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Do-It-All Decks

Way Out West's Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren put the new Denon DNS3700 CD decks through their paces...

Bristol’s progressive house heroes Way Out West, famed for club classics like ‘The Gift’, are back with a fresh new album ‘We Love Machine’ and single, ‘Only Love’.
Poised to embark on a leviathan tour, where they’ll be flexing their DJ skills as well as performing live, DJmag decided to put the electronica masters to the test with Denon’s new DNS3700 CD Deck…

The brand new Denon DN-S3700 Direct Drive Turntable Media Player and Controller is Denon’s take on the reinvention of the wheel — a CD deck that does everything from one unit, providing DJs with a host of very useful features at their fingertips. One of these is the large 9” motorised platter, allowing tactile control over the various audio formats that can be utilised from this unit.
Denon’s DNS is leading the way for the new breed of do-it-all CD decks — are they the future? DJmag and Way Out West find out…

What do you like about the DNS3700?

Jody Wisternoff: “The really cute thing about these CD decks is that they take USB sticks. It’s possible to turn up at the gig with just a little drive, packed with digital tracks, and play them directly from the DNS. Taking laptops to gigs can be a bit scary, things get damaged and computers are especially fragile. There are too many accidents waiting to happen, especially involving liquid (beer). I think it’s ace just to turn up at the gig with a USB stick/hard drive and plug it straight into the deck. It takes DJ ing back to the old days by using the decks again – unlike messing around on a computer.”

Nick Warren: “I really liked the built-in effects. The DNS offers three to choose from: Filter, Echo and Flange, all really useful. I found that they were really in time with the tracks, and really fast and simple to use. Just hit the corresponding button and away you go!”

JW: “It is really useful to have the effects built into the unit, as some DJ mixers haven’t got them. The effects on offer aren’t bad — the knob on the right affects the parameters and the knob on the left determines how much effect is added to the original sound. The results are cool, but not as detailed as a dedicated FX unit.”

What do you think about the layout?

NW: “The set-up of the DNS is very good, it’s lit up like an airport runway, which is great in a dark club.”

JW: “At a glance, it looks like a similar layout to the Pioneer CDJ. The play and cue buttons are on the left hand side, the pitch slider on the right. But there are a few differences. The CD eject button is on the bottom left hand corner and the track skip controls are actually the knob on the right hand side of the unit. There is another knob on the left, which is for the effects, looping and BPM data. Above that there is a row of buttons for the auto loop function.”

What are the units like to mix on?

JW: “In CDJ mode, (when the platter is not spinning) I found it’s not as tight as other CD decks I have used. When I change pitch it doesn’t change straight away; the pitch fade slider is a little slow to react. There is a little lag, it’s a bit slow on the uptake. Is this a software thing? Is it adjustable?”

NW: “I enjoyed mixing on them. I loved the Auto-Loop function, it locks in really fast. It’s easy to change the loops — extending them or shortening them — just by changing the parameters with the knob. Tap the start point of the loop, and that’s it, wallop! I set up the parameters to give me a four bar loop, then tweaked it a bit and added effects on top. It sounded really good, I was very impressed.”

Tell us more about vinyl mode and the rotating platter…

JW: “Playing on the rotating platter is easy enough. Just hit the Platter Mode button and the deck starts to spin — nice!"

NW: “Vinyl Mode — some people love it, others hate it! I don’t go near it myself, one false move after a few drinks and all hell could break loose!”

JW: “I do like the fact that the platter spins, it adds to the vinyl mixing experience, but it’s not as detailed as using a turntable. There has to be a way of fine-tuning the torque and the pick-up of the platter, as well as the CD control. I suppose I am going to have to consult the manual on this one.”

What other tricks have these decks got up their sleeves?

JW: “There are three buttons next to the platter, CD, USB and MIDI, which determine what mode the player is in. The DNS can play CD-Roms, digital music files like MP3 or WAVs and it can also be used as a USB MIDI controller, enabling the user to control external DJ software like Traktor.
“The system seems to pick up on the fact that I have stuck a USB stick in, clever! By engaging the USB button I can now access the tracks that are on the stick. The USB mode takes a little getting used to, as there are a couple of ways to locate and play tracks. In fact, it’s best for those who are getting to know the unit to check this out in the manual. This is a gripe for me — it’s not instant. No-one likes looking at manuals, it’s a bore. I just want to get straight on it and mix.
“When I turn up at a gig I want to be able to plug in and play, and immediately know how to use the different features. Other than playing CDs, which is straightforward, this would be a different story on the DNS. I would have to study the manual to get to know these decks inside out. Not a problem if they were going to be my main decks, which I ask for in my rider, and use daily in the studio, but if I turned up in a club and was presented with these and had never used them before, I would worry.”

NW: “To get the best out of anything it’s necessary to put in the man hours. I like to spend time with kit learning exactly how to use it. I am going to give them a good going over, as I like playing with them and they do quite a lot more than just playing CDs. Ok, so it’s going to take more than a few minutes to get the best out of the DNS but it’s something I would be prepared to give time to.”

Anything else worth a mention?

JW: “Yes actually there is, the Keylock feature, this deserves a big up. I don’t normally use this myself when I mix but let’s see how it works on the Denon. It’s one of the better Keylocks I have played with — Keylock allows the pitch of the track to be sped up or slowed down whilst keeping the original key of the track. Taking it to the extreme, when I set up the pitch for 100% it seemed to hold the key without making the track sound too strange, that Mickey Mouse effect. This works quite nicely under normal pitch-shifting conditions. Denon seem to have a good algorithm working on this Keylock.”

NW: “The fact that they can be used as a MIDI controller is great. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for the DJ set-up. I can have the benefits of a CD player but can also have my laptop set-up running Traktor or the likes, and switch back and forth between the CDs and the laptop whilst still having a familiar control over both. This is real POWER!”

What are your final thoughts?

JW: “I am used to the way the Pioneer CDJs are set up, so it took a few plays for me to get used to how Denon’s decks work. There are a lot of things that don’t seem to work as simply and as easily as they should. It’s a bit annoying, as looking at the unit initially I thought this was going to be amazing, the first true Pioneer slayer.

“In fairness, it is a pretty simple operation to play CDs — as it should be — but to get into this machine takes a bit of manual checking and real hands-on deck time.”

NW: “The Denon looks great, but like all machines it can be improved on. They’ve got a good CD player here. With a few more changes and improvements it will stand up against the Pioneers. It’s like the old argument when we all used turntables: “Technics or Vestax?” It’s really hard to get DJs who are used to one thing to change over to something new; just as Technics were in every club back in the day, even if the club had Vestax or Stanton turntables, DJs were like, “uh, gross, no, not using that”. That is the same sort of thing that is going to happen here.

“The Denon DNS3700 is a good player, but everyone is used to the dominance of the Pioneer. DJs need to stop thinking about the Pioneer and see the Denon as a standalone product in its own right.”

Verdict

Price   £899
Contact   denondj.com
Build Quality   3.5
Ease of Use   3.5
Features   4.0
Value for Money   4.0
Sound Quality   4.0
Hype   “These players can control a wide variety of audio media, expanding your options when it comes to the art of DJing.”
Gripe   “Initial steep learning curve.”
Conclusion   A decent attempt by Denon to rock the dominance of Pioneers in the CD deck market and at the price, worth a look for any DJ wishing to expand their horizons with a top-end product.
Overall Score   3.5/5