Aaaand we’re done. The weight lifts from our shoulders, and we can step out of Prime world.
It’s certainly been an interesting ride. We experienced the giddy schoolgirl delight at opening many boxes of fresh shiny. Our eyes lit up at the multicoloured extravaganza that was the VL12’s lightshow. We revelled in the first few plays with raw USBs and watching the SC5000 Prime’s touch screen give us a pixel perfect display of our music. We were witnessing the future in our rural northern Worxlab.
But then we got into the nitty gritty of the reviews, where we peel away increasing layers of surface PR gloss, leaving the raw unedited product in all its glory. Gone is the initial hoopla, the smell of fresh shiny, and the rush of playing with new toys. Christmas morning is over, and it’s time to get serious.
Thankfully, most of those first impressions remained, apart from when we started using the Engine Prime desktop software. That’s where it all went decidedly pear shaped, and our beaming smiles soon turned to frowns. That hasn’t changed, but as our kind of review shows, the next version is coming which should remove all our objections, and indeed turn our frowns upside down.
It’s the hardware that excites the most. The VL12 Prime turntable tries to be different, but knows it can’t start too far from the established 1200 blueprint. But the execution is lacking in some key areas, and should have gone further with the aesthetics. The isolation is however outstanding, and for some is a key feature that negates the need for feedback fixing solutions. It’s just a shame it’s so expensive.
The X1800 Prime mixer is the perfect centrepiece for the Prime family, and is an equally great unit for users of other brands of players. It’s full of everything you would need as a club mixers, plus some smart features like the touch strip. It sits very well in the high end digital mixer market with the plethora of digital ins and out, and being Serato DJ (and rumoured Traktor) ready, it’s a solid plug and play option for the booth too. It’s real strength however is a hub for a selection of SC5000 Prime players.
But the SC5000 Prime is the unit that most really care about. Mixers are great, but they fail in the obvious front end gloss and revolutionary features department compared to a next level touch screen media player. And the SC5000 Prime delivers in just about every possible way.
Above all, Denon DJ has delivered a coherent family, something that was necessary to make #changeytourrider a practical possibility.
Game Changer? No.
I cannot express just how much I wince when I see those words in PR or on a web page. Like swearing, it’s best to reserve it for those occasions where genuine impact is needed. Calling everything a game changer or world’s first in PR, especially for an iterative product really diminishes the powerful message. Experience shows that new product (with notable exceptions) doesn’t change anything, and being first is often a subjective call.
For me, a DJ game changer delivers a fundamental shift in the way music is played. CDJs, Final Scratch and Scratch Live, and controllers like the VCI-100 were real game changers. But as undoubtedly lovely as the SC5000 Prime is, it’s all been done before. That said, it’s never all been done in quite the same outstanding way — the sum of the existing parts makes for a next generation whole.
The gesture enabled screen delivers a very familiar mobile phone experience. The dual layer approach (first shown over a decade ago by Denon’s HS5500 player) is amazing in practice. And adding familiar controller pads to the unit makes so much sense given their ubiquity in the controller blueprint. The design is first class, the execution is exemplary, but it really is a collection of the best bits of other bits of gear.
But industry changer? Hell yes.
This is the difference as I see it. Aside from pouring over whatever box of tricks the industry cares to put in front of me, it’s this said industry that garners much of my attention, how it operates, and importantly how it attempts to make a real difference — not just to the bottom line (which is their main priority), but also to your DJ life.
Now I’m all for standards, and I get why certain units have become booth fixtures. The 1200 is in the booth because it does everything it needs to, does it so well, and delivers what’s required for the majority of users. Other turntables are available, but the extra features found on them are more niche.
The CDJ came along at the right time, and nailed the basic features of the turntable with a few extras thrown in. Free units were showered onto the clubs and key DJs, and in the absence of competition became another industry standard.
These two units, for better or worse, are true industry standards. The idea of anything coming along that might usurp them from the booth is utter folly. Until the arrival of the SC5000 Prime that is.
Denon (sans DJ) has tried for so long to bring something that might have a hope of sitting in a booth. But even with revolutionary features, they never quite managed to release the vice like grip that Pioneer (sans DJ) has had. Quantum leaps or even out-there ideas are not enough to turn the heads of people who require tracks to be played reliably for an entire set, something that Pioneer DJ gear delivered over and over again.
But we find ourselves in different more evolved times, ones where the features found on controllers have moved some way past those on the industry standard media players. And it’s these features that the SC5000 Prime brings to the tabletop player paradigm. And frankly it beggars belief that Pioneer DJ hasn’t done it before now. Remember, the Prime system brings features found on controllers more so than brand new untested ones. They have been proved to be popular in the mass market, so there’s no reason why they won’t be popular in the booth either. Just for once, it seems that the trickle is up rather than down.
For the first time, Pioneer DJ’s hold on the hearts and minds of booth dwellers has been loosened. VIP DJs are happy to add their name to the growing list of endorsers — money can do that, but equally belief in the product itself can be a powerful motivator, especially if it is actually better than what was on offer before.
Importantly, I’m seeing the Prime series turn up in social media posts of less high profile DJs. Why is this important? Well it’s easy for Denon DJ to put aside a few hundred units and ship them off to VIPs in return for exposure (interesting juxtapose there for a change). But when mere mortals start posting pictures of the set that they actually bought, it becomes clear that regular people are dipping their toe in the new waters. It’s a sign of market penetration.
One thing is certain — the DJ scene is richer for the introduction of the Prime series. Not just for what it delivers, but also for the kick up the arse that it gives Pioneer DJ who can no longer deliver iterative updates and expect the heavens to rain money on them by default. If the recently launched DJS-1000 is an example of their future offerings, we’re all in for some fun times. And glimpses of SC5000 Prime challengers can be seen in this week’s DDJ-1000 controller.
So has the Prime series changed the game of playing music? No. But the industry within which it’s played definitely has. Time will tell if it’s a pretty lights fuelled distraction, a cash heavy marketing powered blip, or a sustainable trend. My hope is for the latter, because choice is good, especially in the booth.
OVER TO YOU
If you’ve read the full five days of Prime coverage — thanks so much. But what’s your lasting feeling of Denon DJ’s takeover bid for the booth? Are you ready to #changeyourrider?