CDJs – Commonly Asked Questions

There’s a moment in your DJ life when you’ll be confronted with CDJs.

These big, futuristic devices can be daunting at first, but getting to understand them will be an important step in your career and will open new opportunities for you.

Let’s jump right in to the CDJs FAQ you always needed!

What are CDJs?

CDJ is the generic name (inherited from the original Pioneer CDJ 500) given to CD and digital media players that are designed to be used in professional situations like DJ sets.

CDJs allow DJs to apply several manipulation techniques directly derived from vinyl, like playing a track slower or faster or navigating the track and a lot of others that are not possible with just a turntable, like looping a section and analyzing the track’s BPM.

Modern CDJs allow digital audio playback from CDs, USB sticks and SD cards.

Why should I use CDJs?

World-wide, CDJs are the standard gear on clubs and serve as a common platform for DJs.

They are reliable, sturdy, professional and in general, serve as a good inversion for a club to make. Since DJs are not expected to bring their CDJs, and you know that you’ll find them almost everywhere, why shouldn’t you get familiar with them?

Also, a good DJ should be able to get through the night with any piece of gear available!

Once you start getting the hang of using them, you’ll see that all the different models are fairly similar, and you’ll know the pleasure of arriving to the venue with just a USB stick and your headphones!

Are CDJs hard to use?

Disclaimer: Most CDJs don’t have sync capabilities, so if you rely too much in it when doing digital DJing, you may miss it at first.

That being said, mixing with CDJs is like a hybrid between laptop and vinyl DJing, since you are beat-matching by ear -turntable style- but with tons of visual feedback and digital mixing capabilities, not unlike you would find on software.

Pioneer CDJs use Rekordbox, a software that analyzes BPM and key of your tracks.

This information will then be displayed on the screen of the CDJs, along with the cue points you decide to set as reminders.

This could be useful since if you know the BPM of the tracks you need to mix, you’ll be a step nearer of beat-matching them successfully.

Another useful facility CDJs have is the possibility of linking them via ethernet cable, which will allow you to navigate the USB stick or SD card you connect on one of units from both of them.

Is buying CDJs worth it?

I know, I know, they are expensive. But if you are considering getting serious on this DJ thing, you should learn how to use CDJs, and the best way of achieving this is having a pair.

Maybe you can look for used CDJs, specially for cheaper models, since lots of the functions on higher tier CDJs are secondary.

A few older models like the Pioneer CDJ 800mk2 have CD-only support, which could be all you need if you are a CD guy.

The Pioneer CDJ 850 are USB compatible and although they feel plastic, remember that you are not expected to bring your CDJs to the venue, so build quality is not as important as in regular gigging gear.

In case you absolutely can’t buy a pair of CDJs, it’s not rare for DJ schools to let DJs practice for a fee.

If you can arrange a few sessions and do your homework (reading manuals, googling, asking questions), maybe this is a decent way to start.

Are CDJs better than controllers?

I don’t know, are hot dogs better than burgers?

CDJs are just another way of mixing music: If you are a wonderful selector on laptop, you can be one on CDJs as well!

The point is that knowing and understanding different techniques and technologies will help you professionalize and will make you more versatile.

Imagine getting offered a gig but there is no room in the cabin for your laptop and giant controller. Would you let the opportunity slip?

What audio formats can CDJs play?

From the very first Pioneer CDJ-500 launched in 1994 to Pioneer’s current flagship model CDJ-2000NXS2, CDJs have come a long way in terms of features, design and digital audio capabilities. In terms of audio formats, older formats are ubiquitous among CDJs.

These boil down to two types of formats: Lossless and compressed. Lossless formats like WAV and AIFF offer “full quality” audio since these are the formats in which music is recorded and worked on.

Generally, lossless audio offer you best audio quality with the trade-off of bigger files. These formats the way to go for clubs with very high-end PAs and all CDJs are compatible with them, so you might want to use them.

Compressed formats like MP3 and AAC offer you best size ‘value’ and are OK most of the times, if you use the higher settings. Most CDJs can read these compressed formats.

Some modern CDJs can read FLAC and ALAC, which are compressed lossless audio formats that offer a little reduction of file sizes without compromising audio quality.

Take a look at this chart for more info.

Model Plays Sources
CDJ-2000NXS2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-2000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, SD, Mac, Win
XDJ-1000MK2 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, ALAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
XDJ-1000 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-1000MK3 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-1000MK2 CDA CD
CDJ-1000 CDA CD
CDJ-900NXS MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-900 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC CD
CDJ-850 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-800MK2 MP3, CDA CD
CDJ-800 CDA CD
XDJ-700 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, Mac, Win, iOS, Android
CDJ-400 MP3, CDA USB, CD
CDJ-350 MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC USB, CD
CDJ-100S CDA CD

Young Coconut is a music geek and musician who has written and recorded over 20 albums and still going strong. https://open.spotify.com/artist/1v3iPVEXzurahTI2Tm4Tpm His music ranges from rock, to electronic, experimental, and all points in between. He can be found recording at least 2 x per week at one of his favourite recording haunts.
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