastic option in some mixing situations. But at this stage, I feel there is still some way to go before it becomes a staple within a DJ’s arsenal of tricks.
Easy access to stem functionality.
The algorithm is improving, and I can see a bright future ahead. Serato is notably better quality than Rekordbox at this stage. It has access to a 4-stem split instead of Rekordbox, which features a 3-stem division.
The REV5 also allows you to manipulate the stems via the 3-band EQs, which adds further flexibility to refine the sound. It can be a slightly clunky workflow at times, but it rapidly becomes muscle memory once you are used to it.
I’m sure the quality will improve as things continue to evolve, and in the meantime, it is still a lot of fun to play around with. Layering elements over other tracks opens up a lot of potential for on-the-fly mashups and unique transitions.
If stem control is a flagship feature you want to explore, the DDJ-REV5 is an excellent choice.
The REV5 features a battle-style layout that orientates the tempo fader at the top of the controller. This is a familiar layout for scratch DJs, but it can take some getting used to if you are already used to a club-style setup.
The faders offer an excellent feel and ample length for detailed adjustments. Below the fader, you’ll have access to some further Tempo and Key controls.
Long faders for accurate tempo control.
A range button opens up the option to increase or decrease the fader range, which is helpful for dealing with large BPM transitions. Next to this is a Key Lock button for automatically matching the Key, along with a Sync button for automatic tempo matching.
This area also brings a feature unique to the REV5, the new Auto BPM Transition section. In the past, some of the new features that Pioneer has introduced have left me underwhelmed or felt a bit gimmicky. But this feature is among the most impressive new additions I’ve seen from Pioneer.
The Auto BPM Transition feature is an excellent addition.
This feature allows you to transition from one BPM to an opposing BPM without manipulating the tempo fader. You can set a number of bars for this transition to occur, ranging from 1, 2, 4, or 8 bars. The feature works seamlessly and frees up your hands for other tasks during the transition.
This new feature is perfect for handling bigger BPM jumps, but it’s also useful for more minor transitions if you want to free up your hands for layering FX, playing with performance pads, or for detailed EQing.
The Pioneer DDJ-REV5 features a bank of 8 pads per deck with extensive performance pad options to play with. Plus, it also features another new addition, Piano Play, that is unique to this controller.
This new pad mode converts the entire 16 pads to a replication of a Piano, with the bottom eight serving as the octaves and five of the top pads serving as the black sharp keys on a piano. It’s essentially an expanded version of the Pitch Play functionality on previous controllers but now feels greatly expanded and more intuitive.
Comprehensive performance pad modes, including a new Piano Play mode.
You can even move up and down the “Piano,” and the way the pads light up makes it instantly recognizable what your choices are. Add to this the ability to select major and minor pentatonic scales, and you have a comprehensive and user-friendly way to manipulate the track.
Beyond this new feature, you can access various essential and popular pad modes, including Hot Cue, Roll, Saved Loop, Sampler, regular Pitch Play, Stems, and Scratch Bank.
The pads themselves feel great and are ultra-responsive. While some pad modes are more useful than others, there is an impressive amount of depth and flexibility to explore different mixing styles and incorporate dynamic elements into your transitions.
The FX area also displays some notable differences from the REV7 despite appearing similar at first glance.
You’ll have access to two FX paddles to either lock on an FX by pushing up on the paddle or down to only activate the FX while you are holding the paddle down. You’ll have access to three FX on each side, which is usually enough to set your favorites.
The FX paddles are fun to use and effective.
A Level/Depth knob, along with Beat controls, gives you further flexibility to manipulate the current FX, and each deck features a dedicated Low Pass/High Pass filter knob.
For most purposes, this gives you access to more than enough FX, but the notable omission is the lack of hardware FX which the REV7 offers. This might not be a big deal for some, but I can see it being a dealbreaker for others.
The Pioneer DDJ REV5 inherits the same loop controls as the REV7. Once again, it harkens back to the DJM-S7 and S( mixer but in a position above the jogwheels.
You can activate an auto loop based on your software preferences and then manipulate that loop via the half and double buttons. The shift button opens up manual loop settings, but if you come from a club-style layout, you might miss the dedicated In/Out controls for setting loops.
Auto Loop and Manual Loop functionality.
As with the REV7, the main issue with the placement of the loop controls is the proximity to the buttons below, in this case, the Stems controls. While not frequent, there is the possibility of hitting one of the buttons below in the heat of a mix. You can imagine the disaster that would cause, so you’ll need to be mindful when setting your loops.
Build Quality & Design
The REV5 is reasonably solid but doesn’t feel as premium as the REV7. The overall feel is a lot more plasticky, but still a notable improvement over Pioneer’s entry-level offerings.
Despite the slightly less refined feel of the controller, the component quality is excellent. The knobs feel great to use, as do the pads and faders. The Magvel fader, in particular, is superb and excellent for scratch DJs. You’ll also have access to crossfader curve controls on the front of the controller.
The DDJ REV5 is an attractive controller with a familiar battle-style layout.
The jogwheels might not be as premium as the REV7 and lack motorization. However, they are still a good quality jump from the entry-level REV1. As for the layout, I have no complaints. It’s a natural progression point and does a superb job of imitating pro-level Pioneer gear.
Pioneer controllers always look the part and exude a professional appearance while offering comprehensive controls. But I would have liked to see a slightly more robust feel at this price point.
