Pioneer DJ PLX-CRSS12 Review And Walkthrough

Pioneer dj plx-crss12 review

Pioneer DJ PLX-CRSS12 Review And Walkthrough

Pioneer DJ treat their newly acquired Serato user base to a turntable that does it all!

The slick all-black PLX-CRSS12 is the world’s first hybrid to offer inbuilt DVS control of digital music and high-quality analogue playback of vinyl records, all in one deck!

Set to bridge the gap between durable digital performance hardware and the traditionalist analogue appeal of a turntable, CRSS12 plays vinyl with the highest precision whilst offering advanced DVS features to this generation’s digital DJs. 

Here we look at the first true dual-mode deck to see how it balances traditional features with modern digital technology.

Key features of PLX-CRSS12 

Impressively, PLX-CRSS12’s platter can be used stand-alone in DVS mode, just like the RANE TWELVE, so DJs can scratch on a full 12” platter without the tonearm getting in the way and skipping a beat if knocked! 

This makes the PLX-CRSS12 a killer accessory for the open-format community, as the reliability of tonearm-free scratching has become highly sought after by scratch DJs in recent years.

However, unlike the RANE TWELVE and TWELVE MKII, this device also includes a high-quality tonearm for playing both timecode and analogue vinyl, a truly unique feature. 

The CRSS12 hybrid deck boasts the following features: 

  • Full 12” platter which can play analogue vinyl records or tonearm-free digital vinyl (DVS)
  • Four mappable, multi-layered performance pads with six modes
  • OLED screen to display tempo and useful DVS data 
  • Step Pitch mode, which is easily accessible via the tempo slider – each nudge steps the playing key up or down by half a note
  • MAGVEL Clamp – allows DVS users to adjust how the record spinback feels, from heavy to light
  • Better, high-resolution sound quality, improving on Pioneer’s current flagship turntable, the PLX-1000

Battle style layout with native Serato DJ and rekordbox controls

Much like the REV series of controllers introduced by Pioneer DJ in 2022, this hybrid turntable stays true to Serato’s massive open-format audience with a battle-style layout

Although also compatible with Rekordbox, it is primarily aimed at Serato users as this is the preferred platform for most turntablists. 

Regarding digital functions, Pioneer have added a limited amount of essential buttons and a small OLED screen, allowing the turntable to retain its original form without looking too cramped with new technology.

The PLX-CRSS12 keeps digital additions to one zone, with the turntable designed to be turned 90 degrees so all the essential performance buttons run flush along the bottom half of the unit. This allows DJs easy access to DVS controls

Unlike with classic DJ turntables, Pioneer have also opted for a simple motor on/off button in place of a traditional switch with strobe light, keeping the bottom half of the deck as uncluttered as possible and elevating the sleekness of CRSS12.   

To make up for the lacking strobe light, the record target light illuminates both the vinyl grooves and the platter strobe dots! An example of how Pioneer have streamlined the classic turntable design to fit in new hardware buttons whilst retaining a minimal look.

Built-in DVS controls

Replaceable magnetic MAGVEL Clamp

The magnetic MAGVEL Clamp locks onto any vinyl, allowing DJs to mix and cut in Serato or Rekordbox without needing control vinyl or a tonearm.

This gives DJs the authentic feel of mixing with their vinyl of choice whilst keeping the practicality of tonearm-free DVS DJing.

Tonearm-free mixing is a highlight feature of CRSS12 and will undoubtedly be a huge selling point. 

Some competitors already do offer the feature, such as the RANE TWELVE, Hercules InPulse T7 and Pioneer’s own DDJ-REV7. However, CRSS12 is in a class of its own here being the only motorised digital Serato accessory, ready to go for as long as needed whilst doubling up as a fully-fledged high-fidelity analogue turntable!

Also, unlike on competitor devices, the vinyl doesn’t need to be screwed to the platter as with the original RANE TWELVE, saving the need to drill holes into any vinyl. 

The rotation torque is adjustable to get the right platter feel, so you can change how slippy the record is under your finger.  

Simply twist the MAGVEL Clamp to adjust how often the vinyl will rotate anticlockwise when performing a spinback. The setting goes from light to heavy as on CDJs.

For pirate-radio-style rewinds, set it to light. For more precise control over the spinback, set to heavy. 

When not in use, the clamp sits neatly on a magnetic storage groove just by the tonearm.

And, to further personalise the feel of the powerful platter, users can access three brake speeds with a sliding toggle on the front plate of the deck. There’s no need to unscrew the platter to get to the setting as with traditional club turntables! 

