In this new comparison, we put Pioneer’s DDJ-RB entry-level Rekordbox DJ controller against the Roland’s DJ-202 entry-level Serato DJ controller.

It’s clear Roland took some cues from Pioneer DJ when designing the DJ-202, as both controllers look quite similar. This is a good thing since Pioneer DJ’s design is considered the standard in DJ gear.

The DJ-202 is, however, more than a DJ controller. It has a built-in sequencer and drum machine, and that means a lot for the asking price.

You may wonder why I compare controllers that work with different software. The DJ-202 works with Serato DJ, while the DDJ-RB is made for Rekordbox DJ from Pioneer DJ. The reason I do this is that from my experience beginning DJ’s looking for a first controller tend to look first at the hardware and then learn to use the software that comes with them, as you have to start somewhere.

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB Rekordbox DJ controller

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB top view
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB top view
IN SHORT
 
*Price Ranges in USD: 300:$  300-500:$$  500-1000:$$$  1000-2000:$$$$  2000+:$$$$$

 

The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB has been around for a little while. We did a full review (see above) a while ago and found it to be a very capable and fully featured Rekordbox DJ controller, ideal for starting DJ’s that want to get into the Pioneer DJ ecosystem at a budget price.

The RB is well equipped with 8 performance pads per channel, an effect section (only 1 effect at the time), a 2 channel mixer and a full license in the box for Rekordbox DJ.

Roland DJ-202 Serato DJ controller

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB top view
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB top view
IN SHORT
*Price Ranges in USD: 300:$  300-500:$$  500-1000:$$$  1000-2000:$$$$  2000+:$$$$$

 

The Roland DJ-202 is a very interesting Serato controller for beginners. It features low latency jog wheels of excellent quality, 8 performance pads per deck and a built-in sequencer and drum machine. The drum machine has drum sounds from the legendary TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-606.

Overall, the DJ-202 means tremendous value for money. A sequencer, drum machine, AND Serato DJ controller in one for under USD 300, that’s hard to beat. But there is a downside: the sequencer/drum machine integration is done through the performance pads, there is no separated TR-S section as on the DJ-505 or the DJ-808. This means that using them is a bit more confusing, and you need to keep track mentally or where all the kits and drum sound are exactly.

The effects section

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: effect section compared
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: effect section compared

The main difference  between both effect sections is that the DDJ-RB focus on 1 effect at time but with advanced (level/depth, beats) knobs and buttons accessible, while the DJ-202 allows activating 3 effects at the time, but there is only 1 knob to change the level/depth of the effect and the beats.

WINNER
The DDJ-RB. In DJing, less is more, and applying more than 1 effect at the time requires a lot of experience and skill. I feel that on a beginner controller it’s more important to give full control over 1 effect at the time (it’s easy to switch between effects anyway) rather than on/off access over multiple effects.

The jog wheels

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: the jog wheels compared
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: the jog wheels compared

On the jogs, I can be short: the DJ-202 wins hands down. The jogs on the DJ-202 feel smoother and snappier. The latency is remarkably low, so any DJ’s that needs this kind of responsiveness for their performance, or a looking to learn to scratch on a budget, the DJ-202 is very, very good option.

This doesn’t mean the jogs on the DDJ-RB are bad. On the contrary, they are really good, but Roland has done such a good job here that it’s just impossible to compete.

WINNER
The DJ-202. The DJ-202 wins this part hands down. If you need fantastic jog wheels on your entry level controller, these are the best on the market.

Performance pads

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: performance pads compared
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: performance pads compared

This is though one. Both controllers have very comparable performance pad sections. The DJ-202 has the added sequencer/drum machine feature, and while this creates a fantastic offer for the price, it does complicate operation a little bit.

The DDJ-RB keeps things a little bit simpler, and there is an added bonus of a separate loop section (which makes it possible to do performance tricks and play around with loops at the same time.) Rekordbox DJ also has those cool PAD FX, that allows triggering effects from the performance pads, which is quite cool.

WINNER
A TIE. It’s just too hard to choose here. Both performance sections are very well executed, and while the DDJ-RB’s performance section is a bit easier to get used to, the DJ-202’s has the unbeatable advantage of unlocking the sequencer and drum machine.

Mixer section

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: mixers compared
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: mixers compared

Both mixers look practically the same, but if you look closer, the DJ-202’s mixer has a few added features that make it slightly more appealing. Both have a 3 band EQ section per channel, with trim knob (not an obvious feature on entry-level controllers not so long ago) and a filter. Both have master output VU meters, and good quality channel and crossfaders.

So far so good, but then there are the differences. Let’s zoom in a bit:

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: closer look at the mixer functions
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202: closer look at the mixer functions

The DJ-202 has two extra knobs in the middle of the mixer: a sampler level knob and a cue/master mixing knob. The first one is key since the DJ-202 can sequence your Serato DJ samples, and getting them on the right volume level is important to blend them with other sounds, like those from the built-in drum machine. The second one is key when beatmatching, as it allows to control the balance between the cue volume and the master volume in your headphones.

The DDJ-RB does have a master cue, so you can turn the master on/off in your headphones (the CUE button on the DJ-202 in the middle is NOT a master CUE, but a sampler CUE, that can be a bit confusing.) but to have a knob is better since, depending on the sound conditions in a particular setting (distance to PA/speakers for example), you might need to play around with the balance between the master volume and the cue volume.

WINNER
The DJ-202. Again, a hard choice since both mixers are so similar, but the small addition of the headphone cue/master knob is, to me at least, a serious omission on the DDJ-RB that I hope will be corrected on an MK2 version.

Conclusion

The overall win goes to the DJ-202. In addition to added sequencer/drum machine, better jogs and a very useful cue/master level knob, it supports 4 Serato DJ decks, while the DDJ-RB is strictly a 2 channel controller.

OVERALL WINNER

Roland DJ-202

Pioneer DJ DDJ-RB versus Roland DJ-202 winner!

The DJ-202 deserves the win here. The added sequencer and drum machine, the fantastic jog wheels, the cue/master level knob, sampler volume & cue… It’s just a slightly more complete controller.

 

Agree or disagree with our choice? Comment below!

 

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