Gear Review: Pioneer DDJ-RX

We take a look at Pioneer's Rekordbox specific DJ controller.
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Kane Michael
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We take a look at Pioneer's Rekordbox specific DJ controller.
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Pioneer is a brand who's name has become inseparable from club culture. It is no simple task to become a "club standard", something you will find in almost every single club on the planet. Sure there are other brands that offer incredible products, but none have gained the foothold on the market like Pioneer, with hardware like their game changing CDJs, to their newly formed dominance of the digital world. Originally created as software to organize your music, Rekordbox has turned into a full-blown DJ software, which was a bold yet natural move, considering Serato and Traktor already owned the scene. But for those who aren't into digital DJing, Rekordbox DJ is actually quite familiar to use if you are a fan of the original product. 

Being a hardware company, Pioneer naturally created controllers to go along with their new software. Enter the DDJ-RX, one of the companies first Rekordbox-specific controllers, aimed at bringing unparalleled control over the software to your fingertips. Today we take a look at the gear from not only a technical and performance view, but also from a non-controller-user point of view.

So what is it? The DDJ-RX is a two deck, four channel DJ controller with a built in mixer and sound card. It has 10 inputs and 6 outputs. On each deck there are eight drum pads, as well as a jog wheel, looping functions, needle search, and four fx knobs. Being that this is a four channel controller, each side also has a dual deck deck select, allowing you to run decks one and three on the left, and two and four on the right. This is great because it opens up the possibility of running multi-deck mixes with relative ease, something you just can't do with only two CDJs. 

Loads of ins and outs give you many different options to expand your setup. 

Loads of ins and outs give you many different options to expand your setup. 

One thing I really like about what Pioneer did with this controller, is that it made it almost 100% hands on, meaning you can essentially never touch your laptop the entire session. At the very top of the mixer is a knob that allows you to scroll in Rekordbox, and there are "Load" buttons that assign the track to the corresponding deck. In my opinion, the less you touch your laptop, the better. It takes away from the overall experience if you are always hunched over your computer looking for things. 

The drum/fx pads are really fun to play with. They have a nice firm yet sensitive feel, and provide you with the ability to make and play hot cues, use pad controlled effects, slice beat sequences, and use a sampler to create and record cool patterns. The effects are similar to the ones you'd find on DJM, but provide a level of playability you can't have on a standard mixer. 

Speaking of using effects, the four knobs at the top of each deck allow you to control the wet level of the very same effects you get on the DJM 900, my personal favorite being spiral. What I really enjoy is that you can have multiple effects in use at the same time, another thing you can't do on the standard mixers. 

Earlier, I said we will be looking at the DDJ-RX from a non-controller users perspective. I've given you some examples of what I really like about this piece of hardware, but another thing I like is that it's pretty portable. I actually used it to play a small party, choosing it over my standard CDJ setup due to lack of time and patience of unhooking and then resetting up my gear. I simply grabbed the controller and cables and put it in my car. Getting the controller and Rekordbox up and running was less than a minute in total. I have no issues setting up my regular gear, but this was just so easy and quick that I almost envy it. The layout is very familiar to a regular club setup, so those who have never used one of these will feel at home fairly quickly. 

A familiar layout adds a level of comfort to users of CDJS. 

A familiar layout adds a level of comfort to users of CDJS. 

The jog wheels feel professional, something that really makes this feel like a quality piece of equipment. This is something that really helps make a good impression. The jog wheel is where your hand spends much of its time, and having a cheap feeling platter just really puts a damper on the experience. The tempo faders are the same you'll find on CDJs. The mixer feels just like a normal DJM as well, and everything is just where you'd expect it to be. It's also nice that the controller has phono/line inputs to allow you to connect CDJs or turntables. 

Now for the things I wasn't too fond of. First, it's big. While using this for home use, or for really small parties with limited space is fine, I could never picture myself bringing this to a nightclub. It's bulky enough to be quite an inconvenience when not in use. Although setup is quick, it would take time for the sound engineers to move it and everything else into place. Plus it just seems unnecessary to bring, if you are able to use a standard setup that is. I would definitely be worried for its safety when I wasn't using it. I can't deny that it has a solid build and a great layout, but I really feel it would just seem so out of place in a DJ booth. I wouldn't knock anyone for using it, however. 

While the decks feel nice, they are small. Pioneer does offer a full sized platter controller, and I get that they have to fit in the box, but I just love the feel of a full size deck. Also, I'm not sure if I was imagining it, but the sound quality seemed to have an ever-so-slight haze/fuzz to it. While the layout was obviously thoroughly thought out, there is a bit much going on for me. The pads are always illuminated and there are loads of lighted buttons everywhere. This isn't something major, just a minor dislike. 

So then, what are my overall thoughts? As someone who doesn't use controllers, I'm actually impressed. It's familiar layout, as well as connectivity to Rekordbox makes it a breeze to get up and running. It's built well and looks good. I would realistically never use this outside of a home studio or small party, but it definitely offers new users a chance to get used to seeing things they would see in a real club DJ booth. 

Likes:

- The four deck ability is great. 
- Overall solid build. Doesn't feel cheap. 
- Great for beginners, or people that want something compact and easy to get going.
- It's much more portable than a standard club setup.
- Seamlessly integrates with Rekordbox
- Offers loads of creative ways to play

Dislikes:

- It's big and bulky. Not ideal for club environments
- There is a lot going on. This can be a bit overwhelming for new DJs.
- Requires computer for use. No option for standalone operation. 
- Small jog wheels are a turnoff