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Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 Review & Walkthrough

DJM-S5 – The essentials every scratch DJ needs!

2022 is shaping up to be quite the year for hip hop and open-format DJs as Pioneer DJ show the scene some serious love! Kicking off with the launch of their first-of-its-kind range of Serato DJ battle controllers, they are now dropping another piece of scratch DJ inspired hardware, boasting an exciting, world exclusive advancement in the industry.

The DJM-S5 is perfect for small home setup’s including live streaming your DJ sets!

Pioneer DJM-S5 Key Features

Here are the quick headline facts you need to know about the DJM-S5. However, keep reading for further details, thoughts and insights on this battle mixer!

  • MAGVEL FADER PRO for professional-level scratching
  • Scratch Cutter feature for easy scratching
  • USB bus-powered
  • Striking new red gloss finish
  • See-through panel on the crossfader mechanism
  • New Crossfader Hot Cue mode
  • €899 including VAT/ £749 including VAT/ $799 excluding tax
djm-s5 review

The Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 unlocks Serato DJ Pro.

The Look, The Feel & USB-C Powered!

Anyone following Pioneer DJ’s recent releases may have predicted that it was only a matter of time before they sandwiched the gap between the DJM-S3 and S7 mixers. However, The DJM-S5 is more than just a filler product as it has some industry-first features that may tempt DJs of all skill levels onto this handsome mid-ranger.

Shipping with a gloss red faceplate, the mixer’s striking palette is designed to look good. With a peekaboo window showing the inner cogs of the tension settings for the crossfader, the DJM-S5 would not look out of place in an art studio setting, let alone a music one! Besides looking great, the mixer’s capability to give DJs control over Serato DJ Pro’s performance settings is impressive, albeit with some price-point compromises and drawbacks.

Introducing a new high gloss red finish along with pro-level MAGVEL Crossfader!

The layout of the DJM-S5 takes its cues from the rest of the DJM-S lineup: a winning formula of simplicity and intuitively laid out pads, pots and faders. A design language both scratch and open-format DJs are comfortable with and will be happy to see. Upon first glance, the S5 looks like an S7 with some elements removed, which, to a certain degree, is true, but this mixer offers so much more than meets the eye. 

The DJM-S5 has been designed to delight the entire spectrum of scratch and open-format DJs. It has onboard features to encourage entry-level DVS DJs to learn to scratch. Its striking bold look, teamed with a professional crossfader, should also tempt the intermediate scratch and open-format DJs. The cherry on the cake? The absolute genius of powering the unit via USB-C, with the option to bus-power from a laptop, makes the DJM-S5 a true temptation for the portabilist DJ.

usb-c powered dj mixer

The DJM-S5 is powered by USB-C, the first of it’s kind in the DJ market!

Layout

Starting at the foot of the mixer, the DJM-S5 has mic level, aux level, and crossfader tension adjust knobs. Plus ¼ inch and ⅛ inch headphone jacks, not forgetting the clear plastic panel exposing the inner workings of the crossfader tension adjustment. 

Other than the vibrant red colour, the bottom half of the DJM-S5 is like the other mixers in the series. Two nice loose upfaders sit dead centre with the VU meters sitting symmetrically between them. A couple of headphone mixing pots with a mini crossfader reside in the top right corner, and the star of the show, a Magvel Fader Pro, is proudly housed in the crossfader slot. But, it’s what lies above this section that distinguishes the DJM-S5.

djm-s5 mixer face

The front panel on the DJM-S5 mixer, including the new see-through panel, showcases the crossfader’s mechanism.

Performance pads and parameter controls

You’ll find the performance pads just above the fader section of the mixer. They are plastic and clicky rather than rubbery like those found on the DJM-S7 and up but are incredibly responsive. They also number four per channel rather than eight. This section of the DJM-S5 is home to the mixer’s most significant drawbacks over its flagship siblings. And not only have a row of performance pads been stripped away, but dedicated parameter controls are also absent. Therefore, switching pad modes and accessing pads 5-8 must be done by pressing or holding down an additional button. 

