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Pioneer DJ gear is hard to beat when it comes to mix versatility, format compatibility and overall user experience. But, with the majority of the range tailored to pro and semi-pro DJs, Pioneer DJ products are often too steep an investment for DJ casuals. This makes their DDJ-200 controller a curious item in the catalogue—retailing at around AUD$200-250, the DDJ-200 was clearly developed in an effort to court DJ newcomers.
Andy Warhol once wrote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Likewise, with user-friendly devices like the DDJ-200 available at such accessible price points, there’s no reason everyone in the world can’t be a DJ.
So, what exactly is the DDJ-200? It’s a two-channel smart DJ controller that connects, via Bluetooth, to your smartphone, Mac or PC. From there, you can utilise the DJ app or software of your choosing. It’s important to note that the DDJ-200 has no CDJ facility or auxiliary inputs—it’s all digital.
Something that immediately sets the product apart is its size and weight. It’s small enough to stick in a bag and take to a friend’s place and no hassle to pack away when your partner says they’ve heard enough Donna Summer edits for the evening. That said, while the DDJ-200 is efficiently designed and super lightweight, it looks and feels no less legitimate.
In terms of the layout and responsiveness of the jog wheels, play/pause buttons, tempo controllers, three-band EQs and FX faders, the DDJ-200 closely mirrors Pioneer DJ’s DDJ-400 and 800 models. This is great news for novice DJs who want to learn on the DDJ-200 before investing in a more sophisticated piece of hardware.
As part of its efficient design, the DDJ-200 is basically wireless. There are just two cables in the box. The first is a USB, which is necessary to power the unit and will work with any phone charger or portable battery pack. The second cable is an audio splitter, though this one doesn’t even plug into the DDJ-200. Rather, the single-pronged male end of the splitter goes to the headphone port of your phone, tablet or laptop; the other end consists of two female inputs, one for headphones and the other for speakers.
It’s entirely possible to play sound through the built-in speakers on your phone or laptop while DJing with the DDJ-200, but the splitter cable allows you to cue tracks and demo FX like a pro without exposing the audience to any behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.
So, where does the music come from? There are two names inscribed on the top right hand corner of the unit: WeDJ and rekordbox. The former is a free and easy-to-use mixing app from Pioneer DJ that can be installed on iPhone, iPad or Android devices. The latter is an industry-favoured music management and DJ performance application, also free to download, with upgrades available via a monthly or yearly subscription.
The DDJ-200 is compatible with a range of streaming services, too. Purists may scoff, but there are plenty of avid music consumers in 2021 who don’t actually own any music. At present, the DDJ-200 lets users stream from the mammoth libraries of Beatport LINK, SoundCloud Go+, Deezer, TIDAL and Beatsource LINK. If that’s a bridge too far, you can also tap into your iTunes library (though not Apple Music) and rekordbox library.
For intuitive technology-users, mixing with the DDJ-200 will be a walk in the park, but even where that’s not the case, Pioneer DJ makes getting started as simple as possible. The company’s website is a generous resource for beginner DJs, with step-by-step tutorials on everything from setting up the DDJ-200 to creating a signature sound and using the jog wheels to scratch and nudge.
But you don’t even need to go to the website—the WeDJ app is loaded with all the necessary DJ tutorials. Plus, the app has a pop-hint feature, which causes little messages to appear as you work your way through the fundamentals of mixing, subtly pushing you forward and making sure you’re acquainted with all the jargon of DJ boffins.
There’s a reason pro DJs around the world favour Pioneer DJ hardware and affiliated software. Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Pioneer DJ kit is not just stylish and nimble, but there’s a level of consistency throughout their range. Crucially, they haven’t skimped on quality with the DDJ-200— by contrast, they’ve risen to the challenge of making a high quality, entry-level smart DJ controller.
Professional DJs might raise an eyebrow, but even if the average DDJ-200 user won’t be showing up on the Boiler Room feed anytime soon, it’s certainly a creative means of staying entertained during lockdown and an easy way to impress friends at your next socially-distanced gathering.