The RX range from Pioneer has consistently been one of the most popular lines of controllers on the market. This standalone unit provides a perfect transition point to their pro-level gear. In this review, we check out the brand-new XDJ-RX3. Is it worth upgrading to this new model? Read on to find out.
Pioneer XDJ RX3
The Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX3 is a capable all-in-one DJ controller with a fantastic screen. It has a bunch of new features but it isn’t perfect. Here are the quick pros and cons before we check out this unit in more detail.
There is a lot to cover when it comes to the Pioneer XDJ-RX3. This beast of a unit is sure to be a great hit. But is it right for you? Here are our thoughts on this latest entry in the RX line.
Let’s start with undoubtedly one of the main features of the RX-3. The large 10.1-inch touchscreen. It’s big, bold, and responsive.
Pioneer isn’t known for the most up-to-date screens but this one is certainly an improvement over the previous RX-2. First, it is of course larger. This increase in real estate leads to a much smoother and more natural workflow. It is also a touchscreen. But it doesn’t offer pinch of swipe features. This does make the screen feel a bit dated.
The 10.1-inch screen is huge and feature-packed.
But it is responsive and intuitive to use. Information is intelligently presented and navigating is a breeze. Both via touch controls or the dedicated browse knob. Framerate and resolution have also seen a bump. It just feels more snappy than the RX-2.
If I was to nitpick the screen doesn’t feel as secure as I’d have liked. There is some flex to the casing. A flight case is a must for transport.
The screen may not be as advanced as some of the competition out there. But it’s still a huge step forward and a joy to use. You’ll find it almost impossible to go back to a smaller screen once you have experienced it.
The mixer section of the XDJ-RX3 has also seen some notable improvements. If you are already familiar with Pioneer mixers you’ll feel right at home. And that does make the RX-3 extremely appealing. For experienced professionals, it’s essentially a 900NXS2 style mixer with plenty of bells and whistles. Likewise, it is great for anyone who has ambitions of playing in clubs where Pioneer gear dominates.
You’ll have access to two channels with the expected 3-band EQ and trim. The VU meters are refined and more clear than the previous RX-2. The faders offer the same Pioneer feel you’d expect. Robust, smooth, and reliable. Though I would have loved to see a Magvel fader. The crossfader curve selection is also conveniently accessible.
The XDJ RX3 features a comprehensive and familiar mixer layout.
All this is standard and what you’d expect from a Pioneer controller. But where it sets itself apart is the selection of FX available. More Beat FX and more Sound Color FX give you access to a staggering amount of options. I’ll cover the FX in more detail later but it’s worth noting how comfortable they are to use.
Beyond FX controls you’ll also have access to Booth Monitor volume. Cue/Master and Level controls for your headphones. Plus, access to AUX controls directly on the mixer section.
It’s a significant step up from the RX-2 all while retaining that refined Pioneer workflow.
The RX-3 is a standalone unit but it still has a close relationship with Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ software. Unfortunately, the unit can’t analyze tracks on the fly.
As a result, you’ll still need to use Rekordbox DJ to prepare your tracks. It’s not a dealbreaker but also disheartening considering this feature is available on competitor gear.
Hardware unlock grants you full access to Rekordbox. It’s great software that continues to improve. Plus it is the go-to platform for professionals that play at bars, clubs, and festivals where Pioneer gear is ubiquitous.
But it doesn’t end there. You’ll notice the Serato logo present as well. While not supported at launch Pioneer has revealed that Serato compatibility will be available in early 2022. This makes this unit even more appealing.
I’ve never liked the jogwheels on the RX series. They are small and for the most part not as comfortable to use as larger platters. These are not mechanical jogwheels. But there are some improvements here from the previous model.
The jogwheels on the RX3 are small compared to some other controllers.
First up these now feature on-board displays. They don’t present the same level of information as the DDJ-1000 jogwheels. No waveform data or BPM. But you’ll still see album artwork along with other information like whether the jogwheel is in Slip mode.
Latency is low and they are responsive. Jog adjust is also available to customize the resistance level to your preference. These are a step up from the previous RX-2 but still not as enticing as the jogwheels found on the DDJ-1000 or the XDJ-XZ.
The Pioneer RX3 features long-throw pitch faders for accurate adjustments. The Tempo select button gives you the flexibility to adjust the increments. Great for handling a mix between large BPM jumps. Master Tempo is also present along with Beat Sync.
One notable omission is the lack of Key Sync. This allows you to match the Key for more harmonic transitions. Great for some creative mixing techniques but it can also be very jarring when dealing with well-known tracks. It’s available on other Pioneer hardware but is notably absent here. While I don’t use the function often it is one less tool that could have easily been here.
