12 Things That Make Prime 4 the World’s Most Advanced DJ System – Part Two
So, following the Part One of this article, let’s dive into another six things that make the Prime 4, the world’s most advanced performance system for DJs.
Jog wheels, Platters, call them what you will, but the Prime 4 sports two, 6″ touch capacitive … one’s.. which emulate the same operation of the SC5000 media player version, but in a slightly smaller form factor. In use however, they certainly feel great – comfortable, responsive and reassuring, whether engaging in some rapid back-cueing, scratching or other ‘vinyl-style’ techniques or simply nudging the track pitch back and forward. Maintaining a uniform wheel tension setting, the Denon DJ Product Team certainly nailed what I feel is an optimal ‘average’ response, that should suit the large majority of DJ’s workflow.
For those branding and visual performance feedback elements, both seemingly as important as each other these days, the Prime 4’s platter (ok, jog wheels) have that beautiful LED ring around the full circumference. This can be set to a specific color you’d prefer, further identifying the selection between decks 1 and 3, or 2 and 4. To reinforce this per-channel LED color selection, Prime 4’s ‘cue’ buttons adopt an equally colored state. Of course those fabulous HD center screens on each jog wheel can show, by default, the artwork for the currently loaded track . You can also override this and visually lock in (for all 4 decks) your DJ brand, venue or event logo too. Just cool, really cool.
Mic Check One.. oh wait.. Two
Long being what is really a standard feature on Denon DJ controller’s and mixers, but not achieved by most competitor units, are dual, independent microphone channels. A simple thing but think about this for a second: These two microphone channels do not form any compromise to, or sacrifice any of the Prime 4’s, four decks – in effect, this is a 6-channel workflow for your DJ gigs. Both microphone channels have dedicated EQ, volume and echo controls plus can be punched ‘in/out’ separately with a talkover feature too. As if this wasn’t useful and efficient enough already for any DJs crowd interaction moment, various microphone settings in Prime 4’s preferences enable even more performance customization.
“There’s Not a Problem That I Can’t Fix, Coz I Can Do It..”
Prime 4’s Mixer is a new, built from the ground up central performance section, familiar in layout so any DJ can just walk up to it and play. It is however feature packed enough to support a multitude of workflow techniques. The four channel (multi-assignable input) line faders feel silky smooth, but offer (and here’s that word again), reassuring resistance in the up and downward motion. The replaceable (yes, you too ‘innofader’) Crossfader is a touch more nimble and free flowing to these fingers, but hey, I’m no scratch DJ or Turntablist (other more beat-juggling colleague’s of mine have given it a resounding thumbs-up however).
One thing I am adept at however (if I am allowed a short but experience based ‘pat on the back’), is the creative control of EQ. Prime 4 can operate in Isolation mode EQ if required – which broadly speaking harks back to the days of Studio 54 /70s Disco, when crossover units in clubs offered a wider scope of EQ frequencies than ‘normal’ mixer EQ controls. As the boost and cut of these ‘crossed-over’ with adjacent frequencies, the sound began to take on an almost rhythmic and sonically morphing feel. In it’s crudest use however, it offers that dramatic full-kill effect when needed.
Other performance highlights for me in Prime 4’s Mixer area, are the dual sweep/filter FX controls – there are 4 of these, addressing each of the 4 channels (whatever the input – digital, line, phono etc). These, when rotated left, offer one variant of the effect, and swept to the right, an alternative sonic flavor. Three of the Sweep FX are post-fader too, which gives us DJs a lot more flexibility in track/mix transitioning, especially when moving fast through a short set for example.
Another feature which again pays a nod of respect to the legacy Denon DJ design and functionality ethos, is the headphone monitoring section. This brings the simple, but ridiculously useful, split-cue option, favored by many a Pro DJ (this places the master output signal in one earcup of the headphones and the cue’d track in the other).
Prime 4 can output Denon DJ’s StagelinQ protocol from the rear network connection – what pray tell is that you may ask? Well, probably the most and significant, future impactful connection which will enable any DJ, whether mobile, club or event, to add, connect to, automate and customise exciting video and light show elements to any set or gig.
On the lighting side, Denon DJ’s recent acquisition of the Soundswitch brand brings jaw-dropping lightshows easily within the grasp of any working DJ. Lighting ‘scenes’ can be scripted (pre-programmed), auto-looped or just let Soundswitch interpret the audio dynamics to add lighting tracking movement to enhance any DJ set. Check out the video below to get the flavor of this exciting world.
Denon DJ have partnered too with Resolume software, which opens up the world of synchronized video and visual animation/graphic FX playback. This can be to a standard TV screen or HD monitor at a small mobile gig, right through to LED walls and large club/event video installations. The bottom line though is that the DJ can just get on with the business (sorry, ‘fun!’) of playing music, (including fader movements, EQ, filter and performance techniques) and the video or programmed visuals will respond accordingly. Check out the video below where Denon DJ’s Frank Hahn demonstrates the Prime Series/StagelinQ integration with Resolume, at the ASeven club in Berlin.
And Then Some
Other cool, useful and creative features of this frankly awe-inspiring Prime 4 standalone DJ system to spotlight, include the hardware based, beat-grid editing capability. This enables full flexibility to edit your track’s beat-grids, nudging back and forward in beats and changing the tempo indicated by double or half. Another nice feature is that fine-tuning of beat grid position is done by the jog wheels. All adjustments made get written back to the media source and recalled when the track is next loaded.
Auto and manual looping is a breeze on Prime 4 – a single finger tap can set a loop up to 64 beats in length, with other performance related options (loop move, playback response etc) to experiment with, via the preferences menu. For those moments where the odd profanity needs removing, or hey, you just wanna spin that tune backwards, just tap and/or hold the ‘Censor’ button.
Another DJ special technique is of course ‘Slip Mode’ – in the hands of creative DJs (c’mon, ya know that’s ‘you’!), a variety of standard DJ functions take on a totally different flavor. Notably, the track continues (running in the background) within the timeline, whilst you unleash all manner of deck stop and beat juggling craziness – go on, try it and amaze yourself 🙂
Plug Me In
Connectivity – there’s tons of it. In fact everything a DJ can want and desire in a standalone unit. The rear panel holds balanced and unbalanced outputs galore, high quality Neutrik XLR’s (hell yeah!) and line and phono RCA inputs (including DVS functionality coming soon). With Mic combo jacks and network connections too, the Prime 4 has got us ALL covered baby! That USB-C connector at Prime 4’s rear by the way will take care of firmware updating via a computer and a soon come, Serato DJ Pro control mode too.
Add in that legacy, uber high-quality Denon DJ audio and (like a tank) metal chassis, build quality too, and that’s my near to dead stop for this article. Oh, and speaking of build quality, you may think the Prime 4 weighs a fair few pounds/kilos and could be a worry for portability? – well, many DJ’s who’ve seen and touched the unit so far have come to a unanimous conclusion; Prime 4 is heavy enough to feel (darn it, here’s that word yet again) reassuringly built, but light enough to be easily picked up, carried and moved (and more so with a choice of probably three, hard/soft, 3rd -party case options arriving hopefully by shipping date).
And that’s me done for this two-part article – So, what are your favorite features of Prime 4? Let us know in the comments section below!