The jogwheels of the REV5 might be one of the most contentious differences from the REV7, but there is another significant omission that might prove to be a dealbreaker for some DJs, and that is the lack of external mixer capability.
Solid Master and Booth options and USB-C connectivity.
At the rear of the unit, you’ll have access to a balanced XLR Master Out or an unbalanced RCA Master Out. Supporting this is a TRS Booth connection point. You’ll also have access to an RCA AUX connection point and two microphone connection points with two-band EQ available on the front of the controller for each microphone.
You’ll also have access to two USB-C connections for quick handover. However, that large bare central section of the back panel is where you typically find Line/Phono connections to add extra decks. Unfortunately, with the REV5 lacking these, you won’t be able to add additional players or turntables.
Balanced microphone inputs and AUX.
In some ways, I can understand Pioneer holding these back since this is a mid-tier controller, but I feel the jump to motorized platters would have been enough of an upsell point for the REV7 without needing to restrict the REV5 to no external player capability, especially when you consider the price point of the REV5.
The Pioneer DDJ REV5 has a similar footprint to the REV7, with only a slight variation in width, height, and depth. But as expected, it is noticeably larger than the entry-level REV1.
The DDJ REV5 is a relatively portable DJ controller.
The main difference is the sizeable drop in weight since the REV5 doesn’t feature motorized platters. It’s 10 lbs (4.5kg) lighter than the REV7, which gives it less of a premium feel than the REV7. In terms of weight, it is closer to a DDJ-FLX10. While it might not have the heft of the REV7, it does make the REV5 a better option for transport.
I’m not going to beat around the bush. The Pioneer DDJ REV5 is not a cheap controller, even more so when you consider it is a mid-tier controller that lacks some features.
The DDJ REV1 is a perfect entry point into the world of battle-style controllers, but the jump up to the REV5 is quite daunting. The jump further up to the REV7 is also significant.
Innovative features but perhaps a bit overpriced.
It could have come in a little cheaper, which would have made my assessment a little different. Still, with everything jumping aggressively in price nowadays, I shouldn’t be overly surprised at the price point of the DDJ-REV5.
There are better value options out there, but if you are committed to sticking with the Pioneer ecosystem, the DDJ-REV5 is a reasonable upgrade.
Open Format DJing Tips
I’d argue that being an open-format DJ is among the most challenging and equally rewarding types of DJing. Dealing with different genres and a diverse crowd is no small feat, but it’s also not an insurmountable challenge.
Below are some quick tips to help you master this diverse style of DJing.
- The Crowd Is King – More than any other type of DJing, you need to constantly adapt to the crowd and often multiple sections of a crowd. Keep your eyes on the dancefloor to assess the vibe, which will help inform you which direction to take your set next.
- Work In Song Groups – Just because you are an open-format DJ doesn’t mean you should jump from genre to genre for each transition. Aim to create blocks of tracks in similar genres that make sense. Then migrate to a new block that will allow you to gradually rotate the dancefloor and keep as many people happy as possible.
- Have Some Tricks Up Your Sleeve – Utilizing loops, samples, and FX can allow you breathing room to transition between different songs and genres. When in doubt, a classic echo out and backspin can be a lifesaver but aim to use it sparingly to avoid repetitive transitions.
The above tips apply to all gear, but the right controller can also assist. The DDJ REV5 offers several features that can help with open-format DJing.
Access to the Auto BPM Transition function can help bridge large BPM gaps effectively, and isolating elements of songs can prevent clashes or set you up with more time to mix in your next track.
Combining traditional DJ techniques with modern hardware can make your open-format DJing experience less daunting and much more fun!
As you move into mid-tier and higher-end controllers, some enticing options open up, making choosing the right controller challenging. Below I take a quick peek at some other quality controllers currently available.
Pioneer DDJ-REV7 Review
If you have more money to spend, the Pioneer DDJ-REV7 is a superb choice. This controller gives you access to motorized platters, ideal for scratch DJs.
- Tactile scratching experience that emulates the feel of vinyl.
- Features RCA Line/Phono inputs and hardware FX.
- Nearly double the price of the REV5.
Pioneer OPUS-QUAD Review
You might want a comprehensive all-in-one choice if you are an open-format DJ. The OPUS-QUAD is a stylish standalone controller loaded with features.
- Full standalone capability with four channels.
- Gorgeous central screen and unique design.
- Eye-wateringly expensive.
Pioneer DJ OPUS-QUAD
Rane One Review
The Rane One is an excellent choice for those who want to explore motorized platters but don’t want to splash out on the REV7.
- Superb motorized jogwheels deliver an excellent scratching experience.
- Tight integration with Serato and high build quality.
- Doesn’t feature on-deck controls for Stems.
Should You Buy?
The Pioneer DDJ REV5 is an excellent controller, even if I don’t entirely agree with its price point. The logical battle-style layout is fantastic for scratch DJs, and while not motorized, the jogwheels have an excellent feel.
Including onboard Stem controls and new features like Piano Play and Auto BPM transition also set it apart from other Pioneer controllers. The build quality is also very good, albeit not as premium as the REV7. The lack of inputs for external players also drops it a few points.
But all things considered, if you are ready to move on from an entry-level controller but don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a REV7, the REV5 is an ideal compromise and a highly capable controller with a lot going for it.
Pioneer DDJ REV5