Since the demise of vinyl, nothing has risen to claim the mantle previously held by the Technics 1210 turntable, but Pioneer has come closest with its CDJ CD decks. Now that CDs are on the wane and laptops are in the hot seat, Pioneer has launched the DDJ-T1 and its sister system the DDJ-S1. The T1 tested here is designed to work with DJ software Traktor, while the S1 is tailored specifically to Serato Itch software.
The idea of a DJ controller is nothing new, but what the DDJ does so well is to give you a complete pro-quality mixing set-up in one tidy package. Clever design allows it to straddle your Mac or PC laptop, saving space and hiding the keyboard that becomes redundant because all the software controls are mapped to the knobs and faders on the main panel.
Unlike many DJ controllers, this one comes with fully featured Traktor software as part of the deal, but then you’ve a right to expect that at this price. You can still use it with other DJ software but that would be missing the plug-and-play point of it.
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Many of the best features from Pioneer's DJ CD decks are here, so you get a pair of platters that can be used for scratching, winding back and forth within tracks and making little adjustments to keep things in time. The best of these controls is the Needle Search strip, which lets you drop straight into a certain part of the track depending on where along the ribbon controller you place your finger – like taking the needle off a record and dropping it down on the bit you want to play.
It's got the lot
All the audio is handled by the DDJ, so you don’t need the hassle of extra audio interfaces. Just plug it into your laptop and your sound system, hook up your headphones and you’re away. You won’t be wanting for effects boxes either, as that’s all taken care of too. And while four-deck sets were once the stuff of plate-spinning DJ legend, the DDJ’s auto beat-matching skills and quartet of channels will have you mashing up multiple tracks in minutes.
Eggs and baskets
What’s not to like? Not much really. Everything feels well made, but there is always the fear with a one-box solution that all your DJ eggs are in the same basket, so unless you’ve got another pannier of tune-spinning gear waiting in the wings, a malfunction could see all your dubstep chickens coming home to roost. And nobody wants that.
As a high-end home DJ console the DDJ-T1 is just about as good as it gets right now. Of course, this time next year the sands of DJ Bay might have shifted again and everyone could be using iPads on shoulder straps instead. But somehow we doubt it.
Review by Tony Horgan.