When you see the Roland DJ-505 for the first time, you are immediately impressed by the many buttons, faders and rotary controls that impress with their colorful play of light when powered. And we are “only” dealing with the little sister of the DJ-808, an even more luxurious models.
Both models offer a controller design tailored to Serato, a mixing section to which vinyl players can also be connected, a microphone input, an effects section and, as the icing on the cake, a drum machine with sequencer and integrated classic sounds. Even Serato sampling is on board these “battleships”! Let’s take a look at what qualities are in the box.
The DJ-505 offers its new owner four decks and two channels, which brings us to a differentiating feature between the DJ-505 and the DJ-808, which is designed for four channels. The test candidate also appears to be significantly smaller in terms of dimensions with a width of 53 cm, a depth of just under 40 cm and a height of just over 7 cm.
At 3.5 kg without the power supply, it is also even lighter. Sure, plastic is the material of choice here, but I still find the workmanship to be quite solid overall, especially if you include the features.
In the scope of delivery of the mostly two-tone printed cardboard box you will find the DJ-505 hardware, the matching power supply, a USB cable and the printed, multilingual quick start guide. Serato DJ must be downloaded from the website.
An enclosed voucher can be used to activate the DJ Tool Kit via “My Serato”, with which Serato Pitch ‘n Time DJ, Serato Flip and all Serato DJ FX packs are activated. Let us now take a closer look at the test candidate. First the user interface, which is divided into five sections, which we will now go through in detail.
The packaging looks promising
As the name suggests, you navigate through the crates of the Serato DJ software with a total of four buttons and a push encoder, work your way through the tracks, sort them according to various criteria such as key, tempo, title or artist, select and select them loads them onto the decks.
We navigated through the tracks with a few buttons and encoders
This area is the most extensively equipped and – you will not be surprised now – there are of course twice. On the left side we have decks 1 and 3, on the right deck 2 and 4 are waiting for us. A button is provided to switch between them. With the approximately 12 cm diameter plates you can do scratches, control the pitch bend and hold down the Shift key to change the playback position.
Mixing takes place either in sync or without – pressing the corresponding button decides, provided that the sync is not set to “off” in Serato DJ’s preferences. The tempo is regulated by a fader a little over 60 mm long, another difference to the DJ-808, which is equipped with 100 mm faders. Key-Lock is in the program at the push of a button, in combination with Shift you expand the pitch control range.
Eight backlit rubber pads are available for various performances, and four buttons above determine which mode they are working in. In addition to hot cue with eight different jump marks and roll (super short rhythmic loops), it is also possible to trigger the different drum sounds from the TR section or to fire the Serato samples.
If you hold down the Shift key, there are further options, with Cue Loop a loop is started directly from a marker, Slicer breaks down the music currently playing and automatically places it on the performance pads. Pattern controls the different programmed drum patterns, if several are pressed at the same time, they play one after the other in a loop.
If desired, the pads react to velocity, that is, velocity. With the Serato samples this is activated by holding down the Shift key, for the TR drums you have to do a “double click”. The changing background colors of the pads are not only intended as a visual “treat” but also serve their purpose, as they indicate which operating mode is currently being used.
Parameter values of the performance pads can be set depending on the currently selected mode using two buttons on the lower right edge, for example the note length of rolls.
The loop area is positioned right next to the pads, here too everything is activated with rubberized buttons, there are five in number. Two of them double or halve the length of the loop in rhythmic units, with Shift the loop is shifted in length to the left or right.
The jog wheels have a low latency and are suitable for scratching
The mixer section is positioned between the decks and below the browser as it should be. Two faders are available for the two channels and have exactly the right resistance when moving, so they are neither too easy nor too heavy.
The same applies to the potentiometers, where we find five per channel. We use Trim to regulate the volume, followed by a three-band EQ with boosts that are set to 6 dB or 12 dB in Serato DJ. In the other direction of rotation you unscrew the frequencies until the kill.
