Denon DJ Spearheads Huge Assault On Pro DJ Sector With SC5000 Player

Denon

After all the leaks, here it is: The Denon DJ SC5000, which along with the X1800 mixer, the PL12 turntable and the updated "Engine Prime" software marks a concerted assault on the pro DJ booth by the company.

Denon DJ has today officially announced a complete ecosystem of pro DJ gear and software including the flagship SC5000 media player, signalling a comprehensive assault on the commercial DJ booth - a space that has, of course, been dominated by Pioneer DJ for more than two decades. Read on for full details.

Denon DJ has today announced: The SC5000 Prime media player, the X1800 four-channel mixer, and (as exclusively revealed on Digital DJ Tips last autumn) its VL12 pro turntable. For good measure, it has also announced a new version of its Engine library management and file analysis software, called Engine Prime.

We actually got to play with all of this gear in a private preview a few weeks ago, so here is a closer look at each of the items released today and our initial thoughts. Of course, a full review of all these items is coming as soon as we can bring it to you. We'll also post a gallery of sneak pics we took when we were ensconced in Denon DJ's secret den just before Christmas...

Denon DJ SC5000 Prime media player

SC5000

The Denon DJ SC5000 Prime media player lacks a CD slot but boasts super-smooth graphics, a responsive touchscreen, snazzy label artwork in the middle of the jogwheel, and - the clincher - on-the-fly track analysis.

This is the big one: A player which feature-for-feature broadly matches Pioneer DJ's flagship CDJ-2000NXS2 model, and in many ways moves past it. The biggest new feature for us is that SC5000 can analyse music on the fly, meaning DJs who like to throw a load of tunes onto a USB stick and "just play" can now do so with all of the benefits of pre-analysed music, such as key detection, beatgridding, waveforms, sync and so on. Network four of these together and you've got a powerful system indeed.

Apart from that, the SC5000 Prime has a very smooth, high res touchscreen that is akin to the quality of, say, iOS as opposed to that seen until now on DJ gear, and it has eight RGB performance pads of the type that are now standard on DJ controllers but haven't until now made their way to a pro media player. A gimmick - but a nice one - is the displaying of release artwork in the middle of the jogwheels. A notable omission, however, is a CD slot - a bold move (think Apple/headphones socket). traktor and Serato compatibility is promised.

Finally, something that users of four-channel DJ controllers will be completely au fait with, but which has never appeared on any media player to date: Each deck has two "layers", meaning two SC5000s can control four "decks" simultaneously. IT seems amazing that no pro DJ media players have had this till now. you could theoretically DJ a full set with only one of these!

Video talkthrough

Our friends over at DJ City managed to get a quick play with this, so to find out more, take a look at Mojaxx's first look video here:

• Retail pricing for the SC5000 Prime is £1,499.99. Availability is Q1 2017.

Denon DJ X1800 Prime Club Mixer

X1800

The Denon DJ X1800 four-channel club mixer is designed to pair with the new SC5000s, but has innovative features all of its own, too.

If the SC5000 is a direct assault on the sector of the market that buys the Pioneer DJ CDJ-2000NXS2, then this is Denon's gambit for the DJM-900NXS2 space. Designed to pair aesthetically and technically with a pair of SC5000s and/or a pair of PL12 turntables (see below), it is a four-channel club mixer, that as well as offering sweep and BPM-based FX, can link with the SC5000 Prime using the "Engine Connect protocol" to share beatgrid and time information with the mixer to align FX LFOs.

"Denon DJ's expressive 'Flex-Fader' crossfader adds diverse physical performance flexibility, whilst the all-new frequency controlled 'Band-Isolation' brings even more sonic manipulation possibilities to creative DJs", says the company - we look forward to investigating exactly what this all means when we get our hands on one...

• Retail pricing for the Denon DJ X1800 is £1,499.99. Availability is Q1 2017.

Denon DJ VL12 Turntable

VL12

The first turntable we've seen in decades that's actually original in design (as opposed to being from Technics, or being a copy thereof) in itself makes the VL12 interesting.

As exclusive previewed several months back by Digital DJ Tips, this turntable is interesting in that it appears to have been engineered from the ground up by Denon DJ. This is unlike practically every other turntable out there, all of which are not only modelled more or less directly on the Technics 1200/1210 aesthetic, but actually come from the same factory, no matter what brand you buy.

