DJ equipment has come a very long way from a couple of Techniques strapped to a crude mixer. We now have the Denon DJ Prime 4, which is a powerful all-in-one system that can provide a professional set without even a CD or Laptop.
At the heart of this standalone DJ solution is a touchscreen giving complete navigation and control over your tracks. Rather than using software combined with a controller, this system has everything built right in.
Join us as we take a closer look at our in-depth Denon DJ Prime 4 Review. We’ll see if this truly is one of the best DJ consoles on the market and if it marks the future of DJ hardware.
When you first open the box, this thing already looks impressive, even without power and all the flashing lights. Upon the first touch, you’ll immediately feel a sense of quality and professional craftsmanship thanks to the solid metal finish.
Once the box is removed and placed on a table, it is deeper than you might expect, while at the same time narrower. Now is the time you’ll want to dig in the box for the power cable. Whilst digging, you’ll come across a USB cable and a quick start guide.
Once the unit is placed and plugged in you’ll understandably be drawn to the screen. Prop it up to one of its preset angles using the stand at the rear. Being glass-topped, the screen carries on with the feeling of quality from your first impression.
One thing to be aware of is that the screen’s stand does stick out a bit when laid flat. So be careful when transiting. But it’s a minor concern since Denon provides a cover to give the screen added protection when not in use.
Now that you have the unit in your DJ location and the screen propped up, we bet you’re itching to see what this thing can do. All you need is to connect your powered speakers and plug in your headphones, and you’re ready to go.
All that remains now is to pop over to Denon’s website and download the software. While this is a standalone system, you will require to make your tracks compatible with the system using Engine Prime first. We will cover this more a bit later.
Adding the tracks…
Once you have some music exported from the software on a USB or SD card, you can plug it into the unit, and you’re ready to go. There are two USB ports and a single SD port in the very top right corner of the unit.
If you prefer, there is a SATA drive bay underneath the unit that can accept up to a 1TB hard-drive. You can then keep your entire collection installed within the Prime 4 itself. This would require spending some time with the software first, though.
Engine Prime Software
To make tracks compatible with the Prime 4, they first need to be loaded into the Engine Prime software and then exported. There is a very good reason for this, and that is so your library management is easy to navigate.
With so many tracks available from a single source, being able to search for them quickly and easily is very important. Taking the time to do some track preparation will have huge benefits in the long run and is worth doing properly.
Get it sorted…
Once tracks are imported into Engine Prime, they can be sorted into crates and playlists. It is also possible to perform basic tasks such as adding album artwork, along with making changes to artist and title details.
There are, of course, more advanced library management functions that are incredibly useful. Things like analyzing tracks for musical keys, adding cue points and loops, and even being able to practice basic mixes.
Plays nice with others…
We really like the fact that Denon included full compatibility with other DJ software programs. It is possible to import libraries from software like Rekordbox, Tractor, and Serato while leaving most of the information intact.
This feature makes it one of the best smart DJ controllers you can find. Additionally, it is probably one of the best Serato DJ controllers out there as well.
After you prepare your tracks, they are exported, including all their information, onto removable media. It does take a while to transfer the files from a PC to the drive, so allow plenty of time for this.
We will start with the mixer and go through each section of the unit one-by-one. To start, there is a four-channel mixer with full standalone capability. Each channel has three-band EQ plus gain/level controls, including nine-bar VU monitoring, in addition to a nine-band master dual VU. By itself, this is one of the best digital mixers we have seen.
Each of the four channels can be switched to work with the crossfader on either side. There is a cue button for every channel that lights up with a selected color for each digital deck. These colors are also matched to the LED ring around jog wheels as well as a few other related areas.
Headphones, and effects…
Your headphones also receive their own cue/master and volume control. Requiring a monitor speaker can be a thing of the past, thanks to the split cue button. This allows you to hear both the master and cued track through each side of the headphones.
Effects options include two main engines per channel. Choose between Echo, Wash, Filter, and Noise. Denon calls them the sweep effects and can be used with external sources. Finally, at the very top center, you will find a library scroll wheel to help navigate the screen.
On the bottom left and right section of the unit are the decks. They are identical, with the left controlling inputs 1 and 3, while the right controls inputs 2 and 4. At the center of each deck are the jog wheels, each with its own screen on the inside.
The wheels are high quality like the rest of the unit and can be toggled between slip and vinyl. Pitch controls are smooth and accurate, with key lock and key sync. We can’t forget the loved pitch bend buttons, along with loop controls. Finishing off are the regular navigation controls.
While this could be considered another component, we felt it deserved its own section to cover it completely. Measuring 10 inches diagonally, the screen has two main modes, which are Library and Waveforms.
When in Library mode, the screen displays, as expected, your music lists. On the left side are categories like crates, collections, and playlists. Tapping on search brings up a keyboard, along with filter options such as BPM and key.
Riding the waveform…
All the information you could possibly need to maintain full control of your mix is displayed in Waveform mode. Besides the waveforms, underneath you’ll find critical information like BPM, sync status, and time elapsed/left for each deck.
A large version of the zoomed-in waveforms scrolls vertically up the screen on both the left and right sides. On the very top of the screen is a smaller version of the full waveforms, including a scrolling line indicating the current position.
Selecting tracks can be done by swiping them on the screen. They will either be added to a prepare list or loaded immediately, depending on the direction of the swipe. This all is very intuitive and feels very natural quickly.
The final screen use is accessing the unit’s settings. This includes everything from recording your sets to media to swapping input sources. Other useful options include mic attenuation, kill preferences, screen brightness, firmware updates, plus many more.
Denon DJ Prime 4 Review – Pros and Cons
- All-in-one DJ solution.
- High-quality craftsmanship.
- Premium materials used in construction.
- Responsive and easy-to-use 10-inch touchscreen.
- Multiple input options for adding tracklists.
- Color-coded LED lighting for keeping track of inputs.
- Jog wheels could have been a bit bigger.
- No sampler function is included.
- Lack of video capabilities.
- Effects engines are a little dated.
Looking for Something Else?
From DJ hardware to home recording, we have you covered. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best DJ Mixers, the Best Audio Mixers, the Best Studio Monitor Speakers, the Best Turntables Under $200, and the Best Digital Audio Players you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at our comprehensive Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable Review, our Best Hardware Sequencers Review, our BEHRINGER Audio Interface 4-Channel UMC404HD Review, our Tascam DR-40X Review, and our Behringer XR18 Review for more superb products currently available.
Denon DJ Prime 4 Review – Final Thoughts
In the beginning, we asked if this could be the future of DJ hardware. Well, the short answer is yes. The Prime 4 brings all the components you could possibly need into one convenient package. It is easily one of the best all in one DJ controllers available.
The price is reasonable once you consider everything this system is capable of. There are, of course, some areas that could be improved upon. If the effects engine and the addition of MP4 video support were added in the future, this would take the industry by storm.
Would we like to have this system ourselves? Absolutely! The future of DJ hardware looks bright indeed.
Until next, may the music make you move.