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DJ & Studio Equipment: Pioneer CDJ-2000 review

The CDJ-2000 is the latest model in Pioneer’s famed range of CD decks, and was until recently shrouded in rumour and secrecy. Well the secret is out – and the CDJ-2000s boast a whole range of upgrades geared towards changing the face of DJing as we know it. Juno’s Ben Daly gives a comprehensive review of one of the hottest items on the planet.

The new CDJ-2000 multi-format player from Pioneer is one of the most anticipated DJ products this year, but can this new Pro-grade digital DJ deck justify all the hype?

In terms of styling, the CDJ-2000 looks very slick, with the casing consisting of a mixture between shiny and matt plastic. Pioneer seem to have gone for a more retro, blocky appearance, with the shape being slightly more reminiscent of the now prehistoric CDJ-500’s of old, rather than the curvier CDJ-800 or CDJ-1000s.

When switched on, the CDJ-2000 takes a couple of seconds to boot up before it’s ready to go and takes the same amount of time after inserting a disc before it’s ready to play. When a track is played from a disc, the CDJ-2000 creates a wave display of the track on the huge colour LCD screen on the unit. The wave display takes approximately 30 seconds to create, which seems like quite a while considering some DJ’s mix a new track every couple of minutes (although the wave display on the CDJ-1000 also took roughly 30 seconds to create, so it shouldn’t cause too many problems). When playing a track from an SD card or external USB device, the wave display is only created bit-by-bit as the track plays, which could be an issue for people who rely heavily on this visual reference.

The buttons, switches, rotary knobs and tempo fader all have that solid, reassuring feel that we’ve come to expect from Pioneer, as does their acclaimed Jog Dial, which seems to separate Pioneer from the competition by a yard. The Jog Dial is illuminated, and flashes when a track has 30 seconds or less playing time left, which is a rather useful feature Pioneer have added. The display on the CDJ-2000 is well-laid out, clear and, quite frankly, huge. The display being angled is a nice touch and when the player is placed on a flat surface (rather than at an angle like in many clubs) is much easier to read than that of the other Pioneer players (excluding the DVJ-1000).

The CDJ-2000 is multi-format player and is compatible with most audio file types (MP3, AAC, WAV & AIFF) via CD, DVD, SD card and USB memory devices. However, it wasn’t able to play, or even recognise, FLAC files which may be a concern for users of this format but shouldn’t bother others. On the subject of file formats, it’s also worth bearing in mind that, although the CDJ-2000 has a DVD logo on the unit, it will only load audio files from audio DVD discs and won’t play video of any kind.

The ‘Tag Track’ feature is useful for being able to see what’s already been played so you don’t end up playing the same track twice in a set. Alternatively, it’s just a good way of looking back on a set to see what you played that night.

The CDJ-2000 also ships with the new Rekordbox music database management software, which Pioneer developed in conjunction with Mixvibes. Rekordbox’s interface is simple, well laid out and rather stylish. After importing your music collection into Rekordbox, Loop Points and Hot Cues (up to three) can be created, deleted, edited and saved to a USB device or SD card for later use on the CDJ-2000. This is a great way of preparing tracks prior to your set and I can see this becoming popular with DJ’s who are keen to exploit all the creative possibilities of the CDJ-2000.

Of all the features on the CDJ-2000, a personal favourite has to be the Needle Search™/Needle Drop ribbon, a fantastic touch sensitive bar which, when you scroll a finger along, instantly skips through the track playing. Some people may wonder why this is so great but it saves precious time holding your finger on the track search button until you find the right point from which to play the track.

The CDJ-2000 also functions as a MIDI controller (connected via USB socket on the rear) for native control of DVS (digital vinyl systems) or to control other MIDI parameters in software that can send and receive MIDI data via USB.

In the official Pioneer promotional video for the CDJ-2000, images of Ableton Live, Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Pro are displayed when the MIDI capabilities of the player are talked about, so it seemed appropriate to test its function using these three pieces of software. With Ableton Live in MIDI Learn mode, the software did recognize the player as a USB MIDI device, however was unable to assign controls to it. The software indicated that MIDI was being received from the CDJ-2000, but refused to assign it to anything in Ableton. I can only assume this minor teething problem is due to the fact that the product is new and as yet, not fully supported within Ableton. In fact, Serato Scratch Live didn’t recognize the CDJ-2000 at all, but I’m sure this will also be rectified in the near future.

Traktor Scratch Pro was in fact the only software of the three that worked with the CDJ-2000. Once assigned, the CDJ-2000 worked well with Traktor and the full potential of using the player as a MIDI controller was revealed. In terms of other professional MIDI controllers on the market offering the same level of functionality, the EKS Otus is a major contender. However, at around £500, isn’t exactly a cheap option. Pioneer’s CDJ-400 can also be used as a MIDI controller, and at £628.99 is far cheaper than the CDJ-2000, so may be worth considering.

Using a regular LAN cable (which is provided in the package), the Pro DJ Link feature of the CDJ-2000 (2-4 players can be connected together to load tracks from only one device to all of them) worked incredibly well and was very simple and straightforward to setup. Connecting a USB device to one of the players and loading the same track to both players, posed no problems whatsoever.