The performance pads on the RX3 have also seen an update. The RX2 offered up 8 pads but only 4 modes. Plus they only had minimal square illumination. On the RX3 you now have access to 8 modes plus full illumination. These pads also sit a little higher and feel better.
The XDJ RX3 features more performance pad options than the previous RX2.
There are also some notable Pad modes worth mentioning.
First, you’ll have access to standard hot cue assignments. But the secondary mode now opens up Gate cue. A feature that is long overdue for Pioneer controllers. This allows you to finger drum using preset cues. Great for creative mixing.
The next mode opens up Beat Loop and Beat Loop 2. This is another way to trigger auto-loops. Beat Loop 2 also gives you access to more obtuse options like 3 beat loops.
Slip Loop and Release FX are available via the third mode button. Release FX in particular is a fantastic way to incorporate FX into your sets. Easy to trigger and effective.
Finally, the fourth mode button gives you access to Beat Jump and Beat Jump 2. This gives you access to love your loop forward and back.
Overall it’s a big step up from the previous RX2 and helps push this unit closer to modern gear. Plus the inclusion of some new features like Gate cue is a welcome addition. If you love playing with performance pads you’ll have access to a tonne of features.
Ask any DJs and the majority will swear by the quality of Pioneer FX. Whether that is bias from using them all the time or actual truth is subjective. I’ve always liked the sound of Pioneer FX. The RX3 steps things up again in this area.
The XDJ RX3 has a vast selection of FX options.
You’ll have access to six Sound Color FX as opposed to four on the RX2. Space and Crush are added to the lineup along with the existing Filter, Noise, Dub Echo, and Sweep. The big chunky filter knob makes using these Color FX easy and fun. No complaints here.
Moving over to the other side of the mixer you’ll find an increased amount of beat FX. You’ll now have access to a staggering 14 beat FX options. The familiar layout and functionality of Pioneer mixers are present here.
It is quick and easy to both select, assign, and manipulate your FX. Plus you’ll also have the ability to save preferred FX and presents. From there it is quick and easy to jump between favorites by using the touchscreen.
I use FX sparingly but the sheer number on offer here is extremely impressive. Creative mixing options are plentiful. If you love to use FX in your sets the RX3 gives you all the tools you would want.
Looping controls are the standard fare you would expect from a piece of Pioneer gear. There is nothing new here. The same large In/Out buttons are present along with the half and double buttons.
Once again this brings a familiarity to this unit that is hard to beat. Learn how to use the looping section on this and you’ll never have a problem using loops at clubs.
The Beat Loop options on the performance pads are also familiar. But the addition of thirds like 3, 6, and 9 beats does give you access to more options than before.
If you’ve ever used Pioneer gear you’ll be right at home. But if you are coming from other gear like Denon or Native Instruments you may miss having access to an encoder for managing loops.
The Pioneer XDJ-RX3 offers an extensive set of connection options.
At the back, you’ll have access to XLR master out along with an unbalanced RCA out. Balanced TRS booth output is also present. Phono/Line options are also available for the two channels. An AUX option completes the options. Both RCA and ⅛ inch. Solid flexibility to connect to external gear and things like a smartphone. On the front, you’ll also have access to both a ¼ and ⅛ headphone connection points.
The XDJ RX3 features both balanced and unbalanced output options.
Two USB ports on the top of the unit allow for easy back-to-back sessions. Recording directly to USB is available along with Track Mark to identify mix points. You’ll also have the ability to assign playlists to a bank of up to 4 options. These are also color-coded. Once again great for back-to-back sessions.
The XDJ-RX3 also supports two microphone inputs. Both feature an XLR/TRS combo jack. Talk over functionality is present along with individual level controls. A two-band EQ applies adjustments to both microphones.
AUX input is a good option for mobile DJs.
It is extensive and for most situations everything you’ll need. But there is one notable omission. There is no way to connect this unit to the internet. No ethernet port of Wi-Fi. A while back I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at this but times are changing. The rise of streaming platforms and hardware support is growing. If you have invested in a streaming service like Beatport LINK you’ll be left high and dry. Your only choice will be to connect the RX3 to your laptop and run Rekordbox DJ. For a standalone unit it sort of defeats the purpose.
I’m personally not sold on streaming music but I know it is becoming more popular. It would have been great for Pioneer to include that functionality here. But despite this slight oversight, the RX3 offers all the essential connection points most DJs would want.
