Denon DJ MCX8000
Now, if I said “it’s a Beauty and a Beast” you may think that I was talking about a Disney film, however, you’d be wrong. It’s the way that I can best sum up Denon DJ’s new, and much-anticipated, flagship DJ controller, the MCX8000. I currently own and use a Denon MC6000MK2 MIDI controller, and also briefly flirted with Denon DJ’s teaser offering of the MC4000, so when details of a new Denon super controller emerged I was intrigued. I went digging for more information and soon couldn’t wait to get my hands on the MCX8000 and put it through its paces, both at home in my studio and also out on the road in a real live event environment.
While Denon DJ has been a mainstay of the professional DJ equipment industry for years, and is popular with many mobile DJs, the brand’s ownership changed recently. Around two years ago InMusic, the company behind brands like Numark and ALTO Professional, acquired Denon DJ. This led to concerns within the DJ community that this new controller would be more like a Numark product than what we’ve come to expect from Denon DJ. However, I’m pleased to report, that despite sharing a parent company Denon DJ and Numark have maintained autonomy. Denon DJ has its own research and development team and I’m sure that long-standing Denon DJ users will not be disappointed by the new MCX8000.
Upon opening the box, which is most colourful and adorned with a life-size image of the MCX8000 along with an overview of its features, my eyes gleamed at the sight of this beauty of a DJ controller, or should I say beast – it is huge! My MC6000MK2 is a dwarf in comparison. The construction is very typical of Denon DJ products, with a sleek design and an all metal casing. The first thing that struck me is that, thanks to its large size, the layout of the MCX8000 is very spacious compared to the MC6000MK2. The other thing to note, especially if you’re not an existing Denon user, is that the playback controls are mirrored. This means that the Cue and Play/Pause buttons on both decks are on the inside, close to the mixer controls, while the pitch faders are on the outside, at the edge of the unit. This design is different to Pioneer controllers, for example, which have two sets of identical playback controls.
One of the key features of the MCX8000 is that it can be used to DJ without a laptop. It features Denon DJ’s Engine software on-board, which can be used to play music directly from USB storage devices. Two hi-definition colour display screens are included on the controller itself to display track information and also to facilitate library browsing and track selection.
In order to play music using Engine on the MCX8000 you first need to run your collection through the free to download Engine PC / Mac software to catalogue and analyse your tracks. So, with my back-up DJ laptop, I proceeded to download the Engine software, install it and build my Engine Library, scanning and analysing a selection of Mastermix DJ Beats tracks for duration, BPM, key etc. The Engine 1.5 software has many advantages once installed on your computer. It allows Playlists and Crates to be easily created, as well as the setting of Cue points. Once my files were prepared, I removed the USB stick and inserted it into one of two available USB inputs on the MCX8000 and soon had music playing directly from the controller.
Once a USB device is loaded, channels one and two (which are actually the middle two channels) are configured to work with the Engine software. This can be selected for each channel by the flick of a switch above the Gain (Level) control. Selecting and loading tracks is a doddle – by using the rotary knob you can easily scroll through your files / folders and load up your music to either deck. As well as the track title and playback time, the display screens also show a coloured waveform of the currently loaded track. This is based on the frequency content of the music, with low-frequency slices displayed in red, mid-frequency in green and high-frequency in blue. This is designed to help identify percussive elements and other sonic features of your music to see in advance up-coming mix points.
For those who want the benefits of digital playback, but would prefer not to have a laptop running at their gigs, the MCX8000 is a solid standalone player. Personally, I like the flexibility of DJing from my laptop, but having the Engine feature is perfect for my mobile DJ work as a reliable backup should my laptop crash mid-gig. Switching between software control and USB playback is as simple as the flick of a switch. What’s more, the USB devices can be safely ejected and removed and replaced without any power down or affecting playback from other sources. This feature allows for seamless transition between DJs at events where multiple DJs are playing sets in continuous succession.
The mixer section of the MCX8000 has four channels, each with a dedicated 3-band EQ, Filter knob, and, as already mentioned, a rotary Level control. Each channel also has its own 10-segment LED channel meter, which is useful when mixing to ensure the level of an incoming track matches that of the currently playing song. All four channels can be switched between software input and external line input, while - as already mentioned - the central two channels also have the option for Engine USB playback.
The Play/Pause and Cue buttons are solid and have that traditional feel we have come to expect from Denon DJ products, without any real latency issues. The sliders are slick and tight with a nice glide and the crossfader is fast and responsive. The cross fader is fully assignable; every channel is switchable between the left and right side of the fader and also has the option to bypass it. It is also adjustable via the X Fader Contour feature on the front panel of the unit, where you will also find the headphone outputs provided as both mini jack and full size ¼ jack.
Around the back of the MCX8000 there are both USB-A and USB-B sockets for connecting to your laptop and also for hooking up an external hard drive for track playback via your DJ software. There are also plenty of audio input and output sockets, giving plenty of flexibility when it comes to integrating the mixer into a mobile DJ setup. As you would expect, the Master Output is provided via balanced XLR sockets. However, unexpectedly, balanced XLR sockets are also provided for the Booth output, which is perfect for use with powered DJ monitors. [The Booth Output has a dedicated two-band EQ, in addition to a level control, located on the front panel]. There is also a stereo pair of unbalanced RCA phono sockets for the Master Output as well as a Mono/Stereo selector switch which is useful if you find yourself playing in a venue with a house PA system that is configured in mono.
In terms of inputs, there are four stereo pairs of RCA Phono sockets for connecting line-level inputs such as CD players. Two of these are also switchable to Phono level, and are provided with a Ground binding post, to allow vinyl playback or, more likely, DVS software control. There are also two microphone inputs, one provided as a combination XLR / ¼” jack socket and the other just as a ¼” jack. There is also an Ethernet link connection which has been designed to work with StageLinq technology to synchronise lighting and video. (InMusic has just launched a new lighting brand Marq, which is designed to work with the MCX8000). The unit is powered by an external AC adapter with the low voltage input socket located on the back panel alongside a push-button power switch.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 78, Pages 70 - 73.