Engine Connect integrity

Last night at an event I had a problem where my 5000’s would lose sync between tracks most of the time. I was constantly riding the pitch adjustment buttons to keep things lined up, which was frustrating. I have a backup player, and a small Mackie mixer between my x1800 and the house system. I played a song off from that and rebooted all of the Denon gear to see if it would fix the issue but it did not.

I also tried playing from different sources. I’m paranoid that I’ll forget my thumb drive, so I’ve made duplicates of all my core music on SD cards that I leave in the players at all times. So I tried playing songs from each player’s SD card instead of the shared USB stick. Nothing changed.

I noticed a few other strange things. For one, certain songs wouldn’t sync up from the start. I would press the sync button, or hold it (I tried everything), but it would continue to flash and sync would never lock in. Other songs would sync on load or when pressing the button, and re-sync when pressing the sync button again, but would still drift off beat following a few loops. The sync button would start flashing to indicate sync was lost.

You may be thinking I was mixing songs with fudged up beat grids, but alas, this is not the case. All of my tracks have been prepped in Engine, and older songs with discrepancies in their timing have been warped in Ableton. They all have perfect time - every transient is aligned with precision to the grid. In addition, the players were indicating they were drifting out of sync. It’s not a situation where the grid marks stayed aligned while an individual song’s beat deviated from it’s own grid. The players sync button would start flashing, and the icon on the screen would indicate that the songs were no longer in sync.

The other thing I noticed occasionally was that the beat/bar indicators on each screen would not match between players. On one player it would show the green & white boxes lined up by both beat and bar (Stacked vertically), but the other player would show them being a beat or two out of alignment. I shot a video of this with my phone. It would seem to me that these should always match between players, since you can’t be lined up by bar on one player and not the other.

This is a pretty big deal, and I didn’t pull up other similar posts searching for “Sync” problems. So I’m wondering if others have experienced this, or if I may have a defective piece of equipment. If the latter, I’d like to figure it out while under warranty.

I’ve updated my players and x1800 to latest firmware, just to take that suggestion off the table.

Has anyone else experienced similar issues? If so, were you able to fix it?

What sync mode do you have turned on? Tempo, beat, or bar?

I had the sync mode set to beat. I enabled and disabled Quantize just to see if it made any difference, but it did not. I didn’t really expect it to, but I tried it anyway.

This is not the first time this has happened, but it’s also not how they always behave. I’ve worked on some ideas in my studio where they stay synced beautifully.

I’d be keen to remove the venue from the “what’s causing it?” equation.

Sometimes venues or booths can have dreadful mains wiring, which can mean “dirty mains”, earth leaking into live etc - all of which can give un unusual behaviour.

I guess one can never be certain of anything, but in this case I don’t think it could be the power. It’s a new venue with dedicated 20Amp circuits for the band/dj. My main rack has a Furman 20Amp power conditioner for everything (one of the expensive ones that isn’t just a rack mounted power strip) It isn’t really necessary at this venue because it has nice clean power, but that can’t be said about everywhere I work. On top of that I have a rack mounted UPS that all of my delicate equipment on the table is connected to. It will maintain pure clean power and voltage, keeping my most important pieces powered without interruption in the case of a power failure or dip in voltage.

There’s always the chance that one of the power units (Conditioner/UPS) that is there to provide perfect power has a problem, and is doing harm rather than good. I’ll do further testing into an external factor. It seems very unlikely, but given that nobody has piled on to say they have these same sync issues - It’s got to be something wrong with one or both of my players, or the environment that impacts them.

or something that plugs into both of them.

Anything from hard drives with odd encryption, backup or security options, high power demands on them, USB2 or USB3 in the wrong SC5000 port… or mains or something interfering with the data leads to/from the mixer etc.

Are you manually beat matching or always pressing sync? The latest firmware changed the pitch stepping from 0.01 to 0.05 and it means you’re constantly having to pitch bend during mixes

I was pressing sync to start. I guess I’d call it hybrid between manual and automatic mixing. I’ll hit play or release the platter on the incoming song manually on the beat that I want to align the incoming track on. If Sync is already activated on both decks, it will have already set the speed, and auto correct for any small discrepancies in my platter release. I can also hit the Sync button again to force a realignment.

