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Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV7 Review

todayJanuary 20, 2022 56 5

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The Lowdown

The DDJ-REV7 is a new flagship DJ controller for Serato and Pioneer DJ, aimed at both scratch/battle DJs and open-format DJs who’d prefer a turntable-inspired system. Its motorized platters are best in class, with unique built-in screens. Its overall size, layout, and build quality give it a similar feel to using a pro separate scratch set-up.

First Impressions / Setting up

The DDJ-REV7 is a fairly large controller, although it is still possible to carry it under one arm, just. I’d say it’s the “large end” of medium-sized, but nowhere near as deep, wide or bulky as, say, the XDJ-XZ. It’s relatively shallow, with low-profile rubber pads underneath instead of feet.

It’s quite heavy, due in no small part to the motors built-in to rotate the platters, and feels well built. It has metal-plated top surfaces, and plastic sides and bottom, as is the way Pioneer DJ tends to construct its pro gear. It’s all-black, with a mixture of silver, black, white, and grey knobs, buttons, faders, and pads.

The decks

The two identical deck sections are dominated by 7” motorized platters, that look like turntables, with tapered, strobe-dotted edges, and “real vinyl” surfaces. The “vinyl”, complete with window to look through to the built-in screens, lifts off, and underneath are plastic discs (“slip sheets”) that do the job of slipmats, allowing the vinyl top surface to behave like real vinyl would on a record deck. These are easily replaceable, and I can see custom sheets (and, indeed, vinyl) coming very soon, either from Pioneer DJ or third parties, for the DDJ-REV7.

Removing the platter to access the “slip sheet” underneath.

It’s a clever design because it means that – unlike the more traditional-feeling “turntables” on the unit’s biggest competitor, the Rane One – these have no central spindle or locking mechanism, meaning there’s more “hand space”, and of course, room for the built-in screens. They feel highly convincing, too – a must, of course.

The other big news here is that Pioneer DJ has gone for a “battle” layout – as if you’d turned two turntables 90 degrees, as scratch DJs usually do.

Doing so on a real turntable would put the start/stop button on the lower right and the pitch control horizontally at the top, which is exactly where those controls are found on the DDJ-REV7.

Also at the top of each deck section are a library encoder and buttons, auto loop, slip/censor/key controls, tempo range and tempo reset buttons, and a set of four buttons aligned to a new “Instant Scratch” function, although as we’ll see, they do a lot more than that (more on these later). The decks themselves have inconspicuous pitch bend/waveform zoom buttons, display mode buttons, and stop/start time knobs.

The mixer

Just as the deck sections take their inspiration from turntables set up for scratching, the mixer section takes its inspiration from Pioneer DJ’s iconic two-channel Serato scratch/controller mixers, specifically the current DJM-S7 and its hugely popular predecessor, the DJM-S9.

The mixer section has a spacious lower third, to let the fader area shine!

So you get the classic scratch layout: The lower third of the mixer given over to the high quality Magvel Pro crossfader and upfaders, plus just a few other controls tucked out of the way (headphone cue faders/knobs, Smooth Echo – yes, that’s made it across! – and sampler volume).

The “central” section of the mixer, then, is for the performance pads, which are the same excellent size and quality as found on the DJM-S7. This is also where you’ll find Silent Cue buttons – a nice addition.

The top section hosts both hardware and software effects

The top section of the mixer again copies the S-series mixers, with effects paddles, control over both built-in hardware effects and Serato’s software effects, and all of the standard volume, EQ, and filter knobs, including booth and master knobs. Here you’ll also find the channel switches, letting you choose between up to two laptops running Serato, and phono/line sources (the mixer is also “standalone”, and can work with analog sources, too.)

The front panel

Along the front of the controller, you’ll find the microphone controls, extra mixer controls, the headphones sockets, and Aux input controls.

For the mixer, there are reverse switches (for both the crossfader and the upfaders), curve adjustment knobs for all three faders, and a mechanical “feeling adjust” knob to tighten or loosen the crossfader.

