Review & Video: Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000NXS2 Multi Player

Review Summary:

The CDJ-2000NXS2 players are perfect for the pro DJ who uses Rekordbox and DJs from USB, especially when set up properly so they're all networked together. If you play decent clubs, soon enough you'll be coming across these. Better get up to speed with Rekordbox, though, if you want to use them in most of the ways we discuss in this review. Oh, and they're insanely expensive, as you'd expect from a new professional flagship model.

CDJ-2000NXS2
  • CDJ-2000NXS2
  • Rating: 4.5
  • From: Pioneer DJ
  • Price: US$2399
  • Reviewed by:
  • On March 3, 2016
  • Last modified:March 29, 2016
CDJ2000NXS2

In this review we take a look at Pioneer DJ's new flagship multi player. Has it got what it takes to be the club standard for years to come?

Full CDJ-2000NXS2 Review

Pioneer gear is the standard in pro DJ booths, and the new flagship deck in Pioneer DJ's range is the CDJ-2000NXS2, a direct replacement for the CDJ-2000NXS, that brings with it a lot of refinements and new features designed to keep the unit at the forefront of digital technology.

So what are the big changes? Think massive improvements to the screen (it's bigger, has a better resolution and is now touchscreen), plus a lot more power under the cover for working better with Rekordbox, Pioneer's software solution for DJs. Indeed, just about the only thing we could find that isn't there in the new version that was in the old one is the venerable old fader start function, Pioneer presumably deciding that this is something today's users don't want.

An introduction to the CDJ-2000NXS2

Media

The CDJ-2000NXS2 plays from CDs, DVDs, SD cards, USB sticks - pretty much any format a modern digital DJ can throw at it.

If you're new to the concept, the CDJ-2000NXS2 is a hybrid media player that can do everything from letting you just slip a CD into it and play (the clue is still there in the name, unlike the XDJ-1000, which doesn't have the CD slot), to playing straight music files directly from a USB or an SD card, to - and this is Pioneer's preferred use case for the unit - playing a specially exported setlist, taken from Pioneer DJ's Rekordbox music library software running on a Mac or PC, via USB or SD.

In this use case, Rekordbox on the computer has already analysed the files for BPM, gain and key, and you've had the chance to add cue points, loops and tags, all ahead of time, exported to USB to go to the club with you. In other words, you can do everything that isn't directly related to performing those tunes in advance, and concentrate on the performance side of it when you're at a venue - no need to take your laptop with you.

All that said, Pioneer now has an add-on for Rekordbox called Rekordbox DJ, that lets you then go on and DJ with the software in the same way as you DJ with Serato DJ or Traktor, ie by plugging your laptop directly into compatible equipment, and the new NXS2 gear also works in this way too if that's your preference.

For best results you need to use Pioneer's Pro DJ Link feature and add an extra piece of networking hardware (a "switch") to the CDJs and mixer (the new DJM-900NXS2 is designed for the job), but once you have, you've constructed yourself what is basically a very impressive looking (and very expensive) DJ controller.

At the time of writing there's no word on Serato and Traktor HID compatibility as was possible with the old NXS gear, and whether or not this comes is an interesting point, now that Pioneer has its own fully fledged DJ software. For this review, we've exclusively tested with Rekordbox.

First impressions and setting up

Jogwheels

The CDJ-2000NXS2 sports a new matt finish, along with a more serious jogwheel lighting edge, giving it a more sombre, "pro" look.

The CDJ-2000NXS2 is very similar in appearance to the old model, but you soon start to see the differences. It's darker, and has a matt finish, as well as a more "serious" looking jogwheel edge that overall gives the unit a more "pro" feel. There are four instead of three hot cues, and a bank switch, giving you eight in total - a much needed catching up with software systems.

But the biggest difference is undeniably the screen. Bigger, higher resolution, and now touch sensitive, it is made of hard plastic, and is the single thing that brings these players closer to the experience of laptop DJing, because in all areas - search, waveforms, extra features - it is a huge leap forwards.

