Pioneer XDJ-R1 Wireless DJ System Review
Overview: The Pioneer XDJ-R1 is a new all-in-one DJ system that can be used in many different ways and using many different combinations of media for music playback. The Pioneer XDJ-R1 can function as a two-deck DJ controller that can work with almost any DJ software of your choice (comes bundled with Virtual DJ LE). The XDJ-R1 can also function as a true standalone two channel DJ mixer, it can playback audio files directly from on-board USB flash/hard drives, and it can even be used in conjunction with Rekordbox and Remotebox in order to wirelessly control most of the DJ functions using compatible iOS & Android Wi-Fi enabled devices that are running the Rekordbox Pioneer DJ library software. The XDJ-R1 goes even a step further than the XDJ-AERO we reviewed late last year by adding dual CD slots in the front of the XDJ-R1 to allow users to playback music from CD’s. All of these functions can be performed on each deck individually meaning the DJ has the choice of using the XDJ-R1 in hybrid mode to mix between different tracks in various different playback modes.
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Review Video & Demo
Setup & First Impressions
The Pioneer XDJ-R1 has pretty good build quality overall. I personally feel that the Pioneer XDJ-R1 has a nice and sturdy feel to it and it even feels better than the older DDJ-S1 and DDJ-T1 controller models that came out a few years ago. The silver and black color scheme will please most DJ’s as everything looks and feels like other Pioneer CDJ and DJM model gear. The XDJ-R1 is thicker, wider, and heavier than the XDJ-AERO as the additional front-loading CD slots add weight and size to the unit. The unit is made up of mostly plastic but the top faceplate of the mixer portion is actually black brushed aluminum for added rigidity and the jog wheel tops are also aluminium. The unit as a whole is pretty big and we’d highly recommend a controller bag or case for users who plan on moving it from place to place.
The Pioneer XDJ-R1 allows DJ’s to mix and play music in four different modes. The First Playback mode of the Pioneer XDJ-R1 is USB hard drive or flash drive playback through the Rekordbox Music Library and DJ Management software & Remotebox App for iOS and Android devices. This is done through the use of Rekordbox managed USB drives where the music library is analyzed through the software. (Note – you can playback USB device audio files without having them analyzed by Rekordbox first, but it won’t work as smoothly, quickly, or as accurately as analyzed tracks).
The XDJ-R1 comes bundled with the newest edition of the Rekordbox & Remotebox song library software that can turn the XDJ-R1 into a wireless networking hub that other WIFI devices (computers, iOS, & Android) can connect to in order to control the mixing, volume, fading, effects, and many other functions of the XDJ-R1 from way across the room. When the XDJ-R1 is in Rekordbox/Remotebox mode, then DJ’s can use their wireless devices (that are setup on the same internal XDJ-R1 network) to build playlists, load songs from the library, and control faders/knobs using their devices.
One of the main differences between the XDJ-R1 and the XDJ-AERO is that the R1 only uses the App for controlling the software and playlists, while the AERO will allow up to four different devices to actually stream the music to the device. We tested this feature out on a laptop, an iPhone, and an iPad all with great success. Simply load the Remotebox software app onto the device, setup the network parameters and you’re ready to roll. With Remotebox, users can setup playlists, hotcues, loops, and songs on an easy to use touch screen device such as an iPad. Users of Remotebox can also use an X-Y axis touch-pad to alter effects parameters on the fly. There’s also a cool loop roll style function on the remotebox touch-screen that will allow users to jump between the various loop lengths on the fly.
The second mode that the XDJ-R1 can play in is the CD mode. The CD mode allows users to insert CD’s into the front slot-loading drives in order to playback music. This is another big difference between the XDJ-R1 and XDJ-AERO, as the AERO doesn’t include any CD slots for playback.
The third playback mode of the Pioneer XDJ-R1 is MIDI Mode. Pioneer provides users of the XDJ-R1 with a free Virtual DJ LE file on their website for download for those who want to use the XDJ-AERO as a MIDI controller. The MIDI mode function is not the XDJ-R1’s specialty, but I think it was a great move by Pioneer to make it easy to transition into and out of MIDI mode for those who want the extra functionality. The XDJ-R1 works nicely with Virtual DJ LE and the jog wheel response is also really nice in this mode. The XDJ-R1 can also be used with any other software if you are willing to program the MIDI buttons and jog wheels to the software of your choice (more advanced controller users will work this out) simply by connecting it to the computer and loading the supplied soundcard drivers from the supplied software disk.
