Recently, Pioneer DJ released the long-awaited successor to the CDJ-2000 line. The 2000s had been around for a decade and had gone years without any upgrades, which started to show towards the end of the line's life. Other brands began releasing cutting edge products and many were left wondering what Pioneer DJ had up their sleeve, especially after the release of the DJM-V10 earlier this year. Interestingly enough, while there was certainly much applause for the new player, a large portion of people were confused by what seemed to be a relatively modest update visually, although Pioneer DJ made it clear that it's what's on the inside that counts.
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on one of the first pairs, and in this review, we'll be discussing all the new features, my experience with the players, and whether it's worth your time to consider.
WHAT IS IT?
The CDJ-3000 is the next generation of media players from Pioneer DJ. It's been built from the ground up using the foundation of the 2000 line to create a modern player built to help artists perform their best. Although very similar in form, look, and name to the 2000s, the 3000s are Pioneer DJ's first flagship players to not include the CD drive. This is a major step for the brand, as this is a clear indication they are more or less finished with CDs - something we can't really blame them for. Sure, there will be a small group of artists who won't be pleased, but the vast majority of today's artists are using USB sticks.
Many of the key features from the 2000s are still present in the 3000s, but there are still plenty of new ones to separate the two, the biggest being the lack of a CD drive. The players are also seemingly quite a lot bigger than their predecessors. Although I didn't have a 2000 to compare with, I could tell they are taller/longer than before. The other largest key feature is the new 9-inch touch display that is significantly sharper and more vivid than before. The jog wheel now displays both the artwork and playhead position, and Pioneer DJ boasts this is their smoothest jog wheel to date.
Beyond that, the rest of the physical changes are smaller but welcome additions. These include new beat-jump buttons, 8 hot-cue buttons, advanced auto beat-loop buttons, and a new key sync feature that allows you to match the key of your tracks.
I mentioned earlier that Pioneer DJ put a big emphasis on the internals of the new players, and the CDJ-3000s feature the first-ever media players to include an MPU (micro-processing unit) to ensure the smoothest, rock-solid, experience possible. For a full list of features, click here.
When Pioneer DJ announced the 3000, I was definitely one of those people who were scratching their heads a bit. The player definitely looked great, and although I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, I felt a bit underwhelmed. Perhaps I was expecting them to have a solid response to Denon's new flagship player, including things like multi-deck support, WIFI, and streaming capabilities, but the 3000s had none of that. I saw someone had compared Pioneer DJ and Denon like Apple and Android. Where one focuses on cutting-edge new features, the other focuses more on smaller, incremental improvements to the overall user experience, and I have to say, that's certainly what it feels like here.
While I definitely appreciate what Denon is doing, it's an undeniable fact that after playing on CDJs for any length of time, being able to walk up, plug your music in, and be immediately comfortable with the equipment is crucial. Within the first few minutes, I felt very familiar with the 3000s, although there were plenty of new features to try out. For reference, my own setup is two XDJ-1000s and a PLX-500. It's safe to say the 3000s blew them out of the water. I will say that right off the bat, the most useful feature for me personally was the Slip mode. This is a performance feature I always use on my XDJs, so I was stoked to see they made it to the 3000s.
In the world of music tech journalism, after some time, you generally stop getting so hyped up on press releases for new products. I can't tell you how many times the words "innovative," "class-leading," and "industry standard" get thrown around. Nearly every brand is guilty of this. Pioneer DJ included. I will say though, that Pioneer has always, even on products I wasn't too fond of, provided a very solid experience. I can say without a doubt the 3000s are by far the smoothest players from Pioneer DJ I've ever used. The jog wheels do actually seem as good as they made them out to be.
The menu functionality has been revamped and is much easier to navigate. The new display options to view tracks in split waveforms are also very unique and allow you to better match the energy of your next track. This is especially helpful when mixing techno tracks. Sometimes a track doesn't quite mix as well as you thought it would, so being able to see how your next track stacks up to your current playing track in different areas can help you achieve tighter mixes.
One of the big new features is the Key Sync, but I didn't find it particularly useful for my style of mixing. I did try it on some more melodic tracks and found it to work pretty well, but I think it's something that should be used sparingly because it can seemingly remove a bit of the energy from some tracks.
Overall, I was very impressed with the CDJ-3000. Sure, it doesn't have some features we were expecting, but when you really think about the environments it's built for, and how important it is for current users to feel as comfortable as possible, you come to realize you don't really need those features. And who knows, maybe if enough people are really that concerned about not being able to stream, Pioneer DJ will address it. But in my experience as a DJ, I personally don't mind. The CDJ-3000 is built like a rock. Everything feels tight and I found no hiccups. Tracks load at a blazing fast speed, regardless of the source. Seeing as these are the top of the line players, they come with a top of the line price point, but they always have.