On the face of it, setting a pair of CDJ-2000NXS2 players up is as with all media players - plug them in and put an audio cable from the CDJ to the mixer. However, if you want to play from USB and use a single USB drive, you need to run an Ethernet cable between two players as a link, which is a simple enough job, and lets you use sync and share tracks between the two.

To go a stage further, though, and get them working with a DJM-900NXS2 mixer (in order to sync the beat effects tightly for instance), you need that external switch to network them all together, as mentioned earlier. It would have been good for Pioneer DJ to include this capability internally on its hardware with extra sockets to save this being the case.

Rear

Behind the unit you'll find an RCA output, a digital output for S/PDIF, a LAN port for connecting to another CDJ or network switch, and a power socket.

While not mission critical when DJing from a Rekordbox library on USB, were you to want to play straight from your laptop, "standard" DJ software style with Rekordbox DJ, overall we found that setting up in this way is currently quite tricky. Not only do you have to go through the loop just described, but as it turns out, you need to have all the firmware updated and compatible, as well as the right software add-ons installed on your laptop. As things stand right now, I wouldn't trust any club to have their side of the bargain done here, even if I were confident my laptop were ready for this.

In use

Screens

The screens on the CDJ-2000NXS2 are gorgeous and much larger than the original CDJ-2000NXS.

Frankly, a lot of the improvements here are bringing this gear up to speed with the very best laptop DJ systems, many of which have Pioneer hardware behind them anyway. While Pioneer hasn't gone the whole hog and added performance pads beneath each jogwheel like on the DDJ-RX and DDJ-RZ (its Rekordbox DJ controllers), the two banks of colour-coded hot cues giving you eight per track is a much-needed improvement over the three on the old NXS units. (Plus, you can now plug a Pioneer DJ DDJ-SP1 pad controller in via the USB socket on the back to use pads for hot cues, if you like, which is a neat idea.)

Likewise, the displays are now far better (you can see eight tracks at once rather than six on the old one, and more characters per line too), and although onboard screens won't likely ever be as good as having your library on a big laptop screen, there are huge improvements here, like a touchscreen Qwerty keyboard with instant search. The best thing, though, is a really cool new "filter" recommendation system that is worth explaining in a bit more depth, as this is actually one area where this DJ system moves past any software we can think of.

Basically, the filter system lets you filter your tunes in a staggering number of intelligent ways. It's like a mega "smart playlist". You can filter by BPM (including within a range), genre, key, "colour" like Serato (user definable), rating, and even your own tags (like "components - "contains saxophone" - a tag our very own Steve would use to actively avoid songs!), to give you recommendations of what might work next.

It works across players, and once you've set up your preferred filter "on the fly" (you do this at the player, you can't do it ahead of time in Rekordbox, although you can do it in Rekordbox DJ if you're playing directly from a laptop), you can switch your filter on and off within your current playlist with a single keystroke.

Sorting & Filtering

Browsing your library on the CDJ-2000NXS2 is made more intuitive thanks to its touchscreen and callable Qwerty keyboard, plus it's got a really powerful tag filtering recommendation system that rivals those found on laptop DJ software.

Also, while you're setting the parameters, it shows you top-right how many results are actually going to be left when you return to your playlist, so you'll know ahead of time that actually, you have no 80BPM deathcore tunes with a nice girly saxophone powering them along! It works excellently.

(Actually, there is a piece of software that lets you do something similar to this - the Beatport Pro library management app for Mac and PC - but that is purely an "ahead of time" app for iTunes-style playlist preparation. Just thought I'd mention that for completion's sake...)

Another big area where a NXS2 set-up now feels more like laptop DJing is waveforms: Not only can you switch from blue to better multi-frequency colour waveforms, but there is now a secondary parallel waveform system like Serato's that can replace the four-bar beat counter of old, making cross-player beatmatching hugely easier.

