If you are looking for a professional-grade DJ controller packed with all of the industry standard components, the Pioneer DDJ-S1 DJ controller is a good bet. This controller has solid user reviews and could certainly pass as a professional set-up for clubs and bigger venues.
Start by reviewing the basic features that the Pioneer DDJ-S1 DJ controller has to offer. Important to most buyers is its compatibility with Serato ITCH DJ software. From the moment you take this beautiful behemoth out of the box, you can turn on ITCH and get up and running. The tight integration makes this specially designed Pioneer unit one of the best ITCH controllers on the market. There are tactile controllers, including pre-assigned fader dials, switches and buttons for getting the perfect pitch and adding effects like looping and other creative touches. There is a plug-and-play USB port and two wheel control decks, as well as space for your PC or Mac underneath the exterior controls that allows for exposure of the monitor. If you do not mind having your computer keyboard tucked away from sight and out of reach for your DJ set, you should appreciate the sleek appearance of the controller when used with your laptop.
If you are familiar with Pioneer’s analogue mixers, you are sure to feel right at home with the DDJ-S1. The mixer section is visually apparent because it falls between two white lines on the surface of the controller. There are two channels, each with a channel fader, gain or trim as it is otherwise known, a cue select and a fader start. The fader start is a rare addition to a unit of this caliber and a nice little bonus on this controller. It allows you to automatically start a track at a preset cue point, merely by opening the crossfader. The crossfader itself has a curve adjuster switch and a reverse switch. The headphone cue, headphone mix level and master out controls are located just above the seven-band VU meters.
Pioneer DDJ-S1 Mixer Section
More on the Mixer
The meters have pre-fader monitoring that allows you to easily set your gain levels. There are also two special effects sections. Using a stepped rotary, you can choose which effect you want to use and change a given effect by increasing or decreasing level-depth and parameters. Tempo is set by using the adjacent tap button. Conveniently located at the top of the mixer section is a knob that lets you easily scroll through your library. There are ‘crate,’ ‘file,’ ‘browse’ and ‘prepare’ buttons that give you maximum control over how you view and organize your music.
Pioneer DDJ-S1 CD Section
CD Jog Wheels
If you are familiar with CD decks, you are going to feel comfortable with the two CD jog wheels, situated on either side of the controller. Put simply, they are big, slow and cumbersome. They do not really spin on their own and require careful manual manipulation. There is a tempo control and stacked play, pause and cue buttons alongside. Each deck comes with its own cue, loop, speed adjust, key, shift, reverse and split controls. Find your inner groove by experimenting with and switching between the vinyl and CD modes. Add further funk to your beats by playing around with the needle search strip. Run your finger down the strip and listen as it scratches along the song presently on deck.
The back panel consists of two XLR male connectors for left and right professional speakers. Next to this connection, there are left and right composite-out ports and a master attenuation control. Auxiliary composite-in ports and a small, analog master volume control are also provided. On the other side of the panel, there is a locking system, a USB connector, an on/off switch and a port for the power supply; this equipment is powered by a standard 12V DC adapter. The front panel is where the headphones and microphone connectors are placed, which are both standard, 1/4-inch connections.
Pioneer DDJ-S1 Back Panel
Pros and Cons
Reviews of this controller are overwhelmingly positive and highlight its ease of use, excellent audio quality, fast speed and design, which is compact without sacrificing features. Users agree that the DDJ-S1 is everything it promises when it comes to superb ITCH compatibility. That makes this unit an excellent choice for a beginner DJ or anyone who does not want to waste time with syncing issues. Consider yourself forewarned, however – this controller only works with Serato ITCH. Also, if you want to integrate video you are out of luck. Now consider the cons. There are some reports that the controller freezes up after prolonged use. The freezing issues range in severity from a few seconds of impaired controller usage to longer periods of frozen knobs, buttons and dials. The freezing tends to occur after an hour and a half or so of use, and sometimes gets to the point where the audio stops all together. These reports are isolated, with most users reporting no problems. Our unit worked perfectly.
This is the ideal controller for all of the at-home DJs who are just breaking into the club scene. The size of this unit is about as big as the price tag, $999.99 USD, but there is a lot packed into it. In fact, this rugged controller is going to surprise you with its versatility, number of special touches and value for the price.