cdj

Top 7 Best CDJ’s headed into 2020

Differences between a CDJ and a ControllerCDJ controller

A CDJ plays music from cd or SD card/ USB while controllers control music from a software on a laptop. A CDJ is a standalone equipment that doesn’t require a laptop to work while a controller is of no use without a laptop.

CDJs are generally more expensive than controllers because you will need a minimum of two decks. Buying a pair of CDJs and a mixer can make the setup quite bulky and heavy and moving around with your equipment will be a real hurdle. A controller, on the other hand, comes with a built-in mixer, making a mixer easy to ignore in this setup.

Now to the differences in functionality. A CDJ has a built-in interface which is peculiar to it and different from controllers. As CDJs are manually operated, all loops, cues and beatmatching has to be set by the DJ. Mixing more than two tracks with a CD takes skill and coordination. This gives it an edge over controllers because you don’t want to be that DJ who catches cold feet or can’t beat match or mix without auto sync when called upon to perform in a club.

Controllers are a breeze to operate. With a DJ software and a controller, your setup is more compact and you can play with it by throwing in loops from songs on the other decks. For a beginner, controllers are the way to go because spending a few hundred dollars is way easier than spending a thousand bucks on an equipment you can’t operate. Similarly, digital software like Serato and Traktor have less intimidating interface than a CDJ and make DJing much easier to learn.

Here is a list of our top 7:

RankingModelI.D.FeaturesCompare Prices
#1CDJ350cdj350s, cdj 350• Rekordbox software included
• MIDI control
• Features a shock-proof memory and floating architecture for an excellent resistance to vibrations.
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#2Pioneer DJ CDJ 1000MK3
• Mp3 folder search
• Digital display screen
• Supports playback of MP3 files from, CD-R CD-RW
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#3Denon DJ SC5000 Prime
Denon DJ SC5000• Has two RCA outputs, one of the biggest features of the device.
• On the top is layer button which allows you to play 2 pieces of music without a laptop
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#4Pro DJ XDJ-700
Pioneer Pro DJ XDJ-400• Crisp, clear and responsive touch screen which is easy to see and use even in a dark sweaty bar
Rekordbox feature
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#5Pioneer DJ CDJ 850
Pioneer CDJ-850, Pioneer CDJ-850• Auto standby function
• Rekordbox feature
• A very clean, easy and friendly interface
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#6Pioneer DJ CDJ 2000
 Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000NXS2• Waveform Needle Search / Needle drop ribbon for easy access to files
• Kensington lock feature included
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#7Pioneer DJ CDJ 900Nexus
Pioneer CDJ900NXS Nexus Professional Multi Player• Smooth Rekordbox connecting feature
• Has a Wolfson DAC processor and an inbuilt 24-bit/48 kHz sound card
Rotatory selector and Kensington lock
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You’ve been musing about being a professional DJ and you don’t what kind of CDJ equipment to buy or you just want an upgrade, you’ll need certain questions answered. Are CDJs as capable as other DJ setups, are they versatile to allow you have fun with it or more expensive? That’s what we will try to do here, answer those questions.

CDJ Vs Controller

First stop is to compare CDJs and controllers as there’s a constant debate about these two. Which is better? Which would you opt for if you were aiming to be a professional DJs? As a standard, most clubs have a CDJ and a mixer setup which has now become the defacto setup for club DJs. All in all, there isn’t a winner in the CDJ vs Controllers debate looking at the pros and cons of both. Choosing one, however, will be determined by the location of your gig, your skill level, mixing style, need for portability and overall taste.

