Archive for the 'Sound systems' category

Pioneer DJM 2000 firmware update to version 3 – nearly a Nexus!

This article details the benefits of updating the firmware on a Pioneer DJM 2000. It’ll also explain the differences between a DJM 2000 running the latest firmware, and a DJM 2000 Nexus. It should be very useful if you are trying to decide whether to buy a DJM 2000 or a DJM 2000 Nexus, or if you already have a DJM 2000 and want to better understand the benefits of upgrading the firmware.

An introduction to the Pioneer DJM 2000

I recently acquired a DJM 2000 running version firmware 1.27. It’s about 5 years old, but in good condition. Still a very nifty piece of kit. My last mixer was a DJM 500 and the game has really moved on. From a purely non-musical perspective, consider that it has a touch screen and 6 network ports!

Pioneer DJM 2000 Rear Connection Panel

So a four channel DJ mixer. It can support turntables on two of the channels, and all channels support analogue and digital line in. It can perform the duties of a network hub between up to four CDJ devices, and even connect to two computers for seamless transitioning between DJs at a live event. It has a send/return loop and a midi interface. There’s a huge amount of potential with all this, which I won’t go into now, but suffice to say this hardware is ready to combine traditional live DJ duties with more creative musical experiences normally restricted to audio studios.

PIONEER DJM 2000 top view

From the top view then, this is more or less a traditional four channel mixer with an effects unit shoved in between channels 2 and 3 above the cross fader. So what does that touch screen do?

It handles administration, midi control, settings etc. At first it seems bizarre that a mixer needs this, but much as we now take games console internet updates as being completely usual these days (remember the initial weirdness of the PS3 being online?!), it makes sense. But it also allows for some live DJ uses:

7 band cross fader

Yes – chop two tracks together in seven chunks of the audio spectrum. Easy high-hat or kick drum swapping right there.

7 band cross-fader

Live effects control

Use one finger to quickly control the base frequency and oscillation period of any of the built in effects.

djm 2000 sidechain

Updating the firmware

See my guide on updating the DJM 2000 firmware. If your DJM 2000 is still running version 1.x, you’re in for quite an upgrade!

Benefits of firmware version 3

DJ benefits

  • Beat Slicer – a brilliant tool that allows the DJ to sample and remix on the fly. Great for creatives.
  • Improved side-chain effect – add a whole bunch of filters to the built-in side-chain and control these with a single finger on the touch screen. I saw a good example of this in use where the gate effect was triggered by the existing (old) track, and applied to the incoming (new) track. This fade in effect sounds great!

Engineering benefits

  • Peak Limiter – billed to “eliminate distortion and clipping even at club volumes”, that’s certainly good news given some of the DJs I’ve worked with…
  • Auto Standby – turns itself off after 4 hours of inactivity.

CDJ / Rekordbox benefits

  • Quantize effects – if you’re using Rekordbox, the mixer can use the BPM information to ensure that all the effects (including the awesome beat-slicer!) are locked in time with the underlying track.
  • Sync master – using the DJ link, the DJM 2000 can optionally enforce exact BPM matching between any or all CDJ 2000 NXS players.

What’s better about the Nexus?

All statements from here onwards assume we are comparing a DJM 2000 with firmware version 3.20 with a DJM 2000 Nexus running the same firmware. So far as I can tell, there are no feature differences. That makes sense, right? The differences must all be in the hardware.

The are some cosmetic changes. The three Effect Frequency potentiometers in the middle of the mixer have silver knobs on the Nexus. The row of beat selectors beneath them are lit by white LEDs on the Nexus (red on the Mk1). Meh.

In functional terms, the Nexus sports Pioneer’s “P-Lock” fader caps which cannot be easily removed and therefore are more likely to stay in place during enthusiastic use. Whether or not the Nexus also has the more durable fader assembly that sits at 90 degrees to the surface of the mixer so as to be less prone to damage due to spills and dust, I don’t know. Either way for studio use, neither of these advantages concern me.

The Nexus also has higher quality digital converters on its output stages. The Nexus has a 32 bit D/A converter. I can’t find that specification for the Mk1 so perhaps it is only 24 bit. Both sample at 96 kHz, have <0.004% distortion and have a 107 dB signal to noise ratio.

Conclusion

I’m entirely satisfied with my acquisition of a DJM 2000 Mk1 now that I’ve upgraded it to firmware version 3.20. The hardware improvements that come with the Nexus are mainly cosmetic, with only the improved D/A converter being something I might like – but that’s on a theoretical level; I can’t fault the sound as it stands.

I don’t have any CDJ players yet. The Sync Master feature suggests that if I do acquire some, I’m going to want to dig deep and get the CDJ 2000 Nexus players.

