Why I Changed My Rider – A Year with Prime
What can a DJ say about the Prime Series after switching from other brands to a full Prime setup and running it for a year? DJ Noise Riser is a hardcore DJ based in the Netherlands, and has played techno, trance and house sets along the way too. Real name Mike Stepien, ‘Noise Riser’ recently landed a lengthy, sincere and detailed review onto Social Media channels and DJ groups, cataloging his first year using the Denon DJ Prime Series gear. He purchased a full Prime set up (2 x SC5000’s and 1 x X1800 mixer) last year, loved them so much, he added another 2 x SC5000’s only recently. In his own words then, this is why DJ Noise Riser ‘changed his rider’.
My journey to Prime Series
First of all I want to tell why I moved from Pioneer to Denon DJ and I am not sponsored by any means, by anybody to write this review. These are my fully honest thoughts about the Prime Series and the way this set works. Now I have about 14 years of experience in DJing and stage techniques. My DJ journey started from vinyl and the very first [DJ market] CD players (double decks from Denon and first CDJ’s). As more clubs started to use mostly Pioneer decks I used them a lot, but not exclusively. Pioneer made great progress over the years, and the nexus series is still a big hit, very fun and easy to play with, but also I used a lot of other gear (midi controllers, mixers, media player).
I had the nexus set for a couple of years, and I was very happy with it, but after sometime I noticed that everything was standing still. I needed a bigger challenge, I needed to push myself forward. So, I started to play around with Traktor’s Remix decks. Sampling live, ‘remixing on the fly’ and looping etc was my way to go. I still used CDJ’s with that set, but linked via USB to my Macbook and used them as advanced Traktor controllers. That modular setup helped me to gain more experience in live music remixing and brought with it a lot of fun and new ideas.
Finally the time came to change my CDJ’s to Nexus 2, but I knew that previous model CDJ’s had a lot of issues, so I decided to wait a bit. Some time later Denon DJ came back to the game with the SC5000 Prime and immediately they got my attention. All the features that were mostly available only in Traktor/Serato suddenly got their place in standalone decks! That was really mind-blowing, as there was nothing like it on the market! So, some serious testing needed to be done..
‘Industry Standard‘ vs The New Player in Town
First, research on the internet. Then I went to almost every event, where this new, WOW deck was available to see and touch it for a bit. I started to do all sort of testing – Usability, connectivity, sound quality, jog wheels, screens, navigation through the menu and playlists, features and build quality. All needed to be checked. But also, at the same time, I compared and tested the CDJ2000 nexus 2, that I had on hand (my friend bought it already). What was the impression? On the internet – Videos and reviews were very positive, but biggest amount of features was shown by Laidback Luke in his first Denon DJ Vlogs. Hands on – Great response, very intuitive, fun to play, in solid metal housing, and packed with features! This was my first thought about the SC5000, but with the X1800 mixer, the media player decks could show full possibilities (more on this later).
My comparison chart that I used for NXS2 and Denon DJ SC5000
The decks were great not only for me, but a lot of my friends who played on my SC5000’s agreed that the PRIME setup is a real game changer. But let’s get the wow’s and ooh’s aside. What really made me #changemyrider was the next level of DJ challenges and joy of trying something new. This was actually very familiar – the complete setup was so intuitive and easy to manage from the very beginning. All the functions are exactly there where you’d expect them to be and they work in the predictable way. This gives confidence in working with the device, so you can focus on the creative part of the mix, instead of thinking, “is this working good” or “how will it sound”? There are also some cool, hidden features and it was a great pleasure to discover them and play around trying to find more ‘secret stuff’. The SC5000 players are not heavy, but they are metal – complete faceplate, the jog wheel – all metal! It’s hard not to focus on the center of the player – the jog wheel. It is silently smooth turning, it’s heavy (aluminum cast) and has adjustable break so you can mach your style of play.
The display is big and very good quality. All needed information is on it – BPM, Tempo range, time, title, waveform, full track waveform, quantize, loop length, musical key and hot-cue’s with name and color. I like the way Denon implemented how time and Key are displayed. When using the Tempo fader, time is changing accordingly to the tempo and the Key displayed on the screen is also changing with the actual key shift by the track stretching and squeezing. This time and key shift information is not present on any other DJ player. The [touchscreen] display is also a very intuitive command center for the complete deck. All intuitive smartphone and tablet habits are useful now in the DJ world. Swiping through the playlists and tracks is very convenient and makes the device very user friendly. Pinching for the waveform zoom-in and out is also a nice addition. Let’s wrap this all up then in a short summary of this deck in a few of points.
So what do I like about the SC5000?
- User friendly layout and deck management is great – crates, preparation list, track search – all is very well thought and implemented in the simple and logic (Dj friendly) way, including the hand gestures on the screen to navigate (like on smartphones and tablets).
- Double layer – 2 decks in one physical unit is a big advantage, gives a lot of creative possibilities.
- Silent jog wheel – no rollers under the jog wheel makes it very nice to play in the studio or other silent areas. The jog wheel is touch sensitive, not a button, as in CDJ series, that makes it even better, as there are less mechanical parts that can get broken.
