Pioneer today announced the latest mixer in its range, the DJM-850, a replacement for its DJM-800 model. The mixer builds on the DJM-800’s features, adding the ability to integrate the mixer further with DJ software, and more sophisticated effects that borrow from the DJM-900nexus.
With a built in four-stereo channel high-quality sound card, the mixer further blurs the line between hardware and software DJing, and sheds a little more light on the ultimate direction digital DJing might take over the coming years. Below we look closer at what’s on board, bring you the launch video, and link to more photos as well as the official press release.
Better integration with DJ software
There is a definite trend towards hardware taking over some of the features of DJ software at the moment, and the DJM-850 continues that. It has a four-stereo-channel sound card built in, meaning with one USB cable, you can connect your computer to it and DJ across all four of its channels with your digital music.
Pioneer also says the sound card is compatible with digital vinyl (DVS) software “such as Traktor” (although compatibility with other DVS systems is not explicitly stated in their press release). It comes with a computer utility that automatically opens on your computer when you plug the mixer in, allowing you to configure it to work with your particular system.
Pioneer makes much of the effects on the new mixer. It inherits the comprehensive effects section of the DJM-800, adds some more effects (a couple borrowed from the DJM-900nexus, and a new effect of its own called “up echo”, that apparently helps somehow with mixing). It looks like a lot of work has gone into this area, which makes sense, as one of the benefits of hardware effects is that manufacturers can build in things that you can’t find in software, giving them USPs. So two USPs here are “beat effects”, that link volume changes on incoming channels to a parameter on an effect (such as resonance on a filter for “pumping” effects), and a supercharged wet/dry knob, that past 12 o’clock adds something extra (specifically, “pitch up” to their new “up echo” effect, and a high-pass filter to reverb).
The mixer can act as a Midi controller as it’s fully Midi assignable. Its sound card boasts three sampling rates (96kHz, 48kHz and 44.1kHz) plus inputs, so the mixer can act as a music production and recording tool as well as a straight DJ mixer. Its USB port is on the top (for easy computer attachment in installations, presumably), although there’s no duplication of it at the back, which is a shame as it makes for a not-very-neat installation if you have your computer permanently attached. Price & availability: €1,499 / £1,299, available from late March (no US launch or price as yet) • Photo gallery • Official press release
DJ controllers have kind of had it all their way in recent years – you only have to walk around DJ or music shows to see that controllers are ruling the game as far as digital DJing goes. But there are definitely benefits to the feel and features of “traditional”-styled gear. As a mixer, this is better than the mixer on all DJ controllers, even the very best. Coupled with good platter control (Pioneer expects this to be paired with its own CDJ-850s, but it could also be from software controllers like for instance Denon’s DN-SC2000s, or other cross media players with digital compatibility, which are being released almost as fast as new controllers at the moment), plus DJ software on a connected laptop, and you’ve got a pretty awesome system – for home OR club.
Same technology at home and in venues?
I can envisage a digital DJ turning up to play with a laptop and maybe a small pad controller (or even a wirelessly connected iPad). You’d plug in your laptop to a mixer like this, use the club’s “decks” to control your MP3s via software, use the mixer’s onboard effects, and possible use your pad controller or iPad to add something extra to the mix that’s unique to you (sample triggering, as an obvious choice).
Don’t forget that Pioneer has its own software, Rekordbox, and other manufacturers are also entering the game such as Denon with their new Engine software. These software packages are designed from the ground up to work with DJ hardware such as this. As the two worlds continue to combine, expect the best of what software has to offer and the feel, usability and power of DJ hardware to merge more and more. As always it seems in digital DJing, the times ahead seem more exciting by the day.
What’s your impression? Do you see this being part of the way serious digital DJing will go? Can you see the advantages of using hardware effects and having a mixer that’s also Midi mappable and has on-board audio? What about the pricing? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.