The PL12 boasts direct drive (of course) featuring the highest torque of any turntable, according to the manufacturer (you can also switch it to lower torque to approximate that of the Technics turntable family), and furthermore has a gimmick in that you can adjust the colour of its built-in LED platter lighting, as shown in the video we posted from ADE last autumn.

• Retail pricing for the VL12 Prime is £649.99. Availability is Q1 2017.

Denon DJ Engine Prime software

Engine Prime

It appears that the Engine Prime announcement is more of a rebranding and making Engine compatible with the new hardware than anything much else: we'll report more once we've had a play.

Just like Pioneer DJ's gear works with its own Rekordbox software, the SC5000 media players are designed to be paired with Engine Prime. This is the latest version of Denon DJ's Engine software, which was last revamped last year when the company launched the MCX8000 DJ player/controller. It is a desktop utility that lets DJs import music from folders, iTunes, or - uniquely - Serato DJ, where cues etc are all preserved.

"Written from the ground up, It's an entirely new digital music librarian ecosystem, that completely solves the issue of identifying, locating and accessing your desired music files quickly" says the company. Naturally, the application is "optimised for use with Denon DJ's new SC5000 media player and X1800 Prime four-channel mixer".

• Engine Prime is included free with the Denon DJ SC5000 media player, shipping Q1 2017.

First thoughts...

As I mentioned, we've had a chance to play with this gear, and frankly, at least as far as the media player goes, the pics don't do it justice. It is extremely high quality kit, built in battleship-style, and feels like basically a computer with a DJ controller built around it, on a single piece of hardware. What I mean by that is that the OS is super snappy, the graphics on the responsive touchscreen are high res and completely smooth, and the controller-like features - especially the performance pads - make you forget you're not using a high-end DJ controller sometimes. It's powerful indeed.

The big advantage to all that power, though, isn't the snazzy record label graphics or the snappy OS. No, the big thing is the quick analysis of music straight from USB, on the fly. Many DJs still DJ in just this way (way more than controller DJs tend to realise, for instance), and Denon DJ is surely hoping that if word gets around the superstar DJs who really don't care for software analysis, beatgridding and all that stuff but who will surely be blown away by having proper waveforms, grids, sync and key detection without any change in workflow. The risk, of course, is that some of them may also want to use CDs - which is a no way Jose with the SC5000s.


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Business-wise, this all sets up a fascinating battle. If anyone can challenge the dominance of Pioneer DJ, it's surely the monolithic inMusic group, of which Denon DJ is a part. When inMusic bought Denon DJ a couple of years back, many predicted the demise of the Denon DJ brand, but frankly none of this would have been possible under the old stewardship. Ultimately for DJs, having a couple of big players at the high end of the market has to be a good thing, as it'll speed up innovation and give people more, better choices.

That's not to say the road is going to be easy for Denon DJ (Pioneer DJ has learned an awful lot about what DJs really want, and has an overwhelming market share right now) - but the fact that a complete ecosystem of products has been launched in one go surely signals that Denon DJ means business. It's shaping up to be an exciting year in DJ tech, and we're less than two weeks in...

So, what do you think of the new gear? Are you considering buying Pioneer but having second thoughts now you've seen this? Do you think Denon DJ will carve a space for itself, or is it going to find it too hard? And who do you think this gear will appeal to the most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

  1. All looks VERY interesting, I have always appreciated and purchased Denon DJ gear, always loved the tough build quality etc etc.
    Whilst I appreciate this information is hot off the press, is there not even a ball-park figure on the expected price for this lovely looking kit?
    It's a major part of the romance!!

    • Ian Smith says:

      US sources state that the deck and mixer will sell for about 300 USD less than the Pioneer equivalents, with 1899 dollars being quoted for both.

      Had thought "Maybe they've got their act together on the quality control" front when they tweeted about the launch. Clicked on the link and was immediately asked for a username and password to view the marketing page. Denon quality at its best. I'll pass!

  2. Vince Griffith says:

    Nobody likes cheap knock-offs, and copy cats! Wish they would've went the mcx 8000 route and designed their own style and not take pioneer's blueprints and just add some lights to it and use cheaper materials.
    Do your OWN thing DENON!

    • Here's another angle though Vince. All cars have the steering heel in the same place, pedals in the same order, etc, don't they? Maybe DJ gear is getting its own "standard" now in the same way. For me, that's a good thing.

