REVIEWED
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REVIEWED: Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX3
The hugely successful Pioneer DJ XDJ-RX series of standalone controllers – featuring the original RX and follow-up RX2 – has now been updated to the new XDJ-RX3. This all-in-one unit, featuring two channels, a mixer and a large colour touchscreen, is ideal for mobile DJs.

With an extremely fast, easy setup and no need for a computer, you can be up and running in no time using just a USB. At 9.3kg (without the flightcase), the controller weighs a tiny bit more and is slightly higher (11.8cm) and deeper (47cm) than its predecessors, but the extra weight and size is negligible. Currently a Rekordbox-only unit, Serato DJ Pro compatibility is promised in early 2022.

Building on the massive success of its predecessors, Pioneer DJ have added some new features to the RX3, a few of which are unique to this controller. Unsurprisingly, it's dead easy to operate straight out of the box, as everything is well laid out and fairly obvious. The first thing you see is a huge 10.1" touchscreen, a big improvement on the RX2. The layout is shared with most Pioneer DJ controllers and mixers, so anyone familiar with the range will be at home immediately. The mix section borrows features from the fabulous DJM-900NXS2 mixer, while the player sections borrow from the club-standard CDJ-3000 player.

Player Layout

On either side of the mixer section is a DJ player with track select, search, loop, cue, jog adjust, vinyl, slip, quantize, master tempo, tempo controls and beat sync. You’ll also find a midsized jog wheel with a clear central display that shows track art and useful positioning information. The feel of the jog wheels is very smooth – perfect for the work I do.

Below each jog wheel is a set of eight multi-function, multi-coloured pads. These enable hot cue/loops, beat jumps, beat loops, slip loops and release FX, the latter of which is new for the RX3. I had great fun playing with release FX; it reminds me of the DDJ-FLX6. It’s also worth noting that the cue and play/pause buttons are much more visible than they were on the XDJ-RX2, with Pioneer DJ opting for the same illumination style of the other CDJs and DDJs.

Mixer Layout

This section consists of a 2-channel mixer with two effects sections, and controls for microphone and headphones. Each channel has a source selector enabling deck, line or phono, allowing you to connect an external CDJ or turntable, for instance. There’s also a trim to adjust gain and 3-band EQ providing either full EQ kill or +6 to -26dB (this is configured in the unit's menu system).
These knobs are smooth and well-spaced, so us big-thumbed fools will not accidentally move two at the same time! Each channel has a smooth fader (the curve can also be altered in the shortcut menu) and a cue button to monitor the channel pre-mix. Below all this, you’ll find an excellent crossfader that can be either switched out altogether or given one of two curve profiles using the crossfader curve switch.

In between the channel controls is an excellent level meter showing each channel's level, as well as the main output level. The dB levels are clearly marked and there's a CLIP indicator which starts flashing if you go crazy on the levels. Above the meter, just below that amazing screen, is the master level knob which again is clearly marked. (Patience, I'll get to that screen in a minute...)

To the left of the main channels is an extra channel. This takes a line-level input from an AUX connection (RCA or 3.5mm jack) to the rear of the unit for just about anything you may wish to connect, such as a CD player, iPad or smartphone. There is a trim level for this additional channel, but no EQ. It could suit background music, for instance.

Just below this section are six sound colour effect buttons, a parameter knob and a colour knob for each channel. Taken straight from the DJM-900 mixer, these classic effects are awesome. Directly compared to the XDJ-RX2, the XDJ-RX3 has an extra six beat FX and two additional sound colour FX.

The headphone section, which sits below the colour FX section, boasts an amazing new feature! As well as the usual headphone control knobs and cue buttons that you’ll be used to, Pioneer DJ has added a CUE link button that allows you to preview a track without loading it into either deck, just by touching the preview waveform on the track list on the screen. This will be incredibly useful for DJs who may be unfamiliar with a client’s request. Split cue functionality can also be switched in for the headphones via the menu system.

To the right-hand side of the channels are the booth monitor level knob and beat effects section, again taken directly from the DJM-900 mixers. I love what Pioneer DJ have included here and genuinely wish my DDJ-1000 had a few of these. What’s different? Well, a section of that amazing screen (yes, I promise I'll get to that in a moment)
is devoted to showing how the beat FX parameters are set, and a touch X pad control is provided too. On the XDJ-XZ and the DJM-900, there is a separate screen and X pad touch control to drive the beat FX, but this works just as intuitively.

