First Impressions / Setting up
Pioneer DJ’s DJM-V10 digital DJ mixer is the first in a new series of products, aimed at audiophile DJs and those with more complex mixing, routing and performing needs than average; the kind of DJs for whom the DJM-900NXS2, for instance, may seem a limiting choice, capable though that mixer is.
As such, it is Pioneer’s answer to the mixers of Allen & Heath, and especially to the PlayDifferently Model 1, offering a large array of inputs, outputs and routing options, giving an unprecedented level of control and myriad options for workflow customisation.
This is a big mixer. With six main channels of audio, it is wide and deep. It is of all-metal build, and feels sturdy and professional. With the best quality sound card of any Pioneer DJ mixer to date, and by Pioneer DJ’s own admission, better audio quality than the DJM-900NXS2, it is a premium product with a corresponding premium price tag.
The DJM-V10 immediately screams “innovation”, with a three-band isolator controlled by jumbo knobs, four-band EQ per channel, separate filters and channel FX (the latter with their own set of parameter controls), a touchscreen in the Beat FX area, and the ability to monitor independent inputs across two pairs of headphones.
DJs who play with extra equipment (hardware drum machines, sequencers, synths, effects and so on), or with other DJs and/or musicians, will appreciate features such as dual laptop USBs, two mic channels (with shared EQ), and others, which we’ll get on to shortly. These kind of performers are definitely the target market for this.
No matter how complicated the mixer is, though, in time-honoured fashion set-up involves plugging in all your inputs and outputs, adding the unit to your network hub if you are running one, and turning on…
Again, no surprises for basic use: You use the input selector at the top of the mixer to dial in your music source to each channel, adjust your master and/or booth volume controls, and then mix via the line faders, EQs and Magvel crossfader if you choose to enable it.
The fun on a mixer like this, of course, starts when we dig deeper into its features. In the case of the DJM-V10, to fully describe its features for you, we need to dig a LOT deeper. So let’s get started…
It is worth us taking a quick look at the input selection options on the top knob, as they demonstrate the range of inputs available to you on the mixer.
So there are inputs for two laptops; a digital input (the mixer can accept digital outputs from CDJs, for instance), line inputs on all; and various combinations of phono (four channels), Multi I/O (two channels) and both Built In and External “Send FX” (we’ll get onto those in detail a bit further on in this review).
There is also a compressor here for each channel – again, we’ll talk about that later.
Headphones and cueing
As this is designed to be used by two DJs if required, the channels each have two headphone cue buttons, so each DJ can choose who he or she wants to be monitoring.
There are some nice options for the main set of headphones: As well as the standard cue/master mix and headphones level knobs, there are buttons that: Bypass the EQ for your chosen cueing channel; give you the classic “mono split” (master output in one ear, cued choice in the other); and let you preview tracks without loading them.
The latter works with Rekordbox DJ when you’re using this mixer as part of a laptop/software DJ set-up, but it’s not a great leap of imagination to envisage this being something added to the next-gen of CDJ, as and when such units finally arrive.
The per-channel filters are a first on a Pioneer DJ mixer, being closer to the Allen & Heath style of filter than to the more common “one knob” LPF/HPF variant. So you get buttons for choosing if the filters are low pass or high pass; a single full-sweep filter knob per channel; and a resonance control that governs the “musicality” of the filter.
As there is only a single LPF/HPF setting, that means it is not possible to have one channel with a LPF filter activated and one with HPF; your setting will be the same across all of your filter controls. In a sense this is a step backwards from how channel filters normally work on DJ mixers.
On the plus side, finally having on/off buttons (which the HPF or LPF toggles effectively are) makes it easier to progressively apply a filter before crisply and cleanly turning it off via the button.
Formerly the Color FX, the Send FX are split off from the filters for independent control. They each have a knob to control their intensity, and there are six Send FX to choose from. As with the filters, your chosen Send FX will be the same across all six channels.
From here on in the Send FX get interesting. I’ll do my best to describe them clearly for you, but read carefully as this is something new…
Firstly, the actual effects available (all post-fader, by the way) are a bit different from previous mixers, with a definite bias towards the kind of effects some DJs are bringing with them to plug in externally (think Boss reverb/echo guitar pedals, for example).
So we have Short Delay, Long Delay, Dub Echo and Reverb, but we also have two external FX too that can be chosen. So while Pioneer DJ is clearly hoping that many DJs will see these effects and decide not to bother bringing external hardware FX, should DJs still wish to do that, those effects can be punched in with these two buttons, having been connected up via 1/4″ jack send/returns around the back of the mixer.
So to punch in an effect, you make sure the “Master Mix” button is on (more about this in a second), press its button, and then turn the knob on the channel you want the effect to activate on.
There are four extra controls for the Send FX, giving a wider range of control than ever before – by a long way. The size/feedback control affects how long the effect takes to decay; the Time control is the frequency of the effect repeating; the Tone control gives the effect a dark and broody or light and airy audio quality; and the Master Mix level controls the maximum possible intensity of the effect when the per-channel Send knob is turned fully to the right.
Everything I’ve described up until this point is basically a fancy version of how Sound Color (or per-channel) effects have always worked on Pioneer DJ mixers. But remember that “Master Mix” button we’ve had turned on up until this point? When we turn this off, things start to get interesting.
Without Master Mix turned on, the effect is not heard on the original channel. Instead, you can route it elsewhere. You do this by selecting “Built In”, “Ext 1”, “Ext 2” and various combinations of these available to you on the input routing selectors at the top of the channels.
