REVIEWED: Pioneer DJ PLX-CRSS12
The PLX-CRSS12 from industry leaders Pioneer DJ is a ground-breaking hybrid DJ turntable with one foot in the past and one foot in future. And by that, I mean it’s a DJ deck that lets you play actual vinyl records as well as digital files (from your laptop/PC using Rekordbox or Serato DJ timecode technology).
It’s fair to say that there is a lot going on here, so let’s unpack it…
Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a vinyl junkie and always have been. I’m of a certain age that means I was carting around tonnes of the stuff when I first started as a mobile DJ.
I’ve just never lost the joy of using the format, even if it’s rare for me to take it out of the studio these days (in my opinion, vinyl is too precious and expensive, not to mention too heavy). Nothing pleases me more than two slabs of vinyl on decks and getting them beat-matched and mixed – it’s just a nice place to be.
So, how do the PLX-CRSS12 turntables fair in the mix? No issues here. I was initially concerned about the Magvel Clamp, which I will come to later, but ultimately I had no problem with it. In fact, I think I will learn to love it. The pitch is exactly what I’ve come to expect from high-end turntables: this one works perfectly and feels super-smooth with no centre click. Sound quality is always a factor with turntables and anyone who has mixed or played vinyl will know this is important.
I always say your sound quality is only ever as good as your weakest link. If you have top of the range decks but with a cheap stylus that’s not set up right, it isn’t going to sound good. I use a decent stylus from Ortofon, so everything was tip-top using the PLX-CRSS12 deck combined with my DJM-S11. One area I felt there was improvement was isolation from vibration feedback. This is something all decks – and I mean all – suffer from. You can’t put a tiny stylus in a tiny groove and place it near vibration and not have an issue.
Over the years, we’ve seen this improve with new designs – and yes, there has definitely been some work done to improve vibration issues with the PLX-CRSS12. I don’t think there ever will be a cure, but I will happily take any form of improvement (there’s no cure for the common cold but we all reach for the cough mixture to help when we have one!).
As a vinyl record player, everything is as I expected. Would I buy it to just play records? Possibly not at this price point. To use the PLX-CRSS12 just for vinyl would be criminal not to mention expensive. The deck doesn’t come supplied with cartridge or stylus but it does come with a Pioneer DJ head shell. “No stylus,” I hear you scream, “at that price!” If I’m being honest, I totally get the decision not to include a stylus. Vinyl junkies are very particular about them and we have our own preferences, so it would be impossible for Pioneer DJ to get something in the box that everyone would like.
Overall, I’m very happy on the analogue side.
For me, this is where the magic of the PLX-CRSS12 really lies. I’ve never liked using timecode vinyl with stylus. I just never got away with it. So when it comes to playing digital files, my decks get moved to one side (which makes me sad) and out come the CDJs and USB sticks. Switching between does make my setup really big, so I’ve always wanted a solution that combines both – and this is it.
With the flick of a switch and the press of a button, I’m hooked up to Rekordbox or Serato playing digital files, with no stylus, no skipping, no horrible high-pitched noise (which you often get with a stylus on timecode vinyl), and no remembering to move the needle back. In fact, this is like using a controller with motorised platters – what’s not to like?
When I set up the PLX-CRSS12 for the first time I wondered how easy it would be.
And honestly, I was up and running with Rekordbox in minutes. For a first go, I was nothing short of amazed. These things usually test my willingness to read a manual – there wasn’t one sent with this demo product, but in truth I really didn’t need it anyway.
As you can imagine, having a traditional deck with all the trimmings of a digital setup was brilliant for me. Knowing that I could use streaming services like Beatsource or Beatport via the software on a traditional deck… mind blown!
You’ll also find performance pads for hotcues – a brilliant addition that further convinced me the PLX-CRSS12 is the solution to all my DJing needs.
Well, this little plastic clamp is genius. Who would have thought a small magnetic clamp would play such a key part in this deck’s success? When playing digital, you can place any piece of vinyl you choose on the deck, so you could use your favourite picture disc or coloured vinyl. Then you place the Magvel Clamp on top of the vinyl and it locks in place with a magnet.
