Pioneer’s DDJ-ERGO is aimed at the aspiring DJ. Does it hit or miss?

I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with Pioneer DJ equipment. Since my earliest days in the clubs, working with an old built-like-a-tank DJM 500 mixer, I’ve had a lot of respect for the company’s ability to build gear that sounded good, worked well and could live up to a beating.

So when I was pitched the idea of Pioneer’s DDJ-ERGO , I was enthralled. The company had made a piece of kit that was directed more toward the beginner DJ. On paper, the ERGO controller and Virtual DJ LE software included a wealth of features and looked promising. So Pioneer sent one my way to dig in and find out the full story.

At first blush, the DDJ-ERGO could pass for any professional-level controller. At least from the top. The matte-black finish looks great, and the silver highlights are a nice accent. The device, however, is packaged in a white plastic case that I’m not overly fond of as it just looks a bit cheap to me but that’s all a matter of personal opinion.

It’s big controller, measuring 21.8 in (W) x 11 in (D) x 4 in (H), a full 5 inches wider than my current Traktor Kontrol S2. The height is largely due to tall feet on the back of the device, giving the entire thing a slant, but allowing room for your laptop’s keyboard to slide underneath. It’s a good design, but feels to me like it could be slimmed down quite a bit from where it is right now.

The ERGO is powered by USB, requiring (and including) no secondary power supply. Plugging it in and turning it on, you’re greeted by a light show that, while it looks neat, doesn’t serve any other purpose other than giving it a bit of a “gee-whiz” factor.

When the included VirtualDJ LE software is running, the ERGO comes to life, providing reasonable lighting across the device. I say reasonable because it’s workable under dark conditions, but you probably won’t be able to see the light well at all in anything else. In my house, under natural light, it was a bit too dim to be of much use.

The lights aren’t just there to look pretty, however. Pioneer has done a nice job of giving visual feedback for beat matching on both lights above the channel volume controls and lights that move around the platters.

Across the back of the ERGO, you have a wealth of input and output options. I was pleasantly surprised to both TRS and RCA outputs, though there is no dedicated record out. It’s also worthy to note that there are both microphone and auxiliary input jacks, expanding the reach of the ERGO a bit further.

The plugs are all of good quality and feel quite secure. Even the USB connection fits a bit tighter than most, leaving you with the feeling that you shouldn’t be concerned with yanking the thing out at a critically bad moment.

If you’ve used any sort of traditional DJ controller before, the ERGO is going to feel very familiar. Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you know how these things work and you don’t need an explanation. That said, there are some tricky points to the ERGO’s feel.

In short, and it pains me to say this, the ERGO’s control surface just feels cheap.

Hard, plastic buttons, especially play/pause and cue tend to rattle a bit when pressed

Channel faders display excessive horizontal play

There’s a hollow, plastic “thunk” if you tap on the top plate

The jog wheels feel flimsy and sound as if they’re grinding on noisy bearings when spun

A couple of high points do exist, however. The knobs feel really great. I prefer more rubberized ones myself, but even being made of hard plastic, they’re firm in their movement. Knobs without a stop point have solid-feeling detents to them, making adjustments more secure.

As for the sound, it’s good, if not great. The built-in sound card of the ERGO tends to over-emphasize the low end of tracks, but otherwise it is of admirable quality. The built-in effects of the included VirtualDJ LE software sound nice, as well (but this review isn’t about the software as much as it is the hardware). One truly nice part is that the 3-band EQs do have true kill points, so cranking the bass all the way down will indeed make it completely remove from the track.

I watched with fascination when the ERGO was first announced, as aspiring DJs sung its praises. Whether they were enthralled by the features, the pretty lights or the Pioneer name, there were loads of “I WILL BUY THIS” comments around the Internet.

But will they really? Probably not, and here’s why.

Pioneer has, for ages, built very solid equipment. With the ERGO, it chose to include a host of great features, but the build quality is just lacking. When you look at the competition in the market, this $500 to $600 price range is heating up quickly and there are some amazing offerings in it.

The first one that comes to mind is the Novation Twitch (which I reviewed a couple of months ago ). It’s lightweight, small, easy to use and includes loads of features as well. It’s also priced at $499, a full $100 below the ERGO.

The other big contender in this bracket is the newly-released Traktor Kontrol S2 . With the included, full version of Traktor 2, it’s a near-bargain at the same price as the DDJ-ERGO. While the ERGO will work with Traktor, it isn’t included and touting VirtualDJ LE just isn’t enough to make me sway my decision on the price.

The end result is that Pioneer has always made respectable products for professional DJs. As such, the ERGO is a testament to the fact that Pioneer should continue its focus on the profession, high end customer rather than the beginner if it can’t meet beginner-level price points. This foray into the lower end of the market would be admirable if the ERGO was priced at $300 or even $400. But at $600, it’s just outclassed in the market.

Facebook post claims AT&T’s Motorola Olympus arriving soon

As an AT&T customer, the device pictured at right has me excited to say the least.

What is it?  The Motorola Olympus, touted as “the first real flagship Android device on AT&T.”

Sounds about right given the device is expected to feature a 4-inch display, and a NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor the world’s first mobile dual-core CPU allowing up to 2x faster Web browsing.

Currently the Olympus is expected to run Android 2.2.1, but may in fact launch with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).

When will the device officially launch?  According to a Facebook question posed on AT&T’s Share account on Facebook concerning when the device would be available, a representative from AT&T responded  stating that it would be “available in December or January.”

The exchange has since been removed from the Facebook page.  Luckily, before it was, the discussion was captured for all to see:

According to AT&T, the information on their Facebook page was removed because,  “This response was posted erroneously. We don’t have any information to share about upcoming devices.”

Despite the information above, no one knows for certain when the phone will hit the hands of consumers. Rumors claim the device will be announced at CES on January 5th, with the release of the device later in the month.

What do you think of the Motorola Olympus?  Do the features make it a device you’ll strongly consider purchasing when if/when it is released?  Why/why not?

Playstation Phone gets captured on video, almost confirms its existence

Sony Ericsson has the mobile world all aflutter with reports that it might release a “Playstation Phone”, an Android-powered smartphone-cum-gaming device that has emerged in numerous spy shots and leaked reports but hasn’t had so much as an official confirmation that it exists.

The internet has come to the rescue again, this time offering up footage of what is said to be the Playstation Phone in all its glory, minus any actual demonstration of the Playstation part of the handset. What it does show is the phone in use, giving you enough of a glimpse of the phone for you to be able to match it up against the leaked stills and confirm it is the same device.

So, the phone is in circulation, albeit a small one. Prizes to whoever gets the first real hands-on with the device uploaded, we’re sure we aren’t the only ones who are eager to see how this handset handles the gaming elements.

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