Having said that, the modes of the performance pads are plenty, with Hot Cue; Roll; Auto Loop; Sampler; Gate Cue; Cue Loop; Saved Loop and Scratch Bank all available by holding the MODE button and tapping or double-tapping the corresponding pad.  

djm-s5 performance pads

The performance pads are what let down this DJ mixer. It would have been nice to have actual performance mode buttons separate from the pads themselves.

There are MODE and PAD 5-8/ AUTO LOOP buttons to compensate for the lack of performance pads and dedicated parameter toggles. This may not sound like a significant compromise but will take fine-tuning for users who have become used to working with eight pads per channel with dedicated parameter controls.

An example of a workflow disruption owing to these drawbacks is adjusting the length of a loop. Once a loop is created, if a user wants to change the beat length of that loop, they will not have access to the full scope of beat-length scaling on just four performance pads. If the parameter control buttons were to hand, this could be worked around quickly by clicking on the parameter up or down buttons to scale up or chop down the size of the loop. Instead, the user must click on the software parameter control buttons within Serato DJ Pro. This workflow disruption could potentially change what a DJ would do in their routines or limit their DJ style and creativity.

djm-s5 setting utility

Settings available within the DJM-S5 setting utility

The difficulties incurred by Pioneer DJ’s compromises to launch this mixer at a price point can be offset with the UTILITY control, which sits underneath the BROWSE/ BACK encoder. With this, DJs can fine-tune practical settings like the auto loop’s default beat length and the upfaders’ curve adjustment. Optimising the mixer’s settings this way could help meet the workflow requirements of any DJ style to truly make the DJM-S5 a weapon of choice.

pioneer djm s5 effects

The DJM-S5 features full size effects levers found across their entire battle mixer range.

Effect levers

Above the performance pads sit the effect levers. These are inherited directly from the flagship DJM-S11 and have the same feel. There are three multi-purpose buttons above each effect lever whose primary function is quick access to two banks of customisable Serato effects. Their secondary function is for a new feature called Scratch Cutter, accessed by long-pressing the buttons. Their third function is to access some crossfader software settings like curve and reverse or toggling between banks A and B of the Serato effects. These latter functions are accessed by holding the shift key and pressing the corresponding multi-purpose button.

It is worth noting that the DJM-S5 has no onboard effects, so users will rely on Serato DJ’s. These software effects can be activated in multiples at once, with two banks of six accessible with a single press of the multi-purpose buttons. Any combination of six effects from one of the two FX banks can be triggered, but their intensity will be uniform as the wet/dry control dial on the mixer affects all of the effects simultaneously.

scratch cutter djm s5

The scratch cutter on the DJM-S5 is an interesting way to introduce new DJs to scratching!

Scratch Cutter

The all-new Scratch Cutter is an exclusive mixer feature designed to help beginner scratch DJs learn to control their scratching hand. Each SCRATCH CUTTER button activates a different scratch pattern so DJs can concentrate on moving their hand back and forth on vinyl whilst the mixer takes care of the crossfader’s cut pattern. The six patterns available are Forward Scratch; March Scratch; Original Scratch; Transformer Scratch; 1-Click Flare, and 2-Click Flare. Barring the Original Scratch, these are all essential cutting patterns used by scratch DJs to build sets and routines. This allows beginners to see how their scratching will sound once they’ve mastered controlling the vinyl and have a grip on cutting patterns with the crossfader. The theory is that the latter becomes a much less momentous task when the muscle memory of hand movement on vinyl starts to set in.

Given its task, it perhaps makes sense that the Scratch Cutter feature only works when Serato DJ Pro is used in DVS mode. 