There are level controls for two mics, plus EQ and echo controls (ganged for both mics), plus a mic on/off/talkover switch. You get both 1/4” and 1/8” headphones sockets, and the Aux controls feature a volume knob, and a three-way switch for off/line/portable.

The back panel

their choice to use a supplied power brick instead of an IEC socket was the only disappointment.

From left to right, there are master balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs, booth balanced TRS outputs, the two USB sockets for laptops, then the analog inputs: Two pairs of RCAs with line/phono switches for the main channels, and a pair of RCAs for the Aux input. There’s no 1/8” jack input for the Aux, despite what the “portable” setting on the front switch might lead you to believe.

Moving to the far right, there are two mic inputs, one an XLR/TRS “omni” input, one a balanced 1/4” TRS-only both with attenuator knobs for balancing the mic levels, depending on the type of mics attached.

The power input is, disappointingly, 24V DC with a supplied power brick. This should have been an IEC socket with the transformer built-in to the unit, as that arrangement is more convenient for the pro user, and would eliminate the potential issue of sourcing a spare power brick if there happened to be any issues with the supplied one when on the road, etc.

There’s also a Kensington lock socket at the back.

Setting Up the DDJ-REV7

The DDJ-REV7 unlocks Serato DJ Pro, so you register for a Serato account on their website, download the software, and you’re ready to go. There’s an Expansion Pack voucher for Serato’s Pitch ’n Time musical key features in the box, and the voucher can’t be reissued, so be sure not to lose it, as you’ll need it to fully activate that software.

It is always worth checking the Pioneer DJ support pages to make sure you are running the latest firmware and updating that on the REV7 if not, and it is also important to update to the latest version of Serato DJ Pro if you are already a user, as the DDJ-REV7 will not be recognized by previous versions of the software. There are audio drivers needed for Windows, and both Windows and Mac need a Setting Utility installed.

If you want to plug in external decks, you can do so, and you can even use DVS turntables with this if you wish – although, for most DJs, the two built-in platters will be a big part of why they buy this is the first place. Good to know it’s there, though.

Then it’s just a case of attaching any mics you want to use, plugging in your powered monitors or into the club’s mixer, and plugging in your laptop – there’s a supplied cable, although if you want to plug in a second laptop you’ll need a second cable too.

Make sure the channel selector switches are set to the correct laptop input, and you’re good to go.

Worth also pointing out that Pioneer DJ provides a set of stickers that you can use as markers on the control vinyl if you wish to do so – it does have a built in “marker” that displays on the screen, but some DJs may prefer a (guaranteed zero latency) physical sticker!

Deck display modes

A bit more detail about these, then, as they’re something completely new to motorized DJ controllers. The waveform modes give you a zoomed-in (adjustable) waveform, plus the whole waveform, and the detailed waveform from the other deck, as well as key, current loop mode, time setting, tempo setting, and tempo range setting.

The virtual deck mode is a bit more CDJ-like, which includes more BPM and time/elapsed data at the expense of the waveforms. Or, you can go for an artwork display, or even have your DJ logo displayed – a nice touch.

Instant scratch

Another brand-new feature is Instant Scratch. Pressing the Instant Scratch button at the top of one of the decks lets you load a “scratch loop” for that deck, by pressing one of the four buttons laid out horizontally across the top of the deck, above the platters. Two of these loops are sets of individual, familiar-sounding scratch sounds, the other two are more like looping breaks.

The purpose is to give you instant access to usable scratch sounds for scratching over something you’re playing on the other deck. But because these sounds are built into the hardware, you can use them without even having Serato plugged in.

And because you get a mixture of one shot-type sounds and loops, it is perfectly possible to have a loop playing on one deck, and be scratching over it on the other. This turns the DDJ-REV7 into basically a standalone scratch practice station – and it’s great.

The downside is that the sounds and loops aren’t “authentic”, insofar as most DJs would probably prefer to be using better-known sounds. They’re close, but not, you know, the sounds we all know and love, and there seems to be no way of switching them out in firmware.

However, all is not lost – because that brings us to the second function of these new buttons.