There's a nice countdown-to-marker function similar to Traktor. The way the latter works is that you can mark a future point in a track (by touching the "full" waveform at the bottom of the screen to drop a temporary marker), and then you get a beats/bars countdown to that point by the main waveform. (By the way, that small waveform is now the needle drop too, with the deck paused or just held with your hand, you can quickly scrub to anywhere in the track in this way. It's cool.)

Hot Cues

The CDJ-2000NXS2 now has two banks of four hot cues bringing the total up to eight just like most DJ controllers, plus a reverse slip switch which essentially acts as a "censor" button.

To roundup some of the smaller controllerism-like improvements, Pioneer DJ has also introduced better quantise (you can choose 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 beat as well as 1 beat, like before), there's now a "censor" aka "reverse slip" switch, there's a one-beat "beat jump" that lets you correct beatmixes that are out of phase, and in an improvement over the old NXS you can now easily switch between four and eight bar "instant loops", the same button also doubling up to give you an instant loop roll feature.

Speaking of loop roll, there is a big-buttoned but nonetheless touchscreen-reliant loop roll function, that may or may not be to your taste (I can see some DJs resisting using a touchscreen for performance features). That said, in practise it works nicely, and indeed there's a video on YouTube where Cotts & Ravine pour water on a unit and still perform on these just fine, which is testament to their reliability.

Finally, those that know tell us that the audio is much improved here too, although we've never had cause to moan about the audio quality of the old NXS units. Oh, one thing that will please many people that we haven't mentioned so far is that the units finally offer FLAC/ALAC support alongside the other touted improvements, so if one of these is your preferred music file format, you're (finally) in luck.

Conclusion

CDJ-2000NXS2 & DJM-900NXS2

The CDJ-2000NXS2 paired with the DJM-900NXS2 makes for an impressive all-singing, all-dancing club and touring set-up that can accommodate any modern digital DJ, whether playing through CDs, USB sticks, or with a laptop.

The CDJ-2000NXS2 players are perfect for the pro DJ who uses Rekordbox and DJs from USB, especially when set up properly so they're all networked together. In a club situation, you've got CD capability (lots of people still use CDs, of course), basic USB use, Rekordbox USB use, and - when they've ironed out the set-up woes and kinks - laptop DJing via Rekordbox DJ.

In the latter two cases, what you basically have here is a very big, very expensive DJ controller. But that said, certain features - the amazing new tag/filter system, and the innovative touchstrip, for example, actually exceed programs like Traktor and Serato, something we never thought we'd hear ourselves say for such a system.

Here's the bottom line: If you play decent clubs, soon enough you'll be coming across these. They're good, and you'll definitely like them. Better get up to speed with Rekordbox, though, if you want to use them in most of the ways we've discussed.

For most DJs reading this though, you can get an awful lot of the functionality here with a far cheaper DJ controller and a laptop. If you want to play only from your laptop, we'd recommend the Pioneer DDJ-SX or DDJ-SZ (if you'd like to use both Serato and Rekordbox), or the DDJ-RX or DDJ-RZ (if you're only interested in Rekordbox).

If you want to play from USB with Rekordbox, the XDJ-RX remains a fun and surprisingly capable controller, or to go a bit more pro, you could consider a pair of XDJ-1000s and a suitable mixer (see our separate review of the new DJM-900NXS for a good partner for such a set-up).

But if money is no object, and/or you're playing professionally and so the spend would be an investment rather than an expense, then networking up the new DJM-900NXS2 mixer with a pair of CDJ-2000NXS2 players would make an awesome home or touring DJ set-up. Of course you'll be able to bask in the knowledge that no club is better equipped than you are... (Check out our review of the companion Pioneer DJ DJM-900NXS2 mixer here.)

Review Summary:

The CDJ-2000NXS2 players are perfect for the pro DJ who uses Rekordbox and DJs from USB, especially when set up properly so they're all networked together. If you play decent clubs, soon enough you'll be coming across these. Better get up to speed with Rekordbox, though, if you want to use them in most of the ways we discuss in this review. Oh, and they're insanely expensive, as you'd expect from a new professional flagship model.

