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DMC World Champion Mr Switch drops the lowdown on Pioneer’s DDJ-SZ2 controller

Switch puts Pioneer DJ’s new DDJ-SZ2 through its paces...

Mr Switch, aka Anthony Culverwell, is one of the most talented (and decorated) DJs to come out of the UK, noted worldwide for his versatility, party-rocking abilities and scratch skills. Having made his name and reputation on the DJ battle circuit, Switch’s efforts led him to take the ultimate prize and become the reigning DMC World Champion in 2014 — the longest standing DJ competition in the world. This is his fourth world title, following his back-to-back wins in the ‘Battle for World Supremacy’ three years in a row.

Under his previous guise of DJ Switch, Anthony performed as soloist in Gabriel Prokofiev’s ‘Concerto For Turntables’ alongside the National Youth Orchestra in 2011, becoming the first DJ in history to perform on the BBC Proms — the UK’s largest classical music festival. We figured here at DJ Mag Tech: who else would be the deck technician best suited to put Pioneer DJ’s new DDJ-SZ2 through its paces? 

What do you like about the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SZ2?

“Coming to the SZ2 for the first time, I was struck by the fact that everything I want out of a DJ setup is in this one unit — and more besides. It gives you that feeling of being a kid, when you can lose an entire day just playing around with a brand-new toy and finding out what it can do.”

The styling, how do you find this?

“The layout is great, everything is in a logical place and I can find my way around it fairly quickly. There’s a lot of features in the unit, which does make it a big size, but it doesn’t feel cramped. I colour-code my cue samples, so those pads being big, bold and colourful really works for me.”

How about the quality of the build — buttons, jogs etc?

“The trigger buttons are one of Pioneer DJ’s best developments in recent times. I feel like I can bash them as much as I want or need to, and they respond wonderfully — I don’t have that worry of triggering a sample lots of times and the unit missing a cue. The Velocity feature is a testament to that. The jog-wheels and new Magvel fader are both very strong. As someone who does a lot of scratching, I feel on safe ground with both.”

Can you talk us through some of the new enhancements to the DDJSZ2 that you find useful?

“The biggest one is how closely this unit works with Serato software — I think having dedicated flip controls, and the brand-new key-shift stuff, at your fingertips makes those features feel very accessible and easy to use. I can see many more DJs being able to use them instantly. The new set of options for the in-built oscillator (in particular the 808 ‘drop’ trigger) jumps out straight away. They’re all good ones to use during your set.”

How do the jogs feel in comparison to a regular CDJ?

“The platters have improved low latency, and that definitely shows. They can even take doublehanded scratch moves, as well as any CDJ-style platter could. They handle extremely well. I wouldn’t be uncomfortable doing a scratch showcase with them. The feeling adjusts are there for your own individualisation, but the build quality speaks for itself here.” 

How do you find DDJ-SZ2 comparing it to a CDJ/DJM set-up?

“I generally use Serato to play off, and the SZ2 has the straight-up advantage of directly controlling eight cues, Serato FX, pitch play, Flip… all these extra features that are yours to control straight away. With a CDJ set-up I’d need an extra MIDI controller or something — which is fi ne, but I like that everything has its own separate button, compared to a CDJ set-up. Plus, you can run four decks off a two-deck set-up with the controller, so it saves you twice as much space!”

What about the performance features of the controller? 

“If you check the launch video for the SZ2, (spoiler alert) I’m the guy under the hood, so you get to see how I handle the unit in a performance! There are so many features built into the unit, finding where some controls are placed can be tricky — if you haven’t gotten familiar with the front panel, or if you need them quickly — though I don’t know if most DJs generally need them quite as quickly as I did for the video! But that’s when it becomes useful that there are that many controls, for that many individual features, you can trigger a lot of things at the same time.”

What are the Key and Pitch features like?

“The Key Shift elements are brilliant. They have been so much fun to use, and pretty easy to find your way around for the first time. Simple, clever and easy-to-understand. You can either key sync the tracks together (so Serato chooses the nearest key to match), or scroll up and down through the key options yourself. While I was coming up with the routine for the demo video, the key sync feature got me so excited, and I wanted to showcase it very strongly.”

In use, how does the new DDJ-SZ2 compare to other set-ups, notably speed of operation with the new features? Does it make for an easier life as a DJ?

“I would say it definitely makes my DJ life easier. It actually adds another layer of excitement, even though you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything at the moment. Virtually every feature is either on the surface, or one shift-layer away, so each individual feature is only two buttons away at most. I think and hope this gets DJs, who might have been nervous about adding in more exciting features into their DJs sets, more excited about those possibilities.”

Would you advise DJs who own the last incarnation of the DDJ to trade up to the new DDJ-SZ2? Do the improvements warrant this course of action?

“I would definitely recommend the upgrade. Obviously, it all comes down to individual taste, and it is a big investment. But if you use Serato, and you want to make use of every potential feature that can add real colour to your set, this is the unit to do it with. You can go down the road of MIDI controllers and other stuff, but it won’t be as instant and as fun as everything is here. The improved platters and sound quality are a good bonus on top.”

Are there any other observations that you would like to discuss about the new DDJ-SZ2 player?

“It’s been filled with every feature you could possibly need in a DJ set — this is a unit for high-end performance DJing, and testing limits. Some features may need a bit of time to figure out (flip slots are one of the few I don’t know my way around yet), but virtually everything is well placed, easy to access… the fairly cheeky phrase ‘ultimate DJ solution’ does spring to mind, but it does fit this unit.” 

Would you ever think of going back to the CDJ and DJM NXS2, or do you prefer controllerism and the DDJSZ2?

“I would definitely still use a DJM at shows, those situations where it’s easier to turn up and use the existing set-up. The FX bank is always dope to use, and the X-Pad is a wicked feature. But in general, if I can I would rock every show with the SZ2, there’s nothing missing from it.”

Want more? Check out Pioneer's new affordable mixer, the DJM-250MK2.

Mick Wilson is DJ Mag’s Tech Editor. Follow him on Twitter here.

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