Everything You Need To Know About Roland’s DJ-808 Serato Controller

Last Friday, Roland launched one of their first-ever DJ focused products, the DJ-808. It’s a controller for Serato DJ – but with a built-in step sequencer and a few other features, it’s much more. Roland allowed DJTT to check the controller out in person, read on for an exclusive video and our thoughts.

DJ-808: First Look Video

All-in-one digital DJ controllers are approaching a full decade of existence (the VCI-100 launched in 2007), and the level of innovation we’ve seen on recent releases has started to dwindle. With their new DJ-808 controller, Roland and Serato are aiming to be the exception to that. It’s a familiar four-channel DJ controller layout, but a step sequencer and a few advanced features shine through.

Here’s a closer look at what the DJ-808 is capable of:

TR-S: DJ-808’s Drum Machine + Step Sequencer

The top section of the DJ-808 (click to zoom)

This is the crown jewel of the DJ-808 controller. The TR-S has two halves to it – a standalone drum machine and a MIDI sample sequencer. The integrated TR drum machine has Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Hi-Hats, and Clap from the classic TR-808/909/707/606 machines. They’re the Analog Circuit Behavior sounds that grace Roland’s AIRA gear.

Each sound can be sequenced on the TR-S’s 16 push buttons, and the volume of each sound can be altered on the fly using the faders to the right of the sequencer. To adjust each sound individually, press the button for one of the sounds and then use the dedicated knobs for attack, decay, and tuning.

The TR-S has 16 patterns that can be saved inside of the unit – even if you’re completely disconnected from Serato, and lose all power, it will remember them afterwards. You can also route the drum machine’s sounds through Serato and apply either FX channel onto it.

Using the performance pads on the bottom of each deck, DJs can perform the TR-S sounds:

  • The bottom four pads will play the four active sounds in the TR-S. You can record these into the step sequencer in real-time by pressing “INST REC” in the TR-S section
  • The top four pads are velocity sensitive rolls of the same four sounds (push harder and the rate of the sound repeating increases). These can’t be recorded – more designed for on-the-fly fills.

The TR-S can also sequence Serato DJ – see the section below.

Advanced Serato DJ Features

Pioneer’s focus on Rekordbox DJ and the DDJ-R line has been a pretty clear indicator that their relationship with Serato is nowhere near as tight as it was when they were designing the DDJ-S line. Roland’s partnership with Serato for this product means that there are a few industry first features on the DJ-808. Some of the deep Serato integration includes:

  • Serato Sample Sequencing: With new MIDI mapping functionality in Serato DJ, Roland is able to sequence Serato DJ’s Sampler banks (which were recently expanded to 4 banks of 8 samples). Only controller with built-in sequencers (like the Midi Fighter Twister) are able to sequence sample decks – and the DJ-808 is the first controller to ever do it with Serato.
  • Pitch ‘n Play: Serato took the recent explosion in tone play / MIDI-mapped re-pitched cue points and turned it into a proper feature. The best part is that the cue points are mapped out in key with the track that’s playing – so creating a tone play routine is a breeze.
  • “Ultra Low Latency” Jog Wheels: Roland and Serato are purporting that the DJ-808 has some of the lowest latency platters of any device now available. With the kings of MIDI and the scratch-loving software developers on it, it’s more than just marketing hype. The jogs felt really solid in our brief testing, and there’s the added bonus of having visual feedback directly on the jog wheel.
  • Velocity Sensitive RGB Performance Pads: Cues, Loop Rolls, Sampler, TR-S, and Pitch Play are all controllable using the performance pads on each deck. Having velocity adds an extra element of expressive control here that other controllers lack.

There’s also DVS support with dedicate inputs – but DJs will need to buy the DVS Serato plugin to use that functionality.

Master Syncing Everything

One of the issues with having so many sources of sounds that are being sequenced together has always been keeping everything in time. Roland are the masters of MIDI (having helped develop it!) and their solution here is to use the DJ-808 as the master clock for everything. DJs can sync Serato decks to the TR-808s sequencer, as well as sync external MIDI instruments.

There are two AIRA LINK USB ports on the back of the DJ-808, which allow you to synchronize other Roland gear with the master clock as well as pass audio into the unit – all with a single cable. If you’re not using gear that has AIRA LINK, you can still sync up with MIDI DIN and an audio cable.

