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15 Feb 2019

Pioneer vs Denon – A comparison of the two biggest brands for DJ equipment

15 Feb 2019
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All you need to know

For many years now, Pioneer has been the number one brand for DJ hardware; no matter what you looked at. Their controllers where used a lot by hobby DJs, their Nexus setup (consisting of at least two CDJs and a four-channel club mixer) became the worldwide club standard and their turntables where very common as well. Also, they didn’t really have any serious competitors. Yes, there where other brands such as Numark, Allen & Health and Reloop, but those were mainly focusing on one specific piece of DJ hardware: Numark, this brand mainly built controllers. Allen & Health only made mixers, Reloop’s focus was on turntables. None of those brands were a serious competitor to Pioneer. Due to that, Pioneer had a sort of monopoly situation, so they could sell their stuff for way too high prices (a full 4-deck Nexus setups costs around 10.000€) and they were not forced to bring any innovative new ideas. Pioneer’s stuff is high quality. They create professional equipment, don’t get me wrong, but this monopoly situation was poor for us buyers of DJ equipment. Anyway, this has changed now: While many brands are slowly but steady getting bigger in the DJ equipment market, there is one brand which’s goal it is to outstrip Pioneer: Denon. Their slogan “Change your rider” shows exactly what they want. Denon is doing everything to reach their goal. The results: better equipment for less money. But can Denon really beat Pioneer? In this blog we will compare the two brands in all categories of DJ equipment: Club Setups, controllers, All-In-One standalone players and turntables.   

Club Setups

When it comes to Club Setups, Pioneer has been the absolute number one for years now. Since CDs replaced vinyl, there were basically just pioneer’s nexus setups in the clubs and they had no serious competitors (except Allen & Health when it comes to club mixers, but A & H made only mixers, no players). Then, just about a year ago, Denon released their Prime setup, which looks pretty similar to the pioneer but with a few more options and for almost half the price. Due to that, there are more and more clubs and festivals with the Denon Prime setup. So, let’s compare these two DJ Setups step by step. 

Features

When comparing the features of the two, Denon is the winner in our opinion. Especially the deck layering function (which allows you two play of two [in standalone mode] or even four [in HID mode] decks using only one player) and the performance pads (just as found on many controllers), which can both be found on the SC5000, while the CDJ-2000NXS2 doesn’t have those, makes Denon the winner here. Due to this, we hope that Pioneer will add these functions to their next CDJ as well! 

Compatibility 

When you look at the compatible sound sources, Pioneer is the clear winner. Their CDJs do have CD slots as well as Recordbox, Virtual DJ and Traktor HID support. Denon currently only supports Serato DJ in controller mode (which is compatible with Pioneers as well) and their players don’t have CD slots. You might say now that pretty much nobody uses CD’s anymore, but exactly that “pretty much” is the point. There are still a few CD DJs and for those, the SC5000 won’t even be an option. Also, we find it pretty annoying that the Denons can only work with Serato and we hope that they will support Virtual DJ and Traktor in the future. 

Design

So, let’s look at the design of those two. Here, we have to say that it’s definitely all up to personal preference. While we personally prefer Pioneers design, the Denons look amazing as well and we know that a lot of DJs like it more than Pioneers.

Pioneer CDJ 2000 NEXUS 2:

Denon SC5000 Prime:

Price

When talking about the price, we already said that Denon’s setup is around half the price of the Pioneers. While you get a two deck Nexus setup for around 6.300€, you’ll only have to pay around 4.000 € for a two deck prime setup. In conclusion we have to say, that your choice between the two will highly depend on you preferred music source: When you’re using a sub stick, SD card or Serato DJ, the Denons might be the better option, due to their lower price and more function. But when you want to use CDs, Traktor, Virtual DJ or Recordbox, the Prime setup won’t be an option for you. Also, it all depends on personal preference, as we already mentioned before.    

Controllers    

As most of you readers are probably DJs and not club owners, you might say: “That’s cool, but I can’t and don’t want to afford this”. Yes, as the name “club setup” already says, this is mainly bought by clubs, so their DJs can use them.

 So, you’re probably looking for a home setup. Since a few years the most common and affordable home setup is a DJ controller. When looking at controllers, we picked one beginner and one professional controller for both brands. For Pioneer, our choices are the beginner DDJ-400 and the professional DDJ-SX3. We decided to compare those to the beginner MC4000 and the professional MC7000 from Denon. The reason why we picked those four specific controllers is that these belong to our overall favorite controllers and that they are comparable. So, let’s compare the beginner controllers first. 

Beginner controllers

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is 60 euros cheaper than the MC4000, but the features of Denon’s controller are incredible. Though the DDJ-400 brings a lot of cool functions as well and the fact that its’ layout is pretty much the same as on a nexus club setup, makes this controller an absolute beast. Read our article about the best beginner DJ controllers for a more specific look at those two devices. In general, we think that the price-performance-ration of the 4000 is better than the one of the 400. Anyway, as we already mentioned many times here on InsideAudio, your DJ software is the most important factor when it comes to controllers. Due to this, we recommend the DDJ-400 for Recordbox users while the MC4000 is perfect for Serato and Traktor users. Both of those controllers work with Virtual DJ.

