Today, every DJ gear manufacturer wants a piece of the control surface market. That's why Gemini decided to introduce now a versatile, fully featured CD deck. The CDJ 700 is a very appealing product with a look that recalls the Pioneer CDJ 900 — plus it has almost the same features and a much lower price. Let's check out if the newcomer can compete with Pioneer's leading products.
The CDJ 700 is a multifunction CD deck that allows you to play tracks in different file formats (.wav, .mp3, .AAC…) from different sources. The deck is equipped with a USB port so that audio files can be read from an external hard or flash drive, an SD card port and, of course, a CD player. The CDJ 700 will also allow you to control any mixing software like Serato or Traktor. The deck also features a clear and convenient LCD touch screen display.
The CDJ 700 provides you with all the popular features you expect from such a product. You get a pitch function to adjust the speed of the track, six integrated effects, a real-time loop-creation tool and a scratch function controlled by an 8" jog wheel.
In short, Gemini didn’t forget anything with regards to features, but let’s check out the quality of the product…
Apart from an obvious resemblance to the Pioneer CDJ 900, the overall look of the product is very sleek and sober. Gemini got us used to flashy, colorful products with small finish faults. Let’s see if the quality of the CDJ 700 is actually what it seems.
Let’s start with the rear panel. You’ll find a power switch, a power cable connector, an analog RCA and a digital S/PDIF output to connect it to a mixer or an amplifier, and a USB bus to connect the deck to a computer and control a mixing software. It couldn’t be easier.
On the front panel there are no surprises: the slot-in CD player is where it should. The track loading time is 8 seconds, which seems pretty long to us. On the other hand, the loading time of USB drives and SD cards is really short and the track analysis is almost instantaneous.
Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter with the top panel. At first glance, everything needed seems to be in its place. A big jog wheel in the middle with Play/Cue buttons and Pitch control right next to it. The feel of the jog wheel can be adjusted with a dedicated control. A knob allows you to choose between three different jog-wheel operation modes. You also have a search mode to fast forward or backward within a song, a bend mode to sync tracks accurately, and a scratch mode. On the left part of the unit are the basic controls: Play, Cue and Rev (reverse) buttons as well as Ffw/Fbw and Next/Previous track buttons. You also get three assign switches for the cue points… although only three, which aren’t many for a DJ deck!
On the right-hand side you’ll find a pitch slider with its control buttons. It allows you to increase/decrease the speed of a track up to 100%. You’ll also find Master Tempo and Vinyl buttons. The latter enables the scratch function. You’ll read more about it further on. Track start and stop can be adjusted with a dedicated control. Finally, four buttons allows you to select the source: CD, USB, SD, and MIDI.
Just above the jog wheel, you’ll find the control elements that allow you to create loops and manage all effects. The CDJ 700 offers six different effects: FLTR (low/high-frequency filter), flanger, echo, wah, trance, and bubble. The bubble effect produces a scratch sound and allows you to create very nice backspins. The trance effect processes the signal periodically as if you would fade out the sound several times with a crossfader. For scratching DJs, the result sounds like if you would use the “transform” scratching technique. The wah effect simulates the wah pedal of a guitar player.
You can control effects using the dedicated control elements, the jog wheel or the touch screen.
And so we come to the only original feature of the CDJ 700: its touch screen. The color LCD is slightly angled for better readability (Pioneer already did this on their CDJ Series… it’s like having a déjà vu!). It provides information about the selected track, allows you to control effects, to tap the BPM value, etc. Next to the display, a USB port allows direct connection of a hard or USB flash drive, as well as an SD card reader. You also get browsing and setup control elements for the LCD (if you want the track name to be displayed or if you need to know the remaining playing time…).
Keep in mind that the deck hosts a good quality sound card with analog and digital outputs. Moreover, the mapping of control elements on the deck can be customized to match your favorite mixing software.
The finish quality is not amazing but more than just satisfying. The design, in terms of ergonomics, is pretty good and the user interface is also quite practical. All features are clearly described on the unit. The color display is convenient and easily readable. Despite the minor flaws (like the slightly too stiff jog wheel or the average quality of some buttons), Gemini offers a well thought-out and easy-to-use DJ deck.
The CDJ 700 includes several really clever features and control elements, especially considering its price. For example, the Slip function allows you to process the song that is being played back while keeping the tempo and the sync of the song. The effects and loops, as well as the reversed playback, stay always in sync with the BPM. When you enable the reverse function or create a loop, the playback of the track is resumed exactly where it had left off. The same applies to effects: echo and flanger effects are synced to the BPM. The Master tempo function is also very valuable because it allows you to change the speed of the track while keeping its original pitch.
The ability to adjust the track start/stop is also a plus of the CDJ 700. Very few decks are equipped with this very useful feature to get more dynamic mixes. You can control the track start/stop as if you had a turntable.
Another asset of the deck is its ergonomic design. What a clear and intuitive tool! It offers enough free space between all control elements. You don’t get lost in multiple sub-menus, just press or press and hold a control element to manage all available functions. The color LCD is also very convenient: it displays all the information you need and it displays the waveform very quickly. The touch function of the LCD seems to be a bit useless and not very practical. Luckily, every function is accessible via a hardware control element.
Now that we have praised it we shall make a couple of remarks as well. The jog wheel should be a bit lighter. Even if it can be adjusted, it feels to stiff for my taste and it doesn’t allow complex scratching techniques like “scribbling”. The possibilities are limited with regards to loops and cue points. You can use only one single loop at a time and you have only three cue points. The effects provided are not amazing but usable.
For whom and at which price?
The main asset of the CDJ 700 is definitely its price (about $600). If you want to mix with a CD deck and have a small budget, this product will make you very happy. The deck fulfills the needs of both beginners and experienced users, because it remains easy-to-use and intuitive in spite of the comprehensive feature set.
If you’re looking for a versatile, fully featured product, the CDJ 700 can compete with all other decks in its category. With regards to finish, the manufacturer ensures only the minimum quality required by the users. The only real advantage for that matter is the touch screen LCD, even if I personally find that it’s much easier to browse the tracks with the dedicated hardware controls. Maybe smartphone and tablet fans will find the touch screen interesting.
But the strongest selling point of the CDJ 700 is its price! For $600 you get a very comprehensive DJ deck — some other brands want you to pay twice as much for a comparable product. If you have a small budget and accept the few drawbacks mentioned above, the CDJ 700 is made for you!