CDJ-2000NXS2

  • CDJ-2000NXS2
  • Rating: 4.5
  • From: Pioneer DJ
  • Price: US$2399
  • Reviewed by:
  • On March 3, 2016
  • Last modified:March 29, 2016

Talkthrough Video

What are your thoughts on Pioneer DJ's new flagship player? Think this is the way forward for digital club DJs, or do you think it's still playing catchup with DJ controllers? Let us know your thoughts below.

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Comments

  1. DJ Peter says:

    Search, Jog and SSD's
    Hello! Yesterday I was at a Pioneer event held by Tony Bostrom, Country Manager, Pioneer DJ Sweden. It was a combination of history vs future vs now and of course: the chance to have a hands on experience on all present Pioneer DJ products and to be able to ask questions and get answers directly from the horses mouth. I recommend everyone to go on a Pio event if you have the chance. I have the 2000NXS's and a something that's been bothering me is the ''Search''. When you press the search on the 2000NXS it's very slow and freezes and is just not very good. Doesn't matter what kind of USB or firmware you have. This is now fixed and is perfectly fluent in the NXS2. Another thing was the jog. It is a little noisy on the NXS but now it's a completely buttery smooth feeling to it. For a couple of months now, I've been using external 2,5'' SSD USB drives instead of USB sticks. I was not sure it would work without external power, but I've been running them with my 2000NXS running perfect and now i can confirm that it works flawless on the XDJ-700/1000 and 2000NXS2. The benefit is not so much on the players as when you do your exports, and also I could buy twice the storage for half the price and 5 times the speed compared to the best 128 GB USB-sticks. Just a couple of things that's important to me and that I have not seen anyone talk about here or anywhere else. ...only 1 problem going to an event like this: How to explain to my better half that I need to buy my new rig like now, and not at the end of this year. Help anyone?

    • Great to read your feedback on this :) They've definitely improved quite a bit from the NXS to add the functionality DJs want. Hmm, how to explain to your better half? That is a tricky one, haha. Basically, if you genuinely feel having this gear will benefit your DJing (and later, income), then they need to trust you. Try to show them how you'll make the spent money back and turn it into profit :) Best of luck!

  2. DJ Vintage says:

    Ok, let's see, if you tie them all together with an external switch, you have a standalone all-in-one controller with two player screens and on-board FX. If you use them with a laptop with RekordBox DJ you have ... an all-in-one controller. The only difference, modular (i.e. much more components and hooking up to do), bigger and very much more expensive.

    I am not saying they are not nice and in the pre-DJ software days these would have been wonderful to play on. But quite frankly, I can't say that I am jumping with enthusiasm and anticipation to go and play on a NXS2 setup. I am perfectly happy with my DDJ-SX now, probably my MCX8000 in the near future and I really don't think that this setup will add many (if any) things that I can't do now.

    I am seriously wondering how many (especially small to midsize) clubs will upgrade their current (NXS or older) gear to this setup in the upcoming years, being faced with many of their DJs bringing in their own gear (controllers).

    Are we looking at the last implementation of CDJ-style players for clubs here or is this upgrade enough to keep their current user-base on "club-gear"?

    As I said before, it's interesting times we live in.

    • I believe a lot of club owners will go with gear they trust - allowing people to bring in whatever gear they own might seem like a wildcard/too unpredictable. I agree with you, it's very interesting. Tons of DJs use controllers and it would change the opinion and stigma on them if clubs started implementing controller systems. This is definitely possible in smaller to midsize venues. Then again, I think a lot of large club owners will want to own the best quality gear, so they have to go with something that is trusted and well known.

      • DJ Vintage says:

        As has been shown by Phil, Ministry of Sound still has CDJ setups, but they are "backup", only to come out when DJs DON'T bring their own gear.

        At 7000 bucks a setup, I don't see them rushing out to change their NXS setups for NXS2 ones.

        And this is some serious money for the smaller clubs. If I were a club owner and was faced with DJ after DJ coming in with their own controller (sometimes literally placing them on top of the NXS players (LOL)), I'd really think three times before sinking that kind of money into what is arguably becoming less of a standard with working DJs than it once was.

