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While vinyl has been making a comeback in the past few years, there is no denying that the future of mainstream music is digital (analog lovers, feel free to groan here). Pioneer has released a couple of excellent, DJ friendly CDJ digital multiplayers that allow you to manipulate digital music in much the same way you would work with analog music.
The most powerful systems have not been cheap or within reach of aspiring DJs, but that’s all about to change with the brand new CDJ-350 music player, aimed directly at the aspiring and/or hobbyist DJ. Like its bigger, more expensive brothers, the CDJ-900 and the CDJ -2000, the CDJ-350 crams lots of great professional features into its compact five-pound body, but this little bad boy, while not exactly cheap, sports a much more affordable price tag.
The CDJ-350 can play a variety of audio files, including MP3, AAC, AIFF, FLAC, and WAV as well as playing good old-fashioned CDs, CD-R and CD-RW discs. It can be connected to a USB drive to give you immediate access to your entire music library or to allow for midi-controller functionality with compatible DJ software.
A turntable-style jog wheel allows for scratching and looping and the system has a BEAT display which visually shows the beat position of a song and the playback point, enabling easy hand-eye-ear coordination and making accurate scratching and looping simple for beginners. Sure, it’s essentially a pair of training wheels, but it’s a nice option for the novice DJ.
The CDJ-350 has a couple of other features that are incredibly useful to beginners (though some seasoned DJs may enjoy them too). You can set a master BPM for your music, so that with the push of a button, you can match any song you play to to that BPM setting, making BPM-matching and mixing songs together a snap. For a little more control, you can adjust the BPM of every song individually on the fly, giving you a lot of creative set-list options.
There are four effects built in to the player: a high and low pass filter, a Jet effect, a bit-crusher and a gate effect tighten up high and low frequencies. There is also an auto beat loop function, which, with the push of a button can give you all sorts of loops, including a beat loop (matches the beat and repeats a four-beat loop), Loop Divide (while playing a loop, plays the loop at a different rhythm), and a Hot Loop (while playing a loop, returns to the start of the loop and plays it).
The system also allows you to add songs to your playlist mid-performance, and it will sync up to rekordbox DJ-management software.
While great DJs make it seem like they’re making their sets up as they go along, we all know that there’s a ton of prep work involved. A huge selling point of the CDJ-350 is that it is compatible with Pioneer’s rekordbox music management system, and is the least expensive CDJ to do so. Rekordbox can be used to assemble DJ playlists, but it also analyzes the BPM and beat position of songs in your library, and allows them to be broken down easily into genres, so building a set list on the fly is also a snap. If you ever decide to upgrade to a higher-end player like the CDJ-900 or the CDJ-2000, or you ever play a club equipped with one of the big guns, your rekordbox playlists will be fully compatible with them too.
All in all, with an impressive feature set for the price, the CDJ-350 will probably make some aspiring DJs very happy.
Have you had any experience using this player or any other CDJs? Tell us all about it in the Comments section below.