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Tech Review: Pioneer XDJ-Aero

Pioneer’s new XDJ-Aero Controller gives DJs Wi Fi capabilities, but will its hi-tech wizardry fly high or come crashing down to the earth?

Pioneer have just released one of the most intriguing and hyped pieces of DJ equipment — the Pioneer XDJ-Aero. It's not often that a product can live up to the expectations that this kind of hype generates, but Pioneer have outdone themselves and have managed to create something truly revolutionary with the XDJ-Aero.
So what is it about the XDJ-Aero that's got the DJ community as a whole talking? Clearly, it would take more than one or two features to create such a buzz, and gimmicks simply do not cut it with us. This makes it all the more exciting to find a product that rethinks the way we do things as DJs, and also provides additional extras that enhance our lives by breathing new life into technology that most DJs already own.

The single biggest development that the XDJ-Aero has onboard is the support of Wi-Fi connections, which by itself doesn’t sound particularly earth-shattering but when combined with the new version of Rekordbox for PC, Mac as well iPhone, Android smart phones and tablets, it has a revolutionary impact. The XDJ-Aero supports up to four Wi-Fi devices being connected at the same time, as well as having a USB port on the top of the control surface to plug in USB storage devices — in addition to a USB connector on the back to plug in a PC or Mac. The new version of Rekordbox and the App allows DJs to listen to tracks, adjust the beat grids and create playlists while out and about or on a plane, train or automobile off their mobile devices, and then take this back to their lair to play tracks directly off their phone, laptop or USB stick on the XDJ-Aero.

CONTROLLER
The XDJ-Aero is a workstation-style controller featuring a DJM-style two-channel mixer in the centre with deck controllers either side. The mixer uses the same   high-quality components such as the faders and knobs found in the DJM range of mixers, and has a three-band EQ on each of its two channels along with a filter knob that is placed directly above the channel faders. The channel inputs can be selected to accept external inputs from phono/line inputs or the internal decks, although there are only two external inputs on the back. This means that DJs need to choose one or the other, rather than having the option of connecting two lines and two phono inputs at the same time.

The deck controllers are exceptional, with a decent-sized jog wheel that is extremely smooth to use and has fantastic resolution. While the jog wheels don’t have the same feel and size that the CDJ-2000s do, they are a joy to use and will gain popularity with DJs across the board — whether being used for smooth mixes or scratching/turntablism-style sets. All the usual play and cue buttons, pitch faders along with a pitch fader button — to select the amount of pitch the fader controls — can be found on the Aero.
There is now a new master-tempo button and a sync button included in the mix. The sync buttons give Traktor-style capabilities to DJs, as once engaged — as long as the tracks have been analyzed using Rekordbox — everything snaps into place, with tight beat-matched mixing! An area of great contention amongst DJs...

BUTTONS
Above the jog wheels are four FX select buttons engaging either Trans, Flanger, Echo or Roll effects along with knobs either side of the buttons to select the beat length of the effects — as well as a Level/Depth knob. The effect engage buttons can also be used to trigger samples once the Sample Launch button found to the left hand side has been selected. At the top of each deck section is a rather small LCD display which, although disappointing on first inspection, makes a lot more sense once a device is connected wirelessly — but more on that later. At the top-left of each deck section are three buttons to enable selection of the source being played, such as a Rekordbox device connected wirelessly or a USB device connected using the port on the control surface. There is a further button which turns on MIDI control to use the XDJ-Aero to control software such as Traktor.

SCREEN
Rather than put a large LCD display on each of the decks, Pioneer have opted to approach visual feedback in a rather unique way. This is by using the selector knob found on the right-hand side of the LCD to interact directly with a computer or mobile device — using this as a screen for the controller. This is a really rather cunning way to add an extra screen to the controller while also giving the flexibility of being able to place your mobile device or laptop in the most convenient position, and not being forced to continually look down at the XDJ-Aero to load tracks or browse menus. The screen of the Wi-Fi connected mobile device or the knob on XDJ-Aero can be used to load tracks, giving a choice of control without being confusing or clumsy. When used with a smart phone, browsing and loading works fantastically well, but when a laptop or tablet device is used all of a sudden the large screen of these devices comes into its own to give a truly breathtaking visual user experience that could never be achieved using LCD screens embedded into the XDJ-Aero. 


GAME CHANGER
While every DJ in the world would love to own a pair of CDJ-2000s, this is not a cheap purchase, it is the kind of purchase that will take months of saving or possibly years of paying off a loan to enjoy ownership. However, with the release of the CDJ-2000nexus, the game has been changed — and changed for the better. Now armed with a free copy of Rekordbox combined with an XDJ-Aero, DJ sets can be prepared and tracks matched to perfection before exporting them to a USB stick or smart phone to be played in the clubs on a pair of the CDJ2000nexus decks. This really is a game changer, given the competitive cost of the XDJ-Aero (especially when compared with the cost of two CDJ-2000s and a mixer). DJs can have everything they need to get their sets prepared and practiced for a fraction of the cost, and turn up to their gigs with just a pair of headphones and their smartphone — which everybody has these days. Pioneer have now given budding bedroom DJs the capability to get hands-on with their kit and be comfortable using it, knowing that when they step up to the top-of-the-range products in the clubs, they won’t feel intimidated.

The XDJ-Aero controller is extremely well built, and the features mean that it will more than hold its own against the plethora of controllers available on the market — as well as sharing more than a few features found on other Pioneer products such as the DJM range. While there are a few niggles to be found such as the pitch faders being shorter than most DJs would like, overall this is a killer package that will put Pioneer to the forefront of DJs' minds for many years to come.

VERDICT

Build quality8.0
Ease of use9.0
Features9.0
Value for money8.0
Sound Quality8.0

HYPE
Wi-Fi connectivity to smart phones, PCs and Macs along with killer feature list, great build quality and top notch mixer.

GRIPE
The pitch faders are shorter than most DJs would like, and there are a couple of features that are awaiting a software update to be brought to life.

A true game changer from Pioneer that connects seamlessly with their new Rekordbox software, and means DJs can prepare for their club sets using a Pioneer platform that not only won’t break the bank but will also work seamlessly with the CDJ-2000nexus CD players.

pioneer.eu

8.0/10