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Engine DJ 2.0 Desktop & OS Review

Phil Morse
Last updated 5 October, 2021

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The Lowdown

Engine DJ 2.0, both the Desktop version for music prep and the OS version for hardware embeds, is a major improvement on the original version. Library and streaming improvements, autoplay, lighting control, Ableton Link… it’s all good, but the database rewrite is the big thing, paving the way for even more innovation down the line. It’s not perfect – but it’s an exciting leap forwards for the platform.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

The Engine DJ Desktop 2.0 software is an easy install, although the new database does mean that you’ll need to upgrade your library from the old Engine Prime 1.6 to Engine DJ 2.0 Desktop, from when the old version will cease to operate – but it’s painless, and totally worth it.

Want to know all that’s new? Check out our Engine DJ 2.0 news piece

Installing the OS is easy, as it is now done over WiFi, but if you want to use Philips Hue lighting or DMX lighting, you will need to set that up too: The former involves turning the feature on, and linking to your existing home Philip Hue hub, the latter plugging in a SoundSwitch interface (we didn’t test this part, only the Philip Hue part).

Enabling Ableton Link is just the flip of an easy switch.

Engine DJ Ableton Link menu
In the settings, toggling Ableton Link to “on” adds a Link ticker with BPM info near the top right.

In Use

There are of course two products here, so let’s look at Engine DJ Desktop 2.0 first, then Engine DJ OS 2.0 afterwards.

Desktop software

We loved the new Playlists (replacing the old Playlists and Crates). The old confusing Crates system won’t – we suspect – be missed by anyone, and the annoying duplicate track entries when a USB is connected to a laptop running Engine don’t happen any more.

Thanks to a clock built-in to the new OS version, play histories are now much more useful, as they are properly date-stamped.

Engine DJ desktop software music library
The desktop software is easy to navigate and looks cleaner than ever.

We noticed better integration with Rekordbox, including Memory Cues now importable, and we loved drag & drop folder importing. There’s now folder tree navigation too, which is good news for DJs who keep their music organised in OS folders.

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The new database meant that the software generally felt snappier in use, and it has had subtle but noticeable appearance and UX changes. It still lags behind Rekordbox in library features overall though, with no tagging for instance.

Operating system

Moving to the embedded software, we spent a lot of our time messing with the auto lighting for Philips Hue lights, which is great fun. They’ll flash along to your tracks, listening for loud and quiet parts and reacting accordingly – but once you discover the control panel, you’ll be hooked.

We loved “whiteouts”, killing the lights for effect, and also selecting individual colours rather than letting them all flash together – and we are aware we just scratched the surface (oh, and scratching a track will “scratch” the lights, too). I predict if you have Philips Hue lights at home, you’ll love this.

We didn’t use SoundSwitch “proper” (a subscription service) – you need to have an interface cable to upload SoundSwitch data to play with DMX lights, but the integration certainly looks comprehensive, and this is something we’d like to look at soon – watch this space!

Testing out the Philips Hue lighting with Denon DJ gear
When you scratch the jogwheel, the lights “scratch” along with it! Pretty cool..

We did enjoy the streaming service upgrades. To be able to finally preview, listen to tracks and add them to prepare lists is a game-changer, as is the ability to autoplay streaming tracks.

Read this next: The Best Music Streaming Services For DJs

Finally, the menus are hugely improved – users who can never remember where to find settings and end up scrolling through huge long lists of features will love the new, simpler tabbed layout.

Conclusion

Engine is a powerful embedded software system, the most powerful out there right now. This just makes it better. Lighting, Ableton Link, real streaming improvements – it’s all thoughtfully done, and much of it is very welcome.

Remember this is a free upgrade for users of all compatible equipment, and there is absolutely no reason why anybody would not upgrade, not least because – for Mac users – this is M1 and Big Sur compatible.

Upgrading will be a no-brainer, though we’d love to see a recommendation feature added to the line-up.

Basically, this upgrade fixes many niggles, adds some cool new features, and paves the way for much more innovation down the line, thanks to the new database.

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Personally I still find certain quirks of Engine a little annoying (key sync and looping could be improved, for instance), and I do miss features of some other systems (a recommendation feature would be great to see).

However, such a big upgrade as this, really not so long after Engine 1.6 was released, does show that resources are being thrown at this DJ system, which is reassuring for those invested in the hardware.

Read this next: Head To Head: Serato DJ Pro Vs Rekordbox DJ Software

Of course, the change from “Engine Prime” (“Prime” being a Denon DJ brand) to “Engine DJ” also indicates that the brands are being separated. We can presume this means we’ll be seeing Engine embedded in non-Denon DJ hardware at some point soon – a whole extra layer of fun to look forward to.

For now though, if you’re an Engine user, go and get it!

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