After what felt like an endless wait since the last update to their flagship kit, tech giants Pioneer DJ are back in the limelight with new models of the CDJ player and DJM mixer.
The definition and technology behind DJing has changed dramatically over the years. The era of “no thrills” mixing; a set of two turntables, a mixer and a crate of vinyl, is mainly lost to time. The ability to pick up a set of digital turntables and start DJing has opened up a whole new world of DJs.
As Low Steppa said in his recent RMR radio show interview:
“You can meet a guy one week, then see them again next week and they could be a DJ”
This era of technology has led to many brands launching exciting DJ innovations, blurring the line between the studio and performance. Without doubt, Pioneer DJ have been on top of the market since they launched the industry-defining CDJ-500 back in 1994. Still today, the worldwide club standard is a set of Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS2 and a DJM-900NXS2 in the booth, but these haven’t seen an update for almost 4.5 years since their release in February 2016.
While the Japanese firm have been silently working behind the scenes to design the next instalments of their globally used disc-jockey tools, rival companies have been turning heads with their latest advancements.
The likes of Denon’s SC5000 and SC6000 players, alongside mixers such the PLAYdifferently Model 1 have all introduced features which have no doubt influenced the changes made to Pioneer DJ’s 2020 refresh. Updates to the filters and EQ on the DJM V10, as well as improvements to the touch screen display and performance features on the CDJ-3000 all being notable similarities to their competitors’ flagship products.
However, there’s still plenty of welcome additions to both the V10 and 3000 worth shouting about. Here’s what we thought when we had a spin on the new kit :
Denon SC600 – £1299 RRP
Breakdown of new features/improvements
Build quality has been improved
Moving away from plastic exteriors which its predecessor units have featured, the CDJ-3000 boasts an aluminium faceplate. Despite only weighing in at 100g more, the 3000 feels far more robust and ready for battle. The play and cue buttons have been redesigned to be stronger, allowing for more presses before failing. Previous models became ‘sticky’ after 700,000 presses during testing, whilst the CDJ-3000 can withstand up to 1,000,000. The jog wheels now come equipped with a high-res central LCD screen which displays track artwork – cool touch. They also feature a new bearing system which feels silky smooth to use with reduced latency; ideal for scratching.
There’s loads more to play with
A key update to the new CDJ is its performance features. The first of these you’ll notice when seeing the unit are the eight hot cues. After a closer look, other standout additions include an 8 Beat Loop button, and the ability to create polyrhythmic loops every three, five and nine bars. New Beat Jump buttons can be used to skip from 1/2 beat all the way up to 64 beats – perfect for seamlessly moving through a track. Whilst the new Key Sync button will also allow DJs to match the key on the master deck and play tracks in harmony. Using the new and improved touch screen, Key Shift can also be used to manually change the key. Speaking of which…
The touch screen display is now 9 inches
Bigger, bolder, and brighter, the new 720p screen is a huge improvement for the CDJ range. Although at first glance seeming unnecessarily big when compared to the 2000, you’ll soon get used to the Pioneer tablet at your fingertips, and certainly miss it when reverting back to an older model. 150% brighter than the Nexus 2, the screen is ideal for events under the beating sun which previously left DJs trying to squint through the daytime glare.
Useful updates to the Operating System
When using the screen, the on-board menus feel largely the same to previous models. However, there is a noticeable face-lift to the visuals with three-band waveforms and more touchable shortcuts available on the larger display. One very useful addition to the OS comes from a new feature called Touch Cue. This enables DJs to listen further along into the track currently playing, without the crowd hearing anything. So if you’re playing B2B and aren’t familiar with the track playing, you can now preview the drop to help inform your next move.
Touch Preview can also be used to hear any part of a track whilst in the browser without loading it to a deck. Something which is surprisingly missing is the ability to stream music direct from the unit, especially after Pioneer DJ recently launched their own rekordbox cloud streaming service. However, the 3000’s CPU will likely have the ability to add the functionality in a later update.
There’s a lot to love with the new CDJ-3000 which regular users of the club standard brand will certainly welcome. The unit looks and feels great. It doesn’t break the mould for DJ players, but does bring the CDJ range up to date and introduces some useful features whilst improving on previous models. There’s no question that Pioneer DJ are trying to attract their competitors’ audience with these updates, whilst ensuring retention of their dominating market share. Although, they continue to do so at a far more expensive price tag.