Do so on a channel of your choice, and the effected version of the sound you’re feeding into the Send FX becomes the input of that channel. (Now, if you’ve been wondering why there are six channels on the mixer, it should be starting to make sense – as should their new name, “Send FX”.)
Why would you want to do this? Because, to give one reason, you can now apply the full range of channel controls to the effected sound: four-band EQ, filter, Beat FX and so on. This concept will be commonplace to DJs with knowledge of studio mixing desks, but it’s a rarity on a DJ mixer. And it’s awesome! Once you get the hang of it, the mind boggles with possibilities.
Compressors & Isolator
On the theme of advanced control, each channel has a compressor. It is controlled by a small knob bottom right of the Trim knob for the channel. This is unusual but highly useful, because it means that you can add some “punch” back to maybe thin and weedy-sounding older tracks that you’re mixing with more, more compressed music, giving your overall mix more balance.
Talking of balancing your overall mix, the Isolator – a feature lifted from the boutique mixer world and rotary mixers, especially those from the past – is a three-band EQ across the whole master output of the mixer.
Beloved of long-mix house DJs and disco DJs of times gone by, an Isolator EQ lets you teak the tonal colour of the overall mix in a way that isn’t easy to do in any other way. This one also has an on/off switch meaning you can quickly kick it in and out without having to try and adjust all three controls at once.
Against the Color FX, the Beat FX throw fewer surprises, albeit that they now come with a 4″ touchscreen giving you more control and visibility into what they’re doing.
There are 14 effects to choose from, and you punch an effect into a channel by turning it on via the button below the channel’s Filter knob; you can only have one channel at a time turned “on” in this way, although if you wanted to put a Sound Color effect over the whole mixer’s output, you could select the Master output as its source.
Once you’ve done that, you get the usual on/off and wet/dry (or “level/depth” in Pioneer DJ parlance) controls, a “Time” control to alter the length of the LFO for the effect manually; and “tap” and “beat half/multiply” buttons for when you’re tying the effect to the track’s beat, either manually or once detected by the mixer for the input. There are also low/mid/high on/off buttons so you can decide what parts of the signal you do and don’t want the effect to work on.
There is a new effect here, called Shimmer; it’s like a reverb with a curious, musical-like tone. Think a choir in a church. It’s quite nice!
The monochrome touchscreen is definitely old-gen tech, by the way, with a bendy plastic top and none of the subtleties of modern phone screens – it works, but it’s far from state-of-the-art.
That said, it is a good addition to the mixer, because each effect has its own screen that appears when you select the effect you want, and there are loads of parameters you can adjust depending on the effect you’ve chosen, by touching the screen (“poking” the screen is a better verb here, as it takes a firm prod – no multi-touch gestures on this typer of screen…).
A difference with this mixer is that some of the controls you’d normally expect to find on the hardware have been pushed to the touchscreen.
For instance, the fader curve settings for the crossfader and channel faders are now controlled from here; there are options for the headphones buttons I talked about back in the cueing section; there are various microphone settings; and Midi channel is chosen here too, plus brightness for screen and LEDs.
Usefully, you can save and load your settings here, and it also works for things like the low/mid/high frequency settings effect-by-effect – a nice touch to save DJs diving into menus to get the mixer working the way they want it each time they roll up at one.
Physical inputs and outputs
Around the back of the mixer, from left to right, there’s a lockable IEC power socket and on/off button; three sets of four mono jacks for stereo in/out across the Multi I/O and Ext 1 and Ext 2 send/returns; the six line inputs (four with phono too); the outputs (unbalanced master and rec outs, plus balanced XLR master outs and balanced booth jack outs); a digital master out; six digital ins; two mic sockets; and the Link and Midi out ports, the latter being the DIN variant.
It’s cool to see the digital out here, which is the XLR socket variety: With compatible PA systems, this means that it would be possible to have a completely digital signal path from players to speakers.
The unit is designed firstly to be used with networked Pioneer DJ CDJs, and as with the DJM-900NXS2, can be hooked up to your CDJs via a hub.
But it also works with Rekordbox DJ running on a laptop (there is full Midi control of the mixer), and – in a forthcoming update – will work with Serato DJ Pro, as long as the user has Serato DJ’s Club Kit Expansion Pack bought and installed.
As it retains the Multi I/O of the DJM-900NXS2, it can also be used with software such as the DJM-REC app and RMX iPad effects app from Pioneer DJ, for set recording and external effects.
This mixer is not mainstream, and it’s not cheap (€3299 / £2799). It’s not meant to be either. Instead, this is Pioneer DJ saying “we can do the best, as well!”
It has a great audio spec. It has some of the best controllability of any mixer, and is Pioneer DJ’s first attempt at a mixer in that Allen & Heath area.
I particularly liked the per-channel compression, the Isolator, and the insanely useful level of routing, which means that this mixer is going to appeal hugely to DJs with more than standard set-ups – external gear, DJing with other musicians and DJs, and so on.
A better screen in this day and age might have been expected, and I’d like to have seen more flexibility on the channel filters.
What’s interesting is that it definitely appears to be the start of something, the first item in an apparent new model range. What else will come? A rotary version? A four-channel version? New types of media players or Midi controllers to work with it?
We don’t know, but for now, this is a highly accomplished and interesting first product in the “V” range. Certainly not for everyone, but the niche it is aiming at is likely to be pretty impressed by it.