Pioneer DDJ-RZ & rekordbox dj
The whole ‘DDJ-S’ range has turned out to be an incredibly popular and awesome suite of controllers for Pioneer DJ. A solid combination of quality products, brand identity and powerful software (through a partnership with Serato DJ) has enabled the company to stick its size-12s firmly in the controller market, despite being a relatively late entrant to the game. Based on this past success with Serato though, we have to ask ourselves if Pioneer DJ’s latest bold move to extend rekordbox’s functionality to include a DJ performance tool is their way of blowing a raspberry at their old software partner? Well, I don’t think so.
Let’s face it, ANYONE with an ounce of common sense will have seen this coming from a mile off. Pioneer DJ is the market leader when it comes to DJ playback hardware, so it makes total sense that having developed a range of killer hardware controllers they were, sooner or later, also going to develop a software tool to use with them, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. rekordbox is already a highly
acclaimed management tool for use with the Pioneer DJ CDJ and XDJ players, so by including a DJ app as part of the package they are just completing the circle. This will also now allow development of hardware and software in close tandem, which I guess will help to bring stability and reliability, something every DJ wants.
So, there are two parts to this review. First I’ll concentrate on the DDJ-RZ controller and its new features and then I’ll move on to discuss the ‘dj’ add-on for rekordbox.
The DDJ-RZ is the first of two new controllers to hit the market designed specifically for use with rekordbox dj (the second is a more budget-conscious version, the DDJ-RX). At first glance you would be forgiven for confusing the DDJ-RZ with the DDJ-SZ, Pioneer DJ’s flagship Serato controller. The two units are very similar, almost the same in fact. They are the same size (handy if you have an existing flight-case for your SZ) and have the same features apart from a few extra buttons and others that have been relabeled to match the equivalent features in the new rekordbox dj software. On the back there is also little difference apart from the inclusion of gold-plated connectors, which is always a welcome addition for premium-quality audio connections.
At the heart of the DDJ-RZ is the same DJM-class 4-channel mixer as featured on the DDJ-SZ, offering multiple inputs per channel (both digital and analogue). Twin USB inputs allow you to connect two laptops to the RZ, handy for handovers in clubs or for the mobile DJ who wishes to have his or her backup laptop connected just in case the main one stops working mid-show. Two microphone inputs are offered in addition to the main music channels, one with a combination XLR / ¼” jack socket and the other with just a jack. Each mic has its own level control, while both share a 2-channel EQ and there is also a ‘talkover’ facility. Both 3.5mm and ¼” jack headphone sockets feature on the front, but there is still no Split Cue facility on the mixer, which Pioneer DJ really need to address I feel.
Either side of the mixer are the playback controls, designed to resemble Pioneer’s industry-standard CDJ range of DJ media players. This new model features a much improved platter compared to previous controllers and two additional buttons for triggering the sequencer function built into rekordbox dj which enables you to loop and sample sequences on the fly - really impressive stuff!
So, the controller is a solid piece of kit that offers everything that you would expect from a flagship piece of Pioneer DJ gear, both in terms of features and quality. Now let’s move on to the software, because if you’re going to choose the DDJ-RZ it will be in order to embrace rekordbox dj. This is free for owners of the DDJ-RZ (or DDJ-RX) however for the rest of you is available for £99 as part of the ‘plus pack’ in-software purchase from within the new rekordbox version 4.0.
Using the full new piece of software you can now prepare your entire set if you wish - create cue points, loops, tags, etc. - and then just plug in your controller at your gig to play and mix your music. What’s more, if you connect your laptop running rekordbox dj to any other rekordbox-enabled player and don’t wish to use the playback part of the software then you don’t have to, you can just continue to use your library as before. This offers a lot of flexibility for DJs who maybe do weddings but sometimes also do the odd club night here and there. In the club you can use the CDJ-2000nexus players and for mobile gigs you can use your DDJ-RZ, all playing from the same rekordbox music library.
Existing users of Pioneer DJ kit will feel right at home as the software has a very ‘Pioneer-esque’ look. This is exemplified by the ‘spinning software platter’ which clearly nods in the direction of the CDJ. So, although to a certain extent it looks similar to other DJ software products, it has its own identity at the same time, which I think is important.
The GUI for the software is pretty standard when compared with other DJ software, so existing users of Serato, Traktor or Virtual DJ will also feel right at home with the logical layout of 2 or 4-deck views both with vertical or horizontal waveform options. With regard to the waveforms, you have a choice of full RGB coloured visuals or a simple blue version. Although I like the RGB, having got used to it using another package, I have to say that the blue option is very pleasing to the eye.
Pro Mobile equipment reviews are sponsored by insure4music.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 74, Pages 72-74.