Users of Denon DJ’s new Prime 4+ standalone all-in-one DJ unit will soon get to be the first DJs ever to use real-time stems without a laptop, when the beta phase of Engine DJ stems opens exclusively for them – and we’ve got a demo of how they sound right here.
The feature will enable Prime 4+ owners to separate instruments and vocals in tracks instantly at the push of a button, for immediate acapellas from any songs, or to remove the vocals to create instrumentals for mashups, live remixes and so on.
Watch the show to hear how it sounds
In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I demo the new Engine DJ/Prime 4+ stems feature so you can hear how it sounds, and we take questions from our community on the subject.
While this feature has been available in DJ software such as Serato DJ, VirtualDJ and Rekordbox for a while now, it has never appeared on “standalone” equipment, that is, gear where you DJ without connecting a laptop – until now.
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All Your Stems Questions Answered
The ill-kept “secret” that this was coming has certainly generated a lot if interest among DJs in the past week or so, so we’ve rounded up the most common questions we’re being asked about this, and answered them all here:
Why is it for the Prime 4+ only?
We initially thought it was because this unit has updated internal tech over other Engine DJ-powered units, but Denon DJ told us that isn’t the case, and that they are limiting the Stems beta program to Prime 4+ customers initially “to ensure the beta pool isn’t too large”.
So is it coming for my [insert any other Engine DJ-powered device here]?
Denon DJ won’t confirm that, but we’d say it’s pretty certain that it will, at some point, come to all Engine DJ-powered gear. If there’s no technical reason why not (which they have confirmed there isn’t), we’d expect them to do the right thing and let all their customers have the feature once it’s out of beta. They made encouraging noises when we pressed them on this.
OK, I’ve ordered/have been persuaded to order a Prime 4+. When will I be able to get my hands on this?
The Stems beta will be available to Prime 4+ users “in the next three months”, says Denon DJ.
So this is only acapellas and instrumentals?
Yes, while some software-based stems offer three, four, five or even more real-time stems options, the Engine DJ implementation for the Prime 4+ focuses on the two main use cases of acapellas and instrumentals.
Will it work on non-software music sources, like plugged-in turntables?
Wouldn’t that be great? But no, this is tied to analysed tracks within the system’s embedded software – it would presumably take a lot more processing power than that which is available in these units to do that.
The big question – how good does it sound?
It’s… OK! (Click on the video to hear the demo.) None of these algorithms are perfect, and this is an early beta. For rough-and-ready mashups, for instant acapella intro edits, and for spur-of-the-moment performances, it’s doable. But right now, don’t expect studio acapellas and artefact-free instrumentals.
How big a deal is this really?
It’s impressive that this is now in standalone gear – and Pioneer DJ’s engineers will certainly be feeling the pressure to add similar to units like the Opus Quad and CDJ-3000s.
While we don’t see much sign of pro DJs taking to real-time stems en masse (presumably preferring the certainty of pre-prepared acapellas etc for their big-stakes sets), it’s certainly been a hit among the hobbyists to date. Usable acapellas of anything you want, instantly, is a pretty compelling use case in itself.