The appetite for adequate standalone gear within the Pioneer ecosystem is very high. As the club standard, it was only a matter of time that Pioneer offered an all-in-one 4 channel controller. In this review, we check out the top-of-the-line XDJ XZ and discover if Pioneer has finally given its fans what they have wanted for years.
Pioneer XDJ XZ
The XDJ XZ is an impressive controller that delivers on several fronts. But, it isn’t without some flaws. Here’s where it shines and where it falls short.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ offers plenty of features that will be familiar to professional DJs. Below we break down each section in detail.
The mixer section on the Pioneer XDJ XZ is one of its best features. It inherits the functionality of the Pioneer DJM 900NXS2 mixer which is the best DJ mixer available today. It has a logical and familiar layout that will be instantly recognizable for professional DJs.
There are four channels available. But, only two channels are available in standalone mode. This is probably the biggest drawback of what is otherwise an impressive unit. For most DJs, this may not be a huge concern. You do still have access to 4 channels if you have your laptop or PC connected running Rekodbox or Serato.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ central mixer section is very similar to a DJM 900NXS2 mixer.
Each channel offers a 3-band EQ with Trim control and Level meters to monitor output. An additional Color knob for each channel is also available. With a total of 6 sound color FX you have plenty of options beyond a standard Hi/Low Pass Filter. Parameter control over the Sound Color FX is also available.
AUX and Channel 3 and 4 input switches are easy to access with additional Trim control available for the AUX channel. The 4 channel faders and crossfader feel great and offer excellent build quality.
The FX section on the mixer also inherits the Nexus functions. 14 Beat FX options along with Time and Depth control. The ability to impact certain frequencies is also present via dedicated buttons. Tap and Quantize are also accessible and it’s great to see the X-Pad make an appearance here. Albeit it is smaller and less detailed than a Nexus mixer.
The layout doesn’t include master volume control. Instead, you’ll find these controls above the right jogwheel. Full 3-band EQ control is available for master output along with Level meters. A Booth Level knob is also available. The movement of this section frees up valuable real estate on the main mixer. It was an excellent decision and adds to the ergonomic and familiar workflow.
It is a capable and excellent-sounding mixer that you’ll feel right at home with.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ supports Rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ Pro. This gives DJs the flexibility to select their preferred software platform. Integration is clean and well presented. Connecting to a laptop running software also unlocks all 4 channels. Colored waveforms along with detailed track information are readily available with no lag.
A seamless experience using the software. Whether you prepare tracks beforehand for USB or have the laptop always connected.
The jogwheels on the XDJ XZ are another excellent feature. These large mechanical jogwheels are the same as the jogwheels on the Pioneer DDJ 1000. They offer excellent and accurate control. You can adjust the jogwheel tension to suit your preference. Extra Vinyl speed adjust is also available for further customization. A Slip and Reverse button completes the options available to you.
The jogwheels on the Pioneer XDJ XZ are high quality and fun to use.
The jogwheel display screens provide plenty of information. You can see a small waveform along with track data. Bright and vibrant colors add to the appeal. The addition of artwork is also a feature I like. Even a well-curated collection can make track identification difficult. Having artwork available can often make identifying tracks quicker and easier.
If you do enjoy scratching the large and comfortable jogs will satisfy you. While nothing can compare to vinyl these do an excellent job of offering precise and tactile control.
As expected for a unit of this size and price the pitch faders are long and accurate. A must for beatmatching by ear. Master Tempo, Tempo Reset along with Tempo Range buttons give you all the tools you need. You’ll be able to beatmatch your tracks irrespective of BPM difference.
The faders are smooth and an LED indicator is present at the 0 positions. There is also Sync functionality for DJs that prefer the hardware to do the heavy lifting when it comes to matching beats.
The 8 performance pads beneath each jogwheel are also great. Excellent feel and travel. If you have used professional Pioneer gear you’ll be right at home. Four primary pad modes are on offer. Hot Cue, Beat Loop, Slip Loop, and Beat Jump. By far some of the most commonly used performance pad modes.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ offers 4 primary pad functions.