The fourth mode of playback for the XDJ-R1 is the standalone mixer mode. The XDJ-AERO is a full out two channel mixer that can be used to connect CDJ’s or vinyl record decks for mixing and playback without the use of any computer or software.
The Pioneer XDJ-R1 has two decks built right into the unit that are located on the left and right sides of the mixing portion of the device. Each of these full-featured decks has the ability to playback music from a USB device, through MIDI DJ software (VDJ-LE for this test), or through the wireless Rekordbox/Remotebox program. Each Deck has three different mode buttons to select which style of deck you would like for it to represent. There is USB (for USB Hard/Flash drive Rekordbox playback), CD , and MIDI (computer software controller mode).
Each deck has an easy-to-read LED screen with the track information, Loop, Samples, effects, and the navigation options all clearly visible. The XDJ-AERO had a highlighted color screen but it seems that Pioneer opted for the “CDJ-850” style display instead. These screens also show track playback information when in MIDI mode using the software. The screens also have a bar at the bottom that indicates track position for quick cues and juggling. There is a small Track navigation knob and back button for file navigation just to the right of each screen. There is also a time button on the top left of each screen to toggle between time remaining and time elapsed for the track and there is an INFO/Utility button for changing many of the settings of the XDJ-R1 including sample volume and jog wheel touch-sensitivity.
On the top right corner of the first deck are the USB port for hard drives and a USB STOP button to end the USB playback mode. Both Decks share and access the same USB drive music for simultaneous playback and manipulation. I did not have any slowdown or issues when accessing the songs from the same or different folders on a single device. Everything was smooth and fast in operation after the songs were analyzed with Rekordbox.
The jog wheels are the new Pioneer standard metal top touch-sensitive style wheels with a LED light ring around the top outer edge. These jog wheels are similar to those found on the XDJ-AERO as they are also completely touch sensitive and they feel very high in resolution, but they are a bit taller in height overall. The jog wheels have a little give to them but nothing that would hinder the overall experience or make them feel cheap in any way. They have a metal top to them and a plastic ring around the outer edge that was very easy to use for nudging and speeding up the track while mixing. They were really easy and fun to scratch and back-cue with. The resolution was very high and the latency when using the jog wheels via Rekordbox and USB mode was flawless. The resolution of the jog wheels was also really high for Virtual DJ MIDI mode. It wasn’t perfect one-to-one in operation in MIDI mode, but it was darn close.
The Play/Pause Cue and Shift buttons are all normal pioneer expectations and there’s even a sync and master button for those who want to mix a bit easier. Each deck has its own set of four different effects that can be used independently or in combination with one another. Just as with the XDJ-AERO, there are Trans, Flanger, Echo, and Roll. There is a beat knob to the right and a Level Depth knob to the left to set the parameters of each effect to the desired need.
Each deck has an AUTO BEAT LOOP knob that automatically sets loops when pressed and can be grown or shrunk depending on the twist of the knob. The Auto Loop length will be shown on the display so users know which loop they are in. In USB and Rekordbox Mode, there is a group of three buttons under the jog wheel that work as Samples or Hot Cues depending on the Mode button indicator. When in sample mode, the three sample banks can be used at any time. Users can set samples by simply pressing a non-lit button at the point of the song where the sample is desired. Once the sample is saved per the loop length, the user can recall the sample by pressing and holding the sample button. Once the sample button is released, the sample will stop. If the sample button is continuously pressed, then the sample plays over and over in a loop according to the BPM of the currently playing track. When Hot Cue mode is engaged, the three buttons then turn into hot cue buttons that can be set by pressing a non-lit button at the point in the track where the hot cue is desired. Press shift and the hot cue button to delete it.
The Pitch sliders are pretty short but the resolution was really tight for my own personal mixing needs and the ranges can be switched between 6, 10, 16, and 100%. The Pioneer XDJ-R1 is truly a versatile machine with versatile decks. Each deck can be in either mode at any given time allowing users to mix between CD tracks, onboard USB tracks, and a MIDI controller all on-the-fly and seamlessly. It’s worth pointing out that the Pioneer XDJ-R1 decks are not mirrored as they are on other decks. It’s truly like having two CDJ’s side by side next to a mixer in terms of layout.
