Pioneer’s New Rekordbox Will Be Fully Fledged DJ Software

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 2 October, 2018

Pioneer’s new “performance” Rekordbox software is a fully fledged DJ software program, which will be the first real competition for the three big names (Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ) in many years.

Pioneer has today teased a new version of its Rekordbox software that appears to be a fully featured DJ program, like Traktor, Serato, or Virtual DJ. If we’re right, this represents the company’s biggest assault yet on digital DJing, because it means we can expect a whole new set of DJ controllers from the company, custom designed to work with the software. Such a move could well make Pioneer the dominant name in digital DJing, from bedroom to DJ booth.

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The new Rekordbox version (“Rekordbox Performance”?) was teased in a one-minute video posted earlier today on YouTube, which shows DJ features very much like direct rivals Traktor, Serato and Virtual DJ – things like software FX, a full sampler (such as Serato’s SP1) and a slicer, alongside the loops, cues etc. already present in Rekordbox. (Remember, Rekordbox until now has been designed for use when preparing tracks to use on Pioneer’s club gear, typically via exporting prepared music to USB.) There is also a Record button and a Mixer button.

Pioneer Rekordbox deck
The layout of the new decks follows that of typical DJ controllers, and exactly follows that of the DDJ-SX2 and XDJ-1000.

A lot of these functions require the controls typically found on a DJ controller (such as performance pads, mixer etc), which is why we can say for sure that for the first time what we’re looking at here is fully fledged DJ software from Pioneer. This may be designed to be used with its existing controllers (ie the DDJ range for Serato, because the layout of the performance pads resembles that), but we think it’s more likely for a set of new controllers from the company.

Why this is potentially Pioneer’s killer move

Pioneer was late to the table with controller / software DJ gear. While the company has dominated DJ booths with its mixers and especially its CDJs worldwide for a decade and a half, it was slow to spot the controller revolution, and only in relatively recent years has it caught up, primarily with well liked DDJ range for Serato software, which has already given it a decent foothold in the controller market.

However, if we’re right and the company is about to launch a range of DJ controllers that can directly control its own new Rekordbox software, it may have just manoeuvred itself into an unassailable position. Because for the first time, new DJs will be able to buy a low-cost controller and use it with Rekordbox (just as they can do so now with Serato, Traktor etc), and then as they develop their skills and ambitions, upgrade to a “pro” controller (we’d expect a full range of devices from Pioneer to support this software). But then – crucially – those same DJs would be able to use the same software to prepare DJ sets to use with Pioneer’s pro gear, via USB, the way pro DJs are doing already in the clubs.

The FX section, with Pioneer's previously hardware only FX clearly visible plus "CFX" (crossfader FX?).
The FX section, with Pioneer’s previously hardware only FX clearly visible. There are also “CFX” (crossfader FX?).

There’s even a chance that this software will allow the user to plug directly from the laptop into Pioneer’s pro DJ gear in exactly the same way as Traktor, Serato etc. already can in HID mode. The bigger point is, though, that the same library, cue points, saved loops, analysis etc. will work across everything, via Rekordbox.

The sampler which appears to be pretty advanced, resembling the SP6 sampler in Serato DJ.
The sampler which appears to be pretty advanced, resembling the SP6 sampler in Serato DJ.

What that means is that for the first time, it appears Pioneer will shortly have its own in-house version of everything most digital DJs want, from the very beginner right up to the pros. If so, this could be the definitive move as the company guns for dominance both in and out of the DJ booth, with its own hardware and software at all levels. How funny to think that just last year some people were writing Pioneer DJ off because it was up for sale

What does this mean for the other players in the industry?

Looking at the big DJ software makers, it’s fascinating to see how this may play out. If Pioneer’s software is good, or at least develops into something that’s comparable to the core functions of Traktor and Serato, then it’s not hard to see that it could eat deeply into both of those companies’ markets. Pioneer has all the kudos of being the brand of choice in DJ booths, and now it will be able to continue to push that brand to consumers just as it already is, but without relying on anyone else’s software.

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If it succeeds in doing this, then we have to look at what the other big software companies have that Rekordbox doesn’t. The obvious saviour for Serato and Virtual DJ is video, something both do well and that Pioneer’s software is unlikely to have. In Serato’s case, its licensing ecosystem is a strength, meaning that there are many controllers from lots of different manufacturers that work (and work well) with it. Serato is also strong in digital vinyl, something that Rekordbox doesn’t touch on to date. (Although who knows? This is only a teaser, it could be in there…)

Meanwhile, Native Instruments has been genuinely innovating, with the partial success of its Traktor Remix Decks now followed by the far more exciting (to us) Stems DJ format. This is something that it’s hard to see Pioneer taking onboard (unless it has to, by virtue of Stems becoming a universal, runaway success – remember, Stems is open source…). So for DJ/producers who want to do a lot more than just “play tunes” when they play live, Native Instruments still has an angle of interest.

Watch this space for more…

While some of this is guesswork, we have been saying for a long time that this is something likely to happen. Pioneer can’t have been happy relying on other people’s software to power its hardware, and now it appears the company is doing something about it.

One of the questions we get asked a lot here at Digital DJ Tips is: “How can I transition from controller DJing to using pro gear in clubs?” If Pioneer can answer that question for DJs, we may well be seeing the start of the company’s stranglehold on mainstream DJing, from bedroom beginner to the big boys in the DJ booth. Time will tell, but we predict things are getting very interesting again…

The promo video

• Apply for the early adopter programme for the software here.

What do you think? Would you look forward to using Pioneer software with Pioneer controllers? Is this a decisive blow in the battle for digital DJing dominance? Please share your thoughts below…

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