The industry standard club mixer. Now includes per channel red clipping lights (to the relief of sound engineers the world over). Vastly improved effects and improved sound quality to 24 bit 96khz audio. Four channels, attenuated EQ and fader curves, independent send/return, 4 phono inputs and 2 USB ports and unparalleled integration with Pioneers own CDJ Nexus players and Rekordbox software. Its pricey, but its amazing – and if you want the mixer that’s in almost every serious venue on the planet – this is the one to get.
First Impressions / Setting up
It looks, as I say, as you’d expect any Pioneer mixer to look, with four channels, big Color FX knobs under each set of EQs, the mic controls down the left and the main FX down the right. There are a few cosmetic changes (it is darker and matt coloured, a bit deeper, one of the mic sockets has moved around the back to make way for twin USBs, and there’s a USB FX send/return for iPads etc – more on this later…), but you’ll know your way around it instantly if you’re used to DJing with club gear.
Round the back the Midi socket has been sacrificed to take the mic socket that’s moved from the top (remember, there’s an iPad USB presumably also for Midi now on top), and the ground poles for your Technics earth leads are now frankly huge (not sure why), but everything else is exactly as you’d expect from the previous DJM-900NXS.
Setting up involves plugging you audio ins and outs in and turning on, but if you want to use it synced up with a pair of CDJ-2000NXS2 players, for example, via Pro DJ Link you’ll need to use a network switch, as unlike the bigger DJM-2000 mixer, the DJM-900NXS2 only has one Ethernet socket so can’t be used as a hub, which is a shame. Once this is done though, it is possible to laptop DJ by plugging Rekordbox DJ straight into the mixer, which will then communicate directly with both CDJs.
We liked the two headphones sockets (you need never panic if you forget your 1/4″ to 1/8″ adaptor again), and the Magvel fader, which is a huge improvement over the frankly so-so faders in most Pioneer mixers to date (the exception being the recent DJM-S9).
One of the biggest single wins on the new mixer for us are the indicator lights. There are two “sets” of these. One is the per-channel “shit DJ” lights, that have now been added to show you, your sound engineer and anyone else who may be looking that you are so totally clipping your channels – they’re awesome and will make clubs sound better the world over. The other set are “FX live” lights to show you which channel your Beat FX are assigned to, which again, is a simple change but a welcome one, especially if you’re sharing the mixer with other DJs.
Twin USB sockets
Talking of sharing the mixer with other DJs, the DJM-900NXS2 has twin USBs meaning twin sound cards, so two DVS DJs can share the mixer by plugging their laptops in simultaneously, making DJ switchovers a smooth and wonderful thing (Pioneer has of course taken a leaf straight out of Rane’s book with this feature).
Wouldn’t it be good if this could work with all DJ software, including Traktor and Serato, for a truly universal plug and play system alongside a pair of CDJ-2000NXS2s? We can but hope for this somewhat unlikely outcome.
USB FX send/return
This is actually pretty awesome. You can now patch in an iPad for effects, for instance by routing in a Pioneer RMX-1000 via the iPad app that emulates every function of that unit, although any compatible app can work.
This could be the start of something really cool (who’d have though it eh? Apps for DJ mixers…). For instance, you could record your set via iPad, or injecting samples this way, even having a whole backup or pre-recorded set ready for before the venue fills up, or pre-dancing time at weddings (note: not at peak time, please, festival fakers…).
Massively improved FX
First, the Color FX. What started out as simply a filter knob under each channel’s EQs once upon a time has now become a whole ecosystem itself, with six FX available to you here (Space, Echo Dub, Sweep, Noise, Crush, Filter), and crucially, a new knob:
The “Parameter” knob controls something else about the effect in addition to the wet/dry (well, technically wet-dry-wet) combo knob for each channel. It is most obviously useful in taming the previously way-too-loud Noise effect, but having an extra parameter for all the effects here too is a welcome addition.
There are multiple improvements to the Beat FX too. Vinyl brake does what it says, with adjustable timings for slow or fast vinyl stop, and ping pong echo adds a frankly not very useful addition to the arsenal (why have a stereo echo when most club sound systems are mono anyway?).
The biggest single addition for me here are the low / mid / high buttons that lets you only apply an effect to a certain part of a track’s frequencies. Having a transformer on the voice (ie mid) as the bass drum and high hats hold the rhythm down uneffected is a beautiful thing indeed. Top marks to Pioneer for adding something different, practical, and fun here.
The X-pad is now also improved, because you get eight virtual buttons on it, that are lit from behind and change depending on the effect. The only way of changing beat values was with hardware buttons before, but now, you can do so by pressing the corresponding part of the X-pad when using compatible FX. In other modes, it works much as the old pad used to. The screen is much-improved too, and Pioneer DJ is catching up a bit with the amazing effects areas on the Allen & Heath Xone:DB mixers, for instance, here.
One thing Pioneer DJ stresses again and again about this mixer is the improved sound quality, so if 96kHz, 24-bit audio interfaces make you smile, start smiling.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes the saying, and so the DJM-900NXS2 is evolution rather than revolution. That said, some of the changes are pretty big: twin USBs, much improved FX, and the frankly awesome USB FX send/returns are the technological improvements that most jump out, while at the other end of the spectrum, those peak lights – “shame” level indicators – are so needed. Well done for those, Pioneer!
This is a solid advance on the previous model, and there is enough new here to make it a no-brainer if you’re choosing between the two. As part of a bigger set-up with a pair of CDJ-2000NXS2 players it clearly represents the ultimate Rekordbox DJ system – but one that does come at a considerable premium.
(See our CDJ-2000NXS2 review for more on this as a complete system.)