Pioneer DJ DJM-S11 Review and Guide

Pioneer DJ is back with a flagship battle mixer that aims to take the turntablist market by storm!

After a teased image and a leak or two, Pioneer DJ has today released the DJM-S11. A flagship battle mixer that aims to right, the now very dated, S9’s wrongs. The DJM S11 boats all-new performance modes, a high refresh rate screen and improved sound quality, aiming for rival units from Rane and Reloop. With a price tag of £1809, it’s not cheap, but with exclusive features not found on any other mixer, the S11 aims to be the only choice for turntablists. So has Pioneer done enough to not only make S9 users want to upgrade, but Rane Seventy Two users to jump ship? Let’s find out!

Layout

The new DJM S11 builds upon the tried and tested designs of older Pioneer DJ battle mixers. Drawing heavily upon the DJM S9’s layout with the addition of a central screen, much like the DJM 909, the S11’s design feels clean and intuitive. 

The new 4.3 touch screen sits at the top of the mixer inside a raised barrier, helping avoid any accidental touches or knocks. The screen is bright, clear and features a high resolution and frame rate, resulting in crisp waveforms that are easily the smoothest we’ve ever seen. 

DJM S11

The addition of the screen has resulted in a taller mixer compared to its predecessor. Thankfully this added real estate has allowed Pioneer DJ to place the trim, EQ and filter controls for each channel in a single row, a real gripe of mine with the older S9’s design. 

The added space has also allowed for a wider browse section with dedicated knobs either side of the mixer. Although still not illuminated, these larger controls are much appreciated and help navigate the library quicker.

The Performance Pads

The new performance pads now larger with a rectangular shape. This wider stance allows for easier finger drumming with plenty of room for two fingers. Thankfully Pioneer DJ has addressed the biggest issue with the older S9 model and included independent pad modes. These mode buttons flank the top of each set of pads with dedicated labels that correspond to Serato. Secondary pad modes are accessed via SHIFT, although this can be changed to tapping the pad modes if the user prefers. 

DJM S11 Pads

Gate Hot Cue

This mode silences the playing deck. Press a hot cue and the track jumps to the hot cue and un-silences whilst the pads depressed. This trick can create some exciting stab effects from a playing track, a unique feature whilst using DVS.

Scratch Bank

Accessed by Shift and Sampler, this new feature enables DJ’s to load and play a track by directly by hitting a pad. Acting much like the regular sample bank in Serato, the play point on the scratch bank can be set to play a track from a hot cue or enable a loop. The difference with Scratch Bank, however, is instead of playing within the sampler, the track is loaded and plays inside either Deck One or Two. 

This allows DJ’s to load scratch samples and get creative, cutting them rapidly. Alternatively, DJ’s can use the Scratch Bank instead of creating long custom tracks with different samples and instrumentals for their routines. Initially only available on the DJM-S11 this is one feature we hope makes it’s way to other Serato devices as its extremely impressive.

Effects

The effects unit remains mostly unchanged from the S9 upon initial inspection. The two plastic activation paddles remain with a central wet/dry control in the centre. To the left of the paddles are six dedicated buttons to change between the inbuilt beat effects. As you can expect from a Pioneer DJ mixer, these effects sound fantastic. The six buttons to the right of the paddles select between the inbuilt software effects from either Serato or Rekordbox. 

As some owners of the DJM S9 might have known, you could change the beat effects loaded in the mixer, from the utility application. The DJM S11 also allows the effects to be changed, but now it’s available on the mixers onboard screen, accessed here in the main menu. Swap between twenty-two inbuilt beat effects including the latest Channel Fader Pitch and Helix. 

The software effects can also be combined to create custom sounds. Once you’ve mapped out the settings you want across your effects, you can save it to one of four banks. These can then be swapped between via these buttons with shift.

