DJ equipment can be tough to choose from due to different price points and “club level” equipment being predominantly CDJs. I’ve not been a fan of CDJs in the past however in recent years seeing how CDJs have evolved has impressed me.
Why DJs Still Use CDJs?
CDJs are flexible by nature as they allow DJs to mix with a DVS type setup mixing CDs with a laptop and DJ software. Also CDJs let DJs plug in memory sticks and also use CDs still. CDJs can be connected together allow for one memory stick to be used. Multiple CDJs can be connected together to DJ with more than 2 CDJs.
Looking into the core aspects that CDJs provide can really impress and help out the more intermediate to advanced DJ. Let’s explore some of the reasons why DJs still use CDJs, plus some tips for DJs about to purchase CDJs or currently using CDJs.
Reliability is Greater than Other DJ Equipment
CDJs by nature are less complicated in their setup compared to other options that a DJ could choose from.
Digital Vinyl Systems or DJ controllers for example require a laptop to be the driving force of the DJ software and therefore music connecting to each turntable. This creates a slightly longer chain of equipment, which means risk increases of something going wrong.
Therefore CDJs are likely to be more reliable and not crash like a laptop can well do. Highly annoying if that happens in a live DJ set.
CDJs are their own entity and can play music without relying on a laptop or audio interface.
Flexibility of Music Format and Setup
The greatest asset that a modern day CDJ brings to the DJ booth is the compatibility that one little CDJ unit can offer in terms of music format compatibility.
The music format options include CDs, Memory stick or DVS (with Laptop).
With popularity in the club venues there’s no wonder why CDJs are so popular. Some DJs that play certain genres might prefer to use CDs still, others may prefer to use the memory stick.
Either way there are options for all DJs to play their genres and mix away for the masses.
CDJs are Adopted by Venues as Standard
If you haven’t already noticed by watching YouTube videos of DJs playing big DJ sets in places like Printworks or Fabric, even big festivals like Coachella, Winter Music Festival or Glastonbury, CDJs are the format of choice.
Pioneer is the brand, usually, and CDJs are the format. At this point in time, CDJs prevail as the DJ equipment format. Ease of use is definitely a common aspect to CDJ but also flexibility in setup, which we will explore in the next point.
Multi-CDJ Setup (2, 3 or 4 CDJ setup)
CDJs are their own separate unit, unlike DJ controllers which are all-in-one units. CDJs are nothing like old traditional turntables either, but you could still connect multiple record vinyl turntables.
The digital age evolved and now we have CDJs to connect together to create the most epic looking DJ booths with 4 CDJs and a mixer.
Professional sets usually allow for a 2 CDJ setup with a mixer, however you might see some DJs with a 3 or even 4 CDJ setup.
This flexibility gives DJs to put on performances very different to the standard 2 CDJ deck setup. Instrumental tracks, vocal acapellas and quick mixing can be thrown in there too for good measure.
Either way the flexibility of connecting multiple CDJs gives DJs options to be creative and think outside the 2 CDJ box.
Legacy: CDJs Have Been Around for A Long Time
According to Wikipedia Pioneer launched its first CDJ back in 1994, that is a long time ago. People might forget or be too young to realise that CDJs are here because they have dominated and taken over in the wave of the digital era, so if you don’t like CDJs then I think I’m sorry to say this format of DJing is hear for a while longer.
The way in which CDJs are designed is somewhat influenced by the traditional record vinyl turntable, so that’s another feature of why the CDJ has stood the test of time.
My only issue with CDJs is to do with price, I feel like the price has always been high since the launch of CDJs.
Maybe that’s down to the CDJ quality, popularity and being industry standard, but I can see why different formats such as DJ controllers and DVS vinyl has received some notice.
Functionality Not Too Far Off Record Vinyl Turntables
Looking at the features and shapes of the CDJ the designers have incorporated a broad element of the record vinyl turntable…
The Jog Wheel.
In my opinion the Jog Wheel is great because it has given a transition point and transferrable skill for DJs, like me who love vinyl and DVS vinyl. You can use the jog wheel in the same way as a vinyl to cue tracks ready for the mix.
The side platter is very similar to the traditional turntable too, slightly different in touch, but the concept is the all the same.
The only thing with transitioning over from a record vinyl turntable to a CDJ is that the touch and feel is different. The range of sensitivity is stronger on CDJs, so that will take a bit of practice, even if you’re new to DJing.
Evolution of CDJs
As time has gone on CDJs have evolved and developed further by the designers and manufacturers. For example, digital displays have become more detailed and dynamic offering better visuals for DJs to see the audio files.
It’s like going from a standard basic Ford Fiesta with a digital display that shows the time to an all the range version with Sat Nav.
The way you can connect CDJs with an ethernet cable to reduce the amount of memory sticks is another pain point relieved by the brand designers.
Finally, XDJs (digital only, no CDs) seem to be the newer versions I’ve seen on the market. Let’s see what the future holds for those CDJ looking turntables.
The point being is that the way CDJs have evolved has kept DJs interest in the long term and might not see them disappear anytime soon.
Tips & Advice for Using CDJs
1. Weigh Up The Cost
Do the math! CDJs can be expensive, but if you compare that to getting a fully kitted out DVS setup (Audio Interface, Mixer, Dj software, Laptop, speakers etc) then the cost might be around the same price, if not slightly less expensive.
If you’re aiming to be a DJ that requires travelling to different venues. By this I mean a mobile DJ or a wedding DJ, then you might want to think about whether CDJs are the best fit for you.
DJ Controllers are all-in-one, purpose built, so that means the two jog wheel turntables are built into the mixer. They are light, easy to travel with and easy to setup, especially if you’re only DJing small gigs.
Note: there are some great and reasonably priced hard shell carry cases for DJ controllers. CDJs may require more expensive carry cases.
At the end of it, personal preference and money will come into the final decision, not to mention the type of DJing you are pursuing. Wedding DJing vs Club DJing for example.
3. Link Button
If you’re new to CDJs and you’ve got this far in the article then you would of noticed the point about the ethernet cable connecting CDJs together.
The ‘Link’ Button sorts you out by using only one memory stick. So when you turn on your CDJs after purchase, or turn up to a gig, plug in one memory stick and in the other CDJ press the link button. This will allow you to access music from the one source.
4. Prepare Hot Cues & Memory Cues
When you’re practicing DJing, whether it be to get good at DJing or preparing for a DJ set at a bar or club, make sure you set up your Hot Cues and Memory Cues.
This technique will put you in good shape to not only practice your mixes but feel well prepared on the night of DJing.
Setting up all the cue points beforehand will give you the ability to not worry so much when DJing and simply crack and mix your music. You will be free to mix and be creative as you please.
Why do DJs use 4 CDJs?
DJs link up four CDJs to mix in their DJ sets so that they can blend multiple music tracks together. Having two extra CDJs allows for instrumentals or vocal acapellas to be layered over the existing music tracks that are being played. Faster mixing between tracks can be another benefit.
How do you link CDJs?
Linking together CDJs requires an ethernet cable to connect two CDJs together. In order to connect and link three or four CDJs then an ethernet hub with multiple ports can be used connecting all CDJs together this way. The benefit allows one USB memory stick to be used for all CDJs to access.
Do DJs still use CDs?
It is still possible to DJ with CDs in CDJs however the digital capabilities are allowing DJs to use DJ software or memory sticks to connect music to CDJs. CDs are reliable so can be a great source of music as a back up plan.