12 Things That Make Prime 4 the World’s Most Advanced DJ System – Part One
So, it’s arrived.. Finally, a 4-channel standalone DJ system that, genuinely, the DJ world has been waiting for. On this particular Blog post I’m gonna remove my official Denon DJ hat for a moment and put on my ‘DJ’ one. In this two-part article, I’ll explore features, functions, creativity and workflow, but all relevant to how Prime 4 will undoubtedly enhance everything about your DJ world and what you can do and achieve with it! Let’s kick off with the first six..
The demand and anticipation for some considerable amount of time now, for a 4-channel standalone DJ system, has been intense, fever-pitched and well, downright clear as day – Denon DJ listened! The Prime 4 can playback 4 independent digital channels of audio, powered by Denon DJ’s ‘Engine Prime’ software, without the need for an external computer. The inputs for your media sources, where these files are accessed from, are beyond huge in options and numbers – that is, 4 x USB, 1 x SD and (joy of joys) an underside SATA drive bay to house a large storage SSD etc. Any of these media sources can be used to also record your full DJ set too, even the one being accessed as the music source – the potential of which is so cool – for example, making digital ‘mixtapes’ for friends and fans, recording podcasts and livestreams plus also as a simple performance reference to see what tracks work(ed) well together or to analyse a particular successful play order of songs etc.
Zoned Out man!
Prime 4 has an independent Zone output – let’s think about how that can add performance and value to your DJ sets. With volume level and low/high EQ adjustment available, this Zone output can be set to route channel/deck #4 audio signal (in the form of a back-to-back, continuous) playlist of tracks, to a separate room or location to the main one. Alternatively, and as a default state, the Zone output will/can route the main master mix to this secondary room/area should the need arise. In addition, the output for the Zone feed is a high quality neutrik connection, for the maximum audio quality.
When we introduced the Prime 4 to a select number of Pro-Mobile and Club DJ’s prior to announcement, one particular comment emphasised another important factor regarding the Prime 4’s Zone output. One DJ stated how he felt this added more value and would introduce a new revenue stream to his DJ services. He explained he could add an additional, and justifiable charged option for a separate (chill-out, background. alternative) music room as part of his offered package of services.
Feel Your Music
We’re all used to high performance touchscreen usage with our smart-phone’s, tablets and other devices – so why should your DJ experience have any lesser expectations? The Prime 4’s 10″ (multi-gesture) touchscreen puts you in that familiar place of expectation, and then some, with fast, elegant, responsive and accurate control of many DJ function and control needs. You can tap through your crate and playlist collections, scroll up/down super-fast through track lists, search through extensive libraries and collections, add filters for even more accurate search results, then simply swipe a track ‘right’ to load. Prime 4 has also introduced an on-screen, ‘Collection Edit’ mode – this empowers you to create and edit playlists and crates, move tracks in order and even make sub-crates, all live, ‘on-the-fly’ and without the need for a computer.
Other important and necessary DJ information is of course at hand and at eye-level, clearly displayed on this large, high definition display – Track BPM, musical key (more on that later), loop and sync status plus beat-grid, loop and cue information too. Oh, and those waveforms! The 4 deck waveform displays running together are a vision of beauty (and with the central ‘Library’ preview too). It’s clear to see the dynamics in your music files too with three colors denoting differing frequency ranges – blue = low, green = mids and white = high frequencies – you really can ‘see sound’. The display too is an easy access to the Prime 4’s Utility, Preferences and ‘Record’ pages too, where you can set up and customize the unit to any preferred performance and workflow needs. Also, this glorious Touchscreen is tilt adjustable too, to set to any optimal viewing angle that best works for you and in the environment you’re working.
