In our second entry in this series, we take a look at Rekordbox DJ. If you missed our first entry focusing on Traktor Pro, check it out here.
Update: check our detailed review of Rekorbox 5.0 here!
Rekordbox DJ is the in-house DJ performance software package from Pioneer DJ that came out last year and that has evolved very quickly since. Pioneer DJ has added a host of features since, such as DVS and Video support.
Rekordbox DJ is actually an extension of Rekordbox, the track preparation software from Pioneer Dj that works in conjunction with their professional line of media players. Rekordbox is pretty much the industry standard of music preparation and performance for thousands of professional Djs around the world, and by adding the Rekordbox DJ performance add-on to it Pioneer DJ is capitalizing on a solid pre-existing base. You can basically go from your bedroom to the biggest arena in the world, plug your USB stick in and play away.
Midi controller support
Rekordbox DJ is designed to work with Pioneer DJ controllers only, the same as these controllers are made to work exclusively with Rekordbox DJ. Pioneer DJ is taking the closed ecosystem route that made Traktor Pro the tightly integrated DJ solution it is today, and so far it seems that this choice is paying off for Pioneer DJ.
So far, Pioneer DJ has released the following DJ controllers for Rekordbox DJ:
The DDJ-S* series that Pioneer DJ released during the last few years for Serato DJ (DDJ-SB2, DDJ-SX2 and the DDJ-SZ) are backward compatible with Rekordbox DJ as well.
Additionally, the media players XDJ-700 and XDJ-1000mk2 are compatible with Rekordbox DJ, meaning they can act as midi controllers for the Rekordbox DJ software.
Our top picks
Below is a list of Rekordbox DJ controllers that we recommend for professional use.
|The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RR is for sure our favorite Rekordbox DJ controller. Fully packed with features but still at a compact size, the DDJ-RR is a clear step up from the DDJ-SR. Get it at Amazon
|The Pioneer DJ DDJ-RX is the Rekordbox DJ version of the hugely popular DDJ-SX2, and it doesn’t disappoint. It even has sound color FX build into the mixer.
|If you have room to spare and the budget, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZ offers full-size CDJ like jog wheels and a DJM like mixer experience in a relatively compact unit. It’s fully packed with two USB inputs for easy DJ change overs, an oscillator, sound color FX and much more. Get it at Amazon
|A DDJ-RZ on steroids, that would be the very best way to call the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX. With all the features of the RZ and some more, the RZX has 3 bright high-resolution touchscreens for library, track and video manipulation. Get it at Amazon
The effects section in Rekordbox DJ is quite extensive and offers plenty of different options. Let’s break it down.
It’s possible to set different types of effects. Beat FX allows setting 3 effects at the same time or 1 effect with more extensive fine-tuning options, set to the BPM of the deck or manually by tap. The effects are Pioneer DJ quality, same that you will find on their high-end DJM mixers so needless to say, they sound very good.
The second option is the CFX (color effects) that, depending on your gear, can be controlled by specific knobs on the mixer or through the filter knob. Here you can or configure 1 effect for all the channels or different effects per channel. If your DJ controllers DJ mixer has built-in CFX, they are hardware and work with external inputs as well.
Lastly, Rekordbox DJ has also Release FX (echo, vinyl break, and backspin), ideal for transitions.
Using the performance pads
Rekordbox DJ has extensive performance features that can be accessed through the performance pads of a compatible DJ controller.
The performance features are extensive. It contains hot cues, pad fx (with different beat timed effects such as slip loop, trans, pitch, crush…) the slicer and beat jump. Every Pioneer DJ controller (with the exception of the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB2, were the pads double for the play/pause, cue, and shift buttons) supports these features through their velocity sensitive performance pads. These are really ideal for creative performance, bringing a personal touch to djing.
The sampler in Rekordbox DJ works as in most other DJ software. Samples can be set to one shots or continuous play and sync them, amongst other features. Launching samples happens through the performance pads on compatible controllers.
The Rekordbox DJ sequencer does what Flip does for Serato DJ: capture loops, edit them with the performance pads and record the result that can be stored in the software. Again, more possibilities to get creative and remix your tracks live.
Rekordbox doesn’t have an IOS/Android version of the Rekordbox DJ software, but it does have an IOS/Android app for music preparation. It is quite handy to prepare tracks on the go and then transfer them to your computer, but keep in mind that the transfer can only happen through wifi. I will look into the workflow in a separate piece in the near future.
Pioneer DJ recently brought out the WeDJ app, that mimics Rekordbox DJ on several points but it’s more directed to starting DJs. I will look into mobile DJ apps in a separate piece as well, including the WeDJ app.
Beatgridding & analysis
Rekordbox being originally a music preparation application, the options to organize, import, export and overall manage music are extensive. The same goes for the options for analyzing and correcting tracks. The interface to do this is very convenient as it is separate from the performance part, with a big central waveform to facilitate work.
When setting the track analysis options, it’s possible to go for a normal or dynamic analysis mode (in order to correctly beat grid tracks with variable bpm) and there is the option to set a bpm range as well. You can also analyze the key at the same time if you want to go for harmonic mixing.
Rekordbox DVS is the dedicated add-on for DVS (Digital Vinyl System) that costs € 109. You need the license to Rekordbox DJ and, of course, Rekordbox itself (which is free).
Rekordbox DVS has two modes:
- Absolute Mode: replicate the experience of scratching with traditional vinyl.
- Relative Mode: access digital features such as Hot Cues and Sync, and scratch freely – regardless of where the needle is on the Control Vinyl. Plus you can use Rekordbox MIDI Learn to assign features to your controller for even more flexibility, while keyboard shortcuts give you quick access to Hot Cues and other tricks straight from your laptop.
Check out the introduction video for more details below:
Rekordbox Video allows for video mixing and supports a range of controllers, the Pioneer DJ DDJ-RZX being the ideal (but very expensive) top choice. Rekordbox video allows you to mix live video coming from connected cameras, apply overlay text and effects to your video transitions, and more. Check out the video below for a tour of the Rekordbox Video features, and those of the DDJ-RZX.
So is Rekordbox DJ your DJ software of choice? It might be, but a few things are important to keep in mind when making your choice:
- Rekordbox DJ is a part of Rekordbox. The big advantage of this is that preparing your tracks in Rekordbox not only prepares them for Rekordbox DJ, but also for use with CDJ and XDJ media players from Pioneer DJ. So going from your bedroom to the club with your USB stick containing nicely beat gridded and prepared tracks is a breeze.
- If you need support for DVS and/or for video, Rekordbox is a good choice. Take into account that Pioneer DJ launched these modules only this year, so they might not be full bug-free and fully featured as some of the competitors.
- Lastly, Rekordbox DJ is tightly integrated with Pioneer DJ controllers, and with Pioneer DJ controllers only. This means optimal performance, but not much controller choice compared to other solutions.
- Rekordbox DJ is very performance-oriented, with a lot of ways to trigger effects, many functions behind the performance pads, and features such as a sampler & sequencer. If you are performance-oriented DJ, Rekordbox DJ won’t disappoint.
If all the above boxes tick off for you, Rekordbox DJ might well be your software of choice!
Next on the list: Serato DJ. Stay tuned!