Vocal Transform!

The DJ-808 has a built-in vocal transformer, like an abbreviated version of the AIRA VT-3. It’s not the central focus of the controller, but it for sure is a fun element to it. Plug in your mic and adjust the pitch, formant, and ducking of the mic input.

The super power feature here is the Auto Pitch button – which enables a basic autotune on the mic input, and syncs the key of the autotune to the key of the playing deck in Serato DJ. It works fairly well from what we saw – but unless you’re comfortable singing during your DJ sets already, we suspect many DJs will shy away from using it during a gig.

DJ-808s Mixer + Tech Specs

The mixer on the DJ-808 isn’t just a MIDI mixer, it has a range of inputs and outputs all of which can function independently from Serato DJ. It even has four channel-assignable FX (similar to Pioneer’s Color FX) that are solid DJ mixing tools: Jet, Filter, Dub Echo, and Noise. As with Color FX, turn the knob more and you get a higher level/depth of the effect.

There are a few of-note under-the-hood features on the DJ-808, including the high-spec 96kHz soundcard.  Here’s some of the technical specs from Roland on the controller (see the full specs, including impedance/level details, here).

Signal processing:

  • Sampling Frequency = 96 kHz, 48 kHz, 44.1 kHz
  • A/D conversion: 24 bits
  • D/A conversion: 32 bits


  • INPUT (1–4) jacks: RCA phono type
  • MIC IN jack: Combo type (XLR, 1/4 inch TRS phone (balanced))
  • MASTER OUT 1 jacks: XLR type (balanced)
  • MASTER OUT 2 jacks: RCA phono type
  • BOOTH OUT jacks: TRS phone type (balanced)
  • PHONES jacks: stereo 1/4 inch phone type, miniature phone type
  • USB Host ports: USB type A
  • PC port: USB type B
  • MIDI OUT connector
  • DC IN jack
  • PHONO GROUND terminal

Dimensions + Weight:

This is on the larger end of controller size – something that you’re going to want a dedicated space for in your home studio. Bringing it to a gig? You’ll for sure want to get there at soundcheck to make room for it.

  • Weight: 15 lbs / 6.8 kg
  • Dimensions: 26.3″ X 16.8″ X  3.3″ (688 X 427 X 84 mm)

Your Questions, Answered

We noticed that on the original product announcement and around the web, DJs have lots of questions about this new controller. Here’s the answers to some of the most asked questions:

Who Did Roland Work With To Build The DJ-808? 

A lot of commenters have wondered about why the DJ-808 mixing and deck sections look similar to other currently-released products, and the answer is fairly simple. Roland teamed up with Serato for this design – so the unit is design to reflect the interface in that software.

There’s been some speculation about other companies like Pioneer or Reloop assisting with the design or manufacturing – but there is no truth to that. The DJ-808 is entirely a Roland and Serato product.

Can I MIDI Map It With (Traktor / Virtual DJ / Other DJ Software)? 

While the DJ-808 is a heavily Serato-branded product, but that doesn’t mean that the functionality is locked to that software. The step-sequencer and all other functions are sending out MIDI signals that should be able to be mapped in other software. When we have a full review unit, we’ll dive into this and see what potential exists.

Is there any ducking or compression being done with the TR-S versus other playing track channels?

No – using the TR-S sounds alongside tracks in Serato is much the same as putting an AIRA TR-8 into your setup. There’s no side chain compression for the sounds in the unit.

What software and Serato plugins are included? 

There’s a full license to Serato DJ, as well as a Pitch ‘n Time license (this unlocks the Pitch ‘n Play feature and other key-syncing functions like the VT’s autotune)

Where’s the standalone version of TR-S without the all-in-one DJ controller attached?

Great question – we suspect that Roland could be testing the waters with this gear first – and based on feedback, could release future products that take elements of this controller. All the marketing and advertising for the DJ-808 does imply that this is “just the beginning”, so we’re excited to see what other DJ-related gear Roland cooks up!

Have more questions about Roland’s new DJ controller?
Let us know in the comments and we’ll add answers here or reply in line.

