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Pioneer MEP-7000 Review

The new MEP-7000 media player is pitched as a jack-of-all-trades in the digital DJing domain. Mark Allan, resident at London club Peculiar Fruit and uplifting house producer, takes it for a test drive.

"I'm a typical working DJ, playing commercial nightclubs, but I have a passion for underground music so the rest of my time is spent in the studio working on productions. I use a wide range of kit when DJing, including CDJ CD decks, DVJ DVD decks, and Serato's digital vinyl system. Different venues and gigs require me to use different kit, but the MEP-7000 media player covers everything, apart from DVD video playback.

It looks like a typical twin CD deck system but can do so much more. It can play music from CD, data CD and DVD, hard drives and mp3 players. It's also a Midi controller, soundcard, karaoke machine and effects unit.

I've had the MEP-7000 for a couple of months now and I've been using it at practically all my gigs. The head unit works independently of the drive unit and comes as a package with Pioneer's DJS DJ software. Carrying the MEP means I have an instant back-up if I turn up somewhere and the decks are crap or there are no CDJs. I can just Midi in to Serato from the MEP so I'm never left short. All the functions in Serato can be made available on the MEP and the only thing missing right now is scratching on the jog-wheels.

Human Interface Device (HID) programming is on the way from all the different software manufacturers, including Serato, MixVibes, Traktor and Virtual Vinyl.

JOG-WHEELS

The scratching works really well and the MEP-7000 is really responsive, with the same sensitivity as the CDJ-1000. Simply press down on the wheel to engage the scratch and effects. There's a little bit of travel - about the same as the CDJ-400s. The scratch is as close to vinyl as you can get for such a small disc, but the wheel is too light for a long spin back.

There's a classic CDJ display above each deck with time display, BPM, pitch-bend and so on - great for quick references. Everything revolves around the centre display, with four navigation buttons at the top to access browse, mix, effects and utility. Underneath the screen there's a further six buttons to navigate within those menus. In browse, you'll find disc one and two, USB one (located at the back of the base unit), USB two (at the front), and then PC and playlists.

The screen is surprisingly clear and bright in both daylight and night conditions. Select the effects tab for a choice of three effects.

Album artwork is displayed with ID3 tag or CD-Text. I put a great deal of effort into making sure this is all sorted in iTunes along with key and BPM data, but unfortunately there's no direct iTunes XML playlist support.

PLAYLIST

The file browsing is so easy to use and really intuitive but sub folders for the playlists would be useful. It remembers all your cue, loops and memory points too, and like the CDJ series and all you need is one button to save and recall. This sort of information is vital for the auto mix feature.

The MEP can mix tracks within a playlist perfectly in time if they have cue points set in the right place, but be careful with the tempos, as it uses the first track as the starting point and matches the rest. Switch off BPM sync and it will do some funky transitions with the effects instead.

I've been using a USB stick and an external drive, which need to be formatted to Fat32. It works with iPods too but check yours is compatible. You can play from any of the devices and add files from audio CD, data CDR, hard drive, all at the same time. Two tracks can be played from the same drive simultaneously and I use a notebook drive that's powered by the USB, so it's the ultimate portable option.

The MEP plays audio CD, Wav, Aiff, AAC and mp3 from virtually any data CD, DVD and hard drive. Sometimes VBR files cause a little bit of latency and the wide pitch range isn't available on mp3. Being really picky, I'd love to be able to play 24-bit Aiffs, as I bounce my productions to this quality, but the MEP-7000 only supports CD quality files.

SOFTWARE CONTROL

I'm a Serato user but I've tested out the DJS software too. Pioneer have put in a lot of work to seamlessly integrate DJS with the MEP and the central display shows all the library information and the scratch is spot on.

DJS uses the MEP as a soundcard so a laptop can be integrated with just one cable to mix between all your other formats. It's great to know you can have a back-up of your music on an external drive, or even on some data DVDs, so if anything goes wrong with any device you can continue the set.

The MEP soundcard works with Mac and there are Asio drivers for PC, so it will work with any DJ software. The head unit is even available without the base unit and works as a Midi controller, but it's a shame to lose the soundcard in this scenario.

Looping is almost identical to the rest of the CDJ range, the only thing missing is loop in adjust. It's a shame not to be able to jump between more than one loop or hot cue button. There's zero latency when punching in loops so you hardly need to use the out adjust. The hot loop feature opens up the scope of this feature as it can be used as a hot cue.

I play lots of styles and use the loop regularly as an effect, to loop track beginnings and to be creative with the out adjust. You can use the loop alongside the effects too.

EFFECTS

There are two types of effects - scratch and break. There is normal scratching, plus trans (like crabbing on the crossfader) and bubble (cool for vocals and weird sounds).

My only criticism is with the trans, which doesn't link the BPM on the other deck. If a sample has no BPM reading or data stored, it won't chop in time with the other track.

Jet, roll and wah effects are all present and correct - perfect entry level effects and ones I can't live without. Touch the jog-wheel and the roll loops a portion of the music. And when you turn the wheel, it pitches that loop. It needs tightening up on the release though, and it only works in eighths of a beat.

IN THE MIX

The MEP-7000 is just like a pair of mini CDJ decks, a really tried and tested format that people are familiar with. I keep it in 10% mode and it's not particularly precise compared to the CDJ range. The build quality is fine and it's great to have the different pitch ranges, but it's difficult to get the accuracy required without stepping the pitch down and losing the range.

I use key lock most of the time and compared to other CDJs it sounds the same, if not better up to about 6%."

SPECS

PRICE: £1199

CONTACT: 01753 789789 / djsounds.net

TECH SPECS
* Hot loop and quick start
* Real-time seamless loop with loop adjust, out adjust and reloop
* Digital jog break, jet, roll & wah
* USB memory stick
* Cue/loop memory
* Shock-proof
* Touch-sensitive jog dial (80mm)
* Pitch bend, scratch
* Fader start/back cue start
* Relay play
* Master tempo
* BPM counter
* DJS software included

GEEK SPEAK
* Tempo control ranges of ±6%, 10%, 16% and 100%
* Front loading slot-in CD
* Auto and manual and instant cue
* 4.3" colour LCD screen
* 2 stereo RCA and digital output
* Format CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R/RW, MP3 MP3 MPEG-1 32kbps – 320 kbps/MPEG-2 16 kbps – 160 kbps
* MP3 folder search
* Video output (PAL/NTSC)
* Frequency response 4 Hz – 20 kHz
* Signal to noise ratio 115 dB or more (JEITA)
* Distortion 0,006 % (JEITA)
* Audio output level 2.0 V rms (1kHz, 0 dB)
* Power consumption 33 Watt

BUILD QUALITY 4.5
EASE OF USE 4
FEATURES 5
VALUE FOR MONEY 4
SOUND QUALITY 4.5

HYPE
Easy navigation, adapts to any gig, big screen, the right effects, karaoke, soundcard and software control with CDJ-style scratch.

GRIPE
Short pitch slider, limited playlists and no sub crates. It lacks ABC loop and cue slots, and the trans effect is not BPM linked to the other track.

"The MEP-7000 covers everything you could imagine doing in a DJ environment. My life in a box!"

TECH VERDICT (OUT OF 5) 4.5