Audio file formats for CDJs and SCs – What you didn’t know

What is the common audio file formats that DJs use?

Often .MP3 or .WAV, however both have downsides and upsides that other file formats fix.
With modern dj players other file formats are supported:

File formatAcronymCompressed*Lossless**Tags***
MP3Mpeg 3yesnoyes
AAC/M4AAdvanced Audio Codingyesnonot standard
WAV
WavenoyesNO!!!
AIFF/AIF
Audio Interchange File Formatnoyesyes
ALACApple Lossless Audio Codecyesyesyes
FLACFree Lossless Audio Codecyesyesyes
MP4Mpeg 4yesnoyes
Ogg VorbisyesNoyes

* Compression: reducing file size by applying an algorithm.
This can lead to quality loss when compressed (depending on the audio format).
** Lossless: Audio information is stored 1 on 1 in a file.
No methods are used to compromise audio quality, even when a file is compressed.
*** Tags: is a very useful feature to have, it can store: song key, tempo (bpm), notes and cover art.

Professional DJ’s

Professional DJ’s often use WAV purely because of the music quality.
However the filesizes of WAV files can be huge (roughly 10MB per minute).
WAV also can’t store tags for tempo and key information.
Why more professional switch to other formats like ALAC or FLAC is beyond me.

Amateur DJ’s

Amateur DJ’s often use MP3, because of the reduced file size.
Most dancers in a small venue will not hear the difference between a properly compressed MP3 file and a WAV file.
However for music festivals or major nightclubs with proper sound systems, I would stongly advice to use a lossless file format.

Best choice

Lossless file formats are preferred for Djs for the best audio quality, but that comes at the cost of larger file sizes.
The best of all worlds is when a file format supports compression, is lossless and supports tags.
Digital music stores charge often more for lossless audio files.

Best audio qualityFLAC , ALAC, WAV or AIFF
Worst audio qualityMP3, MP4
Best priceMP3
Best storage spaceMP3, MP4
Widest support for all types of players (of all brands)MP3, WAV

USB Filesystem format

The file system support for USB storage by Pioneer and Denon DJ players:

File systemManufacturerPioneer CDJDenon SC
FATMicrosoftYes
FAT 32MicrosoftYesYes
ExFATMicrosoftYes
NTFSMicrosoft
HFS+AppleYes
APFSApple

Make sure to format your USB drive as such.

For a detailed guide, see my guide on how to format a USB drive for Rekordbox and CDJ.

What audio file format do Pioneer CDJs and Denon SCs use?

PlayerCDFormatsMediaConnect via usbInfo
CDJ 3000MP3, AAC (.m4a, .aac, .mp4), WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIF/AIFFUSB thumbdrive, RJ45 (pro dj link), SD cardWin, Mac, iOS, Androiddetails below
CDJ 2000 NXS2CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RWMP3, AAC (.m4a, .aac, .mp4), WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIF/AIFF, Audio format (CD only)USB thumbdrive, RJ45 (pro dj link), SD cardWin, Mac, iOS, Androiddetails below
CDJ 2000 NXSCD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RWMP3, AAC (.m4a, .aac, .mp4), WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIF/AIFF, Audio format (CD only)USB thumbdrive, RJ45 (pro dj link), SD card
details below
SC5000, SC5000MMP3, AAC (.aac, m4a), MP4, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIF/AIFF, Ogg VorbisUSB thumbdrive, WIFI, RJ45 (streaming + StageLinq), SD card (SD, SDHC, SDXC)Win, Macdetails below
SC6000, SC6000MMP3, AAC (.aac, m4a), MP4, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIF/AIFF, Ogg VorbisUSB thumbdrive, WIFI, RJ45 (streaming + StageLinq), SD card (SD, SDHC, SDXC)Win, Macdetails below

Supported file formats CDJ 3000

File formatBit depthBit rateSample freq
MP316 bits32 – 320 kbps44.1, 48 kHz
AAC (.aac, .mp4, .m4a)16 bits16 – 320 kbps44.1, 48 kHz
WAV16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2,96 kHz
FLAC16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2,96 kHz
ALAC (.m4a)16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2,96 kHz
AIFF16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2,96 kHz

Supported file formats CDJ 2000 NXS 2

File formatBit depthBit rateSample freq
MP3 (mpeg1, mpeg2)16 bits32 – 320 kbps (mpeg 1); 8 kpbs – 160 kpbs (mpeg 2)32, 44.1, 48 kHz (mpeg1); 16, 22.0524 kHz (mpeg2)
AAC (.aac, .mp4, .m4a) (mpeg 2+ mpeg4)16 bits16 – 320 kbps16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 kHz
WAV (no cd support)16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
FLAC (no cd support)16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
ALAC (.m4a) (no cd support)16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz
AIFF (no cd support)16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz

Supported file formats CDJ 2000 NXS

pioneer-cdj-2000-nxs
File formatBit depthBit rateSample freq
MP3 (mpeg1, mpeg2)16 bits32 – 320 kbps (mpeg 1); 8 kpbs – 160 kpbs (mpeg 2)32, 44.1, 48 kHz (mpeg1); 16, 22.05, 24 kHz (mpeg2)
AAC (.aac, .mp4, .m4a) (mpeg 2+ mpeg4)16 bits16 – 320 kbps16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 kHz
WAV
16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48 kHz
AIFF
16 bits, 24 bits44.1, 48 kHz

Supported file formats Denon SC5000(M) / SC6000(M)

File formatBit depthBit rateSample freq
MP3
32 – 320 kbps
AAC/M4A


WAV
16 bits, 32 bits44.1 – 192 kHz
AIFF/AIF
16 bits, 24 bits44.1 – 192 hHz
ALAC


FLAC


MP4


Ogg Vorbis