There is plenty of innovation on offer in the DJ controller space. From the addition of screens to enhanced performance functions. In this review, we explore one of the most unique DJ controllers currently available.
Roland DJ 505
The Roland DJ 505 sets itself apart from the competition by offering DJs a controller that blurs the lines between DJing and producing.
There is plenty to cover with this unique controller. Let’s check out each section and see what the Roland DJ 505 has to offer DJs and producers.
The Roland DJ 505 is a 2 channel controller with a refined mixer section.
Each channel offers solid faders along with a full 3 band EQ. In addition to the EQ, you’ll have access to a dedicated low/hi-pass filter knob. For a lot of DJs, this is a staple feature that makes it easier to transition between tracks. Each channel also includes dedicated gain controls for adjusting the channel volume.
The Roland DJ 505 mixer section has all the core features a DJ needs.
The central section presents level meters for both channels along with the master output level. Excellent placement and clear lighting make it easy to keep your mix out of the red.
Above the meters, you’ll find volume controls for Master output, Booth output, and Sampler volume. A cue/mix knob completes the controls for the preparation of your transitions.
Finally, some basic browse controls are also available. A dedicated knob for scrolling through playlists is available. Buttons for loading tracks and navigating your music library are also present.
The mixer section has all the features a DJ needs to control their set and have an efficient workflow.
The Roland DJ 505 gives DJs access to an impressive amount of DJ software. A license for Serato DJ Pro comes with the unit.
Serato is excellent software and not having to factor in any upgrade costs adds a lot of value to an already affordable controller.
Beyond the base software, you will also get a license for Serato Tool Kit. This grants you access to Serato Pitch ‘n Time, Serato Flip along with the full range of Serato FX packs.
Most other controllers don’t include these bonuses so once again it adds a lot of value.
The unit itself is plug-and-play and easy to set up. Integration with the software is also tight. Plenty of Serato features are accessible from the hardware.
The Roland DJ 505 offers up solid jogwheels. They are very responsive with low latency for precise execution of scratch routines. The brushed aluminum top plate is grippy and feels good to use.
Excellent latency makes for a pleasant and effective scratching experience.
Added illumination is a good addition to keep an eye on deck status. Speaking of decks you can switch control to decks 3 and 4 via dedicated buttons. The jogwheels also offer both Slip and Vinyl modes.
The jogwheels are very high-quality for a controller at this price point. They’re rugged and will be able to handle the rigors of consistent use.
This is one area that does suffer from the compact footprint of the DJ 505. As with most compact controllers, the pitch faders are short. Making adjustments to the tempo/pitch is more challenging with shorter pitch faders.
While I would have liked longer pitch faders I can understand the need to conserve space. Especially when you factor in the drum/step sequencer.
For manual beatmatching by ear, you’ll need to spend some time getting familiar with using the shorter faders. But if you don’t want to manually match beats the Roland DJ 505 does offer Sync functionality to handle beatmatching for you.
You’ll also have access to Keylock to maintain the pitch of the track when making adjustments to the tempo.
There are several performance pad options. Each deck offers 8 pads with a range of functions.
The first pad mode is the obligatory Hot Cue mode. This allows the setting and recalling of cue points. The secondary mode opens up Cue Loop. It functions the same as Hot Cue with the addition of setting an auto loop.
The Roland DJ 505 offers a versatile selection of performance pad modes.
The second button opens up the Roll and secondary Slicer mode. Roll mode is great for adding extra tension to a track. Once released you’ll be at the spot the track would have naturally progressed to. The slicer is another popular function. It carves up a section of the track opening up the ability to play individual slices and create on-the-fly remixes.
The third button gives you access to TR mode and Pattern mode. TR mode allows you to fire off individual sounds while the pattern mode allows for the firing of sequences. This is a unique feature of the Roland line of controllers and it opens up a staggering amount of creative flexibility. You can use it in conjunction with Serato samples as well.
The final button is for the Sampler and Velocity Sampler modes. You can load samples in Serato and add them to your set. With the Velocity Sampler, the volume of the sample will respond to much pressure you apply to the pad.
The DJ 505 gives DJs plenty of options to add variety to their sets. When you combine it with the drum sequencer you have a unique piece of performance gear that encourages you to experiment.
Built-In Drum Sequencer
The real star of the show is the built-in drum sequencer. This innovative approach to a DJ controller is what sets the DJ 505 apart from the competition.
Included is a selection of classic Roland drum machine presets like the TR-808. The TR-808 sound is the backbone of so many quality tracks from the last 40 years. Having access to these sounds on a controller is fantastic. Not only can you play with the sounds to your heart’s content you can also use it as a sequencer.
The drum sequencer is flexible and fun to use.
Add to this a range of dedicated control knobs for Level, Tune, Attack, and Decay and you have exceptional control over the sound. While it is a step down from the more advanced functions of the Roland DJ 808 it still gives you access to an excellent set of options.
The flexibility this offers performing DJs is amazing. You can create unique beats and sequences all in time with your current tracks. Once you factor in the solid pad modes you can remix and create music live.
This blurring of the line between DJ and producer will be a big selling point to a core group of DJs. If you are new to producing you’ll find it quite the learning curve. But, once you are familiar you’ll have a lot of fun with this feature.
The Roland DJ 505 gives DJs access to an impressive range of professional connection options.