At the end there is a low/high pass filter, with a turn to the left high frequencies are filtered out, to the right it works the other way around. The cue buttons are used to pre-listen.
In the middle between the two channel strips there are four more potentiometers to adjust the volume of the master and booth, with the mixing potentiometer we regulate the proportion between the cue and master signal (headphone volume is adjusted on the front). Finally, there is a rotary knob for the volume of the drum machine or the Serato sampler, including a prelistening button.
Set off in black, the level indicators in the usual traffic light colors show the output levels of the channels on the left and right with an LED bar each and the master volume in the middle with a stereometer. The very smooth-running crossfader is located at the lower part of the mixer section and closes off the mixer section.
Three-band EQ and low/hi filter in the mixer section
The FX department is clearly arranged, each channel and also the TR section get one of them. The effects are edited with a total of four buttons and the same number of potentiometers. Two operating modes are provided here: Either three effects run in a chain (Multi FX) or one alone (Single Mode).
Depending on the mode that is changed by pressing Shift and the right FX button, the remaining knobs and buttons work.
The right push encoder in turn provides different rhythmic time units for FX with a modulation, but here the tempo can also be “tapped”. If the layout for Serato is set accordingly, you can see on the computer screen how exactly the effects are currently set and parameterized. Incidentally, these come from the renowned plug-in developer iZotope.
Three different effects can be used at the same time
The upper area of the DJ-505 is occupied by the TR drum machine, which is equipped with the “Advanced Circuit Behavior” technology invented by Roland, and the Serato sampler including the associated sequencer.
Eye-catchers are the 16 TR-S pads, brightly colored buttons made of transparent plastic, which act as a running light for the sequencer, but also for programming and selecting sounds and patterns. With start / stop these are made to roll and stopped again, either with the set tempo or by pressing a button in sync with the music on the decks.
The tempo or other parameters that can be edited with the potentiometer next to it light up on a simple LED display in an 80s look. Various properties are available for selection, which can be selected with the buttons to the right of the display.
With Scale you can change the pattern scale between sixteenth, sixteenth, triplet, eighth triplet or thirty-second and shuffle manipulates the feel of the groove. Furthermore, we find seven buttons and four other rotary controls to manipulate the sounds and patterns of the sampler and the drum machine, which I will deal with in more detail in the practical part.
Front and back panel
There is a lot on offer at the rear, the possibility of connecting two turntables (including grounding) is particularly pleasing, or other sound sources such as CD players are also possible. Timecode vinyl can also be used with a paid DVS upgrade. It’s just a shame that the line and vinyl inputs are not separate, as on the DJ-808, and instead have to share one connection.
The master output is in XLR and stereo RCA, Booth has a large jack. Microphones are also only connected with a jack; the larger model has an XLR / jack combo socket for this purpose. Too bad. The gain of the connected microphone is controlled with a small rotary knob labeled “Mic Sens” – in addition to a potentiometer on the front.
A connection for a power supply unit and power switch and USB for connection to the computer are mandatory, a MIDI output is not so self-evident. This is used to connect external sound generators, which are then supplied with an outgoing MIDI clock and run in sync. Cool!
Here it makes sense to feed the output of an external device back into the DJ-505 via one of the line inputs and to process it there, for example with the effects.
The front is minimalist compared to the rest. Aside from the Roland and Serato logos, there isn’t that much to see here. Two headphone sockets, one with the large 6.35 mm jack and then with an additional 3.5 mm. Both can be used at the same time, a small volume control is responsible for the volume.
A three-stage switch changes the curve of the crossfader and another slide switch sets it to reverse mode. The DJ-808 has no hamster switch, this has been improved. Two further slide switches define what kind of audio signal is sent to the two channels.
You can choose from “PC”, which basically means the available Serato decks, for the external input of the channel you have to decide whether this is a vinyl or line signal. We shouldn’t forget the volume control for the microphone connected to the rear.