        We will see what the future brings.

        • Ronnie EmJay says:

          The DJs I know who play at MoS are happy to take USB sticks. It's easier to carry them and some headphones and the Nexus models have sync if they need that.

          I have a feeling the really big clubs will sell off their Nexus sstems to the mid-level clubs and upgrade to Nexus 2 while the mid-levels can sell off their non-Nexus 2000s to smaller clubs who can finally sell off their CDJ350s etc to bars that only had a mixer.

  3. Arkadiusz Mikina says:

    Vintage!!!

    How you been? 😀

    1. Have you heard anything about XDJ-RX 4 channel version/successor please?

    2. How does XDJ-RX compare to this whole new club standard setup of Nexus2?

    3. Do you really reckon Pioneer's club setup (top models of CDJ/DJM) is becoming 'less of a standard with than it once was'?
    Thanks mate

    • DJ Vintage says:

      Hi Arkadiusz,

      Doing just fine, thanks! Yourself?

      On the club setup development:
      It's just my personal take on things and I have been wrong before :-).

      I have no inside(r) knowledge, Pioneer bosses do not confide in me. I just look at what is happening and try to figure out what would probably make sense to many people out there and try to put that in a future perspective.

      It's public knowledge that a growing number of rental companies are getting rid of Nexus sets, because of significantly lower rentals. Also that there is an increasing number of clubs welcoming DJs that bring their own gear and parking their Pioneer setups in the closet. And there is clearly - this site is a good example of that - an ever-increasing number of DJs who are not only well-versed in the use of their controller/laptop combination, but who are also beyond the point of worrying about their "brethren" about bringing a controller to the booth.

      I actually know of (good and busy) DJs who now charge extra if they are made to play on club gear rather than on the gear of their choice (i.e. their own controller).

      As for questions 1 & 2:
      1) I understand that there will be no XDJ-RX 4-channel controller
      2) This is a tough question. Sure there are differences, as both lovers and not-so-lovers of CDJ/DJM setups will be quick to point out. What matters though is not what the differences are between the gear, but the differences between what can be achieved with the gear in the hands of skilled DJs.
      And it's my personal and very humble opinion that there really isn't much left that you can do with a CDJ/DJM combination that you can't do with an XDJ-RX (bar the 4-decks of course and some FX and sticking in CDs). Not saying the other way around isn't true either - although here discussion already exists, but then the price starts to become a (prohibiting) factor.

      • Arkadiusz Mikina says:

        Hey Vintage

        Yeah, really good thanks 😀
        Just debating on what should I get now. I used to own DDJ-SZ but I sold it as I was moving continents and dragging it with me would be really a pain.
        So I'm thinking of:
        1. xdj-rx (maybe SL2/3 interface to enable this controller for DVS-all my music is mp3 but I am starting to buy vinyl records) + 2xSL1200
        2. wait for 4 channel/bigger version/successor to the xdj-rx (it has been over a year since xid-rx! C'mon Pioneer!!!) + 2x1200
        3. go for DDJ-SZ again (SZ2 is nowhere in sight - strange isn't it?) + 2xSL1200
        4. Go completely modular (was thinking of reloop rmx80 mixer - because it resembles Pioneer's mixers so much, one SL1200, one xdj-1000, SL2/3 interface and a midi controller for example Xone:k1)

