The Pioneer DDJ-400: A Review

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Pioneer DDJ-400 Review

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is one of the latest additions to Pioneer’s line of digital DJ gear. This piece has been billed as a controller for DJs who are dabbling in their hobby and want to get started with high quality, versatile controller at an affordable price. Here we will take a look at what this product offers and see if it lives up to that billing.

We will go over all the features that come on this unit, including pros and cons, before getting into some hands-on experience with it so you can decide if it’s right for your needs or not.

Is Pioneer DDJ-400 a good DJ controller for beginner DJs?

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is the perfect entry-level DJ controller that helps you get started when it comes to improving your basic DJ skills, rather than aiming at professional DJs.

The DDJ-400 has all of the basics that DJs need to perform: crossfader, jog wheels, volume sliders, and performance pads. Plus, its compact size makes this perfect if space is limited on stage or at home.

The unit can be hooked up to your laptop or desktop computer using USB cables for digital playback of MP3 music files from the included Rekordbox software suite.

Why should I buy a beginner controller?

The Pioneer DDJ-400 has a few benefits that make it perfect for beginners.

First of all, the unit is small and compact which means you can use it in tight spaces like on stage or at home with ease. This controller also comes with Rekordbox software so you can use it to playback MP-320 digital files.

If you are dabbling in your hobby and want a high-quality, versatile controller but don’t have the time or money for professional gear, then this is the perfect choice for you!

Things to consider before buying a DJ Controller

Do you know that there are many things to consider when you’re looking to buy a new DJ controller? You must know your needs, hobbies, and interests before diving into purchasing one. 

Some of the things you should consider before buying a DJ controller are your budget, style, and needs.

For those looking for an all-inclusive unit that is ready to go out of the box, then this Pioneer DDJ-400 may be perfect for you! If you’re dabbling in your hobby but want something more high quality than beginner gear, or if you need space on stage or at home due to small sizes – then this will work well too.

If not…maybe it’s time to think about what level of experience with performing as a DJ would best suit your needs and preferences?

For the vinyl-only DJ, a controller might not be your best option. The higher-end controllers support multiple inputs from different players and allow you to integrate additional turntables or other devices. 

If you have the extra money needed for one of these expensive pieces of equipment then it’s worth thinking about investing in this type as well since budget limits most DJs who can only afford an inexpensive 2-channel model because they are more affordable but offer less control over their sound output than many would like.

Pioneer DDJ-400: A Quick Run-down

This is a USB-powered DJ controller that comes with 2 channels, a built-in sound card, FX, looping functions, and even sample options. It also has built-in jog wheels that offer precise scratching capabilities and beatmatching capabilities as well as cue buttons, performance pads, and EQs.

The connection options this controller has are basic. It comes with a headphone jack for headphone monitoring, direct to USB cable or standard RCA & 1/8 inch output for main speakers as well as a 1/4 inch mic out. The DDJ-400 also comes with a Rekordbox DJ software license.

Pros

  • Great FX features, looping functions, and sample options
  • Compact size which is perfect for small spaces like on stage or at home
  • All of the basics that DJs need to perform are crossfader, jog wheels, volume sliders, and performance pads. Plus a Rekordbox DJ Software license
  • Has a professional club-feel layout similar to more advanced DJ controllers
  • Comes with Rekordbox DJ software which is more popular amongst top DJs

Cons

  • Limited connection options
  • No DVS support
  • Limited to use with only Rekordbox DJ software and can’t be used as a stand-alone mixer

Pioneer DDJ-400 Features

While most entry-level controllers have a built-in sound card, I want to take a deeper dive into many of the professional features and the controller’s creative capabilities.

In-Built Mixer Section

Like with most entry-level controllers, the DDJ-400 has a built-in mixer section with all of the standard mixing features you’d expect from the Pioneer DJ controller product range. The 3-band EQ along with the dedicated high, medium, and low pass filter gives DJs the essentials to EQ tracks for mixing and transitions. Also as expected, each channel comes with bright LED level meters to monitor amplitude levels. You’ll also find the trim knobs at the top so DJs can regulate the volume levels efficiently and dedicated cue buttons.

Overall, this typical mixer layout should always come as standard for any DJ controller. But while Pioneer is always tweaking their models (which is a good thing), it makes the in-built mixer section feel a little cramped.

