DISCLAIMER: Please don’t take any of my words as critique to Denon DJ or any person working at Denon DJ. This is just my personal opinion, how I feel about this product.
I have been using my PRIME 4 for more than 10 months now so I thought about writing up my thoughts on it as a DJ.
I have been a DJ for more than 8 years with experience in a lot of places: clubs, bars, big events, private parties, etc… I play in as a DJ duo so we both have or own USB & music when playing. I am also a big DJ gear geek and love DJ gear and new technology. Before I switched to the PRIME 4, I was using a DDJ-1000. I also have a lot of experience with the CDJ line of Pioneer gear, as I use those players in most of the clubs that have them.
So let’s get right into it
The build quality of the PRIME 4 is amazing. Metal face plates, strong metal pods and an overall rugged feel. I do have some remarks on consistency: the knobs don’t have the same tension. The filter knob of channel 2 & 3 on my unit are way more tense than the knobs of channel 1 & 4. It is not that big of a deal but it is noticeable.
The layout of the PRIME 4 is good. Everything looks to be on the spot where they would be on any club standard player/mixer. I would have loved the effects to be like the X1800/X1850 with a single knob to control and a button to activate. This just feels way more natural than reaching over the deck to control. I mostly use effects when transitioning and having the controls not far away from the volume sliders & eq control feels more natural and faster. Anyway it is not a dealbreaker and I am used to it by now.
The screen is amazing in size, color & touch control. It is, no doubt, the best screen on any standalone DJ player I have ever used (I have used almost all Pioneer players with a touchscreen). The included screen cap is a nice inclusion! I do wish I could buy a glass screen protector to prevent any future scratches.
This was one of the downsides when I was considering switching to the PRIME 4, coming from the DDJ-1000. I love Pioneers mechanical jog wheels over any other jogwheel. I just find them way more satisfying to move around, feeling the gears while moving them. Mechanical jog wheels also prevent you from accidentally touching them when doing something else and stopping the track.
Now, the PRIME 4 jog wheels are good, but not amazing. I just find them way to lose. I am not a scratch DJ but I just prefer a higher tension. The gold spot on my DDJ-1000 was setting the tension to right in the middle. They also feel quite “cheap”, when touching the ring the plastic “creeks”.
After using them for a few weeks I got used to them and I don’t really mind now, I just prefer Pioneer jogwheels over anything.
The faders are amazing. I love these over the Pioneer DJ faders. The loser tension makes it easier to use. With Pioneer the faders would be harder to move in the beginning of the set & losen up quite a bit when using them for some time (at least for my DDJ-1000). I just hope the faders don’t become too lose on my PRIME 4 & I hope that my caps don’t start to fly of (this has happened quite a bit on poorly maintained Pioneer mixers in clubs, trust me)
I don’t use a crossfader, I am not a scratch DJ. But if compared to Pioneer, well it is night & day. Pioneer Magvel crossfaders are just amazing compared to the metallic feeling crossfader on the PRIME 4. It is hot swappable so you can replace the crossfader any time if you prefer something else.
The pads are rubber without a click but you can feel a slight feedback when tapping them. They are better than the pads on a DDJ-1000 with more feedback and a more premium and quality feeling. I also like the fact that they are not entirely lit up, just the sides display the color, making them less distracting and giving them a more professional look.
One might say that buttons are just buttons, and you would be right, but some buttons need more and faster presses than others… The CUE/PLAY buttons need fast response times. They should register a press without tapping to hard. Coming from a DDJ-1000 or any other Pioneer player, they are way to “hard” to press. You need significantly more force to push them. The more you go away from the center, the harder it is to press them. It is almost impossible to trigger them from the corner of the button. I eventually got used to them and it is not a problem for my anymore. I know the new SC6000 has rubber CUE/PLAY buttons which are easier to trigger (according to Laidback Luke’s review) so Denon knows that they have to improve in this area
This is just absolutely amazing. Having 4 USB ports, 1 SD card and a freaking internal SATA connector is just incredible. No other media player in the market has this amount of input. No remarks on anything here (at least not on the hardware side).
Engine PRIME has improved a lot lately, with the dev team doing a great job catching up to the competition. However it is not Rekordbox. This may look like a cheap shot at Engine PRIME but it’s not. When I was thinking about buying a PRIME 4, Engine PRIME was one of the mayor drawbacks. I tried using the software the first few months I used my system but I just don’t like it.
