Think of DJing and the image that immediately springs to mind is that of two turntables and a mixer. But in this age of DJ controllers and CDRs is there really still a place for the humble turntable? Pioneer DJ think so and have just announced the all-singing, all-dancing DJ PLX-CRSS12. This Hybrid DJ deck combines the traditional ‘heritage’ aspects of turntable mixing and brings the practice bang up to date! But with a hefty price tag of £1199 each are the DJ PLX-CRSS12s going to strike the right chord with the wider DJ community? Let’s dig in!
Turntables V Alternative controllers
The percentage of professional DJs using turntables has significantly decreased in recent years, as digital DJ equipment and software have become more prevalent. Many DJs now use digital controllers or CDJs hooked up to computer-based setups using DJ software. With the advent of DVS (digital Vinyl systems), the turntable has kept pace with such developments. In fact, many practitioners of turntable-based DJing claim it to be the most precise and authentic way to mix records.
Deciding whether to adopt the turntable or controller route will have various influencing factors. Firstly if, like myself, you are of a certain age then you will have probably come up DJing on turntables so this is often the natural route to take. Newer, dare I say it, younger DJ practitioners will possibly feel more at home on controllers. It’s worth recognising that all these options provide a perfect DJing solution despite no shortage of disparaging memes eluding to the fact newer DJs may well come unstuck if faced with a pair of Technics 1210s!
The style of music you specialise in can also be an influencing factor. Hip Hop for instance often demands a more hands-on approach to DJing. Turntablism, which developed from Hip Hop DJing even takes its name from the humble DJ decks. Dance music on the other hand relies more on smooth transitions and additional effects. DJ Controllers, with all the bells and whistles laid out before you can be the best solution for this style of mixing.
So what if the best that controllers offered was available on a turntable? Pioneer DJ seem to be attempting to bridge this gap with the release of the PLX-CRSS12
You cannot accuse the PLX-CRSS12 of lacking in the feature department. These turntables are without a doubt the most sophisticated DJ turntable currently on the market. Probably the most revolutionary aspect of the PLX-CRSS12’s are its three available play modes. Firstly you can use this turntable with a digital vinyl system. Secondly, you can just use the platter as a controller with no need to track using a stylus and DVS disc. And thirdly you can play traditional vinyl records on it. This makes switching between playing formats a breeze with the press of a button.
The next brand-new feature that’s sure to delight those of a turntablist disposition is the removable maglev clamp. This clamp magnetically fits on the spindle and with a quick twist can affect the amount of resistance or slip of the record. Something I’m sure many scratch-happy DJs have often dreamed of.
Another welcome addition is 4 performance pads situated at the bottom left of the platter. These can be configured in addition to any pads that you may have set up on your mixer. So for instance you can have your hot cues set up on your mixer and then set up 4 samples to trigger from your Turntable. The 4 pads are fully midi mappable so you can decide what combinations best suit your style of DJing.
The PLX-CRSS12 also features a built-in OLED display with track information, i..e. tempo range, key, BPM, and deck number. This will certainly help reduce the amount of time spent staring ‘zombie-like’ into the screen of your lappy. Let’s face it, nobody in the crowd wants to see that!
I have covered the main features of this powerful new turntable but I have by no means covered everything. For the low down on the full specs, head to the Pioneer DJ website.
Although the PLX-CRSS12 is certainly the most feature-heavy turntable on the market there are some notable turntable alternatives.
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the iconic Technics 1210/1200. While the second-hand market is awash with used examples of various levels of thrashing, buying a new model, the Mk 7, will now set you back around £900. Pioneer DJ have their own version of the 1210 in the form of the PLX-1000. These come in at a slightly more affordable £699.
For slightly more comparable offerings you could look at the RP-8000 by Reloop which comes in at around the £500 mark. Although not as feature-rich as the PLX-CRSS12 it does boast full Serato DJ integration and 8 trigger pads.
Finally, we have the Rane 12 which to be fair is not an actual turntable, i.e. it has no tonearm and does not play records. It is however very much modelled after a traditional turntable with its 12″ controller platter and standard turntable layout. If you don’t intend to play any real vinyl then this option is a great bridge between the worlds of turntable and DJ Controller mixing. The Rane 12 can be purchased for just over £700.
There are many deciding factors when considering these turntables but first let’s address the elephant in the room here – Pioneer has chosen to adopt the ‘Battle DJ’ turntable position. i.e. the turntable is turned on its side with the pitch control now situated at the far end of the deck. I’m personally no fan of this position as I feel it makes for awkward and potentially dangerous pitch adjustment. One misjudged move and you’ve scat the tone arm clean off the record.
This brings me to my other main concern. It’s all very well having a plethora of buttons and switches situated on the turntable but again, with this comes the potential for accidental miss fires! Just imagine the crowd’s delight as you inadvertently press a hot cue just before that big drop or even worse, load a double to the other deck that’s playing! I’m probably being over dramatic and to be fair CDJs and controllers have even more potential for accidental errors, but based on the fact that every once in a while I press the 45rpm button mid-play, this aspect should be considered.
When considering the PLX-CRSS12’s and its place in the DJ tech market I have to ask the question, will there be a strong enough demand for this product? Let’s face it, this product is already catering to a pretty niche market, i.e. DVS based DJs who use Serato or Rekordbox. And talking of which, it’s interesting that Pioneer, who recently bought out Serato, has chosen only to support these 2 DJ software solutions.
Then you have to factor in the fact that you will need fairly deep pockets to afford a pair of these bad boys. Are these turntables desirable? YES, but do they justify the cost to upgrade from your existing setup? I’m not too sure. I guess only time will tell.