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Review: Pioneer DDJ-Ergo

Pioneer’s latest controller is a departure from the strategy that they’ve adopted over the past 18 months, namely of putting big ticket prices on their first forays into controller and computer based DJ gear. The DDJ Ergo isn’t a budget priced controller, but it’s definitely in the realms of purchasing possibility for many first time buyers. Let’s see how Pioneer have managed to do it…

SPECS

Price at Review: £429/$599USD

Connection/Power: USB Bus Powered

Input Terminals: MIC x 1 (1/4 inch Jack)/AUX x 1 (RCA)

Output Terminals: MASTER OUT x 2 (1/4 inch Jack x 1, RCA x 1), HEADPHONE MONITOR OUT x 2 (front 1/4 inch Jack, Mini Pin)

Dimensions (W x H x D): 555 x 280 x 103 mm

Weight: 3 kg

Software System Requirements:

Windows
• Windows XP (SP3)/Vista/7
• Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon XP, 512 MB RAM or more

Mac OS X 10.5/10.6/10.7 
• Intel processor platform, 1024 MB RAM or more
• 50 MB or more free disk space
• 1024 x 768 screen resolution or more

THE GOOD

  • Distinctive look
  • Good layout for basic mixing
  • Decent onboard audio options

THE BAD

  • Maybe too distinctive look
  • Cramped EQ and FX/cue controls
  • Price (especially considering software)

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you love the look of Ergo, and especially if you’re not a fan of Traktor, it’s probably a good buy. That said, ergonomic bottlenecking and the fact that it doesn’t really offer anything, except looks, that other cheaper controllers do means that it’s by no means a stand out contender for any thrones.

 

 JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER

Ergo has a distinctive look. View it from the top, unplugged, and it’s a somewhat average looking black fascia with recognisable Pioneer stylings. From an angle, things start to get a little more space age. The gloss white, curved edges become apparent, and two back legs (that need to be unscrewed to be removed) put the entire unit at a shallow incline. Plugged in, that effect gets multiplied by a red and blue light show that makes the entire unit look like something from Back to the Future II. I’m all for designers pushing the envelope – heaven knows there are enough matt black, sharp edged boxes – but there’s a general resistance to too much flashiness in the industry, and when I asked a non-DJ friend what he thought, he said “it looks like a toy”. Pioneer have consciously gone after the consumer market with Ergo, and in doing so have seemed to go with what a layman thinks DJ equipment should look like, rather than going with the grain and designing something more reminiscent of the norm. This creates an issue, in that using Ergo is going to, for better or worse, present you in a certain light amongst people who have any frame of reference for what DJ gear usually looks like.

 

NUTS AND BOLTS

The Pioneer jog wheels are one of the big reasons for buying in to any low level Pioneer gear. Whilst these smaller wheels don’t feel identical to the larger ones found on the pro level CDJs they do have a degree of similarity that should make going through the ranks of Pioneer-dom easier to adjust to – it’s perhaps worth saying that I’ve never particularly been a fan of the feel of a Pioneer jog wheel, but they’re certainly the industry standard so what do I know?! They’re not hugely ‘spinny’, but there’s a feeling of momentum that’s quite pleasant and whilst they do have a slight blunt feel to them when it comes to positioning, they’re accurate enough to transcribe motions into fairly smooth manipulation of audio.

Pioneer are definitely keeping up their trademark feel elsewhere on the unit, with a light crossfader and heavy channel faders. The crossfader feels okay, it’s nothing to really write home about but the lag on either side of the fader is acceptable – at around 2.5mm – and there’s a smooth action. The heavy channel faders are just clunky though, and I wish Pioneer would start loosening them up in their new gear. The pitch fader is also quite stiff – completely different to Pioneer’s CDJ offerings – and has a central detent to help you find the middle.

The Pioneer play and cue buttons have been ditched in favour of a slightly different, curved bezel style that fits in better with the overall aesthetic of the Ergo, and the buttons for other features are stiff plastic which depresses only a very small amount before activation. Manufacturers in general are still undecided about how to ‘do’ buttons on new equipment, mindful of the fact that some of us like to map and remap controllers and use any button going as a potential performance control, but also that there is still a (presumably) much larger portion of the market that has a much more traditionalist approach to equipment and DJing in general and to ramp up the cost of a unit by dropping in top quality buttons on everything would be commercial suicide. I think that the style of button on Ergo is about my favourite way to do a cheap controller’s buttons, as the action is quick and there’s little to no ‘waggle’.

Knobs are made of very stiff plastic that has indentations all around the outside. Rather than use the high level caps from the big boys of the DJM series, it’s the budget range of caps that are on offer, and they’re both smaller and less comfortable to use; the deep indentations have a somewhat spiky feel that doesn’t really feel great on the pads of your fingers.

All in all, the build of the Ergo is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s a solid unit with decent jog wheels, crossfader, and well compromised buttons, on the other hand, the other controls on the unit are distinctly average.