The Pioneer XDJ RX3 is a big unit. But it doesn’t stray too far from the previous RX2. Similar in width and height but is a bit deeper due to the bigger screen.
The Pioneer XDJ RX3 is a large yet portable DJ controller.
Surprisingly it also isn’t that much heavier than the RX2. At 20.5 lbs. (9.3kg) it is lightweight and easy to transport. If you are looking for a portable standalone unit the RX3 is a good option.
Build Quality & Design
As you move up the chain in Pioneer gear you come to realize why they have become the “Industry Standard”. Their gear is ultra-reliable and tough. Component quality is also high with excellent knobs, pads, faders, and buttons.
The Pioneer XDJ RX3 is a professional DJ controller.
Appearance-wise it is a mean-looking bit of kit. All the hallmark Pioneer flourishes are here. Imitating the look of their pro-level gear brings with it an instant level of professionalism. The brushed metal decks contrast perfectly with the jet black mixer. If you want something that resembles pro gear you can’t look past this unit.
The Pioneer XDJ-RX3 has become an instant favorite for DJs that want an all-in-solution. Early reviews highlight the expansive feature set. They also mention how it is a solid update to its predecessor the very popular RX2.
Back 2 Back DJing Tips
The Pioneer XDJ RX3 features two USB ports and some handy playlist favoriting features. This opens up the possibility of running back-to-back sets with a fellow DJ. This could be at home, at a party, or even in a club. While a back-to-back DJ set is super fun it can also be challenging. Here are some quick tips if you are planning on participating in a back-to-back DJ set.
Playing a B2B set is a lot different than playing a solo set.
Communication – The single most important element of a back-to-back DJ set is communication. As a solo DJ, you have full control over where you want to take a set. But introduce a second DJ and things can go off the rails quickly. Having an understanding of the mood and genres you want to play will lead to a smoother and more consistent set.
Keep It Simple – Every DJs skill level is different. Some might be scratch wizards while others are long blend masters. When going back to back it is best to not leave the next DJ with a difficult transition. For dance music selecting a track with a basic and predictable outro is always a safe bet.
Have Fun – It may sound obvious but a back-to-back DJ set can be heaps of fun. Reading a crowd and embracing the spirit of friendly competition can result in some memorable sets and experiences. But while friendly competition is good you are not there to show up the other DJ. Maintain professionalism and enjoy the experience. You may even learn a few new tricks along the way.
DJ controllers with screens is a growing trend with innovations constantly flowing. Plus more and more people want to detach themselves from the laptop when DJing. But there are some interesting competitors to the RX3. Here are 3 other pieces of gear worth exploring.
Denon Prime 4 Review
The Denon Prime 4 is one of the most obvious alternatives to the RX3. It’s a robust controller with excellent features and offers four-channel mixing.
- A large bright screen that is responsive and easy to use.
- Fully standalone, and the 4 channels open up more mixing flexibility.
- Engine Prime software has improved but is still not as robust as Rekordbox.
Denon Prime 4
Pioneer XDJ XZ Review
If you want to stick to the Pioneer ecosystem the XDJ XZ is a good option. It maintains the familiar Pioneer layout without having to invest in a full Nexus setup.
- 4 channel mixer with comprehensive FX section.
- Large mechanical jogwheels with an onboard display that features more information.
- Small and dated screen compared to the RX3.
Pioneer XDJ XZ
Numark Mixstream Pro Review
If the high price tag of the Pioneer XDJ RX3 is a non-starter then the Mixstream Pro could be a good option for you. It has a great screen and offers standalone capability.
- The 7-inch high-definition screen is responsive and great to use.
- Paddle FX control for quick and simple FX executions.
- Built-in speakers are poor and a bit gimmicky.
Numark Mixstream Pro
Should You Buy?
There is no denying that the Pioneer XDJ RX3 is a fantastic 2 channel controller. There are several notable improvements from the previous model making it an appealing upgrade choice. It is also an enticing stepping stone for anyone looking at a standalone unit. Plus it offers a professional and familiar Pioneer layout.
The large screen is sure to catch the eye of a lot of people. And if history has shown me anything standalone Pioneer units fly off the shelves. It is expensive and there are some notable omissions. Some people may have wanted a bigger leap forward. But Pioneer’s formula of incremental improvements has worked for them. Plus this is still miles cheaper than a pro Pioneer setup.
The large screen and intuitive design will immerse you. All while giving you access to an excellent range of performance features. If you are looking for a reliable and familiar standalone unit the XDJ-RX3 is an excellent choice.
Pioneer XDJ RX3