While there was a furious amount of attempting to stuff cats back in bags behind the scenes, Pioneer DJ’s DJM-S9 mixer was resolutely determined to stay out. First a low res picture, then a video, and eventually what looked to be part press ad and part dodgy shop job. But it’s out in all its glory, replete with Serato DJ magic, so let’s take a deeper look at the product, and more interestingly what it does and may mean.

PIONEER DJ LOVES SCRATCH PEOPLE

Wow – that video is quite the list of scratch VIPs isn’t it? Both old and new, everybody just loves the new DJM-S9. Kentaro, Jazzy Jeff, Eskei83, Jon1st, Shinatro, Babu, D-Styles, Rhettmatic, Melo-D, Qbert, and Mr Switch… gushing effusively over Pioneer DJ’s new 2 channel wonder. But cutting through the hyperbole, there seems to be a lot of genuine excitement for what the DJM-S9 is capable of.

On one level, these guys can use anything and sound amazing. And I’d also bet that the DJM-S9 doesn’t offer most of them anything more than they can get elsewhere. But it’s the promise of what the DJM-S9 can offer beyond the basics required my most DJs that is most exciting.

It’s clear that like the club scene before it that Pioneer effectively made their own, they’ve now turned their attention to the on-trend turntable based scratch scene. With the very Technics-alike PLX-1000, and the new PC-X10 carts, the DJM-S9 rounds off a very compelling complete package for any DJ. Well by any I mean well paid.

One thing — seeing long time Traktor user Qbert in this video sparked questions about his software of choice. So I posed the question to him on Instagram:

So Q is staying with Traktor and using it with the DJM-S9. Getting Traktor on it somehow probably means using the very unofficial hack, something that we think is no longer possible with v2.9. So good luck with that.

But pushing that aside for the moment, let’s dig in a little deeper to what the DJM-S9 is right out of the box.

WHAT IS THE DJM-S9?

Just looking at it tells you that much. But let’s take a look at some key elements:

The Magvel Fader Pro: Pioneer continues down a proprietary contactless and magnetic route with an updated version of their Magvel fader. The original wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so here’s hoping that this one appeals to a wider group of DJs, otherwise Audio Innovate are about to get inundated with requests. And my gut says that Pioneer DJ won’t have made it easy to put any other fader in. Nor do they want you to either.

The tension adjust (the Pro X Fade and Innofader have this) on the front is very cool, and suggests that it’s probably extremely free flowing but perhaps weighted too. More interesting are the rubber bumpers. Very much in the style of the old credit card mod, this idea is straight out of the Vestax design book, but better thought out and implemented. Some like the clickety click of fader stem hitting faceplate, but these definitely help with noise and feel.

I love the amount of adjustment the DJM-S9 has. Time will tell if the line faders can be swapped out. We can only hope that they haven’t gone down the route of soldering to motherboards. Rest assured, I’ll be breaking out a screwdriver when one arrives. Because it’s important that I do.

Side note — the headphone controls jar. They should be somewhere else on the mixer, but definitely not in the fader area or right below the pads. Speaking of which…

The Serato DJ pads: Smaller than the DDJ-SX, but offering the same Serato DJ feature set. There’s also a screen that offers feedback on what mode the pads are in, and apparently they’re mappable (as is everything else on the mixer) and colour assignable too. Basically they’re everything you’d expect from a controller pad set (bar velocity sensitivity) but smaller. I have no problems with Rane’s smaller pads but these look to be much nicer.

Side note — those pads are named the same as Pioneer effects, and were also seen in the rekordbox teaser too. Just saying.

Tons of effects: The DJM-S9 combines the very best of Pioneer’s DJM effects with Serato DJs included iZotope effects. It boasts 55, but most of those are optional expansion packs.

One thing to note — it doesn’t have onboard controls for Serato DJ effects, so it looks like you’re going to need another controller like the DDJ-SP1, which shows a definite rekordbox bias here. This was one of the issues with the DJM-T1 — once you took away the Traktor bits, you were left with the most expensive but basic 2 channel mixer ever. It looks like the DJM-S9 is still a beast when not being used with Serato DJ.

Tony doing tones. Mr Switch using just the DJM-S9 and manipulating tone pitch with the line faders. But how?

Toggle switches: These are straight off of the EFX-500 and 1000, and allow for monentary on, off, or on, meaning that you can do some freaky stuff with the onboard effects. Such as…

Tone Play: I need you to play close attention to Mr Switch’s part of the video. He’s not using turntables at all and is instead using just the DJM-S9 and controlling tone pitch with the line fader. This is clear 909 heritage right there, but without a manual, I cannot tell exactly how this is being done. I think there’s a lot more in that Beat effects section that is apparent. You can apparently choose from 15 onboard effects, so it’s all in there somewhere. Can I get a manual please?

