Pioneer DDJ 400 Review

The DDJ 400 has been around for 2 years and while Pioneer have shifted things around here and there, and called it something new like the DDJ-SB3, they’ve chopped things off and called it the DDJ 200, the original DDJ 400 still remains the same… an awesome starter DJ controller.

Wait, did I say awesome already? I guess I did, and it is, but have no doubt, it’s not without it’s faults and limitations.
The biggest and most immediate problem I have with the DDJ 400 are the FX, or rather accessing the FX.

Now don’t get me wrong, I hardly use the FX, maybe echo, trans, filter, down echo, low-cut and that’s about it, accessing them is a proper ball-ache. You see to change the FX you press the FX button, a list of available FX then displays on the computer screen, you then press the arrow right to go down and arrow left to go up. If you miss the FX you need you have to have the presence of mind to press the correct arrow button to go back to the FX you need, do this at the wrong time and you can find yourself getting in a muddle. My advice is know what FX you need and get it ready early.

My new DDJ 1000 has a dial, choose the FX by turning the dial, then use another dial to choose the correct deck. This takes 2-3 seconds total. Unlike the DDJ 400 which if done correctly can take 7-10 seconds. Then of course you need to select the correct timing, such as 1 beat, 3/4 beat, 1/2 beat and so on. All this is done via the FX panel on the computer. Now I’m not advocating that Pioneer should change the FX buttons on the 400 just for me, or that they should install a dial and timing screen like the DDJ 1000. They could of course and possibly increase the price slightly to reflect this, but the entry level controller market is already very crowded and probably has paper thin profit margins, so adding £15-£25 to the price will possibly drive new customers to a competitor.

Another minor niggle that I only noticed AFTER I played with the DDJ 1000, the 400 needs the track search buttons like the 1000. You see to scrub through a track at speed on the 400 you press shift and move the corresponding jog wheel. Two buttons on either deck (forwards and backwards) like the 1000 would not only make it easier because you only need one finger instead of two hands, but seeing as ALL of pioneers enthusiast to pro-level gear has these two buttons, you’d be learning to do it correctly just like the pro’s do on club level gear.

The first time I hit shift and moved the jog-wheel on the DDJ 1000 I just about shit a brick, because instead of scrubbing through the track it moved the beat markers on the waveform! In my panic I just re-analysed the track to fix it!

Now that’s it for my niggles on the DDJ 400. Aside from these problems, I will say that the DDJ 400 is an awesome little deck, perfect for parties and noobies like me. Aside from this, it’s nigh on perfect.

So what’s good about it? Well, just about everything else. The faders are smooth and the resistance is perfect, the pitch fader could do with being longer, though that would cause problems with the jog-wheel, and this is a starter deck after all.
The performance pads have the usual dual functions, and the most used functions are immediately accessible, hot-cues and beat loops in particular. They too feel just right, nice rubber tops and responsive, not too sensitive that a feather would set them off, but just right.
The jog-wheels are about the size of a compact disc (what’s them?) and again, they’re smooth and just a little resistive, so accidental nudges won’t cock things up.
The outputs are just what a beginner with limited gear would need, 3.5mm headphone out, RCA left and right going to your speakers, a 6.5mm microphone jack – with volume control, USB for connecting to a PC and a Kensington lock to secure it.

You have what seems like a huge amount of knobs and buttons at first, but you soon get used to it all. You have low, mid and high EQ knobs, a filter knob and these are duplicated on each deck, then you have the headphone volume control and headphone mixing control so you can hear both tracks mixing, or just the one as you’re cueing up. You also have a master out volume control and the FX level control knob.

As I’ve said, it seems a little overwhelming at first, but in reality you only use a few buttons and knobs, the rest you set and forget, or change so infrequently that you don’t even see them.

I got a registration key in the box so I could use Rekordbox, but you don’t actually need it, once you plug the controller into your PC, RB starts immediately in performance mode, so don’t even worry about it!

Overall I really think that Pioneer got the DDJ 400 perfect, well almost. I do think they should have considered future proofing the user and training us with layouts  and usage methods for pro-level gear, it is after all where they want us to go. But you won’t discover this until you upgrade, and even with that said, playing with and discovering with the DDJ 1000 is all part of the fun of getting such  a big upgrade.

The 400 is a wonderful piece of kit that will give you many many hours of fun, possibly even years due to it’s well constructed nature.

DDJ 400 Pioneer XP1

The venerable DDJ 400 and XP1

DDJ 400 top down

DDJ 400 split view. Top down Rear Front

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Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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About 🎧Daz The DJ🎧

I'm a 50 year old carer, looking after my elderly mentally handicapped uncle. Learning to DJ has given me a nice outlet. A little history: In Halifax in the 80’s there was a club called Crossleys Bar. It was based in Dean Clough and featured three distinct floors, now from memory, and bearing in mind this is nearly 35 years ago, it had three huge floors, one floor was for pop music, one for indie/rock and the third and by far the most popular was House Music. This was my first introduction to house, and that music could be mixed to create a seamless continuation. It blew my mind. There were a few cock-ups and the mix didn’t go too well, but 95% of the time, you could hardly tell the music was being mixed. I did work in the pub trade for a few years, this managed to put me very close to the DJ’s and what they do before the pubs opened and after they closed, but I never had much confidence and never dared ask for a demo or a quick lesson. Then also life got in the way. Roll on 35 years and here I am in November 2019 finally learning to do what they did in the mid 80’s. The truth is it’s easy to learn, though hard to master, but once you get the basics down the rest comes naturally through time and experience. And a lot of mistakes! A huge thank you to Crossfader in Leeds for making this new skill easy and intuitive to learn. Be warned though, the gear can get quite expensive, even the beginner stuff can set you back £500, but once you have it you won’t stop learning. I’ve spent… £250 on a DDJ 400, £180 on an XP1, £100 on speakers, £150 on headphones and a stand that was £20. That’s so far a whopping £620 and I now want a DDJ 1000 (<£1100).

One Response to Pioneer DDJ 400 Review

  1. Pingback: House Favourites #1 – DJ-Daz: N00b DJ

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