Pioneer CDJ 900/2000…and why I sold my Serato SL3 box.

imagesHaving started to mix in the late 90s,  and being so happy with the 1200s, when the digital music revolution forced most of us to make a move, I opted for Serato – pretty early – after maybe one year from the release of the original SL1 interface, which I later upgraded to the SL3. SL1 was tragic audio performance in  my opinion compared to modern CDJs. SL3 was much more decent.

I used to be a  long time Serato Scratch Live user and supporter. Using it with my macbook pro, mainly as a music library, proved to be a good tool, but honestly I never loved the wiring involved in DVS solutions.

I’ve also always hated storing music on CDs – they can get stolen or scratched far too easily. They were  a nightmare to me. You never find the right one despite label printing, etc. once you grow a big collection. A big loss of time and wasted plastic and silver 🙂

When Pioneer came out with players that could read USB sticks, it looked like something everybody already wanted: a convenient way to store music in a cheap, solid are more eco-friendly way than burning tons of cds and printing labels.

Three years ago, I bought a couple of CDJ 900s and finally after some weeks of thought, I’ve happily sold the Serato SL3 interface. I thought I would not need Serato any more. I used to love it, but the new Pioneer wave of products kills it, in my opinion, if you don’t care about effects, sampling, etc. Some house djs do not care about that. I’d rather enjoy an isolator or some kind of hardware box. Still feels better to me. Maybe I’m an old school kind of guy, but I don’t care for Tracktor and Serato anymore. I just think organizing songs on your computer is great, don’t like to bring a laptop with me.

I ‘ve continued to use iTunes as usual for song management, like I was before,  (I used Serato only to browse my iTunes Playlists basically), in conjunction with RekordBox, which exports playlists and songs to a usb stick. Very easy, very practical. Rekordbox is not the greatest software, absolutely. But it basically does the job I need in a rather simple way. It imports playlists from iTunes, analyzes the tracks so track loading will be faster, and lets you export playlists to your usb stick. USB3  sticks are recommended if you don’t want spend half an hour each time loading a new playlist.

Test well your usb sticks as there are some rare incompatible ones.

For me, to be able to rely on organizing tracks in playlists that you can listen everywhere on your phone, and find them again on the cdjs, is really great. You get to know your music, again.

A couple years ago I upgraded to CDJ2000. They are much more precise than 900s, I assumed their jog and feeling would be pretty similar but that’s not the case imho. I kept a 900 as a third player.

They are faster and feel different in many aspects.

After some software updates, CDJ2000s have become really solid performers, even when used in conjunction with large usb sticks. I’m fully satisfied with them. Price is high but they keep their value. Buy second hand, and you won’t lose anything if you change your mind 🙂

A note about sticks. I thought usb sticks would be more reliable than CDs. This might be true, but I had two usb sticks failing in one year of use. So bring at least two usb sticks and remember the ethernet cable to link the players. Having a backup of your library on an additional usb stick is cheap and easy today.

To make a long story short, I am truly amazed in how much simpler my setup went. Sometimes if feels got to go back to basics and eliminate something from our setups. I am an Apple lover and have great ability with Macs & stuff, but mixing without a laptop is more fun IMHO.

DACs. To improve sound quality I’ve been finding out that using the digital output of the CDJS and hooking up an external DAC like my PS audio digital link III you can definitely improve the player’s sound, despite all what Pioneer marketing says about their built-in DAC. It may be an unfair comparison of course.

The internal DAC is still a good performer and the difference might not worth the fuss unless you are really an audiophile freak, but midrange clarity especially on the voices was quite apparent in my test.

Pioneer fixes the CDJ 900 / CDJ 2000 Master Tempo Problem

Best audio discovery of 2012 (yet)….

The Master tempo / timestretch algorithm used by your digital source, CDJ or DVS (Serato, Traktor) IMHO is a HUGE factor in sound quality…

I’ve been doing a lot of personal research comparing the sound of different CDJs and DVS. I was a bit obsessed by the subject, which very few djs realize.

