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Pioneer DJ has been dominating the industry for some 80 years now, releasing slick models of DJ controllers, turntables, and mixers. The Pioneer DJ DDJ SR is a high-quality controller, including dozens of cool effects, features, and controls.
In this article, I will focus on the Pioneer DDJ SR controller and list all the things I like and dislike so you can get a better understanding of the product and see if it’s for you.
The DDJ SR comes with the Serato DJ mixing software and costs $599, which I’d say is a very reasonable price for this DJ controller.
Pioneer DDJ SR offers a lot more than other controllers. It’s a very fun device that packs a lot of digital features but also has some cool, old-school elements. Let’s dig into it!
Pioneer DDJ SR: Overview
Pioneer DDJ SR has a 2-channel mixer section in the middle, providing all the necessary features and controls a DJ should have at their disposal. This is a down-sized model resembling the Pioneer DJ DDJ SX, which has kept all the important stuff, but has a more compact layout and is easier to carry.
The SR model calls the DDJ SX to mind but has two channels rather than four, and the jog wheels don’t have the LED lighting showing you your track position. However, the DDJ SR packs a great number of performance pads and has good build quality – heavyweight but firm.
The volume is controlled by a knob rather than a fader as it used to be, which is cool when you think about all the space that has been saved. The crossfader seems to be made out of plastic, but the good kind, because it feels pretty comfortable and allows you to slide it smoothly for the perfect transition.
Above the performance pads, you have your effects section, including hot cues, roll, slicer, and sampler. However, with the Pioneer DDJ SR, you have an extra pad, located right above the effects section. By turning the secondary pad ON, you can assign additional functions to the existing effects. Don’t worry, this will all be explained in detail below!
Pioneer DDJ SR comes with the Serato Pro DJ software, which is an excellent addition to this controller. This is neat because you’re not getting some entry-level DJ software, but get to enjoy the full Serato DJ experience.
The Pioneer Pro DJ DDJ SR DJ is a plug-and-play DJ controller. All you have to do is plug in your USB connection and do the same thing with the RCA output to connect your speakers or amplifiers. If you have a mic, plug it into the microphone input, and once you plug in your headphones, you’re good to go!
You can easily take the Pioneer DDJ SR on the go and power it using a USB cable. There is no other way to charge this DJ controller. Also, this is a four-deck DJ controller, which means you can mix up to four tracks using the two channels.
On the left side of the performance pads, you have the play and pause button, as well as sync and cue. On the right side of the pads, you have the auto loop section and manual loop buttons.
Pioneer DDJ SR’s layout is not a mirror style, which means that whichever deck you’re using, the buttons are left of the pads.
I really like the jog wheels on the DDJ SR, as I said, they remind me a lot of the ones used on the Pioneer DJ DDJ SX. I mean, they’re practically the same, without the LED lights which used to show you the track’s play position. This is something you don’t necessarily need, but it could be a bummer if you’re used to looking at the jog wheel to figure out where you are in a song. I personally don’t care about it.
The silver aluminum jog wheels are an addition to the already high-quality build, which I salute. I’ve noticed that each jog wheel has a pitch fader and a reset button next to it, though, and I don’t really like that.
DJs who have longer arms or move their hands a lot might knock them by accident and cause the console to reset. The chances of this happening are very low, but it’s something to keep in mind.
One jog wheel has a diameter of six inches and gives nice resistance when you physically work them. The jog wheels are pretty thick and elevate quite a lot above the surface, giving you enough room to spin or scratch on them.
Although Pioneer DJ DDJ SR has a sync button that you can use, I advise that you do your beatmatching manually, using the jog wheels. You will enjoy them and feel like you’ve discovered DJing all over again. When I think about it, Pioneer did a great job regarding jog wheels on every DDJ-series controller – the DDJ SZ, SX, SR, or SB.
However, I think that Pioneer DJ has done a terrific job making this DJ controller useful even to those that are hooked up to turntablism or scratching. Of course, this is not a turntable, so the jog wheel needs at least a millisecond to recognize a human touch.
The mixer section layout is more or less the same as with any other DJ controller, or a hardware mixer, for that matter.
At the bottom, you have the crossfader, which you will use to transit from one track to another. You will have a pleasant experience with it, I believe. I mentioned earlier that it’s made of plastic, but I didn’t get the feeling that it’s poor quality.
Right above it, you have the line faders which are identical to the ones on the DDJ SX, while in between you have some slick LED level meters. Going up you’ll see the cue buttons – one per deck – which will allow you to cue whichever track you have cued in your headphones.
Next up we have the general filter knob (two of them), which you will use to cut the frequencies in your track, but turning it left or right. In between the two filters, you will find the sampler volume knob that will allow you to manage the samples you’ll use via Serato DJ’s SP6 sample player.
Equalizer (EQ) Section
The EQ section is what you’d expect on any DJ controller – you have your frequencies: low, mid, and high. Above them, you have the trim knobs, used to control the volume levels when recording in Serato DJ software.
Between the two pairs of equalizers, you have the headphone mix knob which allows you to switch between your cue and master output, i.e. the output that sends the final mix to the speakers. Right above it is the master level knob, used for adjusting the volume of the audio going through the output.