Crossfader Cue Points

Another exclusive feature designed to encourage would-be scratch DJs is the Crossfader Cue Points: This is essentially a shortcut for pulling off hip hop’s founding technique: beat juggling. When activated, each time a DJ cuts the crossfader from one side to the other, a hot cue starts on the just crossfaded to side. So if the same track is playing on each channel, and the same hot cue is also set for each channel, DJs can practice making a manual loop, or beat-juggling, by cutting at every beat, two beats, four beats etc. A more advanced technique would be to load the same track to each channel but have slightly different hot cue points, perhaps one being offset by a half-beat. The DJ can now beat chase by cutting off-beat. The hot cue on the opposite channel’s track will not reset if a DJ gets quick enough and cuts to every half or quarter beat. DJs can then practice more advanced forms of beat chasing and pattern forming. 

djm-s5 scratch cutter mode

All new scratch cutter and crossfader hot cue modes!

EQs, filters, trims, volume controls

Up at the top of the mixer, we return to familiar territory with two rows of 3-band, full-kill EQ controls, plus trim and high pass/ low pass combi filter pots sitting adjacent to each row. The trim and filter pots being out of uniform with the EQ controls has been a pain point already experienced by users of the DJM-S7 and S9. Many DJs don’t prefer this layout but have learned to work with it just fine. This portion of the mixer also has comprehensive Serato DJ library browse and load tools plus the DVS/ PHONO/LINE switching toggle which means the mixer can be used stand-alone with turntables or multi-players. A feature which becomes more relevant with news of perhaps the mixer’s most exciting feature, located on the rear. 

djm s5 back rear

Inputs & Outputs featured on the DJM-S5 including USB-C power!

Inputs & Outputs

The rear of the unit boasts a comprehensive I/O with balanced XLR sockets for the audio’s master feed and some un-balanced RCA sockets for a secondary audio booth feed. There are two unbalanced RCA input sockets for channels one and two, which are switchable between phono and line-level inputs; a phono grounding post sits above these inputs. Next to those is another unbalanced RCA input for an auxiliary feed with no dedicated trim or EQ controls on the mixer. There is a combination mic input and Kensington lock socket. Plus two USB-C sockets to allow mains power or bus-powered charging.

This is game-changing for portablists!

Market placement, price and due date

The DJM-S5’s portablist abilities are intentional. This mixer is designed to move! With a lightweight construction, its grab rails and striking bold look, Pioneer DJ acknowledge the portabilst scene in a big way with this mixer, and rightfully so, as they have now released the first official portablist mixer on the market!

And that’s not the only first that these USB-C sockets spell for the DJ industry. The DJM-S5 is also the first DJ mixer to move away from the traditional USB-A and B type connectors, ushering in the dawn of a new era of I/O standards for the scene.

Pioneer DJ are doubling down on this mixer with a comprehensive launch campaign. In their official introduction videos, several scratch DJs can be seen cutting and scratching back and forth with the new DJM-S5 mixers alongside the brand’s professional PLX-1000 turntables, each with stylish red Serato vinyl matching the faceplate of the DJM-S5. 

Further to this, the company’s website has been updated with an open-format landing page that takes visitors through a rich history of their involvement in the scene. This is teamed with several mixer walkthrough videos with the renowned scratch artist, Mr Switch, giving authentic clout to the mixer’s appeal.

With the campaign slogan reading “Passion for scratching”, Pioneer DJ have made clear their ambition for this mixer. A bigger picture is also beginning to unfold for the Yokohama-based company, as they have certainly done their bit to create an aspirational product in the DJM-S5 and make open-format, scratch and portablist DJing that little bit more desirable and accessible.

The Pioneer DJ DJM-S5 Launches today (May 31 2022) and costs €899 including VAT/ £749 including VAT/ $799 excluding tax, which may seem steep compared to its superficial competition, the Numark Scratch, but the DJM-S5 has so much more to offer. It is truly pioneering!

Video Review

Watch our complete guide and walkthrough on this DJ mixer below!

DJM-S5 Performance Mix

Watch and follow along as Lawrence James throws down a DJ performance on the DJM-S5!

Are you ready to learn?

If you own this mixer or want to learn some new DJ skills then why not check out our relevant Serato DJ courses or the DJ Hub for advanced learning.

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