I was a SSL user for some years, then I abandoned Serato because of it’s horrible timestretch, ditched the whole laptop djing thing as I personally never liked so much to carry a laptop at a gig, and got the CDJ 900s. Loved them and loved the 2000s too, there are many good ideas in the product, but I  was really deceived discovering the huge master tempo bug.

On some songs, they were plainly Unlistenable using master tempo, which sometimes to do some tricks it’s rather useful (finding tempo on the fly on an acappella, etc) when pitching more than 3%. Sound was a chopped and the rhythm was altered.

Now with the 4.10 upgrade it is way way better. It sounds tremendously less chopped. I compared the two players, one after the upgrade, and one before (running os 4.05), playing the same song. Especially if master tempo is on and you try to pitch more than a few %, the difference it’s pretty obvious.

Thank you Pioneer. Some people still care about sound quality  more than having useless features, so don’t forget us!

February 2011 Mixer Update – Some Tips & Experiments

A quick update from Rotary

First customer receives a Model One

…in South Africa! S’fiso Khumalo posted on my facebook page:

“Thank you Matteo Ionescu, I’m so addicted to my rotary mixer’s sound quality. My old mixer is now relegated to it’s original packaging”.

Thank you S’fiso for your great feedback! Happy to know you love our first mixer!


Cricco Castelli tests the mixer at home: watch the videos

DJ & Producer Cricco Castelli, a name which needs no introduction in house music, testing his home setup. We are tweaking an analog setup with some sweet specially finished 1200s, Teac PA 4 phono preamp unit, and Genelec 1029a monitors.

Cricco has really encouraged me with it’s feedback, and we’re working close together to enhance your experience. He is really helping me understanding the potentials of this mixing instrument and how to make the maximum out of it. Watch these short videos..

Cricco is enjoying a lot the mixer and the sound coming from the speakers is really sweet…he is using also an SPL Vitalizer unit on the master output which enhances and excites the mix.

In the second video, the mix is furtherly enhanced by a compressor too, inserted  on the master output chain.

Very interesting results.

The model one music mixer is ESPECIALLY THOUGHT for integrating in a custom setup like this.

Design your own sound…add cool boxes to your mix.

We will experiment more and publish results and impressions.


Some quick lessons learnt:

A good vintage but perfectly usable dual Phono preamp enabling the model one mixer to work with your turntable setup with a great sound for 50€?

Yes, so it seems! The vintage TEAC PA4 unit is perfect for a turntable setup with the Model One mixer. It is a vintage unit of some decades ago, but still interesting. It is a dual RIAA preamp, so you need only one box for two turntables. Neat. I really recommend it – shouldn’t bee impossible to find on ebay or classified ad sites, sometimes as low as 50€. A great deal today.

Going for Active speakers? Genelec monitors  have PLENTY of gain. Highly recommended with the mixer.

And so they’re ideal with a passive, rotary mixer. Cricco has a couple of Genelec 1029a, I own a couple of 8040a, and they both work really great when connected to the rca outputs of the mixer, via a simple RCA to XLR adapter.

A simple solution for a great sound. That’s what me and Cricco said when commenting how cheap used Genelec monitors are – and with their built in protections, it’s hard to find a broken one. We are taking no money from Genelec, just an advice from somebody who owned three couples of them and never had a problem. They are not my home mixing setup, but my production monitors mainly. And they provide me good sound when writing newsletters like this one.

Every possibility is open, build your own mixer

The Model one rotary mixer is the basic element which provides pure mixing of two analog stereo channels. The purest mixing engine. You can experience it’s purity or add some fun, in your custom way. Add an exciter, an isolator, a filter on the master output? On the input channels? Everything is possible, and highly recommended to experiment!

That’s what I want to encourage you to do.  Nowadays studio hardware of some years ago is incredibly cheap and may be much more usable than software. Have fun. Experiment. Listen to the music and enjoy.