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Best new DJ controller 2022: Pioneer DDJ-REV1

As 2022 draws to a close and we look ahead to 2023, we’re bringing you our picks of the best new gear this year, from drum machines to turntables.

There’s been a quiet evolution of Pioneer’s mid-range DJ controllers this year. It’s easy to focus on the exotic high-end gear sometimes, but the sub-£300 range is where Pioneer arguably offer the best value in their entire catalogue. There are cheaper options, like Pioneer’s own DDJ-200 or entry-level options from brands like Numark, but this £250-300 range is where you can pick up something that’s got enough in common with pro gear that it’ll help you learn the basics of mixing, rock a house party and develop skills which you can transfer to fancier controllers or Pioneer’s flagship CDJs and DJM mixers. More specifically, the £260 DDJ-400 has become one of the best recommendations for newcomers to DJing.

The DDJ-400 is still a great option for beginners who are willing to invest a reasonable chunk of cash into learning how to DJ, but the new Pioneer DDJ-REV1 is our pick of this year’s best new controllers. Based around contrasting design principles, it provides an excellent alternative for those who want something a bit different, with more of a focus on scratching and performance.

The REV1 seems to be broadly similar to the 400 at first glance, but the more you look the more you realise how many differences there are: slightly wider and shallower, allowing for larger jog wheels, which are placed at the front of the unit in the ‘battle’ setup favoured by scratch DJs. The only identical control between the two is the central crossfader, with the REV1 featuring performance pads in the central mixer section, horizontal pitch faders and lockable paddles for the dual effects sections. The whole thing is designed to play nicely with Serato DJ software, rather than the Rekordbox packaged used by the DDJ-400. All in all, it’s a very different experience, and one which will appeal to a different type of DJ.

It’s worth a mention of the recently announced Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 here too. We haven’t got our hands on the new model yet, but the two-channel version of the excellent DDJ-FLX6 offers something quite different, focussing on smart controls which simplify the process of learning to mix and blend. There will be plenty of purists who turn their nose up at the idea of features like the Smart Crossfader, which automatically adjusts levels, EQs and tempo as you mix from one track to the next. That’s fine, but they’re missing the point. Isn’t DJing supposed to be fun? You can still take the purist approach if you want, but the FLX6-GT proves there’s a lot more to DJing than just slaving away to beat match manually; it’s quick, fun and offers features which should translate well to the beginner-friendly FLX4.

It’s purely a matter of personal taste which option appeals to any given DJ, but the REV1’s innovative approach makes it our pick of this year’s new releases. We’re looking forward to getting a closer look at the FLX4 in 2023.

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