In studio I’ve never noticed it not work perfectly. Brainless, perfect beat mixing with well prepped/quantized tracks. At my event, it would lose sync regularly. Hitting the sync button again sometimes worked, and sometimes did not. So at that point, I was manually keeping the incoming track lined up by riding the pitch bend adjust buttons (And making myself deaf by having it loud enough in the headphones that I could hear the two tracks over the PA)

I plan to fully test this in both places, and if I can get any type of consistent results I’ll document them. So far the only thing that makes any sense outside of the actual player(s) is a power concern. As mentioned previously, that seems unlikely as well given that at the venue I should have the cleanest, most reliable power possible. Anything else mentioned is consistent between my studio and the venue, the same USB 3 Thumb Drives & SD Card backup media, same cables, etc.

I’ll report back with my findings. Here’s a link to the video I recorded that shows the right deck’s beat counter correctly showing both songs are aligned by Bar, and the left deck showing them two beats off from the bar. I would think these two players should always be in agreement about such details. photos.app.goo.gl/rwmxrAyu4tG2C40q1

I think you’re misunderstanding how the beat counter works. The top beat counter shows the phase of the master deck, and the bottom beat counter shows the phase of the deck you’re looking at. So naturally the beat counters on the right deck will always be aligned, as it’s your master deck.

The left deck clearly shows that the song is 2 beats out of phase with the right deck, either because you started the loop 2 beats early, or because the beatgrid is 2 beats off. For example if that song starts with “I gotta feeling”, the first beat is on “feeling”, not “I”.

It has been a few weeks, but I had another event where I had some problems with my Denon Prime equipment. I paid particularly close attention, and also recorded a video. At one point in the evening, my x1800 just froze. The lights all stopped where they were, the cue buttons on channels 1&2 lit Red, and all of the white lights that indicate a channel is selected for filtering lit up as well. Sound continued to play through the mixer. My x1800 output connects to a Mackie mixer so I can combine it with four mics, and I have a laptop connected to the mackie as well which allowed me to play a song from the laptop and turn off and on the Denon stuff. It only did this once. https://youtu.be/BRGjyGx6A9M

In addition to that obvious malfunction, one of the other things I noticed in addition to songs losing sync, was that the media players would not properly maintain which unit was the master deck. After mixing to Unit 2 and stopping the previous track that was on Unit 1, Unit 2 would correctly become the Master unit as expected. It should remain the master unless I manually set it back to Unit 1, or I mix to Unit 1 and Unit 2 is stopped. The system favored setting Unit 1 as the master most of the time, and I even noticed the Master Button have a sort of random stuttering flash as it swapped from Unit 2 to Unit 1 when it should not have.

My suspicion at the time (and still is), that it is a networking communication error between the decks/mixer. I checked the connection of the Ethernet cables, and while they were all firmly connected I thought I noticed an improvement after just farting with them a little. I like everything to be neat and perfect, so I purchased an 18" and 24" network cable, as well as 18" and 24" digital audio cables so that each media player is connected with almost no extra cable length, but they’re long enough to reach each unit with no strain.

For my next round out, I just purchased some 24" Medical Grade certified fully shielded Cat 7 cables. The shielding continues from the cable to the connector, which is metal as well to protect against RFI all the way into the jack. I’ll report back if it fixes things or not.

Nearly anything else that was suggested can be ruled out. I use the same USB Sticks & SD cards, and all are properly formatted to ExFat, not encrypted, and are high quality name brands that show no signs of problems in any other environment. The power at the venue is a dedicated 20Amp circuit (there are 4 of them for the stage area, all isolated exlusively for that purpose) I use a Furman 20Amp power conditioner, which has isolated outputs. I then have a Cyberpower rack mounted server UPS just for my Denon stuff, my mackie mixer, and my laptop connect to. It shows a perfect 115 volts at all times. The unit will switch to battery power in the event of a voltage drop or other issue.

The only significant differences between being at the venue and my studio is that at the venue I have big speakers on each side of the table vs. a single k8.2 monitor at the studio, and a lot more wireless signals are all around. Wireless DMX, wireless microphones, 150-200 people all with a phone in their pocket. So I’m leaning toward wireless interference of some sort, or maybe these things don’t like being 6 feet away from sub-woofers. I could have gotten a warped one too. I seem to be the guy that always gets the unit that has problem.

