The STZ-D10Z-R sounds great - that's the first thing to say. I didn't want to risk ordering one online without hearing it first so I went to a Pioneer dealer and had one demonstrated to me on the very day they had their first stock delivered. It had to be loud enough to fill not just a large room, but one with 60-80 people in it - and after a huge Zumba class this week I can verify that it does the job. On top of that it had to sound good, and again it ticks that box too, in fact it just sounds better than the JVC, which isn't a bad performer itself. The Steez has a whole string of technical advantages but unless it had suffient power and sound quality, nothing else would count. Thankfully it most definitely does sound good, so it has passed the initial but most important test straight away.
The Steez has virtually no moving parts at all, which means - in theory - that there's less to go wrong, and perhaps just as important for any would-be dance-instructors planning on lugging it around to various halls and clubs several times a week, there's almost nothing to be 'knocked off' by accident. There's no doubt about it, this is a much, much better design (than older models such as the JVC) for anyone who wants one for semi-professional use. Breakages will be less likely to happen and the practical nature of its design - easy to hold with one hand for example - makes it immediately look as if it is meant to be truly portable. There's no shoulder strap (nor option of one) but it doesn't really need one - it weighs 7.4kg (without the optional 8 Size D batteries, which would add about 1kg) and is easy to carry. It also looks pretty cool too.
There's no in-built CD player, and no radio either, instead the input options are: Aux in (any external device using a mini-jack plug), USB, iPod or iPhone dock, and most unusually a built-in 4Gb memory. As a (very!) rough guide, 4Gb should be enough to store about 1000 songs. There are also inputs for a microphone (with variable input volume control) and a PC or laptop. The memory device has some musical tracks already downloaded onto it, and just one of the novelties of this is the facility to vary the tempo (but not the pitch) which could be useful for the more elderly among dance students. Users can control the tempo of the track without affecting the pitch, meaning songs can be slowed down or sped up to suit dance style or fitness class level.
To transfer music of your own choice, it's necessary to download the Mixtraxnet software (owned by Pioneer) which is free and takes a couple of minutes. It was pleasing to do this and to immediately notice a message on the laptop screen asking if I wanted to transfer my iTunes library - I did, and simply clicked 'yes'. Easy! If I can do it, anybody can, it's child's play. But it's important to emphasise that getting the best out of the Mixtrax software is central to getting the most of the Steez - once you've mastered it, you're on course to utilise the device to its maximum potential. Mixtrax analyses track information such as the beat and tempo when you load your music. Once this is done it transfers your tunes to your Steez's internal memory, and in so doing opens up some nice features.
The Steez Audio speaker system can match tracks by genre, called Auto Battle Mode, and play similar tracks in a continuous mix, DJ Mix Mode. You can also adjust the tempo of tracks without changing the key and cue tracks from preset positions.
It's worth mentioning that music on the internal memory card is much more powerful (i.e. louder) than music from an iPod Nano 5; there's a possibility that different iPods (and iPhones) will produce different results (will update this review as and when I know more) but for the moment, while using the iPod Nano 5 the music produced is just about loud enough for a large room (say the size of a badminton court), it's necessary to turn the volume control up to the max. There's virtually no distortion or sound break-up even at the max. But using the on-board memory, you're unlikely to need to turn the volume up as high, possibly only halfway.
Most functions can be operated from the small remote-control device, not the least of which is the facility to skip tracks on the iPod. All the many set-up options are selected this way too, as well as the previously mentioned pitch/tempo adjustment. All of these things will be more than useful for any professional dance/fitness instructor - as well as anyone who can't be bothered to cross the room I suppose!
The instruction manual supplied is only a short, abbreviated version of the full issue and while it's enough to get you started, it's likely you'll need more information. At the moment, the Pioneer UK website offers a comprehensive manual for this product but only in the four Scandinavian languages - I assume there will be an English version very soon.
One of the more unusual facilities on the Steez is the Mixtrax Dance Function, which enables the user to create individualised dance mixes (Dance Cue, 8 Beat Skip, Auto Battle Mode, DJ Mix, Tempo Control, Rhythm Machine). For example, Auto DJ Mix automatically creates non-stop mixes by genre, complete with transition effects and beat matching, while Dance Cue Set enables you to create a cue point to easily return to a specific point in your song, and 8-Beat Skip enables you to go forward or back by eight counts. So there's a very creative side to this boombox, more than initially meets the eye.
I would recommend that you check out the Mixtraxnet.com website too, it will be an essential partner to the Steez and it will take you a little while to familiarise yourself with its functions. It could be described as a simpler version of iTunes, although it offers some creative options for dancers that I don't think you will find on the Apple site.
For style, audio performance, portability, durability and flexibility, the Steez leaves all the others behind - in fact I'm unaware of anything quite like it. It's kind of like a massive iPod in way - think of it as a huge Nano (or MP3) with an amplifier and speakers built-in and you're not far off the mark. Even if you set aside its appeal as a cutting-edge assistant for professional dance instructors, it is in any case a superb, small and convenient domestic hifi system that justifies its price for those benefits alone. Doubtless there will be other manufacturers eager to follow Pioneer's lead, but for the moment this is as good as it gets.
* iPod, iPhone
* MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV files from USB / Internal memory
* Portable devices via Aux-in
on 25 January 2013
although the sound quality is excellent but it is feature less, for example there is no timer which wakes you up in the morning and it does not accept all formats when using the usb, it looks small in the picture but it is a big boombox, i am very impressed with the sound quality but i returned it because it does not have timer and does not accept all formats on usb, and remote control is very tiny and fragile, the sharp gx-m10 has more features than this one, but the sound quality of pioneer is better than sharp.