So I’m down at Pioneer’s media lab in London yesterday morning. And while at a loose end, I was placed in front of the all new XDJ-RX all-in-one rekordbox controller and left alone for about an hour for some private time with it. Of course, I’m morally obligated to have a bash around, and of course write some words before somebody else in team DJWORX gets to review the hell out of it as only we do.
So what follows is not a concise warts and all account, but more initial feelings and rambling unconnected musings, which I’m writing on the fly, and tidying up a little when back home (as I am right now). There are omissions, because 60 minutes only gives you so much time to play, but for a broad view, this article works.
This is Pioneer disconnected from the world of everyone else’s software. It’s pure Pioneer without concession to Serato, and my gut says it’ll always be that way as well. No rubber performance pads, no familiar software-driven controls — just a familiar CDJ/DJM focussed workflow.
The asymmetrical layout is pure Pioneer, as if glue was applied to a pair of mid-range CDJs and a two channel DJM. Plenty of space around everything making it easy to use, even if I do have to get my head around a non-software workflow. The brain gets used to things such as 2×4 pads, and when they’re absent, it jars a little. No worries — I was soon in the flow.
Construction wise, it’s more CDJ that DJM. The XDJ-RX is fairly lightweight, has a plastic chassis finished off with brushed metal faceplates, and complimented with hard plastic buttons and fader caps. The knobs are rubberised though, and perhaps even the edge of the jog wheels too. It’s also quite large for a two channel controller but the screen does rather dictate the overall size. I doubt however that a four channel version would fit in this frame.
Having played with the XDJ-1000, it looks to be the same one (albeit not a touch screen), but offers two lots of waveforms along with assorted information to help you mix music. I wish the screen was retina, but I figure that will come in time — you don’t shoot your load on V1, especially if the concept of all-in-ones is still unproven. I also wish it has a higher frame rate — the waveforms are a bit jumpy when scrolling, even at maximum zoom. We can only hope for a 60fps retina screen.
But it is logically laid out. It’s a split screen, with zooming waveforms (50 shades of blue) at the top, and full waveforms at the bottom. The four available cues show up in ABCD order on the full waveform, as well as on the zoomed one, which incidentally has five levels of zoom.
Overall, the screen is well implemented. I’m sure with more time, I could pull it to bits, but first impressions count, and mine are good.
THE JOG WHEELS
Let’s be clear — the Serato driven DDJ controller jogs could be better. Thankfully, the XDJ-RX wheels are excellent. Because it’s all hardware driven, there’s zero latency, zero artefacts with slow drags, and the accuracy is excellent. There’s no brake that I can see, but there is a touch sensitivity control. They’re relatively free-wheeling and lack the rattly CDJ feel, and pull off spin-backs with just a hint of braking. I approached the wheels expecting another DDJ let-down, but the XDJ-RX jogs are exactly as jogs should be.
THE MIXER SECTION
There’s nothing outstanding to report here — two channels, with a 45mm smooth crossfader with a curve switch, and 45mm line faders that are a little stiffer, you know… you how mix DJs like them. There’s three band EQ, with menu switchable full kill isolator mode or -26dB EQ mode for just a little more control. The sound is excellent – crisp and clear.
The channels are switchable between internal mode and line/phono inputs too. It’s at this point that I once again ponder the possibility of Rekordbox becoming a full standalone DJ software solution, as I can’t think why you’d want to plug turntables, let alone CDJs into this, if only because much of the appeal of the XDJ-RX is rendered useless.
THE XDJ-RX has two types of effects:
Colour effects: These are drop-ins on the channels. You get a single parameter control, and you can apply one colour effect at a time, but it’s the same effect if you use it on both channels. This is where the filter lives,
Channel effects: You get a handful of classics plus some new fun effects as well. Again, this is one effect to different sources, and has more controls too.
Another niggle — the effects on/off button is always on. So even if effects are off, the light is on. When the effects are on, the button flashes. I feel that I would have preferred button off and button on.
So while you don’t get the full menu of Serato’s complex effects offering, you do get a small selection, that should give you more than enough to play with, especially for the potential typical user of the XDJ-RX.
Having established that the plethora of Serato goodies isn’t on this unit, Pioneer DJ has still added some spice of its own. Hot cues work exactly as you might expect, auto beat loop does too, and there’s an attempt at slice that I haven’t had time to figure out yet. I’m sure a flick through the manual will sort it out for me, it seems to work as other slicers do, but with perhaps a few quirks.
One little annoyance – if you engage auto beat loop and then switch modes, it stays engaged. I would have liked the button to have remained lit to confirm that I’ve still got a loop running.
I got an hour unsupervised to play, shoot, and write, so please don’t take this stilted stream of consciousness to be a complete review — that will come. But my first impressions are very good. Breaking free from the slavedom of external software, Pioneer DJ is able to express their own way of DJing, one that is familiar to a huge number of existing users, and also shows that tethered controllers aren’t the be all and end all of technology.
In the hour of playing, I didn’t once wish for a laptop screen. I didn’t miss all that stuff and fluff allegedly designed to make my DJ life easier, and was instead left to fend for myself (relatively speaking of course) and make the most of the small window and perceived lack of features. But my character trait of doing more with less kicked in big time. I was more focussed on mixing music with the features I had in front of me, and absolutely did not miss the often crippling choice of bells, whistles, and gizmos so frequently served up in software these days. I had two decks, a small screen, and a handful of cool effects. And it was good.
Thus my first impression of the XDJ-RX is this — even without plugging it into the rekordbox workflow, the standalone USB based operation is excellent, and with the handful of features that are included, the XDJ-RX delivers a very focussed performance. I can only imagine how this experience will improve when used with rekordbox.
A full review is forthcoming, and we’ll have it in your hands as soon as is humanly possible. In the meantime, if this helps you make a buying decision, then my work here is done.
- For those interested, the monitor stands in the bottom picture are from Ardan.
- The final XDJ-RX will have the Pioneer DJ logo on it, with the notoriously large space between Pioneer and DJ removed. Yay.