This being a dedicated rekordbox controller, you won't find any touchscreens or ports on the top-plate to pop in your USB sticks. You'll need to connect a laptop to play your music, but it also works as a standalone mixer should you choose to connect turntables or other media players. The DDJ-1000 makes use of rekordbox's digital DJ software add-on, which is included in the price of admission. The software was a little clunky in its first few iterations but it seems to have hit its stride. It still isn't quite as smooth and solid as Serato's Scratch Live, but for home use, you'll have no complaints.
While you're forced to take a glance at the screen when browsing and selecting tracks, that's the only time you'll need to take your eyes off the unit. You scroll through playlists with rotary encoders lifted from the CDJ-2000 range. There's one encoder per player, which means you don't have to assign tracks to decks with a single control like you did with the XDJ-RX2. It's a simple change, but it speeds up and simplifies the workflow while building up that all-important muscle memory. One potential improvement would be to utilise the jogwheel's LCD screens to display the currently highlighted playlist or track during browsing, effectively removing the need to look at the laptop altogether.
Out of the box, the amount of information displayed on each of the jogwheel displays is a bit much. However, you can use rekordbox to remove any info you might find superfluous, such as album art and Cue Scope, which displays upcoming cue points in relation to the current playback position. My initial thought was that Cue Scope could be a pointless feature—much like the Phrase Meter you find on CDJ-2000s—but it actually proved to be pretty useful as the waveform overview is much too small to accurately display where the next cue point is going to hit.
The jogwheels themselves are pulled directly from the CDJ-2000NXS2 and are as sturdy and accurate as you'd expect. Arguably, they're the DDJ-1000's best feature. There's a lot to be said for familiarity breeding confidence, and it's cool to see Pioneer acknowledging this. Pretty much all the CDJ controls you use regularly can be found on the DDJ-1000, and in more or less the same location. The one major difference, and one I've come to see as an improvement, are the eight pads that sit underneath each jogwheel. They're serviced by a row of six buttons that allow you to flick through their various modes and pages. Some of these are pretty self-explanatory if you've used CDJs before, while a couple are going to be new to everyone.
Hot Cue should be familiar to most, and for the most part they work the same way here as on the CDJ range. Hot Cues pre-assigned in rekordbox show up when you load the track, but it's possible to punch in or remove cues in real time as you see fit. One feature which was new to me, and one that I hope makes its way over to CDJs, is the option of applying Gate Playback to Hot Cues (I've only been able to get this to work on CDJs by tethering to a laptop and using HID mode). Essentially, this imparts the functionality from the regular cue button onto each Hot Cue point. While a track is paused, pressing a Hot Cue will play the track for only as long as you hold down the pad. Releasing the pad will jump the track straight back to the Hot Cue point. As someone who uses Hot Cues almost exclusively, it's a nifty trick that opens up some interesting new mix possibilities.
Pad FX1 and FX2 give you immediate control over 32 pre-assigned effects. Naturally, you have the option of assigning effects to pads however you wish via rekordbox. The effects themselves run the gamut from glitchy transform and slip loop functions to beatmatched filter sweeps and turntable brake emulations. On paper they might sound a little lame, but they're much more fun than you'd expect. I also found them to have some use in a production context. Chucking in a few stems from a work in progress and going ham on the pads is an incredibly easy way of gathering up spontaneous sounding fills and edits to be dropped back into your project file.
Beat Jump, Beat Loop and Sampler do pretty much what they say on the tin. I did find it strange that Beat Jump is given priority over Beat Loop, which is accessed by shift-pressing the Beat Jump button. The last two modes could best be described as gimmicky. Keyboard allows you to "play" a cue point by pitching it up and down in semitones using the pads. Key Shift does something similar, but instead of jumping back to a cue point with each pad press, the track continues to play and the pitch is transposed in real time.
Over in the mixer section, you'll find four Sound Color FX and "the most popular" Beat FX pulled from the latest DJM models. Each of the four main channels has a dedicated Sound Color FX knob, while the Beat FX can be applied to any individual channel, including the mic and sampler channels and the master output. It's a shame to see that there's no parameter control for the Sound Color FX. This was a fairly recent addition to the DJM range that meant it was finally possible to tame Pioneer's infamously resonant filter. Having said that, it does seem like there's slightly less of that characteristic high resonance bite to the filter on the DDJ-1000.
There are four new Beat FX options to play with, too. Low Cut Echo seems identical to the pre-existing Echo effect save for the addition of a sweeping low-cut filter. But the other three, namely Enigma Jet, Mobius Saw and Mobius Tri, all riff on the Shepard Tone, an auditory illusion whereby a sound appears to constantly rise or fall in pitch without actually doing so (think of it as the audio equivalent of an M.C. Escher painting). While they undoubtedly have more than a whiff of EDM, there's definitely scope for them to be used in more subtle or unique ways. Rather than coming across as tacky, I could definitely see them being used as a useful new set of tools for more adventurous DJs.
The mixer itself has Pioneer's typically chunky look and feel, with a satisfying, reassuring weight to the knobs and faders. By switching between active and passive virtual decks on the rekordbox software, it's possible to play across all four channels simultaneously using just the two physical decks. In practice, I never found myself needing to use more than two decks at a time. As someone who wants little more than to mix two tracks together, a smaller, cheaper two-channel version seems preferable. Even if you wish to add a turntable or two at some point, the phono/line switches on each channel take care of that.
These criticisms amount to little more than nitpicking. Basically, the DDJ-1000 is the closest thing you'll get to a club-standard setup at a fraction of the price. With it's look, layout and many of its features yanked directly from the CDJ and DJM ranges, you won't find a better alternative. Considering the recent release of the pad-heavy DJS-1000 sampler and the successful implementation of pads on the DDJ-1000, perhaps Pioneer are preparing to introduce them to the CDJ, too. If you want to get ahead of the curve, the DDJ-1000 seems like the way to do it.
Ease of use: 4.3