The Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1 is a bold new entry-level DJ controller for Serato DJ (it comes with the Lite version of that software), that for the first time takes the “battle layout”, of two turntables turned through 90 degrees and a modern scratch mixer, and shrinks it into a beginner controller. It does most things right, but the pads may be a bit small for some fingers. Recommended.
First Impressions / Setting up
The DDJ-REV1 is an entry-level device, so it’s all plastic, but the build quality is fine – many pro DJs are happy to use these types of controllers as portable, secondary units, including our own tutor Jazzy Jeff (see his demo mix on this very device here).
The first thing you notice is that the “decks” are laid out with the play/pause button (and an honorary little “cue” button) bottom right, and the pitch sliders are horizontal at the top – just as if you turned two traditional turntables through 90 degrees as battle/scratch DJs tend to do. No DJ controller has ever done this before – and once you see it, you do wonder: Why not? It makes sense!
Next, you notice that the mixer section is like a shrunken battle mixer – it has the same clean, simple lower third (for uncluttered access to the crossfader), then the performance pads above that, then the EQ controls laid out in the Pioneer DJ DJM-S7/S9 format.
So overall, we’ve got a battle layout… in an all-in-one DJ controller. It is only a controller – no Aux inputs or anything like that. It works with Serato DJ Lite, but would also work with Serato DJ Pro if you already owned it, or upgraded to that software.
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How to set up the DDJ-REV1
To get going, you download the Serato DJ Lite software from Serato’s website, and plug the unit in to your computer – you then plug in headphones, a microphone if you want to use one, and powered speakers – you don’t even need to do that if you don’t want to, as it can play through your laptop if you wish.
As is the case with most software nowadays, Serato will work with your own music files, but can also work with streaming services so you can play from TIDAL, Beatport LINK, Beatsource LINK and SoundCloud Go+, too.
Jogs and decks
It’s fun to use. the jogwheels are relatively large, and they feel good. They have no in-jog displays and of course they’re not motorised like the bigger-brother DDJ-REV7‘s are, but they’re an improvement on those of the DDJ-SB3, which this controller is basically a replacement for.
There are simple but effective looping buttons above the jogwheels, and here’s also where you’ll find buttons to switch to decks 3 and 4. Even using the free, limited Serato DJ Lite software, you get control over four software decks this way. It’s fiddly, but it works – kudos.
At the top here is also where you’ll find the sync buttons, and the master volume (right-hand deck) and headphones volume (left-hand deck).
The mixer section is notable for its width – much bigger than usual for controllers this size, giving a spacious, well laid-out feel. But while the upfaders and crossfaders have space, this does mean the performance pads are small – more on those shortly.
There is three-band EQ and “trim” (level) control here, too, and at the very top of the mixer, a rotary encoder and two “load” buttons for library navigation and track loading.
This being a “battle” emulation, the mixer is more than just a mixer, of course – it’s also where you’ll find the effect and performance pads, which we’ll look at next.
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In the “old-style” controller layout, popular a few years back, there were two effects engines, each of which controlled three effects – lots of knobs and buttons, which many DJs eventually felt was overkill. More recently, effects control from hardware has been scaled back, but I think it’s gone too far in some entry-level devices.
Not so here. You get two effects engines still, the ability to choose three effects per channel from the unit itself, and to alter the effect cycle value. The only real compromise is a single effects level knob.
More important than all that, you get fun effects paddles, for easy triggering on/off, both momentary and locked, of each effect engine in Serato. Top marks – it’s great to use and an accurate copy of what you’ll find on pro scratch/battle mixers.
There is also a separate filter knob per channel, as you’d expect.
The pads are rubberised, but they’re small, cramped, and only backlit in one colour. That said, they give you hot cues, auto loop, sampler, “Scratch Bank” (this is a great feature until now only found on expensive Serato gear), plus the classic Trans(form) effect.
All of these are limited in the Serato DJ Lite software, but fully unlocked in Serato DJ Pro (additional purchase), where you also get Beat Jump and Roll.
But even in Lite, you get the headline new feature – “Tracking”. This cuts the crossfader digitally in and out for you in various pre-programmed patterns, allowing you to make good scratch effects without having to do that yourself.
It’s particularly effective with scratch sounds (some are supplied with Serato), and I demo it in the accompanying video if you want to hear how it sounds.
Overall, the pads are OK – just make sure you’re happy with their small size. They do look a bit odd at that size.
Other points on the DDJ-REV1
The metering is good – the meters give you per-channel feedback, not master level, which makes more sense when you only have two meters, and I am pleased they were done this way.
A great feature if you want to livestream with this unit is that the microphone socket is fed up the USB to the computer, meaning it is easier to set up a livestreaming rig – normally on such controllers it isn’t done this way.
Be aware that there’s only an 1/8″ headphones socket – if your headphones are only 1/4″, they won’t fit and you’d need an adaptor cable. This is fair enough at this level, I think.
As stated, this controller is basically the replacement for the ageing but hugely popular Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3 Serato controller.
Firstly, it’s good to see that Pioneer DJ has done this. You might have thought that as the company has its own software (Rekordbox) with its own supporting controller range, that we’d have seen the end of Serato controllers from Pioneer DJ, but not so. It looks like Pioneer DJ has been pragmatic, and that’s a good thing, as these units are traditionally very popular.
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The new divide between Rekordbox and Serato Pioneer controllers now seems clear: The Rekordbox ones adopt the “club” layout (aping two CDJs and a DJM mixer), while the Serato ones copy the “battle” layout (two turntables thru 90 degrees and a scratch mixer). In this way, continuing to support Serato makes sense.
That said, Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox controllers are still slightly better value, as the provided software is more powerful that Serato DJ Lite, and it’s an extra $99 to upgrade Serato DJ Lite to Serato DJ Pro.
Watch the demo
In this Digital DJ Tips exclusive, our tutor DJ Jazzy Jeff puts the brand-new DDJ-REV1 through its paces. Who says you need expensive kit to DJ like a pro?
If you think you want to play open format styles, parties, maybe a bit of performance DJing and scratching, the DDJ-REV1 would be a great entry-level unit for you. With it, you’ll develop the muscle memory for where to find everything on such set-ups, ready to one day move up to the DDJ-REV7, or even to real turntables and a mixer (or maybe Rane Twelves in lieu of the turntables).
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Overall, the DDJ-REV1 is a more than worthy replacement for the DDJ-SB3, and should prove popular with Serato DJs of all types and levels.