Review & Video: Pioneer S-DJ80X Powered Monitors

Review Summary:

The Pioneer S-DJ80X's are the biggest speakers in a high-quality powered monitor range designed and built for dance DJ/producers. They're imposing, sleek and powerful with high-grade components and rock-solid build quality delivering a punchy performance that never waivers even at high volumes. Just don't buy too big for your room if you want a hope of taming that bass!

S-DJ80X
  • S-DJ80X
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Pioneer
  • Price: $249 (per speaker)
  • Reviewed by:
  • On September 16, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014
Pioneer S-DJ80X

Sleek, imposing and minimal: The Pioneer S-DJ80X speakers look the part, but how do they perform? We find out in this review.

Review: Pioneer S-DJ80X Powered Monitors

Full Pioneer S-DJ80X Powered Monitors review: The Pioneer S-DJ80X is the largest of three new S-DJ X models of active speaker from Pioneer, aimed at DJs. Priced at some 30% cheaper than their more feature-packed cousins the Pioneer S-DJ08 and S-DJ05, the front-ported speakers come with 5″, 6″ and 8″ woofers and are sold as individual units. They look great, but do they stand up to strong competition in the already crowded DJ monitor field, especially from the likes of the popular KRK Rokit range, or Reloop's Wave series?

First impressions

The speakers are robust and expensive looking, with a sleek and uncomplicated front-panel design giving an air of recording studio quality and professionalism with no hint of "style over substance" or gimmicky design features or colour splashes. The silver-grey textured "aramid fibre" woofers look great and the power indicator is a perfectly subtle crescent-shaped glow just under the tweeters; other than these and the Pioneer logo there's nothing more on the shiny all-black facia. Underneath there's a well-needed slimline foam-rubber "foot" to eliminate rattle on desktop surfaces and aid with dampening.

It's a similarly understated story round the back, with minimal knobs and buttons to play with (perhaps too few for our liking, more on this later). Each unit is powered and has its own power supply and amplifier, hence the presence of the jumbo AC input socket.

Pioneer S-DJ80X rear

The inputs and sound adjustment controls are basic and well laid out.

There's a power switch and an on/off toggle switch for the extremely useful auto standby feature, which powers down the units after 25 minutes of inactivity, saving you having to fish round the back to find the power switch every time. When it awakens from its slumber, it's a controlled process ensuring that there's no loud crack firing out of the speakers when powering up a USB audio interface, for example. There's no cooling fin on the back though; hopefully overheating doesn't become an issue.

In terms of inputs there's plenty of versatility here, with the three options of XLR, balanced TRS and unbalanced RCA ensuring you should have no trouble hooking up your most utilised audio sources; you could for example have your DJ controller permanently plugged into one input, with two inputs to spare for any other sources, such as your TV or computer. Bear in mind that these input sources cannot be isolated or switched between, meaning that any signal coming from different sources will be "mixed" and outputted through the speaker simultaneously.

(Note: they have a single XLR, a single RCA and a single jack on each unit because they are powered individually, so you'll need to connect one side of your stereo signal into each.)

There are two more controls on the rear panel: the main volume control level and a high frequency adjustment knob giving you the option to cut the top-end by 1 or 2db, or boost it by 1db. However the omission of the same control over the low frequencies is a puzzling decision (along with the lack of a remote control) that disadvantages these speakers against some competitors and caused frustrations is testing.

In addition to the DJ environments these are designed for, Pioneer's marketing video shows young hipsters carting these round and rocking 100-strong open air parties with these speakers alone, giving the impression that these would be suitable PA speakers, which is to our mind highly inadvisable.

Despite not being designed to be transportable at all, with slippery sides and no handles (it was difficult enough getting them out of their box let alone lugging down to the beach for an impromptu rave!), even the best studio monitors are vulnerable to physical damage and being blown through abuse in highly demanding public situations. We think these are best positioned, tweaked to suit the room, and used daily to DJ from a fixed position.

In use

We tested the S-DJ80Xs, which are the largest of the three in the range. Like all their stablemates, they are well-built, chunky and reassuringly heavy. In this case, the overall presence of the 80's (as the big daddies of the range) was a tad over-imposing in our medium-sized room, mainly due to the depth of the cabinets and the extra room needed to accommodate the power supply coming from the rear pushing them quite far into the space. Having said that, with the 60X and 50X versions (reviews coming) there are options to suit smaller rooms.

Pioneer S-DJ80X

The front and rear of the speakers, showing their minimal, functional design.

When testing the S-DJ80Xs, I performed a direct swap out of my normal set up of Yamaha HS50M's with an essential but old (and lovely sounding) JBL subwoofer, and my first thought was "whoa! I don't need that subwoofer connected any more"! Admittedly this is not a like-for-like comparison, the Pioneers having the eight-inch driver to the Yamahas' five-inch, but immediately I could tell we were listening to a speaker designed to hammer out dance music with plenty of kick rather than hear a flat signal. The Pioneers are not sold as flat-response studio monitors, and when compared directly to the Yamahas you can hear why.

I chose a few of my most bassy deep house killers and settled in for the test, and overall the music reproduction was excellent. Most notably the bass – deep, punchy and taut, with a lot of definition. The highs are crisp and clear with no harshness even at high volumes and overall these speakers initially sounded well rounded and impressive with many an office "hand in the air moment" created when testing tracks individually.

To most dance music DJs on paper this may sound great, but just a word of caution: When using the speakers in mixing (recording a mix actually) this initially impressive low-end grunt became at times a woolly and overbearing bass vortex, making it tricky to define the distinct crisp frequencies required to keep the mix locked in, especially at lower volumes (the Pioneer's seem to come alive when driven anywhere over around 60% of their capability, not unlike a Ferrari's engine does over 6000 rpm, ahem, apparently).