Extensive hardware and software effects

There are 22 hardware “Beat” effects built-in to the unit, and the Settings Utility mentioned earlier lets you choose what the defaults are – the labeled effects are echo, spin, flanger, reverb, vinyl brake, and “Duck Down”

Each effect has an additional parameter, all adjustable from the hardware, helped by the small screen in the middle of the mixer.

With the hardware effects, the chosen effect works across both decks, but with the Serato software effects, you get up to three effects per deck. Again, everything can be adjusted from the mixer. You of course also get the single knob filter per channel, so overall, the unit has a huge range of effects (of all types) for you to play with.

A wide range of “controller”-type additional features

When DJing with two DVS turntables and a Serato mixer such as the DJM-S7  you still don’t get all the controls that controller DJs using top-end, more conventional controllers enjoy.

Not so with the DDJ-REV7. There are a surprising number of additional controls here that make the DDJ-REV7 highly versatile for much more than just scratch DJs. Let’s list some of them:

  • Sync – Yup, it’s present and correct
  • Slip mode – Often left off of “purist” gear, but it’s useful, and it basically lets you scratch, play with cues, and so on, without losing your place in the track/mix
  • Censor/reverse – A must-have for event DJs wanting to instantly clean up explicit lyrics, but also a nice performance feature in its own right
  • Key sync, key shift, and key lock – Basically, the supplied Pitch ’n Time Expansion Pack plus the hardware controls give you full control over all aspects of key mixing
  • Tempo reset – A turntable feature, very useful creatively and to my knowledge not been featured on any controller before
  • Stop time – Each deck has a control that goes from instant to “cutting turntable power” setting
  • Pitch bend – The unit even has good, old fashioned, pitch bend controls for nudging tracks into time without touching the platters at all

Also worth pointing out that the DDJ-REV7 has “instant start”, like the Rane Twelve/Rane One. Yes, there’s Silent Cue, used by DVS DJs to tighten up timing when starting a deck, but actually, hitting the “start/stop” button appears to start the music instantly anyway, despite “deck drag” as the motor gets up to speed – a useful thing, as there is no temporary cue as found on all other controllers.

Lots of fine tweaks in the settings

There is a Utility mode, that you can use the jog display to view and make alterations to all kinds of things with. For instance, you can:

  • Adjust “smooth echo” behavior – Smooth echo triggers an echo to end a performance routine automatically, and here you can choose what action will trigger it
  • Choose the length of the mic echo – I’d like to have seen a reverb option here too, though
  • Adjust the motor torque – Have the decks “feel” how you like
  • Adjust mic features – Talkover mode/level, low cut, whether the mic goes to the booth monitors, etc
  • Adjust master output features – Limiter, mono/stereo, etc
  • Adjust LED and display brightness

Drawbacks

There are a few things we didn’t like, although they’re small. The biggest one is supplying a power brick instead of building the transformer into the unit. This looks cheap. Apart from that, the Instant Scratch sounds aren’t the ones we suspect most scratch DJs would ideally want, and we question the positioning of the loop controls.

But against that, there’s so much to like here, that we think the DDJ-REV7 will do very well indeed. It’s hugely fun to play on, it looks brilliant, it sounds great, and it has lots of innovation built in. As a first “go” at a motorized controller for Pioneer DJ, it’s a stunning success, and we think it’ll do really well.

Conclusion

So, Pioneer DJ has launched a motorized platter controller! And it’s a hands-down winner. The layout makes perfect sense (battle mode decks, DJM-S9/7 mixer layout), and the decks are both technologically clever and work really well.

Making this for Serato makes perfect sense, both for DJs (most DJs who scratch use Serato) and for Pioneer DJ’s product range (its own software Rekordbox for club kit, Serato software for scratch/performance kit).

But because of all the extra features, many of which are highly controller DJ-friendly, the DDJ-REV7 is probably best seen as an all-round party, open-format, scratch, battle, and performance DJ’s controller – equally at home at parties and events, as well as DJ battles.

Written by: hmr

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