 

THE FEELING

Ergonomics wise, Pioneer get brownie points for avoiding the temptation to design Ergo with horizontal symmetry. There’s a definite ‘deck’ design that’s duplicated on either side of the mixer, and generally all’s well when it comes to placement… at least for beginner level use. In reality, whilst things like loop buttons and filter are given plenty of space, the other performance controls are just a little too close together for comfort; the effects dials are nearly on top of each other, the buttons for sampler and cue are too small, and the EQ, gain, and headphone monitoring is awkwardly snug. The placement of the sampler and cue buttons atop the jog wheels is a pretty well accepted place to put them, but if you really bug out there’s a chance you’ll tap the jog wheel itself. It would probably have been better to have put the buttons, or at least some of them, below the jog wheel to facilitate cue juggling and so on. The dual layer four deck control feels a bit like a nod to the fact that four deck is the latest craze, and the Ergo feels a little behind the curve when considering other controllers that are implementing four physical channel faders into their design.

 

SOFTWARE

Included with Ergo is an OEM copy of Virtual DJ, which may turn some of you off but the truth is for basic performance VDJ can cut it. Ponying up for the full version of VDJ to allow all features – including expansion for extra controllers – is once again where it fails as a value proposition, though, as Traktor Pro blows it out of the water when it comes to included effects and general tightness. If you want software to grow with you and your setup, you’re going to have to think about adding Traktor (or a full licence for VDJ, Torq, or similar) to the shopping list.

The days of Traktor being included with third party controllers may be coming to an end now, as NI begin to use its inclusion as a USP for its own hardware offerings. Nonetheless Pioneer have included a Traktor mapping for the Ergo; as you’d expect Ergo gets mapped to Traktor fairly ‘straight’, and the jog wheels have the expected somewhat sloppy feel that third party wheels tend to when mapped to Traktor.

If you’re just after a no nonsense controller, Virtual DJ is fine, but much more exciting is the news that Serato Intro will very soon officially support the Ergo. Serato’s user interface is superb and the Serato way of handling scratching style playhead manipulation sounds much better than both Traktor and VDJ’s, and whilst it doesn’t have any upgradeability it should increase the value of the Ergo package a whole bunch.

 

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

Being an all-in-one, Ergo’s also got onboard sound going for it. There’s a mic/aux channel, TRS and RCA master outs, and two front mounted headphone sockets: one for 3.5mm and another for 1/4″ headphone jacks. Considering it’s an entirely bus powered interface there’s a decent amount of volume from the outputs, and because the actual mixing’s done in software there’s not so much worry about the headroom issues we’ve spoken about in previous articles. In any case, Ergo is pitched to house party DJs rather than super club DJs and it performs just fine for that purpose.

The fact that the Ergo is packaged only with Virtual DJ LE detracts from its value compared to, at this price, its main competitor: the Native Instruments Kontrol S2. Serato Intro will give it more weight, but in reality Ergo doesn’t really add much above and beyond controllers that are quite significantly less expensive like the Numark Mixtrack Pro or (and having not had more than a preliminary play I can’t vouch for it yet) N4 – both of which also have Intro. If the look is what you’re going for, then you’ll probably love the DDJ Ergo. If you don’t think it looks any better than the more accepted consumer focused gear, ie the more Fisher Price looking efforts from Numark and Vestax’s budget lines, then you’ll struggle to see where your extra money’s going.

  • Pingback: Pioneer DDJ-ERGO-V Reviews | Gear Leech()

  • I’ve got a DDJ-Ergo V and I use Traktor 2.6 which sucks because there’s no “CD-Mode” in 2.6. I had to map a few things though like Traktors Flux mode (CDJ900 Slip-Mode) and I’d mapped 8 Hot-Cues and 4 samples per deck and everything else is mapped out perfectly. When I work out how to map Fader-Start on decks 1 & 2 my Ergo will just be awesome. My only gripe is I still can’t Scratch Samples in decks 3-4 even though I have Scratch selected in Deck Options, I think maybe this is a Traktor software issue that’s gives their S4 the market edge.

    • Hi, you can share its archive? Is really and very interesting this map for DDJ_ERGO Share please..

      • I’m sorry I don’t share anything. Just like a girl it wouldn’t be special if everyone had it.

  • Roc

    Think it’s good Pioneer are getting into this market and in doing so helping their customer base migrate away from legacy CD media and control surfaces. Personally, I’d go for an S2 and let Pioneer have a few more interations of this. Hopefully they will listen to all of the great feedback on DJTechTools.

  • Love Rocket

    Great layout (Like having two mini CDJ’s). Built-in soundcard, AUX (iPod) input for emegencies, a microphone input and a beautiful face for $500. I’m sold. I don’t see where the negativity is? Unless you love tapping buttons your whole set like Ean Golden. This is a solid DJ controller for the price. It rivals the DDJ-T1 that costs $1000.

  • jazzman7292

    would this be a good first deck?

