The DJ-505 is the mid-level DJ controller in Roland’s new DJ controller range. It sits nicely between the DJ-202 and the DJ-808 and combines the best of both worlds: A compact overall size with a dedicated sequencer/drum machine section.
The DJ-505 is a two channel controller with excellent jog wheels, much like on all other Roland DJ controllers. While it has a 2 channel mixer, the decks have deck switch buttons so it can access all 4 Serato DJ Pro decks. The performance pads are qualitative and responsive and are well suited for quick finger drumming.
The TR-S section is a welcome addition compared to the DJ-202, that only has the performance pads to operate the sequencer and drum machine and while that works fine, it can be a bit confusing as the pads serve all the Serato functions as well. Obviously, the TR-S section of the DJ-808 has more functions, such as separated buttons to switch sounds and kits, individual instrument faders. But still, it’s very functional and after a while easy to use.
The build quality then. The controller’s body is fully plastic, which does feel a bit cheap, but on the other side, makes for a very lightweight controller, which is a good thing if you have to carry it around from gig to gig.
Features & functionalities
The DJ-505 has a very well laid out effects section. It’s possible to launch 3 effects at the same time and to toggle between single and multiple FX modes, and a BEATS knob to set the number of beats applied to an effect.
Also, each effects deck can be linked to each available Serato deck, and to the TR/Sample section, which allows applying effects to samples, drum sounds, and sequences. Nice!
The jog wheels
The jog wheels on the DJ-505 are, as expected, great. They are large, are well weighted and the latency when in use is almost negligible. If you are a scratch DJ, these jog wheels will certainly please you.
One small point of criticism: if you are a fan of spin backs, doing those on these jog wheels might prove a bit challenging since these are pretty tight. A tension adjust knob, like on most CDJ’s would make them perfect, but I’m (probably) nitpicking.
The performance pads & transport section
I very much how things are structured here. First of all, like on Pioneer DJ controllers, the decks are not mirrored, which contributes to the feeling of playing two decks and a mixer and not an all-in-one unit.
Secondly, having a separate loop section is great. I prefer it to having the loop section integrated into the performance pads since it allows to combine loops with tricks done on the pads without losing the oversight of what you are doing.
Finally, the performance pads are great and support all current Serato DJ performance functions, such as ROLLS, HOT CUES, SLICER, CUE LOOP, SAMPLER and even PITCH ‘N TIME. There is also a TR function, that controls the sequencer and drum machine. It’s great fun to use it in combination with the built-in drum patterns, especially to spice ups things with finger drumming.
The Performance pads are great, and the possibility to control the sequencer and drum machine with the pads allows for a lot of creative possibilities.
The TR-S section
The TR-S section is, like on the DJ-808, a dedicated section with a 16 step sequencer and several knobs and buttons to tweak, change and manipulate the built-in drum sounds. The DJ-505 has all the legendary Roland drum machines (Roland’s TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606).
Compared to the DJ-808, the TR-S section is a bit simplified, and some useful things are missing:
I really like the individual instrument faders on the DJ-808, which are really the best way of muting individual instruments in a sequence. On the DJ-505, you can also do this, but using a button, which is less elegant.
Compared to the DJ-202 however, the DJ-505 is much easier to use. The TR-S section versus using the performance pads to control sequences and drum kits is a huge improvement.
On the right side of the TR-S section, there are knobs and buttons to manage the kit and sounds. It’s possible to sync patterns with your Serato decks, and the syncing works really great. You can add shuffle t your patterns for a more natural feel, and there is also an option to nudge your sequences. You can toggle between kits and instruments, and finally, it’s possible to record patterns using the 16 step sequencer or the performance pads.
On the right, there are knobs to control level (gain), attack, tune and decay of selected instruments.
The mixer section then. The DJ-505 has a hardware mixer, meaning that the two onboard channels can be switched to external audio devices such as turntables and/or media players. Each channel has a 3 band EQ section, trim and filter knobs. The center section contains a master, booth, and TR/sampler volume level knobs. The TR/sampler section has a dedicated CUE button, which is really practical if you plan to work a lot with it.
The faders feel good when in use, and the crossfader is sharp and loose, as this DJ controller is clearly built with scratch DJ’s in mind.
There are 4 VU meters in total, 2 per channel and 2 for the master output.
Since many controls are situated on the front, the mixer is well spaced, and all knobs and buttons are easy to reach. More on that right below.
Inputs & outputs
On the front of the controller, there are two headphone inputs, with a decently sized volume knob, crossfader curve and reverse switches and the channel input switches. Finally, there is a volume knob for the microphone.
On the back, we find a midi output to connect & sync external gear such as synths and DAW’s, a mic input, RCA channel inputs, XLR & RCA master outputs and TRS booth output. This makes the DJ-505 very well specified, and should please professional/mobile DJ’s.
In the end, the DJ-505 delivers. It has everything a pro mid-range controller should have: professional grade inputs and outputs, excellent jog wheels, a hardware mixer and a tight integration with Serato. But above all, it has the TR-S section on top, and much like the DJ-202 and the DJ-808, that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the creative DJ. At USD 699, it’s quite affordable compared to the DJ-808 that sells for almost double (USD 1.299). You miss out on the 4 channels with built-in hardware effects and the more expansive TR-S section, but on the other hand, you get almost all features and the advantage of a more compact and lightweight unit.
It’s refreshing to have a new player in the DJ market, and Roland’s line of DJ controllers looks increasingly good. I would love to see Roland try to compete in the high-end of the market, with a DVS enable mixer and/or media player. It would be interesting to see how that would integrate with their Aria range of product gear. For, now, I’m happy with what we have so far!
*Price Ranges in USD: 300:$ 300-500:$$ 500-1000:$$$ 1000-2000:$$$$ 2000+:$$$$$
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