Pioneer DJ XDJ-RR
In the past few weeks, doing my usual scanning of the interwebs, I began to realise just how many controllers and media players Pioneer DJ make! And it’s not just me who thinks this, as during many chats I’ve had with fellow DJs recently they’ve ended up saying exactly the same as me: there’s a lot! Then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes another new product announcement: the XDJ family is growing by one, with the introduction of the new XDJ-RR. So where does this new model fit in the Pioneer DJ ecosystem, how does it differ from the other options and is it a product that will be of interest to mobile DJs?
To answer those questions, let’s start by putting the new kid on the block in context. For those who aren’t familiar with the Pioneer DJ product naming convention, it’s actually pretty straightforward. CDJ is the prefix for CD / media players (such as the industry standard CDJ-2000NXS2), DJM is the mixer range (like the flagship DJM-900NXS2) and DDJ is the range of software controllers (including the DDJ-400 that I reviewed a couple of issues ago). Then there’s the XDJ series, Pioneer DJ’s most recent range which started from futuristic beginnings (anyone remember the XDJ-Aero?). The XDJ products are DJ players but they don’t have CD drawers, they play music directly from a USB stick or hard drive to allow digital DJing without the need for a computer.
Prior to the launch of the new XDJ-RR, the current Pioneer DJ product line-up only featured three pieces of kit in the XDJ series. The XDJ-1000MK2 and XDJ-700, which are essentially CDJs without the CD drawer) and the XDJ-RX2. This formidable beast is an all-in-one unit that combines two players and a mixer. It houses enough computer power to manage even the biggest of libraries and comes with a whole load of advanced features to give you a club standard experience without spending your rent money on a fully blown CDJ-2000NXS2 / DJM-2000NXS setup (which would set you back the best part of £6K!) The XDJ-RX2, however, is still 1500-odd quid, plus the case (some upwards of £250). This prices a fair number of DJs looking for a compact, no nonsense standalone media player well out of the buying loop.
So this is where the new XDJ-RR comes in! It’s only a smudge over a grand yet still retains standalone status and has a large full-colour screen just like its bigger brother the XDJ-RX2… Intriguing…
I’ll start with my very, very first impressions. Now, I’ve played on the RX2 and love it to bits. With its flashy LED ring inside the jog wheels, huge colour touch screen, dual USB inputs and record to USB capability, it really does rock. Now this one, at first glance, is clearly a trimmed down version. There are no flashy rings inside the jog wheels, and less performance pads and effects. However, I almost broke down sobbing with joy as I looked for the rest of my beloved features. Dual USB, it’s still there – hooray! Can you still record straight to USB though? Yes you most certainly can!
As I continued looking around the unit, I soon realised that it is still a perfectly capable standalone system, but nearly £500 cheaper! The display is still a mammoth seven inches diagonal, giving plenty of library information and clear waveforms of tracks. However, it isn’t touchscreen, like bigger brother, which is obviously where one of the major cost savings needed to be made.
The software inside the XDJ-RR is the same as the other models in the Pioneer DJ range that can play directly from USB media, so it is a perfect training ground if you’re spinning in a place that has a CDJ-2000NXS2 setup but don’t have 6 grand kicking about to invest on a practice setup for home. The navigation is nice and smooth, just like the XDJ-RX2, and for mobile DJs it really has everything you’re likely to want from a DJ setup.
I do have an innate fear of anything that is a ‘baby’, ‘cut down’ or ‘budget’ version, as I always worry the features we DJs actually want will be sacrificed. But that isn’t the case with the XDJ-RR. However, it is undoubtably a smaller version of the XDJ-RX2 so, after satisfying myself that it offers the key features we all need, I went on a mini-quest to find the differences and seek out what’s missing, in a weird tech ‘spot the difference’ game.
Looking at the back of this controller, you’ll be greeted with what could be described as ‘ample’ connectivity. You have your power connection (12V DC using the supplied adapter, not IEC like on the RX2), stereo balanced XLR and RCA phono outputs (but no ¼” booth output), as well as a stereo RCA phono aux input and a combi XLR / ¼” jack mic connection (but just the one). The big absence, when compared to the XDJ-RX2, is the lack of external channel inputs. The RX2 features both line and phono level inputs for each channel, with a selection switch to choose between them and the internal media player. This means that, should you desire, you could hook up a pair of vinyl decks AND a pair of CDJs and mix seamlessly between them and your digital music files. All the XDJ-RR has is the aux input, but that doesn’t go through the mixer channels (so no EQ) and instead has a dedicated Trim control. This will do the job if you want to chuck in an iPod for background music or for backup, but it can’t really be used for a main music source. For some this may be an issue, but for most mobile DJs I’d guess that the two internal music players will be enough so the lack of external inputs will be no great loss.
