Pioneer DJM-850 Traktor Scratch Certified Mixer Review
The pioneer DJM-850 is a powerful four-channel Traktor Scratch Certified mixer with a super-sturdy build quality and exceptional studio-grade sound quality to match. The mixer has a bunch of BEAT EFFECTS and a new section called SOUND COLOR EFFECTS that can be applied in different combinations for some very cool mixing possibilities. Check out my full HD-Video review along with the in-depth written review after the jump.
Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The new four-channel professional grade Pioneer mixer that is meant to be the successor to the extremely popular DJM-800 is finally here. The new Pioneer DJM-850 brings many new upgrades to the table over the original including a few welcomed surprises as well. The DJM-850 is aimed at bringing the professional-grade studio and club installation mixers right at home (or on the road) for DJ’s everywhere. Considering all that you are getting with the DJM-850, the price is right and very competitive with the other similar mixers on the market.
The Pioneer DJM-850 is built like a TANK in every sense of the word. The completely steel chassis is made of thick metal and it is one of the heaviest DJ mixers that I have ever held. Everything just feels super-sturdy and this mixer will definitely last through the ages. All of the knobs have a metal stem underneath for added rigidity. The EQ knobs are all rubberized while the rest of the knobs for Trim, Mic control, Cue control, and Volume controls are all harder plastic.
All of the buttons for CUE, Fader Start, and Effects have a backlit to them and are made up of hard plastic. There are sturdy in-set switches that control the fader functions while the metal stem style toggle switches at the top are to switch between the different input options for each channel. The front of the mixer is completely blank so that the DJ can leave the mixer “installed” without making adjustments (or plugging in headphones) on the front. The single quarter-inch headphone output is on the bottom-left of the top panel with the Cue volume and Cue/Master Mix knobs right above. The MIC 1 input and USB connection are all on the top panel of the mixer as well.
The Pioneer DJM-850 mixer is also Traktor Scratch Certified. This means that DJ’s can plug in up to four different timecode style decks (CD decks/Vinyl decks) for full Digital Vinyl System playback using Traktor Pro without the need for an additional Traktor style DJ soundcard. It’s almost like having a full featured Traktor Audio 10 interface built right into the mixer. All the DJ must do is purchase the Traktor Scratch upgrade package in order to get the necessary Timecode CD’s and Vinyl to start mixing digital music from your computer directly onto your CD style decks or vinyl turntables. DJ’s can also use the mixer to spin using all four virtual decks with no external decks at all. All of the mixing functions, effects, and sound will still be active and it gives DJ’s a more hands-on approach to mixing than with simply using a computer.
The internal soundcard on the DJM-850 produces professional studio-grade sound and the DVS playback using turntables and CD decks was flawless. There was virtually no delay or latency using the timecode playback and the Traktor Scratch functions worked nicely in conjunction with the cool effects found on-board the DJM-850. This is obviously a huge selling point of the mixer and especially useful to mobile Traktor DJ’s who don’t want to lug around an additional piece of hardware when traveling from gig to gig.
Everyone knows that Pioneer is Legendary for their club installation sound quality and the DJM-850 is no different. The Pioneer DJM-850 is one of the best sounding DJ mixers I’ve used and it will definitely live up to the club-standard reputation in every way. The sound was full and vibrant and it just felt like everything was being played back as the studio production teams intended.
One of the other major reasons for a DJ to add a DJM-850 to their setup would be the extensive effects section. There are actually two different effect types that can be applied simultaneously in different ways. There is the larger BEAT EFFECTS section that makes up the total right portion of the mixer. All the way at the top is the MIDI section where the DJ can turn the MIDI control ON/OFF and START/STOP. There is a big LED screen that allows DJ’s to see the effect selected and the effect properties at a glance. This LED screen also shows the channels that are selected for the effects, the BPM of the music playing, and the frequency of the effect (in MS or Percentage). Under the LED screen is a BPM TAP button that works very nicely when tapping in a new BPM for the music. The DJM-850 does a pretty good job at finding the correct BPM of the music automatically, but the BPM button works quickly and very nicely. Right next to the Tap button is an auto button that returns the BPM back to the automatic configuration.
The effects that are offered in this section of the DJM-850 include: DELAY, ECHO, UP ECHO, SPIRAL, REVERB, TRANS, FILTER, FLANGER, PHASER, ROBOT, SLIP ROLL, ROLL, REVERSE ROLL, and SND/RTN (for the external effect modules that may be plugged into the back of the mixer). These can be selected individually by using the effect selector knob. Under that knob is the effect application knob which allows the DJ to select which channels the effect is acted upon. The user can select individual channels or select the Master Output, Crossfader Side A, Crossfader Side B, or the Microphone to apply the effects. There is a TIME knob and LEVEL/DEPTH knob that allows the DJ to change the properties of the effect on the fly. On the bottom right lies the big oversized round ON/OFF button that toggles the entire effect section on and off.
The next effects section is the Sound Color Effects. These effects are NOISE, GATE, CRUSH, and FILTER. They each have their own blue backlit button when activated. These effects are controlled by the big silver knobs located directly above each channel’s line fader. Turn the knobs to the right or to the left of the center in order to activate the effect on that particular channel. There is a BEAT button next to each knob that allows the effect to activate according to the BPM. The Sound Color Effects can be applied in conjunction with the BEAT EFFECTS for some really cool combinations.