Now for the clever bit. The clamp has an adjustment dial; by turning it clockwise you can make the vinyl on the platter feel heavier, or by turning it anti-clockwise you make it lighter. Think of it like tension adjustment – similar to what you get on a CDJ jog wheel. It’s brilliant for scratching and cutting, as you can dial in your own setting.
Some of you may know I’ve been dabbling with scratching during the last couple of years. I’m no scratch wizard, that’s for sure, but I do have a good understanding of the craft and what equipment works well and what does not. The adjustment capabilities of this system are key to its success – and it’s all down to that little clamp.
However, it does not end there for this piece of design genius. When playing analogue vinyl, the clamp comes into play again. You may have seen DJs or vinyl audio hi-fi buffs using big weights on their records; this flattens the vinyl if it’s slightly warped or dished as well as reducing vibrations and improving sound quality. Well, placing the Magvel Clamp on a standard record works in much the same way, as it clamps down and has the same effect as those big weights.
I’ve never really used that type of weight before, but I do know it works. Similarly, placing a clamp on the record before playing was completely new to me, but I soon found myself getting into the habit and I’m sure it will become second nature very quickly. That little clamp really does play a big part of this deck and is key to its versatility. Don’t panic, though. You can still use your traditional weights if you prefer, or use a 45s adaptor for those dinked ex-duke box records – so no problems there either.
The PLX-CRSS12 is designed for battle-style use. Everything is how I would expect it to be and matches how I have my decks set up. Since I started to learn the dark art of the scratch, this layout is something I’ve become accustomed to; I leave my decks in that position even when I’m only mixing, so it just feels natural to me now. You can use the CRSS12 in a traditional configuration if you want, but all the writing and labelling of the deck will be the wrong way round! That could mess with your head a bit. In my opinion this deck is best used battle-style.
The small display screen is a very useful feature and really comes into its own when you’re using the deck in digital mode. At first glance, it seems to be in the wrong orientation, as it’s just below the tone arm, but in use this is exactly as it should be. The screen displays key and BPM. It’s also used to access the utility menu.
I did not mess around with the settings too much, but I could see that the torque adjustment and firmware info were as I expected.
This thing is built like a tank. But heavy and sturdy is something vinyl DJs look for in a deck – and this is just that. The build and finish of the PLX-CRSS12 is high quality and what I would expect from a premium product and brand. I love the matt black look too.
The deck is the same size as many other popular decks, so it fits inside my coffin flight-case (which usually houses Technics 1210s) alongside my DJM-S11. No need for new cases – a real bonus!
This thing is ground breaking and no doubt the PLX-CRSS12 will go down in the DJ gear history book and hall of fame. Every now and then something comes along that just makes you sit up and take notice.
Is this deck for everyone? No, because it’s aimed at a certain sector of the industry. However, within that sector I believe it will rule the roost.
I find it hard to imagine many mobile DJs embracing the PLX-CRSS12, unless vinyl is part of their USP. I mean, it’s big and heavy, you will need two of them, and how many mobile DJs want to cart around loads of vinyl? Why would you when there are so many brilliant controllers out there that will make your mobile life so much easier?
That said, I have been paying attention to the American mobile DJs and they do seem to do things a little differently to the Brits. They embrace the showboat-style DJing by using things like Rane 12s and decks with timecode. They show off their skills and put their decks on display, rather than hiding behind the booth.
Don’t get me wrong, this style isn’t for everyone. But the mobile DJ market has really smartened up in the past 15 years and there are some DJs putting amazing setups out there. One American DJ I think you should check out on YouTube is Nick Spinelli. Love him or hate him, the guy has enviable showboat DJ skills and he puts them on show. For that kind of mobile DJ, the PLX-CRSS12 from Pioneer DJ will be perfect.
So, what else can I say… Does this thing make me happy? Yes. Is it for everyone one? No. Is it revolutionary? Yes. Is it game changing? For some, possibly.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 121, Pages 72-76.