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Comments (58)
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  • Nate

    I just got DJ 808 and for the life of me cannot find a way to just use the micro phone without any effects. Please help!!!

  • milan bolar

    What if my computer software doesn’t
    meet the requirements of the DJ 808 USB driver software?

  • chillwill

    How do you get the factory settings back to 0 on the crossfader

  • Will Capozzoli

    can I connect external instruments made by manufacturers other than Roland? e.g. Yamaha keyboard, or a bass guitar etc.

    • Sifu Wu

      in through the mike input

  • ob_reviews

    If I already have other Aira gear… the TR-8, TB-3 and MX-1, what are the advantages of this over NI kit, or Pioneer? Aside from being an AIO unit.

    • Bobby Duracel

      I think the advantage is really clear = USB direct connect for audio and midi to go back/forth between units. I run the AIRA stuff (just the System8, TR-8) into the MX1 via USB, then the MX1 into the DJ808 via USB. Send the entire AIRA group to deck 3 or 4 on the DJ808 with the flip of a switch. This allows easy/quick routing into Serato’s FX of everything coming through the MX1, and in the MX1 you still get the tempo-locked FX for each channel of AIRA gear. It’s SUPER stable, CPU friendly, and sounds great. Add the 4 voice drum machine and the mic to the top, and it’s that much better. I sold my S8 about two weeks after getting this DJ808, then sold Maschine studio & got a Push 2 instead… Now selling my MK2 and Jam combo to get the S88 and have that keyboard be my ONLY NI control surface – because for beats/jamming/looping/sampling (especially live) there’s no more STABLE setup than this AIRA, Serato, Ableton setup.

      I’ve been “all NI” for years, on Traktor since FS came out 1.0, and I’m now NOT. That may speak to the advantages alone. Pioneer is cool if you’re willing to go ALL pioneer. The Toraiz is “okay” in it’s limitations, and I personally don’t love rekordbox or the price tag of their stuff.

      The PLATTERS alone on this thing are worth it. My S8 lacked actual BPM control live, aside from the stupid knob. The S4 had control, but lacked half of the advanced stuff on the S8. By getting the DJ808 and running PUSH 2, I get MORE than either of those controllers had. I need no turntable to play with my tempo or scratch. The latency is near-zero on those things.

      Honestly, pick one up for 1250 when you see the posts online & sell some NI controllers. The only other product on the horizon for “hybrid producer dj” setups that I think is worth the $ this spring is the Akai Live, to go alongside the serato/AIRA stuff. Standalone. Stupid powerful. Stable.

      • Bobby Duracel

        You can’t even run Maschine into a controller deck/channel on the S8… NI doesn’t allow it. Let alone Ableton or something else. That was my first reason for switching, then the stability issue. Traktor + Maschine is cool, until you max out your Traktor 4 deck session with FX and then try manipulating synth parameters in machine live while sequencing decks… My quad core 15″ MBPro with SSD couldn’t even hang, even with two IOs plugged in – and one was the Apollo twin thunderbolt.

  • audiomontana

    does this mean that loadable and user configured sample packages are coming to serato?

  • Wesley Weslochan

    now that I’ve seen some more post by Roland on FB, this is pretty impressive. You get a Dj controller with some basic production tools in one(not just performance pads like most controllers coming out). It does still look busy and for the price a steal. Have to save up for this, instead buying all of the Roland separates. This has what I need in one unit.

  • Greg

    The first Roland DJ Product I remember was the DJ2000 Mixer they debuted in 1998 or so. It was a 19″ rackmount and was the first DJ Mixer to have MIDI Out which Roland encouraged to be connected to their SP808 Sampler and MC series Drum Machines.

    I owned one at the same time as a Pioneer DJM500. There was no comparison.

    • valkolton

      very true! amazing history!!!