The Pioneer DJM-850’s mixer section is also extremely good. The crossfader is loose enough for pulling off those complex scratches but still smooth enough for mixing. The crossfader has a three-way curve adjustment switch. When set to the sharpest setting, the cut-in distance was very low and the setting was great for scratching. When set to the lowest setting, the fade was consistent for mixing. Above the fader, each channel has a crossfader selector switch that allows each channel to be represented either on the A side (left) of the crossfader or the B side (right) of the crossfader. There is also an option to have the channel work in THRU mode which means independent of the crossfader. The channel faders have more tension to them and are very sturdy and smooth for accurate mixing levels. There is also a channel fader curve adjustment switch but none of them are really suited for scratching. The channel fader adjustment is more to change the way the fade works in relation to actual fader position.
There is a Low, Mid, High, and Trim knob for each channel along with an LED line level meter for each individual channel so the DJ knows the level of each source when mixing. There is a switch so the DJ can change the EQ style to either full kill Isolator, or traditional style EQ. All the way at the top of each channel is a Line input selector. For channels one and four the user can select CD-Line, PHONO, or USB while on channels two and three the user can select CD-LINE, LINE, or USB (Note: USB is selected when using timecode decks or internal Traktor playback). There is also a balance (L&R) knob, Master volume knob, and a Booth volume knob along with a pair of Master (L&R) Line level LED meters to show where you are in terms of volume in the overall mix. The upper left section is the Microphone section which has the MIC 1 and MIC 2 volume level knobs and a HI and LOW EQ knob for adjustment controls. There is also a MIC ON/OFF/TALKOVER three-way toggle switch that controls the overall MIC style. Also on the front of the mixer is the four backlit fader START buttons that can be used for all four channels that have CD style decks attached via the Fader Start MINI connections on the rear of the mixer.
The Pioneer DJM-850 has lots of inputs and outputs to satisfy almost any DJ. There is a Left/Right Return and Send quarter inch jacks for external effects modules and a true MIDI OUT connection. There’s four fader start MINI inputs and a MIC 2 quarter inch input (MIC 1 is a dual style input on the top faceplate). All of the outputs include: Balanced XLR Master, RCA master, Record RCA, quarter inch BOOTH, and Digital Master RCA outputs. There are 6 CD/Line level inputs and two PHONO level inputs in total.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In conclusion, the Pioneer DJM-850 is one of the best four channel DJ mixers on the market today. The build quality and sound quality are basically second to none. The DJM-850 is Traktor Scratch Certified and can work with up to four external DVS-timecode decks and Traktor Pro right out of the box. There is a very extensive effects section with the addition of the cool Sound Color Effects and solid EQ controls. The crossfader is scratch-worthy and the linefaders are perfect for mixing. To top it all off, there are a bunch of input and output options to suit almost every DJ’s needs. The only real negative I could find with this mixer would apply only to Pioneer CDJ-900 and CDJ-2000 users who use the Rekordbox software to manage their music.
The DJM-850 is not compatible with the Pioneer Rekordbox meaning that it cannot sync the BPM and other information with the digital decks. Other than this minor gripe, the DJM-850 is a fantastic four-channel mixer and perfect for any DJ who wants Professional-Club-Standard gear right at home (or on the road) at their fingertips.
Pros & Cons
- Super-Strong and Sturdy Build Quality Throughout (Club Standard)
- Traktor Scratch Certified for All 4-channels of DVS Timecode Playback/Support
- Excellent Studio-Grade Sound Quality & Soundcard
- Extensive Effects Section with LED Readout PLUS Sound Color Effects
- Lots of Input/Output Options
- Not compatible with Pioneer Rekordbox Software
Features & Specs
• Variety of advanced effects including Sound Color FX, new Beat Color FX, and Beat Effects
• Quickly change between the new Beat Color FX and Sound Color FX to suit each tune for further remixing and sound capabilities
• Top panel USB connector for DJ software
• Supreme sound quality: Built-in 24bit/96kHz high performance USB soundcard
• High Performance Channel Faders
• Number of Channels: 4 audio channels, 2 mic channels
• Input ports: CD/LINE X 4 (RCA), PHONO X 2 (RCA), DIGITAL OUT X 1 (COAXIAL), MIC X 2 (XLR & 1/4 inch PHONE) dual purpose x 1, 1/4 inch PHONE x 1)
• Output ports: MASTER OUT X 2 (RCA X 1, XLR X 1), BOOTH OUT X 1 (1/4 inch PHONE), HEADPHONE MONITOR OUT X 1 (top surface 1/4 inch PHONE x 1), REC OUT x 1 (RCA), DIGITAL OUT x 1 (COAXIAL)
• Other ports: SEND x 1 (1/4 inch PHONE), RETURN x 1 (1/4 inch PHONE), MIDI OUT x 1 (5P DIN), USB B port x 1, LINK port x 1
• Sampling rate: 96 kHz
• D/A converter: 32 bit
• A/D converter: 24 bit
• Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
• Total Harmonic Distortion ratio: 0.004% or less
• S/N ratio: 107 dB or greater (LINE)
• Head room: 19 dB
• Power source: 120 V AC (60 Hz)
• Power consumption: 42 W
• Dimensions: 12.6in(W) x 15in(D) x 4.25in(H)
• Unit weight: 17 lb