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Thread: Denon SC2900 Review

  1. #1

    Denon SC2900 Review

    UPDATE (NOV 26): Firmware v1030 update features bug fixes and adds decimal BPM support on screen

    Before I start, I think it’s important to note that I owned CDJ850s for some time, and have used the CDJ2000s heavily in the club environment. So no, I’m not really biased towards any one brand… I can say I’ve been frustrated with the prices Pioneer has consumers paying for their products, which is why I chose to sell my CDJ850s. I couldn’t justify having such expensive equipment that offered so little. Now on to the review…

    For some time now, the Denon SC2900 has been a hot topic in the DJ world, starting when the name popping up in Traktors controller manager almost a year ago. Denon did its best to promote the product in true pioneer fashion, but the campaign ultimately failed in really getting people who weren’t already in the know hyped up. That, along with a staggered global release, reduced the SC2900s emergence in the market to a trickling brook, far from the raging waterfall Denon was hoping for. That being said, the SC2900 is finally here, available to most of the world. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a release of an affordable, quality deck that can offer an array of features robust enough to justify its price tag. Read on to see if Denon hit the mark with the SC2900.

    On paper, the SC2900 is a dream product. It offers essentially every feature available on any current pioneer deck, at a price comparable to their entry level professional product, the CDJ850. Some of these include 4 cue points (with an additional page of 4 in MIDI mode), quantized auto looping, an Ethernet link feature for sharing information between players, a slip mode, a brand new low-latency music management system *similar* to Rekordbox, and much more (all of which I will touch on in more detail later in the review). Even with this list of features, Pioneer fans have been quick to disregard this product as a threat to their beloved CDJs. Reliability and quality often come up in back and forth, suggesting that A) Denon quality/reliability is inferior to Pioneer, and B) that if A) were true, these attributes would take precedence over features. But are these arguments really valid? Have these people been too quick to brush Denon off as the lesser brand? I’ll tell you right now that quality is not an issue with the new SC2900, so the deciding factor is how well Denon was able to implement this list of features in actual use.

    Full Specs:

    Product Sheet:

    Here’s my setup. 2 SC2900s and a Xone DB2. The players are linked to Engine music management software through a Linksys router.

    Functionality and Usability
    So how does Denon do with applying these features to real life usability? Very well, actually. The SC2900 is a phenomenal product. I’m not even going to wait till the end of the review to tell you this. I’ll take you through the product, broken into a few key areas, and make direct comparisons to the brand we all know has been targeted by Denon.

    It’s clear that Denon modelled the arrangement of this player to closely resemble the Pioneer CDJ line. No longer can anybody say ‘I don’t want this player because I won’t know how to use CDJs when I play in the club’. If you’ve used a CDJ, you’ll know what to do with this. It’s important to note that although it may look cluttered, it really isn’t in person. These are full-sized players with more than enough room for all of the included features.

    Here’s a top view of the SC2900.

    Hard plastic Play/Cue buttons are located bottom left, reverse and search buttons further up, with cue points and manual/auto-looping buttons located just above that. Quantized looping can be enabled with engine analyzed tracks. Loop in and out can be adjusted for precision looping with any track. USB sticks and HDDs can be plugged in on the top left corner of the player. 4 source buttons are located along the top edge of the screen, those being CD, USB, LINK and MIDI. Using LINK, you can connect up to 4 SC2900s or SC3900s together with a router, either sharing tracks from the USB slot on any player or from the engine software. You can switch between any of the four sources at any time, meaning you can mix engine tracks with USB tracks with CD tracks with Traktor tracks…pretty cool.

    The top right corner is dedicated to browsing and some of the deeper settings/options available. Some of these include display adjustment, a memo button and hot-list button for tagging tracks on the go. Below this area, a SLIP button can be found, which functions the same as the one found on the CDJ900, with start/stop time knobs and jog tension adjustment located just to the right and below, respectively. Like on most media players, a pitch fader, pitch range button (with -/+ 6%, 10%, 16%, 100% and OFF settings, available across all media), key adjust button (aka key lock) and VINYL button are located along the right side. The pitch slider is very smooth in its operation, and feels much nicer than the grainy feeling slider found on the CDJ850. There’s a small notch indicating the midpoint that doesn’t hinder smooth pitch adjustment whatsoever. Unlike Pioneer, Denon has also included -/+ pitch bend buttons to adjust your tracks without nudging the wheel.

    BPM sync and BPM Tap/auto buttons are found on the bottom of the player. There are 4 BPM modes on the SC2900, those being Auto BPM, Manual TAP, Manual BPM and Reads BPM metadata. Auto detects the BPM from the track as it plays or uses the engine analyzed BPM. Manual TAP allows you to tap the BPM. Manual BPM allows you to manually adjust the BPM value using the select knob, all the way down to one decimal point. Read mode will use the value stored with your media. The new v1030 firmware now supports BPM to one decimal point on the player. The SYNC button does not line your tracks up, but it will sync the BPM values to make beatmatching a little easier. BPM detection within engine can be customized to take an average value, or, in raw detection mode, will analyze each part of the track. Raw detection is particularly useful with tracks that heavy large vocal breakdown sections with varying BPM.

