Denon DJ’s MC3000 feels like a serious contender for all-round digital DJ controller of the year, and it’s not even out of the box as I write this intro! How can I say that already? Because just by looking at the spec, seeing the size and feeling the weight of it, I know the controller inside is going to be compact, is going to cover the digital DJing essentials, and is good enough for pro use.
You see, I believe that DJ controllers need to do two “sets” of things: The essential stuff, and the “would be nice” things.
For most DJs, most of the time, the essential stuff is all they’ll need. Sure, it’s nice to have the rest there, but the trouble is all of those “would be nice” functions take up space and cost money, and if you’re not careful, their inclusion begin to compromise one of the central tenets of digital DJing: Portability. Controllers should, in my view, be nice and portable.
The MC3000 is smaller, leaner and less cramped than its older and bigger stablemate, the DN-MC6000…
The MC3000 (Denon’s DJ products are now branded “Denon DJ”, and they’ve dropped the “DN”) takes a “please most of the people, most of the time” route, and in making a few compromises, is smaller, leaner and less cramped than its older and bigger stablemate, the DN-MC6000. It’s also more logically laid out, to boot. So time to get it out of the box and take a look…
The controller is small and heavy. Denon uses smaller jogwheels than most, allowing it to produce more compact units. This is a smart move as jogs don’t have to be big to be functional, and these are still high quality jogs, with all the standard jog functionality (ie metal on the top for scratching, plastic sides for nudging).
Indeed, all of the controls feel high quality; the knobs are grey and black and rubberised (apart from the central selector knob and the pitch sliders), and the buttons are rubberised and backlit in a mixture of yellow, green and red.
It is similarly styled to its bigger bro, the DN-MC6000, being boxy and all-metal, but missing the silver sides; this is all black. The most obvious other visual differences are that there are now two physical channels not four, and the pitch sliders have sensibly moved to the outer edge of each jogwheel, where they’re easier to access without knocking other controls.
A quick perusal of the controls shows us that the effects knobs and buttons now double up to control your software’s sample features; that the unit can still handle video mixing (using Virtual DJ); that the single microphone input retains ducking (or “talkover”) but loses EQ; and that there are two external inputs, but that they route through a rudimentary two-rotary sub-mixer straight to the master out.
As well as shift buttons, there are modifier buttons to switch between sample and effects usage for the two sections at the top, and similar modifier buttons to switch from cues 1 to 4 and cues 5 to 8. So despite being somewhat shrunken compared to its bigger brother, there’s still a lot of Midi functionality here, and apart from the two-line / four-channels compromise, the controller has the ability to nail all the important functions in your DJ software, sample decks and all.
Whichever package you get with it, you’ll want to upgrade to the Pro version.
There’s nothing on the front apart from a 1/4in headphones jack, and round the back are balanced (1/4in) and unbalanced master outs, the two line-ins (no phono option), a 1/4in TRS microphone input, and the usual USB / outlet power sockets (it needs outlet power to work), plus a beefy on/off button.
The unit comes with Traktor 2 LE in Europe and Asia, and Virtual DJ LE in the Americas; whichever package you get with it, you’ll want to upgrade to the Pro version to get full functionality. The LE version for your territory is in the box on CD; however, for testing purposes we are using the Denon-supplied mappings for two decks plus two sample decks in Traktor Pro 2.
Navigating the library is simple using the big central selector, and you can move between folders by pressing the appropriate buttons. It is also possible to navigate within track listings using the jogwheels if you wish.
Big load buttons bring your selected track onto the appropriate deck, as selected with the deck selector buttons. A small button under the selector knob toggles library view.
Transport and jogs
The jogs, as previously mentioned, are nice to use, despite being smaller than those on most controllers. The scratch function can be turned off and on with the vinyl mode button, and the whole jog can also be disabled for DJs who don’t use jogs and who don’t want to accidentally knock them – a good inclusion. Holding down shift while using a jog lets you navigate your track library.
Denon’s legacy pitch bend controls are there if you’re that way inclined, as are the ubiquitous sync button and nice, big cue and play/pause buttons. (Holding down “Samp.” and pressing play/pause batch-plays the sample slots in that particular sample deck).
The pitch controls, while not particularly long throw, are hi-res and so accurate; it’s easy enough to move the BPM by 1/100th of a BPM, which is good enough for me.
The mixer has all the expected volume controls (low / mid / high / gain / line volume) per channel, plus a nice loose crossfader and steady, stiffer line faders.
The VUs are switchable from cue to master; I’d have preferred this to be smart switching (ie when you have a deck’s Cue button pressed to preview in headphones, the VU switches to that deck to let you set the gain, but when it’s unswitched, it returns to master) but it’s a small thing – each DJ will have their own preference here. At least you get proper cue and master VUs, which is more than some controllers give you.
The microphone channel only has a volume control, so there’s no EQ, but as mentioned earlier, there is ducking; there’s a green backlit button to tell you when ducking is switched on.
It’s really part of the effects, but as is the currently vogue, it’s been stripped out and plonked in the mixer, so we’ll cover it here. What are we talking about? Nice big filter controls, right there above the line faders, that’s what! Great fun.
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