Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 Review & Guide
The Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 is a four-channel controller that is compatible with both Rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ Pro. With a recommended retail price of £530/€599/$599, the FLX isn’t a cheap controller, sitting firmly in the intermediate level of controllers. So does the DDJ-FLX6 do enough to warrant its price tag, or is this controller one that most DJ’s should avoid? We find out in this review!
What’s new on the Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6?
The headline feature of the new FLX6 is the introduction of Merge FX. A completely new concept that aims to help transition between genre’s and wide BPM rages. With a dedicated dial control on each deck, the DJ can select between four Merge FX. Rekordbox DJ users can change these four Merge FX between eight presets. Alternatively, users can choose from 41 types of effects within the four categories to build custom Merge FX.
Pressing the central button in the centre of the dial activates Merge FX, and twisting the outer dial will start to apply an effect. The effect will either create a build-up or break down depending on the direction the DJ turns the dial. Automating loops, changing BPMs and applying effects in the process, the Merge FX remains active until the DJ presses the central button again to release the effect. Releasing the effect at the same time as starting the next, the merge FX makes transitioning between two genre’s more accessible and sounds dynamic and clean.
As exciting and fun Merge FX can be, the overuse of the feature will quickly sound repetitive. Much like other automated features in DJ software, we still recommend learning the skill to transition between genre’s and wide BPM ranges manually. Serato users sadly are limited to the preset default four effects with no ability to create custom mappings, a considerable drawback.
Another automated effect, the new jog cutter feature applies scratch patterns to either the last hot cue or the current track position when activated. The jog wheel is divided into six segments with ten patterns available, to select a pattern the DJ must touch the jog wheel. Scrolling forward on the jog wheel selects the pattern, with the pattern heard once the jog wheel moves backwards. Once the jog wheel is released, the track resumes playing.
Unlike the Merge FX, Jog Cutter performs the same on both Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox DJ. The effect is similar to the Pad Scratch mode found in the Pioneer DDJ-SB3. Although, just as with the Pad Scratch mode, using the effect in performance is challenging and often doesn’t sound great.
New to Rekordbox DJ, the Sample Scratch pad mode enables the ability to load tracks directly from the sampler into a playing deck. Essentially Rekordbox’s answer to Serato’s Scratch Bank, the new pad mode allows for easier creation of mashups on the fly.
Serato users access Scratch Bank with this pad mode. Sample Scratch relies on Rekordbox’s usual sample bank and sadly offers less options than Serato’s Scratch bank. This however, can easily be improved with future software updates.
Brand new to the FLX6 is the matte dark grey paint and redesigned chassis. The FLX6 features the same sized jog wheels as traditional CDJ units with an inbuilt needle position indicator. Although similar in appearance to the CDJ units, these jog wheels are capacitive rather than mechanical. The inbuilt display doesn’t display advanced information such as the cue points or BPM. The jog wheels are smooth and responsive, feeling light under touch. Sadly there is no tension adjust to change their feel.
The chassis, made of a full plastic construction which although lightweight (3.8kg), makes the controller feel cheap when compared to similarly priced units. The plastic used on the new jog wheel design especially feels very sub-par. Especially when compared to the much less expensive DDJ-400 controller, lacking the rubber-like paint used by most other Pioneer DJ controllers.
The FLX6’s design has compromised some of the units performance features. The controller, although impressive in size still retains small pitch faders. Similar to those found on the DDJ 200 and DDJ 400 units.
In addition to the small pitch faders, the performance pads are identical in size and build to those found on entry level Pioneer DJ controllers with a button placed inside the pads. The lack of parameter controls and RGB lighting on the performance pads is also surprising given the controllers’ price point.
Powered by the same USB cable used to connect the computer, the FLX6 is limited to unbalanced audio connections. XLR balanced outputs are the standard connections when using a controller with professional sound systems. Some users will view the USB power as an advantage, not carrying around an external power brick. Others will miss the benefits of more power, such as balanced audio connections and brighter RGB performance pads. The included RCA booth output is an interesting feature as booth monitors are usually found in professional DJ booths and connect via TRS cables. As this controller wouldn’t can’t connect to a professional balanced set up, the booth connection seems a strange decision. That being said we can see many people using the booth output as a feed for live streams. As the microphone on this controller isn’t routed into the computer, the booth output is perfect for capturing the main output.
Should I buy the DDJ-FLX6?
The Pioneer DDJ FLX6 is an interesting product that will no doubt divide opinion. As a four-channel controller that works with both Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox DJ, it’s unique and serves to fill the current gulf between beginner controllers and more advanced units. It’s worth noting that this is also the only Rekordbox controller under $1000 that offers four-deck control!
The FLX6 sadly doesn’t shine with Serato DJ Pro and although including the Pitch n Time expansion, we feel Serato users can get better value for their money with other controllers in the market. We recommend looking at the slightly more expensive Pioneer DDJ-SR2 or Numark NS6II for superior connectivity and build quality.
Beginner DJ’s wanting to start on Rekordbox DJ, this controller serves those with larger budgets well. The new effects are great for beginners and automate some of the complicated elements of DJ’ing. Although not very professional, the Merge FX and Jog Cutter modes are great fun to play with.
If you already own a beginner controller, the FLX6 would only be advisable if having access to four decks was essential. The lack of professional audio connections and inferior build means the FLX6 isn’t suitable for DJ’s wanting to play outside of the bedroom. The more expensive DDJ-800 offers superior build quality and audio but just two channels. Rekordbox users wanting professional audio and four channels limited to the more expensive DDJ-1000 model.
Sadly, we had expected a higher level of build quality with professional audio connections at this price point. Pioneer DJ have a history of creating high-quality intermediate controllers with the DDJ-SR2 and DDJ-RR respectively, and the new FLX6 is clearly not a replacement for these units although similarly priced.