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Update February 2017: What is valid for the Pioneer DDJ-SZ, is certainly valid for the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SZ2! The SZ2 is fully equipped to support the newest features in Serato DJ, and (although we haven’t confirmed this yet) the new features such as the support for Serato Flip and the key controls should work (at some point in the future) with Rekordbox DJ as well.
Are you planning to use your Pioneer DDJ-SZ with Rekordbox DJ? read on!
Last year Pioneer DJ expanded their music preparation software Rekordbox with a performance module called Rekordbox DJ. Since then, it has become the third leg in a playing field traditionally dominated by Serato and Native Instruments with Traktor Pro.
Previous to Rekordbox DJ, Pioneer DJ was strongly affiliated with Serato and launched over the last few years a line of high-quality DJ controllers, from the beginners, oriented DDJ-SB (recently upgraded with the arrival of the DDJ-SB2) through the mid-level DDJ-SR and its four-channel version the DDJ-SX (upgraded to the DDJ-SX2, and after that the DDJ-RX) all the way the top of the line DDJ-SZ.
In the meantime, Pioneer has launched a dedicated Rekordbox DJ line of controllers, that mirrors the Serato DJ models while improving on them on several points. The thing is that many DJs have invested good money in their Serato DJ DDJ controller and now that Rekordbox DJ is maturing (and frankly is starting to look like a real substitute for Serato DJ with the recent addition of DVS and Video support) the temptation to dive into Rekordbox DJ is increasing.
I made the jump months ago and have been using a DDJ-SZ and Rekordbox DJ and I feel that since the latest update the union between the SZ and Rekordbox DJ has finally reached a stage of maturity that allows for professional use.
In this article & video, I want to explore how the DDJ-SZ behaves with Rekordbox DJ, and how some of the key controller features, that are natively intended to work with Serato DJ, behave under Rekordbox DJ. You might want to jump from Serato DJ to Rekordbox DJ, or just give Rekordbox DJ a serious try, but does that mean that you have to ditch your Serato DDJ controller and buy a dedicated Rekordbox DJ controller?
Pioneer DJ DDJ-SZ + Rekordbox DJ
The DDJ-SZ is a massive piece of kit. It basically mimics a CDJ+DJM setup minus the onboard screens. If you have invested in this controller in the past, for sure you want to get the max out of it and use it with as much DJ software packages as you can. So how does the DDJ-SZ work under Rekordbox DJ?
The DDJ-SZ is a performance controller, and with Rekordbox DJ, it’s capacities are well exploited.
DDJ-SZ Deck Effects
The effect knobs on each deck work similarly to the way the work under Serato DJ, not much to say there. Using the shift key you can assign different effects that come with Rekordbox DJ to each effect knob. The beats knob doubles here as a button to activate the Release FX. These are quantized effects and you can switch between Echo, Vinyl brake, and Backspin. Lastly, from the controller, you can toggle between controller 3 effects per deck or 1 effect with added parameters using the shift + tab button.
The Color effects work without issue in the latest version of Rekordbox DJ (version 4.2.0b). In the past, I did experience problems, such as the effects becoming active by pressing the buttons even though the color fx knob was at its 12 o’ clock position.
One important limitation of using the DDJ-SZ and not the RZ with Rekordbox DJ is that you cannot alter the color FX behavior in the software. As you can see below the CFX tab is grayed out. Maybe it’s just a question of time and Pioneer DJ will allow this in a future release of Rekordbox DJ.
The pads have quite different functions in Rekordbox DJ compared to Serato DJ. Let’s see how the pads are mapped with the DDJ-SZ for a few cases.
I would like to highlight two modes the pads can operate in Rekordbox DJ, the Pad FX mode, and the Slicer mode.
The Pad FX splits the pad grid in two. The top row allows executing slip loops of different sizes. Means that by pressing the pad, you engage a loop of a certain configurable size, but underneath the track continues to play normally. The bottom 4 pads allow you to engage quantized effects, that you can change obviously, allowing for even more ways of personalizing your performance.
The Slicer does exactly what it names say, it slices a section of the track in configurable bits and you can loop each of those bits individually. Both features work perfectly well on the SZ and the fact the labels on the controller don’t much the features is something you get used to pretty quickly.
Finally, I noticed that in the current latest version of Rekordbox DJ the slip mode function is no longer skipping beats in Rekordbox DJ. This was happening since the beginning and from what I can see from the release notes it was fixed in version 4.2.0. Truly a good thing because before that the slip mode was virtually unusable in a live gig situation. Not sure if this is a bug only occurring with the SZ, but I thought it is worth mentioning if you intend to switch to Rekordbox DJ as a DDJ-SZ user.
Besides the features described above the DDJ-SZ has much, much more to offer. The SZ supports dual USB so you can hook-up two laptops and split the decks between them. So you can have for example Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ running at the same time. There are also official mappings from Pioneer for Traktor Pro, something Pioneer will not provide for the DDJ-RZ as they will only support Rekordbox DJ there.
Finally, let’s not forget about the possibility of using DVS and Video through the extension packs for both Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ.
So is the DDJ-SZ an obsolete controller with the arrival of the RZ? In my opinion absolutely no. The SZ has the power of supporting seamlessly the 3 different main DJ packages (Serato DJ, Traktor Pro, and Rekordbox DJ) and in a professional setting that is a key advantage that many professional DJs and club owners will consider when acquiring DJ hardware for their business.
If you are committed to Rekordbox and Rekordbox DJ and don’t have any use for any other software then clearly the DDJ-RZ is your only viable choice, but if you need flexibility, then the SZ is the option to go. I’m frankly a bit surprised that Pioneer DJ is not marketing the Serato DJ DDJ line from this angle, but then it’s understandable they don’t want to divert attention from their new products and fully go for world domination with Rekordbox DJ 🙂
In any case, my conclusion is that the DDJ-SZ still is a solid option for the pro DJ seeking flexibility. Check the video below for some more details and examples on how the SZ and Rekordbox DJ work together!
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!