In my opinion the Pioneer CDJ-850s are one of the best digital decks on the market, taking everything into consideration, including the price, I obviously accept that CDJ-2000s are in a different league but unless they’re for a nightclub or you’re a big time DJ then the extortionate price just isn’t worth it. So for the rest of us we have to settle for something cheaper and the 850s could be the answer. Much of the technology was taken from its bigger brother the CDJ-900 but was designed for the DJ on a budget. I’ll take a more detailed look at the positives, and the sacrifices Pioneer have made for the price.
We’ll start at the start, and on first impressions its looks very beautiful and stylish and that’s in comparison to a Pioneer CDJ range famous for being visually impressive. The 850s are much sleeker than the other Pioneer models and the silver design looks more attractive than plain black. You’ll be glad to know that in typical Pioneer style, that despite this elegant design it’s still robust and gig-proof which means no more unfortunate accidents in a club from the guy who’s had a beer to many.
If you’ve ever used Pioneer CDJ’s before then they’ll be no unexpected surprises with the CDJ 850s controls, and is lade out in pretty much the same way as the rest of the range. You get the standard reverse button and rotary dial to control start-ups and wind downs and a vinyl/CDJ mode. Pioneer have however removed the ability adjust the resistance like you can in the CDJ 2000s but it’s a corner well cut and is perfectly balanced for scratching and mixing. If you’re used to some of the higher range CDJ’s then break effect might be a tad irritating, especially if you’re used to the ‘set and forget’ feature, as you have to turn the dial when you want to brake and leave it off when you don’t.
You’ll be glad to know that one thing that’s not been sacrificed is the Rekordbox compatibility. This is the software that enable you categorise all you’re music into a straightforward library. You can then break down the tracks into tempo and waveforms, and a red marker appears for every cue/loop points which makes mixing that much easier. In live sets its also very useful as you can set up to 10 loops and cue-points so that you can enable playlists, which can then be exported to USB. Be careful though, if you’re mixing with CD’s and you don’t save you’re loop points and you eject the CD or switch off the unit, you will lose the presets. As well as this I was disappointed to find that the LINK function had been removed which I believe is crucial in today’s DJ industry. It enables you to connect to other CDJ’s so you can share cue/loop points instantly.
Now to perhaps the most important feature, the way it sounds and I personally can’t fault it. It sounds equally as good as CDJ’s at the very top of Pioneers range, and sounds clear and smooth at all frequencies with thumping basses and clear, crisp trebles that is helped with the anti-vibration technology. So all in all I think Pioneer CDJ850s are a great success, especially considering the renowned disappointment of the 800s. I think you’re in for a pretty tough decision if you’re considering buying them or spending a bit more money on the 900s in exchange for a more features. But the 850s would be a great purchase to any small bar, nightclub or professional DJ on a budget.