MAGVEL Clamp will also be available to purchase separately.

Performance Pads

To control DVS functions directly from the deck, there are four multi-layer RGB performance pads and a dedicated pad bank switching button to go from banks 1-4 to 5-8. The pads are pre-mapped with six staple modes:

In Serato, the modes are: 

  • HOT CUE, 
  • STEMS, 
  • ROLL and,

In Rekordbox, they are: 

  • HOT CUE, 
  • PAD FX and, 

Pioneer have chosen the Serato modes carefully as they are the most likely to be used in battle or for scratch routines, so are ideal for a core selection of Serato’s users.

Toggling stems on and off straight from the deck is an easy way of working with them, as is working with all of the other pre-mapped modes.

The modes selected for Rekordbox are a little more general, perhaps with club DJs in mind. For DJs wanting anything else on either DVS platform, the pads are re-mappable, so can be used for any combination of six modes.

OLED Screen

The non-intrusive OLED screen sitting in the shadow of the tonearm displays just enough data, such as BPM and the track’s key, to keep a DJ’s eyes away from their laptop!

Not exclusively for DVS data, the screen displays the Tempo Range or approximate Step Pitch key even when playing analogue vinyl, alongside displaying the turntable’s Utility settings for amending the Torque Adjust, Auto Standby settings and more.

Step Pitch

This is a super creative feature of the CRSS12 that transforms the tempo adjustment slider into a key adjustment tool

When active, each nudge of the slider moves the track up or down by half a note, or semi-tone, making it easy to key shift or pull off tone play tricks, even with analogue vinyl!

Tone play is possible with DVS performance pads, so by using the tempo slider instead, DJs can combine their tone play with another pad mode for some insane new sound combinations!

Great for battle DJs who use tone play to help make their sets instantly stand out. The extra flexibility Step Pitch allows may also appeal to creative DJs wanting to explore new ways of working.

Plays analogue vinyl with high precision 

Pioneer’s first professional DJ turntable, 2014’s PLX-1000, has earned a solid reputation in the community for its durability and accurate sound reproduction. It is also battle-proven, having been part of the RedBull 3Style Championships since 2015. 

PLX-1000 was seen by many as the spiritual successor to the legendary Technics SL-1200 turntable, which had halted production in 2010, but has since returned.  

Pioneer have respected this legacy with this device, making some tweaks to the already solid analogue performance of the PLX-1000.

Unlike its predecessor, the CRSS12 uses a switching power supply to eliminate vibration and flux leakage, suppressing unwanted noise and creating crisp, high-resolution playing audio. 

As with the PLX-1000, Pioneer have made the upper part of the chassis with a high-mass zinc die cast, and the lower part with an 8 mm thick resin to optimize the turntable’s structure for vibration-dampening

Also improving on the sound quality of the PLX-1000 is the use of rubber tubes inside the tonearm to quiet unwanted vibrations. This keeps the audio quality clean and eliminates unwanted noise from the turntable itself.

The RCA terminals are made with high-quality machined gold-plated parts for durability and to minimise unwanted noise being introduced to the audio signal. The phono signal is directly transmitted through a stable connection with the plug for supreme, feedback-free sound.

There is also a USB-C port next to the RCAs for hooking CRSS12 into a computer or hub.

By adopting these impressive features from the PLX-1000 and adding to them, CRSS12 boasts an upgraded audio listening experience in every way!

The Best of Both Worlds

As a hybrid turntable, CRSS12 has the task of appealing to a niche audience as well as the wider scene owing to the cultural impact that DJ turntables have.

With virtually the same shell, footprint and fundamental design as the Technics SL-1200, it has an instantly recognisable and iconic look and would fit right into any battle, open format or even club DJ’s set-up. 

And with top-tier analogue audio reproduction, it should easily satisfy audiophiles wanting a reference deck that also allows them to DJ digitally.

It has the right balance of DVS functions making DJing with either digital or analogue material easy. Even if paired with a DJ mixer that doesn’t have performance pads, the on-deck pads are flexible and customisable, making accessing DVS features easy enough.

CRSS12 has both form and function nailed and, thanks to its native DVS controls, is a win-win as a two-in-one device for club installers who may otherwise need to consider having a battle mixer alongside their club mixer to cater for different DJs.

For personal use, though, the cost per deck is quite high, especially considering Phase will allow you to turn any turntable into a tonearm-free DVS system, even if it does run on batteries! 

Pioneer DJ PLX-CRSS12 Price: $1399 / €1399

Check out our video review below and see CRSS12’s features in action!

Performance Mix

Are you a hybrid DJ?

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