As many of my regular readers will know, I do not post articles about many controllers, or too much about DJ equipment, but upon seeing the latest offering from Pioneer, I just can’t help myself.
The Pioneer XDJ-RX is the most exciting controller I’ve seen hit the DJ world since the Kontrol X1 mark 1, and the reasons are simple:
- No Laptop Required
- Play your Music from a USB stick.
- Record your music to a 2nd USB stick.
- Midi Assignable.
- Has Jogwheels.
- Has Hot Cues.
- Has Screens.
- Is a standalone mixer.
- Has Sync.
- Has Quantize.
- Works with Rekordbox.
- Built in effects.
- Same layout as CDJ’s.
So let’s talk about some of the features a little more.
No Laptop Required
My go to software is obviously Traktor, so why would I be so excited about not using a laptop?
Sometimes, we spend a lot of time working on our computers and when we want to harness our full creativity, this can only be done when we leave our computers out of the equation. Often I just want to DJ and play with my music, I don’t want to open my computer, I don’t want to deal with a large screen in my face. I simply want to play with my music. This controller will allow me to do that.
There’s a ‘midi’ button on the controller that switches the controls over to be midi assignable. At the time of writing I am not aware of what specific controls are assignable, but the Pioneer website states: “XDJ-RX can be used as an assignable MIDI controller and supports MIDI-compatible software.”
To me, this means Traktor.
There is a USB connector on the back to connect your computer, so if you want to use it with Traktor, it appears that you will be able to.
The manual states that the XDJ-RX can be used as your software’s audio interface by simply installing the drivers. It has the option of being fully utilised as the midi interface and set to, what Traktor users would know as, ‘internal mode’, meaning the mixer controls on the XDJ-RX would control the mixer inside of Traktor.
Alternatively you can set the XDJ-RX to be the mixer and set it up as “external mixing”, this means the decks and browse buttons etc. would control Traktor, but the mixer section of the XDJ-RX acts as a standalone mixer. These options can be changed in the utilities section of the XDJ-RX.
You can even change the decks over to control decks C & D instead of A & B too.
It seems that Pioneer have thought of everything here.
Playing Music from a USB
I have been using Rekordbox recently to organise music and it feels very natural. With software like Rekord buddy, syncing your Traktor playlists to Rekordbox has never been easier.
Even some of the high end CDJ’s don’t have hot cues, which for someone used to jumping around the hot cues in Traktor, can be somewhat frustrating. The standard cues on CDJ900 nexus for example causes the track to jump to the cue point, but to pause there too. Before this controller you would have to buy a CDJ 2000 for the hot cue option.
The option is there to connect some turntables too, so all you vinyl junkies, can remain junkies.
I have written before about the importance of being flexible, and this controller will help DJ’s bridge the gap perfectly between Traktor and CDJ’s.
For those that have had to turn gigs down because a club won’t allow you to bring your Traktor controller, you’ll no longer have any excuses – After you’ve used this controller for a short amount of time, you will easily be able to transfer your skills from Traktor to CDJ’s and vice versa. Adding additional skills to your talent list is never a bad thing.
Opting for this controller also doesn’t mean you are “choosing a brand”. By that I mean, certain controllers lock you in to that brand, yet with the XDJ-RX it seems you can have the best of both worlds. You can decide on your set up, based on your mood.
Want a Traktor session? No problem, hook up your laptop. Want a CDJ style mix session? No problem, pop in your USB that has been synced through rekord buddy and mix the CDJ way. Don’t have any mixing skills? No problem, hit the sync button (if you want – you are limiting yourself though)
(Edit: The original article mentioned using it with Serato: I keep forgetting that Serato doesn’t allow you to program midi, so that was nonsense – Let’s substitute my Serato reference with “other midi compatible software”).
“Other Midi Compatible software” is also free to download, you can try your hand at that too. You can become a jack of all trades. Why limit yourself to just one thing. It’s always good to have a back up option. If Traktor crashed one day, switch it over to Serato, or vice versa.
My Final Thoughts
The world of controllers is big one and it can be difficult navigating the different options. There is a lot of clever marketing out there purposefully designed to entice you in to the ‘next best thing’. You have to carefully analyse your choices so that you stay true to who you are, yet allow yourself the room to expand in the direction you want to go. Unless you are a millionaire you can’t go buying up every cool looking controller out there, and to be honest there’d be very little point.
The idea is to know yourself and to know what your style of DJ’ing is and what type of equipment will aid you in your creative choices. When Native Instruments launched the Kontrol S8, I knew instantly that it wasn’t for me, as it just didn’t tick all the boxes. That’s not to say it’s not for you.
I’m a DJ from the 90’s, I learnt on vinyl, moved to CDJ’s and my joy comes from mixing. I love using Traktor and it’s remix decks, but to take away the ability to have a ‘proper mix‘ once in a while, would be like taking a child’s favourite toy away from them and that’s what NI did for a lot of people. For those that were in the market for a new all in one controller but felt let down by the S8, this might be something for you to consider.
A few things might put you off, such as, small jog wheels, a central screen, no effects send and return and the fact that it is only 2 channels, but if I were in the market for a new all in one controller, this would be my choice. If I wanted to use the Kontrol F1 with this, I could simply assign the remix deck output to be the same as deck A or B and use the same audio channel.
Never buy something just because some website said they liked it though. I hear of people buying equipment only to find when they get it, they don’t know what to do with it. Know what you want and why you want it before you try to fill the void in your soul with material goods.
The reason I’m writing about it, is because I think it’s a step in the right direction from pioneer, it keeps the older school DJ’s happy and seems to be suitable for every DJ digital DJ regardless of the software you use.
At $1499 or £1199 I feel this is a win for Pioneer here. I’m excited to see it working with Traktor, but as I live no where near a DJ store, it might take a while for that to happen.