At the same time, if you want, you can use the booth monitor output from the back, but you will only need this if you’re performing at a club or a festival. Booth monitors are usually faced towards the DJ so they can better hear the music in a crowded and loud environment.
Note that this is a DJ controller and not a hardware mixer or a MIDI controller. Therefore, the knobs control the levels and parameters in the Serato DJ software and don’t interact with the audio directly. The knobs are rubber-coated, which I personally love because they give me the best grip.
On the top of the Pioneer DDJ SR unit, you have the browser knob or the encoder. This button is very important to you because you’ll use it to enter your library, browse through files, look for tracks; the list goes on. There are many functions to it.
The knob is quite large and has two buttons underneath – back and area. Their functions are evident from the names, but they have additional ones if you select them by holding shift. Shift Back will allow you to choose one of five different layouts in your Serato DJ software.
On the other hand, Shift Area will open dozens of functions for you in your music library to make your browsing experience enjoyable. It can also take you to your files or history.
On both sides of the browser knob, you have the load buttons, where you can load the songs you’ve highlighted in your music library. If you use the load buttons with a shift layer, you’ll get to sort your crates by artist or beats per minute (BPM).
Also, if you “double-click” these buttons, you will create an instant double. In Serato DJ, this means that if you have a track playing in one deck, and you’ve loaded the same song in the other deck, the second track will match the first one and start playing from the same part as the first one.
Pioneer DJ DDJ SR packs 16 performance pads, eight per deck, while above them, you have your pad modes. Each of these buttons has a different function which will take your DJ set to the next level!
The general pad mode includes the usual: hot cue, slicer, sampler, and roll. Above them, you have your pad plus, which comprises hot cue roll, trans pad, combo FX, and sampler roll. By pushing the shift button, you can add another element to these modes, just remember to activate it first by hitting the pad plus button.
The hot cue option allows you to select different parts of a track that you love. This can be a clap that you’ve noticed sounds cool or a vocal that could be used for a mix. You save them and when you feel it’s time to throw them into the mix, you launch them with a simple push of a button.
Hot cues are very important, especially when playing in front of a live audience. You can save up to eight hot cues in the Pioneer DDJ SR controller on each deck. Hot cues can be used the usual way and by using slip mode.
When hot cueing it’s almost a must to use slip mode because it will allow you to play your hots without interrupting the playback audio. To make it more clear, the song will continue to play regularly, and you will be adding the cues that you’ve stored on the performance pads.
If you don’t use slip mode, the hot cue will take over, meaning that the song will continue to play from the moment where the hot cue points start, instead of just having a segment (a clap, drum roll, etc.).
Hot cue roll is the extra element added to the hot cue effect, using the plus pad mode. It will allow your cue to keep looping until you make it stop.
The roll is basically your auto-loop; that’s what most people will tell you. The slight difference is that it keeps the sequence in a slip mode type of fashion. You’ll just know when you hear it.
You can use rolls to bring excitement into your mix and highlight a song unit that you really like! For example, I like it when DJs use this effect on vocals, making part of the words roll like a rifle. Triggering such an effect at the right time can make your crowd go wild!
Trans roll is the extra element added to the roll function, using the plus pad mode. It will allow you to chop your track into different segments with different, predetermined time values which you can assign to each available performance pad.
For example, you can make one loop play at 1/8 beat, have another at 1/4 beat, and the third one playing at 1/2 beat. During playback, press and hold the performance pad that has your trans effect. The sound is now “chopped” according to the predetermined time. Once you lift your finger from the pad, the playback will continue.
The DDJ SR slicer mode can help you a lot when you’re DJing, as it will slice up your track into eight segments. As the track’s playing, the performance pads will indicate which segment is playing. If you see the fourth pad blinking, it means the fourth segment of your audio file is playing.
You can use the slicer to really spice up your mix! You can design your own audio segments by repeating some of them, shuffling them, or creating the stuttering effect. The slicer function is excellent for teasing the crowd and building up the atmosphere for your next sound.
Combo FX Slicer is the extra element added to the slicer function, using the plus pad mode. The combo mode, as the name suggests, will let you use up to three effects at the same time or one at a time. All you have to do is assign different effects to different pads, and touch the one(s) you want to throw in the mix!
Usually, DJs keep their samples organized in crates and stored in their DJ hardware. I’m the most comfortable when I’m using the Serato DJ Pro because I know the sampler mode is very easy to use there.
In Serato, you have eight sample spots resembling the eight performance pads you have. You can drag and drop the samples from your library into each pad and trigger them by pressing the pad that you’ve stored your sample on.
For example, if you have a horn sample in your music library, drag and drop it to pad 1. When you want to trigger it, press the performance pad no. 1. You load another sample to pad 2, pad 3, and press the sample you want to trigger, respectively.
Sampler Roll is the extra element added to the sampler function, using the plus pad mode. The name itself suggests that this effect will allow your sample to loop for as long as you hold the pad.
