The CDJ2000 debate: To sync or not to sync?

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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.


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Aditboy said on the 7th Sep, 2012

Just quietly if you can learn to beat-match in one afternoon its not that much of an amazing skill...

Nathan Explosion

Nathan Explosion said on the 7th Sep, 2012

Who gives a flying fuck. At the end of the day the crowd only want a mix that sounds good!


Sweave said on the 7th Sep, 2012

will the sync button be able to beat match a dubstep song at 70 with another dubstep song at 140? If it could that would be amazing since they are completely different bpms!!


lavelle72 said on the 7th Sep, 2012

If people want to be robotic about DJing, they could've done so by looking at the BPM counters on previous models anyway...


ticketsplease said on the 7th Sep, 2012

Try and sync button a track that swings.
Try and sync button an acapella that comes in at a different time then the beat.
Try and sync button tracks at different tempos.

Get creative.


matzta73 said on the 7th Sep, 2012

This debate was over years ago, I am quite supprised Pioneer have taken so long to add it to their CDJs!!!


gront said on the 7th Sep, 2012

yeah i don't see the point of this debate... most DJs nowdays use traktor/serato anyways and that debate has been and gone. what difference is there if u have that technology on a deck? if u don't wanna use it, you won't. like the man said, you hear terrible sets from DJs who think that just because their music is sync'd somehow that redeems their otherwise abysmal performance


Suspekt said on the 7th Sep, 2012

I agree it won't change what makes a great DJ - it also is a bit funny considering so many big name DJs don't use any kind of beatmatching at all, using traktor, ableton, whatever. That said, David Guetta won't have to get someone else to mix his sets anymore, so that's probably a relief to him.

special ed

special ed said on the 7th Sep, 2012

at the end of the day a good dj should know how to beat match anyway. thats the basic 1st thing you learn. Theres nothing wrong with using sync to make things easier and allow you to focus on more creative aspects. I dont see the issue. The only problem lies whereby a n00b learns to dj only using sync, that will teach you nothing.


walkdogz said on the 7th Sep, 2012

On a CDJ mk III available years ago all you had to do was set both tracks to the same BPM on the screen i.e. set them both to exactly 120. I still think beatmatching is a worthwhile skill though and you can't just learn it in an afternoon. You can learn the concept but you can't train your ear that quickly.


Rintrah said on the 7th Sep, 2012

On point Mike, exactly what I would have said!


robism said on the 7th Sep, 2012

if some aspiring bedroom DJ wants to fork out for the 2000nexus and rely solely on the sync button, then he'll be shit out of luck when the club he lines up his first gig at is still running 1000s


riche said on the 7th Sep, 2012

To be honest the "Real Art of Djing" was lost when vinyl sadly past..!


grike said on the 7th Sep, 2012

The hatred comes from followers, not innovators. All of these people have missed the point. Most don't actually care so much that DJ heritage has been 'compromised' by not having to learn how to beatmatch - theyre just bitching that nobody has to learn it anymore like they did. They argue that its an essential part to being a good DJ, when really, alinging two sounds is a mechanical process that anyone can learn. Why not let machines take that hassle away? Are we secretly scared we won't be able to tell the difference between a good and bad DJ anymore? Or just that kids who haven't put in the hard yards are going to get all the glory? What makes a good DJ isn't going to change; it comes down to so many factors including (but no where near limited to) the mastery of track selection, learning your crowds and transitions. The technical side is no longer about mathematically adjusting a slider - 90% don't care about this anyway. In place we are moving toward technical creativity. They argue that not having to beatmatch will mean that anyone can be a DJ, but I think the really exciting thing is the opposite: that being a DJ who can just beatmatch won't mean squat. EVERYONE is going to have to lift their game as performers creatively. And the gap between truly good DJs and teeny boppers who can only 'push play' will get wider. I see that as a total positive. I'm looking forward to what people are going to do with the CDJ2000 Nexus.


DylanG said on the 7th Sep, 2012

Pioneers Sync will be as about as accurate as their loop functions they used to have on CDJ's I reckon. And even Sync on Traktor hasn't got a 100 percent strike rate of getting it right , so always trust your ears. Any monkey can learn to beat match. There is a lot more to DJ-ing than beat-matching...if you haven't worked that out then read more ITM...I hear it makes you a better a DJ ;) hehe

Cue Lights

Cue Lights said on the 7th Sep, 2012

it doesn't really matter to the crowd. but its a shit load more fun when you beat match.


DJBodie said on the 7th Sep, 2012

This shit's been around for ages. We all need to talk about something else.


jcotteri said on the 7th Sep, 2012

I think Kid Cudi up there needs a beer


Morecowbell said on the 8th Sep, 2012

If I'm paying money to go out and see a DJ ply their trade, I expect a level of professionalism. I couldn't care less if kids use a sync button in their bedrooms but if it's blatantly used in the club, I'm instantly disappointed.

