Back in 2015, Pioneer released the XDJ-RX, their original standalone 2-channel player that inherited some features and design from the club standard NXS2 set up. However, as soon as it was released many DJs were calling for a 4-channel version to be made, especially when Denon released their rival unit – the Prime 4.
In 2019, Pioneer finally released the XDJ-XZ – a 4 channel professional all-in-one DJ controller, and boy is it a BIG system. Weighing in at 13kg, the unit feels like two CDJ-3000s and a DJM-900NXS2 glued together, then made even taller with a 7inch screen – hefty. Clearly designed with the NXS set up in mind, full sized jog wheels are a standout feature, and it instantly feels recognisable to a club standard system.
And that’s probably the best thing about it. Controllers don’t have the authentic feel of a full club setup. In fact, it can be pretty intimidating the first time you step up to a set of CDJs/DJM. Buying the full NXS2 kit isn’t always an option – considering the price tag of CDJ-3000s and DJM-900NXS2 would be around £6000.
So, if you want the club feel but without breaking the bank, what do you do? Our friend and self-proclaimed bedroom DJ superstar James Taylor got hands on with the XDJ-XZ, to let us know what he thought of it, having always mixed with a controller.
James Taylor in review
After years of using DJ controllers at home , I’ve been looking for something that allows me to get closer to a club style setup without spending the big bucks. I love to mix, and I’ve always used either an NI Traktor or Denon controller. So when I’m at a party with a set of CDJs, I’m usually too nervous to get on and risk clang a mix when I’m not sure how they fully work. And, I don’t want to spend over £5k on a set up.
I’m not the obvious target market for the XDJ-XZ. Pioneer market this as a “Professional all-in-one DJ system”, meaning this is an all-in-one system designed for a DJ booth at your local nightclub or bar that may not have the space or resources for a full club setup. With the professional market in mind, the Pioneer XDJ-XZ packs a punch with many key features you’d see on industry standard decks at your favourite clubs & festivals. So why do I, as a weekend bedroom DJ, think this is the stepping stone we needed?
When looking for my next controller, I wanted to find something that made me feel that one step closer to the superstar DJ I think I can be. The biggest thing for me was that it’s standalone. One power cable, two speaker cables, a USB and I’m away. Not having to boot up my laptop to mix, and spend half my time looking at a big screen makes a huge difference.
Instead, simply loading a USB with all the bangers I love and being able to run it off just that makes it such a better mixing experience. The XDJ-XZ has 3 USB inputs, 2 on the top interface which allow you to run dual USB sticks simultaneously. A purchase of the XDJ-XZ also comes with a full Rekordbox license, allowing you full access to the famous track analysis function and additional performance features. The only real thing missing? A record out. However, the third USB slot on the back of the unit allows you to easily connect a laptop and record through Rekordbox. If you prefer running software from a laptop then the XDJ-XZ will work seamlessly with Serato and Rekordbox too.
When switching from my trusted controller to someone’s set of CDJs, the interface can be a minefield if you’ve not spent a decent amount of time with them already. The XDJ-XZ’s interface is certainly a step up from the laptop screen, but it’s still not quite the same as a CDJ. The controller features a 7inch touch screen along with the colour ‘On Jog Display’ that you’ll see in a new set of CDJs. This means that loading music, viewing track information, wavelengths and timestamps will all be familiar when using the two different setups.
However, this is an all in one piece of kit so you only get one screen for 2 decks. When mixing, the decks are stacked on the display, running parallel on top of one another, with track time stamps, BPM and the full waveform for each track, squeezed into the bottom section. That said, the On Jog Display does give you some key information like time remaining, tempo, waveform, and artwork. Although once you’ve mixed out of one song and are loading a new one, it’s not always immediately clear whether you need to load onto deck A or B – especially when playing b2b.
You get used to it, but I loaded a fair few tracks incorrectly which would have been a big mistake on a dancefloor. With the wavelengths stacked, it means the beat matching indicators are directly on top of one another which is a good indication of how well you’re in time. However, we all know these are never perfect and it does mean sometimes you find yourself matching the indicators and not the sound of the beat itself. With that being said, all the necessary information can be found intuitively on the display, with the touch screen being very responsive and easy to use.
Everyone has their own style of mixing and not everyone’s needs are going to be met, however this ticks another box when looking for that next step from cheaper DJ controllers and closer to something like a CDJ-3000 and DJM-900 NXS2 setup. The XDJ-XZ features the same full-size jog wheels, tempo control, cue and play buttons, track search and looping buttons you would find on a CDJ-3000 meaning you could seamlessly integrate between the two. The XDJ-XZ mixer features the same 4 channel set up as a DJM-900 NXS2, the same 8 button X-Pad, 14 Beat FX and 6 Sound Color FX. So much familiarity brings the XDJ-XZ to a unique position in the market and one that many people will be drawn to.
There are some small differences to such a comparison, but they arguably favour the XDJ. The DJM-900 NXS2 is a standalone mixer that needs to fit in master levels and microphone controls to be a full mixer whereas the XDJ-XZ has smartly moved these to sit above each jog wheel. The result makes for a cleaner middle mixing space, which allows you to concentrate on the important bits. There are changes on the multi players too, there are large drum pads on the XDJ-XZ, placed below the jog wheel like most other controllers on the market. Similarly to the CDJ and DJM, the hardware interface is not for a beginner, it’s complex and busy but well laid out once you know what you’re looking for.
Another major component to the XDJ-XZ is the ability to add external sources. When testing, we connected up a Technics 1210 turntable and an additional CDJ 2000NXS that was as easy as plug and play. We hooked up another USB to the external CDJ and was able to view, access and load from this third USB directly into the XDJ-XZ via PRO LINK. One major thing to note, the XDJ-XZ is not a 4 channel mixer on it’s own. There is no button to enable deck A to control two mixer channels, so you’ll need external gear to use all 4. Those using this for a home setup may be disappointed by this but it does allow flexibility when external sources may be wanted.
The sound is crisp and clear, thanks to the 64-bit digital processor, and it played all my tunes in MP3/WAV/FLAC/AAC/AIFF format. It also features two professional mic channels, with XLR and ¼” input, as well as feedback reduction to prevent that dreaded howling screech and keep the sound clean.
I loved having this piece of kit from Pioneer DJ. Once I got to grips with the interface, I found myself able to mix easier and easier. Spending less time staring at a laptop screen made it a much more effortless and an enjoyable mixing experience. For those that want that next step up or are looking for something to put in a bar/pub/club scenario which is reminiscent of a full NXS setup, this is for you. With a starting price of £1,899 this is not a cheap piece of DJ tech, but in comparison to a full setup? Simply a bargain.
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Words: Eliot Harris and James Taylor