Feature monster: Roland DJ-505
The abundance of functions of the Roland DJ-505 is almost intimidating at the beginning, for newbies this means a certain training period.
But those who have already made themselves familiar with Serato and various controllers will find their way around relatively quickly. Serato DJ is already very extensive and since the two are closely interwoven here, there can be one or the other stumbling block, especially at the beginning.
The enclosed brief instructions are rather reduced to the bare essentials and therefore not much help with many questions, but there is still a comprehensive manual in PDF format on the Roland website, which definitely goes into more detail and is warmly recommended by me!
Connected to the computer, the Roland controller reveals what’s inside. The internal audio interface works with up to 48 kHz and 24 bit resolution. Ten channels for input and four for output are in the converter.
If you are looking for a thrill, the first thing you should do is update the firmware. This is exciting because, according to the website, things can happen if you make a mistake that, like the side effects on a package insert, shouldn’t be read through.
If you are not deterred by the risks and pay attention to the corresponding instructions, after a few steps you will be rewarded with a few improved functions and, above all, new sounds for the TR drum unit.
To be precise, in addition to the 808 and 909 sounds, there are also 707 and 606 sounds to choose from. Was the TR-505 really such an unloved child that these sounds were not used despite the naming? Wouldn’t the DJ-707 or DJ-606 have been more suitable in the end?
Lightshow: The colorful lights of the Roland are an eye-catcher
Build beats with TR drums and Serato samples
So first of all: The built-in TR section does not replace the current Roland AIRA and is slimmed down and limited in comparison. Nevertheless, you can tinker with a lot of beats with it and lose yourself in it for hours – not least because you can send the sounds to the Serato effects department and thus get a lot of tonal potential.
The distortion in particular gave me a lot of pleasure and, in a well-dosed manner, ensured a beautiful color. The sound is really good and actually piqued my interest in a larger AIRA drum machine, although I haven’t really had it on my screen before.
The drums are grouped in kits, but can also be freely combined for a programmed pattern. With the instrument button and another press on one of the TR-S pads, you select a sound and program it in individual steps.
However, you can also record while the system is running and use the performance pads for this if they are switched to TR – optionally also with velocity.
We have already mentioned shuffle and scale in the details, the four potentiometers on the right-hand side are interesting, with which each sound of TR and sampler can be bent. Specifically, this means pitch, attack, decay and volume.
There is even an accent, just like with many classic drum computers, this has to be programmed manually into the chase sequencer after it has been selected. In addition to the scale for the pattern, its length can also be manipulated, again using the shift key.
Everything mentioned here can also be done with the eight Serato samples. The slots for this are fed from Serato. The samples of course enormously expand the tonal spectrum of the drum section and provide even more variety.
The Serato samples are also played via the performance pads
More fun with effects
The effects department is a pleasure. All available FX can be used very musically, are parameterized for practical use and sound good except for the not so intoxicating reverb. Delay, Echo, Reverb, Phaser, Flanger, various filters (Lo, Hi, LFO and Combo), Pan Delay, Distortion and Version Echo are available.
Overall, they have a rather clean character, but with the distortion a pinch of dirt also comes into play. With three effects connected in series, the sound bends very well, but the single mode should not be ignored either. Then you control different parameters of only one effect with the three knobs. It will be particularly creative again
Four controls for a hallelujah: Effects with the DJ-505
Serato DJ Tool Kit
The tool kit is great – this is an extension included in the scope of delivery as a code (normal price: $79), which is activated online and further enhances the functions of Serato DJ with additional features.
A whole stack of new effects provides even more potential, Serato Flip manipulates non-destructive tracks and provides varied edits (with extensive intros and outros, for example).
Pitch n ‘Time takes care of a cleaner sounding key lock (timestretch) for extreme tempo gimmicks and on the other hand offers precise pitching of the key without changing the tempo. This makes the harmonious mixing of tracks even more convenient. The DJ Tool Kit is worth it!
