The new CDJ. Works like a CDJ, but does things you might expect of a computer. Photos courtesy Pioneer.

In DJing, it seems, everyone has a banner to fly. There are the turntablists, the vinyl die-hards, the scratch artists. There are the digital DJs, the laptop users. The controllerists. DJing seems to go hand-in-hand with advocacy, and it’s hard to find a middle path. Even the DJ press outlets online often tend to a side.

Of course, this is CDM, where we fly the banner of things like tangible music made with fruit JELL-O. (I’m telling you, it’s the future.)

So, perhaps it’s worth stating the obvious: none of these things seems to be going away in the immediate future. And love it or hate it, Pioneer’s CDJ certainly isn’t. Whether artists themselves go CDJ, these things are simply a staple of clubs, a pillar of the global DJ business.

What we’re seeing now is a glimpse of how Pioneer sees the CDJ enduring in the era of ubiquitous computing. That means making the CDJ itself more like a computer, while sticking to its dedicated hardware design, but also making it a hub for other computing devices. It winds up becoming a DJ-only computer itself, to which you connect storage (from external hard drives to USB keys) and other gadgets (from laptops to iPads or phones).

Surprisingly, this served as inspiration for mixing-in-key visual aids. I’m going to kiss the top of my headphones every time I run the last seconds of a yellow. Photo (CC-BY-ND)

We saw Native Instruments’ Traktor software integrated with the CDJ and Pioneer’s flagship mixer last month. There’s no such Traktor integration announced yet on the CDJ-2000nexus, but it seems a no-brainer.

The nexus is intended to be more connected than previous models; as the name implies, it’s a “digital hub,” to quote the phrase Apple once applied to their computers. Using software from Pioneer, you can manage libraries on computers, but also via smart phones and tablets and the like. You can also store function settings on mobile gadgets, SD card, or USB sticks.

New in this model:

  • The first DJ player with WiFi
  • Integrated music management software
  • 6.1″ LCD display with GUI – this is the dedicated “computer display” bit
  • Sync up to four units to one audio source, beat synchronization
  • MIDI/HID control. (Note that HID is how the Traktor integration works – and, likewise, is the direction NI is going with their own software/hardware combos, too. In the case of the CDJ, it unlocks 35 controls that can trigger other gear, so a CDJ could be the heart of a pretty elaborate live DJ setup.)

Compatible media in the specs says it all:

Compatible Media: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android smartphones/ tablets, USB storage devices, SD memory cards, computers (Mac/Windows PC), Audio, CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW/R-DL
Compatible Files: MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF (iOS version of rekordbox enable to playback only MP3 and AAC)
File Systems Compatible with USB Storage: FAT, FAT32, HFS+

(Actually, the list is probably still longer, since other mobile devices will behave as USB storage devices. On the other hand, the same – and then some – is true of a computer.)

Last Night, a DJ Ran a Red Light While Mixing in Key

Sure to rustle some feathers among DJ purists, the CDJ also has more aids to DJ mixing. There’s a Slip Mode (allowing scratch moves that don’t impact playhead position), but also a Quantize Mode that automatically synchronizes mixes, and a Traffic Light that indicates whether you’re mixing in key. There’s push-button Beat Match (literally, pressing a single button), and Beat Count and Phase Meter indicators. Whether any of this can compensate for DJs knowing how to mix, is, of course, another matter; I’d be curious if any of the people who do find these indicators genuinely useful, or if they prefer their ears.

All of this seems likely to please club installations, and while the global economy puts on the brakes, we have to remember that DJ gigs often remain lucrative – well beyond the club, in places like, yes, weddings. Robust dedicated hardware appeals to those crowds, and conveys a different appearance than showing up with a laptop does.

Indeed, even with this nifty new features, it seems the biggest competition for the CDJ-2000nexus may be the CDJ. A lot of those CDJs are plugging away in road cases and installs, and some of the whiz-bang mobile integration stuff may simply be more than what people need – especially at this pricetag. But it at least presents a vision of which direction the CDJ will go.

About that Traktor Integration

DJ Endo has a fantastic, step-by-step walkthrough of what Traktor integration means with Pioneer’s DJM mixer.

Pioneer DJM-900nexus Mixer: Better Integration with Traktor – Overview by DJ Endo [Dubspot Blog]

Videos, Gallery

No doubt, this – with Pioneer mixer in the center and two new CDJs – is how Pioneer wants everyone to DJ.

Callouts explain better what’s changed on the CDJ, apart from the obvious improved display.

Obligatory artists-using-the-new-product videos from Pioneer:

CDJ on the USA site: CDJ-2000nexus

Due later this year; US$2,399 retail, though that seems typical of a new CDJ.

I predict absolutely no one will flame this post. (Joke.)