Master output includes an RCA connection along with an XLR choice. This gives DJs plenty of flexibility to connect to their preferred speakers or audio interface. There is also a TRS Booth output option for connecting monitor speakers in the DJ booth. An essential component for DJs that play in large venues where sound travel delay can make it difficult to rely on the in-house system.
The Roland DJ 505 offers DJs a professional-level range of connection options.
Two RCA input options open up further flexibility to connect to external gear. Both can be either Phono or Line. Add to this a dedicated Midi Out port and you have an excellent piece of gear that is very versatile.
A TRS Mic input completes the available option on the back panel. This microphone input also offers a switch for sensitivity allowing DJs to tweak the input to their preference. Microphone level control sits on the front panel.
The front panel also offers DJs a choice between ¼ inch and ⅛ inch headphone connection options. The headphone level control knob is also on the front panel. Channel switches along with crossfader curve options complete the lineup on the front panel.
The options here are fantastic and capable of handling a large variety of potential setup configurations.
Further creative mixing options are available with the FX section.
Each deck offers control over up to 3 FX along with a dedicated Beats knob. You also have the flexibility to assign FX to the TR/Sampler. Selecting FX is easy with the Shift key and everything works as you’d expect. When you factor in all the FX included with the software you’ll have plenty of choices available.
If you enjoy adding FX to your sets you’ll be able to get into a comfortable workflow with the Roland DJ 505.
The Roland DJ 505 also offers DJs dedicated loop controls. The placement of these controls feels natural next to the performance pads.
You’ll have access to setting auto loops based on your preferences. Setting In and Out points for your custom loops is also easy with the dedicated buttons. From there you can halve or double your loops with a separate set of buttons.
Considering the performance-orientated nature of the controller these loop functions are critical. Solid execution in function and placement.
The Roland DJ 505 is in an interesting position. It’s meant to be a more compact version of the flagship DJ 808 and in that regard, it succeeds in reducing the footprint.
The addition of the drum sequencer does make the Roland DJ 505 a larger unit.
At just 3.5kg (7.7lbs) it’s a lightweight unit that is easy to transport to and from gigs. Despite the reduction in size to the DJ 808, it is still larger than many other similar controllers in the market. Hard to avoid when you are adding features like the drum sequencer.
Build Quality & Design
Plastic is the name of the game for many DJ controllers at this price point and the Roland DJ 505 is no different. The unit does feel a little flimsy but not as bad as some other controllers I’ve come across. But, at this price point, I was hoping for something a little more solid.
The added drum sequencer does make the DJ 505 look like an unusual controller.
The knobs and faders all feel great as do the performance pads. The jogwheels are also great. The high-quality 24-bit/48kHz audio interface is also up to the task of delivering excellent audio quality. Roland has an excellent reputation for good sound quality and that continues with this unit.
I like the green aesthetic of the range of Roland DJ controllers. It gives it an alien spaceship feel which I can’t help but enjoy. Where things take a turn for the worse is the included drum sequencer. While it doesn’t look bad it does result in a unique-looking controller that is a little garish.
This is likely due to having been surround by very samey-looking controllers for so long that at first glance it just looks strange. Having said that I can’t imagine how they could improve on this.
What Others Have To Say
The Roland DJ 505 is not for everyone but even strict DJs are finding the unit fun to use. There is also plenty of praise for the excellent sound quality.
The Modern DJ
The modern DJ isn’t confined to just DJing. These days most successful DJs are also producers. This is quite the shift from the past where your DJ skills were front and center. Now it is not uncommon for producers to get headline gigs even if their DJ skills are not that impressive.
More producers are having to learn to DJ. Likewise, more DJs feel the need to begin producing music.
Moving into production is a natural step for a DJ. Likewise moving from production to DJing is something that all producers should consider. For the more creative producers, there are many pieces of hardware that blur the line between DJing and live performance.
If you do have a passion for both producing and performing there has never been a better time to get into DJing.
There are plenty of great DJ controllers currently available. Here are some alternatives to consider.
Roland DJ 808 Review
If you love the idea of the drum sequencer functionality you should also consider the Roland DJ 808. It offers a more expansive set of controls and access to 4 channels.
- Detailed drum sequencer for more refined control.
- 4 channels for more elaborate and complex mixing routines.
- A larger footprint and more expensive than the 505.
Roland DJ 808
Pioneer DDJ SR2 Review
If you can’t see yourself using the drum sequencer function you’d be better suited to looking at the Pioneer DDJ SR2. It’s a two-channel controller with a smaller footprint with plenty of features.
- A professional layout that offers excellent Serato integration.
- A good selection of connection options.
- It also has small pitch faders which are not ideal.
Pioneer DDJ SR2
Denon Prime 4 Review
If you don’t mind a larger controller you should consider the Denon Prime 4. Instead of a drum sequencer, you’ll get a massive high-resolution screen.
- Bright and detailed screen that display important track information.
- 4 channel mixer with a large amount of performance features.
- Capable of operating in standalone mode.
Denon Prime 4
Should You Buy?
The Roland DJ 505 is a unique entry to the DJ controller landscape. The innovative addition of the drum sequencer makes it hard to compare to other controllers. If you have no interest in the drum sequencer you’d be better of looking at other controllers.
At its core, it’s a well-rounded DJ controller with all the features you need including excellent connection options. When you factor in the drum sequencer it’s also a piece of performance gear that’s well suited to creative DJs and producers. If you want to stretch your creative muscles the Roland DJ 505 is an excellent controller that I can easily recommend.
Roland DJ 505