While many have long been awaiting an update to the club standard DJM-900, they are going to have to wait a little bit longer. The 6-channel DJM-V10 isn’t really an update to any of the Pioneer mixers, it’s a brand new product designed for audiophile DJs who need more than the usual 4 channels and FX.
PlayDifferently Model 1 – £3,060 RRP
Breakdown of new features/improvements
It’s huge, there is no denying it
With it’s metal chassis, it weighs in at 12kg. It’s taller than the CDJs, and takes up a big chunk of your mixing table – which becomes even bigger when you plug in all of the cables. What’s great though, is that it doesn’t feel overcrowded. In fact, it feels very familiar to the previous Pioneer DJ mixers. It’s easy to pick up and start mixing instantly, and the capability of the V10 becomes apparent very quickly.
There’s more channels to get creative with
Probably the most notable feature of the V10 is it’s 6 channels. With multiple assignable internal and external inputs, it can support up to 6 devices meaning connecting multiple CDJs, turntables, laptops, and drum machines or synths now becomes possible. With many different routing options, the V10 enables you to perform how you like. You could set it up as a four-channel stereo mixer with two stereo send/return channels (like a Xone:96), or connect multiple studio hardware and use the V10 as a performance mixer. We really enjoyed plugging in various bits of studio equipment like the Roland TR-8 and Moog Sub 37 to add an additional layer to our mix.
Each channel has a 4 band EQ, meaning it splits the highs and lows in two (like the Xone:96) giving you much more control to sculpt the sound and mix cleanly. This is a much welcome addition, and one of the standout features of the V10. Each channel also has a compressor, allowing you to add that extra punch to tracks that need it – creating a much more consistent sound throughout a set. This is great for testing unfinished tracks allowing you to add the extra “beefiness” needed to sound great on the dancefloor.
The V10 is Pioneer’s best sounding mixer
With studio-quality 64-bit mixing and dithering processing, 32-bit high-quality A/D and D/A converters, and a low-jitter clock circuit. All of this adds up to make a mixer that will sound good regardless of whether you’re on a festival main stage, club room, or bedroom.
New additions to FX and a face-lift for the existing options
The V10 now offers twice the amount of filter than the DJM-900, as the high and low pass filter now has two controls. A resonance knob has also been added, allowing you to control the harmonics of the sound in more detail. Frustratingly, you can only have either the high or low pass filter on at one time. That said, this filter is a lot more precise and is very satisfying to play with.
You can now send audio into one of the four brand new built-in Send FX and up to two external pieces of equipment; perfect for manipulating the sound in real time. We personally love using the reverb from the Strymon Big Sky when playing, but you can use any unit that connects through TRS jacks. The built in FX are “Short Delay”, “Long Delay”, “Dub Echo”, and “Reverb”, with parameter knobs underneath further tweak the effect. The V10’s routing allows you to decide where to return the audio to, meaning you could route it to an empty channel and further tweak the EQ and filter – giving you complete control of the mix.
The Color FX of the DJM-900 has been replaced with a new “Beat FX”. While it feels broadly similar, the new 4” touch screen gives you much more visibility of what’s going on, especially as each effect has its own screen with loads of parameters you can adjust depending on which effect you’ve selected. The ability to remove low, mid, or hi from the FX is also useful as it allows you to remove those harsh frequencies that can sometimes occur. There are 14 effects to choose from, including the brand new “Shimmer”, which is a musical/harmonic-type reverb.
A new 3 band iso gives you even more control of the dance floor’s sound
While it’s unlikely you’d want to tweak this too often, it’s great to be able to make adjustments when you want and it’s easily turned on and off with the tap of a button. The new Booth EQ is also a great addition to the V10, allowing you to alter the sound of the booth to your taste – perfect if there’s too much bass preventing you from hearing your headphones clearly.
There are now two independent headphone ports
Making life much easier for those b2b sets. Each DJ is able to monitor their own sound separately, which works perfectly with the new CDJ 3000 preview feature.
The DJM-V10 is fantastic fun to play on. While the size (and weight!) may seem daunting at first, once you’ve adjusted, the power of this mixer is undeniable. The sound is the best ever from a Pioneer DJ mixer, and with 6-channels, complex routing capability, and easy to use FX we won’t be surprised to start seeing this on DJ riders soon. That said, at £2,700 this mixer is certainly not cheap. If you’re looking for a hybrid between the booth and the studio then without doubt, the DJM-V10 makes sense.