REVIEWED: DENON DJ Prime GO!
When the PRIME GO from Denon DJ arrived for review, I was excited to see how this compared with the already popular PRIME 4 and PRIME 2. As a new concept from Denon DJ, I was eager to find out how this small battery-powered controller would fit in with my workflow as a DJ and see if this is set to ‘disrupt’ the DJ controller market in general.
From first impressions, the box that the PRIME GO is supplied in does not disappoint. You don’t need to see the unit inside as the box itself is a design joy to behold, which tempts you in to see what is on the inside. So, what is in the box? Alongside the PRIME GO itself, there is a user guide, screen wipe, VIP lanyard and some PRIME GO branded stickers. There is also a PSU, which is just like a laptop charger with a cloverleaf-style mains plug. This can be used both for charging the battery and to allow use of the device directly from mains power.
Since it is a compact unit of just under 12 inches wide, the layout of the PRIME GO is smaller than its siblings in the PRIME range. However, the controls are extremely well laid out, making excellent use of the available space and it features the same 7” gesture touch screen that is used on the PRIME 2. Size matters and, weighing just 3.5Kg, the PRIME GO will easily fit into the kind of backpack that you would normally use for the average laptop. This makes it a great piece of kit to travel with and Denon DJ has produced a variety of marketing shots showing it being used by DJs on planes and trains (the idea being that jet-setting DJs can prep their sets on the go).
Once setup, the PRIME GO sits flat and the screen cannot be adjusted to an optimal viewing angle for the user, which – at least to me – is a bit of a let-down. If the unit had a small kick stand built into the base then that would have also worked, assuming that a variable-angle screen couldn’t be included.
The PRIME GO is the first ever standalone DJ controller to be truly portable, as it is powered by an internal Lithium-Ion battery. Once fully charged, the unit boasts an impressive running time of four hours of use, which will no doubt be enough for most DJ sets. A nice addition to the OS is the battery indicator, which shows green for full charge, yellow for partial, and red for low. When the battery hits red, plugging in the PSU will allow continued operation from mains power while the battery simultaneously begins to charge. A nice design touch is that there is a separate illuminated charging icon next to the ‘Denon DJ’ logo on the top left of the unit to indicate charging whilst the unit is switched off.
The PRIME GO itself has all the functions we would expect from any controller or standalone system. Although the unit is compact, the layout has clearly been thought out well. Alongside its 3” touch-capacitive jog wheels, you will also find Sync, Vinyl Mode, Pitch Bend, Cue and Play / Pause buttons, which are solid plastic and not rubber. The Pitch slider moves easily with precision and has that distinctive locking click for the home point, something which is lacking from the larger PRIME 2 and PRIME 4 units.
In addition to the basic functions there is also a performance pad area of four buttons, which can be assigned Hot Cues, Loops or Rolls across multiple Banks. These are rubber-based buttons, which make it easier on the fingers to control and, in my opinion, make the performance pad area a joy to use. You will also find a very responsive Auto Loop rotary control, which is adjustable from ¼ to 32 bars.
Most of us are used to having EQ knobs in a vertical alignment above each channel slider but on the PRIME GO they are laid out horizontally, something I didn’t think I would adjust to easily but actually soon got used to. There is also a Sweep FX dial for each channel, with two option buttons. Option 1 is the Filter whilst Option 2 is Wash Out. Both are clean and easily adjusted to create a simple yet sophisticated feel to your mix.
There is also a bank of 13 effects – including Echo, Hall Echo, Flanger, Scratch and Reverb, to name a few – built into the Engine OS and these are controlled via the FX panel situated at the top left of the unit. The effect of choice is selected via the FX Select dial with the effect menu popping up on the main screen. Once dialled in it is activated by assigning it to either channel 1, 2 or both with dedicated push buttons. FX Time / Parameter and Wet / Dry knobs can then be used to customise the FX to ensure it works well in your mix.