How to link CDJs to Mixers

To set up a CDJ booth, you will need a mixer to allow you loop and beat match, or is it DJing when you’re not mixing tracks? You may ask why will I need to connect a CDJ to a mixer if it a standalone machine. The reason is so you can play and mix two or more tracks while DJing. The standard CDJ-mixer setup is two tabletop CD players or CDJs on either side with a mixer in the middle, headphones, and speakers. Now let’s go through the process of setting this up using CDJ 2000 and Pioneer 4.33 mixer

First things first, power up the units with its respective power cables. You will want to start with the CDJs first and the display screen will come on showing the interface options.

cdj menu

Next step press and hold the menu button and scroll down the utility menu to make sure that the player number does not overlap with the other CDJs.  The mixer which is located in the middle of this setup usually has four channels which allow four decks/ CDJs to be connected to it at once. Counting in a sequence from the left facing north, set the player number on each CDJ correctly. In this order, the CDJ on your far left is player one, player 2 is on your immediate left, player 3 is on your immediate right and player 4 is on your far right. This should help you set the player numbers accurately.

With a cable, you can connect your CDJs with each other so they can share songs from one deck to the other. Using an RCA cable you can connect each deck into the mixer through the CD/ line channel input.cdj mixer link, mixer link

Next up, you plug into the mixer, booth monitors. Finally, connect the speaker cable into the mixer and set the input selector to CD/line.

 

How to Use CDJs With Traktor and Serato

After getting your CDJ connected to a mixer, you may want to have more fun with the setup by adding either Traktor or Serato DJ software into the mix. What you need to get connected to a DJ software is to have a minimum version 4.33 pioneer CD, a laptop and USB cables.

Each CDJ can function as a soundcard and be using a CDJ in HID mode means you don’t need a Traktor soundcard like Audio 6 and Traktor doesn’t need a Traktor Scratch Pro.

All that is required with both Traktor and Serato is to power on all units, plug the USB cables into the CDJs and the laptop, open the software and press the LINK button on the CDJs. It will display a USB Midi and a laptop icon and a ‘push to connect’. Push down once and turn to the appropriate deck lettered A, B, C, D.

When connected, you can control the software with the knob on the CDJ and play a track of your choice while using the mixer and jog wheels to mix and match tracks.

So let’s look at the top 7 CDJs I’ll recommend to anyone looking to get the best out of this DJ equipment. First, a rekordbox is a free software by pioneer you can download that allows you store music, and the great thing about the record box is you can keep your set time such as the cue point, the bpm and transfer it directly into the CDJs. The Rekordbox music management software analyzes the BPM of a track and assists in preparing sets. We need to get that out of the way as we are going to see it a lot of times in the reviews.

Top 7 Most Recommended CDJs- Review Sheet

Pioneer DJ CDJ 350

Price: 599

Pioneer CDJ350S

CDJ 350

This silver coloured digital multiplayer CDJ-350 is versatile. It plays digital music files such as MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, stored on various media forms USB CDR/RW discs included. The portable equipment weighs 2.3kg and has multiple performance features for creative possibilities control.

It is a springboard to professional sounding sets and connects to PC/Mac for plug and play control of compatible software. Similarly, it has a Beat Lock feature which makes mixing effortlessly.

Key Features:

  • DJ software compatible
  • Rekordbox software included
  • MIDI control
  • Features a shock-proof memory and floating architecture for an excellent resistance to vibrations.

Improvement: The beat grid display is in place of any kind of waveform and a DJ coming to the 350s from the controller world might find that a little disconcerting. There’s no link which will require you to use two USB sticks with the players, and there won’t be any kind of shared history, which is always a blessing during long sets. The major feature lacking is access to cue points.

Conclusion: I found the CDJ 350 to be quite impressive even for beginners. It transfers songs to a playlist with just one click of a button and has a resume feature for discs that were removed and reloaded.

Rating: 5.0

Pioneer DJ CDJ 1000MK3

Price: $1200

CDJ 1000MK3

The CDJ 1000 has seen a lot of improved clones and has three types. They are the CDJ 1000, CDJ 1000MK2 CDJ 1000MK3. For this review, we will be looking at the CDJ 1000MK3 which has become the industry standard CDJ for professional DJs. For one, the CDJ 1000MK2 can’t read mp3 files but the MK3 can. The inspiration for this equipment came from world-renowned DJs so you can expect only the best from this CDJ. The 4.2 kg machine puts your performance first and combines a convenient mp3 compatibility, improved presentation or track and wave data, a fast folder search facility, and an improved jog wheel with adjustable traction makes the 1000MK3 a device for the future.

