All In Ones are a thing now
It’s hard to believe but just a few years ago a lot of people were asking for a unicorn. A controller that didn’t depend on a laptop and you know what having multiple microphones would be really awesome. The industry listened and now we have a pair of all-in-one controllers on the market in the form of of the Pioneer XDJ-XZ and Denon Prime 4. But now that these unicorns exist, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if this is what should be in our arsenal?
So, this has mics right?
One of the first big features out of the box on both of these units is a dedicated 2-mic bank with quite a bit of control. Well I should say more control in the past. You won’t see a big EQ attached to these inputs, but both Denon and Pioneer have focused some attention on the quality in mic control and offering two mics which for many mobile DJs hits a sweet spot in their checkboxes of needs.
Local storage is key
Of course, the biggest focus point on this is the ability to run local storage and playback on the controller itself. Denon takes it a step further with the ability to attach a SATA drive underneath the chassis for lots and lots of storage capabilities. So, can you just throw anything at it and playback? Well… not quite. As of the time of this blog, the Prime 4 will playback:
- MP3 32 kbit/s – 320 kbit/s + VBR.
- M4A / AAC.
- OGG Vorbis.
- WAV 16-32 bit, 44.1k – 192k.
- AIFF 16-32 bit, 44.1k – 192k.
The Pioneer XDJ-XZ is far more limited with support for:
So, if you run lossless FLAC or ALAC your only option at this time is Prime 4. I am curious if Pioneer will have a firmware upgrade to support lossless since that can be a showstopper for many people, including myself.
I never need software again?
The general thought is to never need a laptop or desktop again, right? Well first, of course, we have to get the music to the devices, so you have to, of course, need something to get the music to a USB stick or the hard drive. But these files still need to be analyzed, cue points and loops established, and all the other fun aspects of file management. Pioneer has by far a more robust solution in Rekordbox while Denon has the struggling Prime software platform that is still buggy and lacking many features still to this day. Just food for thought that the dream of some to be laptop-free will likely never happen. Sure now you can be laptop-free for the performance but is it really that big of a deal to have a laptop at your gig?
These are good efforts by the industry to fulfill a need from DJs. But are these wise investments? For me, at least with my workflow and needs, the all-in-one is more a liability than an asset. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a dangerous proposition if something fails. And let’s face it the DJ that will likely most gravitate to this is the mobile DJ and even more specifically the wedding DJ that is trying to reduce complexity, time to setup and strike, and have a slick solution in hand. If you fit this mold and this is the product you are interested in, then buy two because if this fails you might have nothing to save you for the rest of the night. And if you invest in a digital mixer to act as an emergency playback device (as I do) then you likely already have far more mic inputs and a competent EQ to ring out a room far more effectively. Then the benefits come down to just using local storage and if you are an open-format DJ with a large library then using a laptop-based solution is likely a far more practical solution.
For me, they are both intriguing pieces of hardware representing solid advancements in technology and capability in the space. But it fills an awkward space in the mobile DJ world where it can create more issues than it solves.