BUT: here is the catch, I don’t use Engine PRIME with my PRIME 4. Yes, you heard me right. In fact, I no longer have it installed on my laptop. I just use Rekordbox. I can just export the music from Rekordbox to USB, plug it into my PRIME 4 and it will convert all my playlists & cues over to my PRIME 4. You still need to analyze the track when loading it for the first time, but that only takes a few seconds. BPM is initially taken over from Rekordbox and Engine OS just calculates the new BPM after analyzation.
As I said before, I play in clubs with Pioneer players, so I need Rekordbox. I don’t have a car or even a drivers license so I go by bike to most of the sets I play. Carrying around a PRIME 4 to every set I play would be impossible. I just bring it when the club has no preinstalled players. I never would have bought this system if it didn’t have that functionality and I would switch back to Pioneer the day it gets removed (lets hope that day never happens )
Here are some things I don’t like about the software:
- Lack of keyboard control/customization.
- Losing position in the playlist when switching over to another playlist back and forward.
- Slippery scroll (scrolling just feels weird in my opinion)
- Bad performance: for some reason Engine PRIME will freeze my system on Windows 10 when doing analyzation. It is not a potato PC (a 10th gen Core i7). I don’t have this problem when using Rekordbox on the same machine.
- Unnecessary album art scanning (why is it scanning every song for album art after some songs have been analyzed)
- Lack of customization
Engine OS is just amazing, no, really amazing.
I love the overall layout and option to switch between vertical & horizontal waveforms.
Having both a library view & full performance view when on the main vertical screen is just amazing. I can look for music while someone else is doing a transition or just do a set without even going to the library or touching the screen.
Ability to pitch up/down keys is unheard-of on any standalone player.
Scrolling using your finger or swiping to load a track, thanks to the multi touch display, feels so intuitive & natural. I tried doing the same on a Pioneer player once, by habit . My girlfriend who has never touched a DJ player in her life just came standing next to me one day and started scrolling through the music with her finger without ever explaining to her how it worked. That is what I call good UX
Searching using the keyboard is way faster on the PRIME 4 than on any Pioneer DJ player.
Managing playlists is handy. I wish there were more options like removing a track from a playlist/crate or being able to edit the star rating. But the idea is there
On the fly track analyzation is fast & accurate (most of the time)
Streaming services are amazing to have. I don’t really use them in live scenarios but I see the appeal. I don’t like the fact that there is no BPM/key information when browsing. Maybe something in the future would be cool.
However I do have my problems with the software as well:
Switching sources: Switching sources got a lot quicker since the 1.5.1 update but it is still lacking compared to the competition. Me and my companion both play on our own USB, so we need to switch a lot between sources. Every time you switch a source you need to:
Accept the popup to load the user profile into the player. Why can’t this just be a separate button I can press? Or just a popup when using the drive for the first time. It is so annoying
Go back to the correct crate/playlist & position. Why is it not maintaining track position? When switching between a drive & a streaming service the position is maintained. Why not with drives?
Loss of sorting option: when switching between playlists, you lose the position inside the playlist/crate, but also the sorting option. This also happens when searching for a song.
- I am inside a playlist at a specific song, ordered on BPM
- I have an idea to play next and go to the search field and search for the song.
- I go back to the playlist: now I have to select BPM as sorting option again, scroll back to where I was before searching. It ends up being faster to just look for the song in the playlist rather than searching. This should not be the case.
Since the effects are part of the software, I will discuss them here. This is one of the major lacking points in my opinion. The effects don’t sound as well as the Pioneer effects.
- The echo somehow lowers the volume even at low dry control. I have to fiddle around with the frequency to prevent this from happening.
- The reverb has the same issue as the echo
- The flanger is limited to only 8 beats, which is way too short.
The strange thing is that the sweep effects are way better than the regular effects. The sweep effect echo doesn’t have the same problem. Why not use the same algorithm?
Maybe I am just spoiled by the Pioneer DJ effects?
While not part of the product, it is a great part of this product as a whole. We are able to voice or opinion, give feedback and submit issues and the Denon DJ staff is actually listening and implementing the things we like.
Compared to Pioneer where the staff just looks down to the users, removing opinions and just being toxic to the community of DJ’s as a whole. It is absolutely sad how they are greedy for money and don’t even care about who is actually using their product. It is night and day.
I absolutely love my PRIME 4, but it has some issues that can be fixed. I would like to thank the Denon DJ staff for innovating and not doing what some industry standard is doing. Thank you for listening to the community and actually caring about the product more than about your pockets.
Please don’t take any of my words as critique to Denon DJ or any person working at Denon DJ. This is just my personal opinion, how I feel about this product.
Thanks for reading if you got this far. Let me know in the comments what you think