If you are looking to buy a DJ controller and are looking to spend around 1000 dollars, both the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX as the Roland DJ-808 surely should be on your shortlist.
Both are comparable in some ways but very different in other ways. The Roland DJ-808 has, of course, the added TR-S (drum sequencer) and VT (voice transformer) modules, the controller part is remarkably similar to the DDJ-RX.
The big difference is the supported software. While the DDJ-RX plays nice with Rekordbox DJ, the DJ-808 only works with Serato DJ. So choosing the one or the other not only ties you to the hardware, but also to a specific DJ package.
The Roland DJ-808 is in a few ways a remarkable controller. Next to being a fully featured Serato DJ controller, it has two extra modules: the TR-S drum sequencer, complete with 606, 707, 808, 909 kicks, snares, claps, and hi-hats.
It has really remarkable jog wheels, that are very, very responsive and perfect for scratching. The mixer, being a hardware mixer, has built-in effects and is of very high quality.
Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX is the middle of the road controller in the DDJ Rekordbox line. It has a hardware mixer with built-in sound color effects, a 4 channel mixer, high-quality performance pads and fantastic jog wheels that are very well weighted.
These controllers are definitely not for beginners. If you are spending around 1K on a DJ controller, you are probably at the very least into serious bedroom DJing or DJing out already. Both of these controllers are good for that since they are compact and lightweight enough to be carried around often.
Both have excellent audio input & output connections and will work well in mobile DJ environments.
Let’s dive into details and start comparing part by part!
The decks on both controllers are very similar. The DJ-808 has controls for key syncing and pitch play that are lacking on the RX, but in turn, the RX has dedicated controls to use the Rekordbox DJ sequencer.
Both have RGB backlit, velocity-sensitive performance pads, extensive looping controls and a high-quality jog wheel with center LCD.
The DJ-808 has probably the best jog wheels on a mid-level DJ controller, so here it definitely wins. Also, the pads can control the TR-S sequencer as well, which allows for more expressive action when using the drum machine.
Winner: I would have to say the DJ-808 for the added pitch controls, the sensational jog wheel and the added functionality enabled by the TR-S sequencer.
As said earlier, the mixers are very comparable, one could even say that Roland studied the DDJ-RX very well when designing the 808.
Both have high-quality faders and knobs, a loose crossfader that is quite adapted for scratching, large VU meters and master, booth and per channel gain control knobs.
The DDJ-RX has a handy cue/sync buttons on the sample section, which is important if you are a heavy sample user.
Both are hardware mixers, so you can connect external devices to them and use the DVS modules in each DJ software package with them.
Winner: A tie, both mixers are almost identical.
Microphone, inputs, outputs
Both DJ controllers have a ton of inputs & outputs on board. The DDJ-RX has inputs for two microphones and they work through decks 3 and 4. The advantage of this is that you get full EQ and sound color FX on the mics, the disadvantage is that you cannot have 4 channels going and use a microphone.
The DJ-808‘s microphone is routed to the VT voice transformer, which allows for fancy effects, but can also be used to enhance your voice without changing it. The DJ-808 also a built-in USB hub and even a midi out to sync external equipment.
Apart from that, both controllers are again quite similar in this area. They both have Inputs for each channel to connect turntables and/or media players, TRS, XLR and RCA master & booth outputs… Everything a professional controller is supposed to have.
The front panel of both controllers is quite busy, and reaching for the small switches in a dark booth could be a bit cumbersome. I personally prefer when channel switches are on top of the channel itself.
Winner: It’s a hard choice because both controllers are so similar in this area. My preference goes to the DDJ-RX, because of the mic routing. Being able to use the channels for the microphones ensures detailed fine-tuning of the mic sound going out of the speakers.
TR-S sequencer and VT voice transformer on the DJ-808
The DJ-808 does have the added functionality of the TR-S and the VT modules, and that explains also the additional 300 dollars in asking price.
Is it worth it? That depends on what kind of DJ you are. If you are a Serato DJ already and work frequently with samples & loops, the DJ-808 is a dream come true. If you are planning to become a more creative DJ and want to go beyond simple deck to deck mixing, the drum sequencer is a powerful creative tool.
If, on the other hand, your thing is mixing tracks and you don’t plan/want to go beyond that, but do need a professional DJ controller for your DJing, the DDJ-RX is perfect.
It’s hard to say which one is the best because both the DDJ-RX and the DJ-808 have serious appeal.
The DDJ-RX is a bit handicapped because of Rekordbox DJ, which is far from the popular package that Serato DJ is, but that could all change with Rekordbox 5, that will soon be out of beta.
The look and feel of Rekordbox DJ has been updated to look very similar to Serato DJ, and that is no coincidence. The only open question is, will Rekordbox 5 achieve the same legendary level of stability Serato DJ has been known to have for years? Time will tell.
So combining the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX with what is looking to be a superior piece of software looks like a winner combination.
In the end, whichever you choose, you will be owning high-quality gear, that should last for years!
So what do you think? What is your favorite controller between the two? Comment below!