Dear readers / Denon,
I have been deejaying from the early nineties on vinyl. I have always played on Technics turntables with vinyl mainly in the period from 1991-2005. Two years ago I started to regain interest in my old hobby. I decided that next to deejaying on vinyl, I wanted to be able to DJ digitally as well. Since the P4 was announced, I was immediately interested. For me, this unit ticks all of the boxes I was looking for! It’s standalone (a first), it has all of the performance features the latest controllers have, It looks like it’s build to last, a nice screen and it’s priced within a range I’m willing to spend. After the long wait, yesterday I finally received the Denon DJ prime 4. My first digital DJ equipment! I decided to share my personal experience with you to learn and to help improve the system and software.
When I was reading all the news on the P4, watching the videos, reading the forum here, the only major thing holding me back initially was the state of software for music preparation, Engine prime. I use a (high end) windows desktop with windows 10 (all updated). I had already installed engine prime some months ago and tried it out a little bit. The major issues for me at the moment (I have seen the majority mentioned here already) are:
• Lack of beatgridding options / correction. When the automatic detection fails, basically you are more or less screwed (unless it’s half or double).
• When I start engine prime on windows, I first get three or more errors stating that my (usb) exchangeable media is not formatted to FAT 32 or ex FAT, although I have no usb sticks or similar in my PC . Yes of course my desktop drive is NTFS and not FAT 32, hence that’s a PC “standard”
• The drives giving these “errors’ I think are drives, g,h,k,I etc. listed under the USB stick list icon. I don’t physically have these drives or USB sticks connected, but they are listed there and I can’t remove them form that list. It doesn’t cause any issues in the program itself, but empowers the feeling that the software is buggy. At this point, this is the opposite what Denon needs right now I think.
• It’s still not clear for me how to synchronize my music files between my collection on my desktop and prime 4? How do I, when I update my music collection on my desktop in Engine prime with hotcue’s / loop’s and other stuff from my desktop synchronize it with prime 4? And vice versa, when I add stuff like that on my prime 4 (new hotcues, loops), how do I get this information back to my “master” collection on my desktop PC? Basically, how do I prevent that any work I have done on my digital music collection in Engine or prime 4 get’s lost?
• The interface I found not always that intuitive. At this point, I don’t have any clear examples but that’s just my feeling .
Please read my comments as feedback to help improve the ecosystem. I would appreciate some more information / help on the issues stated, especially on the sync part. I’m glad Denon says it’s hard at work to solve the issues. The sooner the better of course.
I have found out already that, with digital music, doing all of the prep work really pays off. Making sure all the meta data is there and organizing your music in such a way that you can find what you are looking for relatively quick is key. Next to that preparing the music and adding the hotcues, loops, etc. set in Engine, really makes the difference between a mediocre set or an awesome performance. I’m more than willing to do all this work needed to prepare your music. In regards to putting in all of this work, the following worries me a little bit. Since all of the information like hotcues and stuff in Engine is not added to the music files itself, but to a separate folder instead. if I ever decide in the far future to go to another platform, or when I DJ in a club on a pioneer system, how do I get this information into my digital music when I’m not playing on Denon equipment?
The Prime 4
My first experience with the Prime 4 is as follows. Unboxing the unit, nice packaging and the right cables in the box. I started with placing my new 1 TB Samsung SSD 860 in the unit. Then connecting the unit to my pc. This is where I encountered the first issue. When putting the P4 in “controller mode”, the P4 kept saying “looking for computer”. I saw that my windows 10 (high end) desktop, was installing drivers, but what ever I tried, it never connected. Swapped USB cables, tried USB ports directly on the motherboard, USB2 and USB3. Turned P4 on and off. Turned the P4 off and took the power cord out of the wall-outlet. Removed the SSD again from inside the P4, no difference unfortunately. I put the SSD back into the unit. To rule out my pc, I connected it to my older windows 7 desktop. Basically that PC gave the same results on the P4, it kept saying “looking for computer” on my P4. Then I saw on my pc, that the prime 4 audio driver was the only thing my desktop could not find / install from the 4 or so drivers it needed (left and right scree, p4 controller hub, etc). When I reconnected the P4 to my windows 10 desktop, I saw the same issues there. I was worried, Is my P4 defective?
I decided to try to update the firmware of the P4 to the latest version. Installed the program on my desktop pc and connected the controller with my pc. I was able to update the firmware of the P4 without any issues. This program worked fine and firmware was immediately being transferred to the P4. After I updated the firmware, tried again to connect the P4 with my desktop, still the P4 kept saying “looking for computer”. The SSD could not be seen from my desktop.