  • Serato DJ 1.9.3 Beta: Ableton Link Tempo Sync | NUTesla | The Informant

    […] We suspect that this will likely work between copies of the same software as well (as it does now with Ableton) and you’ll be able to sync up multiple instances of Serato DJ. Handy if you’re really starting to layer things together – and even better if you’re step sequencing with something like the Roland DJ-808. […]

  • Serato DJ 1.9.3 Beta: Ableton Link Tempo Sync – dPico AUDIOS

    […] We suspect that this will likely work between copies of the same software as well (as it does now with Ableton) and you’ll be able to sync up multiple instances of Serato DJ. Handy if you’re really starting to layer things together – and even better if you’re step sequencing with something like the Roland DJ-808. […]

  • Serato DJ 1.9.3 Beta: Ableton Link Tempo Sync - DJ TechTools

    […] We suspect that this will likely work between copies of the same software as well (as it does now with Ableton) and you’ll be able to sync up multiple instances of Serato DJ. Handy if you’re really starting to layer things together – and even better if you’re step sequencing with something like the Roland DJ-808. […]

  • Jay Dabhi

    The real question is – whens the 45″ Serato vinyl coming out?

    • DeeJayDelgado


  • J

    *What software and Serato plugins are included?*

    There’s a full license to Serato DJ, as well as a Pitch ‘n Time license (this unlocks the Pitch ‘n Play feature and other key-syncing functions like the VT’s autotune)

    Actually, there is NO serato DJ license. It’s a SERATO DJ ENABLED hardware so it doesn’t require the license to run. It will activate the software upon connection, and the software will remain active while the hardware is connected.
    The difference with having an actual Serato DJ License, is that you activate the license in your computer and then you can connect any Serato DJ compatible (UPGRADE READY) hardware, whereas with SERATO DJ ENABLED hardware you can use the specific hardware on any computer that meets the system requirements.

    It’s important to differentiate the licensing for the software, as this controller doesn’t give you a license…. in other words, the license ‘lives inside the hardware’ 😉

  • Fayek Helmi

    the only interesting thing to come out of this product announcement for me is a new KiNK performance…. 😀

  • Ztronical

    I’m not sure what to do anymore.
    Traktor is my whole life.
    And now this?
    I just want…
    I’m still holding out for NI, not a fanboy!
    I just don’t want to spend the 1500 or so dollars.
    I’m at the end of my spending and investing, but it does make me…
    WANT IT.

    • 4dex

      Haha, been in the same situation for a while, now i buy vinyls again!! lol

    • synapticflow

      Buy yourself some drum machine or synth to add to your dj setup?

    • Quenepas

      Get a Maschine or wait for Maschine Jam. I already play with Maschine along Traktor and it’s super fun.

    • Tony Mitchell

      Traktor? Depending on your DJ style you might be on a sinking ship

      • Timothy Kenefick

        How so ? I was using a Traktor S4(cant get it repaired =( my fault). So now im going to get back into vinyl again. I already have 2 turntables and I’m looking at the Z2 or the new Mixars DUO for Serato. I love Traktor but I have used Serato(before the S4). So I don’t know what to do. The Mixar looks like it’ll be anywhere from 3-400$ more but it has some extra features (missing slip mode though) it’s newer and looks a little bit more solid. (side note I also have a Maschine MK2)

  • Dubby Labby

    So if the Master clock is the TR-S part it is not possible to scratch nothing than serato decks and sampler? I understand that it should require resampling for the whole audio but it’s not what people expected from the revamped Bridge…
    No love for beat juggling…

    • Spacecamp

      Decks don’t always have to stay synced to the master clock… is that what you’re asking?

      • Dubby Labby

        Hi Spacecamp!
        I understand that decks are free to scratch but The Bridge users were noticed at serato forums about “Bridge not longer developed but some features will be implemented in new ways” (like flip) and now seems sample secuencer… The question is about how in the Bridge it was possible to syncronize Abeton to a deck being this the Master and now seems decks are only slave. The Bridge lacked in scratching possibility (only transport with weird result from scratch standpoint) and now this proposal (dj808) doesn’t allow decks be Master limitating some juggling tricks (like drop after “baby kickdrum” fukufukufukupoumskapupumska…)
        Also it makes all the set TR-S centric from rythm continuity POV. It’s ok and clever solution to the Bridge mesh but it could be more interesting in Roland should developed somekind of sampler with buffer recording (maybe a mixer?) and bring the cappability of control the playhead of its buffer with Serato noisemap (dvs) like the they habe in SSL with live feed. Something like the Fantom workstations feature which reccords audio meanwhile you play and let you replay the last seconds to don’t lost inspiration but applied to master (or send) and then scratch it.
        Roland has a lot of tecknology know how to release a fully standalone remix machine actualized to nowadays (like Pioneer ToRaiz). I want to see the possibilities of Dj808 but I miss some workflows against The Bridge…

        • orge

          I also think it’s disappointing that sync from DVS to the trs is not possible. Whilst I’ve been a bit meh about this product overall, this was the one thing I hoped for. Even if it as a proof of concept/high water line that NI might then follow.