The other thing to mention on this part of the DDJ-400 is the dedicated FX section (which I will cover later on), the channel faders, and the crossfader.

Restrictions

This controller has limited connection options which is unfortunate. The DDJ-400 doesn’t have DVS support and can only be used with Rekordbox DJ software. This means DJs who use DVS will not be able to use this controller. There are also no inputs for turntables or cd players. Lastly, there are limited outputs for speakers or headphones so DJs must connect the device to towers or amplifiers using the standard 1/4 inch jack output.

Lastly, as this is a two-channel entry-level DJ controller, there is no key shift that you can find with more advanced DJ gear.

Build quality & design

While you should not expect premium components at this particular price point, the DDJ-400 has a strong build quality and feels like a professional DJ controller with its club-style layout.

It’s still lightweight and easy to carry. But I would recommend investing in a protective case if you plan on using it outside of your home regularly.

As for the portable design, it’s typical of Pioneer DJ controllers. It has the same layout with several performance pads and EQs as well as dedicated volume sliders for each channel. You can instantly tell they’ve taken the inspiration from their flagship NSX2 and have tried to deliver the same layout but with a much more compact unit. This is especially useful for beginner DJs to transition over to more advanced DJ gear.

Connection Choices

The DDJ-400 plugs into your laptop or computer via USB using the PC master output. The headphone jack is located on the front for your DJ headphones which will help with proper cue monitoring as well as a built-in soundcard for your speakers or active studio monitors using the standard RCA cables.

Additionally, there is a mini-jack if you wanted to use normal headphones as opposed to DJ headphones as well as a mic input for those looking to use microphones. 

For this price point, I don’t expect a massive amount of connection options for this DJ controller. However, it is something that needs consideration if you have an existing sound system you want to connect. The RCA output is the only option and limits your choices of other types of connections.

Beat FX Controls

The beat FX feature is the best part of this controller. You can enhance your mixes with Sound Color FX and Beat FX featuring curves taken from Pioneer’s DJM-900NXS2 mixer. You can choose from several preset options such as flanger, echo, and filter sweeps, making it easier than ever before when DJing on an entry-level device.

This is a major plus point for those with entry-level DJing skills. When you’re just starting, the last thing you want to do is spend hours trying to figure out how to set up effects on your laptop or PC when it should be easy enough in front of you at all times.

The beat FX controls are located centrally on the mixer, giving it a much more natural feel similar to professional club gear.

Jog wheels

The DDJ-400 jog wheels are a great addition to this controller. They’re well-spaced and give the DJ more control over their mix. The jog wheels are also both velocity-sensitive and have buttons for scratching and ducking which is an excellent feature for beginners. However,  the ducking feature is not on by default.

However, scratch DJs won’t get the same surface area with the DDJ-400 jog wheels like regular turntables, but can still get the resistance.

Looping Controls

The DDJ-400 has CDJ style looping controls which should be a standard for all entry-level DJ controllers. The loop type can be set to ducking, key sync or beat loop and the controls are also velocity-sensitive which is an excellent feature if you want more control over your mix transitions. You can set your loops that are stored in Rekordbox as well as set loops on the fly.

You can set a 4-bar beat loop while you can also halve or double your loop length. This is a welcome change over the DDJ 200 which only had ducking and key sync looping controls.

Pitch Faders

The long pitch faders are a welcome addition to this controller. Historically most beginner DJ controllers had shorter ones which made beatmatching a bit of a hassle. Now with the Pioneer DDJ-400, the new pitch faders enable improved precision in matching with two deck tempos.

The DDJ-400 also includes a crossfader curve adjust feature which you can set with the latest version of Rekordbox.

Software: Rekordbox

The controller comes with Rekordbox DVS Plus Pack which is a DJ software that works inThe Pioneer DDJ-400 comes with a full version of the Rekordbox DJ, a powerful DJing software with lots of features that enable full flexibility over your music collection, preparing your mixes and even for use during a live DJ set. The software essentially works with any Pioneer DJ equipment and is considered the industry standard for most top DJs and music venues.

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is a general-purpose controller, but Rekordbox DJ is the key to unlocking its functionality. You can plug the controller directly into your laptop or PC.

While this is mainly a controller for Rekordbox DJ, it is also compatible with Serato DJ.