Are you making adjustments on both decks while mixing - the longest playing unaltered deck is automatically set as Master. So if you adjust the jog on the master deck, the other player will automatically become the master. I have a tendency to make adjustments to both decks while mixing, and it creates exactly the kind of rapid back-and-forth of the master light you seem to be describing.

Hi Todd, I am not making adjustments on Deck 2 when it switches Deck 1 to master. I just noticed it happening when I started a song on Deck 1, even if I was simply looping a track on Deck 1 to make sure it’s synced up before mixing. As mentioned, I even noticed a bit of a hesitation where the Master button back lighting on deck 2 stuttered a bit right before it swapped over. Think of a light bulb that’s not screwed in all the way and has a random strobe to it. There was similar unusual behavior/stuttering with the beat bars.

It was for this reason that I started to suspect a communication issue between decks/x1800. Intuitively, it seemed like the data connection telling each deck what the other one is up to sorta shorts in and out.

Having the x1800 freeze up the way it did as shown in the YouTube clip could either be a symptom, or perhaps the x1800 is the cause. It’s tough to know anything, because that freeze up with the x1800 happened once in a five hour event. Not that I want it happening more, but if it’s that sporadic it will be hard to recreate and AB test various possible solutions.

What are the exact digits in each of the three units eg:

Left SC5000: -

mixer :-

Right SC5000: -

Can you clarify what you mean by digits? Serial number or unit, player number as shown on the screen?

Sure, I meant the exact firmware version in each unit.

Both SC5000s: 1.03 Mixer: 1.1.1

Hi, I’ve made another video showing my Denon Prime problems. I tried to send this directly to tech support, but it won’t allow links. The first 3:46 is just me showing in great detail the system and operating environment in which I am working, because it seems that the first inclination people have in responding to me is that it must be something other than a faulty media player or mixer. If you trust me that all is in good order with power and cables, skip to 3:47 to see narrated video of the problems I have. Thanks.

Thanks for taking the time to supply this video Brian.

I’ve made the relevant team aware of it.

It’s good to see a “all my wires and boxes” video shot in daylight, with nice slow steady camerawork.

A couple of instant questions, whats the hardware thats under the table, directly (CMs) underneath the mixer?

Have you still got the original green network cables which came with the Primes?

Thanks for passing that along. Answers to your questions:

  1. Under the table are two cases, a 4U and a 2U on top of that.
  • The 4U case has a Furman 20A power conditioner, a Cyber Power UPS, 1U jack panel and 1U blank panel on the front side. The Back side has a DBX Driverack PA2, a Wifi Router so I can connect to Driverack, and 2U mesh blank panel to let in lots of cool air.
  • The power conditioner is wired to the powercon jacks on the front of that case, where a cord runs to each side for the powered speakers. An isolated output from the Furman feeds the UPS, which then has it’s own Powercon output that only the media players, mixer & case with Laptop & Mackie mixer connect to. Just the delicate stuff.
  • The 2U case has a Shure Wireless Mic power/signal distributer, with a jack panel with Powercon In & Out, and Mic outputs jacks on the front (These are the color coded jacks in the video). The other side has 4 Shure SLX Mic receivers & (2) 1/2-wave antennae that all hook into the signal/power distributer.
  1. I do still have all network cables that came with the units. I’ve tried using them, some really short ones that I ordered that were fairly standard Cat 6 cables, and then the overkill cables shown in the video. I bought them because they have much more significant shielding than normal cables, and since all signs point to a communication error, I figured the network cables were the most likely culprit.

Thanks for the quick reply.

Hi Brian, mine was only an interim reply. Whilst it’s always difficult to diagnose a problem remotely, the team will be either reply to this thread or be in contact with you by other methods shortly.

My question above about the items very close to the underside of the mixer related to a solution to an issue which a MIDI controller/mixer user encountered on a different model a few years ago, where powerful signals/EMF coming from a piece of equipment directly below his unit, were causing comms dropouts. In that scenario he had lighting dimmer packs, a UPS and a power conditioner a few centimetres below the unit, which turned out to be the cause of his issues - until simply moved a half metre left or right.

Hang tight - and thanks again for the very succinct, clear and accurate information.