          I don’t think it will ever happen whilst these companies cling to midi for syncing… It’s simply not fast/precise enough to track a rotating platter signal accurately.


          • Dubby Labby

            It could be possible believe me but it doesn’t worth the effort from sales standpoint (its seems to me)

          • orge

            In fairness, I have managed to get traktor timecode pseudo-sync’d with an electron machinedrum, but it only stays in time by issuing a reset command every 16 bars. Beyond this, the drift is too much to be classed as a “hands-off” solution. I did automate this be looping back a trigger from the machinedrum, but it still felt like a kludge for home use only.

            The protocols developed by Ableton and Pioneer (Link and ProDJ?) are faster and have much higher resolution. However, the main win over MIDI is that they encode velocity/change in velocity as well as position. This will make them far more robust to tracking errors – e.g. if you adjust the speed of the platter by slowing it down/speeding it up.

            To me, it’s bizarre that NI haven’t taken the opportunity to fully integrate Maschine with Trakor. In the strictest sense, I guess it cannibalises some of the features they developed within Traktor. However, it seems obvious to me that they missed the chance to beat products like the Toraiz to market. They could have had this sown up several years before Pioneer got anywhere near a viable launch…


          • Dubby Labby

            NI are software developers which had entered into controller market. Make standalone hardware are big words. Also NI stated in some interviews they are in this path (hardsoft) so the most near to could be somekind of beatstep pro in the middle (F1 mk2 maybe?)

            Related to sync and timecode… As its name points it’s audio timecode… So it could be possible to make an standalone decoder with some improvements (maybe Pioneer could add it to “link” and make it possible even for s future digital turntable?)
            The workaraound could be a audio decoder with tap tempo for beatgridding (this will adapt the resolution to the song in dj software (or internal player if it’s standalone machine) and also send clock+beatgrid info to the slave unit (hard/soft it doesn’t matter) but to be more than the Bridge was… It needs the resampling/player side to make it possible scratching.
            Extra hint: Ableton link seems this kind of syncing protocol (without scratch factor) derived from failed Bridge (remember the special track you need to load into Serato to manage Ableton transport?)
            Serato have took the other side becoming slave and becoming the missing Roland Sampler itself…

          • Junior Pops

            A new beta of Serato DJ was just released with Ableton Link, had a go at it and it works beautiful linked up to my iPad iOS app.

          • orge

            Which iPad app? Also, was that with decks in dvs mode or internal timekeeping? If internal, does it look like it’s still an option when playing with dvs?



          • Junior Pops

            I used Beat Machine a drum app, when you enable link, the sync button in the decks turn to link and also the sample banks turn to link.
            Got to do some more testing , it was just a brief jam to test it out.

          • Dubby Labby

            Glad to read it and makes lots of sense IMO. Check then the free iOS app which converts link2midi and you could sync external hardware to 😉

          • orge

            Yeah, as you say, NI seems to be all about features which directly drive HW sales… It’s pretty frustrating!

            Whilst you could certainly get a decent tracking signal from a timecode, I don’t think that tap tempo would be accurate enough to get a beatgrid. Beat in mind that Traktor’s and Serato’s tapping functions are using your input with the waveform to nail the grid. An external solution wouldn’t have this extra info.

            Tbh, I’m very much against “hacked” solutions anyway… My main reason for moving from ableton was that it meant I could dump Bomes and do all my midi mapping internally.