Then I thought, ok check whether the P4 is ok can play music. I inserted an USB stick with some music on it and worked fine. What a nice system for playing / deejaying music! It seemed that the unit itself is working fine. Next challenge was to get my SSD filled with music. I opened my desktop, and took out one of the hard drives. Connected my SSD and formatted it Exfat. Then inserted the formatted drive back into the P4. Turned the P4 on and the drive was visible. Reconnected the P4 to the desktop pc and put the P4 in controller mode. Still the P4 keeps saying “looking for computer”, the prime 4 audio driver still showing as not found. Luckily now I was able to see the SSD. Now I could use engine prime to put music on my SSD.
I started to analyze the folders which contain my (DJ) music files. 99,9% of my music are FLAC files. I noticed that out of all almost of the 7 folders I had analyzed and put in my collection, some FLAC files are not seen by Engine Prime. E.g. on my desktop pc I can see in explorer 140 FLAC files in my folder. All these files I can play in media player. For some reason, when Engine prime looks at these folders, the program only “sees“ 132 files. This happened with almost all of the folders. The naming scheme I use for these FLAC files are universal (title, artist [version info in brackets] ). I used 1 and the same program for the metadata editing of all these files. I still clueless why this occurred. Since I just wanted to start playing music on the P4, I have not investigated this further yet. When I have more information on the topic, I will make a bug report of it on the Engine prime software.
When I was finished with putting all of the music on the P4, I restarted the unit. I was happy to see that all of the music seemed to be visible, with metadata and all! My first impression of the unit itself is very positive. Nice lay-out, buttons feel like it’s good quality. Screen looks really nice. The platters look like they are big enough for me. I’m not a scratch DJ. I just use it for corrections forward / backward, to scroll through my music and maybe a back flip every now and then. Screens on jog wheels are nice to. The sound quality appears to be good and crisp as well. Although I must say that I was not playing on the best speakers out there. Overall my impression was very positive. Before I knew it, I was playing for several hours on the unit and having fun and enjoying the music. The following things, were the things I noticed (some of these items, I have seen on the forum already):
• Some effects when turning the nobs of the effects were making the sound out of the P4 system, suddenly a lot louder and then suddenly a lot softer again, in some case. It did not sound nice, sounded a bit buggy. I did not take notice / wrote down which effects and which settings. But will let you know more details if I see it again.
• When I was playing three tracks at the same time, I was not able to get back to the two track view normally. The only way was to disable it from the utility menu and then activate it again. I saw on a feature request somewhere on the forum for an ability to clear a track from the dj deck. This feature could then also be used to automatically switch back from the 4 track view, to the two track view when the third and fourth track are cleared.
• I like to make quite long transitions usually. It is nice to play with effects and other digital tools like loops and stuff. Crazy creative ■■■■ you can do! I really like this about deejaying digitally. Over the years with vinyl, I learned to beatmatch by ear very well. I noticed that after beat matching by ear (without using sync) when I ended up with the same bpm in the tenth bpm range as the opposite track, in a lot of cases you still need to regularly nudge forward or backward to really keep the mix tight. I expect that this is probably so on every digital DJ equipment. So my thoughts were, if you would want to keep the tracks even tighter then currently possible without using sync, the BPM has to be adjusted in even smaller steps then tenths of BPM. Since I’m new to digital DJ-ing, I must say I was struggling a bit with the CUE button. Basically what I want is to set the CUE button, on the first “one” beat of every track. For me, this CUE point can always stay there. I found that when I paused the track, every time I cued, I changed the CUE point. I now use a hot cue point to do this, which I can’t unintendedly move around the track, unless I shift and then press it. My thought was I would like to have the ability to set the CUE on the first “one” beat of the track, and not being able to move it, when I press it when I pause the track. This way I have one more hot cue I can use for something else. I already found that the 8 hot cues points are easily/quickly used up in one track. Especially when you have a part you want to use for “tone play” or a phrase you want to cut into parts with hot cues. Am I doing something wrong with the CUE or is this the way it’s intended? Are there more people like me, who want to put the CUE standard on the “one” beat / is this a new feature request?
• In the “2 track play” screen, the screen real-estate around the track information is unused. I can understand from a programmers perspective, that it’s nice to have it the same for 2 and 4 track view, however more metadata could be shown here
• It would be nice to show (or ability to choose) to show some more track information on the two screens of the platters.
Sorry for the long story, but I just wanted to share my experience with you and hopefully together we can further improve the system, both engine prime and the P4. Overall, after finally getting my music on the P4, I was very happy and enjoying myself a lot. It’s a very nice peace of equipment. Engine prime and the P4 just need a little bit more TLC from you guys to make it an absolute killer system! I’ll keep you updated when I have more information. I hope you can answer some questions for me.