In my wrap-up article for the 2012 NAMM Show, I remarked that Gemini’s new CDJ-700 is similar in both name and appearance to Pioneer’s celebrated line of CD players, and that this similarity was likely to attract many new customers to the Gemini brand, along with a much more economical price point. Most people’s assumption, however, would be that the similarities between the Pioneer and Gemini products end at their name and appearance, and to truly compare the two would be like comparing apples and oranges. They would be very, very wrong.
Gemini’s CDJ-700 does everything I want a CDJ to do, and more. The basic CDJ functionality is fully intact, with all the expected controls: play/pause, cue, vinyl/jog, a pitch fader with a key lock, three hot cues, loop controls, track selection, and track search. The CDJ-700 also includes reverse play, start time adjustment, stop time adjustment, jog wheel tension controls, and slip mode. Slip mode is a great feature to have because it allows the track to keep playing in the background while you scratch or engage loops, so that when you stop scratching or exit the loop, the track immediately returns to where it should be if you had not done anything at all. This allows you to get creative without ever straying from the beat.
The CDJ-700 also has some pretty cool effects built in. My personal favorite is the filter, which can be controlled with the jogwheel. Turning clockwise creates a hi-pass filter, and counterclockwise creates a lo-pass filter. The size of the jog wheels gives you much better control over the filtering than the little knobs most of us are used to. The CDJ also includes a time-adjustable flanger effect as well as echo and three more effects (wah, bubble, and trance gate) which are accessible by switching the unit to vinyl mode. Having onboard effects on the CDJ is great, because it makes me miss using Traktor less when DJing without a laptop. I’m the kind of guy who simply must have his effects, and Gemini certainly delivers here.
One really cool feature of a CDJ with such a low price is its versatility with different media. The CDJ-700 can play not just CDs but USB sticks, USB hard drives, and SD cards. It can also hook up to a laptop and not only provide full MIDI control for DJ software, but also a built-in ASIO soundcard for playback of laptop audio! During one set, I used the CDJ-700 for CD playback, USB playback, SD playback, CD timecode control of Traktor, and MIDI control of Traktor without ever having to stop and adjust cables. Four simple buttons let me do those previously complex equipment transitions quickly and flawlessly without missing a beat. CDs load within a matter of seconds and the support for different formats is pretty robust (CDs, CD-Rs, MP3 CDs, MP3 files, WAV files, AAC Files, and AIFF files).
The CDJ-700 also sports a flashy full-color 3.5” touchscreen, the first touchscreen featured in the CDJ market. Touch controls over effects, track playback location, pitch fader range, time elapsed vs. time remaining, and many more parameters are easily manipulable with a simple touch. The screen also gives a complete waveform readout, and makes browsing through CDs and USB storage incredibly easy.
In all my time gigging with the CDJ-700, I never once felt like this unit was lacking in any critical feature. In fact, I don’t think there’s a CDJ on the market with a more comprehensive feature set – even the Pioneer CDJ-900 and CDJ-2000 are lacking in some of the Gemini’s most prominent features. The CDJ-900 does not feature SD card support, a full-color screen, tension adjustment, or separate start/stop time adjustments. The CDJ-2000 does not feature slip mode, and while it does have a larger 6.1” screen, it does not have touch functionality. Neither of these units includes any built-in effects, which I greatly enjoyed in the Gemini unit. The only real advantage the Pioneer units have over the Gemini is the ability to link together multiple CDJs and the integration with the proprietary Rekordbox. The solution to the “problem” of unlinked CDJs? Either pay $2,000 to replace your CDJ-700s with Pioneers or pay $20 to buy a second USB stick.
While deciding which CDJ to buy usually involves a tradeoff between different feature sets and price points, this problem can be avoided altogether with the CDJ-700. Not only does this masterwork from Gemini have one of the most robust lists of features in the CDJ market, it also has one of the lowest prices. Anyone who says these bad boys can’t compete with their twice-as-expensive Pioneer lookalikes has clearly had a bit too much of the Pioneer kool-aid. Combining all the best features into one sleek, sexy, and inexpensive package, the Gemini CDJ-700 ($599 USD) provides everything you need to be entirely satisfied with your selection of CDJ.