Two powerful, professional digital DJ devices were released this year: the Denon DJ Prime 4 all-in-one system and the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT controller. The Prime 4 is a standalone unit that can be used without a laptop connected, while the DDJ-1000 controller is designed to be used with a computer running Serato DJ Pro. Both controllers have solid builds, killer styling, and professional feature sets.
If you’re thinking about getting either of these excellent devices, read on for a comparison of their key features.
Both the Prime 4 and DDJ-1000SRT are four-channel devices. They both have dual-layer jogwheel control that gives you the ability to control up to four decks at the same time. If you only play with two decks (deck 1 and deck 2), the other two decks (deck 3 and deck 4) allow for auxiliary inputs which could be used to plug in a tablet or smartphone.
Besides both pieces of hardware being great controllers, both can be used as standalone mixers without being connected to a laptop. That means you can spin using turntables and media players while being able to use the onboard EQs and effects.
Speaking of effects, both the Prime 4 and DDJ-1000SRT have onboard effects just like most club mixers. What’s great about both controllers is that they can also be used with external sources hooked up to the controllers (eg the aforementioned turntables or media players). With either of these controllers, most DJs won’t have the want or need for a separate four-channel mixer anymore.
The biggest difference between the Prime 4 and the DDJ-1000SRT is the need for a computer. The Prime 4 is a standalone all-in-one system that does not need a computer to access your music files, while the DDJ-1000SRT is a DJ controller that requires a computer to function. Although the Prime 4 does not need a computer to play your digital files it does come at an increased cost compared to the DDJ-1000SRT, plus you still need to prepare your music using a laptop and Denon DJ’s Engine Prime software.
The Prime 4 and DDJ-1000SRT both have displays located on the jogwheel that show useful information about the tracks that are playing. In the case of the Prime 4 you are able to display album artwork or custom artwork as well as view the length of an activated loop. On the other hand, the jogwheel display on the DDJ-1000SRT looks like what you’d find on the decks in Serato DJ Pro, meaning you can only see info like time elapsed, time remaining, and BPM.
The jogwheel display on the Prime 4 is more visually pleasing with its ability to show album artwork or custom artwork while the DDJ-1000SRT displays more pertinent information while mixing.
Besides the increased cost of the Prime 4, it comes with added weight as well. For mobile DJs who are already setting up a lot of gear such as a PA system along with their controller this added weight may not mean much. But for a DJ who is playing in a pub or lounge and a controller is all they are carrying, the lighter weight of the DDJ-1000SRT may be more desirable.
One of the standout features of the DDJ-1000SRT is the fact that its jogwheels are similar in size and feel to those found on club-standard CDJs. That means they’re full-sized, eight-inch mechanical jogs, and not the capacitive / touch-activated type found on most controllers, and that includes the Prime 4, which have smaller six-inch jogwheels.
However, just because mechanical jogwheels are found on more expensive gear doesn’t necessarily mean they are better, they’re just different. It takes a bit of getting used to, especially if you’ve been spinning with capacitive jogs for a while now.
When looking at the DDJ-1000SRT, it’s clear it was designed with the club-standard Pioneer CDJ and DJM layout in mind: decks on the left and right, with the mixer and effects at the centre. The Prime 4 on the other hand follows a more traditional DJ controller layout that features effects controls above each of the decks, along with controls for other features such as mic channels, Zone output, and so on.
If your goal as a DJ is to make it to the festival circuit where CDJs and DJM mixers are the standard, it makes sense to pursue the DDJ-1000SRT. The more club-style layout of the DDJ-1000SRT is the perfect way to train for the jump to the Pioneer DJ club standard.
On the other hand, if you have no plans of playing at clubs and festivals or you’re a mobile / events DJ, the controller-style layout found on the Prime 4 might appeal to you more.
Even though the Prime 4 is marketed as a standalone controller, it still uses Denon DJ’s own Engine Prime software to organise your music. Much like Pioneer DJ’s Rekordbox software in Export Mode, Engine Prime is for organising your songs and playlists and then exporting them to USB flash drives to be played on the Prime 4. Given that Engine Prime is one of the newer DJ apps out there, it still needs more development to get it up to speed in terms of features and usability.
Serato DJ Pro support
While the DDJ-1000SRT has Serato DJ Pro compatibility out of the box, the Prime 4 will get Serato DJ Pro support down the line. Serato DJ Pro is a great piece of software and the integration with the Prime 4 is likely to be just as good as the DDJ-1000SRT.
Both the Denon Prime 4 and the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT are great pro level pieces of hardware. The Prime 4 may be more expensive but it also provides more flexibility with its inputs and outputs. The separate controls for the mic channels and the zone output are features that just wouldn’t be possible if it followed the CDJ/DJM layout.
The weakness of the Prime 4 at the moment is the need to use Engine Prime. When put head to head against Serato DJ Pro for music management, it just feels underdeveloped. It’s still perfectly usable, but there is definitely room for improvement. The most glaring example of this is the lack of any kind of auto-updating smart playlists. This is a feature that many DJs, myself included, rely on and is nowhere to be found with Engine Prime.
When Pioneer introduced the original DDJ-1000 for Rekordbox DJ, the Serato community was clamouring for a Serato DJ Pro version with good reason. The DDJ-1000SRT is a great blend of size and weight while still maintaining a club-style layout. For the DJs who play on a CDJ and DJM set-up at their gigs, or aspire to use that set-up regularly, the DDJ-1000SRT makes a great “at home” version at a fraction of the cost.
Which one should you go for?
While both of these high-end controllers are great choices, I believe it really comes down to where you see yourself developing as a DJ.
If you are a mobile DJ and the thought of club DJing is the last thing to enter your mind, the Prime 4 is probably a better choice for you. The fact that it can be used completely standalone, which means no fear of a computer crashing in the middle of your set, while still having a beautiful and useful display makes it a compelling purchase.
If your goal is to headline a huge music festival using what has now been considered the industry standard DJ set-up for roughly the last decade, the DDJ-1000SRT is the better choice. Its combination of mechanical jogwheels and club mixer section makes it the perfect tool to help build muscle memory that can translate to the kind of set-up you would see on a festival stage.
Before making the decision as to which of these two fantastic pieces of gear you would like to purchase, take time to really think about your goals as a DJ: They distinctly favour two different types of DJs. Once you’ve got that figured out, your choice will become much clearer.
Which of these would you prefer? Would you want to spin with a standalone all-in-one like the Prime 4, or do you prefer the DDJ-1000SRT with Serato DJ Pro? Let us know below.