• Price: US$999
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Roland DJ-707M Serato Controller Review

Last updated 15 August, 2019

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The Lowdown

The Roland DJ-707M is a four-channel controller for Serato DJ aimed at mobile and pro DJs. It’s an unassuming controller with a lot hidden away: The 24-bit/48kHz sound card is loud and clean, it’s got loads of inputs and outputs (even a zone output), has an onboard drum machine for making redrums and edits, and the routing is just plain clever, practical and innovative. A connoisseur’s controller, and one that working DJs will appreciate, especially event DJs.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

The Roland DJ-707M is a compact, portable, lightweight DJ controller for Serato DJ Pro, designed specifically for mobile DJs (hence the “M” in its name).

As such, it eschews the oversized, flashy look and feel of many of today’s “pro” controllers, and if anything, rather dull and conventional to look at. However, looks can be deceiving as we’ll see.

The unit comes with Serato DJ Pro software, although if you want to use its advanced key shift features or DVS you’ll need to purchase the Serato Expansion Packs from Serato’s website in order to be able to do that.

It is always worth checking when you buy gear like this to see if the firmware is up to date, and doing so with the DJ-707M is a simple task, involving connecting to your computer, switching it on with a button held, and dragging a firmware update file from Roland’s support site onto a drive that’ll be mounted on your laptop desktop.

That done, and the Roland drivers installed (we used a Mac) – oh, and Serato also updated to the latest version, of course – we plugged in and the software recognised the controller within a few seconds.

Worth pointing out that this is a powered controller, meaning you need to plug it in to a power brick (supplied) to make it work – it’s not USB powered as some smaller controllers sometimes are.

The unit is plastic and lightweight, but has metal plates under the mixer and crossfader, so although it sounds like it could feel cheap, it doesn’t. This appears to be more a design decision to keep it portable, rather than a cost-saving gambit.

The main victims of its small size are the jogwheels and the pitch faders, which are small/short. That said, the jogs are not a priority in a controller for mobile DJs (although they are fine to perform on, just for the record), and the pitch faders are accurate to 1/50th of a BPM +/-8%, so performance really doesn’t suffer. There is space around the crossfader, and the mixer doesn’t feel too cramped.

The other main compromise when it comes to size is that although the unit controls Serato’s effects (unlike, say, the much bigger Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT, which doesn’t at all), it does so with fewer controls. If you have owned a Serato controller before and rarely found yourself using the FX engines, you’ll not be too bothered by this.

There are enough inputs and outputs here to satisfy discerning mobile DJs. It even has a zone output.

The overall impression, once you get past its conservative looks, is that this is in fact a rather interesting controller. It has a control screen that suggests there are many configuration options (spoiler: there are), and it has a stupidly large number of inputs and outputs (standalone four-channel mixer, four mic inputs, aux input, two USBs, THREE independent outputs (master, booth, zone)). The “TR” and “OSC” selections on two of the channels give away the fact that it has a sequencer and an oscillator built in.

In short, it looks like it has quite a lot under the surface. So let’s look at exactly what it has that makes it different, and we’ll do it through the lens of the mobile DJ, which as we know is its target market.

In Use

Serato features

The unit controls pretty much everything Serato has to offer, even Flip. there’s no Slip mode which irked me, but you could always map it to a little-used button. But all the performance pad functions are there, you can access the sampler, and so power Serato users won’t find anything to concern them in this implementation.

It also has an internal/external mixer mode, so you can put all inputs through Serato if you wish, meaning you can apply effects to your record decks or CDJ inputs, for instance, and record all inputs in Serato, including microphones and so on.

Microphone & aux inputs

The unit has a comprehensive mic section onboard with EQs and vocal effects.

These are a particular strong point. There are two “main” mic inputs (XLR around the back), with independent gain, ducking, three-band EQ, and voice FX, all of which can be fine-tuned.

Additionally, there are two further, simpler inputs on the front (1/4″ jack), with just a volume control for the pair. This is also where you’ll find an 1/8″ jack input, for a backup player (eg iPod, smartphone, tablet). All can be routed to any or all of the three outputs – more on this later.

Standalone mixer

The DJ-707M’s mixer is a beast and has workhorse features and functions mobile jocks will love.

The mixer has four line ins (two of which are switchable to phono), as well as switches for two PCs (via twin USB sockets), and the aforementioned built-in Roland drum sequencer and OSC oscillator for (rather cheesy, non-configurable) sound effects.