Serato DJ Software
Your DJ controller has to be connected to a laptop with an installed Dj software in order to function. Pioneer DJ DDJ SR comes with built-in Serato DJ Pro software. All you have to do is download the software and install it. If you don’t want to set up Serato, you can go with different software, but you’ll need to mess with new mappings and stuff. Personally, I don’t see any reason to avoid Serato.
The Pro version of Serato is the paid version, which means you will get it for free. This is a good deal because the software itself costs over $100.
Serato DJ FX
With your Pioneer DDJ SR, you will get the basic package of Serato installed. This will give you the basic sets of effects you would normally find in DJ software, such as delay, echo, distortion, reverb, and so on. You can activate the wolf pack for free and get some additional effects like transform or shredder.
However, if you want the backpack, which offers a looper, shuffler, time freeze, or twist echo, you’ll have to pay $19.
Activating the Serato DJ FX is quite easy. All you have to do is connect your laptop and DDJ SR, and run Serato DJ. You will then be asked to login into your Serato account, and it’s pretty easy from there. If you want a guide on how to do this, here you go – page 25.
What Could Be Better
First of all, let me be straight and say that Pioneer DJ has done a tremendous job with the DDJ SR. However, no product is perfect, and that means even this controller could improve some things to become the leader in the game.
As I said earlier, I don’t mind that the jog wheels are missing the LED lights in the middle like with the Pioneer DJ DDJ SX. On the other hand, I do see how this could be a deal-breaker to somebody, especially if they’re used to peek into the lights to see the track position.
Also, I wouldn’t put the pitch faders nor the reset buttons so close to the wheels because a tiny accidental touch could cause a whole party to stop.
While I do like the aluminum used for the wheels, I would be happier if the rest of the Pioneer controller was also made of metal, instead of all the plastic here. In the brand’s defense, this plastic is not the cheap kind and I’m sure it will last, but this does affect the product’s weight and life expectancy negatively; no way around it.
Finally, it would’ve been cool if Pioneer had put separate channel meters on the controller. As it is, the DDJ SR has this main meter in the center of the controller where you use a knob to switch between channels and check the master control output for each of them.
Pioneer DJ DDJ SR: Buyer’s Guide
After going through all the main controls, effects, and features of the Pioneer Pro DDJ SR, it’s now time to see how you should approach your purchasing experience of any product, not just the SR.
Set Your Budget
Different products have different price tags based on their specifications and configuration, i.e. their controls and features. A controller like the DDJ SR falls into the mid-price category, so it’s not expensive but there are a lot of cheaper options.
If you decide to spend up to $599 on a controller, which is the price of the SR, make sure you get:
- 4 decks
- Metal jog wheels
- Quality knobs and buttons
- 16 performance pads (whole unit)
- USB port, RCA output, AUX input
- Professional or semi-professional software
- At least the basic effects: hot cue, sampler, slicer, roll.
- Sync button
If you feel like this is too much and you don’t need it, consider cheaper options. There are decent controllers for less money.
Get Your Facts Straight
Before buying anything, make sure that you know what you’re buying and why you’re buying it. I usually recommend the DDJ SR to people that have either been DJing for a long time or are serious about further learning their craft.
If you’ve only started DJing and haven’t yet owned a controller in your life, maybe consider other options. As I mentioned earlier, you could have a really good controller, with hot cues and all, for half the money Numark Party Mix, for example, is what I call the ultimate beginner controller.
You should at least learn some stuff before purchasing this piece of gear. If you’re transferring from turntables to CDJs or controllers, check out the feature effects. You’ve surely already studied them in your Serato software, but using them on the controller is a different story.
Pioneer DJ DDJ SR: Conclusion
I think I am not biased when I say that the DDJ SR is one of the best controllers in its category. For some $600 you get a professional console that comes with Serato DJ Pro, which would’ve cost you $129 alone.
As far as the controller is concerned, overall, I like the build, love the aluminum jog wheels, but am kinda disappointed with the faders which are a bit plasticky. However, the whole layout is great! Everything is placed where it should, and the distance between different controls makes perfect sense.
Feature-wise, it has it all. The controller offers you 8 performance pads per deck, above which you have the effect buttons such as hot cue, roll, slicer, and sampler, all of which could have additional functions if you activate the pad plus mode. With all this armor, you can basically do anything.
Additionally, it’s USB power-charged, which I think is great. It also includes a pair of RCA jacks, and two pairs of 1/4-inch jacks for the booth and master output. Additionally, there’s an AUX input so you can connect an audio device.
Putting it all on a scale, I’d say the DDJ SR is a great deal.
Pioneer DJ DDJ SR: FAQ
How To Connect Pioneer DDJ SR to Laptop?
First, connect your laptop to DDJ SR using a USB cable. Then in Control Panel, choose:
- Hardware and sound
- Set Pioneer DJ DDJ SR as Default.
Your DDJ SR controller should now be connected to your laptop.
Does Pioneer DDJ SR Come With Serato?
Yes, the SR comes with Serato DJ Pro which you will have to download and set up first.
Is Serato the Best DJ Software?
Serato is one of the best options for DJing software on the market, for sure. It’s smooth and easy to use, but it comes at a price. To use the Pro version, you’ll need $129. The Lite version is alright, but you’ll want to upgrade very soon.