Key Features:

  • Mp3 folder search
  • Digital display screen
  • Supports playback of MP3 files from, CD-R CD-RW

Improvement: The CDJ 1000mk3 are pretty expensive but this is understandable seeing that they have become the standard for club DJs.

Conclusion: The jog wheels have a better upgrade from the previous series and have a resistance knob on top of the platter that when you stop it, it stops abruptly or keeps spinning for a couple more seconds. These features make it fun to use.

Rating: 5.0

Denon DJ SC5000 Prime

Price: $1899

SC5000 Prime

The SC5000 is giving Pioneer a run for their money. My first impression of this device is its striking similarity with the Pioneer CDJ 2000. Plays audio files from SD card and USB media and the view button toggles function. The touchscreen has 2 views; the performance view and the library view. The performance view displays playing tracks. The library display, on the other hand, has a collection, playlist, and prepare window where you can swipe tracks right or left to load and prepare respectively. The SC500 is equipped with an EnginePrime technology, Denon DJ’s version of the rekordbox. It has shortcuts to do things quickly and a utility feature allows you to customize the equipment to your taste.

Key Features:

  • Pause/play buttons are square, not round like with pioneer
  • Loop knob is a lot simpler than on pioneer units
  • The jog wheel is silent and doesn’t have a mechanical feel to it, it also has a screen in the middle to show a logo of your choosing and the feel is controlled by a button
  • Has a button layout feature like you will find on a DJ controller
  • Doesn’t have a slot for CD
  • Two ports for USB input and a USB out port for 3rd party integration
  • Has two RCA outputs, one of the biggest features of the device. On the top is layer button which allows you to play 2 pieces of music without a laptop

Improvement: I will like to see instant doubles on this machine, as well as an option for software-style loop move and better beat grid management. I’d also like to have the freedom to add to or delete from playlists, reorder and save prepare as a playlist, a kind of playlist management unit. Playing music files from CDs would have been awesome.

Conclusion: There is so much to love with this device. First it’s the location of the media slot which is tucked away safely under the device and it plays for a while longer after the power is cut off. One of the biggest features of this device is the search button which displays a qwerty keyboard. You can search by album, artist, track title key or BPM.

Rating: 5.0

Pro DJ XDJ-700Pro DJ XDJ-700

Price: $699

XDJ-700

An XDJ makes this list because of its striking similarity with CDJ except it doesn’t have a CD drive. This XDJ was launched shortly after the XDJ1000. It shares a lot of similarities with its big brother the XDJ1000 save for its smaller jog wheels and lesser buttons. Unlike other CDJs and XDJs, some features are missing on it which are available on the touchscreen. The compact XDJ works best with a thumb drive if you’re a preparing for a club gig. The XDJ is a relatively less expensive CDJ for home use or bedroom setup and it is ideal for DJs who are used to controllers but don’t want to work with a laptop.

Key Features:

  • Crisp, clear and responsive touch screen which is easy to see and use even in a dark sweaty bar
  • Rekordbox feature
  • Fast selection keyboard
  • Detachable bottoms

Improvement: I don’t like that its incompatibility with DJ software and it uses an external power supply instead of a standard IEC cable which will require you to always have a propriety power brick. Also, there are no hot cue buttons and hot cues can only be triggered from the screen and it’s a bit smaller than other XDJs. There’s no beatjump and the jog wheel is mechanical and small which means you have to apply some pressure to do scratches and this may make it boring to use.

Conclusion: I liked that the touch screen is very nice and responsive. It works amazingly with a USB stick and put off a magnificent performance despite its small size.

Rating: 5.0

Pioneer DJ CDJ 850Pioneer CDJ-850

Price: $1369(a pair)

CDJ 850

This is an improvement from the CDJ-800MK2 which it replaced. The 3.3kg has a pc, USB and disc mode, you don’t have to use a jump drive as it can be hooked directly to a hard drive and pulls the music really fast and easy. What I consider the best feature is the hard drive. It’s easy to scroll through the collection of tracks from an input source. Just press enter, find the track you want to play. A major plus is the memory feature which allows you to save songs for later and all you need to do is push the memory button, press play and it picks up right where your memory left off. The CDJ 850 also has a browse feature which allows you to access other songs while your track is playing.

