It's been a big year for progress at Pioneer. Its RMX-1000 effects unit came paired with a VST, a first for the company. Then, the CDJ-2000nexus turned heads and raised eyebrows with its Sync button functionality, also a first for their industry-standard players. Now, with its new DJ controller-cum-media player, the firm is introducing WiFi streaming to bedrooms and booths with the XDJ AERO.
It's not all about one feature though, there's also support for USB sticks/harddrives (a single input can be loaded into either deck), a USB port for controlling software like Traktor and two phono inputs for use as a standalone mixer.
On top, two jog wheels, sample player, four effects per deck, three-band EQ and filter per channel as well as sync and quantise functions - though oddly, there's no multiple cue point options.
At first glance the AERO seems too good to be true - not only do you get a full self-contained digital DJ solution, you also get a two-channel mixer and a MIDI controller. Even if you never looked into the WiFi aspect of the device, it already seems like good value.
Pioneer is aiming it at the 'home DJ' market, a move which makes a lot of sense, but with balanced TRS outputs, we reckon the AERO could hold its own as a mobile DJ solution too. So what of the WiFi? Is it the icing on the cake, or a sour aftertaste?
Pioneer's Rekordbox music analysis software is the beating heart of the WiFi concept on the AERO. It's not possible to load any track onto the AERO that hasn't first been given its blessing by the software, which now works on mobile devices as well as OS X and Windows. Once you've imported your track collection into the software, it's time to connect to the AERO.
The device can either operate as an ad-hoc WiFi network or connect to another router, though for lag and stability reasons we'd suggest allowing it to take charge. Diving into its settings, you'll find the WiFi password and once connected, the AERO shows up in Rekordbox either on your mobile device or computer.
Now you can control the browser on your device from the AERO, and once you've chosen your track you can either drag it to Deck A or B from Rekordbox or select it from the controller. It's very responsive and remarkably fast at loading - about seven or eight seconds per track. It's worth noting that AIFFs and WAVs cannot be loaded over WiFi, only MP3 and AAC files are supported.
So far so good, but the one real stickler here is that, you can't pull through track information from Rekordbox when browsing. Turning the Browse rotary on the AERO only moves the selector on the screen of the device you're loading from; AERO's screen remains static with the device name until you've selected a track.
This means you can't connect to your phone and leave it in your pocket, for example, or connect to your laptop and leave it in another room, or connect to your friend's phones as they arrive at your party. You need to look at the screen of the device to see what track you're about to load and this is counter-intuitive to the wireless concept.
Why not just plug it in with a USB cable if you're going to have it constantly next to the device anyway? If the AERO can pull whole tracks out of thin air, surely it can pull through playlist information from Rekordbox too? Hopefully this will be possible with a firmware update.
There are a lot of positives about how it works though: it's fast, it was reliable in our testing and in theory it means that you have access to a track library as big as your collective hard drives: up to four WiFi devices can be connected at once.
And the rest
Though the WiFi might be the main event with the AERO it's the USB port for sticks and hard drives that's the real bonus and opens up the AERO beyond a potential gimmick. Plus, unlike the WiFi option, it will read non-Rekordbox'd files and do its best to analyse them on the fly.
Build quality is really solid - the jogs feel as good as CDJ-350s and the plastic casing feels like it'll take a beating. The isolator EQs sound good and the classic one-knob filter is a bit thin but sounds as good as you'd expect at this price. Add to that the ability to use the AERO as a controller and you're really looking at a home DJ Swiss Army knife.
AERO vis-à-vis Pioneer has done something very interesting with the XDJ AERO. Even if you ignored the WiFi side of things, you could get excited about the USB input, two-channel mixer and controller options at this price point.
Add the WiFi functionality - which is still finding its feet in terms of usability - and it seems like a no brainer. It's easy to set up and use, is accurately priced and if you need it to be, is a very portable fully self-contained DJ solution.
If you think it's a steep price for any entry-level DJs, consider the alternatives. Two CDJ-350s and a DJM-350 weigh in at £1,479, with the optical drive being the only real difference, and of course, no WiFi.
If you look outside the world of Pioneer, Stanton's SCS.4DJ offers hard drive and USB-stick support but with smaller jogs, no sample playback and no inputs. What makes loads of sense about the AERO isn't just the multi-functionality but also the introduction it will give you to the world of Rekordbox and Pioneer equipment.
Not only will anyone who uses the AERO at home become familiar with the layout and functionality of the industry-standard gear that makes up most DJ booths, but they'll also get into the habit of Rekordboxing.
It's hard to recommend anything else to someone who's serious about getting into DJing or for a current DJ who's already committed to Rekordbox on CDJs and wants a unit at home to practice, record mixes and try ideas. And add WiFi to the list of features and the deal, as they say, is sealed.