  • It’s really not true that this controller is not suitable for traktor fans! It actually works much better with Traktor than with Virtual DJ!I own it and use it with both Virtual Dj and Taktor and I even prefer Traktor now! ( I used to like Virtual dj more). Serato DJ Intro is way too basic for this type of console and is more indicated for total beginners. The jog wheels work flawlessly with Traktor, I do not know what kind of review is this, but is sounds like the reviewer never actually put his/her hand on the controller

  • djspee

    what is the set up for pioneer ddj-ergo to get sound from the headphones the same time as the speakers ?

  • Way is VDJ considered such a joke by you people?? Its come along way and still you consider it crap…….why??

  • Guest

    I have question Chris, 

    I seem to have a problem with the settings, I cant use the headphones and use the master out to my monitors… its a bit complicated, I’m guessing it might be from the VDJ LE, do you thing i should upgrade it to pro?

    • Dulshan

      hi bro can u send me this virtual dj LE software pls , mine is damaged. just send me a downloadable link to djaravin@gmail.com

  • Stencil07

    I kinda figured. Scratching?

  • BOSS

    It looks like a hob.

  • Drjackfox
  • Noman4444

    I could say that cue and play button are placed far more better than other controlers. (they are  the main and most important buttons of any controller)
    but the pitch fader is too close to the other and also some of the buttons seem too small.

  • s4 mapping???

  • Yuck…. agreed, the ball was dropped

  • smuve415

    I understand that it seems like nobody uses pitch sliders anymore… or that Pioneer in this case probably wanted it to mirror 2 CDJ’s side by side – but I just don’t get the whole design aspect of putting that pitch slider on the left deck SANDWICHED between the left channel fader & the jog wheel. beyond retarded in my book.

    • Jacapone31

      mmmmmmmmm?? not im pressed myself it seems like they are selling lights and not a prpoer dj controller

  • Dreamr

    Normally I defend controllers, but this looks like a toy, as mentioned in the article. Why the hell do companies keep cramping up eq and filter controls????? bizzare

  • John Johnson

    Chris Cartledge is the man. His reviews have been on point since his Skratchworx days. Keep it up, definitely digging your opinion. 

  • Meowmix

    “Price (especially considering software)”

    Wtf is that supposed to mean. VDJ is a perfectly good software and the fact that VDJ 8 will be a fully redesigned product is certainly more exciting than any Serato support.

    Now compared to something like the MC6000 which you can get for $100 more or even cheaper used this controller is definitely crap. That should be your price complaint rather than a software that dances circles around serato’s

    • Software

      As he explained in the article, he means that you’ll probably need to upgrade to a full version of VDJ as your skill increases. This makes it more expensive compared to something like the S2 which comes with a full version of Traktor 2. 

      • Meowmix

        I reread it and i stand corrected. Thanks.

  • While I appreciate it looks “different” I don’t think necessarily like a toy, fun perhaps ? ..Apple computers when they thought different with the Ibook and iMac, many of which went straight into use in graphic design and PP houses for lesser tasks where a powermac was overkill. 

    Its really whats inside that counts, and if it looks cool/different/weird so be it, it looks like pio (much as I dislike their pricing and specs most of the time) have hit pretty much every box on whats needed on a lightweight, 2ch controller for day to day DJ’ing without going overboard.I welcome the age of “good looking” controllers 🙂 … I do however want to touch one and feel what the build is like before committing to my likes/dislikes about it.  

    Its a shame Pio have not introduced a version of reckordbox which could be used seamlessly with their controllers instead of relying on third partys, it really would be the icing on the cake for day to day use, set planning etc..and less of a move should you want too use the house equipment instead of a controller at a gig. 

  • Chris Cartledge

    Thanks for the kind words guys, it’s always nice to read when I’m on the right track!

  • kramerbuccs24

    Love that you spent time on the “looks like a toy” aspect; no matter how many cool feature it does (or apparently doesn’t) have, I don’t know if I could get past that. Also, fantastic writing, Chris!

    • kramerbuccs24

      Lastly, small suggestion related to the main DJTT page: put the authoring info (“Written by Chris Cartledge on December 14th, 2011”) under the title so we can see who wrote what article right from the main blog. Just a thought.

  • Noman4444

    At least traktors s2 fell 20 euro since the ergo came oute.

  • Bcondemi

    Chris, your writing is superb imo. I generally skip through reviews and articles catching key words and phrases because writers just aren’t that interesting these days. You however made it a very good read and I followed every word. Good job… As for the ergo… Your right too flashy, and as for virtual dj…. Ehhhhhh…

  • This things ok (ish)…
    But, are you guys gonna do a review of the SmithsonMartin Kontrol 1974? looks pretty crazy… Like almost crazy enough to sell all my stuff and buy one. Like ALL my stuff, if you notice the price. 
    http://www.smithsonmartin.com/kontrol-surface-ks-1974/

    • fade

      buy two ipads, build a frame. you now have something far more useful and future proof than the 1974.

      Still, let me know when you list your stuff. I need some cheap gear 🙂

  • Pioneer, you have disappointed me.