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Old-school control. New-school features.

Digital DJ Buying Guide: Pioneer CDJ / XDJ + rekordbox

Pioneer CDJ decks are classic pieces of equipment in the DJ world. The CDJ revolutionized performance DJing, offering transport controls not found on analog turntables, in a format that could store more songs. With their tactile feel, intuitive controls, and rock-solid performance spinning physical CDs as well as digital files, CDJs found favor with DJs in the early 2000s, and Pioneer's constant innovation has kept them at the forefront since then.

More recently, Pioneer XDJ decks have given DJs CDJ-style control over digital audio files on USB sticks. Pioneer's rekordbox software lets DJs prepare tracks ahead of time, eliminating the need to bring a laptop to the gig.

A typical CDJ or XDJ setup includes two decks and a mixer -- a simple, modular rig that works with or without a computer. This setup is very similar to spinning vinyl -- so DJs that long for the tactile control of turntables will absolutely love the feel of CDJs. Best of all, today's CDJs are loaded with modern functions that keep them in competition with new and innovative DJ performance gear.

Each section below represents an integral part of the CDJ/XDJ setup. Make your selections, build your rig, and rock the party!
Pioneer CDJ + XDJ Media Players
The Pioneer CDJ is essentially a standard CD player on steroids. Insert a CD, DVD or USB memory stick and play a variety of formats including MP3, AAC, WAV and AIFF. Nudge the jog wheels on top of your CDJs to line up songs, and use the pitch/time shifters to beat-match songs. This workflow appeals to DJs that want the classic experience of manually lining up tracks on analog turntables.

Today's CDJs come loaded with the latest technology available for the format. The CDJ-2000nexus features WiFi connectivity, for wireless access to the digital sound library on your WiFi-enabled laptop or tablet. The CDJ-2000nexus also has tools for automatic beat analyzing, quantizing and looping -- ensuring that even the least experienced DJ in the room will never miss a beat!

For years, DJs requested a CDJ minus the CD player -- and Pioneer DJ delivered with the flagship CDJ-3000, along with a growing series of XDJ decks for spinning digital files on USB sticks. Grab a pair of these and a DJM mixer, and you'll have a club-ready system to rival any pro.
Pioneer XDJ All-in-One Systems
Pioneer DJ standalone XDJ systems are all-in-one DJ rigs with two USB decks, a mixer section, a color LCD screen with dual-waveform display, and even DDJ-style performance pads. Prepare your tracks with Pioneer DJ Rekordbox software, then plug in your Rekordbox-prepped USB sticks, or connect your iPhone, iPod touch or Android smartphone running the Rekordbox app. If you want to use a laptop running Rekordbox DJ performance software, the XDJ system works as a controller, too. The larger XDJ systems even let you connect external turntables or CDJs to use your XDJ system as a standalone mixer.
Pioneer DJ Mixers
So you've got your CDJs playing some banging tracks -- how do you control what the crowd hears? Add a DJ mixer to balance and transition the music you send out to the club speakers. Your mixer acts as a central hub, taking in multiple audio signals and distributing them via user-operated faders and knobs. Tweak each channel's EQ and add effects to modify your tracks on fly.

Modern Pioneer DJM mixers also feature USB connectivity for your laptop -- so you can transition from "analog" CDJ operation, to spinning tracks from DJ software.

For an even deeper mixing experience, check out the Pioneer RMX-1000 Remix Station. With this controller, you can sample, loop, and arpeggiate your music for stunning remixes on the fly. Pro Tip: Scratch your CDJs while the RMX-1000 is engaged to create all-new scratching effects and rhythms using the RMX-1000's tempo mapping.
DJ Headphones
When you are playing in a loud club, your best friend is a good pair of headphones. Headphones are the best way to cue up the next song, match its tempo, and prepare to transition to it, without interrupting the main mix. The DJ mixers listed above have a special output called a "cue out" or "monitor out." This output is the DJ's own monitor mix: it allows you to hear the current song while you audition the next track, and sync up the tempo -- providing the audience with a seamless transition.

You'll need headphones to cue up your next track. But what's so special about DJ headphones? For starters, DJ headphones have large, circumaural, over-the-ear earcups to help isolate you from outside noise. Most DJ headphones' earcups swivel 180 degrees, so you can wear them one-sided when you want to hear what the audience hears. Look for features like a detachable, replaceable cable and a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, and specs like a wide frequency response and high output.
Powered Speakers and Powered Subwoofers
If you're a mobile DJ who plays gigs outside of established clubs or bars, you'll likely going to have to bring your own sound reinforcement. Not to worry: today's PA speakers are lighter, more powerful, and simpler to use than ever before. Active, powered PA speakers with built-in amplifiers minimize the amount of gear you need to lug around. Check out the lightweight QSC K12, which includes DEEP processing to bring more bass out of your music, or consider the Mackie Thump TH15A with its large 15" woofer for supreme low-end response.

While not every gig requires a subwoofer, you and your audience will appreciate the deep bass that these dedicated low-frequency speakers provide. Since lower frequencies require more energy than higher frequencies, choose a sub with a higher wattage than your main full-range speakers. These powered subwoofers require no external power amps or crossovers -- just daisy-chain your sub from one of your main speakers' "thru" outputs.
Don't ignore the quality of your cables. A quality cable allows your signal to reach its destination at the correct voltage, delivering the sound you intend.

Connect each CDJ to your mixer with a dual RCA cable like the Hosa Pro Stereo Interconnect Cable. Grab a pair of XLR cables like the Mogami Gold Studio Microphone Cable or Pig Hog XLR Microphone Cable to connect your mixer's output to the PA or club system. And for recording your main mix into an interface or standalone recorder, you may need a pair of Hosa STXM XLR-M to Male 1/4" TRS Interconnect Cables.
DJ Cases
If you travel with your gear frequently, flight cases are essential to keeping it in working condition -- and this is especially true with sensitive electronic equipment such as the CDJ. Hardshell cases will protect your CDJs when they're loaded into a cramped van full of gear.

For club installations, custom-fit DeckSaver covers keep your CDJs and DJM mixer protected from dust and spills while allowing you to keep all your cables in place.