    The jog wheel on the SC2900 is phenomenal. It feels a lot nicer than the jog wheel found on any of the current CDJs. Denon took a different approach to their platter, directly connecting it to the center of the player. There are no moving parts, gears or springs within the platter, which feels nicer in use and will likely prevent future problems with the platter failing. The surface of the platter is covered with a piece of vinyl, which feels really nice. The LED ring around the platter is Denons answer to Pioneers famed needle point screen in the center of their platters. It functions much like the Pioneer indicator. The colour can be customized in the settings menu, with options to set it as blue, red, purple, or, if you’re looking for a more subtle look, you can set it to an array of ‘negative’ modes, only illuminating the needle point. This feature not only looks great, but it’s also highly functional. The wheel operates much like a CDJ, with a VINYL and pitch bend mode. A red LED indicator illuminates when the platter is compressed in VINYL mode. Like on the high-end CDJ2000, you can adjust the jog tension. The start and stop times are also adjustable.

    Here’s the much simpler, comparably priced Pioneer CDJ850.

    Taking a closer look at the SC2900 screen, you can see it offers clean access to essential information. The waveform is on-par with the CDJ850, and better than the brutally basic CDJ900 waveform. Ticks above the waveform indicate cue points and loops. Deck/track ID is located in the top left corner. The screen can be customized similar to the CDJ to display elapsed or remaining time, additional track information, and a few other things. Browsing is acceptable, about equal to the CDJ850, but I highly suggest incorporating a laptop or ipad running the Denon engine software into the setup if you require an optimal browsing experience (read more about this feature in the software section below).

    Around to the rear, you’ll find everything you could ever need. From left to right, you’ll find a K-lock slot, power button, standard AC in, an Ethernet port for implementing D-link, Denons version of Pioneers link feature, a locking USB port, fader start port, digital out and RCA line out.

    Build Quality

    All of these fancy well-implemented features are great and all, but if the quality sucks then what’s the point, right? Well surprise again, the SC2900 is rock solid. The outer shell is made of a hard plastic that feels much more durable than the CDJ850/900/2000 shell. The plastic buttons are also hard plastic, and again, feel much stronger than the buttons found on CDJs. The rubber source, cue point, looping, vinyl, reverse and sync buttons are firm, and don’t feel mushy or awkward in use. Even the start/stop knobs feel nicer than those found on the CDJ2000. Nice metal feet give the player a professional stance. The SC2900 weighs in at 4.3kg, a full kilogram heavier than the CDJ850. That’s about 1/3 heavier, and that extra weight makes a difference. Overall, the SC2900 feels extremely solid, comparable to the CDJ1000. As noted earlier, the jog wheel is connected directly to the center of the jog pot, with no plastic gears or springs modulating its operation. This not only feels better, but will likely prevent any future issues with overcompressed springs or broken gears. You can really tell Denon went the extra mile in all areas of these decks. They didn’t cut any corners when it came to choosing materials, nor did they make you pay out the ass for this much appreciated approach in design.

    Software and Computer Integration

    The Denon SC2900 comes fully equipped to get you going if you prefer having a computer in your setup. Included in the box is a CD with PC ASIO drivers, Engine music management software and detailed instructions on how to get you going. The SC2900 also comes with a copy of Traktor Pro 2 LE. The SC2900s can interface with a PC or Mac in 2 ways. It can operate as a standard MIDI controller, connecting via USB, with essentially every button, switch and fader being mappable. Alternatively, the SC2900 can interface with the Engine music management software using Ethernet cables and a router. With an Ethernet cable running from each player into the router, and a cable running from the router to the computer, all you need to do is fire up Engine, hit the LINK button on each player, and you instantly have access to all of your Engine analyzed tracks as well as your entire (unanalyzed) itunes library. If you have an ipad, you can download the Engine app and connect it to your wireless router via an ad-hoc network.


    Engine is the brand new music management software from Denon aimed to integrate music management and performance with their latest players. In other words, it’s their answer to Pioneers Rekordbox. Engine works with both the SC2900 and SC3900, and as mentioned earlier, both of these players can be hooked up to engine at the same time. Engine is light, taking up minimal resources to operate. It loads and analyzes tracks much faster than Rekordbox, and sends/receives data to the players with essentially zero latency. What’s also cool is that anything you do in engine or on the decks will transfer to either one. For example, if you save cue points on the deck while running engine, they’ll save in engine.

    Here’s a screenshot (from DJTT) displaying the engine layout. It’s clean and simple, similar in design to Rekordbox. The browsing area can be customized to display only the information you want. In offline mode, a nice and detailed waveform allows you to get into the track, settings cue points and loops right where you want them. Unfortunately, these disappear when players are connected, but Denon has hinted that realtime waveform display support might be added in a future update.

