Last year, Pioneer DJ made a surprising move by joining forces with legendary synth designer Dave Smith, to create a sampler that was just as much at home in the DJ booth as it was in the studio Their partnership grew with the launch of the AS-1, a fully analog mono synth that we reviewed not all that long ago. While the SP-16 still remains a powerful tool, there seemed to be a gap with a large number of DJs who preferred using the CDJ format player. Enter the DJS-1000, part sampler, part sequencer, part midi controller, all in the shape of a CDJ-2000 box. In this review, we will be taking a look at Pioneer’s latest innovation, and how you can easily take your run of the mill DJ set to the next level.
What is it?
As I said above, the DJS-1000 is essentially a CDJ with sequencing, sampling, and midi controlling capabilities. It looks nearly identical to the decks we’ve all grown to love (or tired of). minus one major factor: there’s no jog wheel. Instead, there are 16 beat pads that can be used to either trigger individual sounds, play various notes in a scale of whatever sound each pad has been assigned to, control an external synth via MIDI, or even record on-the-fly sequences.
How does it work?
Depending on how it’s used, it can either be as simple as the provided RCA cable directly into the mixer like a regular CDJ and “pressing play”, or it can be connected to external MIDI devices and synths and used as a controller. There is also a direct in and out, which allows you to record and sample directly into the unit, and manipulate or slice loops to shreds. The DJS-1000 comes with a slew of sample banks from Sample Magic, and also allows you to load your own samples, loops, and more via a USB.
In terms of creating sequences, there multiple ways to create. The first and most obvious way is to press record and play patterns on the beat pads. There is also an editor that is accessible via the large 8-inch touchscreen that is from the CDJ-2000NX2. The other way is a more traditional method, which is by using the 16 triggers to “draw” patters, as found on most samplers, and also borrowed from the SP-16. And I should mention that, when using the pads to create your grooves, timing and velocity are recorded, which keep the human touch alive. The DJS-1000 caters to any sort of workflow, and this is a major plus for the unit. When it comes to effects, there are 8 built in, with the option to expand by using the audio out port. Filters, echoes, and more.
How does it all stay in time with your music you ask? Well, that depends on your level of patience. The simplest, and probably the best way, is to use the sync button. While this little button has caused much controversy on the standard CDJ line, in this unit it makes perfect sense to use it. To use it, press the master button on your main deck and press play on the DJS-1000. It will lock your sequences in. You can also do the reverse, by using 1000 as the master and any other decks as slaves. Should you want to really test your skills, or prevent things from sounding too rigid, there are also nudge buttons for speeding up and slowing down your rhythms, Tempo is adjustable by the slider that comes on all CJDS.
What do I think of it?
When I first saw a leaked image of the unit, I was both intrigued and unsure. Was it fake? How would it work exactly? Could Pioneer really pull it off? I can full-heartedly say, yes, they nailed it. Everything about the DJS-1000 is great. Its form factor is inviting. It’s intuitive and, most importantly, extremely fun to use. I say it every review. One of my three big deciding factors for a successful piece of gear is, do I actually enjoy using it enough to fully integrate it into my setup. Or at the very least, do I have fun when using whatever said piece of gear is. In this case, I’m actually very strongly considering ensuring this is part of my DJ rider (sponsor me, Pioneer?). It’s that great. Personally, I didn’t really make use of the on-screen sequencer. It works well but feels a bit like a DAW in a box, which I’m trying to avoid. I like touching things, and the off the cusp sequence building using the pads and triggers are my preferred method. I find the effects to be OK. The reverb is good for creating tension with buildups, but I would rather use external effects I’ve plugged into my mixer. I also really love that sample loading is a breeze, and is nearly identical to picking tracks on a CDJ.
Should you buy it?
If you are looking to expand your DJ setup, but do it in “baby steps”, or just really like the form factor of a CDJ, I would say yes absolutely.
Sometimes, when a company tries to create innovative products, they overshoot and over complicate whatever they are trying to do, thus rendering said thing either unusable or unappealing. This is absolutely not the case with the DJS-1000. Everything about the unit is straightforward and easy to understand after a solid 20 minutes of use. Perhaps the onscreen editor might be the biggest hurdle for some, but even then, it’s not a rocket science. The user manual is rather sparse, which is annoying, but the unit is meant to be touched. As I said previously, I’m strongly considering adding 1000 to my DJ rider, which is big for me. All in all, the Pioneer DJS-1000 is a total success. Oh and the price? Around $1200, which most of us would call a steal for a Pioneer product.
Pros: Familiar form factor, easy and fun to use, won’t break the bank
Cons: Onscreen editor might be daunting, the price could be an issue for some
Final Score: 10/10