In the middle of the PRIME GO’s front panel are the standard level faders along with the crossfader. These are shorter than most of us are used to, but fit well considering the overall size of the unit. I think they will also work well even with the biggest of hands as they are spaced away from other functions, so there is no chance of accidentally hitting another button whilst in the mix.
The PRIME GO empowers DJs with an innovative user interface, accessed through the 7” touchscreen, which makes music library navigation easy. You can search, manage playlists and load tracks – all with the touch or swipe of a finger. Just like the rest of the Denon DJ PRIME series, the GO features the Engine OS, which allows for easy transportation of music files between PRIME platforms. Equally important, it also allows more features to be added as and when Denon DJ release them. A future-proof system some may say and, yes, I believe that as well.
For such a compact unit, the PRIME GO boasts an impressive array of input and output connections. It offers both balanced XLR and RCA master sockets, with a switch that allows selection between mono and stereo output. There is also a separate Booth output provided via a pair of 1/4” TRS jacks. Inputs wise, there is a stereo pair of RCA sockets that allow for an Auxiliary input for adding music from an external source such as CD player, mobile phone etc. But what really impressed me was the two independent mic inputs, each offering a combination ¼” jack / XLR socket. Sadly, no mic EQ controls are included, only gain, which can be adjusted within the OS in the Utilities under the Mic Attenuation section.
The unit features a USB type B connector on the rear panel, which you can use to connect it to your computer for updating the firmware, and also an Ethernet socket for use with the Denon DJ StageLinq protocol. There are two ports for connection to your digital music files. The main USB connector is on the rear of the unit, which can be used to connect either a USB stick or external HDD. The other source of input is an SD card slot at the front of the unit. From a mobile perspective, I would have preferred the USB port mounted either on the top or to the front of the unit. Having it on the back may cause a failure if trying to remove / replace a USB stick mid-set – an accidental hit of the power switch or knock to the cables could find the sound being muted whilst a party is in full-on dance mode.
As the PRIME GO is a portable unit, it is nice to see both 1/4 jack and 3.5mm jack sizes for connecting headphones on the front panel, along with Cue Mix and Level controls. The front panel is also where you’ll find the Level control for the Aux input.
Setting up your music for use with the PRIME GO is easy, especially since the latest version of Denon DJ’s Engine Prime software allows you to import existing music libraries from Serato, Traktor, rekordbox and iTunes. Once your music has been sorted and analysed in Engine Prime, it is an easy task to export it to a USB media device. Once done, you’re ready to plug in and play on the PRIME GO!
The PRIME GO also offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, enabling DJs to play music from various music streaming services. TIDAL is currently supported (the PRIME GO comes with a FREE 3-month trial subscription) and Soundcloud, Beatport and Beatsource support is coming soon.
I can see the PRIME GO as the perfect solution for numerous events such as beach or house parties but I would also look at using this in conjunction with a battery-powered speaker (such as the Bose S1) for outdoor wedding ceremonies or drinks receptions. Unfortunately, due to the lack of Bluetooth, you will still need a cable to connect to your speakers. Although this is a standalone unit aimed at the party market or DJ on the go, with the Engine Prime music library system at its heart, the PRIME GO is also a worthy complement to a PRIME 4 or PRIME 2 to act as a backup unit.
Due to the compact nature of the PRIME GO, I am surprised that Denon DJ has been able to pack so many features into it without compromising on quality. You can easily prepare sets on the go, as this is truly lightweight and easy to carry, but it is also robust and tactile enough to use for playing out live. Some critics may say that, due to the price, they will stick with their existing controller. But, when you take into account that you also need a laptop when DJing with a controller, the PRIME GO actually represents exceptional value for money as a true all-in-one standalone system.
Overall, this unit gets the thumbs up from me as a worthy contender in the standalone market with the added bonus of battery-powered operation. However, I really do wish that it had Bluetooth connectivity to allow for truly wireless DJing, as well as those mic EQs and that kick stand to adjust the angle of view for the screen.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 102, Pages 72-74.