Everything in sync
Drums, as well as samples and music run in lockstep, if that’s what you want. What is used here as a clock, we decide with the sync buttons and when they are pressed. First the clock is selected, in the next step what should follow it.
But this can not only be achieved internally, but also with external devices. This happens in the classic way with a clock brought out via the MIDI output and is controlled from the TR section. Super cool if you own Korg Volcas or something similar.
During the test, the TR was mostly shifted slightly backwards when it ran in sync to the decks, but this was easy to manage with the pitch bend on the jog wheels. However, this always influences the behavior of the decks, the TR drums or the outgoing MIDI clock remain unaffected.
Link from Ableton is also supported via Serato DJ, which has already become another standard for the synchronization of various hardware and software and is very straightforward.
Clock: The TR unit takes care of the outgoing MIDI clock
The DJ-505’s browser is of limited use. Since there is no display, you have to constantly look at the laptop to keep an overview. And because you can (usually) navigate through software very quickly with your fingers and trackpad, you tend to use this variant to drag the tunes onto the decks. At least that was the case in my test sessions, where I really “messed around” with the Roland – I completely ignored the browser.
Computers can sometimes be a bit bitchy and unruly, sometimes even when they are needed most.
So it’s good to know that this “DJ controller” from Roland can still be used as a mixer for externally connected music sources, completely without Serato and laptop, i.e. standalone – but then you have to forego most of the features, for example effects and loops. With EQ and filter you still have the basics available.
The black box can only become an egg-laying woolly milk sow in connection with a computer and software.
The option to redesign the controller and its surface is great. Newbies should stay away from it for now, but professionals can customize a few stories. For example, set the volume of the Serato sampler to the Mixing knob in order to then set the drums and samples separately. This is done with a few clicks and a few simple steps.
The combination of software and hardware works well and feels very natural when mixing. I didn’t notice any annoying latencies during the test. The faders react quickly and all movements on the controls are precise.
If you want to make further optimizations, you can do this relatively extensively. Interventions can be made directly on the driver via the system control of the computer, but Serato DJ also offers various options for adjustments in the settings.
A key combination while switching on takes you to the system settings of the DJ-505, where the behavior of the hardware is edited in more detail. Changing the curve for the crossfader and the stroke of the performance pads is particularly interesting. All details can be found in the PDF instructions.
If you want to adjust it more precisely, you can go to the driver
Let’s stay briefly with the system settings just mentioned. They are particularly economical if you plug a microphone into the DJ-505. Not only that a low-pass filter can be activated in ten attenuation levels or, in the same way, a noise gate – no, it goes even further!
A reverb and a delay can also be added to the voice, either separately or together. The amount of Vocal FX is determined in a further ten steps and finally it can also be determined whether the microphone can be heard on the booth output.
The fact that the volume and sensitivity of the microphone are set with two controls has already been emphasized here – all of this together gives a convincing impression, also because there is nothing wrong with the sound.
Sounds good: Roland DJ-505
In general, the sound of the Roland DJ-505 is very good. The black box creates pressure, which also applies to connected turntables. I did not hear any noise or other disturbing noises. The equalizers sound very clean and precise, I find the filters very musical with a nice resonance behavior without having a special character.
The Roland DJ-505 is much more than just a DJ controller. The combination of two decks, mixer with external inputs for CDs or turntable, microphone connection, performance pads, FX section, drum computer, (Serato) sampler, TR-S sequencer and a MIDI output plus Serato result in something larger than the sum of the parts.
Sure, you can mix a few tracks together with this – but also add beats to them or completely dismantle everything into the individual parts and reassemble them. This makes the DJ-505 a true creative machine.
The sound is good, after a certain period of getting used to it, it is easy to use and, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the workmanship. I would strongly recommend the free update of the firmware, especially because of the additional TR sounds.
You may also like: