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15 Feb 2019

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

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Pioneer has been the number one brand when it comes to DJ hardware for many years now. No matter where you looked, you’d find Pioneer hardware. Their controllers were popular with 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 were popular as well. During this time, they didn’t really face any serious competition.

Yes, there were other brands such as Numark, Allen & Health and Reloop, but they mainly focussed on one specific piece of DJ hardware: Numark mainly produced controllers, Allen & Health made mixers and Reloop focused on turntables. None of these brands were a serious competitor to Pioneer. Pioneer found themselves in a sort of monopoly position, which meant they could sell their equipment at exorbitant prices (a full 4-deck Nexus setups costs around 10.000€) and they weren’t forced to come up with innovative ideas.

I’m not saying Pioneer produces bad hardware, in fact the opposite. Pioneer’s products are high quality and professional, but a company having a monopoly position is bad for consumers. Anyhow, this situation has now changed. While many brands in the DJ products market are slowly but steadily growing, there is one brand which has the goal to outshine Pioneer: Denon. Their slogan “Change your rider” shows exactly what they want. Denon is doing everything it can to reach their goal. The results: better and cheaper equipment.

But can Denon actually beat Pioneer? In this blog we’ll compare the two brands in all DJ equipment fields: Club Setups, controllers, All-In-One standalone players and turntables.  

Club Setups

Pioneer has been the absolute number one when it comes to Club Setups for years now. Ever since CDs replaced vinyl there were almost exclusively Pioneer’s Nexus setups in clubs. They faced basically no competition (except from Allen & Health when it comes to club mixers, but A & H only made mixers, no players). Then, just about a year ago, Denon released their Prime setup.

It looks pretty similar to the Pioneer, but with a few extra features and for almost half the price. That's why 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, we think Denon is the winner. Especially the deck layering function is great. It allows you to play two (in standalone mode) or even four (in HID mode) decks using a single player. You also have the performance pads (which you’ll find on a lot of controllers). These can both be found on the SC5000, while the CDJ-2000NXS2 lacks those. This really makes Denon the winner here. We do hope that Pioneer will add these features to their next CDJ!

Compatibility 

When comparing compatible sound sources, Pioneer is clearly the winner. Their CDJs have CD drives, as well as Recordbox, Virtual DJ and Traktor HID support.

Denon currently only supports Serato DJ (which is also compatible with Pioneers device) in controller mode and their players don’t feature a CD drive. You might counter this point by saying that pretty much nobody uses CD’s anymore, but exactly that “pretty much” is the issue. There are quite a few CD DJs and for those, the SC5000 won’t even be an option. We also find it pretty annoying that the Denon’s only work with Serato and we hope they will support Virtual DJ and Traktor in the future.

Design

Let’s look at the design of the two. The only thing we can state is that it’s all up to personal preference. While we personally prefer Pioneers design, the Denon’s look great as well, and we know that a lot of DJs prefer it to the Pioneers.

Pioneer CDJ 2000 NEXUS 2:

Denon SC5000 Prime:

Price

We already mentioned that Denon’s setup is around half the price of the Pioneers. While you can get a two deck Nexus setup for around 6.300€, you’ll only pay around 4.000 € for a two deck Prime setup.

Your choice will depend most on your preferred music source: If you’re using a usb stick, SD card or Serato DJ, the Denon’s might be the better option due to their lower price and extra features, but if you plan on using CDs, Traktor, Virtual DJ or Recordbox, the Prime setup isn't for you. Like we mentioned before, it all depends on personal preference.

Controllers    

Since most of you are probably not club owners but DJs you might be saying: “That’s cool and all, but I cannot/ will not pay this much”. Well, as the name “club setup” implies, this stuff is mainly bought by clubs for their DJs to use.

You’re most likely looking for a home setup. DJ Controllers have been the most common and affordable home setup for a few years now, which is why we picked an entry level and a professional controller from both brands to compare. We picked the entry level DDJ-400 from Pioneer to compare with the MC4000 from Denon, and as professional controller we picked the DDJ-SX3 from Pioneer to compare with Denon’s MC7000. We picked these controllers because they are our favorite controllers and we feel they are very comparable. Let’s start comparing.

Beginner controllers

The Pioneer DDJ-400 is 60 euros less than the MC4000, but the features of Denon’s controller are incredible. Though the DDJ-400 has a lot of cool functions as well and its layout is pretty much the same as on a Nexus club setup, which makes this controller an absolute beast. Read our article about the best entry level DJ controllers for an in-depth look at these two devices.

