Pioneer DJ is best known for its club standard hardware: every big venue has a CDJ/DJM set-up. This seems to be the case with every single dance festival as well – the ubiquitous “Pioneer DJ” logo emblazoned across the gear atop the DJ table.
It’s easy to forget that Pioneer DJ also makes entry-level kit: In this review, we take a look at the DJM-250MK2, an update to the original two-channel mixer that inherits features from its big brother the DJM-900NXS2 at an attractive price point (at least as far as Pioneer DJ gear goes). Let’s dig in…
First impressions and setting up
I’ve missed the feel of small kit like this. I’ve been spinning with my DDJ-RZ controller for a year now, and while it’s great for big shows and events, it really is a pain to lug around, especially if I’ve got to do a show in a small bar. The DJM-250MK2 feels tiny in comparison. It’s built like a tank though – all metal construction all around with a nice heft to it. I’d say it’s even more heavy duty than my DDJ-RZ.
There are two channels here. Each has three-band EQs, channel fader, trim pot, headphone cue button, and a Magvel crossfader taken directly from the DJM-900NXS2. Also inherited from that mixer are the Sound Color FX filter and parameter knobs. Crossfader curve and hamster switches are also on the face. You can switch among USB (for Rekordbox DJ use), line, or phono inputs for each of the two channels.
There is a dedicated master output knob, and headphone cue and level knobs. The DJM-250MK2 comes with a switchable aux input: you can choose whether to receive input via the aux input RCA jacks in the back, or via your computer through a USB connection. Mic level and tone knobs round out the controls at the face of the unit.
The rear has a power switch, a receptacle for the power brick (not a fan of this because if you lose it, it’s harder to replace than the usual three-prong power cord you find in pro DJ gear), RCA master outputs, XLR master outputs, phono and line inputs for both channels one and two, an RCA aux in, a 1/4″ mic jack, and a USB output. That’s a lot of connectivity for an entry-level bit of kit. The only thing missing here would be a booth output, but by omitting that Pioneer DJ has indirectly categorised this as a mixer for home or small gig use, as opposed to mobile DJ use or playing clubs.
The front of the unit has 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone jacks. I like this because that means I can use just about any headphone without having to screw on those pesky 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapters that I always seem to lose after a show.
The DJM-250MK2 ships with a Rekordbox DJ licence, and is Rekordbox DVS compatible – while it comes with the Rekordbox DVS add-on, you’ll still need to purchase the Rekordbox control vinyl / control CDs separately.
I have a pair of XDJ-700 media players here, which will be reviewed separately, so I plugged them into the DJM-250MK2, powered up the mixer and got to work.
Everything works as expected – it’s a Pioneer DJ mixer after all. Think of it as a pared down DJM-450MK2, with the same build and high-quality Magvel crossfader, but with a spartan effects section: you don’t get the multiple Sound Color FX, Beat FX section, send / return channels, and so on.
It sounds great too – as a standalone mixer, the three-band EQ works in isolation mode, meaning you can completely cut out the highs, mids, and lows using the knobs. The Magvel Fader is fantastic – it’s a contactless fader, so it’s buttery smooth. It can be switched to cut really sharp, perfect for turntablism / controllerism and scratch routines. The Sound Color filter knob is chunky and slightly weighted, so it feels great.
Each channel has a switch at the top that lets you choose from among three inputs: USB, line or phono. USB is for hooking up the DJM-250MK2 to your laptop running Rekordbox DJ so you can spin with it. Line is for connecting a media player like a CDJ or XDJ, or any other line level input device. Phono is for connecting turntables like the PLX-500.
Sound Color FX
The DJM-250MK2 comes with two Sound Color FX knobs, which works as dedicated filter knobs. There is also a Sound Color FX parameter knob onboard, which lets you adjust the resonance of the filter curve – turning the knob clockwise makes the curve sharper, and turning it anti-clockwise leads to a smoother filter curve.
Why is there a Filter on/off button?
The Sound Color FX filters are fantastic, just like what you’d expect on any big boy Pioneer DJ mixer. Some may find it curious as to why Pioneer DJ added a filter on/off button in the middle of the unit. Isn’t the filter supposed to be “off” when the Sound Color FX knobs are placed in the 12 o’clock position?
Yes, but if you want to make exact filter toggles, you can’t be bothered to return the knob to its initial position: let’s say you’re at a build up in your track and you want to do a filter sweep. You turn the Sound Color filter knob gradually until you hear it getting really thin, and then right before the drop, you toggle the filter off by pressing the Filter button.
The result is you are able to hold that filter cut for as long as possible up until the exact nanosecond that the drop hits – pressing a button to turn the filter off is a lot faster (and more precise) than turning the knob back to the 12 o’clock position.
You can also use the Filter toggle for turning the filter on and off during a scratch routine – you can make for some really cool thinning or dulling effects by setting the Sound Color FX knob in position while the Filter button is set to off (say 9 o’clock for the aforementioned “dulling” sound), and then just toggling it on and off while scratching.
One of my favourite features of the DJM-250MK2 is quite mundane: the headphone output. It is powerful and loud. Now before you write this off, listen up: a quality headphone output means that you generally can hear things better at both lower and louder volumes, and you can crank it up higher before it starts sounding like mush.
Of course headphones come into play as well, but a good quality headphone amplifier in a mixer is the prime mover, so to speak – users who’ve had to deal with the Traktor S4 and S2’s low headphone output volume know what I mean here. The DJM-250MK2 sounds good, certainly better than other two-channel scratch mixers in its class, even in a noisy environment like a bar or house party.
The aux input comes in the form of a pair of RCA jacks, great for hooking up a smartphone / tablet or drum machine / synth if you want to jam along. That also means if you take this out on a pub gig, folk can plug their phone in case you don’t have a track they’re requesting (double-edged sword, this). It’s also switchable to USB, so you can record what’s coming out of your master output to a digital audio workstation (DAW).
The DJM-250MK2 is Rekordbox DVS-ready, meaning you can use it with a turntable or CDJ running timecode vinyl or CDs, respectively. For a two-channel mixer under US$400, and from Pioneer DJ no less, this is a great deal, considering that a DVS box like Serato Scratch Live could easily run past the DJM-250MK2’s price tag, and that’s without a mixer to use it with. It already ships with the Rekordbox DVS add-on, so you just need to buy a pair of timecode records or CDs to get started.
The DJM-250MK2 is a straightforward mixer for the budding DJ and turntablist. Those who like to twiddle with effects during their performance will be left wanting, and if you are one of those DJs then you’re better off with the DJM-450MK2.
But for DJs interested in a tough mixer for cutting and scratching, along with simple mixing and blending, it’s hard to think of something better than the DJM-250MK2. With Rekordbox DVS thrown in the mix, the DJM-250MK2 has got the fundamentals of a mixer that serves as a fantastic introduction into the world of digital DJing via Rekordbox DJ.
Sure, there are cheaper options out there, such as the Epsilon-Pro Inno-Mix 2, but the price difference isn’t that much, and it really is quite a leap in terms of build quality and features. If I were a beginner DJ wanting to get serious about my spinning, this would be the first mixer I’d get.
What are your thoughts on this mixer? Think you’d like to get one for your bedroom DJ set-up? Would you recommend it to someone who wants to get started mixing with turntables or CDJs? Share your thoughts below.