Above the left-hand player is the microphone mixer section, which allows you to control two separate microphones connected through combined XLR/jack sockets on the rear of the unit. Each microphone has its own gain control and there is a shared 2-band EQ. A switch allows you to switch the microphones off and on, or duck the output whilst speaking.

That Screen!

OK – finally, let's talk about that 10.1” screen. This is simply brilliant in almost every way. It's massive, very high resolution, the colours really pop, and all the information shown is perfect under Rekordbox control. The background colour is black, with a contrast ratio that is perfect for working indoors. I had to DJ a few outdoor events during last summer, and I made use of Rekordbox's white screen mode on my MacBook, which was excellen. I think that this could be a great move for a future firmware update.

Above the screen are six buttons for selecting the music source, tag, playlists, search and menu, and to the screen’s right is a rotary encoder with navigation, load and shortcut buttons. You can quickly set several parameters via these buttons and tracks can be loaded from various sources. This layout is borrowed from the flagship players such as the CDJ-3000, as well as the CDJ-2000NXS, XDJ-XZ and XDJ1000MK2.

Connectivity

On the front of the unit, you’ll find a standard 1/4" jack and a 3.5mm jack for headphones. Meanwhile, on the rear panel is an IEC mains socket, two combined jack/XLR sockets for microphones, a 3.5mm socket and two RCA connectors for connecting auxiliary devices, phono RCA connectors for each channel, an earth terminal for connecting turntables, line RCA connectors for each channel to connect CDJs or other line inputs, a USB-B port to connect a laptop, a Kensington lock slot, balanced 1/4" jack booth outputs for local monitors, balanced XLR main outputs, and RCA main outputs.

Two USB-B connectors are found on the face of the XDJ-RX3; great for connecting mass storage devices and USB sticks, whilst the second USB can also be set to record your mix. Anything you connect to these ports has to be in FAT16, FAT32 or HFS+ (NTFS and exFAT aren’t supported).

Another useful improvement the XDJ-RX3 offers over its predecessors is the ability to play FLAC files, which will please the DJs with the largest libraries. Of course, MP3, AAC, WAV and AIFF formats are also supported as standard.

Using the XDJ-RX3, I prepared a 1TB SSD using Rekordbox and loaded up 15,000 tracks. When I plugged the drive into one of the USB slots, the contents appeared in a few seconds. One of my folders contains about 9000 files and even this showed up incredibly quickly. Searching for a track using the QWERTY keyboard was also a speedy process and loading a track takes about a second. This is great news, especially for mobile DJs, as we typically carry many more tracks than others due to the variety of work we have to do. However, there is just one little quirk I’ve discovered: currently the search won't find accented names, such as Beyoncé, when you type ‘Beyonce’.

As well as using USB media prepared using Rekordbox, there are other ways to get music into your XDJ-RX3 without the need for a reboot. You can connect a laptop via the USB-B port to enable the ProDJ link. With Rekordbox in export mode, your entire collection stored on your laptop can be navigated, searched, loaded and played with a few presses of the encoder or the touch screen. Also, as the XDJ-RX3 is a hardware unlocked device, you can use RekordboxDJ in ’performance mode’ for free.

Conclusion

The XDJ-RX3 is a pleasure to use, offers high-quality buttons, faders and encoders, and will no doubt prove as reliable as the rest of Pioneer DJ’s range. I found it to be highly intuitive and Pioneer DJ has really thought things out well. Plus, it looks the part and has the perfect footprint.

I am a long-time user of Rekordbox products, having started when it was released, and it's a pleasure to see another great Rekordbox product hit the shelves. There are one or two features I would have liked to have seen – such as key lock and the sampler keys on the DDJ-1000 – and it would be great to have both time elapsed and time remaining displayed simultaneously. I would also love to see the colour tags when browsing each playlist, as this is a central element of my workflow. But would I still buy one?

Yes, I would. The XDJ-RX3 has all the essentials and minimises the amount of kit in my booth. Just like its two awesome predecessors, I predict it will sell out everywhere and be used by thousands of happy DJs across the world. When did you say you want this back, Pro Mobile?