We think that the price-performance-ration of the 4000 is better than 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. We recommend the DDJ-400 for Recordbox users while the MC4000 is perfect for Serato and Traktor users. Both of these controllers are compatible with Virtual DJ.

Pioneer DDJ-400:

Denon MC4000:

Pro controllers

Both pro controllers we chose are incredible, they are professional and high-quality devices. The features of the two are similar, though we find the Denon slightly better – and it costs around 300€ less than the Pioneer.

Both are made with Serato DJ Pro in mind and come with this software pre-installed. Both work with Virtual DJ and the MC7000 also works with Traktor. Denon is the winner here in our opinion. But I’ll repeat again, it all depends on personal preference.


Pioneer DDJ-SX3:

Denon MC7000:


All-In-One Standalone Players

While controllers have been the #1 home setup for a few years now, there’s a new kind of DJ hardware in the DJ booths. These are the so-called All-In-One Standalone Players. They are basically two DJ media players (XDJs) and a mixer combined into one device. They are usually compatible with DJ software, but they also play from a USB stick (or even an SD card in some cases) without needing a laptop.

Both brands currently sell two All-In-One players. Denon has the MCX8000 and the Prime 4 (which hasn’t been released yet) and Pioneer offers the XDJ-RR and XDJ-RX2. Both smaller players (MCX8000 and XDJ-RR) can play two decks from a USB stick.

The 8000 has a huge advantage when comparing the two: A full, 4-channel standalone club mixer built in. This allows you to add two media players (CDJs etc.) for a 4-deck hybrid setup. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with the XDJ-RR’s 2-channel mixer.

Denon’s decks offer the deck layering function when used with software. This allows you to control four decks from your DJ software using just the MCX8000.

The Denon MCX8000 has two smaller screens, one on the top of each deck and the Pioneer XDJ-RR comes with a large touch screen. The MCX8000 works with virtually all popular DJ software, including Serato DJ (default), Virtual DJ, Traktor DJ and Djay. The screens on the MCX8000 only works when using Serato or Virtual DJ (or standalone USB mode of course), which could be a big issue for Traktor or Djay users. The Pioneer XDJ-RR only works with Recordbox DJ and Virtual DJ.

We again think Denon wins here. We really like the MCX8000’S 4-channel standalone mixer and we would have liked to see it included in the Pioneers XDJ-RR as well.

Pioneer XDJ-RR:

Denon MCX8000:

You might consider comparing the Prime 4 and the XDJ-RX2 as unfair due to the Prime 4’s four decks. Especially the ability to play four decks in standalone mode, like you would on a controller, makes the Prime 4 the winner. We really have to say that Denon outplayed Pioneer! The Prime 4 is better than or equal to the RX2 in pretty much every aspect. The only people for whom the RX2 is a better choice are Recordbox and Virtual DJ users, because the XDJ-RX2 works with those. The Prime 4 will be compatible with Serato DJ when it is official released, but there are currently no other supported DJ software announced.

As mentioned before, our winner is Denon. If you prefer the Pioneer’s layout or design, then I’d go for that one instead. We would have liked for Pioneer to support more DJ software for both of their standalone players. The fact that both devices are not Serato compatible means it won’t even be an option for Serato users (like me)!

Pioneer XDJ-RX2:

Denon Prime 4:

Turntables

Even now when the market for DJ equipment grows larger and larger, vinyl still plays a role. Yes, CDJs and controllers have a lot of advantages and features, but the feeling of vinyl is still absolutely unbeatable and when used it combination with DVS you get all the advantages of DJ software as well. Also, being able to play using actual analog vinyl’s is the sign of a good DJ since he’ll need to beat match by ear. Due to this there are still a lot of turntables on the market, which is why we compared the Pioneer and Denon turntables.

We chose the VL12 Prime from Denon, which we’ll compare with 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€). Both turntables are nearly identical when it comes to features. We like Denon’s LED ring which looks totally cool! Due to the price and design, Denon is the winner here yet again.

Pioneer PLX-1000:

Denon VL12 Prime:

Conclusion

In conclusion we can state that Denon definitely has the potential to become the #1 DJ brand and outstrip Pioneer. But like we said before, we think that Denon is probably better than Pioneer when it comes to price-performance-ratio and features. Pioneer has been the top DJ equipment brand for years for a reason and their stuff is of very high quality, so we're very excited to see what Pioneer will do next to keep their #1 spot.

But now it’s up to you: Which brand do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below!

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