The CDJ2000 debate: To sync or not to sync?

If you’ve hopped on Facebook or Twitter this morning, you might have noticed the flood of opinions over Pioneer’s latest model of CDJ being blasted across the web. So why all the fuss? Well, the CDJ-2000nexus includes a new function that’s proved divisive, to say the least: a Master Sync button that effectively does away with the need to beatmatch. Opinions on the sync button have ranged from the suggestion that it’s an affront to traditional DJing, criticism of Dutchman Laidback Luke for his appearance in Pioneer’s demonstration video through to the voices of plenty of folk who think it doesn’t matter terribly much. To explore the issue further, we went straight to one of Australia’s most authoritative DJs (and certified Honour Roll inductee), Mike Callander, to offer his opinion. Over to you, Mike…

I’m rather amused at the outrage expressed at Pioneer’s inclusion of a “Master Sync” function on the new CDJ2000 Nexus. Upon its release my Facebook newsfeed lit up like the CDJ2000’s mega-bright platter (until you find the dimmer function in the settings menu). Some people were outraged that the machine was doing the work of the DJ, while others attacked poor old Laidback Luke for his starring role in the demo video. That’s a good thing for the brand, I suppose, and I guess this discussion is good for DJing too, because it allows us all a chance to express what inspires and excites us about the craft.

For me, good DJing never had much to do with keeping beats in sync. Sure, nobody wants to hear a trainwreck mix, but there’s so much more to a good DJ set than matters of mathematics. Just because I own a metronome doesn’t mean I can play the piano. After all, “Master Sync” in practice is just a matter of fixing the timing of one track to the timing of another… it’s one of the things DJs naturally do when mixing, and some do it better than others, but it’s not all they do.

Sync doesn’t choose the mood or vibe of music, nor the key in which it is written, though there’s another piece of technology that’ll take care of that for you too. It’s called Mixed in Key, and DJs have been using it for years. I never used Mixed in Key and I probably won’t use Master Sync, but I don’t care if anyone else does. Hopefully the time they save using these tools will allow them a chance to be creative in other areas. More decks and more sampling could be the product of this time saved and may add value to a Sync-ed set. Still, I’d probably prefer to hear the human element of a two-deck mix that favours dropping a track to a particular room over the precision timing of a transient fixed on a quantized grid.

I really believe that good DJing will always be about programming – that is, playing the right track at the right time in the context of what was played before, and the ability of the DJ to influence the audience reaction through their choice of music. I’ve heard inspirational DJ sets by guys who can barely mix a drink (in terms of beat-matching) and other sets delivered perfectly in time via Traktor’s sync function (which appeared years prior to this one by Pioneer) that bored the shit out of me, and vice versa. Master Sync won’t change any of this.

What’s you opinion on the CDJ-2000nexus debate? Let us know in the comments below.

Mike Callander is currently running School of Synthesis, high-end sound production classes tailored for artists working in the music industry today. Head to the the website for more info.