This rumble was undoubtedly a product of the combination of the speaker size, power and position being in conflict with the room dynamics, plus the front-port bass design; so without a method of controlling the low frequencies my only option to tame the thunder was to adjust the EQ at the mixer; not an option when recording! It turns out then that the impressive bass, is not, as far as my ears could tell, a true flat representation of the source material. Of course this is by no means a definitive judgement; your mileage may vary.

If I was having a house party, the crowd would love it, but as the DJ I may be resorting to monitoring in the headphones to stay on point with mixes. Listen yourself, though: It's an inconvenience that is arguably more than made up for in the pure dancefloor-destroying power of these beefy speakers.

Conclusion

For pure party-rocking power these speakers are fantastic. They are solidly built, versatile and will look the part in any DJs set up. In comparison with the price and performance of the KRK and Reloop options there's evidence of a nominal price tag purely for the Pioneer logo, but because these are aimed squarely at the prosumer or pro DJs who are probably already fierce Pioneer stalwarts it's not unexpected.

Be cautious if you have limited space or are expecting to hear a flat-response interpretation of your output; our recommendation would be to choose the model that fits your room and not super-size your order unless you are 100% sure your room needs it, because even at low volumes the S-DJ80Xs have dog-frightening levels of low-end presence which only seems to be in proportion when they are driven loud, by which time the dog is long-gone, as are the neighbours. Of course you could argue that dance music is all about the thump, and these speakers deliver on Pioneer's promise of "rich bass and a tight, punchy kick even at high volumes without resonance".

The Pioneer S-DJ X series will retail at suggested prices of €149/£129 (S-DJ50X), €199/£169 (S-DJ60X) and €249/£199 (S-DJ80X). The S-DJ50X model is also available in white to complement Pioneer's other white editions, including the newly released pearl while version of the DDJ-SX DJ controller.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

The Pioneer S-DJ80X's are the biggest speakers in a high-quality powered monitor range designed and built for dance DJ/producers. They're imposing, sleek and powerful with high-grade components and rock-solid build quality delivering a punchy performance that never waivers even at high volumes. Just don't buy too big for your room if you want a hope of taming that bass!

S-DJ80X
  • S-DJ80X
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Pioneer
  • Price: $249 (per speaker)
  • Reviewed by:
  • On September 16, 2013
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Video review

Comments

  1. This:

    “there’s evidence of a nominal price tag purely for the Pioneer logo”

    • Your point is?

      • Jam-Master Jake says:

        For their size, power, feature-set, and being made by Pioneer, these seem like a remarkable value. I suspect I may have blown my KRK VXT4s by pushing heavy bass loads through them while DJing. I think these speakers would have the exact opposite effect…they’d blow ME out!

        Nice review, Steve. Thanks!

  2. DJ SpecializED says:

    You have to pay to play! Im a huge Pioneer fan as their gear has never let me down. These speakers look big! I bet they would look great on stands.

  3. They look exactly like the Rokit KRK’s!

  4. DJ GuitarRoy says:

    Theres a Headphones plugin?

  5. Pioneer DJ50X or KRK RP6 G2?

    • I’ve got SDJ05 and Rokkit RP6 G2 (DJ-ing at home). I prefer Rokkits, without a doubt. SDJ05 sounds good as well, but since I have opportunity to listen to both in the same environment…. well… SDJ05 have flat response in mid-range, no bass, and very plastic sound… too plastic i must say, sounds cheap in my opinion.

      Go with Rokkits, even if you have to spend a bit extra.

  6. Studiodecision says:

    Hello before buying monitors for small studio and DJ’ng room I had to decide between KRK Rokit 5 5″ driver Gen2 or Gen3 or the 5″ driver S-DJ50X-w. I was warned not to invest in the too-much-bass Pioneers and instead select Rokits for neutrality. Price-wise the outgoing Gen2 was cheaper and the new Gen3 was more than the S-DJ50X. I eventually purchased the S-DJ50x’s because 1) my studio room is small and with others nearby I’d usually have them fairly low 2) I’m drawn to labels & image and tracks made for the big dance floors are played with their consoles (brand-match) 3) I’m more comfortable using them in a party and the KRKs are far more common, its good to have your setup a bit different it might give you a slight advantage on competition. Thanks for review

  7. DJ MysterB says:

    To build on Studiodecision,

    I am looking at Numark NPM100’s for their power, KRK Rokit 5s G2/G3, and the Pioneer SDJ50x. For someone looking for the balance between pure sound, durability, and ability to bump a small house party, what would the recommendation be?

  8. DJ MysterC says:

    In the video Steve mentioned that he would “have liked to see a low frequency control…”

    I am really on the fence between these speakersand the KRK G3’s. I would greatly appreciate your input regarding the low frequencies. I am going to set up a pair of monitors for my house speakers and although we LOVE bass I am a bit concerned if there is not a way to tame the bass on the Pioneers like G3 KRK’s now have with the LF adustment on the back of them they could be a bit much.

    Any plans on comparing the S-DJ line with the KRK G3 line of speakers?
    thank you

  9. mind me askin..Between Yamaha HS50M and PIONEER S-DJ 60 which one better??

  10. Studiodecision says:

    Now I understand why you would not use at a party. Eager fingers will poke and probe (and whats worse) a guest already drunk might think the speaker needs one too – enter half a glass of mixed drink and ice into the bass-reflex duct. The day after you’d wish they remained exactly where they belong in your entry to mid-level production studio sharing with Pioneer DJ controller.

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