The craft of DJing has been getting more accessible and more difficult at the same time, all thanks to the technology pushing things forward faster than ever before. With the integration of streaming platforms to both DJ software and hardware, we are genuinely staring down at the biggest revolution in the space since the CDJ knocked vinyl off the shelf.
These rapid advances are always met with a bit of grumbling from the core, but things will shake out for the best, and the art of the mix will continue to progress. The barrier of entry may have been lowered by controllers like the DDJ-200 and Pioneer's WeDJ software, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. DJing has never been so technically complex, and if you want to get to the top of your game, you are going to need to practice - a lot.
So let's dive into this revolutionary little controller from Pioneer DJ and if layout the good, the bad and the lame.
Pioneer DJ's most affordable DJ controller to date is a purpose-built product with its crosshairs set on the newbie. There are no audio connections, which was a little strange to us at first for obvious reasons. However, once you get your head around the idea that it's designed to connect to your phone via Bluetooth, it all makes a little more sense. The learning curve is short, and that's the whole point, to get people that are interested in DJing up and running as fast as possible. We would liken this controller to DJ training wheels; you feel like you are DJing and that feeling can be addicting - then they have you.
Coming in at about $150, the controller is by no means a high-quality item, but overall, the build is not bad for what it is. The DDJ-200 is a lightweight all-plastic unit that can easily be stuffed into a backpack. The faders are about as smooth as you would expect and quite adequate for the demographic it's made for. The knobs, platters, and buttons all feel like they can take a little bit of abuse and laid out perfectly for the entry-level spinner.
In the back of the unit, there is one USB B port that powers it up for use with a computer and Rekordbox DJ or via a Bluetooth connection with a variety of apps like WeDJ, edjing, and djay.
When going the app route, like WeDJ, you can stream your tracks using services like Beatport Link, Soundcloud, and Deezer - which is the first big step in the streaming revolution. Soon we will see subscription services like Beatport Link embedded into professional-level gear and software, which is beyond exciting for most of us.
The controller features eight performance pads per deck, a three-band EQ per channel, a basic crossfader, CFX knobs and two up faders. You cannot see the levels on the controller, which is fine because the software shows that clearly and you can easily hear any clipping. The reason for this omission is obviously to keep the cost down and let's face it you won't exactly be playing on any Funktion One systems with this little guy. Trim controls have also been omitted but can be found on the WeDJ software on the Mixer window along with the three-band eq. The two platters are about 3 inches in diameter and are quite responsive and feel like they belong on a more expensive controller. The pitch control also feels pretty smooth, and just stiff enough to dial things in for more advanced users that are trying their hand at proper mixing. Yes, there are two sync buttons as you would expect, but you have to start somewhere.
Since the DDJ 200 has no audio outs, you need to process the audio via your smartphone, tablet, or laptop via the software. It's possible to use a more prominent self-powered speaker with the split cable that's included with the controller, or you can connect a Bluetooth speaker if you don't want to use a split RCA cable. The included cable is also used for your headphones so you can cue/monitor the channel that is not being played to start practicing your mixing skills. The audio out via the cable is mono, so buyers need to understand that this means the audio quality will be very mediocre by professional standards, but this shouldn't matter much to the target audience.
We tested the controller with Pioneer DJ WeDJ software on iPhone and Beatport Link, which we will have to admit was pretty damn fun. This gave us a real glimpse to what this is going to feel like on pro rigs, and the ability to have so many tracks available for a monthly subscription is just bonkers.
NOTE: The WeDJ app for iPad was not upgraded and does NOT yet feature this streaming integration, which is 100% lame as the iPhone is not nearly as easy to navigate due to its small screen.
The new edition of WeDJ on iPhone, despite the small screen size, is still quite easy to use and is plenty powerful for its newbie user base. The features are all seamlessly integrated into the controller and quite intuitive after a couple of tutorial sessions that are built into the app. The Sync button is also given a steroid injection with the new edition of WeDJ with an advanced phrase sync and transition effect mode that makes mixing even more straightforward. This feature might seem extra lame to more seasoned DJs, but beginners will love it, and it helps to set the standard for high-quality mixing, which is a good thing. Not all the features can be controlled via the DDJ 200, functionality like slip and slicer are built into the software but have to be activated via the software/screen.
WeDJ also delvers the Pioneer DJ favorites like Hot Cues, Loops, Pad FX, X/Y effects pad, and Sampler that can be used in the software and via the eight performance pads - which again will help beginners progress more rapidly. You can search the Beatport Link library, analyze the track, and load it into either a playlist or right into deck one or two. Browsing is a bit of a challenge, but hey, you are on an iPhone, so it is what it is.
Other highly recommended apps are Algoriddim's DJay and MWM edjing pro, both of which are on par with WeDJ. We do prefer the native software though as we like to stay inside one ecosystem and if you are moving towards becoming more than just a hobbyist, WeDJ is what you should use.
Rekordbox DJ also works with this controller so as you start to feel more comfortable and up your skills, you can make a significant next step with this software set up. Despite not having a soundcard, the controller still functions well as you can use the DJ mono split cable to do your mixing. Simply plug in the USB to your computer (Mac/PC), download Reckordbox DJ and once you plug in the DJ functionality immediately unlocks. It also looks like Beatport Link and other streaming options will be integrated into Rekordbox DJ very soon as well, which is huge. For now, however, you are limited to local files on your computer when using this set up. Using your trackpad/mouse allows you to use the full breadth of Rekordbox DJ functions, and this is where you start to see the full potential with this controller.
If you are a newbie with limited funds and looking to take a stab at Djing, this is probably one of the best setups on the market. It's inexpensive at $150, starts to train you on the industry-standard functionality and controls, and allows you to stream music from a variety of apps and eventually via Rekordbox DJ. This controller/kit is something that can truly grow with you and will enable you to develop your skills as you progress.