Another thing...if you set two CDJs at 120bpm and hit play on both simultaneously, they WILL run out of time without adjustment. They are not magically synced by way of a generally average bpm counter. To liken using a bpm counter to syncing is just an arrogant and ignorant argument used by vinyl purists to make their medium appear more legit.


Sweave said on the 8th Sep, 2012

yes Cursive it was a troll comment haha


jezjonson said on the 9th Sep, 2012

I have always liked the sound of when djs play around with the pitch control - it's nice to hear kick drums slightly going out of time and then pulled back in - good stuff. Also, if the DJ is not beat-matching it could be argued that he has so little to do that he is in fact not even listening to the tunes


Funkedub said on the 10th Sep, 2012

Sync is fine ... however, reliance on sync will be the downfall of many a DJ.

Live by the sword ... die by the sword.


walkdogz said on the 10th Sep, 2012

Morecowbell, finding the same tempos is the hardest part of beatmatching which the bpm counter does for you. Monitoring and adjusting the mix is the easy part. It's not making a medium more legit, it's a fact: CDJs made mixing easier than vinyl.

Balance Series

Balance Series said on the 11th Sep, 2012

Some people like to drive cars with an automatic, whilst others like to drive using manual... You still need to be a good driver to avoid a crash.


EmmyC87 said on the 11th Sep, 2012

Serato does exactly the same thing.... :)


Warn-A-Brotha said on the 11th Sep, 2012

Pioneer CMX-3000 had a "Beat Sync" button ...


Morecowbell said on the 12th Sep, 2012

walkdogz, if you're referring to mixing exclusively with vinyl and no computer program to assist, then I'd happily agree that it's more difficult to mix in that situation than having a CDJ count the tempo for you. I didn't suggest otherwise. I do refuse to accept that knowing a track's BPM is akin to syncing, however.

I'm not really cheering about the quantized hot cues on the Nexus it is, it's easy enough to find your cue point, set it, and keep time manually. It just seems like a cop-out to use anything in sync.


ZachFranco said on the 12th Sep, 2012

does it really matter?
whatever sounds good to the crowd is what matters doesnt it?
lets get a different topic, this kinda stuff is getting old now!


stoydgen said on the 12th Sep, 2012

Forget the whole Sync debate, possibly one of the worst sounding demo videos I've ever heard. Eats Everything and Kissy Sell Out come up with much better demo's here:


DJ_LG said on the 12th Sep, 2012

It's what Ableton DJ's have been doing for years


wellbutchered said on the 12th Sep, 2012

as if mixing with two decimal point bpms was hard anyways...


tazz_timed_out said on the 12th Sep, 2012

@ sweave... are you serious about the 70 the 140 bpm comment?? both the tracks are the same bpm!


MickeyZ said on the 13th Sep, 2012

Terrible demo music wise imo.


phillter said on the 13th Sep, 2012

Well said Mike - afterall - it is ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC. It's why we DJ and LOVE TO DO IT!


Brrockin_itup said on the 14th Sep, 2012

bwahahhaha..... Yea, hectic, run out, buy one!!.... Top marketing pitch tho!!...Mixing ain't sumptin you can learn -n- master with a sync button, or best equipment money can buy.... Your either a mexi-can or a mexi-can't..... full stop


robotrock said on the 15th Sep, 2012

Its pretty clear that the superstar dj's can mix already, so who cares if they use a sync button. But..... I would be annoyed if I was watching a dj who couldn't beat match at all and was djing for me. Even if he nailed the key and vibe on the head. Learn to beat match first then use the sync if u want. That's just my opinion.. :)))


JaySoundz said on the 18th Sep, 2012

Nothing against Laidback Luke, we've all seen him do it without sync and it he obviously used it entirely for the demo video... but the fact that it is on the new CDJ does worry me. Beatmatching is a fundamental skill that all DJs should know or learn if they don't know already... The sync button just seems pointless and unprofessional on such a great player

DJ Distorshaun

DJ Distorshaun said on the 18th Sep, 2012

Anybody can play hit after hit without mixing and rock a crowd is that a dj? fuck i hope not. the scene is full of button pressers all ready the first thing you learn is to beat mix then sample and scratch, then effects. Mike you sound more like a producer turned DJ like Deadmau5.... its about the whole package. we need more real DJ's and less Paris Hilton's


SimonSaysDJ said on the 2nd Sep, 2013

so first auto tune in the music industry, and now sync.
if it makes a crowd work for you?
why not?
tallent is still needed to preform the mix.
sure they can now beat match easily but can they mix a song?