Review & Video: Denon DN-SC2000 vs Traktor Kontrol X1

The Traktor Kontrol X1: how does it match up to the Denon DN-SC2000?

The Traktor Kontrol X1: how does it match up to the Denon DN-SC2000?

Review: Denon DN-SC2000 vs Traktor Kontrol X1

We've covered single-jogwheel DJ controllers before. However, we didn't include the [x1] that time because, well, it doesn't have a jogwheel. However, along with the [dn-sc2000], that controller now dominates the "compact-control-surface-with-no-audio-interface" section of the digital DJ market.

We often get asked about these two devices - which is "best", what they can be used for, how do they fit into a set up and so on. So here we look briefly again at the two units and the concentrate on how you can use them, and which might be the best choice in various DJing situations.

Denon DN-SC2000

We've covered the Denon DN-SC2000 before, but let's recap: This is a single-jogwheel DJ interface - no audio interface, so it simply controls DJ software. It has always come optimised for Traktor and Virtual DJ, but now it also comes (in Europe, at least) bundled with an LE version of MixVibes Cross. The mapping files for all of these programs are readily available online, so you can use it with any of them (indeed, like the Kontrol X1, you could try your hand mapping it to anything if you were that way inclined).

Being Denon, it is beautifully built with a steel case, and heavier than it looks. However it is also compact and low profile. The rubberised buttons are of an excellent quality, backlit (often in two colours) and they can flash too - lots of feedback. The jogwheel is touch-sensitive and metal on the top, plastic around the edge for dual function (scratch/nudge), and the unit has a hi-res, long-throw pitch fader.

Denon DN-SC2000

Denon DN-SC2000: Barely the size of a paperback book but packing a full-length pitch control and an excellent jogwheel.

It can control two decks of your DJ software, because the big "deck change" button switches between them, and the colour behind both the track select and the deck change buttons switches from red to blue to show you which deck you're controlling.

The unit gives you (software-dependent) easy access to eight cue points, effects and filtering; transport controls including legacy pitch bend if you're jogwheel-averse; and a good library browsing section, with quick location and loading of tracks.

One issue manufacturers deal with when letting one control surface control two independent decks is what to do about controls that are set for one deck when you switch to another. Apart from the pitch fader (which "picks up" when you move it to where it was set previously for a deck you're returning to), this unit has backlighting for button state memory, and all the rotaries are endless (they push-click too, by the way).

That means that when switching back to a previously used deck, the controls are instantly where you left them. However, as they have no LED ring around them to show you the state (like the Stanton SCS.1, for instance, although that's a different beast entirely), you'll find yourself checking on the screen more than maybe you might want to.

So overall, then, this unit basically can control everything about your DJ software for two decks, apart from the mixer functions, although you'll have to get used to switching between decks and you can't do any simultaneous DJing (like riding two filters together, for instance).

Traktor Kontrol X1

Like the Denon, Native Instruments' first foray into DJ hardware (since followed by the Traktor Kontrol S4) is an interface with no onboard sound - you'll need an audio interface for proper DJ use. Also like the Denon it's bus-powered, with just a USB socket (and a Kensington lock loop) on the back.

Form-wise, it is long and thin, and the same height as the Denon unit. However, it's considerably lighter, being built to a similarly high standard but in plastic with a metal top plate. It's still highly durable, and to me suits this method of construction better than the larger Kontrol S4.

Traktor Kontrol X1

The Traktor Kontrol X1: Perfect for slipping 'twixt deck and mixer.

The biggest and most obvious difference between this and the Denon is that there is no jogwheel and there's no pitch fader either (although it has harder-to-access pitch and bend functions via backlit buttons). However, it uses the extra real estate that this allows by giving you completely independent control over your two decks - if you drew a line down the middle of this, they'd be two equally specified sets of controls. No need for a deck change switch.

Some of its rotaries (browse, loop) are endless (and also push-click), but the effects rotaries are 7pm-to-5am standard variety with a centre-click; no need for endless rotaries here as they are assigned to a single effects unit each. There's some innovative mapping taking advantage of the two Traktor effects modes so you can use shift to take quick control of filter, reverb and delay, or dive in for full functionality. Its buttons are similarly rubberised and backlit.

So again, this unit can control practically all the functions of Traktor minus the mixer (it also works with Serato Scratch with an overlay that's provided) - but remember it has two independent sets of controls for transport, looping, effects and (rather unnecessarily) browse functions.

