We take a close look at the history and current product range of one of the most innovative DJ brands around.
Part of the inMusic group since 2014, Denon DJ is the specialist DJ arm of a brand with a long and interesting history. Founded in 1910 by American entrepreneur Frederick Whitney Horn, the company was originally a gramophone specialist known as Nippon Denki Onkyō Kabushikigaisha (Japan Electric Sound Company). The Denon brand name, which combines the first few letters of the words Denki Onkyō, was launched in 1947, around which time the brand started to branch out into other products, including vinyl LPs, open-reel tape recorders and electronic keyboards.
Fast forward a few decades and Denon were at the vanguard of the digital DJing revolution, launching the world’s first dual-deck CD player for DJs as early as 1992. The Denon DJ brand was eventually spun off from the Denon name, which continues to produce hi-fi and home cinema gear. Denon DJ’s product range is relatively small but truly cutting edge, including some of the most advanced media players and standalone DJ systems on the market.
The best place to start with the Denon DJ catalogue is the top-of-the-range SC6000M Prime media player. The flagship model is clearly designed to go head to head with Pioneer’s CDJ models such as the CDJ-2000NXS2 and CDJ-3000, but Denon’s approach focusses more on innovation and forward-thinking features. You’ll find an 8.5-inch motorised platter (or a non-motorised version on the cheaper SC6000 model), Dual Layer technology and a wealth of user-friendly touches all designed to integrate nicely with Denon’s Engine Prime ecosystem, which you can think of as the brand’s equivalent to Pioneer’s Rekordbox, allowing you to manage and sort your music ready for performances. The fact that the Prime players come in significantly cheaper than their Pioneer equivalents is a nice added bonus.
One of our favourite aspects of the SC6000 models is the way their Dual Layer functionality allows you to play two tracks at once from a single player. It’s a really neat touch that gives you the power of a four-deck setup from two SC6000s. Alternatively, you can hook the clever LC6000 controller up to an SC6000 in order to add dedicated hardware controls to that second layer (the LC in the name stands for Layer Controller). Because the platter, fader and buttons of the LC6000 feel identical to the SC6000, you get just as much control and feel as you would with an additional SC6000.
You’ll currently find three standalone controllers in the Denon DJ range: the four-channel PRIME 4, two-channel PRIME 2 and the smaller, portable PRIME GO. Starting at the top, the PRIME 4 is the flagship offering, giving you four decks, effects and multi-function performance pads. At six inches, the jog wheels are a little smaller than what you’d find on the SC6000s, but the overall feel and flow of the system is similar to the players thanks to the integrated Engine OS software. With a huge 10-inch multitouch display, optional built-in storage and four mixer inputs for external sources, it’s a hugely powerful DJ system.
The PRIME 2 may be pared back in terms of channel count and size, but it adopts most of the advanced features of its bigger brother, including Wi-Fi streaming and software updates, multitouch screen and embedded Engine OS software. Once again, comparing it to alternatives from other brands makes the PRIME 2 feel like a bit of a bargain, offering huge value for money.
The compact PRIME GO is the most unusual of the bunch, largely thanks to its built-in lithium ion battery, which gives you up to four hours of use without a power supply. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and we love the concept. It’s the most genuinely portable DJ system we can think of, allowing you to throw it in your bag and take it to a friend’s house, sort your music and practise mixing on the go, or even host an impromptu party anywhere you can set up a battery-powered speaker.
To round out the Denon DJ range, there are two more products to take a look at. The X1850 mixer is an obvious rival to Pioneer’s DJM-900NXS2, which has a similar four-channel design, but once again Denon DJ have done things their own way, with unique Sweep FX (Dub Echo, Noise, Wash Out and Gate) and BPM FX, plus separate, dedicated filter knobs for each channel. The built-in 96 kHz/24-bit soundcard ensures top quality sound, and the X1850 comes in substantially cheaper than the Pioneer alternative.
Finally, Denon’s DJ headphone range currently consists of just one model, the premium HP1100 ‘phones. It’s a case of less is more here, with Denon DJ choosing to offer just one high-end option instead of catering to all tastes and budgets. The physical design is the classic DJ setup of swivelling ear cups, folding headband and a coiled cable. The technical USP is hidden under those big, comfortable ear pads: huge 53mm drivers, chosen specifically to emphasise bass performance. It’s a good sign that Denon DJ know what DJs want, and design products which meet those needs at very competitive prices.
You can view the full Denon DJ range here.