      • Ricky Gold says:

        Yeah, I agree Phil. It's not by accident that 8 performance pads came about (1,2,4,8,16,32,64, 128) and I doubt they will go anywhere for many years to come. Music generally follows a set of rules like beats, bars, phrases etc so functionality will match the music to a degree and therefore hardware design / layout. Other functionality like play, plause, stop, pitch are universal controls so not much to advance.

        I think it will be difficult for Denon to break a 2 decade Pioneer domination of clubs / bars and festivals and are more likely to attract pro mobile djs who can embrace whatever technology they like / can afford without gambling on what the circuit djs like to use.

    • Todd Oddity says:

      Whoa Vince, metal construction is cheaper material? Last I checked, the Pioneer CDJ range are all plastic - this tops that hands down. If you want to complain, go right ahead, but check your facts first. Denon gear has always been built like tanks and at first glance, this is no different.

  3. Ian Smith says:

    Two words: "Engine Software". Two more "It's garbage". Denon finally put out a new release after a two year wait last year with their newest controller and then the reviews came in and... yup "still garbage". They're claiming Traktor and Serator are "coming soon". I suggest potential purchasers go and watch the video from the original launch of "Engine" four or five years ago where they talk about all the new features that were meant to be "coming soon". Denon have always made great hardware, but with such crap quality software and the complete dominance of Pioneer at venues in the real world I can't see these making any difference at all. Great hardware with unusable software is no good to man nor beast.

  4. Richard Gore says:

    I agree with Ian. I love my SC2900 and have always lusted over Denon gear but the engine software is a joke. I don't mind that it doesn't do an awful lot, but it doesn't even do the little it does well; BPM's are out and it just keeps on crashing! Mid-gig!

    I will be looking hard at the new decks , but unless Engine has been properly re-worked, I won't be using it.

    I'd miss the cd slots as they're a useful back up

  5. I think there is potential, but it's difficult to make dents in the Pioneer empire when too many venues have invested heavily in the gear. It's why many DJs even are jumping to Rekordbox, or having it alongside Traktor/Serato. The key is they want to walk into venues and play...not go through setup...thus they'll work to be fluent on the gear the industry is hooked on.

    Personally, I'm wondering if manufacturers will try to give gear to venues and/or top DJs in the hope that they will become influencers. That or they promote/sponsor nights, but require that their gear is used. I'm sure though that will create friction with any headliners who insist on Pioneer gear.

    I'd also add if they can make their stuff affordable, then they could pull some mobile and bedroom DJs away from Pioneer.

  6. Wow and Wow. Here are My First Impressions. Denon makes really good gear! The MC8000 was the best controller deck out - Made very well! No Complaints.

    Engine Software - Needs Improvement! Take a few pages from Rekordbox and run with it!

  7. Walter White says:

    agreed... there should at least be an estimated MSRP in this article. Great Dennon established that they could make a better product... awesome. If its double the price of a nexus unit then this whole project is a waste of time. If its half the price of Nexus units ... then taking over the commercial market might be possible. Until we know a price window ... its hard to judge the product.

    Some of these features hopefully feel like a full on "punch in the face" to the nexus product development team at pioneer. Built in LAN Hub, USB port multiplier hub in the players, beat jump buttons in an accessible priority location, dedicated HP/LP knob.... all freaking AWESOME!

    One of the dumbest things i've ever seen Pioneer do was put a beatjump function on the Nexus2 and only allow a value of "1 beat" for the functionality. So dumb. Why would you put the functionality in there and not make it also function with beat jump values that matter... 4, 8, 16, 32? especially when you already have the functionality built in the RekordboxDJ software. The article doesn't say, but i hope 32 beat beatjump is possible with these units.

    I could care less about the "on the fly" track scanning. Giving priority in product features to cater to lazy, procrastinating, unprepared DJs is stupid. Its like a shampoo company taking the time to develop a product that lets you go a week without washing your hair and keeps it smelling great. Get your head out of your butt and prep your music before you get to the club ... jeez. Sure its a nice bonus, but its definitely not the "coolest" thing on these units.

    Im sure that Traktor is midi mappable on the surface controls, but im assuming that it doesnt use the HID communication platform or display functionality with traktor software since its never mentioned. That is sad.

    Looking forward to seeing how this product progresses.