The digital vinyl question

Native Instruments of course makes Traktor Scratch Pro 2, a leading digital vinyl system (DVS). Buy a laptop and a Traktor Scratch Pro 2 system (control vinyl, audio interface and software) and - as long as you have two record decks and a mixer already - you can DJ digitally using your current DJ gear.

However, truth is that you'll still be touching your laptop all the time - for effects, for loops, for browsing, and in certain modes, for many of the transport functions. For many DJs this isn't ideal - they want to glance at the laptop screen every now and again but basically use their traditional DJ set-up for everything else.

Enter the Kontrol X1: It is designed to fit snugly between one of your record decks and the mixer in the centre of your set-up, and liberate all of the controls that you were previously reaching for your laptop to use. Now, you can DJ as you always have, with effectively a slightly wider mixer that contains all the controls you need to access all the advantages of a digital system. Of course, you don't need jogwheels or a pitch control, because you have them on the record deck, and you don't need a mixer, because you have that too.

Serato Scratch Live

The Kontrol X1 plays nicely with Serato Scratch Live; there's even an overlay provided to label the functions correctly.

The Denon unit is coming from a slightly different place. You wouldn't generally add this to a DVS system (simply because for both leading DVS systems, the X1 is going to suit you fine; it's what it's made for). The Denon is the wrong shape to tuck next to a mixer, and has a redundant jogwheel and pitch fader for DVS DJs.

However, the Denon unit makes sense in other ways. For instance, if you've got a traditional DJ setup (vinyl or CDs) that you're quite happy with, but you want to add digital rather than replace your analogue sources, by adding your laptop and a audio interface plus the Denon device, you can easily feed two extra channels of digital music into your main mixer as well as your CD or vinyl inputs, giving you four music sources. The Denon's clever switching, small form factor and great jogwheel mean that it's a good way to mix analogue and digital like this.

Or, if you have a standard DJ controller with two jogwheels but want to liberate decks three and four of say Traktor, again the Denon can give you a small extra piece of gear that'll do just that for you, complete with a third jogwheel, apeing the old three or four-Technics DJ booths.

So overall, then, you might thing that the X1 is best for DVS users, and the Denon for non-DVS users. Kind of - but it's not that simple. For instance, if you're a DVS user but you want to use four decks not two, the Denon can give you an extra jogwheel for controlling those decks, just as I described above for controller users - and again, do it with a small form factor. So you could feasibly add a Denon AND an X1 to your system!

Likewise, if you're a loop-based electronic DJ, with tightly beatgridded tunes and you frankly have never really seen the purpose of jogs, decks or any of that old analogue paradigm, you could use an X1 plus a mixer and audio interface for a small, tight set-up to play house, techno and so on. It's minimal but many DJs do it, and if you can roll up to a club with a small laptop, a compact audio interface and an X1, as long as they have two spare channels on their mixer, you can do some great things with the X1 in this way.

Indeed, some DJs double up and have two X1s, an eight-out audio interface, and a laptop as their total set-up for the ultimate in four-deck trickery yet taking up no more space than half a normal sized DJ controller. All the club would need would be four inputs on the mixer for you to plug into.

There's a feeling too that the Denon is more for your "traditional" DJ, whereas the X1 used in this way is going to suit the maybe more forward-thinking electronic music DJs - certainly those who don't care for the "two decks and a mixer" idea that has shaped the way we think about DJ gear up to now. However, I DJed and beatmixed indie, downtempo, house and breakbeat using just a laptop and no controller quite happily for years, so I know that even for these types of DJ, jogs aren't absolutely essential.

Going modular: Adding a digital mixer

There's another use for these units that applies equally to both of them, and that is adding a digital mixer to the equation, to give yourself a complete digital DJ set-up but built from separates.

DJing has always swung between all-in-one units and modular set-ups (remember the old mobile disco dual-deck belt-drive boxes from years back?) and the truth is that some people just prefer modular.

DJ Tech X10 Digital Mixer

The DJ Tech X10 Digital Mixer: Its USB hub and built-in sound card make it a good match for one or a pair of these units.

Maybe you can't afford to buy everything in one go but want a pro set-up in the end, or maybe you just prefer the flexibility, favouring one brand's mixer and another brand's control surface. Another reason is that some mixers (the top-end Pioneer, Allen & Heath and indeed Denon models, for instance) pack hardware features that no software DJ controller can match.