Twin USB ports: Yay! I have no need for such things myself but appreciate the ease with which DJs will be able to swap over. And in theory you’ll be able to rock four decks with just two channels. I wouldn’t recommend it though — keeping two channels rocking is tough enough without having to remember the state of play of two channels you can’t even see.  Having seen what Rane can do with twin USBs, I’m excited to see what might be possible here.

This is cherry picking the main bits. There’s a lot more going on, but it’s clear that the DJM-S9 is quite a beast.

On the left is the DJM-S9, and on the right… no wait.

THE BEST MIXER VESTAX NEVER MADE?

The more I look at the S9, I cannot help but see the influence of another company, one that had already had built-in buttons and rubber stoppers in their faders. And in fairly recent times, I’ve had glimpses of button-laden designs that were reminiscent of the DJM-S9. All I’m saying is that if Vestax had stayed the course, you may have been seeing the PMC-Pro V looking a lot like this. Oh well.

DJM-S9 and Rane Sixty-Two. According to specs, they’re the same width so this is proportionally correct.

NATURAL COMPARISONS

One cannot talk about the DJM-S9 and not make natural comparisons to Rane. Pioneer DJ is definitely planting its flag and staking its claim to Rane’s traditionally strong audience. In fact, sat just to my right is the Rane TTM57MKII, which is close to the S9 in features but lacks onboard effects. So the natural is the Sixty-Two. Using UK prices (because they make sense to me), the DJM-S9 is £1299 and the Sixty Two can be had for £1550. Rane is legendary in its user support, something that may make all the difference.

I don’t know the Sixty Two, so it would be unfair of me to pass comment. I do however know that Pioneer DJ’s marketing machine has a shedload of work to do to break people away from Rane. It’s absolutely going to take more than wheeling out well known turntablists doing what they can do just as well on Rane mixers to make a change.

THERE’S A GAP IN THE MARKET

With Rane and Pioneer pitching their Serato tents on the higher slopes of the scratch mountain, it seems to me that there’s a huge amount of DJs who want plug and play with Serato DJ, but have little need for all the stuff that costs money. How many of you really need all those effects? Dual USB? Crazy proprietary faders? Why can’t some company or other get into bed with Serato and make a mixer for the rest of us?

£1k+ is too much for traditionally poor scratch DJs, who generally have simple needs. Perhaps like the DJM-707 before it, there will be a stripped out derivative DJM-S7. Coming from Pioneer though, I doubt it would be affordable. So I’m looking to other companies to bring out an affordable scratch mixer that everyone has a chance of owning that does tick all the boxes. NI did it with the Z2, so I see no reason why Serato can’t. Pull your finger out and make it happen. 🙂

DIGGING DEEPER

Having seen Pioneer DJ’s teaser about rekordbox, it’s hard not to see the similarities in features alluded to in the video. Most of the S9 is Pioneer, with 6x small buttons to engage Serato effects. And the 4 buttons sat between the banks of RGB pads directly match features seen in the video. So for me, while the DJM-S9 might wear a Serato logo, I feel it’s a matter of time before it works as a rekordbox mixer too.

Obviously without seeing the new rekordbox software (I really should register for early bird access), I can only make educated guesses as to the future. But my gut says that future Pioneer product is most likely going to be based around rekordbox, most probably all-in-ones (a range of XDJs), media players (XDJ-900/2000) and mixers, with an eventual introduction (within a year) of DVS, followed by an amicable divorce from Serato.

We honestly feel that this is the start of Pioneer’s true closed ecosystem strategy — for them to be the Apple of the DJ world. We know that they can do controllers, mixers, and players with rekordbox today, but they still depend on Serato DJ for their controllers, and algoriddim djay for its mobile market. There are a few gaps such as DVS and mobile play, but we’re convinced that it will happen, and pretty quickly. They also need their own USB cable — I spotted a Neo d+ in the video. All those gaps need to be plugged.

So where does this leave Serato? Most probably nuzzling up to existing partners, and looking to nurture some new ones along the way too. Personally, if Serato were to focus on some other people and nurture some new companies, ideas and directions, it could be much better for them and us alike. I can see Serato getting Rane people completely blotto and casually dropping “now about that controller that the entire DJ world wants” into the conversation. And indeed, Pioneer DJ can foster their own innovation inside their own ecosystem and offer more choice to us end users.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Looking past the PR hyperbole, the DJM-S9 looks amazing. I imagine you’re going to see it a lot in the future, most probably in a stream of Pioneer videos, and from DMC winners too. We also feel that it signals at least a cooling down of the relationship between Serato and Pioneer DJ, if only because they look to be putting out their own software anyway, something that we hope sees Serato work with others, ideally to put out a Serato DJ scratch mixer that we can afford, and perhaps try a few new directions.


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