Denon Prime Series Review!

I don't know why it took me so long to do this, but here is my write-up on the Denon Prime! As my blog previously mentions, my MacBook Pro used to be tasked with Traktor and Maschine duties. Two screens on two controllers with two programs that EAT CPU and GPU. It wasn't sustainable. I ended up with standalone production/performance gear and a Serato / Roland box for dj'ing. I didn't jive with the Dj808. 

 This thing is really nice. The analog drum machine, combined with the ability to step-sequence your samples, is really amazing. Still, it has quirky limitations and it's Serato-based. That last point really stuck with me in a bad way.

This thing is really nice. The analog drum machine, combined with the ability to step-sequence your samples, is really amazing. Still, it has quirky limitations and it's Serato-based. That last point really stuck with me in a bad way.

 

A buddy sent a video of him playing on the SC5000 Denon Prime Player and I wondered "what in the world is this thing?"

My personal opinion of CDJs (historically) has been quite negative. Sure, they play files and they have digital tempo control, so they are superior to DVS/vinyl in some ways. That said, they lack ALL of the creative remix capability of controllers like the Traktor Kontrol S8 from Native Instruments or the DJ808 from Serato and Roland.

I just couldn't get excited about a simple CDJ interface when controllers offered 8 magic pads for remixing and getting weird.

 My favorite controller was the S8 - and I would probably still own this controller, but I really needed faders for tempo control & the screens used a lot of GPU.

My favorite controller was the S8 - and I would probably still own this controller, but I really needed faders for tempo control & the screens used a lot of GPU.

 

The Denon Prime series appeared to be a standalone DJ rig which provided all of the creative remix capability of the flagship controllers today, but with even more features! Did it deliver?

YES!

 WHAT? The best parts of the S8, combined with the best parts of a CDJ, in a totally STANDALONE package? They really made something special here.

WHAT? The best parts of the S8, combined with the best parts of a CDJ, in a totally STANDALONE package? They really made something special here.

The eight buttons along the bottom seem really simple, and obvious, but this unit is the first to add them in the CDJ footprint. The SC5000 has the features of Traktor that I love (key match, loop, roll, slicer, beat jump, etc) and the footprint is perfect! I can grab the virtual vinyl with the jog wheel (and even adjust the weight of the wheel), grab my pitch faders, activate slip mode, TOUCH the screen to jump about my file (to add cue points, for example) and it runs in a very stable package!

ONE player can run TWO tracks at a time, so my pair of SC5000 players gives me 4 layers to mix - just like the DJ808 or the S8, but with NO LAPTOP required. My computer is now only responsible for running Maschine MK3 and my S61 MK2 keyboard - which is WAY NICER!

Oh, after my thorough testing of the players (connected to my Z2 mixer), I decided that the mixer should be next on my list.

 My first test run on Prime. I brought the laptop with my Z2, just in case! A solid four hour test resulted in only minimal quirks, all of them now addressed in the first firmware update.

My first test run on Prime. I brought the laptop with my Z2, just in case! A solid four hour test resulted in only minimal quirks, all of them now addressed in the first firmware update.

On my first set, I realized within 5 mins that this setup worked precisely how I wished. I was dancing and mixing and having a blast. My lady commented "now he looks like he's having fun, and he SOUNDS LIKE BOBBY AGAIN!" - She was there for the great gear swap of 2016-2017 winter which included the Dj808 and Serato debacle.

The X1800 Prime Series Mixer completed the set nicely. 

 So much GREEEEEN! 

So much GREEEEEN! 

The mixer checks a few boxes. It has built in FX on the right, which are all per-channel selectable and controlled via the dedicated knobs. "Sweep FX", if you will. Along the right side is a whole different bank of FX, which you can assign to individual channels, paired channels (A+B) or C+D), master, cue, and others. 

The best part? In the DARK, everything on this mixer is where you would expect to find it & the lights guide you if there is any doubt to the routing. The blue and white you see above each channel fader tells you which channel on the SC5000 (which layer) you are affecting. The white tells you if the tempo-based (BPM) FX are mapped/activated on said channel. Everything is interactive and the lights/layout are PERFECT. The touch strip - far right bottom, allows you to divide your BPM FX in different intervals with your fingertip, on the fly. Very cool to run 1/4 beat pattern on your flange and quickly swipe to a longer/shorter interval. 

The FX on the mixer are all great. A bit of utility digging allows you to drop the RES on the filter from 15 down to 5, or 6, for a sweet spot. All proper/relevant settings on the mixer are adjustable.

All of the units talk to one another, so changing the color of layers on the SC5000 players will result in the colors mapping to the mixer accordingly. You can change the way the mixer and the players assign layers to channels, for further customization. I adjusted my filters to "kill" or "iso"mode to get a more traditional EDM sound out of this thing & now when I mix I can truly say it feels and sounds like my past setups (in a good way). The FX and such, combined with the loop/roll/slicer and such on the players add up to a Dj rig that really can compete with the likes of Traktor in many ways. Sure, Remix Sets and STEMs aren't really there, but if you have a groovebox/sampler next to your now-more-compact Dj rig, you don't need those things.

This setup changed my perspective on things, in a good way. Now I have a fully standalone DJ rig that just STOMPS the competition. The custom Odyssey Vulcan cases are amazing and my setup couldn't be better. 

Thanks DENON!

Thanks for reading!