Watching a professional DJ turning random scratches, loops, and samples into a catchy tune is mesmerizing. If it’s a skill you’ve aspired to, or just one you’d like to experiment with in your free time, Pioneer’s new DDJ-REV1 is an affordable all-in-one alternative to dropping a few thousand dollars on a pair of turntables and a mixer—assuming you’ve already got a laptop.
What started out as a way to turn a pair of record players into a playable instrument has evolved into a true musical art form, although over the decades the equipment has changed dramatically. Belt-driven record players powering the home stereos of the ‘70s and ‘80s were replaced with direct drive alternatives with more torque and power like the Technics 1200 line from Panasonic that remains a beloved tool of DJs to this day, while simple mixers with cross-faders have gained the ability to quickly and easily record and playback samples and instantly create loops.
Scouring music stores for rare vinyl to sample was also once a big part of DJ culture, but even that has been streamlined over the years. Now vinyl records have special encoding that computer software can read and use to manipulate the playback of digital files. DJs who specialize in techniques like scratching and beat juggling still tend to rely on a pair of turntables with a mixer perched in between, while those performing at clubs often prefer all-digital DJ controllers that offer more functionality and a smaller footprint. With the new DDJ-REV1, Pioneer is bringing the best of both of those setups to a more affordable solution.
Officially available starting today for ~$340 (€299) the Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is billed as a “Scratch style 2-channel DJ controller” compatible with the Serato DJ Lite software running on a PC, or the Serato DJ Pro software as an optional paid upgrade. It’s not the first DJ controller for consumers from Pioneer, but it is the first to feature a layout that’s more optimized for scratching. It has larger jog wheels borrowed from one of Pioneer’s more pro-level controllers and longer tempo sliders now running horizontally above each wheel—a setup that makes the DDJ-REV1 feel more like performing on a pair of Technics turntables, or Pioneer’s own PLX line.
Other layout changes include the performance pad buttons moved to the middle of the controller alongside the mixer controls where you’ll also now find FX paddles, located in the same spot where they can be found on Pioneer’s pro-level DJM-S series mixers. The new DDJ-REV1 isn’t just about familiarizing aspiring scratch DJs with the equipment used by established performers, it also includes software tools to help amateurs produce professional-sounding tracks with fewer hours spent practicing.
A Tracking Scratch feature automatically reverts a track to its starting point when the jog wheels are turned backwards or when a performer takes their hand away, making it easy to scratch a specific sample with perfect accuracy without using the crossfader. Automatic Scratch Crossfader Cuts patterns can recreate unique sounds created through skillful crossfader manipulation—minus the need for skills. Is that cheating? Maybe, but those wanting to pursue this as just a hobby certainly won’t care, and that seems to be who Pioneer is specifically targeting with this new controller.