Pioneer has announced the XDJ-700, an affordable media player that looks like a CDJ but only plays digital files via USB, smartphone or computer with a full-color touch screen.
We know Pioneer is dominant in the clubs. (Heck, as a brand, Pioneer is almost more of a sure thing than even Red Bull.) But as the global DJ population booms, is it something people will also take home?
Pioneer sure does seem to hope so – and as it gears itself toward DJs outside clubs, it’s starting to look more like a direct rival to Traktor and Serato and their ecosystems.
First off, there’s rekordbox DJ. rekordbox was already a ubiquitous tool for DJs to do before-the-gig set management – a kind of pre-flight tool for your USB stick before you headed into the dank nightlife underground and plugged into a USB stick. But lately, that same tool is looking, well, a whole lot like a cleaned-up Pioneer rival to Traktor. They’ve got the blue color-coded waveforms. They’ve got the same multi-pane interface. They’ve copied Traktor’s library view, down to the narrow rectangular artwork previews. Heck, Pioneer, a Japanese company, is even taking to spelling things with a ‘k’ – auf Deutsch. And, taking a page from the Serato/NI playbook, Pioneer is at last making their own “native” USB controllers designed especially for rekordbox – like theDDJ-RX.
That’s not to say rekordbox DJ is a slavish clone, either – which really ought to have NI even more worried. There’s multi-screen support, a clever way of chaining effects on pads, and simpler recording.
That said, DJs really associate Pioneer with standalone hardware. Playing on a CDJ, frankly, can be less stressful than DJing on a laptop, and feel more like working with decks in the traditional sense.
So, next up, there’s Pioneer’s play for getting you to take the whole CDJ home with you, too. (Okay, fine, “XDJ,” but let’s face it – anything with a circle on it that says Pioneer will now forever be known to DJs as “CDJ’s.”)
Enter the XDJ-7000. It’s a current-generation Pioneer deck with most of the bells and whistles – but skipping some stuff you probably don’t need in order to shave some weight, size, and cost off the unit.
That’s not to say it’s stripped down. For the price of a premium controller – heck, the price of a new NI deck that doesn’t do anything without being attached to a computer – you get a reasonable set of features:
- A 7″ color touchscreen. Touch means you can both type searches into the browser (remember, no laptop), and zoom in on waves, show beat countdowns, etc.
- Set up loops and cues in rekordbox, then trigger them here, plus see rekordbox metadata (this is a Pioneer box, after all).
- Lots o’ quantization, in case you ain’t got rhythm: loops, cues, Beat Sync, the usual.
- Load music via USB key, or USB/wifi connection to a computer (or iOS/Android via Pioneer’s rekordbox app).
What you lose: you don’t get that spinning display in the center of the wheel, and the wheel is smaller.
Upgrade to the $999 XDJ-1000, and you get that wheel, plus a dedicated reverse button and a Vinyl Speed Adjust knob, plus a minijack “control” plug. I’m also curious to see these units in person to evaluate build and finish. Whatever the difference there, you’ll pay $300 and an extra kilogram for the privilege. (That speed adjust knob to me is the one thing you’d be most likely to miss.)
Now, if you are a laptop DJ but want to prepare in order to do an occasional CDJ (uh, XDJ) set, this might also be an option. USB-HID and MIDI support means the same hardware will double as a controller.
The XDJ isn’t exactly cheap – since we’re talking about two grand by the time you spend the cash for two XDJs and a mixer. But for those who do want to bring a CDJ home, this is one they might for the first time actually carry around. It’s 238 x 308 x 106 mm (W x D x H), and comes with a stand you can remove to reduce the height to 70mm.
Also, Pro DJ Link connects this generation of players via LAN cable. That’s useful for syncing, but could also mean DJs could pool together their XDJs for multi-deck setups.
And you should note the trends here. Pioneer is getting slimmer than ever, more affordable than ever, and more computer-friendly than ever. As DJ controller gear for laptops is simultaneously getting fancier and pricier and bigger, I think that could mean the first real stand-off between the computer and dedicated player approaches.
That said, maybe someone can explain to me why Traktor is always the butt of jokes about “stupid DJs,” when XDJs now have exactly the same features as far as synchronization and quantization – and then some. Just how many visual references do you need to keep things in sync? These things are starting to look like the instrument landing on an Airbus.
My guess is, whatever trash talking may be going on, a lot of DJs will eye on the 700 for their home setups, even sometimes in conjunction with laptops. Or they’ll pick up older CDJs as clubs and DJs unload them.
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