Denon DJ Prime Series Review - On The Rise DJ Academy

DENON DJ PRIME – FIRST WORDS

Back in November 2016, we we’re treated to a mysterious marketing campaign video from Denon DJ showing of blueprints of kit that simply ended with #ChangeYourRider, and that was all it took for the buzz to start. DJs climbed over themselves to speculate on what was coming, blogs created mock ups of what it could be and the DJ world just kept throwing out their guesses as to what Denon DJ was going on unveil.

2 months passed at the guessing game ended as Denon DJ finally revealed their new Prime Series SC5000 Media Player, X1800 Mixer and VL12 Turntable. Personally I’m not a fan of any of those forced tense moments on TV that keep the viewer in suspense as they always seems to be totally over egged for the result, but hats off to Denon DJ, their highly successful marketing campaign resulted in a big win for DJs and the #ChangeYourRider tease certainly lived up to its name.

We’ve been lucky enough to have the SC5000 media players and X1800 mixer at our studio for a few weeks now thanks to DJKit.com (and a special thanks to Decksavers for supplying the covers) and we were keen to see if they lived up to the hype.  #ChangeYourRider is a big statement to drive a marketing campaign and in a world where Pioneer DJ has ruled for well over a decade, you need to be able to put your money where your mouth is.  Bottom line is Denon DJ have indeed flashed the cash, got the cheque and left a generous tip.  Their Prime Series is the first serious contender to challenge the Pioneer DJ range and in some cases goes well beyond.   Will everyone suddenly change their rider and jump ship? No of course not, but, what the Prime series has done is raise the bar and in a world where competition is healthy, the ultimate winner is going to be the DJs.   Whether you convert to Denon DJ or not, Pioneer DJ will undoubtably step up their game for the next CDJ model, win win either way.

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DENON DJ – SC5000 PRIME MEDIA PLAYER

There have been plenty of articles talking about the tech specs and features of the new Denon DJ SC5000 Media Player so I want to focus more about my hands on experience with them and how they performed in in the mix. My first live use was on our weekly Facebook Live show a couple of weeks back (see video below). I spent a few hours prepping the tracks in Engine Prime and exported the tracks ready for the show.

The first feeling I got standing in front of these was simply, wow!  Even brushing aside that ‘new kit’ buzz, these units look and feel amazing. The screen is big, bright, detailed and multi touch.  The simple, well spaced layout is really in tune with todays DJs demands and the main highlight for me is the performance pads.  Seriously, why has it taken so long for someone to put these in the right place! Using these you really feel in control, they are perfectly situated for those who like to remix and manipulate the music as it’s playing. Separating out the Hotcue & Loops works really well creatively and the screen gives you a clear layout where they all are if you need reminding. The Slicer and Roll effects also work really well in the mix, you can hear in my live set below that I was having a lot of fun with both of them! Be warned the Slicer effect (on any unit) can certainly be very hit and miss so choose your moments wisely, I found more minimal parts of tracks with no strings or melodies work best.

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I toured with the Traktor S4 controller around the world for about 4 years and loved it for many reasons but two of them I linked straight away on the SC5000 was the Beat Jump & Loop controls.  I used the Beat Jump a lot and although other models do have this feature, they are within touch screens and for a tool you use regularly, I like a hardware button to control and the SC5000 does just that.  Similarly with the Loop control, you rotate the control to get the desired beat increment, then pushing down activates & deactivates the loop, nice and simple and when using this with 2 of more tracks in the mix you have that extra element of control.

Dual Layer – really not a whole lot to say on this apart from amazing innovation! Switching between the 2 layers is just a single button and the screens feedback keeps a tight control on which track is playing and where from so when you do have 3 or 4 tracks on the go it’s easy to keep a track of where you are and whats going on.

Onto the platers, these are just amazing.  Sturdy, responsive and the ability to adjust the tension to your own personal taste, using them I can’t quite shake the same feeling I get when I’m using turntables.  Like with any new hardware you need to find it’s biting points, but once you do there’s a real level of control you feel with the SC5000 platters. Top job.

I can describe the experience in two words ‘innovative fun’, a feeling I’d not had with DJ kit for a long time. In fact the last time I remember feeling that buzz was when I’d first moved from CDs to Serato and bought a Numark NS6 and immediately felt a new love for DJing.  Creative ideas just kept flying into my head as the realisation that DJing is no longer linear, we’re not at the mercy of a needle any more.  We can do what ever we like.  And that’s what these media players have done again, they have take the USB/CDJ world and merged it perfectly with the controller world giving the DJ more power and control over their creative output.

These units not only rival competitors, they’ve blasted one step further.

Denon DJ X1800 Prime Review Mixer

DENON DJ – X1800 PRIME DJ MIXER

The mixer layout is on point and will be instantly familiar to many DJs, everything is where it should be and in some cases, like the performance pads on the SC5000, much better.