An extra bank of modes is also available. Activation is via the Shift Key. But, there is no way to visually see what those Pad modes are. This is all software setting dependent. When you factor in the compatibility between Rekordbox and Serato it’s no surprise there is no written guide on the controller. Both software platforms offer different options. But once set you’ll be able to easily activate and manage more modes.
Spacing is generous without any unwanted buttons nearby to interfere. If you actively use pad modes for creative performances you’ll have everything you need.
The excellent range of Pioneer hardware FX is another highlight. A lot of DJs love the sound of the Pioneer set of FX. There are 14 options available. Each sounds great and with granular control available you can tailor the FX to suit your needs.
The output switch allows you to incorporate FX to all available channels including microphones. The placement and layout are near identical to the DJM 900NXS2 mixer. For existing professional DJs there is no learning curve. Likewise, it is a great controller to prepare you for club setups.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ offers both Hardware FX and Sound Color FX.
The Sound Color FX is also great. Expressive FX can add a lot to your transitions when used correctly. With 6 options available you’ll be able to easily incorporate these into your sets. Parameter control provides further control to adjust the FX to the desired output.
While there is nothing new or innovative here it’s a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Comfortable and familiar.
A theme that runs throughout the whole controller is familiarity. With the Pioneer XDJ XZ, the looping controls follow this pattern. In/Out buttons along with Reloop/Exit button form the foundations. Halving and Doubling along with Delete and Memory options also follow the same pattern as found on professional Pioneer gear. Beyond the dedicated controls, you’ll also have access to Loops via Performance Pad modes.
This layout and implementation are standard across the full line of Pioneer controllers. While excellent I’ve always wanted to see Pioneer add an encoder option. A feature for loop controls that is common in Denon gear. But for any professional DJ that has worked in a club or bar, you’ll instantly know what to do.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ also offers a comprehensive suite of connection options.
Master output includes both XLR and RCA. A balanced TRS Booth connection and an unbalanced TRS Send option give you plenty of flexibility to connect. With this combination, you should be able to connect to most sound systems.
The XDJ XZ has professional level connection options.
RCA options are also available for channels 3 and 4. Both Phono and Line. An extra RCA AUX option is also present.
Two microphone outputs are on offer via TRS/XLR combo jacks. Once again this is enough to handle the vast majority of potential microphones you’d want to connect.
Link options complete the available choices on the back of the unit. Adding CDJs or turntables is seamless and easy. It also allows the unit to work as a 4 channel controller in standalone mode.
The front panel offers both ¼ inch and ⅛ inch headphone options.
Two USB ports above the right jogwheel complete your connection options. The placement and execution are exactly as found in other pro Pioneer DJ gear. Once again making the transition from one to the other easy and accessible.
The large 7-inch screen is a common sight on the Pioneer XDJ range. It’s full color and touch-responsive. It works as intended though I would have liked to see Pioneer up the stakes and match the size of the screen on the Denon Prime 4.
The full color central screen offers up plenty of relevant information.
The technology is also a little dated and does not support gesture controls like the Denon offering. Despite this, it is once again a familiar and functional component.
The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. The dedicated browse/control knob makes switching between crates and settings quick and easy.
Stacked full-color waveforms along with detailed track information give you all the info you need. The increased presence of screens in modern controllers is fantastic. All the info you need without having to constantly refer to a laptop.
Pioneer has also lifted their game in the microphone department.
Above the left deck, you’ll find detailed controls for both microphone channels. You’ll have access to a 3-band EQ for each channel to control output. A talkover button is also available to instantly lower the Master Output volume when using the microphones.
The Feedback Reducer is a new feature.
Finally, the addition of a Feedback Reducer is a welcome sight. You’ll also have the ability to switch between Light and Heavy modes depending on your needs. This is one of the few new features incorporated into the Pioneer XDJ XZ.
There is no denying that the Pioneer XDJ is a large unit. With a big central screen, sizeable jogwheels, and a four-channel mixer. It is not exactly ergonomic to transport.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ is a large controller that utilizes space effectively.
At 28.6 lbs. (13kg) it is a hefty unit. Once you factor in a flight case you’ll have a backbreaking time taking this to gigs. As a result, it isn’t the best option for mobile DJs.