Whatever, it is possible to build up a nice modular DJ system using one or two of either of these devices and a digital mixer. As digital mixers have built-in audio interfaces, that means that you don't need an extra audio interface. Some even act as USB hubs, so you can plug your one or two X1s or Denons directly into the mixer by USB, and send one cable off to the computer.

Nicely flightcased, a set-up like this would make a professional-looking system. Your choice then would be jogwheel or not, and that harks back to our discussion about your music choice and how much you buy into the new pushbutton digital way of doing things.

Conclusion

Both of these units are the best at what they do on the market - that being compact DJ software controllers designed to help you keep your hands off the laptop keyboard and on your DJ gear. There are other similar units, but they're generally bigger, pricier, and have more functionality, thus losing the compact, minimal approach of these two (the Allen & Heath Xone:1D and the Reloop Contour - both excellent - spring to mind here).

Both the DN-SC2000 and the Kontrol X1 need an audio interface and mixer to complete a system, but likewise both can also be plugged in to a laptop as they are and can control the software just fine, albeit without headphone monitoring. Thus if you're wanting to slowly build a DJ system up with decent gear instead of beginner models, either would be a fine first purchase for the budding digital DJ.

Ultimately, your choice will depend on whether or not you're a digital vinyl user, where you play (and so what will fit in your DJ box), what software you use (for instance, only the Kontrol X1 works with Serato Scratch), and how much you like to DJ with jogwheels.

For the DVS DJ or the hardcore controllerist playing EDM, the Kontrol X1 edges it, especially as it offers independent control over most parameters. For the DJ playing a broader, looser selection of music, and who wants a digital version of the traditional decks and mixer DJ set-up, the Denon is more likely to tick your boxes. Both are proven winners.

Video Review

Do you own either of these units? How do they fit into your set-up? Let us know your stories and thoughts in the comments

Want more like this?

Join 100,000 Digital DJ Tips members and get access to free training, our friendly forum, plus twice-weekly emails with the best of our tutorials, reviews and DJ news. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time!

Comments

  1. I think there is no clear winner…it really comes down to personal preference. Hence why I like choice.

    The X1 is great because it’s a nice side controller for timecode DJs. The Denon I would go with if I was not using any timecode, but wanted a particular mixer.

    The DJ Tech mixer is also nice, but I would find any mixer like that difficult for club gigging, as you would have to use the in-house mixer. To me the big factor when you’re club gigging is that you can easily come in, hook up, and play without making a chaotic mess of it all.

  2. IMHO this is just “apples or oranges?”.. Both controllers would fit perfectly into certain setups and saying one is better than the other is not really possible.. Overall two great controllers, both awesome in what they do but they do it in different ways.

    • Phil Morse says:

      Yeah you’re right, but it doesn’t stop people asking the question though! :)

      • Yep.. and since this it the internet, it won’t stop people from claiming one is better than the other :)
        Also, thanks for the good review and comparison between these two products.

  3. I use the Reloop Contour Contour (covered in the single jog wheel article).

    For me it’s the best solution because I use it in different ways depending on how and where I have the gig.

    I have a solo project, but I also do gigs with a companion. When djing alone, I use a virtual setup with vinyl, traktor en the reloop for effects and looping. But when I have my companion with me, he uses the cd-players and I use the Reloop 100%. Also for smaller party’s I only use the Reloop.

    I tested the Denon and the Reloop and I liked the Reloop more, 4 decks vs 2 decks, cue buttons, etc..

    In this discussion I see the Reloop as the perfect combination of both the Denon and the X1

  4. SAFC2403 says:

    I’ve used both. Being a vinyl and CDJ guy I used a friends X1 on NYE. It changed the way I looked at laptop systems. I was all set for the X1 until I saw the SC2000. Being a traditional dj the denon appealed to me. I didn’t really want to give up the jogs so ended up with that. Up to now I haven’t regretted my purchase!! Just need a second one now to complete the setup!!

  5. I bought the S4 because of the great reviews on the Kontrol X1. However, I am very unhappy with the S4. The touch Sensitive Platter on the SC2000 blows away the S4 platter. Plus, you need to have the Laptop on just to control external sources. No XLR or booth out is the nail in the coffin.

    The DN-SC2000 controls Serato Scratch Live very well. Just look at my Mapper.
    http://www.poweronplay.com/j-j-s-dn-sc2000-serato-scratch-live-xml-midi-mapper/
    However, when releasing the Platter, there is a slight pause. Mainly because the DN-HC4500 platter control hack was built for the 4500 smaller Jog Wheel.