The mixing portion of the Pioneer XDJ-R1 feels a lot like a Pioneer DJM-250 or XDJ-AERO with a nice crisp crossfader which is suitable for scratching (when set to the scratch mode via the crossfader curve switch) and the linefaders are a bit stiffer for accurate line level mixing. Above the faders is the High/Low filter knob for each channel and the three-band full -kill EQ with Gain knobs which are all reinforced with metal posts underneath the plastic black caps for even extra support and durability. In the Middle of the mixer there’s a nice LED Line volume level indicator strip that lets you see both the Master and channel levels simultaneously. Each channel has a Deck or Line/PHONO switch so the user can switch between the standalone mixer external decks or the jog wheel decks already on-board. To the left is the headphones section with a Master/CUE mix knob and a volume knob to control what is being monitored. There are also LED buttons below the Level meters for CH1 and CH2 cueing. To the right, there is a MIC volume level knob and a Low/High EQ knob with an ON/OFF button to round out the microphone controls. All the way at the top-middle of the controller is the WLAN indicator that will let you know if the Remotebox wireless Wi-Fi function is on/off at a glance. The front of the mixer has the two headphone outputs (quarter-inch and eighth-inch) to choose from and there is one quarter-inch microphone input around the back.
Another cool feature on the XDJ-R1 is the inclusion of the Sound Color Effects that are found on the upper-end Pioneer DJM mixers. These blue LED buttons are used to create certain effects using the Filter knob for each channel to change the parameters. These four Sound Color effects are Noise, Pitch, Crush, and Filter. These Sound Color effects sound really good and they are very fun to use in conjunction with the other four on-board effects that are already built-in.
The Pioneer XDJ-R1 is a true two-channel mixer with 3-band full-kill EQ’s and High Low Pass filters for each channel. On the back of the XDJ-R1 is the Master XLR Balanced outputs, RCA Master output two, and the RCA unbalanced Booth outputs. There is also a LINE or PHONO level input for each channel along with a ground post for you vinyl deck grounding wires where applicable. There’s also an Auxiliary RCA input that has a switch that amps the input 12db for smaller portable devices that need a volume-boost. There are separate volume controls for the Master and Booth outputs, while there’s also a separate volume control for the Aux level input.
The new Pioneer Remotebox App works with Android and iOS devices and allows DJ’s to play mix and play music without even touching the XDJ-R1. Users can utilize the touchscreen app to control the crossfader, linefaders, EQ’s, and to load tracks. Furthermore, the touchscreen turns into an X-Y axis pad that allows users to combine the beat effects and the sound color effects for some really nice sweeping effect action. In order to activate the Wireless Remotebox feature, users must use the XDJ-R1’s utility menu to activate the internal WLAN so the other devices can connect to it. Once the connection is initiated, users can then take control of the XDJ-R1 wirelessly.
Conclusion / Recommended For
In Conclusion, I had a blast using the Pioneer XDJ-R1. The Pioneer XDJ-R1 was very versatile and this allowed me to mix tracks found directly on the inserted USB devices, MP3-CD’s, and tracks in my Traktor Library. I was even able to use the Remotebox App on my iPhone and iPad to DJ wirelessly over Wi-Fi connection at any time. I can even plug in my vinyl decks and a DVS soundcard and use the MIDI functions for a totally different DJ setup. The XDJ-R1 is also a stand-alone mixer as well. The new jog wheels have very high latency no matter which playback mode you use and the crossfader is well suited for scratching and juggling. There’s a full feature set with on-board effects, sample banks, Auto Loop controls, filters, full-kill EQ’s, and hotcues .
The only real gripe that I could find with the XDJ-R1 is that its rather thick and bulky when compared to most other controllers, but it probably had to be this shape and size for all of the features packed inside. Other than this minor issue, the XDJ-R1 is a solid all-in-one DJ system that gives DJ’s so many playback options that it can be used in many different setups in many different ways. I recommend the Pioneer XDJ-R1 to any user (especially Mobile DJ's) who needs a mixture of different media playback types including CD’s, USB drives, and MIDI control for their DJ setup.
Pros & Cons
- Versatile All-in-One DJ System (Remotebox, Mixer, USB Drives, CD, & MIDI)
- High Resolution-Low Latency Aluminum-top Jog Wheels
- Nice standard Pioneer crossfader suitable for Scratching & Mixing
- Full Feature-Set: Effects, Hotcues, Samples, Loops, Filters, Full-Kill EQ
- Separate Master and Booth Output knobs for monitoring
- A bit Heavy and Bulky
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