Where it shines is a cheaper base setup for DJs that want to practice at home with a familiar layout. It’s well suited to studios. A full Nexus rig is expensive. Not all DJs are willing to commit both space and money to that setup for home use.
It’s also an excellent choice for the budget-conscious bar owner. You can offer your DJs a familiar and professional level set up at a fraction of the price. You’ll still also keep the flexibility to add more CDJs, turntables, or other gear as needed.
Build Quality & Design
Pioneer hasn’t pulled any punches here. The unit is robust and well constructed. It offers an excellent level of heft. The look and feel of the unit are in line with Pioneer’s professional-level gear. Component quality is also high. All the faders, buttons, and knobs are durable. This is a unit that can handle the rigors of frequent use. When you factor in the condition of some DJ booths this is a must-have feature.
The Pioneer XDJ XZ is also available in a gold finish.
On the design front, there is nothing new or outstanding here. But that is the point. It appears Pioneer did not want to reinvent the wheel with the XDJ XZ. It is familiar and comfortable while retaining that icon Pioneer look. It oozes professionalism and will appeal to enfranchised Pioneer fans. If you want a controller that looks like a professional rig, this is the best option.
Some innovation and enhancements would have been welcome. A bigger screen or a more modern screen are the biggest omissions. The lack of standalone 4 channels is another component that I wish this unit offered. Maybe in the future Pioneer will more aggressively innovate with their XDJ lineup.
What Others Have To Say
Many DJs love the layout and price point. But, others point to the lack of 4 channel standalone capability.
Why You Need To Know Pioneer Gear
There is a running theme across many DJ gear reviews. One of the most touted sayings is that Pioneer is the industry standard. And they are not wrong. The vast majority of venues will have a Pioneer setup in the DJ booth. All you need to do is watch any major festival and you’ll see the Pioneer dominance in full force.
There are several other DJ gear manufacturers out there. Many of whom offer excellent gear that is on par or better than what Pioneer offers. It can often also be the case that the price is also much lower than Pioneer gear. But, even heavy hitters like Denon have found it difficult to break Pioneer’s dominance in the DJ scene.
Pioneer equipment is the most common DJ gear found in clubs.
For this reason, many people recommend getting familiar with the Pioneer ecosystem. If you have ambitions of playing in clubs it will be one less thing you’ll need to learn.
That’s not to say you can’t learn on other gear and then move onto Pioneer club gear. You can learn the fundamentals of DJing on a range of gear. The learning curve to moving to Pioneer gear can be daunting but very achievable.
Irrespective of your thoughts towards Pioneer products you’ll likely encounter them when gigging. No harm in having a solid understanding of the hardware. But, if you have no intentions of DJing in bars and clubs there is no reason why you can’t explore options from other manufacturers.
There are some interesting alternatives to the Pioneer XDJ XZ. Here are some of the best other choices to consider.
Denon Prime 4 Review
Denon has a history of pushing boundaries and offering innovative controllers. The latest generation of Prime controllers is no different. With a beautiful screen, the Prime 4 is standalone capable with excellent features.
- Huge 10-inch screen with adjustable viewing angle.
- Full 4 channel standalone capability.
- Engine Prime software lags behind the competition.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Pioneer XDJ RX2 Review
The XDJ RX2 is the natural counterpart of the XZ. A smaller controller with 2 channels that is well-suited to a home-based setup. It also retains that familiar Pioneer layout.
- 2 channel standalone controller that is still portable.
- Offers the same central 7-inch screen as the XZ.
- Smaller jogwheels that don’t feel as nice as the XZ.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Pioneer DDJ 1000 Review
The DDJ 1000 is among the best controllers Pioneer has released. Feature-rich and capable it offers DJs everything they would need to prepare for pro Pioneer gear.
- Large jogwheels like the XZ with jogwheel screens.
- 4 channels and a similar layout to the XZ at a cheaper price point.
- Must connect to a laptop. No standalone capability.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ 1000 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 1000
Should You Buy?
The Pioneer XDJ XZ is an excellent controller. The strong resemblance to Pioneer pro gear is hard to ignore and resist. Capable and feature-rich. It can also save you a large amount of money if you don’t want to invest in club-level gear. While it does have some restrictions it remains one of the best standalone options available today.
Pioneer XDJ XZ