Roland DJ-808 Mixer Review

November, 2019

Roland has been among the best audio brands for almost half a century now. They create various equipment but their DJ gear is what stands out the most. The DJ-808 controller is coming at the respectable fourth place but not because it isn’t great but because the top 3 models we reviewed have a slight advantage in some aspects. Still, this is one of the most expensive models we’ve reviewed and with the such a high price you can expect a huge bump in terms of quality and sound.

Before we dive deeper into its features, make sure to check our Ultimate Buyer’s Guide on DJ mixers where you will find which are the top 5 models we chose and learn more about controllers and mixers in general.

Our Verdict: If you’re looking for a pro-quality DJ controller, this model by Roland is an excellent choice and one that features a wide variety of customization options and a drum machine that sounds like the real deal. This isn’t a model we would recommend for beginners considering the lack of an LCD display screen, the elaborate setup and complex controls, not to mention the poorly written user’s manual that leaves beginners and experienced DJs feeling a little lost and left to fend for themselves. For the price, the beginner is better off with a more basic setup, but the pro DJ will appreciate everything this Roland model has to offer. Click to see if it’s still available today…

Keep reading to learn more about this leading DJ controller.

Product Overview And Features

This DJ controller comes equipped with the following:

  • Vocal processing and built-in drum sequencing, and a four-channel mixer.
  • Four integrated Channel FX
  • Roland TR drum machine
  • The ability to control the sample via the TR-S sequencer
  • VT voice transformer
  • Low latency platters

First, let’s briefly talk about the looks. The green-lighted buttons make for a matrix-like feeling which looks absolutely stunning during night time. The jog wheels look professional but we will discuss them in greater detail further down the line. There is a built-in drum machine, 16 pads (8 below each jog wheel) which shine in different colors, a mixer, and tons of other keys which can be customized to your needs. The whole controller weighs 15 pounds which isn’t too much but is still a lot compared to other controllers such as the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3

Technical Features

Every DJ has his own style but more importantly every DJ has a different setup and a different set of equipment. This is something Roland understands and are aiming to help with. The 808 gets an insane amount of expansions and I/Os in it. There are two AIRA link USB ports. You can use them for all the AIRA compatible products you got. There is a DVS-ready audio interface which is good in integrating timecode vinyls into your setup.

In terms of the quality coming out of this audio interface you will be amazed. This is one of the most expensive mixers we reviewed and it sure brings the highest quality with it both in terms of sound and materials.

The Jog Wheels And Touch Pads

Unlike most of the jog wheels on today’s DJ turntables and controllers the ones on the DJ-808 are quite sturdy and thick. They are regular sized – not too big, not too small. These platters have one of the lowest latencies on today’s market (as per our tests). On top of that there is a visual feedback middle part which allows you to know exactly what you’re doing at any point. Apart from that and being decent for scratching, there isn’t anything further to add to their resume. 

Beneath each jog wheel there are eight pads which control tons of functions including:

  • The Roll
  • TR
  • Your Sampler
  • The Hot Cue
  • Cue Looping
  • Slicing
  • Patterns
  • Pitch Play

All of these apart from the “TR” and “Pattern” pads are standard for all Serato Pro controllers. The TR lets you trigger drum sounds from your TR-S machine, while the Pattern pad lets you take step sequence patterns that are saved in your directory. Each of these pads is velocity-sensitive and have an RGB customization option to them.

The Drum Machine

The drum machine isn’t something extravagant but it brings a lot of options with it, additionally, it’s realistic sound is nothing short of impressive, despite the fact that the setup itself feels a little too basic

At first, it seems like a simple four-voice drum machine which gives you bass, snare and hi-hat voices and also lets you transform these voices along with whatever is playing from your controller. Then you realise that the sequencer can be synced with your music and you can mess as much as you want with the drum voices, as well as mix sounds on the go. This is where you realise you bought a very cool piece of technology.

On top of all that you can also add the Serato DJ Pro 8 slot sampler which will automatically use the sequences you programmed earlier. If you got your own drum voices which you want to use, you can just drop them in the sampler. Then they will be synced with what is playing at the moment.

Other Interesting Features Of The DJ-808

First of all, as with most high-end DJ controllers you get a free software. In this case it is Serato DJ Pro which is (in our opinion) one of the better DJ softwares today. Everything on this controller is made to work perfectly with Serato. This means that there are buttons and controls for almost everything which exists in the software.

The mixer on this model is one of the best we’ve used. It has a high quality sound to it and its buttons and knobs feel sturdy. There is no noise to your sound no matter what cables you use or what type of connection you have (USB or outlet).

The “Dual Deck” mode allows you to control your two decks simultaneously without an issue.

As we already mentioned, there is an integrated Voice Transformer which has Formant, Ducking, EQ, and Pitch controls. This is the only controller from our top 5 models that have this feature.

The “Auto Pitch” function works perfectly as well. It matches the vocals of your current track to the key of the next one for flawless transitions.

The audio interface integrated into this controller is Serato DVS ready (24-bit/96kHz) but the DVS doesn’t come with your purchase sadly.

Performance

This DJ controller is definitely pro-quality. The pads offer decent feedback and emit a clicking noise that tells users the hit was registered. Mixing is simple although we did notice that the knobs and sliders tend to start feeling a little loose over time.
Some DJs also weren’t fans of the included Serato DJ software program, which seems to cause plenty of major dropout issues. This can be a matter of a sluggish Wi-Fi signal, a slow running computer, or a software upgrade may be needed. If you’re dealing with TR-S desynchronization or frequent dropouts, even after following troubleshooting advice on the Serato website and closing all other programs, including those that run in the background, contact customer support for more troubleshooting advice. While this isn’t a common issue, it does happen.
There were some reports that users had issues with the jog wheels, which are perfect for scratching, but tend to have issues with backspin, even if you adjust the length via the firmware settings.
The pads don’t offer much give, which can make finger drumming very frustrating. The pads have very a rigid feel to them which can make it difficult for DJ’s who need pads that can easily press.
Another issue beginners will have involves the user’s manual. Most of the information is generic and vague. If you need more support regarding how to use this DJ controller we recommend visiting DJ’ing forums or contacting customer support.

Ultimately, if set up correctly, this DJ controller  performs like a pro, however, there are still some bugs to be worked out, although the known issues will not be deal breakers for most potential buyers.

Advantages

  • Looks great
  • Not too heavy
  • Premium materials
  • Sturdy construction
  • Tons of customization with the built-in voice controllers, drum machine and 16 pads
  • Two very low latency RGB jog wheels
  • Comes with a free Serato DJ Pro

Disadvantages

  • Not beginner friendly
  • High price tag
  • No built-in screen
Final Words On The Roland DJ-808 Mixer

Djequipped.com Product Rating Updated November, 2019: (4.5/5)

Roland DJ-808All in all, the DJ-808 is a model which is targeted at a more professional audience. It has a ton of customization options on it in the face of buttons, knobs, and pads. Having all that makes you think that you don’t need anything else for your DJ set. Well, that would’ve been entirely true if Roland had included a set of screens on their controller. Alas, they didn’t, so you will need to bring your laptop along. Apart from the high price and lack of display, there are no other major downsides to the DJ-808 and therefore we gave it a four and a half out of five stars rating.

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