For a full review of DJ professional performance software, check out our guide to the best DJ software.

Dimensions

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is a bit larger than other entry-level DJ controllers, but still compact enough for the aspiring DJ with a home studio setup.

  • Width: 482 mm
  • Height: 58.5 mm
  • Depth: 272.4 mm
  • Weight: 2.1 kg

In-Built Tutorial Feature

The Pioneer DDJ-400 has a tutorial feature that is excellent for beginners getting to grips with DJing. The tutorials are intuitive and easy to understand. 

It covers the basics of connecting up your gear and the DJ controller for Rekordbox. Additionally, it guides you through some basic DJ skills to give you a foundation on which you can build when you master DJ techniques.

While it’s not a complete course on Djing, it is a welcome addition that not many other entry-level controllers offer.

Performance Pads

The DDJ-400 comes with eight performance pads per channel that are used as ‘hot cues’ or to trigger phrases, drum samples (pad FX), and loops.

It has a dedicated sampler section that can store up to three sample slots for use in your remixes. This is one of the bonuses you get when going with an entry-level controller like the Pioneer DDJ-400

With this many features on offer, it’s easy to see why beginners would be drawn towards it – especially those who want more flexibility from their gear than just playing prerecorded tracks!

Previous controllers had slightly larger performance pads. However, these still feel great.

Does the DDJ-400 need speakers?

While it is technically possible to use this model without speakers being plugged through the RCA outputs, it is possible to plug into a laptop through the USB cable and play tracks off the computer’s internal speakers. However, to ensure crystal clear sound, we recommend that you use a set of powered speakers.

For a more detailed guide of what speakers to go for, check out our guide to the top powered speakers and studio monitors for DJs.

Alternatives to the Pioneer DDJ-400

While the Pioneer DDJ-400 is a fantastic entry-level controller, it is not going to suit everyone. If you have more than an hour of DJing experience or are looking for something slightly different then here are some alternatives that may be worth considering.

Pioneer DDJ 200

The ddj 200 which is the predecessor to this new DDJ-400 model is still a fantastic option for those looking to use it at house parties but doesn’t necessarily want to master their craft. This is because this is a mere basic DJ controller with no crazy effects or expansive mixing features on it.

It does conveniently support consumer-based playback methods such as playing tracks from streaming services as well as from phone apps. Anybody can learn the basics and it doesn’t cost too much or isn’t too big.

  • Basic DJ controller Ideal for home use
  • Very cheap and compact
  • Brilliant features like loop control and cue points.
  • Supports a variety of streaming services including SoundCloud, TIDAL, Spotify, and Deezer.

Roland DJ 202

The Roland DJ 202 is another fantastic option if you want something that offers a bit more production capabilities. It offers more mixing possibilities with built-in drum kits and samplers so you can produce beats from scratch.

It offers Serato DJ Lite as an alternative to Rekordbox DJ, and this particular DJ controller has two channels but offers you the option to connect up to four decks on it.

  • Has music production features such as built-in drum kits, sampler, and sequencer
  • The drum kits consist of eight different sounds
  • It’s a two-channel DJ controller but can connect up to four decks
  • Comes with Serato DJ Lite
  • Competitively priced with the DDJ-400 but offers slightly more

Pioneer DDJ-SB3

The DDJ-400 is not the only beginner DJ controller from Pioneer in the entire range. The DDJ-400 sits in the middle ground between the ddj 200 and ddj-sb3.  But the DDJ-SB3 has nearly all of the features except it comes with larger jog wheels suited more for scratch DJs and also bundles the controller with the Serato Scratch Lite for mastering the art of scratching. It even allows you to add scratches reproduced from other famous DJs with custom scratch samples using the pad scratch feature.

The DDJ-SB3 also offers rookies the chance to dabble with the FX Fade feature.

Conclusion: Is the DDJ-400 worth it?

The DDJ-400 is one of the new and improved entry-level controllers from Pioneer DJ that clearly aims at beginner DJs looking to learn their basic DJing craft.

So if that is you, then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s packed with features such as the tutorial function, performance pads for hot cues or looping samples, ducking, and key sync control which gives you incredible mixing options as someone learning. The DDJ-400 also comes equipped with Rekordbox software but can be used in conjunction with Serato DJ when you want more freedom of mixing options. 

If you’re interested in purchasing this product, click here.