Touch Effects

The new touch effects mode accessed from the main menu allows the DJ to control a traditional XY pad style effect. There are two presets which are either controlled by touching the screen. Alternatively, DJ’s can combine any of the beat or software effects with the echo for a more dynamic sound. Hold mode can be used to enable the DJ to activate the effect without holding their hand on the screen.

Smooth Echo

A brand new hardware feature exclusive to the Pioneer DJM S-11, smooth echo is an automatic effect applied when the DJ moves a trigger. Activated by the small button in the lower-left of the mixer, the effect applies an echo when the DJ either loads a track, cuts a fader or hit a hot cue. Accessed inside the effects settings, the smooth echo settings allow the DJ to change the length of this echo, the depth and also how long the crossfader has to stay stationary before the echo is applied. This is ideal for beat juggling, avoiding echo’s messing up the routine. 

Four Deck Mode

The DJM S11 is a two-channel battle mixer that can output and control four decks. This is made possible by the fantastic Deck 3 and 4 modes accessed in the main menu. Along the top of the screen, we have three tabs, deck three, screen mode and deck four. Once a deck is selected, four-screen modes are accessible. Each one of these screens has been designed to allow maximum control over the virtual deck.

The simple screen mode allows the DJ to control basic controls over the virtual decks, including browsing the library, sync, auto loop, hot cue one and play/mute.

Mashup Mode allows the DJ to move tracks from the turntables to virtual decks with the new deck move feature. Exclusive to Serato DJ Pro, the feature allows music playing on deck one to be instant doubled to deck four. Deck two’s tracks move to deck three. This enables the DJ to to free up a physical turntable for more scratching. Also new to Serato DJ Pro, Dual Deck allows control over two decks performance pads, channel faders and movement at the same time. Using this feature the DJ can control deck 1 and 3 with DVS for the first time ever. 

Hot cue mode displays all eight hot cues of the track for triggering, sadly you can’t delete hot cues in this view.

Finally, mixer mode displays trim control, a virtual channel fader and the ability to assign the channel to the crossfader and headphone cue.

Touch MIDI

Users can quickly operate various functions on DJ software platforms such as Serato DJ Pro and rekordbox from the touch display without having to touch the PC. DJ’s can also assign favourite functions to the buttons on the touch midi so that the mixer can perform all the operations they need to perform their routines. This feature is fully midi mappable in both Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox. Remapping these functions, however, will not change their display, which is a shame.

Built-In USB Hub

The DJM-S11 is equipped with a USB hub (type A port) for connecting CDJs and controllers at the same time by directly connecting devices such as CDJs, controllers, and other devices connected to a PC via the USB terminal to the mixer. Great for saving USB ports and leaving the hub at home. 

DJM S11 Back

The DJM S11 SE

The DJM S11 Special Edition is a limited edition model that features a special faceplate, paying homage to the DJM-909 from 2004. Apart from the fancy paint job, the SE also features an old school boot screen that replicates the old orange LCD found on the 909. It’s a lovely touch and certainly looks the part. The DJM SE costs £90 more and will be sold in limited numbers.

DJM S11 SE

Our Verdict

The DJM S11 is a fantastic mixer that delivers game changing new features. The scratch bank and deck move capabilities provide DJ’s with more creative options than ever before. The sound quality is crisp with a 32bit DAC and all new phono preamps. The inclusion of  a USB hub, which Rane Twelve users will love, is fantastic. Pioneer don’t sell a controller such as the Twelve, so to help their users by including the hub is great to see.

The S11 feels well thought out. It’s very advanced but all the new features are intuitive and easy to access. It’s a joy to play on the S11 and its ease of use entices you to try new things. All in all, it’s exactly what you want from a battle mixer, high price aside. It’s a superb choice and no doubt will be the go to mixer for most battle DJs.

Video Review and Guide

Published: 15th October 2020

★★★★★
DJM-S11
€1999 /£1809 / $1999
DJM-S11 SE
€2099 / £1899 / $2099

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