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Pioneer DDJ Controllers: CDJ-Style Control for Serato

Digital DJ Buying Guide: Pioneer DDJ Controllers for Serato DJ Software

For ages, Pioneer dominated the pro DJ gear game with CDJ decks and DJM mixers. Today, with their DDJ series of Serato DJ controllers, Pioneer continues to stay on top of the trend toward all-in-one controllers for digital DJ software. Follow our buying guide to find the right Pioneer DDJ controller -- from the entry-level DDJ-SB to the flagship DDJ-SZ and best-selling DDJ-SX2.
Pioneer 4-Channel Serato DJ Controllers

Pioneer DDJ-SZ vs. DDJ-SX2: Pro-level 4-channel Serato DJ controllers

The Pioneer DDJ-SZ is Pioneer's top-of-the-line Serato DJ controller. This beast has jog wheels measuring 8.1" across -- the same size as a professional CDJ -- and a high-end mixer section inherited from the DJM mixer series, complete with Sound Color FX and a magnetic MAGVEL crossfader. To complete this club-ready rig, just plug in your laptop running Serato DJ. And bring a friend -- with the DDJ-SZ's two USB ports, two DJs can switch off easily.

The best-selling DDJ-SX2 controller is your best bet if you don't need the DDJ-SZ's huge jog wheels or other premium upgrades. Pioneer's update to the mega-popular DDJ-SX, the DDJ-SX2 is much smaller than the DDJ-SZ, with 5.2" jog wheels. The SX2 also adds a feature not found on the SZ: dedicated buttons for Serato Flip -- a Serato DJ expansion pack that lets you chop up a track using cue points, sequence them, then save your custom edit for playback in Serato. (This feature is MIDI-mappable on Pioneer controllers that don't already have dedicated Flip buttons built-in.)

Both the DDJ-SX2 and DDJ-SZ offer 16 velocity-sensitive multi-colored pads, "On Jog" digital cue point markers, and DVS compatibility with Serato DJ. Both double as a standalone 4-channel mixers, so you can spin vinyl records (or any other analog source). And both are equipped with XLR and RCA master outputs.
 
Pioneer DDJ-SZ DJ Controller for Serato
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Pioneer DDJ-SX2 DJ Controller for Serato DJ
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Pioneer 2-Channel Serato DJ Controllers

Pioneer DDJ-SR vs. DDJ-SB2: Super-portable 2-channel Serato DJ controllers

The Pioneer DDJ-SR is a slimmed-down version of the original DDJ-SX with 2 hardware channels instead of 4 -- while still giving you control of all 4 virtual decks in the included Serato DJ software. Two 5.2" jog wheels let you scratch, while 16 rubber performance pads let you mash up tracks with Hot Cue, Roll, Sampler and Slicer modes. Slip Mode lets you keep tracks rolling silently "in the background" as you loop, scratch or reverse them -- so the track comes back at exactly the right place when you release the jog wheel. There's a 1/4" mic input, an aux RCA input for playing tracks from an external device while two DJs switch out their laptops, and TRS 1/4" master outputs.

Pioneer's most affordable DDJ controller, the DDJ-SB2 comes bundled with Serato DJ Intro, the free version of Serato's DJ software -- with a paid upgrade to the full Serato DJ. The second-gen upgrade to Pioneer's DDJ-SB, the DDJ-SB2 gives you control over 4 software decks, with rubber pads for Hot Cue, Auto Loop, Manual Loop, Sampler, Play, Cue, Sync and Shift on each side. You also the exclusive Filter Fade mode that combines the crossfader with a high-pass filter for ear-grabbing transitions between tracks. The DDJ-SB2 has no aux input, but it does have a 1/4" mic input, headphone out, and RCA master outputs.

For DJs who want all their music to live on a laptop running Serato DJ -- with no vinyl turntables or standalone mixer capabilities -- the smaller-footprint DDJ-SR and DDJ-SB2 controllers are great choices.
 
Pioneer DDJ-SR DJ Controller and Audio Interface for ...
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Pioneer DDJ-SB2 DJ Controller for Serato
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Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3 Compact DJ Controller
Want to DJ with an iPad? Check out the Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3. An entry-level DDJ controller, the super-compact WeGO3 has a slot to hold your iPad or iPhone. The DDJ-WeGO3 supports a variety of DJ software on your Mac, PC or iOS device, including Serato DJ Intro, Algoriddim djay, Traktor Pro 2, Virtual DJ LE, djay for Mac, and djay2 and vjay for iPad and iPhone. Just load up your software on your laptop or device, and connect to the DDJ-WeGO3 with the included Lightning or USB cable.

What sets the DDJ-WeGO3 apart is how it uses visual cues to help entry-level DJs "see" the beat. Rings of red and blue LED lights around the jog wheels illuminate to match the tempo and volume of your tracks, show you when tracks are loaded, and represent effects. It's a streamlined user interface that's the perfect introduction to DJing.
 
Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3 Compact DJ Controller
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Decksaver Limited Edition Pioneer DDJ-WeGO3 Cover
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DJ Headphones
In a loud club, a good pair of headphones is your best friend. Headphones are the best way to cue up the next track, match its tempo, and prepare to transition to it, without interrupting the master mix. Your Pioneer DDJ controller has a Headphones Mix knob that lets you blend between the Master mix (what's going out to the speakers), and the Cue mix (the DJ's own monitor mix for auditioning the next track and syncing it up for a seamless transition). On the DDJ-WeGO3, instead of a Cue/Master knob, you have 3 buttons to select what feeds your headphones: deck A, deck B, and the Master mix.

DJ headphones have a few features that set them apart from other headphones -- like large, circumaural, over-the-ear earcups to help isolate you from outside noise, and swiveling earcups so you can wear them one-sided when you want to hear what the audience hears. Look for features like a detachable, replaceable cable and a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, and specs like a wide frequency response and high output. Serious DJ headphones are also extremely sturdy -- Pioneer's HDJ-2000MK2 DJ headphones have a flexible headband and metal hinges that can be crushed flat and bounce back without breaking.
Pioneer HDJ-2000MK2 DJ Headphones
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Pioneer HDJ-C70 DJ Headphones
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Powered PA Speakers for Mobile DJs
Pioneer DDJ controllers are meant to be more portable than a Pioneer CDJ rig, or a Serato DJ/DVS rig with turntables. Because DDJ controllers are easy to move around, it's no wonder they're so popular with mobile DJs who play gigs outside of established clubs. If you're playing a gig that requires you to bring your own PA system, lightweight powered speakers like the Electro-Voice ZLX-15P, JBL EON615, or QSC K12 are the way to go. For an all-in-one PA system, check out the Peavey Triflex II -- this system includes a powered subwoofer, especially important for outdoor gigs where there are no walls or ceilings to naturally reinforce your system's low end.
Electro-Voice ZLX-15P Powered Loudspeaker (1000 Watts, ...
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QSC K12 2-Way Powered Speaker (1000 Watts, 1x12")
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Cases and Bags for Pioneer DDJ Controllers
Once you start playing DJ gigs, you'll want to add a sturdy case to make your controller roadworthy. Look for a road case that has a sliding laptop platform to hold your computer running Serato DJ. If your DJ controller's case doesn't have a shelf for your laptop, add a laptop stand like the On-Stage LPT5000 or Magma Control Stand.
Pioneer DJC-FLTSZ Flight Case for DDJ-SZ
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Grundorf PIODDJSXRB Carpet Case for Pioneer DDJ-SX2 or ...
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On-Stage LPT5000 Laptop Computer Stand
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