The other noticeable difference when comparing the RR with its bigger brother is the hot cue buttons; the RX2 benefits from eight per side whereas this new model only has four. Sure, it’s half the capability, but in all honestly I rarely need more than a couple of cue points in a track if I’m playing in a mobile DJ capacity – it’s more a marathon performance than a half hour of power! So really the drop from eight to four isn’t a big sacrifice.
In addition to use as Hot Cues, the pads also offer three other creative functions. These are Beat Loop, Slip Loop and Beat Jump. With Beat Loop when you hit Loop In the XDJ-RR automatically sets the Loop Out point based on the rekordbox analysis of the track. This makes it incredibly easy to mix using loops, and is especially useful for extending the end of a track in an emergency if you’re not quite ready with the next song. Slip Loop maintains real-time playback of the track so you can drop back in as soon as you’re finished playing with a loop and the track will continue playing from the point it would have reached if you’d just left it playing normally. Finally, Beat Jump allows you to jump forwards and backwards within the track, but while still keeping the beat.
Pioneer DJ has also trimmed back the number of FX offered by the XDJ-RR, with only Echo, Reverb and Flanger available as Beat FX. Control over level/depth, beat selection and the ability to assign to individual channels or the master output are still present though, as are the four Sound Color FX. So, although it offers less than the RX2, for most mobile DJs I think this selection will prove more than adequate.
In addition to the pair of USB-A sockets on the top panel, there’s also a USB-B socket on the back for connection to a computer. This can be used in two different ways – Link Export, where you play music stored on your computer using the XDJ-RR players, and Performance Mode, where your XDJ-RR acts as a controller for DJing using Pioneer DJ’s flashy and capable rekordbox dj software. I know Pioneer DJ pitch this as a standalone media player, which it most certainly is, but the fact that it works in perfect harmony with rekordbox dj means that it offers the best of both worlds. A full rekordbox dj licence is included with the unit, which usually costs around a hundred quid on its own. This is especially handy for beginner and bedroom DJs, as they can get a feel for what it’s like to DJ on both computer software and directly from USB using just this one unit.
So what else has the XDJ-RR got going for itself? Well, put simply, it has the ‘Pioneer effect’! If you’ve ever used a Pioneer DJ product for DJing then you probably know what I mean. Pioneer kit (controllers and media players, especially) are always well-built and every button press is intuitive and positive. Nothing wishy washy goes on and it takes everyone just a matter of minutes to get their head around the button layout and what does what.
The XDJ-RR has jog wheels that feel expensive, offering enough resistance for those who prefer the longer mix, but light enough to scan through tracks or perform flamboyant spinbacks. The looping controls also hint ‘CDJ’ with their dual orange button layout and position, whilst the Quantize feature will keep your loops and cues locked to the rekordbox beat grid for a reliable performance every time.
As I’ve already mentioned, the facility to play from two USB sticks is a godsend. Touted by Pioneer DJ as a solution for back-to-back DJ sets, from a mobile DJ point of view it has a few potential uses. Firstly, you could store your main library on one hard drive and then bring new tracks, freshly downloaded, on a separate USB stick. Alternatively, you could have two hard drives each containing identical copies of your full library to provide backup if a drive should fail mid-set. I’ve on occasion even found the extra socket handy for charging my phone!
However, I think the best use for that second USB port is for recording your mix! I love this feature, as I often do a first dance edit for my wedding couples and like to throw up fresh mixes online from time to time. The XDJ-RR makes this incredibly easy; you simply stick in a memory stick and hit ‘Record’. There’s even a ‘Track Mark’ button, which is very handy.
Argh… I need to stop Eddie asking me to do these reviews! This is yet another piece of bloomin’ DJ gear I really want to own and I haven’t even mentioned portability! The XDJ-RX2 weighs in at 9.1kg, obviously plus case, cables etc. The XDJ-RR only weighs 5.2kg! After remembering how I calculated percentages at GSCE, that’s a 43 percent weight saving! So a godsend for those who want to travel to gigs light. It also makes it a perfect little controller to keep as a truly pro backup if your main setup uses a XDJ-RX2 or even a full CDJ-2000NXS2 / DJM-2000NXS rig.
The XDJ-RR fits so, so well in the Pioneer DJ range as the most compact PROFESSIONAL standalone media player system on the market. You can literally rock up with the XDJ-RR, chuck in your power lead and a USB stick, and you’d be ready to rock. Sure it’s a teeny bit of a shame it doesn’t have a touchscreen or a million inputs, but that’s what you’d buy the RX2 for! For most mobile DJs, the RR has everything you’d need to rock a party while also offering Pioneer DJ’s renowned build quality and intuitive interface design. Put simply, it’s gRReat!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 92, Pages 82-84.