Now and then, an industry shifts. For many years the standard for the best DJ console was Pioneer, especially the Pioneer CDJ series. But now, Denon has come back swinging with their comprehensive SC5000 in the hope of delivering a knockout punch.
Dominated by a large 7-inch multi-touch display, these media players (there is no CD slot anymore) look impressive. Will the DJ community make the shift over to Denon’s Prime series from the Pioneer camp? We take an in-depth look with our Denon DJ SC5000 Prime Review to find out if a revolution is coming…
When you unpack the box contents and remove your new media player, you’ll notice several other parts still inside. This is because Denon really wants to make sure there is nothing else you’ll need to get started.
Besides the player, you’ll find two sets of stereo RCA cables, an ethernet cable, power cable, USB extension cable, microfiber cleaning cloth for the screen, plus your documents. While all the cables are of exceptional quality, they could have been a bit longer.
Inspecting the deck…
Being a flagship product specifically designed to take the industry by storm, you should be expecting premium quality. As you inspect each component, it quickly becomes apparent that Denon has fulfilled these expectations.
Everything looks and feels well constructed, with no signs of trying to cut any corners. Every button, fader, knob, plug, and connector feels completely solid. Is it the best digital media player? Let’s have a closer look and find out…
Materials and Build Quality
Underneath, the chassis itself is constructed from high-quality hard plastic, propped up by some sturdy plastic feet. Covering the top of the player is an attractive faceplate made from a single sheet of brushed metal.
Sliding the standard 100 mm pitch fader offers a nice amount of resistance with an LED indicator for when at zero. There is no click once at the center point, which is no big deal as it’s easy to tell when you’ve reached the correct position.
You spin me right round…
The jog wheel has a nice texture around the face, mimicking the feel of the old vinyl. The outer circumference of the face is lit up by an LED ring, while the outer platter has plastic grooves. In the center is an impressive color LED screen.
For knobs, there are two plastic button pots with a chrome look. They are the weakest area of the unit in terms of both looks and feel, but are still okay. Additionally, there are two smaller black knobs that feel much more solid and satisfying.
Push my buttons, baby…
As they will receive the most attention, the Play and Cue buttons have a well-backlit metal insert around a hard plastic frame. Pads are rubberized and feel soft yet still solid enough to take repeated hits or taps. The remaining buttons are made from more high-quality hard plastic and click into place with purpose and confidence.
Overall, the design makes the unit’s huge range of features easily accessible, with a feeling of quality that could withstand daily professional use. It makes a strong case for one of the best DJ controllers out there, based on the construction alone.
Due to having a touchscreen, many of the controls have shifted to digital. This means the physical controls are spread out across the device, making it less likely to make accidental pushes of the wrong function.
There is a shift button so that some of the functions can be doubled up. This is put to good use if using the Sync function, as it needs to be held to deactivate it. Given the huge range of features, it’s nice to have so much space around each control.
Bending the rules…
Unlike many other modern DJ media players, Denon elected to keep the Pitch Bend controls. We like having them, as they are handy for making quick, minor adjustments. Making them even more useful, they also double as a useful tempo range toggle.
Digital scratching is made possible thanks to a Slip Mode button, along with a Vinyl Toggle button for track scrubbing. If you are in a child-friendly environment, there’s also a Censor/Reverse button to remove explicit lyrics.
Making those connections…
At the rear of the unit, you’ll find all your audio outputs. These include two RCA jacks that can be either stereo or digital coax. This also allows for two channels into a mixer from a single player, meaning four channels from two players.
Besides the audio, there are two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB Type-B port. For Engine Connect, there’s an Ethernet port, as well as a remote start port. Power is supplied via an IEC power cable that plugs in next to the power button.
Moving to the front of the unit is where you’ll locate the recessed input ports. There are only two ports, one of which is an SD Card input. The other is a USB 2.1 port, which is much easier to access using the included USB extension cable we mentioned earlier.
One of Denon’s main features is what they call layers. This is essentially being able to mix using only a single player. Using the Layer Button gives users the ability to switch between two track layers on one device.
This may seem complicated, but Denon has used a range of clever ways to help simplify the process. The LED light surrounding the jog wheel will change color for each selected track, along with track progress waveforms next to each other.
Responsive and vivid touchscreen…
One of the standout features of this device is the high-definition 7-inch touchscreen. It runs pretty much as well as any smartphone or tablet on the market today, with a refresh rate of 55 frames per second.
Navigating the screen is very responsive to any touches with almost zero lag. It can respond to 10 points of touch, making gesture controls possible. Images displayed are clear, sharp, bright, and colorful.
Searching for tracks using the interface is easy thanks to the on-screen QWERTY keyboard. Filters include artist, album, genre, BPM, and key. Each of these filters can then be searched within each other to really narrow down your hunt.
Preferences can be changed simply by holding down the View button adjacent to the screen. Options range from end of the track warnings to RGB color options, and even disabling the pads located along the bottom of the unit.
One very handy and useful feature that puts Denon ahead of the game is its ability to perform track analysis on the fly. It takes around 40 seconds to analyze a track once it is loaded into the player.
Being able to use the full set of features without having to prepare your tracks using software is a huge advantage, especially in a professional setting where there could be multiple users or guest appearances. It’s another reason this is likely to become one of the best portable DJ consoles you can buy.
Denon DJ SC5000 Prime Review – Pros and Cons
- Quality materials and precision engineering.
- Well laid out and positioned controls with lots of room.
- Bringing back the pitch bend controls is great.
- Beautiful, vivid, and responsive touchscreen with gesture controls.
- The layering function allows for two channels from a single player.
- Fantastic audio analysis means track preparation using software isn’t necessary.
- Great user interface experience with easy navigation.
- Only currently compatible with Engine Prime for track preparation.
- Search features could be improved to recognize a wider range of fields.
- The included cables should be longer, even though they are high-quality.
- Chrome-looking dials are not as high in quality as other components.
- The outer platter on the jog wheel doesn’t look as great as the inner section.
Looking for Something Else?
For performing, recording, DJ-ing, and home listening, we have what you need. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Turntables Under $300, the Best DJ Mixers, the Best Digital Audio Players, the Best Turntables Under $100, and the Best Audio Mixers you can buy in 2023.
You might also enjoy our comprehensive Audio-Technica At-LP60X-BW Review, our Denon DJ Prime 4 Review, our Tascam DR-40X Review, our Best Hardware Sequencers Reviews, and our Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable Review for more quality items currently on the market.
Denon DJ SC5000 Prime Review – Final Thoughts
In the beginning, we asked the question if an industry revolution was about to happen courtesy of Denon. After checking out this comprehensive DJ media player, the dethroning of Pioneer is inevitable.
We think that all the clubs and bars will be moving into these Denon systems as soon as possible. There are a few improvements that need to be made, but they are mostly possible with firmware updates.
As far as we are concerned, a new industry standard has been set and will be here for some time to come. Long live the best digital DJ mixer controller!
Until next time, may the music make you groove.