The DDJ-FLX4 is a big step forward, as it is not only Serato compatible, but also works with rekordbox for PC and Mac, as well as mobile devices and a soon-to-be-released version of rekordbox for iOS and Android. Together with new mixing features and effects, it represents the new standard for entry-level DJ controllers.
Whether everything works as desired and how the new FLX4 controller performs, you can find out in our review.
First impression / Setup
The DDJ-FLX4 is strikingly similar to the DDJ-400, which it also replaces according to Pioneer DJ.
That's a good thing: the DDJ-400 was a very popular controller that did pretty much everything right for its price range. We see it as a positive that it didn't take a cue from the DDJ-FLX6, which was the first go at bringing rekordbox and Serato under one hood.
So it's a two-channel controller with a somewhat stripped-down mixer section that still bears some resemblance to Pioneer DJ's top mixers. It features simple 4.3-inch plastic jog wheels (with no illumination or display), two sets of eight single-color rubberized performance pads, and Pioneer DJ's usual loop, library, and level controls.
The corners of the plastic casing are now rounded, the color scheme is dark gray instead of black as on the DDJ-400, and the jog wheels have an attractive matte finish. But apart from two inconspicuous new buttons (more on that later), everything looks as usual from Pioneer DJ.
On the back, there is now a USB-C port with two jacks, one for power and one for a computer interface - although the device is usually powered via the bus, so you don't have to worry about the power port unless you also want to charge a mobile device.
Yes, a mobile device: the controller works not only with rekordbox and also with Serato DJ on Windows and Mac, but also with rekordbox for iOS and Android, which is scheduled for release in early 2023.
A nice feature is that the microphone input is connected to the computer via the USB port, so the microphone can be heard during streams (or recordings) without the need for an additional mixer, as is often the case with DJ equipment (and was the case with the DDJ-400).
To set it up, all you have to do is connect the controller to a PC or laptop via USB and download the free rekordbox or Serato DJ Lite app.
There is no need for complicated installation of drivers or cumbersome setup. The controller is recognized by the DJ software immediately after connecting it to the USB port and is ready to use.
Then you can either add local music you already own to the DJ software or log in to a streaming service and play online sources.
Currently the following platforms are supported:
- SoundCloud Go+
- Beatport Streaming
- Beatsource Streaming
The FLX4 in use
The FLX4 lives up to its predecessor (DDJ-400) and is practically in no way inferior to it. Like the DDJ-400, the FLX4 is not a professional high-end device and does not want to be. It is intended for beginners, switchers, for practice or as a second device, for professional DJs who want to prepare sets on the go.
You have to make concessions with the performance pads. They are limited in both performance and feedback and are not as high-quality as professional controllers. The output section is also very rudimentary and only offers an RCA master output. The FLX4 will therefore rather not be connected to large and professional systems.
The sound quality via USB is impeccable for the price range, and the headphone output is loud enough for a bus-powered device.
All the basic DJ features are there, including a three-band EQ and gain control per channel, deck VUs (but no master VUs), a pared-down but functional Beat FX section, and two new and exciting features specifically for beginners.
Like the DDJ-400, the FLX4 offers a solid and well-functioning basis for all newcomers with everything you need for digital DJing.
But the DJ controller also has two exciting Smart Mixing features, at least if you're a beginner or just a DJ who likes gimmicks and gadgets. Let's take a look at these:
The knobs under the three-band EQs per channel are filters - so far, so good. But when you tap " Smart CFX," they become one-button macro effects that combine two (or more) effects, allowing combinations that would be difficult to achieve any other way.
Some cap the music completely, others amplify it. Describing the effects exactly is difficult, but suffice it to say here that they sound good and are a lot of fun, offering some exciting possibilities. Those who like to experiment will get their money's worth here.
This is where opinions differ. Some DJs will like Smart Fader, others will find it unnecessary. Overall, we thought it was a cool feature to help beginners get started.
When you enable the feature, your crossfader becomes an almost foolproof way to mix between any two songs, regardless of genre or BPM. Here's how it works:
You turn the function on, start playing your new song (the device makes sure it's "in time"), and then slowly move the crossfader across. As you do this, the unit synchronizes the tracks and changes the BPM so that both tracks match, gradually moving the BPM from the old track to the new track.
At the same time, the bass of the old track gets lowered, and for good measure, there's a bit of echo when the old track disappears. It's all designed to optimize the transitions for you without you having to do very much.
The feature worked quite well for us with a whole range of music. As with all of these things, in the hands of a talented DJ, it can be a really compelling feature.
With the release of the DDJ-FLX4, Pioneer DJ has retired the DDJ-400 and replaced it with what will be the standard for entry-level DJ controllers for years to come.
The controller works with the two biggest DJ programs, it works with smartphones, tablets, Mac and Windows, it handles all the basics and has some great new features that will be really useful especially for beginners and, in the case of the Smart CFX, for many more DJs.
It takes some of the best parts of the weaker DDJ-200, adds the best parts of the DDJ-400, doesn't encroach too far into DDJ-FLX6 territory, and also offers livestream mic support.
The FLX4 is a worthy successor of the DDJ-400 and gets the full recommendation from us for all who are looking for a professional entry-level controller!
By the way: the dimensions of the FLX4 are identical to those of the DDJ-400, and all accessories such as bags, flight cases and covers designed for the DDJ-400 are also compatible with the FLX4.