Using the mixer, it’s the effects section that really brings it to life.  The time division touch strip enables you not only go from 8 beats up to 1/16th in one straight movement, but that added bonus of the Instant Effects works great for those creative DJs looking to add more to their sets with just a simple touch.  As a DJ I’m all about organise & prepare, for those that know me know I’ll work tirelessly before my sets preparing to ensure I free up all the time I can in the booth to focus on the crowd and creativity and the instant function facilitates this perfectly. You’ll see in the Facebook live stream videos that adding these effects and dropping them into a mix is really simple and more importantly, effective.

In the release version of the X1800 there are 12 effects to choose which cover most of the effects you’ll find on many mixers. The stand out one for me is the BeatBreak one, this is a lot of fun!  In the mix you can shuffle and manipulate tracks with different patterns which gives it a great live remix feel, my only gripe with this effect is that it also seems to increase the output a little which I’m sure will be looked at in future firmware updates.

The second bank of effects I also had a lot of fun with is the Sweep FX section. You’ve got Dub Echo, Gate, Noise (does anyone actually use this?!) and my favourite; Wash Out.  The Wash Out effect is like a Echo/Filter which again works amazing in the mix to create tension and tease parts of a track as well as a simple yet very effective transition between different genres/tempos.

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The on board dedicated Filter control did something I’ve not seen before – total kills on high and low pass.  This blew me away.  Like many DJs I use the filter a lot and now, having the ability to bring in a tune from silence and sweep through the frequencies, adds more creative options to my mixes, very impressed!

There’s a solid and replaceable Flex Fader crossfader which will certainly please scratch DJs and the up fader’s are smooth with mirco small incremental bumps, these are a nice touch as it feels you’ve just got that bit more control with those long subtle mixes. My only thoughts here with the faders is they feel a little too close together to what I’m used to and I occasionally kept hit channels 1 & 4 (I was using 2 & 3). I’m pretty animated with my mixing and used to wider space so I just have to be aware and get used to them.

Connection wise there really isn’t much you can’t do with this mixer and the added bonus of a built in network hub means less hardware to add to the set up.

Innovative fun again pops into my head while I’m using the X1800 mixer which for me is important, DJing is about have fun and being creative and the better tools you have to do so the more fun it’s going to be (for you and the crowd).

DENON DJ – ENGINE PRIME SOFTWARE

Like with Pioneer DJs Rekordbox, Denon DJ have released a free software download, Engine Prime, to manage and prepare your tracks and playlists for use on the SC5000 Media players.

I’ve successfully exported both Rekordbox and Engine Prime playlists to the same USB and they both work fine, just make sure it’s formatted as FAT as Denon DJs SC500 won’t read anything else.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on the software as I expect there will be some major updates in the coming weeks that will resolve some of my initial thoughts.  Until the full review I will say though it’s very easy to use, especially if you are already used to using a DJ management tools like Traktor, Serato or Rekordbox.

BONUS TIP: Save your 600×600 logo artwork as “logo.png” in the Engine folder of the USB to overwrite all the track artwork displayed in the centre of the SC5000 Media Player platter.

If you are keen to get started before Denon start releasing updates it’s worth mentioning Mix Master G who, independently from Denon, has created a utility tool to convert Playlists, Cues and Loops from Rekordbox to Engine Prime.  One of the biggest obstacles DJs will face going from Rekordbox to Engine Prime is having to recreate all your cue points and loops again.  Personally over the past 8 years or so I’ve done this 3 times with my collection of over 2500 tracks with Serato, Traktor and then Rekordbox and the thought of doing it all again is a little much.  Keep an eye out for a separate review when this gets an official release but in the mean time check out our ultimate digital organisation article.

PRIME RANGE SUMMARY

Innovative Fun.  I’m saying this again as it’s my driving thought while playing on Prime Series, Denon DJ have clearly kept their eye on the current market and predicted well where it needs to evolve and come up with an outstanding range of mixer & media players to facilitate this move.

Denon DJ could have quite easily gone with #GameChanger and still been bang on the money.

EXTRAS

If you’re investing in the Prime Series it’s worth spending a few extra quid to get Decksaver covers to protect both the SC5000 Media Player & X1800 Mixer . Cable wise we use the Neo / Oyaide audio cables, not only are they phenomenal audio and USB cables but they also perfectly colour match the Prime Series range!

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OVER TO YOU….. HAVE YOU TRIED THE NEW DENON PRIME RANGE?

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEM?  DROP A COMMENT BELOW!

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On The Rise DJ Academy is owned and run by Jay Cunning and Terry from Atomic Hooligan, both have been professional DJs since the late 90’s.
Find out more about our tutors here: http://ontheriseacademy.com/meet-the-team/

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