    The Fader Lock works in two different ways:
    Fader Lock On: To set the fader lock function On, hold down the [SHIFT] key and press the [PITCHBEND +] key. (The default setting is ON)
    Fader Lock Off: To set the fader lock function Off, hold down the [SHIFT] key and press the [PITCHBEND -] key.

  6. I have had the x1 for about a year or so! before that I was using cdjs all the time I like the x1 it takes a while to get used to not having jog wheels but once you get the hang of it its fine.
    Also dont just think the x1 is for house and techno djs, I play lots of house and electro I also mix top 40 stuff rnb and even use it for the odd party set of classics and I dont rely on sync.

  7. (remember the old mobile disco dual-deck belt-drive boxes from years back?) … yes I do. That’s where I started.

    Mono, no crossfader, dodgy power supplies… oh the fun….

  8. DBS Brazil says:

    Very nice review but… what about the view from your balcony?? swimming pool alot sun and a blue sky… perfect place to djing…

    • Phil Morse says:

      We have got a gorgeous office… just makes work hard sometimes when you look down on the swimming pool, pleasure port and sea in the distance!

  9. muchacho says:

    Denon all the way especially if you play freestyle music .Thats the difference.

    X1 is for house djs trust me on that i played and tested both
    and i am over 20 years proffecional dj.

  10. Mark (JSM) says:

    Phil, I have 2 Denons and used the X1’s.

    You say neither has a mixer built in, well in the default mappings thats correct, but you miss one thing, we are controllerists and build our own maps. I current have a mapping for the Denon under TSP2 which includes a mixer stage. Combining that with my XPS’s two outputs, i have the ultimate portable solution, which fits into the average laptop bag (only used in situations which have absolutley no space for a DJ setup – i.e. many bars in Spain)

    The denon will have the official TSP2 .tsi 4 deck + smaple deck next week, along with the long awaited FW upgrade.

    Overall for real mixing the Denons win hands down, for house/electro the S4/X1 combination is best.

    The jogs on the denons are as good as you can get, they are so nice to use, the S4 jogs are rubbish in comparison … and yet the advertise them as the best.

    Using the Denon is as close to perfection as one can get, the X1 is close, but is only really useful in combination with the S4.

    regards
    Mark (JSM)

  11. Is it possible to use one of these without a mixed? Can you reassign something to be a crossfader, say an unused pot? It would be perfect for me to have one the Denon, but I want it for minimalism and not need an extra mixer! Why don’t they add a crossfader?

    • Because it’s meant to be a single-jog turntable to be used as part of a bigger system, not a standalone. But you could remap it any way you wish, so yes – what you say IS possible.

  12. Hi,

    Excellent review! Just a quick question about the Denon DN-SC2000. I’m just wondering what happens with the pitch control (slider) when you switch between decks. Basically I’m thinking about using one of the Denon DN-SC2000s to control 2 decks and manually beat match on both.

    If deck A is at +6% then you flip over to deck B will that deck then automatically skip to +6%? Or will it be where you left it? If so doesn’t this limit how much pitch you have to play with (i.e. A is pitched up to 6% then load a new track to B, change controls to B, pitch is physically at +6% but the track is at 0%, but you only have +4% left to play with, physically on the slider). Did my rambling make sense?

    Cheers,
    Kieran

    • You have to slide it back to where it was on the previous deck for it to start working again. Works well.

      • Cheers for your quick response! So do you have to lock the pitch for each deck before switching over? And presumably there is some sort of indicator on-screen when you reach the point you were at previously?

  13. Hi,

    Great article, it really helped me make my purchasing decision at the time. However I’ve just switched to the X1 after a year of happily gigging with the denon dn-sc2000 and wanted to give my 2 pence worth.

    I was using the denon on its own to control 2 decks and mixing externally with a dj mixer, playing songs from mixed genres & tempos. Now I will miss the pitch slider and jog wheel but I have already become quite used to the button centric approach on the X1. For me the biggest thing is confidence, and in the heat of the moment not knowing which deck you are using is a nightmare.

    As most of the previous comments have said it all depends on how you intend to use the controller, I cant fault the denon but it made me nervous!

    Love the blog, keep those articles coming!

    Cheers

    Immon

  14. Jonny Jay says:

    could i add a sc2000 along with my traktor S4, without knowing anything about mapping, and use it to control a third/fourth deck?

Speak Your Mind

*