All-in-all the CDJ-2000 is a fantastic product and should keep Pioneer reigning supreme in the DJ CD player market. This product is very much suited to more advanced DJs who will exploit its potential as a MIDI controller or load tracks from an external SD card or USB device.

At nearly £3000 for a pair, it’s not cheap, but you can’t really be blamed for sacrificing that new car or holiday for Pioneer’s latest offering – it really is that good.

Review: Ben Daly

Learn more about the Pioneer CDJ-2000 at Juno Records.

Leave a reply

  1. Wavatar Dj Trinity says:

    I LOVE THE NEW CDJ-2000. THE ONLY DOWN FAULT IT’S ONLY 120V 60HZ…. COME ON PIONEER YOU COULD AT LEAST MAKE THEM WITH 50/60 HZ..

  2. Wavatar Juno Plus says:

    Hey Rib,
    Yes it does!

  3. Wavatar Rib says:

    Hi. Does DJV 1000 and Traktor scratch pro work together? If you run timecode cds?

  4. Wavatar Juno Plus says:

    Hi Andy,

    The CUE button on the Pioneer CDJ 2000 works in the same way as all previous CDJ models. If you push the CUE button while the CD is playing, it will always take you back to the last saved cue point in its’ memory. The most common method of finding and saving cue points is to play the track and then push the PLAY/PAUSE button. The cue point can be found by turning the jog wheel back and forth. Once you have found the cue point of your track, pressing the CUE button (while still in pause mode) will save it, and every time you push CUE after that it will jump back to that point, until a new one is saved using the same process. It is worth bearing in mind that a cue point can only be save while the CD is paused, and pushing CUE while in play mode will take you back to that cue point.

    Hope that answers your question!

    Cheers

    Juno Plus

  5. Wavatar Andy Hart says:

    I’d like to ask a question with regards the normal cue button on the CDJ 2000. I am going to be DJing at a bar tomorrow night who have just installed these babies this week and I’m excited obviously. But the regular DJ/entertainment manager of the bar has made something aware to me about the cue button. He says that when you are playing a track and press the cue button, it takes you back to a previous track and it’s cue point. I haven’t had chance to play with them yet but it concerns me if this is the case.
    I personally have Denon CDJ’s at my home studio set up and the play/pause and cue buttons are very simple, i.e. you set up the cue of the track using the jog wheel and press cue to return to this point everytime. The DJ at this bar stated on the phone last night that the pause button on the CDJ 2000’s needs to be pressed, then the cue button.
    I’d just like an answer from one of you guys to clarify this before I go all out tomorrow night. If you could explain the normal cue button on the CDJ 2000 that would be great (as I’m under the impression now that it’s totally different to the Denon’s cue button).

    Andy

  6. Wavatar Moerlie says:

    Hi,

    I have got some issue with this CDJ2000.
    Lately i have problems with sync and beatcountig.
    Is this issue known by any of you?

    Rg Moerlie

  7. Wavatar dj rommel says:

    hello , we’ll im just curious of the functions of this new cdj-2000 , so many upgrades were made and i am thinking if so, how accurate will these new cdj be? ahh i would really love to get a hands on with this player …..
    so lets just hope and see if it will be a bomb!!!
    good day to alol……
    dj rommel
    phil. dj

  8. Wavatar Juno Plus says:

    Hey Michael,

    It is one CDJ per digital deck.

  9. Wavatar Michael says:

    Is the set up for traktor control 1 cdj per digital deck or can 1 cdj control two digital decks

  10. Wavatar Juno Plus says:

    Thanks for the input – some good points there

  11. Wavatar Pioneer DJ says:

    We strongly recommend that DJ’s format their USB and SD content, playlists and files in rekordbox. Once this has been done wave data display is instant. In fact if you haven’t formatted your devices in rb you are simply not getting the best out of the product and the way it is designed to make navigation of these mass storage devices so easy and fast. Please try doing this so you can witness it for yourself.
    The whole message we are trying to convey is prepare (rb), perform (cdj 900/200) and review (rb). The latter part of this cycle is related to how you can plug your USB/SD device back in to your computer after your set and view the full history of your set including tracks in order of play, on the fly cues/loops and hot cues you made on the night and any tag lists you put together.
    The tag track function is actually there to enable you to make a ‘shortlist’ from the playlists you have prepared in rb and have transferred to your USB/SD device. So, when you are browsing a play list on your device plugged into your 2000, you select the tracks you may want to play in your set by hitting the ‘tag’ button as you scroll through, if you then press the ‘tag list’ button you can view the tracks you have tagged and select them to play. This is meant to mimic the old method of flicking through your 12″ singles in your record box and pulling up the sleeves of the records you are most likely to play during your set. All of the DJ’s we have worked with love this function.
    When traktor and serato release their latest versions (imminently), these will have the protocol to enable the 2000 and 900 to have plug and play functionality over them. In the meantime, as with all other midi software (like ableton) you will need to map the controls of the 2000/900 to trigger effects and functions.