In the beginning, there was vinyl: twelve-inch disks of polyvinyl chloride which had to be placed onto a turntable, set to spin at the right speed, and played by dropping a needle onto them at the correct point. A DJ would have to lug hundreds of these giant coasters from gig to gig in massive metal chests, then juggle them throughout a set. Sure, a lot of people still consider the vinyl era to be the golden age of DJ’s, but it was hardly a convenient system for transporting a music library. The art of the turntable never truly died out, but by the time the ‘90s had arrived, the world was ready for a revolution.
Enter the CD: the shiny future, where an entire album could fit onto a disk less than five inches across. These holographic frisbees were lightweight, compact (hence the name!), and supposedly indestructible. Suddenly a DJ could carry a far greater music library in a case no larger than a Yorkshire Terrier, and the revolutionary CDJ could queue up the disks using time codes. We soon learnt that CD’s weren’t quite as “indestructible” as their inventors claimed, and that an invisible scratch could turn your beloved album into an unplayable glitch-hop nightmare. Yet despite its shortcomings, it seemed that the CD would dominate the decks for decades to come.
Pioneer, however, had other ideas. Earlier this month, the music tech giant announced the latest upgrade to its CDJ line. They call it the “XDJ-1000”, and there’s one thing missing… a slot for CD’s. Yep, Pioneer have decided that DJ’s in 2014 can do without the compact disk. Instead, the XDJ line will rely exclusively on digital media (USB sticks, portable hard drives etc.) to throw together a set. Goodbye giant metal case – a DJ can now bring their entire library to a gig in the pocket of their skin-tight jeans.
The deck itself features a full touchscreen interface, which makes a lot of sense in the era of smartphones and tablet computers. You’ll be able to mark important points in a track up to 64 bars before they drop, and colour-code your tracks for easier compiling. The familiar jog wheel and looping functions are still present, along with a simulated “Needle Search” which allows the user to slide their finger along a bar and play from any point in a track. Scratching is a breeze, and “Slip Mode” will effortlessly bring your track back to the correct time when you’re done.
Essentially, this device has the potential to kill CD’s stone dead. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and the ease of use is off the charts. There will always be a place for the skill and flair of vinyl DJ’s, but you can expect the XDJ line to start taking over the clubs pretty damned soon. After the recent sale of Pioneer to a private equity firm, it’s fantastic to see them continue their proud history of innovation. We’ll keep an eye on the progress of this new system, but from here, it already smells like the future. Check out Pioneer’s intro video for the XDJ below.