            Interesting post below about Serato and Ableton Link though! 😉


          • Dubby Labby

            Yes I was trying to say that: timecode signal plus tap all decoded to the slave. Thinkering again I remember a solution I found and post at Serato forums which few people maybe understood and maybe some other (who read it here) could find useful. It could br done with or without hacking but second one gives you more possibilities. Let me explain the workaraound.
            Some people asked (at forums) about standalone box to syncro external gear to Serato decks so I explain some “ways” (from dedicated qc patches based on released code time ago) including the “audio signal” methods. Inside the second idea it’s easy and feasible to load an audio file with the tone which volca family use to keep in sync between them ( it’s easy as sampling the sound which outputs and make a loop, obviously take note about bpm of the sampled signal) and use it as deck in Serato. If you use it to control any of the family it gives you the desired link. Between the options the Korg Sq1 gives you instant TR sequencer and midi out but I think in monophonic notes (like Arturia Beastep) so (hacked time is here) if you use a modded volca beats (with midi out almost and dedicated sound parts output for full madness) you can send also multiple notes to whatever. These are fixed and sometimes it could be a bit limited (you can use bome at desktop or midi flow at iOS to translate and modify) but you will have an standalone midi box with some of the upper part of Dj808 for a fraction of its cost.

            Hope it makes sense and helps someone.

          • radikarl77

            you can scratch on the decks and you can sync the decks to the TR-S or the TR-S to the decks.

            you just cant scratch the TRS itself. is that what you mean?

            simple workaround. record a short loop from the TRS and load it to a deck. easy

  • h8_us_cuz_y'anus

    everyone who came out of the woodwork to knock on this product should be silenced after reading this article. think about the possibilities: bailing on a track with a massive reverb/delay wash and sequencing a beat underneath to bridge an otherwise tough gap while introducing the next track. or even better: calling out the license plate of somebody who left their headlights on through an autotune reminiscent of T-Pain. yes, it’s not modular, which is flash, but this is another step in the right direction of the dj/producer hybrid. and this is as an unbiased dude who runs Traktor + Maschine + Ableton (sometimes simultaneously)–>this is the type of all-in-one Star Destroyer RGAS nonsense I’d purchase if I ever had the cash or cajones to jump ship to Serato. lag and CPU is a real thing; screen space is another issue; and if you’re really hardcore and running a bunch of analog 1/4″ cable around, you run into problems with tabletop space–or worse: catching feedback somewhere in your signal chain and degrading the signal. it’s not for the traveling club DJ, but if I were to open up a mobile DJ business, for instance, this would be the controller for me.

    • Caleb Kent Grayson

      I was thinking what’s the NI response? Maschine built into an S8?
      now that would be Massive. ?

      • Dubby Labby

        Maschine Jam. Also if NI makes D2 compatible with maschine it will be intersting (the screens for the win).

        • Caleb Kent Grayson

          yes! when the S8/D2/S5 were released there was this hint of features intended but not yet to be released. I think the potential of those units is only 2/3rds there.
          still, the midi sequences that Serato has implemented for DMX lighting and now sequencer based looping, it seems they’ve pulled ahead.
          I already control my lighting from the S8 in MIDI Control Mode, but it would be nice to trigger a sequence on a hot cue that caused my lighting to run a particular chase pattern. having a musical sequncer locked to a lighting sequence would be really nice.

          • Dubby Labby

            It’s not possible in your dmx application to map a trigger for sequencer? Anyways I see your point and add midi clips to remix decks (often called Maschine Deck) could be very useful for external sequencing tasks.

          • Caleb Kent Grayson

            actually..could i map the cue/loop buttons to MIDI out and then in my DMX app (QLC+) have them trigger chase sequences?
            thing is, for each song, the cues would be the same. not like having unique sequences for each song.

          • Dubby Labby

            I don’t get the second part but if you need “trigger midi sequences” and QLC+ can’t manage them… Maybe it will interesting put somekind of groovebox in your setup?
            Explain further your set and the limitations but it seems Traxus interactive will be useful for you…

          • Caleb Kent Grayson

            yes. a groove box — which Serato seems to be integrating and Traktor not. Logic has touch tracks, but i really need to embed in the songs a midi track.

          • Dubby Labby


      • Che

        I’ve been syncing Traktor with Maschine since the S4 first came out. The only difference here is that it’s in a single unit.

      • Che

        I’ve been syncing Traktor with Maschine since the S4 first came out. The only difference here is that it’s in a single unit. Personally I’d rather have a full TR-8 separate than a partial one built in.

    • synapticflow

      and still being called “Not a real DJ.” Because some people suck.