In this head to head feature we pit two entry-level controllers from Pioneer DJ: the DDJ-RB, which has been the go-to controller for those starting out who want to spin with Rekordbox DJ, and the just-released DDJ-400 which effectively replaces it. Though the DDJ-400 is fresher, there are some differences between the two that new DJs will want to take a look at before deciding which one to get, and we’ve got them laid out here for you:
1. FX section
One of the biggest differences between the DDJ-400 and the DDJ-RB is in how they let you tweak FX. The DDJ-RB has what you’d traditionally find on Pioneer DJ DDJ controllers: you get an FX control section at the top of each jogwheel consisting of three buttons and a knob, and they work independently of each other.
The DDJ-400 does away with the per-deck FX section and rolls it all into one Beat FX strip that sits beside the mixer section. You are able to cycle through Rekordbox DJ’s FX, make beat length changes, and choose which of the two channels are effected by the Beat FX here. You can also control the overall level of the Beat FX, as well as turning the Beat FX on or off.
This is consistent with the FX tweaking experience found on Pioneer DJ’s club-standard DJM-900NXS2 mixer, as well as cheaper mixers like the DJM-450 and DJM-750MK2. The reason for the switch is to make the jump from using FX on the DDJ-400 to the DJM-900NXS2 as frictionless as possible.
2. Looping controls
The DDJ-RB has a looping section that sits beside the performance pads, which is consistent with how Pioneer DJ positioned the looping controls in past DDJ controllers. On the DDJ-400 though, the looping controls are transferred to the top of each jogwheel, making the layout similar to what you’d find on a CDJ or XDJ media player. You still get the Loop In and Loop Out controls for both the DDJ-RB and the DDJ-400, but the DDJ-400 expands on those controls by adding buttons for doubling of halving the length of the loop, as well as controls for triggering Memory Cues and Loops.
Again, it appears that Pioneer DJ wants to make the jump from using a beginner controller to a full-blown club set-up less of a head scratcher, hence the design decision to emulate the looping controls layout of a CDJ or XDJ.
3. Pitch faders
Pitch faders are essential for manual beatmatching, and generally the longer the pitch fader, the more accurate it is when it comes to zeroing in on a specific tempo. The ultra short-throw pitch faders of the DDJ-RB are one of the main gripes of users, not to mention their relatively flimsy construction that had some fader caps wobbling.
The DDJ-400 has longer pitch faders so you’re able to adjust the tempo in smaller increments.
4. Performance pad functions
The DDJ-400 does away with the Slicer, Slicer Loop and Sequence call functions for the performance pads, adding in Pad FX2, Keyboard and Key Shift modes instead which are new performance features found in Rekordbox DJ since version 5.0.
You’re not going to miss Slicer – it’s one of those DJ performance features that has yet to catch on years after it was introduced, and we think that Keyboard mode is more fun to use for controllerists and those looking to add some pitch play in their cue juggles.
The pads on the DDJ-400 are also a bit smaller compared to those found on the DDJ-RB.
5. Headphone Mixing knob
Lastly, the DDJ-RB had one shortcoming in the headphone monitoring department: while it did have a Master Cue button, there was no way for you to blend the headphone mix between the master output and the headphone cue. That meant that when you tried to beatmatch using your headphones, you were hearing both master and headphone cue “as is” which isn’t ideal.
What you’d want is the ability to dial in a headphone mix between master and headphone cue using a knob, and the DDJ-400 solves this by adding the Headphone Mixing knob. This is particularly useful when you’re DJing at a venue that doesn’t have a booth monitoring system and you have no choice but to mix using just your headphones.
It all boils down to whether or not you have club or festival DJing aspirations – if you do, go for the DDJ-400. The looping controls and Beat FX will prime you for taking the next step towards spinning on a CDJ/DJM set-up that’s found in DJ booths and stages all around the world.
If you’d prefer to have per-deck FX control and you don’t mind the shorter pitch faders, the DDJ-RB is still a good option, especially if you’re able to get a good deal on a used one since it’s been around for a few years now.
Which of the two controllers would you prefer to use, and why? Let us know in the comments.