Two highly significant and related events occurred for me last year. The first was the birth of my son, followed a close second by the reluctant sale of my beloved pair of Technics SL-1200Mk2 turntables. The latter were the DJ decks of choice throughout the 80s and 90s, but sadly they and my extensive collection of 12in records had to go to make room for the growing mountain of baby paraphernalia.
So before I consigned the vinyl to the attic and the turntables to eBay, I spent every waking hour painstakingly transferring the entire collection - consisting largely of imported 90s dance music acquired while moonlighting as a club DJ - to MP3 format. An experience I hope never to repeat, but a necessary one nonetheless, as most of the records are impossible to find on CD or even download from specialist music sites.
But back to the present. With the turntables gone, I'm left with a laptop full of rare house tunes seemingly never to be mixed again. So when the opportunity presented itself to try out Pioneer's latest DJ-orientated CD deck I jumped at the chance.
Aimed at aspiring club DJs to use at home, the Pioneer CDJ-400 will play standard audio CDs as well as MP3s off CD-R/RW discs, but not DVDs. It will also play music directly from mass storage USB devices such as USB keys and external hard drives. Of course, like any gadget worth its salt these days, the CDJ-400 works fully with an iPod.
With a price tag of £449 (or £888.99 for a pair) the CDJ-400 is certainly not cheap, but what really sets it apart from other sub-£500 DJ decks is its PC mode. When connected via USB to a PC or Mac, practically all of the deck's button and slider functions can be sent as MIDI data to control DJ mixing software such as Pioneer's DJS or Serato Scratch LIVE. The CDJ-400 will also act as a USB sound device with both analogue and digital outputs, so you won't need a separate sound card to connect up to your DJ mixer.
Unfortunately, software support for the CDJ-400 isn't currently available but Pioneer inform us that the new compatible version of its own DJS software will be out in January 2008 - at an extra cost - closely followed by an update to Serato Scratch LIVE later in the year. So for this review I'll be focusing on the Pioneer's CD and MP3 playing capabilities.