• Price: €899 / £749 / $799
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Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 Scratch Mixer Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 1 June, 2022

7210

The Lowdown

The DJM-S5 is a simple, entry-level scratch mixer designed to be used with Serato DJ Pro software, which it unlocks upon connection, at the heart of a DVS set-up. It covers all the basics for scratch DJs looking for a pro-feeling but more affordable mixer. The DJM-S5’s strong point is its pro build, including the same crossfader and effects paddles as more expensive mixers. But with only four performance pads each side, which are also of the hard, “clicky” type rather than the more expensive pads found on the bigger units, some DJs may still want to save up a bit longer for the DJM-S7.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

Right out of the box the DJM-S5 feels “pro”, with its metal top plate and rather striking red paint scheme (no other colours are available). It has the same Magvel Fader Pro used in the other Pioneer DJ scratch mixers, and they’ve added a transparent panel at the front of the mixer so you can see the workings of the crossfader, which is a nice design feature.

Most of the layout will feel familiar to any DJ used to this style of mixer/controller, with the classic DJM-S9 layout for the two channels’ EQs and filters, and the exact same paddles for effects as found on the DJM-S7.

DJM-S5 rear
Around the back are RCA sockets for plugging in turnables or line-level inputs (switchable), an Aux input, and outputs for master and booth.

 

Around the back are RCA sockets for plugging in turnables or line-level inputs (switchable), an Aux input, outputs for master and booth – nothing unusual here, apart from twin USB-C sockets in lieu of any other computer or power connections.

This is rather a bold move, and I like it – you can power the mixer via a cable from your computer if you want to, or use the second USB-C to power the mixer independently. It means you can use the mixer in places where there is no power, as long as you have a laptop with you, or power it from a power bank (although Pioneer DJ does not guarantee this will work, it worked fine for us – so I guess it will if your power bank is good enough). There’s no adaptor in the box though, so you’ll be finding your own power adaptor into which to plug the supplied lead.

 

The front has a transparent area around the replaceable crossfader so you can see the inner workings, which is a nice touch.

Once you’ve figured out powering it up, as long as you have Serato DJ Pro installed on your laptop (free, you just need to register on the Serato site), plugging the mixer in to your computer unlocks Serato. Attach a pair of turntables, add your Serato timecode vinyl (something you’ll have to obtain separately) or even a Phase wireless system, and you’re ready to go.

In Use

The first thing scratch DJs will probably want to do is adjust the crossfader with the Feeling Adjust mechanical knob, before getting to know how the software integration works.

The only onboard effect is filter, hence if you were to play “normal” records or sources and use the mixer as a simple hardware mixer away from the software, this is the only effect you have to play with. Plug in to Serato, though, and you can access all of Serato’s effects and therefore start using the paddles and other effects controls.

Scratch like the pros on ANY gear: Scratching for Controller DJs

While the unit does indeed unlock Serato and Serato DVS, do be aware that Serato wants to sell you its upgrades, so to access all of the the 57 effects Serato has available, you’ll be paying extra. Note that you’ll also need to pay extra to get Serato’s Pitch ‘n Time, needed for high quality pitch shifting, too. However, the standard effects are more than enough to be going on with, and probably enough for many DJs as they are.

 

The paddles are an intuitive way of accessing Serato’s effects, and are the same ones found on the more expensive DJM-S mixers.

As with the many other Pioneer scratch mixers and those from other companies that have adopted the same paradigm, the paddles are a nice intuitive way to use effects, with easy momentary or locked-on effects depending on which way you push them. Note that you only have access to a single effect across both decks at any one time.

The RGB performance pads will divide DJs: On the one hand, you can assign a different Serato performance function to each deck, which is not always the case with budget or first-gen such mixers, and you do get access to all Serato performance pad functions. On the other though, the pads themselves are the (presumably cheaper) “click” variety rather than the nicer pads found on the more expensive mixers. And of course there are only four per side, so you have to switch “banks” using a 1-4/5-8 button to access the second set of four.

New pad functions

That said, the mixer does come with two new pad functions. The first is called “Scratch Cutter”, which imitates your choice of six crossfader cutting patterns when activated via the paddles. All you then have to do is move the platter or jogwheel. As a performance tool it’s actually quite fun, being roughly a way of emulating basic cut scratches up to more complex Transformer scratches (as pioneered by our very own DJ Jazzy Jeff).

I found it’s more intuitive than the baffling “Jog Cutter” introduced with Pioneer DJ’s DDJ-FLX6 controller, but it’s still a bit of a gimmick for me. I can see it dividing scratch DJs, too, as it’s not hard to imagine a chorus of “it’s cheating”…

The second is called “Crossfader Hot Cue”. This is a variation on a feature that has featured on DJ systems for a long time. It basically starts the deck playing when you move the crossfader away from the edge, from the most recently selected cue point, for a stutter effect. This is more useful as it emulates tapping a hot cue button to stutter a track, something you can’t do with DVS otherwise.

 

Coupled with a pair of turntables and some control vinyl, plus of course your laptop, the DJM-S5 gives you a much cheaper entry from Pioneer DJ into Serato DVS than even the next step up, the DJM-S7.

And that’s about it. You have crossfader curve and reverse as button functions rather than hardware controls (which is the pattern with many features on this mixer), and overall the mixer is defined as much by what it hasn’t got as what it has – no dedicated autoloop controls, only simple library controls, only Serato software FX (nothing onboard apart from the filters), and so on. Par for the course for a mixer aimed at this market segment.

Read this next: The 13 Best Mixers For DJing

We were intrigued as to how it would sound being USB powered, but the audio is bright and loud, so the Pioneer DJ engineers seem to have pulled that trick off. Oh and one final thing – the mic channel is routed to the audio interface, meaning if you are livestreaming for instance, your audience will hear what you say on the mic even if you’re “hijacking” the audio interface audio for your livestream – often not the case with DJ gear, and a useful feature in this day and age.

Conclusion

This is a solid basic scratch DJ mixer, it looks great, it has high quality components (if you can get over the cheaper performance pads – which personally I can), and covers the basics well.

The lack of onboard hardware effects is something to be expected at this price point, but at least filters are available for when you’re not mixing using software. The USB-C power system is bold and we like it, and the new Serato features are at least an interesting twist.

 

I think not all DJs will like or use it, but the Scratch Cutter “training wheels” function is definitely a talking point.

Competition? Probably the Numark Scratch is the closest – but that has even fewer features, and is quite considerably cheaper too. The biggest advantage over that mixer for us is that the DJM-S5 has the ability to have different pad settings on each channel, and full access to Serato’s performance pad features, plus a couple of its own.

Learn to scratch with us: Scratching for Controller DJs

No, the DJM-S5 doesn’t have the more advanced controls of the DJM-S7 and DJM-S11, but they are much more complex and involved mixers, and of course you pay a lot more for that. For many DJs, especially beginners and hobby DJs, what’s on offer here will be enough: Nothing feels cheap, so as a performance instrument, even with only four pads per Serato deck to play with, the DJM-S5 does what it does well.

If you’ve got old decks lying around, want to drag them into the digital world as part of a DVS system, and want a simple mixer that works with Serato DJ Pro out of the box giving you most of the essential features of mixers costing a lot more, this is a solid choice. Just add timecode vinyl and you’re good to go.

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