In nightclubs around the world, old-fashioned vinyl turntables are still the tools of the trade. But with its turntablelike interface and rock-solid performance, Pioneer's CDJ-1000 CD player deserves a spot alongside the record players in those DJ booths. Unfortunately, the player's professional price tag will keep many home DJs from owning it. Updated 3/6/02
In nightclubs around the world, old-fashioned vinyl turntables are still the tools of the trade. But with its turntablelike interface and rock-solid performance, Pioneer's CDJ-1000 CD player deserves a spot alongside the record players in those DJ booths. Unfortunately, the player's professional price tag will keep many home DJs from owning it.
The $1,299 (list price) CDJ-1000 is fairly large (12.5 by 14.5 by 4.2 inches and 9.26 pounds) and must rest on a tabletop because CDs load into a slot on the front edge. Around back, you'll find both analog and digital audio outputs. But all of the real action happens on top, where there's a touch-sensitive jog dial--roughly the size of a 45rpm record--made to look like a plastic turntable. To the right is a pitch-control slider used to speed up or slow down songs. A large, colorful LED display above the platter shows most of the necessary information. There are lots of buttons scattered across the top of the player, but because of its size, it never feels too crowded.
Inside, this player is quite unlike most consumer CD players. It has a 16X CD drive that reads CD and CD-R/RW data very quickly, and there's a large memory buffer, so you can scan flawlessly forward and backward through songs. You can hear the whir of that high-speed drive when you're using the player, but it doesn't degrade the final audio quality.
Just like a record
Record players have survived for so long in nightclubs because no DJ-oriented CD player has been able to truly mimic a turntable. But that's where Pioneer really gets it right. The CDJ-1000 has the same sort of tactile and visual interface as the much-vaunted Technics SL-1200MK2 turntable. Place your finger on the turntable, and the CD stops playing. Let go, and the music starts again. Two knobs allow you to fine-tune the player's stop and start response speed, making it behave even more like a record player. You can rotate the platter forward and backward, and the sound you hear is identical to that of cueing and scratching a record.
In our testing, the CDJ-1000 never stuttered or skipped no matter how fast we back-cued or how furiously we scratched. The LED in the center of the turntable appears to rotate, giving you a crucial visual aid when you're cueing up a song. In the larger display, you can quickly glance at a graphic representation of a tune to easily gauge how much time remains, where a break is, and other necessary visual cues that you're used to seeing on an LP.
The CDJ-1000 has quite a few tricks up its sleeve, too. The Reverse switch lets you instantly play your CDs backward and forward. You can easily repeat a portion of a song, thanks to the Loop function. And you can set the three Hot Cue buttons for instantaneous access to any point in your CD. The player lets you store cue points and loop points for up to 10 CDs in its memory so that you won't need to reset these every time you put the disc in the player. Insert a card into the MultiMedia Memory Card (MMC) slot, and you can store cue and loop data for up to 10,000 discs.
Does it sound like vinyl?
Audiophiles and vinyl addicts may never be completely satisfied with CD audio quality, but the CDJ-1000 sounds very good. It uses a 1-bit digital-to-analog converter and Legato Link Conversion, which Pioneer claims adds third- and fifth-order harmonics to the CD audio, extending the frequency response up to 40KHz (CD audio stops at 20KHz). The added frequency response is supposed to make CDs sound more like analog recordings. While we could hear a subtle difference between the CD and the LP versions of Jay Denes's Music and Wine, we didn't necessarily prefer one over the other. We were able to seamlessly mix records and CDs as long as we paid enough attention to the EQ settings on each source.
For those willing to shell out the dough, the CDJ-1000 opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Unlike previous DJ-oriented CD players that required a bit too much practice and patience to master, this player's learning curve is much shorter. We were able to create music on a PC, burn it to CD, and play it at a party that same night. And no record player we've seen has a built-in loop function.
Editor's note: The CDJ1000 carries a one-year warranty. However, be sure to check that you're buying from an authorized Pioneer retailer. The company will not honor the warranty on products purchased from unauthorized resellers.