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Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX4 Controller Review

todayNovember 10, 2022 20 5

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First Impressions / Setting up

The DDJ-FLX4 is strikingly similar to the DDJ-400, which it replaces. That is a good thing: The DDJ-400 was a very popular controller which did pretty much everything right for its price range. We’re glad it didn’t take its cues from the DDJ-FLX6, which looked like a few ideas stuck together in a box that wasn’t quite right for any of them.

So it’s a simple two-channel controller, with a cut-down mixer section that still bears resemblance to Pioneer DJ’s top-end mixers. It has simple but adequate jogwheels (no lights or displays in them), two sets of eight one-colour “clicky” rubberised performance pads, and Pioneer DJ’s usual loop, library and level controls.

This is the same as the DDJ-400 in nearly every physical aspect (which is a really good thing).

The corners of the plastic casing are now rounded, it has a dark grey colour scheme instead of the black of the DDJ-400, and the jogs have a rather attractive matt finish. But apart from two inconspicuous new buttons (more on those later), all looks strikingly similar.

Round the back it is now USB-C powered, with two sockets, one for power and one for a computer interface – although the unit is usually bus powered so no need to worry about the power input unless wanting to charge a mobile device too.

Yes, a mobile device: As well as working with Rekordbox and now Serato too (great!) on Windows and Mac, it also works with Rekordbox on iOS and Android (coming early 2023).

In the near future, this will work with mobile devices – your phone, your Android tablet, your iPad…

A good thing is that if you want to use it to livestream, the mic input is routed via the USB to the computer, so that means your mic is audible on streams (or recordings) without needing an extra mixer to incorporate it, as is often the case with DJ gear (and was the case with the DDJ-400).

To set up, you plug in to your laptop and grab your free Rekordbox or Serato DJ Lite app, then either add music you already own to the software, or log in to a streaming service (TIDAL, SoundCloud Go+, Beatport Streaming or Beatsource Streaming). Plug in some latency-free speakers and you’re good to go.

In Use

It plays just like the DDJ-400 did. It’s not “pro” (it’s smaller than pro gear, fiddly, pads are limited in both performance and feedback, it only has two channels, there are no external inputs bar the mic, there are no pro outputs), but it is more than usable.

The sound quality is good enough for the price, the headphones are loud enough for a bus-powered unit.

All the basic DJ stuff is there, including three-band EQ, gain controls per channel, deck VUs (but no master VUs), a cut-down but functional Beat FX strip, and two new features specially for beginners.

So we could end there and say yes, it does what it sets out to do. But it also has two exciting features, at least if you’re a beginner, or just a DJ who likes gimmicks and gadgets. Let’s look at those:

Smart CFX

The knobs under the three-band EQs per channel are filters – so far, so normal. But tap “Smart CFX” and they become one-knob macro FX, combining two (or more?) effects to give you combos that would be hard to achieve any other way.

Holding Smart CFX down + the Shift button, you’ll see a whole load of FX to cycle through in your DJ software.

Some completely cut the music, others enhance it. We’ve demoed them all in the accompanying video, but for here, suffice to say they sound good (most of them, anyway), and are a lot of fun for build-ups, big reactions at the end of the night, and so on.

Smart Fader

Some will love this, some hate it. Overall we thought it was cool.

Engage this, and your crossfader becomes an almost foolproof way to blend between any two songs, regardless of genre or BPM.

Here’s how it works. You engage it, start your new song playing (the unit makes sure it is “on the beat”), then slowly bring the crossfader across. As you do, the unit syncs the tracks and alters the BPM so both tracks match, progressively moving the BPM from the old track’s to the new one’s as you move it across.

At the same time, it drops the bass out on the old track, and for good measure, throws in a bit of echo as the old track disappears. There may be other things it does, but these are the ones we spotted. It’s all designed to smooth blends for you without you needing to do an awful lot.

The Smart Fader will be highly divisive among DJs, but we think it’s awesome.

It’s not real happiness, it’s a happy pill, but who cares? For fun DJing with a whole variety of music, it works. As a gateway to getting hooked on DJing, we love it. And as with all of these things, in the hands of the talented, it could be a really compelling feature. Even in the hands of the hopeless – well, it beats masking every transition with a bloody airhorn sample.

Conclusion

By releasing the DDJ-FLX4, Pioneer DJ just effectively retired the DDJ-400 and replaced it with a unit that will be the standard for entry-level DJ controllers for the next half decade.

It works with the two biggest software packages (and we can assure you Virtual DJ will follow suit fast), it works with phones, tablets, Mac and Windows, it does all the basics well enough, and has some great new features that will be genuinely useful especially for beginners and – in the case of the Smart CFX – for many more DJs too.

It takes some of the best parts of the underpowered DDJ-200, adds in all the best parts of the DDJ-400, wisely doesn’t stray too far into the territory occupied by the flawed DDJ-FLX6, and chucks in livestream mic support as well.

We have been wondering for a while what Pioneer DJ would do to replace the DDJ-400, and now we know – and it’s a winner.

Written by: hmr

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