Pioneer enters the ‘wireless’ DJ wars with XDJ-AERO

My daily routine starts with checking my iPad screen for any news, email, reminders, or calendar alerts that came in while I was sleeping. When you’re as technologically savvy/dependent/addicted as I am, you are ALWAYS connected; my day can’t start unless I know what I have missed. Most of the emails are spam-like alerts from websites I follow, but I don’t block them out of fear of missing something. Yesterday morning was one of those moments where I was rewarded for my neurotic behavior.

I literally shot up in bed when I saw the email subject line:

Pioneer cuts the cord with wireless XDJ-AERO

XDJ-AERO | Pioneer

My initial assumption was this email would describe a super expensive, multi-piece setup/converter designed to connect CDJs and mixers to a set of specialized speakers, neither of which would be available for at least the next year. Pioneer sets the industry standard in performance DJ equipment, so a long wait is not out of the ordinary. A very quick reading of the post corrected my assumptions: this was a DJ controller that would be out later THIS MONTH!

I was barely awake and already plotting complex financial moves…

to justify and implement the purchase of this device!

Before I go any further, I should give you some background on my current DJing situation. I am a professional mobile DJ, albeit a weekend warrior, that averages 2 events each month. I got my start in radio and night clubs, but soon realized that mobile gigs paid more and were better suited for DJs that need to have a ‘day job’ for health insurance benefits. Until recently, my DJ setup consisted entirely of Pioneer equipment that I built from a club-DJ perspective: two CDJ1000s & a DJM800 mixer. Due to the nature of my travelling performances, I had to trade my rig in for something more mobile and less ‘club’.

Mobile DJs rely on compact sound systems designed for simplistic setups. My Pioneer rig was housed in a DJ coffin [HEAVY] and need to be connected with a Serato ScratchLIVE box that interfaced with a laptop perched on a removable stand that hung off the back of the coffin. It produced an unsightly mess of cables when assembled in a rush and made my gigs look disorganized. It was also a massive pain to transport!

When I looked into shrinking my monster rig into something more manageable, the solution was a MIDI controller to connect to a laptop. My first choice was Pioneer’s DDJ-S1, but it was a huge disappointment. It lacked the quality and functionality that I expected from such a big name in the industry. It definitely didn’t look like the professional setup I was accustomed to and it was limited to only two channels.

Numark gave me what Pioneer was missing. Their 4-channel NS6 controller was easily able to handle the demands of diverse events like weddings, mitzvahs, and birthday/corporate parties. When I started researching ways to DJ with my iPad, Numark’s upcoming iDJ Pro controller became the obvious choice for mobile gigs. I am even planning on eventually buying a set of Alto Professional AirPlay-enabled speakers to complete a wireless ‘controller-to-speaker’ system.

All of these purchases and plans have failed so far in replacing my desire for a Pioneer device capable of the portability and functionality I feel is necessary in my performances. Throughout my 20+ years as a DJ, I have always believed that Pioneer equipment is THE BEST in professional DJ setups for nightclubs and anyone serious about dance music on a large scale. Sure, I am not David Guetta or some other major EDM DJ, but I respect their trust and faith in Pioneer as their equipment for live performances. Besides, I only recently switched my setups and the iDJ Pro will be released less than a month after the Pioneer controller hits the street. Maybe Pioneer has finally made the controller I have been waiting for…

Could the XDJ-AERO be a better setup than my planned iPad-based system?

iDJ Pro Premium DJ Controller for iPad | Numark
iDJ Pro Premium DJ Controller for iPad | Numark

After reading DJWORX’s WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Pioneer XDJ-AERO Hands-on Preview, I have to say I am going to stick to my Numark plans. I may be a Pioneer equipment fan-boy, but I am a proud Numark-convert. Though the XDJ-AERO looks like it can do the job at first glance, my detailed requirements prove Pioneer still falls short.

The wireless functionality of this controller is a built-in wifi router which provides connectivity to laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones [up to 4 devices]. This connection enables access to the music contained on the device(s) by way of Pioneer’s ‘rekordbox‘ mobile app [upcoming release], unless you go ahead and connect via USB to a laptop. You still need to run cables from the controller to your speaker system.

That’s NOT a wireless setup in my view. Maybe I am being picky about how I would use a wireless system, but my idea of a cable-free rig is focused more on the output than the input. The only benefit of the XDJ-AERO setup is mobility in music library management and I can get that with my previously planned iPad-based rig.

If only the XDJ-AERO supported wireless output to speakers!

Since wired output is required, I only see this controller having value as a bedroom/house-party mixing platform. It could POSSIBLY be used at a club, but those setups are usually stationary with no need to hide input cables or conserve space for a sprawling system. Although you can switch to external inputs on each of the input channels, you are still limited to only 2 live channels at any given time. With only two channels available, serious club work is out of the question.

The XDJ-AERO has just enough to get the job done for mobile DJing if you overlook the fact that XLR connections [mic input/audio output] are missing. The Mobile DJ industry standard connector for compact PA systems is XLR; RCA or 1/4″ inputs/outputs can be connected to adapters, but that is a make-shift solution. I expect a controller reportedly costing between $1099-$1399 to have XLRs from the start. Adapters are an increased opportunity for failed connections or degraded sound, so I avoid them as much as possible.

And let’s talk about that price-tag a little more. If you believe the lowest price is accurate, the Numark setup I described is a steal in comparison, even if you don’t already own an iPad! With the iDJ Pro retailing at $500 and the largest iPad2 [64GB/3G/WiFi] being another $600, you have a similar mobile music library setup while getting a tablet in the deal!

If you want to talk about music sources, the rekordbox mobile app is probably on the same ‘local library’ restriction as Algoriddim’s djay app on the iPad. But the iPad has iCloud and iTunes Match to give me access to as many as 25,000 of the songs in my music library, so I can leave my laptop at home and use the 3G/Wifi on my iPad to get any music I am missing locally. Not to mention the probable future iDJ Pro compatibility with Algoriddim’s vjay app and its AirPlay video output.

I could be totally wrong on my critique of the XDJ-AERO; I admittedly haven’t touched it or tested my theories on its connections and performance. But the few details I have lead me to believe it is nowhere close to what I have available to me with the iDJ Pro. This is just my opinion; your DJ requirements may be different than mine.

Compare the promo videos of each device for yourself:

A second trusted DJ review by Digital DJ Tips: Pioneer Announces The XDJ-AERO: WiFi-Enabled DJ Midi Controller & Mixer