Pioneer DDJ-400:

Denon MC4000:

Pro controllers

Both pro controllers we picked are incredible, they are high quality and professional devices. The features on the two are comparable similar, though we find that the Denon feels slightly better – and that for more than 300€ less than the Pioneer. Both are designed for Serato DJ Pro and have this software pre-installed. Both can work with Virtual DJ as well and the MC7000 also work with Traktor. In our opinion, Denon is the winner here. But again: It all depends on your personal preferences.


Pioneer DDJ-SX3:

Denon MC7000:


All-In-One Standalone Players

While controllers are the #1 home setup type since a few years now, there is a new kind of DJ hardware that is getting more and more into the home DJ booths. And those are so-called All-In-One Standalone Players. These are basically two DJ media players (XDJs) and a mixer combined into one device. They usually also work with DJ software, but they can also just play of a USB stick (or even a SD card in some cases) without the need of a laptop. Both brands, Pioneer and Denon, currently each sell two different All-In-One players. Denon has the MCX8000 and the Prime 4 (which is not released yet) while Pioneer offers the XDJ-RR and XDJ-RX2. Both smaller players (MCX8000 and XDJ-RR) can play two decks from a USB stick. When you compare those players, you can instantly see one huge advantage of the 8000: It has a full, 4-channel standalone club mixer built in. This gives you the opportunity to add two more media players (CDJs etc.) to it and get a 4-deck hybrid setup. Unfortunately, this is not possible with the XDJ-RR’s 2-channel mixer. 

The decks of the Denon offer the deck layering function when using it with software. This will allow you to control four decks inside your DJ software using just the MCX8000.

The Denon MCX8000 has two smaller screens, one on the top of each deck, but the Pioneer XDJ-RR comes with a large touch screen. The MCX8000 works with pretty much all popular DJ softwares including Serato DJ (enabled), Virtual DJ, Traktor Dj and Djay. The screens of the MCX8000 will only work when you use Serato or Virtual DJ (or standalone USB mode of course), which might be a real issue for users of Traktor and Djay. The Pioneer XDJ-RR does only work with Recordbox DJ and Virtual DJ. In our opinion, Denon wins again. We really like the MCX8000’S 4-channel standalone mixer and we wish that Pioneer would have included that in the XDJ-RR as well.

Pioneer XDJ-RR:

Denon MCX8000:

You might already consider a comparison between the Prime 4 and the XDJ-RX2 as unfair due two the Prime 4’s four decks. Especially the option two play of four decks, just as on a controller, in standalone mode, makes the Prime 4 the winner for us. We really have to say that Denon outplayed Pioneer here! The Prime 4 is better than or equal as the RX2 in pretty much any aspect. The only kind of people that the RX2 is better for are Recordbox and Virtual DJ users, because that what the XDJ-RX2 works with. The Prime 4 will work with Serato DJ when it is official shipped out, but there are currently no other DJ software supports announced for this one. As already mentioned before, our personal winner is Denon here again. If you like the Pioneer’s layout or design more, than you should buy this one! We would have hoped for Pioneer to offer support for more DJ software for both of their standalone players. The fact that both devices are not Serato compatible, makes them not even a choice for Serato users (just like me)!

Pioneer XDJ-RX2:

Denon Prime 4:

Turntables

Even when the market of Digital DJ equipment grows bigger and bigger, vinyl does still play a role. Yes, CDJs and controllers give you a lot of advantages and new features, but the feeling of vinyl is still absolutely unbeatable and when you use it with DVS you get all the advantages of a DJ software as well. Also, being able to play using actual analog vinyl’s, is a sign that a DJ is good because he’ll need to beat match by ear. Due to these facts, there are still a lot of turntables on the market. Because of this, we compared the Pioneer and the Denon turntables. 

For Denon we picked the VL12 Prime which we will compare head to head to the Pioneer PLX-1000. Both are professional, high-end, direct-driven turntables with a hefty price tag, with the Denon (589€) being slightly cheaper than the Pioneer (629€). We think that both turntables are feature wise equal. Anyways, we like the Denon’s LED ring which looks totally cool! Due to the price and design, Denon is the winner here again.

Pioneer PLX-1000:

Denon VL12 Prime:

Overall conclusion

In conclusion we can say that Denon definitely has potential to become the #1 DJ brand and to outstrip Pioneer. Anyway, Pioneer is the top DJ Equipment brand for years by a reason, so their stuff is absolutely high quality as well. As we already said before, we think that Denon is probably better than Pioneer when it comes to price-performance-ratios and features. We are really looking forward to seeing what Pioneer will do to keep their #1 spot. But now it’s up to you: What brand do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below!

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