Key Features:

  • MIDI control
  • Resume function
  • Auto standby function
  • Rekordbox feature
  • A very clean, easy and friendly interface

Improvement: One would expect that as an upgrade from the 800 MK2 the 850 will pack more feature, wrong! There’s no link, no cue and no waveform. For some reason pioneer took away the feature where you can grab the deck, scratch it and reset, I don’t get it. What’s worse, it can’t be linked to my rekordbox and for $900 apiece, its considered a ‘bedroom deck’ The auto loop is quite disappointing with a maximum of 8 bars on a freaking next-generation $900 deck! The PC mode which should as a bare minimum be standard works terribly with software.

Conclusion: I find that proficiency in the CDJ 850 allows for a smooth transition to CDJ 2000 because of its similar features. The display is very nice and everything lights up nice and despite its flaws, the jog wheel works really nice and smooth which makes it fun to use.

Rating: 4.5

Pioneer DJ CDJ 2000Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000NXS2

Price 2,199

CDJ 2000NXS

The CDJ 2000Nexus is a major leap forward from the previous CDJ 1000. Its intimidating features makes it stand out among other CDJs in its class. Coming in black or white, the multi-format player is a professional CDJ which plays MP3, WAV, AIFF, and AAC digital music files from many sources including CD, DVD, USB storage and SD memory cards. One of the biggest features of the 4.6 kg equipment is the revolutionary music database software, Rekordbox. Rekordbox which is more creative and DJ-friendly allows a DJ to prepare before their performance and have access to tools such as hot cue banks and Quantize for an all the time perfectly synced loops. This data can be exported to USB or SD device for use during a live performance. It possesses Multiple Performance features for limitless creative possibilities control

Key Features:

  • Rekordbox music management software which works for PC/ Mac included
  • Advanced Human Interface Device and MIDI capabilities for native control of Digital Vinyl System DVS
  • Pro DJ link feature exports data from one USB device to all decks simultaneously through a local area network cable
  • Waveform Needle Search / Needle drop ribbon for easy access to files
  • Kensington lock feature included
  • 1-inch full-colour LCD fully touch screen

Improvement: it’s hard to find faults with this device other than it’s a lot heavier than the previous series and expensive.

Conclusion: The price is nothing compared to the satisfaction that comes with using the 2000Nexus. The jog wheels have a better upgrade and more fun to use than its predecessors and it is compatible with Traktor, Serato and MixVibes using the HID protocol.

Rating: 4.4

Pioneer DJ CDJ 900NexusPioneer DJ CDJ 900Nexus

Price: $1397

CDJ 900Nexus

The CDJ 900Nexus is an equipment for a professional DJ in a digital era. It plays digital music files from CD and USB storage. It’s the first CDJ in pioneer series with LAN capability and can be connected to two laptops simultaneously. It is a little heavy coming at 3.9kg and beat divider buttons enhance the experience. It has an emergency beatmatch button, the sync; use it but don’t get used to it, and the slip and quantize buttons offer endless DJing possibilities.

Key Features:

  • MIDI control
  • ProDJ link feature
  • Smooth Rekordbox connecting feature
  • Has a Wolfson DAC processor and an inbuilt 24-bit/48 kHz sound card
  • Rotatory selector and Kensington lock.
  • Flat and pretty high-resolution display screen which offers both an overview waveform for the entire track, and a larger zoomable waveform display.

Improvement: I found that it doesn’t support Traktor software in HID mode and if I plug in a drive of more than 64GB it freezes. Guess I have to stick to 64GB and less.

Conclusion: I highly recommend it for professional use and this is because the jog wheels have a better upgrade from the CDJ 800 and it has a beat divider which makes it fun to use. The device also charges your smartphone when using a mobile rekordbox, yes, it does.

Rating: 4.0