The Gemini CDJ-700 is a good budget media player, that gives you a lot for your money. For DJs who want versatility and to learn on CDJs rather than a controller (but still using digital files, and even still using software), I think these are awesome. You can forgive any foibles when you look at the price point: and coupled with a laptop running Virtual DJ, have the equivalent of a really decent DJ controller/software set-up and a passable CDJ set-up. if you’re a CD DJ who wants an affordable set-up at home to practise on, or if you’re a digital DJ who wants to also be comfortable on Pioneers CDJs, a pair of CDJ-700s can give you what you need for a small fraction of the price of bigger brand gear.
First Impressions / Setting up
The Gemini CDJ-700s are strikingly like the Pioneer CDJs. The jogwheel design especially, with its Pioneer-style centre dual colour ring, is pretty much lifted straight from the CDJ range. Clever, if me-too, marketing; these are plainly aimed at people who feel Pioneer is trading on its name with what it charges for its pro-grade CDJs.
The touchscreen is colour, but small (smaller than an iPhone) and nowhere near the same quality, being much lower resolution and opaque in appearance. Nonetheless, it does mean Gemini can claim to have the only CDJ on the market with a full colour touchscreen. Again, a tick for the marketing department. They’re also undeniably more plasticky than the CDJ-2000s (which to be fair cost four times the amount). While built on a metal chassis, these are otherwise completely plastic in casing construction. I guess it’s a saving that Gemini thought was worth making to get them in at the exceedingly low price point where they reside.
They have a nice metal/rubber jogwheel, Pioneer-esque high quality cue and play/pause buttons, a long-throw pitch fader, and pretty much all the usual controls you associate with CDJs – hot cues, manual looping, skip and search, a direction button, old-school pitch bend, BPM adjust range, master tempo, start and stop speed adjusters.
One of the first things you notice on unboxing is that there’s an effects section. You also see the four big source select buttons, for switching between CD, USB, SD (one up on the CDJ-2000s there) and Midi control. Yup, they have full Midi control, and everything is mapped apart from the mechanical jogwheel tension adjust button. This is one of the reasons we think they will appeal to hybrid digital/CD DJs.
Round the back are RCA outs, a digital out, a USB for your computer, and the power switch plus socket for the detachable power lead.
Despite the plastic construction and slightly unrefined feel, this is a solid performer. The CDs load fast, and control is tight and dependable. The lit rings work exactly as Pioneer’s do, pitch adjustment is possible down to 1/50th of a BPM, and the touchscreen – while limited in practice due to its size (and the fact that all of its controls are available elsewhere) – does nonetheless have waveform display and is clear, even though it has an opaque plastic covering. I liked being able to navigate folders using it.
It’s good to be able to DJ off USB or SD card, but the biggest attraction for digital DJs is the fact that it works with Virtual DJ and Traktor. We only had time to check out the Virtual DJ integration, but that was impressive indeed, with track display on the touchscreen, and tight jogwheel mapping via HID.
The Traktor mapping is available on the Gemini site: make sure you load it twice (once for each deck), and don’t expect particularly pleasing jogwheel control, if past experiences with CDJ mappings to Traktor are any guideline (please, if someone’s done this, let us know how you got on). Unfortunately we didn’t have editorial time to jump through the loops to get this working so it would be remiss of me to comment further on how good it is or isn’t overall; Virtual DJ control is native which is why we can let you know that it works, and works well.
The on-board effects are absolutely nothing to write home about; they’re matched to BPM but pretty fixed. They can be controlled with the jogwheel, and I guess the filter will be the most useful, although it sounded more like EQ to me, with very little pleasing resonance in the sound. I certainly wouldn’t use any of them. The jogs have an adjuster between heavy and light, but in reality it’s between heavy and very heavy. Don’t expect to do turntablist tricks on these. While there is the usual vinyl/CDJ setting, they’re much better suited to mixing than scratching.
For DJs who want versatility and to learn on CDJs rather than a controller (but still using digital files, and even still using software), I think these are awesome. You can forgive any foibles when you look at the price point: I’ve seen these for around US$500, so for around US$1200, you could have a pair of CDJ-700s and a two-channel mixer, and coupled with a laptop running Virtual DJ, have the equivalent of a really decent DJ controller/software set-up and a passable CDJ set-up.
Make no mistake: If you want to learn to DJ on CDJs so that when you roll into a pro DJ box you can use their Pioneers without as much as a second glance, the Gemini CDJ700s will give you all of this, with US$3000 change from buying a pair of CDJ-2000s.
You can’t network them together like the CDJ2000s, and they’re not designed to use Pioneer’s Rekordbox software (not a great shortfall in my book, but worth mentioning nonetheless), but the basic feel and workflow is all there. I’d also have no qualms about using them professionally, for instance in a mobile set-up.
So as a laptop DJ with pro DJ booth aspirations, your DJ training could go like this: Learn on Virtual DJ. Buy Virtual DJ Pro (to unlock the use of external controllers). Buy a pair of these and a mixer. (By the way, you can use their decent-quality internal soundcard in software). DJ straight from Virtual DJ but using these to control your software.
At this point you’re the same as any controller/laptop DJ, but you’re using full-sized, pro-feeling gear that’s not so different from that in a typical DJ booth. Now, when you’re feeling bold, train yourself to manually beatmatch. Once you get there, dare to turn off the computer and DJ from USB drives instead. And there you go – you’ve made the switch from using a laptop to being ready to play in pro DJ booths, on gear costing not much more that US$1000.
Gemini has been making a concerted attempt to forge a space for itself in the DJ world over recent years with its monitor speakers (successfully) and DJ controllers (less successfully, in my view), but with the CDJ-700s I think the company has hit the mark with something that’s a mix of imitation and innovation (rather than that just rebadging).
The short of it is, if you’re a CD DJ who wants an affordable set-up at home to practise on, or if you’re a digital DJ who wants to also be comfortable on Pioneers CDJs, a pair of CDJ-700s can give you what you need for a small fraction of the price of bigger brand gear.