The Performance Pads on Prime 4, eight per side, are the gateway to elevating your DJ performance creativity; again standalone, without the need for a computer or additional 3rd party DJ software. Either locked tight to a set quantize range, or with quantize ‘off’ for a time signature unrestricted triggering/playback flexibility, these responsive pads are a pleasure to ‘play’ and in the multi-mode performance areas they occupy. Hot Cue’s for example – by setting hot cue points (either on the unit itself, or pre-prepped in ‘Engine Prime’ software’), you can jump between differing dynamic points, drops or sections in your songs, to enhance speedy ‘moment’ selections or just get a track ready for its mix point, fast and easy. For the more adventurous, the pads are so responsive, they can be used to almost ‘remix’ your tracks live, adding variety and interest to otherwise “we’ve heard it all before” track arrangements, keeping your audience on their toes (or feet!) thinking you have a fresh version of that hit record that the DJ down the road doesn’t have!
The 8 performance pads bring a new dimension to ‘traditional’ loop playback workflow too. One mode brings you the ability to add ‘loop’ regions’, to set and playback, offering a more ‘jump elegantly between track sections’ kinda workflow. For genres such as Techno for example, this can add more color and sonic flavor to what otherwise may be more minimal track arrangements. A secondary ‘Loop’ mode gives you some standard preset trigger lengths, to jump between without a ‘step-through’ beat-length restriction. The Pads section wouldn’t be complete of course without the Roll and Slicer features. Roll brings straight and triplet-time loop regions to play, whilst Slicer offers two modes (two-bar looped and ‘continuous’) giving you cut-up triggering of individual beats in a bar, controlled by Prime 4’s parameter buttons to shorten/lengthen – very cool!
Mix Any DJ Genre & Musical Key
Yes , you read the above header intro text correctly – this is huge news for any DJ, at any stage of their career and experience level. Prime 4 gives you the ability to mix any genre of music and match/change any musical key of a track and with absolute supreme audio quality. Let’s put this into a real ‘DJ-usage’ perspective for a moment – With Prime 4’s (on-board, remember, no laptop necessary) class-leading timestretch algorithm, you can drastically change a track’s BPM/tempo, whilst keeping its musical key locked, and move it up or down (at a range of) 100% (erm, insane, but true) to mix between different music genres, with no discernible loss in audio quality. For example, start with a hip-hop track at 96 BPM, lock the music key and increase its tempo to 115 – mix in a Funk/Breaks track at 115, then increase that track to 126 BPM.. into a House tune, into a Trance track at 138, into a Drum ‘n Bass track at 175 BPM.. you get the picture? Truly ‘Open-Format’ DJ’ing is now totally within your grasp with Prime 4.
Oh, and that ‘Key Match/Shift’ feature too? – Again, this is an awesome feature for any DJ to enhance performance. Whether you prefer visualizing your track’s musical key in traditional or Camelot views, it’s super-easy, super-quick and super-sounding to match the musical key of any track, to the currently playing one. Touch one button, and it’s done – instant key-matching. Using a simple tap up/down icon on the Prime 4 Touchscreen, you can move a track’s musical key up and down chromatically too. It’s fun, exciting and powerful and will make sure your audience never has to endure a ‘key-clashing’ mix between tracks again – you have complete control!
Craft the Sonics
Workflow, fast-access FX and carefully crafted audio manipulation – whichever is your choice, Prime 4 gives you huge amounts of options in sonic power and control, yet so easy to access – especially as it’s a standalone unit with no dependency on a connected laptop. Prime 4 is multicore processor powered, so can offer a wide variety of effects manipulation. Each deck/channel has an independent sweep FX control, which when rotated left gives one variant of sonic playback, then swept right to give another. Available ‘sweep’ FX are Filter, Echo, Wash and Noise. In addition, each of the 4-decks can also be sent to one of two banks of multi-effects, sourced from the Denon DJ’s mainstage club mixer, the X1800 Prime. Each of these 14 effects have their own unique parameter adjustments, which are controlled with tactile adjustment encoders and viewed on the individual and pin-sharp, OLED screens.
And Then Some..
So, there’s my first six highlights of the Denon DJ Prime 4 – in the next ‘Part 2’ article to follow, I’ll take you through another six things that are amazing about the Prime 4 – in the meantime, check out what this unit is capable of, in the hands of the uber-talented, Ethan Leo.