You know that feeling you get when you hop into a car you’ll never be rich enough to own? It’s full of fascinating technology, everything works great, it’s solidly built, it definitely won’t fit into the “compact” spots at 7-11 — and it just doesn’t care. If you’re a DJ, entering the world of Pioneer’s DJM-2000 is a little bit like that. Read on for our impressions of the multitouch-laced behemoth to see if it’ll have you raving all the way to 2012
Hanging with the big manIn an era of increasingly Liliputian sound gear, this Bentley of a mixer is decidedly gigantic. The DJM-2000 will take up a 17″ x 15″ spot in your coffin, and it weighs in at more than 20 pounds. You could travel with it, but you might want a roll with a Daft Punk-sized road crew to help you cart it around.
This mixer sits at the very top of Pioneer’s DJ line, so you can kind of take the basics for granted. The faders slide and resist just the way we like them to. All of the switches, knobs, buttons, and LED’s look and feel professional. The enclosure itself feels like a tank — while we wouldn’t want to see what happened if we dropped it, somehow it gives off the impression that it could take a licking and still do its job admirably.
One of our favorite features is the set of eight channels of 24-bit/96 kHz audio onboard. The DJM-2000 runs via USB to your computer, where you’d presumably tell your DJ software where to route the jams. Each of the four channels on the DJM-2000 has a traditional line / phono switch, but with a very cool “USB” position as well. So — surprise surprise! — you won’t even need any actual decks to get rolling. Just a computer with some music on it. What you won’t get are jog wheels of any type — so you can’t completely abandon whatever control method you’re already using for this one box.
The sound coming out of the D/A converters buried within is thick and substantial. We can say with confidence that this is definitely the best-sounding digital DJ interface we’ve laid ears on.
If you’ve ever used one of Pioneer’s effects-laden mixers, you’ll know they’re a lot of fun to mess with. No exception here: highly-assignable and programmable beat and harmony effects take up a lot of space on the face of the DJM-2000, and with good reason. We ended up spending more time experimenting with different knob-tweaking permutations than we did with… the touch screen.
Touching the freqs
The first thing you’ll notice upon powering up is Pioneer’s pièce de résistance: a 4.5- x 2.75-inch multitouch screen sitting right on top of the crossfader. Three buttons handle the screen’s destiny: MIDI, MIX, and REMIX.
Such a fancy piece of gear would be remiss without its fair share of MIDI. The touchscreen itself can become a controller: we used preset control screens to trigger tracks in Traktor Pro. Virtual sliders, X-Y fields, and buttons will send MIDI over USB, a very handy feature to keep most of your triggering functions close to the center of your rig.
The REMIX interface is a bit like a Kaoss Pad in the mix. An X-Y frequency-time grid controls four oscillators, a re-sampler, and pitch / gate effects, with handy frequency-based triggering to set the sounds in time with the beat.
What you’ll see advertised the most about this piece of kit is FREQUENCY MIX — a touch crossfader that allows you to control the balance of the sound over 7 bands of EQ. This is the thing your geeky friends will want to see first, and the effect is kind of exhilarating. Being able to have such fine and intuitive control over the different sonic areas of your inputs is a breath of fresh air — it will certainly put a smile on your friends’ faces. We noticed that it came in the most handy with highlighting and blending particular parts of the mix we wouldn’t have noticed with a simple 3-band EQ.
That said, after a chunk of time with the Frequency Mix area, we found ourselves reverting to the traditional 3-band EQ to notch into specific frequencies. This is undoubtedly an act of habit. We imagine it will take quite a bit of time for jocks to be more comfortable touching into frequencies than tweaking knobs as they have been for decades.
The touchscreen itself, while not particularly high-resolution or beautiful, is as snappy as any hardware button we’ve ever used to trigger a MIDI note. We can’t say that about some other touch applications. Feeling like we could be able to trust a screen to respond quickly and reliably to ultra-timing-sensitive interaction was a new one for us; we certainly wouldn’t trust our iPads in the same way. We can’t stress this enough: the purpose-built touch interface feels just as reliable as a knob or fader. It’s obvious a lot of work went into optimizing this screen for the DJ.
The way it makes you feel
We know that there are, of course, lots of other options out there for taking your DJ sets into a highly-stylized future. LEMUR pioneered (no pun intended) the use of multitouch in the realm of audio and continues to innovate there. iOS DJ and MIDI applications are plentiful and useful tools for swiping, pinching, and tapping into an innovative mix. But we’ve gotta say, we’ve never seen a more tightly-integrated, stable, and functional implementation of multitouch display in an audio context.
Technically, nothing in the DJM-2000 is groundbreaking on its own, although there is one true “first” here — a touchscreen has not, to our knowledge, ever been inserted directly into a mass-produced mixer. But that’s not really the best part about this big black chunk of signal processing. Because all of the elements play so nicely together, we got a synergistic feeling from the components of DJM-2000: the creative potential hidden inside adds up to more than its discrete components belie. What we really thought once we got the hang of it was “it only does everything,” but another marketing team already snatched those words up. Homebrew audio freaks might be able to approximate something like this setup, but we certainly wouldn’t trust this much circuitry in da club unless it came from a giant like Pioneer.
Our verdict? If you’re among the growing group of people downsizing your kit for the sake of economy and convenience, we’d point you towards something like Native Instrument’s Traktor Kontrol S4. But if you’re still rocking turntables or CDJ’s and need to outfit the “boy’s room” in your Gulfstream or yacht with a new DJ mixer, you can do no better than the $3000 DJM-2000. (If you’re already hooked into Pioneer’s ecosystem of high-end CDJs, it makes even more sense for you, as there’s a bevy of DJ Link goodness here we haven’t even gone into.) It’s a pleasure to operate, and no matter how you feel, it’s just downright awesome to have a multitouch interface inside your mixer.
A parting note: no matter how awesome rigs like this make you feel, for the love of Tiësto: if your’e just getting into DJing, please go Behringer or Hercules. You’ll feel a lot less stupid when you spill your DJ beverage all over it and have to get a new one.