- Direct cue and loops access – I needed this feature very much, this pushed me to rethink the usage of hot cues and loops on a physical unit and added more creativity to my sets.
- Advanced Dj software features like Beat jump, slicer, roller, slip mode – all this is very good to have on a physical deck.
- Easy and fast personalization and adjustment – utility menu is very easy to manage.
- Great connectivity – LINK, 3 usb ports, USB3.0 support, SD card slot – very important to have multiple inputs available.
- Flexibility with playlists – rekordbox, serato, traktor playlist compatibility is a great feature, I hope it will be still developed to add more possibilities.
- Mixer link – this opens the real power of Prime setup – decks „talk” with the mixer on another level – I love the auto assign feature and color coding the channels accordingly to deck physical location – great job on that Denon!
- Tempo holding – when 2 tracks are beat-matched perfectly, they stay that way till the end.
- Key and time dynamic display
What I would change, add, improve?
- Beat counter should always show master deck on all linked players, not only in Sync mode.
- Mixer should share ROLL sample to a deck via LINK for scratching and sample manipulation.
- Jog wheel touch sensitivity adjustment – some situations require less touch sensitivity.
- Direct play from Engine library of a PC/MAC via LINK (WiFi or LAN connection with Engine Prime)
Well there is not much I can say against the SC5000, as these players are built in the way that every Dj will find them easy to play. There is also a ton of features, and the best part is – they all work rock solid. I play on my decks a lot and through a year I didn’t have even one crash or an error!
The size, the weight, the PRIME…
In the center of the Prime setup we have a new X1800 Prime. This Mixer is big! I compared it to the X1600 and DJM900 NXS2, that already is not small, and this one is even bigger! It also weighs a serious bit, and is made mostly out of metal, so right out of the package you can be sure that this is a serious piece of professional equipment. On board, there is all that any Dj would need – 4 channels, ISO EQ, razor sharp crossfader, beat fx, sweep (color) fx, and all sort of inputs and outputs. Everybody knows the club standard mixer layout, so we will not go through what is where – standard mixer logic is preserved here.
What really makes this mixer stand out is the built-in 4 deck [network] + PC lan hub, the effect touch strip and a digital input – marked as Digital LINK IN – yes this is a very important connector for all the collaborative DJ teams! We will dive into details in a moment. What I like on this mixer also, is that the Sweep FX are now independent from the filters on each channel – this lets the DJ use FX and filter at the same time (and yes, you can change the filter resonance too).
The X1800 unlocks some unique features of the SC5000 players when connected via LINK. Decks jog wheel colors get automatically assigned to the corresponding channels, fader and crossfader start is now available, decks share the tracks and tempo data, mixer gets tracks bpm info for FX and to share it with dj software via usb. Also, ‘On air’ deck status is now enabled and StageLinq data is getting shared between all devices in this network. [StageLinQ also is the protocol that communicates with AV software such as SoundSwitch for lighting and Resolume for sync’d video performance – Ed]
The Touch strip from the FX section is a great tool. It enables you to change the effect time very fast, and also can be used for fast FX momentary trigger (INSTANT mode). I like it more than the double stacked ribbon on the DJM900 NXS 2 and a direct button like the version on Reloop RMX90 – as the fast adjust from short to long time can be much faster and smoother on the new Denon DJ mixer.
Digital Link IN is a very powerful feature, that is overlooked very often by lots of DJs. This digital input let’s you make a collaboration setup made out of the Prime gear and another any mixer with Digital out. This is how it’s done: Any mixer with digital out, that you connect to Digital LINK IN will mix with your master signal and will be routed together to your main output. And now You have 2 options..
- Use master volume knob on Your X1800 to adjust both mixers volume’s together
- Bypass the Master knob of your mixer and let the collaborating DJ control his Master part on his own
This feature is awesome! It also enables the user to expand the mixer to have more channels just by adding another mixer and linking it, without sacrificing a channel. What I noticed as a small minus on this mixer is no Effects like spiral or melodic and a lack of Kensington lock slot. Also in the future it would be nice to see more direct access to filter resonance settings and maybe more effects. The X1800 mixer sounds and performs very good, the display is very crisp and easy to read and the filters and effects sound good. Sound routing is very simple and logical, double USB’s and a very powerful sound card give a lot of possibilities. The EQ is accurate and works perfectly. The Cue’s auto color function is great, and helps to keep the setup well organized. The mixer and players perfectly complete each other in a tight cooperation.
And the Summary
The Prime setup is a very versatile and future proof system which gives the DJ all the best from both worlds (standalone and DJ software). This setup has never let me down, I could always rely on it and be sure that everything will go smoothly. Many of my DJ friends that usually play on different devices were very positive and happy to play with the Denon DJ Prime setup. This only ensures me, that choosing the Prime System over a Pioneer Nexus set was a good decision. The updates so far only bring us more and more functionality and features, so this also gives me the confidence, that Denon is listening to us DJ’s and gives us the tools and support that we need.
Would I consider a different gear? Hmm… honestly not yet. There is simply nothing better on the market. If you are thinking about switching to Denon DJ Prime system, there was never a better time than now. It’s not only super easy but also fun to play with and the system is Rock Solid! Great Job Denon DJ!