        What I want from my setup:
        1. To be as flexible as possible (I want to be able to play analog vinyl records, DVS i.e. halfway analog-digital, and full digital DJing with software)
        2. Get as near to workflow/ecosystem of 'rekordboxed CDJs/DJM' as possible. I want to learn to DJ on current 'club standard gear' i.e. Pioneer's nexus1/2 in the privacy of my bedroom without actually spending $7000 on nexus2 setup. This way, when I show up at the club I will not shit my pants when seeing a nexus1/2 setup - if you know what I mean.
        3. I think that whatever I choose I will have to buy SL2/3 interface. Only because in a situation I show up in the club/bar where there are CDJs which are not 'rekordbox compatible' I can connect SL2/3 and use laptop with this to DJ using DVS for example. What I am trying to say is that external interface would be great to have instead of one built in the mixer like for example with xone:43C. I think.
        4. Would like to have the possibility to play (for example when I'm not DJing or just casually listening) full analog setup so analogy vinyl record on an analog SL1200 being sent to fully analog mixer before it gets sent to the monitors. This may very difficult to achieve from my understanding as almost all mixers now are digital (all Rane and Pioneer are digital, with some AH's also being digital) - not many choice there. I mean what? Allen's Xone:42? What's more I don't even know if I will be able to hear the difference between analog vinyl being sent thru fully analog mixer in comparison to a mixer with digital architecture?
        Certainly if I go for a 'hybrid controller' (DDJ-SZ) or all-in-one controller (xdi-rx) I will never get full analog setup as their built in mixers (standalone functionality) are digital in architecture - so even when I hook up 2xSL1200s to either of those controllers, there is no way - music will get 'digitized' in the process of going from the vinyl disc to the monitors.

        What I am treating as constants:
        1. I have a strong Macbook laptop already
        2. All my music is in mp3s but I am starting to buy analog vinyl records now...so that I can listen to them casually (and hopefully learn to DJ on fully analog setup too i.e. 2xSL1200s + mixer only which, as we both know is the hardest to learn/master)
        3. I do have 'a thing' for Pioneer products (in terms of their looks and feel/quality) - there is just something about them that I like. I am not so much of a fan of Rane mixers and AHs mixers (they feel and look a bit gimmicky/toyish)-but that's only my personal preference.

        What do you think please?
        Thank you very much.

        • Ronnie EmJay says:

          My practice setup in London is 1xTechnics SL1210mk5G plugged into NI Audio 8 with control vinyl, 1xPioneer CDJ2000 plugged in via USB to the laptop (or can use CD or USB control signals via the NI Audio 8 too), and a XONE K2 for mixing controls for Traktor Scratch. You can easily use 2xSL1200s in this setup to practice your vinyl mixing.. but as I first started off with analogue vinyl records I find a very microscopic delay between real vinyl and control vinyl.

          In the club if they have a Pioneer setup I take an IcyBox USB hub and plug in the CDJs and if it's available the DJM mixer. If I want to record the mix (as I usually do) I take the Xone K2 to mix internally Traktor and record and output to 1 channel of the club mixer.

  4. DJ Vintage says:

    I think this has just become a topic for the forums :-)

  5. Hi !

    I am about to invest in some cdj-2000NXS2 as an events promoter bringing DJs to my venues who often have cdjs on their tech rider.
    My big question is whether a NXS2 will be compatible with a NXS1....I am planning on buying only 2 and sometimes they might ask for 3 CDJs...in which case I will rent.
    Also will most DJs be OK with the NXS2 if they have NXS1 on the rider...?

    Thanks for your advice.
    V.

    • Hey! A bit late but someone may have the same question. Yes, you can do everything a little better on the Nxs2's compared to the Nexus. Very few and small differences to learn when playing. Now, since both Serato and Traktor are certified for the Nxs2 player/mixer, that won't be a problem. If you want to use a combo of Nexus/Nxs2's, make sure they have the latest firmware and there will be no problems. I upgraded to the Nxs2 setup a while ago and it took me literally minutes to get going, and I kept my Nexuses for the possibility to use three or four players when I want to do that. Now, there's no way someone can't perform on this setup. They can use Cd's, Usb drives, SD-Cards, Rekordbox prepared music, stream from Rekordbox/laptop or use it with software. If that isn't enough, book another DJ :) .

      You should also consider to invest in the DJM-900Nxs2. It's an even bigger upgrade with possibilities that doesn't exist on previous models. When that's on the raider, you can't go for an older model as you can't even connect all the equipment into them as you can with the Nxs2 mixer. The sound quality is also a big step up if that matters.

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