Review: Pioneer DDJ-200
As industry titan Pioneer DJ opens its doors to beginners with an affordable smart DJ controller, we go back to basics and ask whether it’s really as smart as it’s made out to be.
Step into any DJ booth from Pacha to Parklife, Lollapalooza to your local boozer, and you’re practically guaranteed to find yourself behind a set of Pioneer decks. As the industry standard, the brand’s gear is reliable, durable and versatile. So why not bring something to the table for beginners?
The DDJ-200 is a compact smart controller that hooks up to your phone or computer via Bluetooth or USB. You can grab music from streaming-compatible mobile DJ apps or load your own music onto your phone or laptop and get mixing offline.
The controller comes with a headphone splitter that starts from your phone or laptop and splits to your headphones and speaker, both using 3.5mm outs. You can’t, therefore, connect to a pair of speakers without a mixer, or a 3.5mm to RCA cable.
Hopefully, you already have an aux-equipped speaker, into which you can plug a 3.5mm jack (AKA an aux cable). There are no gain controls on the DDJ-200 – gain is handled through software, so make sure you set this first otherwise you might accidentally expose yourself to ear-splitting volume.
The controller itself is sturdy. Everything is plastic apart from the rims of the jogwheels, which are rubber. It may have been nice if the 16 performance pads and Play/Cue buttons were rubber too, to lend the DDJ-200 a more premium air, but nothing here feels like it’s about to fall apart; the faders are firm and smooth to ride and the EQ pots and jogwheels are strong and a pleasure to operate. The device is powered via USB, either to a laptop or plug socket.
Released alongside the DDJ-200 was Pioneer DJ’s mobile app WeDJ, which boasts an accessible and intuitive interface and is easily connected to the controller via Bluetooth MIDI. Leave aside any concerns regarding latency over Bluetooth – the controller and app are extremely responsive.
It’s possible to swap the app’s main display of two vinyl decks to two waveform tracks, scrolling either vertically or horizontally. The waveform view is found on desktop DJ software and in Pioneer DJ’s flagship decks, the CDJ2000 NXSs. For beginners to be given the opportunity to get familiar with this workflow is a nice touch.
WeDJ offers integration with Beatport Link and SoundCloud Go but only via iPhone. Android users will have to load their own music onto their phones and play it from there, or download other DJ apps that allow streaming. But this isn’t a convenient workaround.
If you’re on a desktop, you’ll use Rekordbox, which also has a fluid setup with the DDJ-200. The simple three-step guide that comes with the controller is a testament to how easy it is to get mixing with Pioneer’s entry-level decks. With Rekordbox, you’ll have to use the music stored on your computer but you get loads more options for mixing and adding effects. Both Rekordbox and WeDJ allow you to make use of the eight performance pads on each deck to set and jump to cues at multiple points throughout your tracks.
With its affordable price and solid setup, this controller is ideal for getting beginners into DJing. It might make an ideal gift for fledgling jockeys but, if you’re looking to move apace up the DJ ladder, it might be worth saving up for the £279 Pioneer DDJ-400, whose increased flexibility and more robust features might make for more thrilling sets at Lollapalooza, your local boozer and beyond.
- Bluetooth/USB connectivity to mobile and desktop DJ apps
- Compatible with WeDJ and third-party apps to stream tracks
- 8 performance pads per channel, plus BPM sync
- 3-band EQ and effects knob per channel
- Aux splitter to send audio to cue and master out
- Touch-sensitive jogwheels
- Compact and lightweight
- Fuss-free mixing for beginners
Far more limited in terms of controls and features but if you’re not willing to break £100 this could be your go-to
For an extra £40 this CES Innovation Award-winning controller will give you some extra features but you’ll be using Hercules’ DJuced desktop software, which isn’t as comprehensive as Rekordbox.