Pioneer shows off Rekordbox DJ software at DJ Expo
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, the DJ Expo is in full swing. It's a convention that revolves around DJ gear and all things related (think lighting and PA equipment, for instance). However, the most spectacular booth must be Pioneer's! Legions of DJs around the world are holding their breath for the launch of the previously announced Rekordbox DJ software. And there it was, a MacBook and a large screen that showed off a working Beta version of the Rekordbox software. Bax-shop spotted a high-res photo at DJWorx, and we'd like to take a closer look at it, to see what Pioneer has in store for us.
By the looks of it, there are definitely influences drawn from the competition, as we can definitely spy some elements that are reminiscent of Traktor and Serato.
Click the image to open a larger, zoomable version. Credits: DJWorx
We suspect that Pioneer has been keeping a close eye on what those other manufacturers have been up to in the last years. A number of years ago, most DJ controllers supported Traktor, but that quickly stopped when Native Instruments started making their own DJ gear. That presented a unique opportunity for Serato, as they broke into the entry-level controller market with their innovative and easy-to-configure Serato DJ Intro program. As Pioneer collaborated with both parties, and has since learned how to combine hardware and software, it should come as no surprise that the manufacturer is now developing its own software. While we're not saying that Pioneer is simply combining bits of other people's work, it is clear that they've learned from the best in the business, while definitely putting their own stamp on things.
Is that a bad thing? Actually, no. It means that people who are used to Serato or Traktor will find it quite easy to switch over to Rekordbox. Not only that, it would be unwise for Pioneer to deviate from the accepted layouts too much, as that would make it difficult for the public to take to their new Rekordbox software.
One thing you'll notice about the Rekordbox DJ software, is that it's quite a colourful whole, without overdoing it. The hotcues and waveforms light up in various colours, showing you the most important information a DJ needs.
The built-in effects module is sure to work seamlessly with many different controllers and DJ mixers. As far as we can tell, each effects section can be applied to a separate deck (1-4), as well as to the master or sample deck. Each module has 3 selectable effects, each with a separate parameter for the dry/wet level. Furthermore, we noticed that each module also has a Release FX, for which new controllers will need appropriate hardware.
At the top of the display, there is also a CFX section available besides the FX section. Could this mean that the software can connect to the Sound Color FX modules that you'll find on mixers like the DJM-900NXS and the DJM-850?
Hotcues, Pad FX, Slicer, Beat jump
This is a recognisable section that can give the pads on your controller new meaning. You're most likely already familiar with the hot cue, slicer and beat jump features, but the Pad FX feature is new. As we can see in the right deck, there are various effects that can be assigned to the pads, such as a filter LFO and an echo.
2Deck Vertical display mode
Rekordbox's different operational modes are also clearly visible on the photo. The layout on the large display features a 2Deck Vertical Display mode, where the waveforms travel vertically. The setup that's displayed on the MacBook shows off a horizontal display mode that features the waveforms more prominently, with a generally less cluttered screen. It's also likely that 4-deck display modes will appear in the future.
Pioneer will probably develop various different layouts to accommodate different styles, each with its own pros and cons. This will allow every DJ to incorporate their own preferences into their favourite layout. Are you a DJ that focuses predominantly on beatmatching, then you won't need countless effects and pads. If you're a DJ that focuses on live remixes, however, those features are especially useful - allowing you to use the Quantize and Sync functions to line up tracks instantly, leaving more time to add your own creative flourishes.
Whether there is also a grid system that allows you to customise your layout is yet unclear. It would be a nice addition, however, allowing DJs to build their own skins to perfectly suit their personal wishes and demands. It's also quite possible that Pioneer will develop their own skins to match various controllers - removing the pad effects when you're working with two tabletops, for instance. Maybe they'll even follow the Serato blueprint: you connect a controller, and the software automatically recognises the type and allows you to choose from the appropriate skins.
On the right side of the screen, you'll see the 'Related Tracks' section. It's a clever piece of technology that presumably looks at the BPM, key, waveform and various other elements of a track, and generates a list of similar tracks from your music library. That might cause quite a few epiphanies when you're low on inspiration for your next track. Thanks to these suggestions, mixing in a new track is a breeze, as you'll know beforehand that the BPMs match up - unless you're using effects, loops or the slicer feature for your own creative mix, of course.
Playlists and music libraries
The Rekordbox DJ software allows you to create different playlists and easily switch between them. Instead of having a playlist per day, you could also create a playlist for every separate event you're playing at. If you're on the road a lot, you could make a playlist for your upcoming events while you're travelling. Furthermore, the image also shows off direct integration with iTunes, meaning you can also pull files from there.
Integration with other media, such as Spotify, for instance, is not apparent at this time. It's unsure if such integration will be added in the future.
Sampler, mixer, recording
Handy extra tools for every DJ. What exactly the mixer section has to offer is still a little hard to tell. It might allow you to adjust things like gain control, EQ and perhaps some limiters, for a more level volume and to prevent distortion. Of course, in that case you should also take into account the trim per channel, and the mixer's output level.
Meanwhile, the sampler feature is quite exciting, all the more so because we haven't seen it in action yet. As it's not directly apparent on the main screen, it's possible that Pioneer is taking a page out of Traktor's book, and will build a specific module just for that purpose.
The built-in recording features should be rather self-explanatory. This allows you to export a mixer or controller's master channel back to the software - possibly allowing you to fine-tune the levels with the built-in mixer. But what about cloud support? Wouldn't it be great to be able to export your new mix directly to the world wide web, so you can access it anywhere and have an instant backup?
What does the future hold?
That the future will hold the Rekordbox is a sure thing. Over the last years, Pioneer watched carefully as the DJ software giants developed their products and supported Pioneer hardware.
A more interesting question might be what Rekordbox will mean for the DJ industry at large. We've seen how much Native Instruments has changed recently. What started as an open concept that welcomed various hardware manufacturers to create great products together, has grown into a brand that thanked the aforementioned manufacturers for their great examples and struck out on its own. After saying goodbye to its erstwhile partners, Native Instruments started to produce their own hardware and software.
Traktor still keeps the door ajar for other hardware manufacturers, as most controllers are still mappable via MIDI. New functionality like Stems will probably be exclusively used for their own products. This means that they can go their own way, appealing to a select group of dedicated fans, without there being anyone to compete with.
The question remains, however, will Pioneer do the same thing? Will it eventually dump Serato and convert all their hardware to work with Rekordbox? As is apparent from their latest releases, Pioneer hasn't given up on them yet, as both the DJM-S9 and the DDJ-SB2 were developed for Serato. However, it's quite possible that they're secretly readying themselves for the arrival of Rekordbox, and that it will only take a quick software patch to unlock that Rekordbox compatibility.
If that is true, that might mean that Serato will have to keep manufacturers like Numark, Denon and Reloop very close indeed. From Pioneer's standpoint it would make perfect sense. They already have plenty of knowledge about both hardware and software in-house, and if they didn't have to adapt to another company's software, they'd be able to develop new products and features at a faster rate than ever. Of course, as they wouldn't be dependent on any other company, they could take the Native Instruments route. If that happens, then there will be quite the shift in the digital DJ world. It would create a Traktor sector, a Pioneer sector and a separate sector with hardware manufacturers that work with external software parties.
Let us be clear, however, that the above is mainly based on speculation and our own expectations. What will actually happen is known only to a very select group of people, likely working at Pioneer. Until then, we will simply have to wait patiently and hope that more official information will follow shortly.