  8. Camelot Sound says:

    Interesting that unlike Pioneer, Denon is supposedly using Camelot Wheel key notation, yet the photos show standard key signature notation. Is it switchable?

  9. Ashok Sajwan says:

    Looks interesting ! Well, how fraternity reacts to this gear, that remains to be seen. I guess it will definitely eat some market share of Pioneer primarily on the price point and additional offerings.
    Good Luck Denon !

  10. Richard Gore says:

    Westend DJ has them for pre-order at £1,500 - MORE than £300 more than the XDJ-1000.

    Unless Engine is seriously good and STABLE (on my Mac), then I'd probably just go down the Pioneer route (or get an MCX8000 and save myself £2k+ over the price of a pair of these)

    http://www.westenddj.co.uk/denon-sc5000

  11. DJ Vintage says:

    The current Engine is "workable" and integration with Serato seems to work in a drag and drop way.

    I am totally convinced that the folks at Denon/inMusic are fully aware that without proper software for the "standalone" option of this gear it will be a hard(er) sell. No doubt (and we can debate the use of the term "soon") there will be a new 2.x version of Engine in the not too distant future that will have full Traktor and Serato integration as well as good standalone working. Heck, they might even be able to just do a two-way Rekordbox sync :D.

    I say Go Denon, good that someone has picked up the gauntlet to open up the high end of the market.

  12. Engine is the biggest load of crap ever!!!
    The Serato 'drag & drop' thing doesn't work properly & Denon are fully aware of it!!
    The cue points from Serato are totally off, the colors are different & the beat grids are wrong!!
    Who makes dj music management software that doesn't allow beat grid editing?
    They launch a new version of Engine that only supports the new "Prime" series.
    What about all the other 'older' Engine users? Once again Denon screw their existing customers.
    They did the same thing when they launched the 3900's & left 3700 users with Music Manager.
    They can only "hope" to maintain so many different versions of Engine / Music manager etc...
    Pioneer don't release a new version of Rekordbox with each new deck they make.
    They actually consider their existing clientele.
    Ask Denon for new Drivers to support a new OSX - They tell you it's Apple that must do it??
    Denon won't ever match Pioneer, coz once they've got your money they don't care anymore!

  13. Harald Berg says:

    I somehow thinks that if Dennon comes up wit a complete ecosystem that works this not something dennon planned overnight si I asume som work and planning along with Qulity Assurance. normally this should been seen as a positive thing for the consumers. Might not bring down the price tremendously, but competition is normally good for the consumers. Hei I would swear to my little Pioneer DDJ SX2 until Traktor 5 came into my life.

  14. Vanel Lewis says:

    listen I have been waiting ever since i got my 3700's(many moons ago) for something new. I was actually in the process to see if i could find the 3900 new or fairly new from anyone. So lets get it together DenonDj.. On that note i have used all of what Pioneer has to offer and honestly its nothing to write home about. but then again neither is the IPhone and we know how that goes.. lol .. Anyway I'm patiently waiting to see if these new additions to the DenonDj family are the beast they look like.

  15. Scott Frost says:

    " but frankly none of this would have been possible under the old stewardship" -- I disagree, you seem to dismiss the and forget the immense technology Denon Engineers came up with, while the DJ industry changed and Denon slipped a bit - don't under-estimate the talent that would have advanced the industry years ahead of the competition. Denon hardware was always better than Pio, they just didn't have the marketing to move forward. Now we have marketing but I don't think the gear will hold up.. #dontchangeyourriderjustyet

  16. Ugh! This is a really expensive way to get controller-like interaction on your CDJ-like media player. I kinda' feel like they're trying to push a sport-utility vehicle on us when what we want is a sedan... way more cost to do the same thing. Think about this... the mixer alone is almost double the price of the Traktor Kontrol S8... and then you have to buy 2 of these Prime controllers ?!? You're pushing $6,000 just to replicate what a $1,500 controller and a (maybe $2,000) computer can provide. You could still buy a pretty good video projector for the difference and be a VJ off the same computer you're using to DJ off of. Head... meet desk.

  17. DJCORNBEEF says:

    Hi, so no fixed date for Engine Prime...sometime in March...would be good to have engine prime for my mcx 8000 before the summer gets going....DJDT- anything you can tell us?

  18. Richard Gore says:

    Do we even know if Engine Prime supports the MCX8000 or SC2900/SC3900? Might we be left with Engine Crap?

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