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Denon DJ SC6000 review: the CDJ’s first genuine alternative?

Denon DJ's new SC6000 multimedia player follows the release of Pioneer DJ's CDJ-3000, which was announced in September. Here, DJ Mag's tech editor, Mick Wilson, reviews Denon’s new player, and finds a unit that demands respect

Pioneer DJ recently launched the CDJ-3000 to firm their position as the industry-standard player in the DJ booth. However, Denon DJ’s SC6000 multimedia player has been gaining traction since its launch earlier last year in terms of offering DJs a genuine alternative. But what makes the SC6000 a viable prospect for DJs looking to try something different from the now-standard Pioneer DJ route?

The SC6000 is the successor to Denon DJ’s SC5000, their first serious attempt at a player to challenge the dominance of Pioneer DJ’s CDJ range. And the SC6000 is a complete upgrade to the 5000, with its massive 10.1-inch multitouch touchscreen dominating the top of the player and an all-black colourway. The silver finished knobs and dials of the SC5000 were impressive, but the finish on the 6000 is a complete step up on its predecessor. Where the 5000 could feel cheap in parts, the 6000 is much sturdier. The new model will appeal to those who pay attention to the aesthetics, as well as the feel, that the SC6000 brings.

But it isn’t all style over substance, as the SC6000 is a huge upgrade on the SC5000 in term of technology and features too.

In terms of technology, the SC6000 is jam-packed, with a heavy focus on the streaming and cloud side of things

Some of the features on the original SC5000 have been incorporated into Pioneer DJ’s new CDJ-3000, proving that other manufacturers are taking a close look at what Denon DJ are up to. However, inevitable comparisons between Denon DJ and Pioneer DJ are good news as both these companies will likely up their game as a result. The SC6000 is no slouch and is a very powerful deck with some very innovative features like a slot for a permanent SATA hard drive, dual outputs to layer two tracks on one deck and the ability to stream from Beatport LINK, TiDAL and more. Coupled with the Engine Prime management software and OS that runs on the device and other Denon hardware, it makes for a serious piece of kit.

Recent names that have jumped on board the Denon DJ SC6000 train include Dixon, Maceo Plex, Fatima Haji, Kerri Chandler, Whebba, ANNA and Patrice Bäumel.

While the CDJ was born out of a time where physical medium (CD) was the focus, the SC6000 has come from a period where many DJs are used to digital DJing software. As such, the SC6000 feels like the type of experience that can be achieved on a controller-software set-up. This lends itself to different styles of DJ performance — yes, straight-up, track-to-track mixing can be achieved but with the SC6000 you’re encouraged to push the boundaries further with the performance pads and performance features built into the deck, which are more prominent than on other players. It feels like you're controlling powerful and flexible DJ software straight from the deck rather than simply manipulating a digital audio file. Denon DJ put a lot of effort into their ENGINE OS, and it's reflected in the fluidity and intuitive nature of the 6000.

In terms of features, the 6000 is jam-packed, with a heavy focus on streaming and the cloud. The SC6000 is standalone WiFi-enabled — DJs can use streaming services such as Beatport LINK, Beatsource LINK, TiDAL and SoundCloud Go to DJ directly to the players, utilising the millions of tracks available via these services. The ability to use and stream directly from your own personal Dropbox is also available. It was surprising to see the CDJ-3000 launch without any streaming functions at all — though it's inevitably on the way — so Denon DJ is very much winning the streaming race, for now.

The SC6000 is a lot of deck for the money and it comes in at £1,000 cheaper than the CDJ-3000

The highlight from the SC6000 has to be the 10.1-inch multi-touch, multi-gesture display. Navigating the screen using pinch and stroke gestures, like on an iPad, really makes for an immersive experience. The size of the screen means that everything is easy to view, and that's especially welcome in terms of track browsing and selection. A lot of player operations can be performed using the touchscreen and it soon becomes a natural part of the experience. There is also the option to use traditional knob and button features so DJs can choose which style of operation suits them best. In addition to the expansive touchscreen, the jog wheels feature a full-colour central display that also gives the user a wealth of visual cues.

The deck feels sturdy, the jog has a secured feel to it, while the knobs, slider and buttons again have a reassuring action to them in the mix. The deck performs how you’d expect a top-flight player to perform.

We connected the SC6000 to Denon DJ’s X1850 mixer — this combination of the two makes for a powerhouse of a set-up that allows syncing of effects and tempos, as well as offering a five-channel Ethernet hub to link decks together. The mixer also supports Denon DJ's SoundLinq protocol that SoundSwitch, Resolume video, and Timecode sync to control visuals and lighting. 

The SC6000 is a lot of deck for the money, and it comes in at £1,000 cheaper than the CDJ-3000. The 6000 feels like a genuine alternative to the CDJ range. How the Coronavirus pandemic will affect the wider rollout of both players remains to be seen, but there is always space within the industry for more than one option and, as we mentioned, healthy competition results in users getting equipment that is of the highest level.