The CDJ-2000 promises to become the standard for the digital DJ. Together with Rekordbox, this could create the ideal digital DJ environment!
The CDJ-2000 sure does look like its predecessor the CDJ-1000 MK3. The 2000 has the same layout, so if you are used to the 1000 MK3 you won’t have any problems working the new one! One detail that has changed and is quite noticeable is the angled display. On the left part of the CDJ there are the slots for ‘new’ media, such as an USB slot and an SD-Card slot (supporting up to 32 GB SD-Cards).
As mentioned the angled display itself is a gigantic color display divided into two parts. The lower part is the same as of the CDJ-1000. The upper part is new. This part displays your playlist, settings and tags. On the left of the display there are several buttons (Link, USB, SD and Disc) with which you choose your music source. With the LINK button you can ‘link’ another device/player as your music source. USB, SD and Disc speak for themselves here we think.
At the top of the display we have the buttons to navigate with (Browse, Tag List, Info and Menu). On the right you have the ‘scroll’ button. With this button you scroll through your tracklist and settings. Pushing the button means selecting a track or setting. Above this button there is a ‘back’ button. Pressing this button brings you back to the previous menu you worked with. Seems complicated at first but after working a bit with this, it makes perfect sense.
At the back there are the connectors for analog audio, control (fader start) en the digital out. At first there seems not much to be different, but on the inside there is! The CDJ-2000 uses Wolfson WM8740 DACs. What is so special about those? Well, the CDJ-2000 ‘Digital to Analog’ converters are 24 bits instead of the previous 16 bits. So theoretically the CDJ-2000 has a lot more dynamic range. We noticed, whilst working with the CDJ, the output volume was much higher.
Another connector is a UTP connection which is needed for the link mode. You can connect two decks or if needed up to 4 decks with a (network) hub. Next to the UTP connector there is a type-B USB slot. Here you can connect your laptop to your CDJ.
This is the database software that ships with the CDJ players. With Rekordbox you can sort, tag your music and even save cue/hotcue/hotloops. All these settings can be saved to your USB-stick or SD-card. After you have finished your set, you can load the info on the USB-stick (SD-card) into Rekordbox which then detects that you have played a set and asks if you want to save the playlist of that same set. So with Rekordbox your CDJs track what you have played and saves it onto your USB-stick or SD-card.
Another cool thing about Rekordbox is that it can handle your current iTunes-library (via Bridge mode). As many of the DJs sort their music with iTunes this is a very handy feature. As soon as you load the tracks, that you have prepared with Rekordbox, you can call the cue points from the memory (just like the CDJ-1000 MK3). Sadly the hot cues are not loaded immediately to the hot cue buttons. These you have to recall first by pressing long on the REC button, and then recalling the hot cue you want. Also with Rekordbox you can set the beatgrid per track, which is necessary if you want to quantise loops and cue points.
In the browser you can browse through your tracks on your USB-stick or SD-card. This part is split up in left and right. On the left of the display it shows your folders/playlists/tracks. On the right side it shows the information of these items. During browsing you can press on the Menu button and make settings on how you want it all to be sorted (artist, title, album, genre, etc.) It has much similarity on how you browse an iPod.
Every DJ knows what I mean. You see a track you want to put aside because you will need it later on. Pioneer has found a solution for this problem, called the Tag List. And it works quite easy. Select the track you want to ‘reserve’, press the Tag button and the track gets loaded into the Tag List. Later in your set, when you need the track, you will find it under the Tag List button. It is that easy!
With the linkmode you can share tracks between your players via the PRODJ protocol, which have to be linked with a RJ45 (UTP) cable. This linkmode function works very easily. As soon as you press the link button you can see which sources are on the network. You choose one source and browse through it like it is in your CDJ.
Personally I think this network should be able to be expanded a bit further. As you can connect your CDJ to your laptop with USB, why not link it directly so you would only need one USB slot? Another issue I noticed is that when the ‘host’ player fails, the ‘slave’ player stops playing as well. If you are working with 4 ‘linked’ CDJs this can be tricky. If your ‘host’ player fails, everything fails! I don’t understand why they haven’t built in a buffer for this, a CD is being buffered anyway, right? According to Pioneer the link functionality is still in further development so we hope it will be added in future software updates. Another feature you can use is to acces your computer via this link mode and play tracks from Rekordbox. This however doesn’t mean you can connect the CDJ-2000 to your home (computer) network as the CDJ uses the PRODJ protocol!
An often used argument in the ‘vinyl versus digital‘ discussion is the search feature. With vinyl you can pick up the needle and search for your needed part of the track. But now with the CDJ-2000 you can do a ‘needle search’ as well! The CDJ-2000 has a new ‘needle search’ feature.
It is a touch sensitive strip beneath the display. By putting your finger on this strip you can slide the project cursor to the corresponding spot in the waveform that is shown in the CDJs display. This is a very usefull and simple function! However, … if the player is playing a track or is set on a cue point you can’t use the needle search function. This prohibits the possibility that you touch the strip by accident and your track skips to another point and interrupts your set.
You can look at the CDJ-900 in two ways. First as the slim-fit version of the CDJ-2000 or secondly as the successor of the CDJ-800. At first sight you will recognise a lot of features of the CDJ-800, like for example the advanced beat loop buttons. A difference with the CDJ-2000 is the simple dot matrix display, instead of the full color display of the 2000, and you will miss the SD-Card slot on the 900. In comparison with the CDJ-800 the 900 misses the Quick Return button function which is replaced by the Slip Mode function.
So what is Slip Mode? This added function makes sure that whatever you do, the track keeps on playing in the background. So if you are scratching or creating loops, you don’t have to worry about timing changes. The video above explains it more clearly.
At the rear panel of the CDJ-2000 and the CDJ-900 there is a USB connection to connect your CDJ to your computer. This way you can use your CDJ as an audio interface and also as a midi controller. But this midi function is quite difficult to use properly and not very precise (especially for the Pitch Fader). To intercept this midi issue there is a function called advanced HID (human interface device). HID control offers superior interfacing with software, beating MIDI with speed and audio/visual streaming. The CDJ can easily, precisely and natively control such DVS systems as Serato’s Scratch Live*2, Native Instrument’s Traktor*3 series and MixVibes’ Cross*4 – without any need for time-coded discs. This function works real easy and fast. Just connect the USB cable, press the Link button, tell it you want to use your laptop and select which deck you want it to be (A, B, C or D). From this point on you can browse through your (laptop) music archive. As soon as the CDJ is connected to Traktor or Serato Live the jog wheel of your CDJ will turn RED.
Next to this remote function you can also use your CDJ as your laptop/computer audio interface. The audio output at the rear of your player is the audio output of your computer, supporting 24 bit audio!
With the CDJ-2000 Pioneer has designed and developed a great and reliable player which will carry many DJs to the new digital era of DJ’ing. Especially in combination with Rekordbox this CDJ-2000 worked just perfect for me. On the other hand, 1800 euro is a lot of money, I think a bit too much, even for all the features it carries. Clearly Pioneer didn’t develop the CDJs for the consumer market. The CDJ-900 is priced at 1300 Euro, what might be a bit high priced as well, but then again, both are professional DJ decks. Pioneer has definately set a new high standard with these CDJs. The future will tell if this new standard will be accepted by the users…