DJM 900NXS2 VS DJM-A9
DJM-900NXS2 VS DJM-A9: A DJ's Perspective
Straight from the off, I would like to state the fact that I am no tech expert. I am simply a DJ and just wanted to give you my honest opinion from a DJ's perspective on what it has been like on my transition from my most favourable mixer to date, the DJM-900NXS2, to the brand new DJM-A9. If it's specs you're after, then I highly recommend popping over to the official Pioneer website where I am sure you will be able to find all those facts and figures to satisfy your tech intellectual minds!
At first glance, apart from the obvious size difference, our first question was, can we justify the £2,500+ price tag as it doesn't look like much at all has changed. So, after careful consideration and the simple fact of either professionally servicing the NXS2 or taking the dive and purchasing the new A9, we decided to go with the upgrade. After a couple of weeks of playing with it, I thought I would give some feedback.
1. Sound quality
After spending the full day with 5/6 students playing consistently on the NXS2 mixer, as the day ended, I took my first opportunity to set up the A9, and the first thing that was unmistakable was the advance in sound quality... WOW!!! We use the KRK Rokit 5's in our small studio, and they do a great job. So, I had to say to myself, if the quality was that obvious on those, I can't wait to hear the difference in the club!! Off to a great start!!
Firstly, the update of the USB-C alongside the standard USB-B connection is a helpful addition, keeping up with the advances of laptops, meaning users won't have to spend extra on adapters or the nausea of carrying them around and worse, forgetting them! As well as the standard channel connections as Line, Phono, Digital, and USB, and returns, there is a new Bluetooth connection. My first impression was, why? I mean, great if you want to connect your phone and listen to tracks while doing other things at home, but my initial thought was nooooooo!! Why have you made it harder Pioneer to tell requesters "No, I don't have that track, and no, there is no way we can connect your phone to play it either..." So, if punters are aware of the Bluetooth link, we are done! lol So, for personal use out of the club, I can see its benefits, but apart from that, I don't really see any purpose due to a possible delay if it came to trying to beatmatch anything.
3. Mic Upgrade
The mic inputs have had some great additions. Firstly, the Phantom Power so anyone using studio-quality condenser mics can now do so, and the separate mic FX, including Reverb, Echo, Pitch, and Megaphone, which can also be combined with the standard beat FX to create some very creative results on vocals.
4. A & B Headphones
A and B headphone connection is fantastic!! I played a back-to-back the other week on an NXS2, and the other DJ plugged his headphones into the mini-jack slot and was trying to cue his track up while I was mid-mix, which obviously is pretty bad on him which is another matter, but hey, that would have definitely been a good time for the new feature!
5. Colour FX
I think the obvious addition to this is the center lock on the effect parameter, a great feature!! I know you can always just use the FX option button to turn it off, which is always an alternative, but then you lose the movement of the parameter no matter how fast or slow that is and is sometimes preferred, but having the option now is good without the worry of going too far, especially out of breakdowns. Now I don't know whether it's just because of the new sound quality that the effect is clearer or that they have intensified it, but "what have you done to the Crush effect??!!" In my opinion, it's been made way too intense to the point I'm really finding it hard to use in the same way as it seems like the bitrate is dropped so much more with so little application, and now how intense it sounds on the small KRK's, I'm pretty cautious of if I want to risk using it in the club environment. And where has the gate feature gone on the Sweep? I used to love combining that with the Echo beat effect to get a cool skippy effect, and it's been replaced by what? I have no idea, is it a notch filter? Still trying to figure it out. Maybe I should watch a video or read a few release notes so it's explained what it has actually been changed to, but what difference is that going to make? It's not going to make me like it anymore, which is one thing I say to students when first introducing them to the colour FX, that I can stand there giving them all the terminology of what the different parameters are, but the only thing that really matters is how it sounds when you change them. Everything else is pretty much the same on that part. Due to the loss of gate and the difference to the crush, the NXS2 is my preference.
6. Faders & EQs
They feel great!! So smooth, and hopefully, it's not just because it's a brand-new mixer. I'm sure they will have some wear and tear, but if they at least keep the smoothness, then I'm happy. The EQs seem as tight as ever, but the extra spacing of the layout makes it so much easier, comfortable, and feels more natural to use. The Magvel Fader is back. I can't really have an opinion on it as the crossfader doesn't normally fit into my approach to mixing, although I imagine a lot of scratch DJs will be happy to see the return. There are now EQ settings for the booth monitors, nothing I've found a use for as yet, and don't think it ever will, tbh, as I have never thought, "so wish I could give the monitor a bit more top end right now...lol" but I'm sure someone will find its uses.
7. Beat FX
My initial reaction... Where's the Slip Roll gone?! I LOVED that effect, especially when playing with vocals and catching different syllables as the vocal progresses. So, the fact that it has gone, I was pretty gutted about that, which, in turn, set my mood up completely wrong as I started to explore the new additions and then seeing what I thought was wrong with them instead of seeing the creative benefits. I mean, the Mobius, why would I ever want any mix to sound like someone just managed to clear a screen on the game show Catchphrase?
And then I started to really play with them in a jam, and that's when I got it! Firstly, the screen's extra size really gives you the chance to be more precise with your levels of understanding when controlling the different parameters due to the amount of extra detail that is incorporated, as well as the X-Pad has been made much simpler and easy to use. For example, the Reverb parameters visually are so self-explanatory that I imagine even someone who doesn't know what reverb is will understand how to use it. The Channel Select buttons are way better when jumping from one to another, instead of too far or not enough. The separate channel select for Send and Return is fantastic! I love the fact you now have the freedom to apply FX from the RMX1000 to different channels to the Beat FX, opening the door for so many creative possibilities.
Most of the effects have been carried over from the NXS2 model with a few alterations to the performance of them. One being the Echo now has a tape delay effect when changing the timing, which works well with the advances of the X-Pad. Updated FX are, as mentioned, Mobius, which in all fairness, I am starting to see the usability, but for myself only when combined with a "wet" effect from the Color FX, like Reverb or Dub Echo. The triplet roll is pretty cool, as I do love a good triplet groove, but on to the pièce de résistance... the TRIPLET FILTER!!!! OH MY GOSH!!!! This is probably my favorite effect EVER!!!! I can't get enough of it!! So, so, so, soooo good! And so many different ways to creatively use it. Whether it's to intensify a buildup, modulate the vocals of an acapella, or even subtly use it on a loop of a breakdown pad. Then, the way to intensify the parameters to give it that LFO effect is just so sick, love it! I definitely think my love of the triplet groove has played a huge part in my love of the effect, that's for sure.
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