If you want to feel old, go back and try to figure out how long it's been since Pioneer's seminal DJ effects unit, the EFX-500, was introduced. Although it seems fairly recent, almost 14 years have passed since DJs first got their hands on that familiar jog-wheel design in 1998. Seven years later, Pioneer released a new and improved sibling to the 500, the EFX-1000. Both of these units were based on the beat effect algorithms from the Pioneer DJM mixer family, with additional effect flavors designed to take advantage of the hands-on controls. With auto BPM analysis, tap tempo and MIDI sync options, the EFX units were flexible enough to secure a spot in DJ booths and production studios alike.
Well, another seven years has passed since the EFX-1000 was released, so 2012 seems like a good time for Pioneer make another foray into the DJ effects world. Indeed, this past March they introduced a new product called the RMX-1000 Remix Station. The name may seem like it is trading on the current trend of live remix tools (like Native Instruments' F1 for instance), but the RMX-1000 was enough of a new redesign for Pioneer to shed the "DJ Effector" categorization that they used for the EFX-500 and EFX-1000. So what surprises does the RMX-1000 hold?
The first thing we noticed when holding the RMX-1000 for the first time is how different it really is compared to its EFX relatives. It's smaller, shedding over three inches of height and almost two inches of depth. The front plate is a bit more complex—gone are the jog wheels and the neatly-divided halves, and in their place are four large knobs surrounded by silver and black panels that essentially break the interface into four parts. Surprisingly, the back of the unit has been simplified substantially: the ¼" and RCA input and output pairs are still there, but gone are the digital ports, the foot switch jack, the EFX link and (perhaps most importantly) the MIDI jacks—they have all been sacrificed in the new design. However, the RMX does have one pair of notable modern-day additions that its EFX brethren lack: a USB port on the back and an SD slot on the side.
So with all of these differences, a little walkthrough may be in order to figure out how this thing works. Essentially, there are two different audio signals that can flow through the RMX: the incoming audio (of course), and the audio generated by the RMX in its X-PAD FX panel. Both of these signals can then be toggled for processing via the ISOLATE FX and SCENE FX panels, in that order. The ISOLATE FX panel houses three generously-sized knobs that mostly serve as EQ / ISO knobs, but there are other effects like drive and transform that can be chosen for duty here. After the ISOLATE FX panel has had its way with the audio, it flows into the circular ring of the SCENE FX panel. This is where you'll find ten effects that Pioneer has partitioned into two categories labeled according to their intended use— "build up" and "break down." Each of the ten effects has its own button to activate it, and they are arranged in a circle around the fourth and final of the RMX's large knobs. This knob, along with two smaller parameter knobs below the circle, allows you to control the amount and behavior of the active effect.
With all of that sound processing potential, things can get out of hand pretty quickly. The ISOLATE and SCENE FX host an intimidating number of controls (22 in total), and trying to quickly revert them all back to a normal state would be a difficult if not physically impossible task—so thankfully Pioneer provided a quick way to transition back to the unprocessed signal. This is called the RELEASE FX section and it consists of little more than a lever and a slide switch to choose between three different transition effects (vinyl brake, echo and back spin). The lever, when pulled down, turns on the chosen transition effect and disables the ISOLATOR and SCENE FX panels, yielding a tidy transition back from the chaos. The length of the transition can be controlled somewhat by the amount of pull on the lever, a technique which takes some getting used to. In practice this was effective enough, but the transition effects are pretty in-your-face—it would be nice to have some more control over the transition effect parameters in order to tame things a bit here.
Pioneer does provide an extra layer of flexibility in the other effect panels of the RMX, however, in a piece of software called Remixbox which communicates with the unit via the USB jack. Remixbox is available for free download for Mac and PC on the Pioneer website, and with it users can alter the behavior of the RMX, mostly by fine-tuning the way effects behave when controlled by the knobs. When you open Remixbox for the first time you'll quickly realize that, although Pioneer does not provide one, an SD card is an essential accessory, both for saving your custom effect settings and for performing OS updates. You can also load your own samples to the RMX-1000 via Remixbox if you have an SD card, which can then be triggered in the X-PAD FX panel. This allows for free or quantized triggering of up to four banks of four samples each, with a total sample length limitation of 16 seconds per bank.
While the Remixbox software is a nice touch, perhaps the most intriguing trick the RMX-1000 can do with its USB port is act as a controller for the RMX-1000 VST / AU plugin. All of the parameters of the plugin are nicely automatable so it's as simple as it gets—just start recording and twist the RMX's knobs and the plugin parameters will follow along accordingly. We did experience some hiccups with the plugin wherein it got out of sync with the hardware, especially when using the Release FX, but hopefully those early-version wrinkles will get ironed out in the near future.
Overall, we came away excited about the RMX-1000. Its effects are the typical high-energy Pioneer fare, made for a big room sound—but with the exception of the RELEASE FX, most can be tamed to fit a more refined palette after getting familiar with them. The X-PAD FX panel is a nice way to quickly add some samples or do some realtime sampling/looping in sync with the incoming audio (for example to add a new beat on top of an incoming loop)—although the real-time sampling still feels a bit rough around the edges. Finally, the computer integration with the RMX is a great selling point for DJs who create mixes or original productions. Our biggest complaint lies in the fact that Pioneer took away the EFX's very useful MIDI jacks when designing the RMX—with MIDI clock sync the RMX could be a powerhouse in many a live set. Even MIDI clock via the USB jack would be useful, so hopefully that's coming down the road soon. Until then, the RMX-1000 is recommended for DJs that use vinyl or CDJs and want a quality effects unit with excellent BPM detection.