The whole topic of whether features like Sync Master and Quantise actually take the talent out of DJing is an interesting one. I can beat match. I’ve got a load of music on vinyl and I enjoy using my Technics. However I’m keen to focus on creating new blends and cuts. The longer I have to spend on the technicalities of beat matching, the less time and therefore enjoyment I’m going to derive from the more creative side of things. That’s my excuse for now, anyway!

Pioneer DJM 2000 / Nexus firmware update – how to

Note: I’ve done this using Windows 10 in January 2016.

Before we start here, if you want to know more about the DJM 2000 in general, take a look at my in-depth look at the mixer as a whole.

Begin by getting the mixer to display your current version. To do this, while the mixer is on, press and hold the Live Sampler button to the left of the touch screen.

Pioneer DJM 2000 version 3.2

Choose “Version Number” and it’ll display it. Naturally I didn’t take a photo before the upgrade when I was on version 1.27, but here’s the end destination – version 3.20!

Download the latest firmware updater – available for both PC and Mac. Just in case it is ever useful, I’m got a mirror copy of the Windows firmware updater for version 3.20 here.

Extract the zip file. Then we have to establish some kind of communication between the PC and the DJM 2000.

All the guides I’ve read suggest that the DJM 2000 should be connected directly to the Ethernet port of the PC you are using. Apparently it has its own DHCP server and will create a private network if you set your PC to look for a DHCP server there. I tried this and couldn’t get it to work. I’d like to think I know my arse from my elbow in that realm at least.

So instead I connected the DJM’s “Computer 1” port to my LAN while the mixer was off. I then held down both the beat effect and remix effect on/off buttons while switching the mixer on. My router accepted a DHCP request from the DJM and assigned it a local IP address. I could see that it was listening on port 58003. The mixer’s display said it was waiting to receive an update.

Then I ran the executable file in the downloaded zip file. I permitted network activity on any network to that application. It detected the mixer and uploaded the new firmware. The mixer presented a bar chart on its display which tracked progress.

DJM 2000 firmware update

After that, I turned it off and on again as instructed, and hey presto! Version 3 was loaded.

DJM 2000 loading firmware version 3

Now you’re on the latest hardware, I bet you’re wondering what you’re missing out on by not having a DJM 2000 Nexus! The difference might not be as great as you’d expect. Check out my summary of the situation.

Getting back into sound and light

The last six months or so have seen me getting back into sound system and light show engineering. I emerged from school as a bit of a DJ with the requisite tools and a basic sound system, and while my primary profession turned out to be software engineering, I continued to grow my sound system and complemented it with a bit of lighting.

Neil, Ben, and 8 M2 boxesAt its peak, in around 2003, the sound system looked a little bit like this. I was also much thinner, as you can see. I actually built another couple of these bass bins for the more demanding drum and bass events we did. It was a nice little system. Around half that lot stacked up smartly enough for corporate functions, and the whole lot made a reasonable impression on Guildford’s old Civic Hall.

In the ten years since much has changed. In 2006 I sold all those speakers, my amplifiers and my lights. I put the money towards kicking off the E30 M3 project which established readers will know all about.

This rise and fall of interest coincided with that of a good friend of mine. Jon Evelegh, a school friend at first, had built up a rather larger sound system, and sold it as his primary interest turned out to be marine towage. So after his departure from the scene in 2002, and my complete sell-out in 2006, my world became a much quieter place. Recently however, that situation has been completely reversed.

In 2010 Jon re-acquired his system. Having overhauled it completely, and greatly increased its size, he’s ready for business. His system is custom built, unique, and devastatingly good in a way that’s very hard to quantify. On the date of this article, Jon’s RC1 Sound System has 1,132 Facebook likes. That’s an awful lot of people, many of whom are big name DJs, who follow his movements and just want to know more.

Last May, Jon asked me to come along to a gig he was doing down in Bournemouth. He was putting a 16 box system in a nightclub called The Old Firestation for a night called Dub Optic.

It was at this point I realised how much he had moved the game on. For a start, when I had a 10 box M2 system, Jon had a 12 box RC1 system. The RC1s were already considerably louder and generally more capable. Yet here he was wandering around with a 16 box system. Here’s a picture of me in front of a stack.

Neil in front of 8 box RC1 stack

Bass at head height! The sound was incredible. Not just powerful, but so musical and such high quality. I left that night knowing I’d just got the bug again.

Which brings us in a long, rambling way back to the present. I’m very excited by sound and light engineering again. I’ve built up another small sound system and a much larger light and laser show designed to accompany the RC1s on their journey to stardom. I’ll blog about my light and sound separately. I’ll probably blog more about RC1 in the future too come to think about it!

I’ll sign off though with a picture of Jon atop one of his 13 box speaker stacks at the London O2’s IndigO2 bar just before Christmas. That was quite the gig!

Jon on a 13 box RC1 stack