It has a three-band EQ, hardware FX (12 or so, filter being the default, but with some nice echo/delay effects some of the other standouts). VU meters are short but functional, and there are per-channel and master VUs.

Decks

The jogwheels on the DJ-707M are on the smaller side due to its compact footprint.

As stated, the jogwheels are small but functional, They have no displays or movement lights. Transport buttons are hard plastic and are reasonably responsive, although take a bit of pressure, which is something you’d get used to.

You select between the four decks with “1/3” and “2/4” buttons respectively, and they’re coloured green and red on the backlit buttons to show you which is selected, although I found the lighting a bit dim, even in full brightness mode.

The short-throw pitch fader has a pitch range button, which with the Shift modifier is used to toggle key lock on and off. there is, of course, the ubiquitous Sync button.

Front and back controls

You can assign channels to the crossfader via the switches on the front, and there’s also a crossfader curve knob there. (Most of the further crossfader options (and other set-up choices) are done via the small screen top-left which we’ll get onto in a minute.)

The front panel is also where you’ll find the Aux section I spoke of earlier, as well as the headphones controls – 1/4″, 1/8″ sockets, cue/mix knob, and – rejoice, many DJs – split cue.

Meanwhile round the back are all the other inputs and outputs, including RCA and XLR (master), TRS (booth) and RCA (zone). I’d have thought a balanced zone output may have been a better bet as the zone speakers may be connected via a long cable in another room. (We’ll talk more about how the zone output works in a short while.)

There’s also a Mid Out here for syncing up with other gear, not that we can see many mobile DJs ever using this.

The control screen

While the onboard retro screen doesn’t look like it displays much, there are enough controls to help you navigate it intuitively and Roland has done a good job of condensing data on it in a way that makes sense.

Here’s where much of the power is. As well as being able to configure the mixer behaviour, the backlights, the display contrast, the crossfader, the faders, the mics, to select kits for the drum machine, toggle hardware effects and many other cool tweaks, the big thing here is “scenes”.

You see, this is designed for mobile DJs. If you regularly work in venues that have certain requirements, you can fine tune everything about the unit so it’s set up just-so for each venue.

For instance, you can set the mic EQs and anti-feedback, decide which mics and mixer channels go to master, booth and zone outputs, and crucially, independently EQ each of those outputs!

Mobile DJs often carry a separate small mixer to plug in between their gear and the PA, to “EQ the room” and add mics, for instance. With this unit, you can do all of that inside the unit – a game-changer. And as I say, you can have different settings for master, booth and a separate zone.

Yes, a separate zone. The unit will happily play whatever you have loaded onto Deck 4 (for instance, a pre-recorded mix) to the zone output (or, indeed, what you have plugged into the Aux). It will also happily let you route any combination of mics and music to master, booth, zone – so music and mics in main room, only music in zone; no mics in the booth output (to reduce feedback, for instance) – whatever.

You can even individually put limiters and compression over one, two or all outputs – even adjust the crossover frequencies for the built-in EQs. One of the presets even has a “subwoofer” setting for one of the outputs. This flexibility is amazing, and unprecedented in a DJ controller, and a strong selling point for mobile DJs.

Best bit? You can save, load, edit, even export and input these “scenes”. It’s a true power feature for mobile DJs, and unseen on any other controller.

Drum machine and oscillator

The DJ-707M packs an onboard drum machine for creating redrums, edits and loops on the fly.

The drum machine has TR drum kits, preconfigured across music styles like house, disco, EDM, techno, Latin, and gospel. It’s best used for instant redrums, to “beef up” open format sets when need be, and is simple to use, especially with the Sync button.

Enlightened mobile DJs will love this – and some will even love the OSC effects too, although they were a bit cheesy for me.

Conclusion

It’s an unassuming controller with a lot hidden away. A connoisseur’s controller. One that working DJs will appreciate, especially event DJs.

The 24-bit/48kHz sound card is loud and clean. The two USBs (one of which can connect via a Camera Connection Kit dongle to an iOS device as another backup, or of course you could have it connected to a redundant laptop for backup) will reassure DJs who need that kind of guarantee that the music will play on whatever. And the routing is just plain clever, practical and innovative.

Of course for a certain type of performance-oriented DJ, bigger is better; the smaller jogwheels here will certainly not impress in that instance. And I did miss that Slip button.

But if you’re a laptop DJ, specifically one who plays out a lot using Serato DJ, and has always wondered why controllers have to be big and flashy yet half the time not do a lot of the things you wish they could, take a look at the diminutive Roland DJ-707M. It could be just what you’ve been waiting for.

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