    The SC2900 is fully compatible with Traktor. The official Denon .tsi is relatively limited at the moment, giving you full control over Traktor with no LED or screen feedback. Don’t fret though! User mappings are already emerging on the forums that support LED feedback and on screen display of track information. What’s cool is that using any of the mappable buttons, you can create a deck change function much like the one found on the SC2000 controller. This means you can control 2 (or more) Traktor decks with just one SC2900. The platter is fully compatible with Traktor too, offering high-resolution control over your tracks. Check out the video in the additional resources section at the bottom of the review for a more detailed look at Traktor integration.
    Last edited by hoff; 11-26-2012 at 06:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Denon made it clear that it’s time for change in the DJ media player market. The demand for gear has never been higher, with new DJs emerging every second, so why should one company decide what features you need and how much you should pay? Denon didn’t cut any corners with the SC2900, and it shows. They clearly took suggestions to heart, and did their best to make a player that addressed the end user’s needs. From the features, to the build quality, they really nailed it with this product. If you take a second to look past the brand name, it becomes crystal clear that this is quite possibly the best static jog media player on the market, and at the very least, the best option in its price bracket. If you’re in the market for some new decks priced around $1k, it would be rude not to consider the SC2900s. Will these overtake Pioneer in the club environment? Probably not. Club owners are typically uneducated when it comes to gear, and will grab what they see to be the most common product out there. That being said, there’s no reason why the SC2900 shouldn’t take over the consumer market. It’s a superior product in essentially every way to anything its price range.

    Features: 5/5
    Functionality: 5/5
    Build Quality: 5/5
    Value: 5/5
    Overall: 5/5

    Additional resources:

    If you have any questions about the Denon SC2900, be sure to check out the official Q&A thread located here:

    Andre Cato took an in-depth look at the SC2900 in this video:
    Last edited by hoff; 11-21-2012 at 02:34 AM.

  3. #3
    Member Irrational_Fear's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Uk - Oxford
    Great write-up Hoff, cheers.

    My experience of them only extends as far as a couple of decent length demos, but I would definately echo a couple of the points mentioned- they do feel fantastically well put together, and make even the CDJ900 feel comparatively light-weight.

    Also the feel of that jog-wheel was my over-riding positive impression of them- it really is that good.

    Im going into the store to order a pair tomorrow afternoon.

  4. #4
    Moderator Mark_Spit's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    Stoopid Markham / Dumb Toronto
    Great write-up Hoff

    Denon always gets unfairly bashed. I still love my 3500 even if I don't use it very much.
    Ya gotta love corn, it's one of the only foods that says good-bye.

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  5. #5
    Member Estacy's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    I like how they also offer the 3900, its almost the same (say for a few small features) but has the moving platter which is amazing apparently.
    nice review
    'George Clinton meeting Kraftwerk in an elevator'

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Long Island
    Great writeup Hoff

  7. #7
    Member Delta V's Avatar
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    Feb 2012
    Way Out West (USA)
    Thank you for this. been looking to upgrade my CDJs for some time to something with USB inputs. I was a little off-put at how plastic and cheap the 850s seemed, in fact I preferred my 200s jog wheels over that platter. And the 900/2000s are a Little too expensive for just adding the features I'm looking for (Digital out, slip, link, 100% across every format).

    I'm also so glad they switched to plastic cue and play buttons, god I hated those stupid rubber pads. Honestly this may be the deal breaker right here.

    how fast does it load tunes from USB compared to the pio's, instantly?
    What features are missing on the 3900 that the 2900 has? That spinning platter is mighty attractive.
    Last edited by Delta V; 11-21-2012 at 10:24 AM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Delta V View Post
    Thank you for this. been looking to upgrade my CDJs for some time to something with USB inputs. I was a little off-put at how plastic and cheap the 850s seemed, in fact I preferred my 200s jog wheels over that platter. And the 900/2000s are a Little too expensive for just adding the features I'm looking for (Digital out, slip, link, 100% across every format).

    I'm also so glad they switched to plastic cue and play buttons, god I hated those stupid rubber pads. Honestly this may be the deal breaker right here.

    how fast does it load tunes from USB compared to the pio's, instantly?
    What features are missing on the 3900 that the 2900 has? That spinning platter is mighty attractive.
    it loads tracks relatively fast from USB. Obviously the bigger the folders ect. the slower it will be. Once a folder has been loaded up, loading tracks is essentially instant.

    Besides the static platter, the 3900 does not have slip mode or jog tension adjust. The 2900 does not have hybrid midi mode for controlling SSL, but the 3900 platter can't be mapped to traktor. other than that they are identical.
    Last edited by hoff; 11-21-2012 at 06:02 PM.

  9. #9
    Member fatcatdj's Avatar
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    Oct 2012
    all I can say Mr Hoff, is thats one bad ass set up. Stick it in a 12" mixer/ large CD player coffin, makes me nervous sitting on a table.....

  10. #10
    Great review, I am still debating the 2900s or 3900s.
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