The Technics SL-1200MK2 has remained the standard in the DJmarket for so long that other turntable manufacturers could onlyhope to compete by reinventing the wheels of steel. Any companythat produced a DJ turntable with a similar or higher price wasconsidered utterly nutters unless the device offered a lot morefeatures and significantly improved performance. Recently, Vestaxdeveloped just such a unit, and now Denon has introduced theDP-DJ151, a quartz direct-drive turntable that borrows from theSL-1200's best features and adds a few captivating plot twists allits own.
At first glimpse, the DP-DJ151 looks like just any other SL-1200knockoff. The S-shaped tonearm, platter, and control configurationare essentially the same as the Technics turntable's, but closerexamination reveals several significant differences. The mostimmediately noticeable of those are the Pitch and Key Adjustbuttons located above the pitch slider. When engaged, the Pitchbutton allows you to adjust the platter's rotation speed ±12percent, a greatly improved range over the Technics' ±8percent. With the Pitch button disengaged, the rotation speedreturns to 0 percent.
Even cooler is the Key Adjust button: when you engage thisfeature, the record plays back at its intended key, regardless ofhow fast or slow the pitch-slider adjustment. Key Adjust is anabsolute godsend for DJs who like to mix records in key. Thefeature works only with the output-level switch set to line (theturntable includes a built-in phono preamp), but because most DJmixers have line/phono input switches, that is no hassle.
In addition to maintaining the record's key, the Key Adjustbutton makes it easy for you to create some wicked effects. Withthe pitch slider set to a faster or slower speed, you can togglebetween two notes. The button's solid action makes it easy toengage and disengage this feature in rhythm. Add some delay orother effects to the equation, and you can create some mind-blowingbuildups that go a long way beyond the material on the record.
Like the Technics turntable, the DP-DJ151 offers tworevolution-speed buttons (33 and 45 rpm), but when you press bothbuttons at once the platter spins at 78 rpm — a feature theSL-1200 doesn't offer. Drum ’n’ bass, happy hard-core,and gabber DJs with a need for speed will certainly love thiscapability.
Another notable feature is the Slow Brake button located abovethe unit's power dial; it lets you select from three differentbraking or startup speeds. When the brake button lights upconstantly, the platter takes about two seconds to come to acomplete stop or rev up to full speed when you engage theStart-Stop control. When the brake button flashes, the brakedisengages and the platter winds down to a complete stop even moreslowly; however, the turntable starts immediately at full speed inthis mode. With the brake button turned off entirely, the platterachieves normal, quick Start-Stop times.
THE DIGITAL DIFFERENCE
The one feature that truly sets the Denon DP-DJ151 turntableapart from the pack, however, is its digital S/PDIF output. Bysimply connecting a single coaxial cable between the turntable anda CD or MD recorder or a digital processor, you can instantlytransfer your vinyl recordings or scratch performances to thedigital domain with no problem. The DP-DJ151 is the first model tooffer this feature, and it's a welcome one that brings theturntable squarely into the 21st century.
Although determining the hardiness of a turntable's constructioncan take months or even years, the Denon unit held up admirably toall of my abuse during the testing period. The buttons, sliders,and switches feel solid and sturdy and operate without any noise orstatic. The platter's motor provides torque that is comparable toan SL-1200's, and the unit's heavy construction and four largeshock-absorbing rubber feet suppress rumble and skipping. Theheight-adjustable S-shaped tonearm tracks well, with minimalside-to-side sway, which makes it ideal for scratchingapplications. Although it doesn't have the locked-in-the-groovefeel that the new Vestax turntables provide, the DP-DJ151 shouldfeel comfortable in the hands of turntablists who have honed theirchops on an SL-1200.
Other noteworthy improvements over the SL-1200 are the Denonunit's RCA output jacks and removable power cord (replacinghardwired output and power cords), as well as its circuit design,which eliminates the need for a ground wire.
A NEW SET OF WHEELS
Offering several major advantages over the SL-1200, similarperformance, and a list price that's a full $100 lower, the DenonDP-DJ151 is a great alternative to the industry standard. Thismodel suits mix-tape production applications particularly wellbecause the Key Adjust button takes a lot of the guesswork out ofmixing records in key. The only real drawback to owning theDP-DJ151 is that you may get so used to its Key Adjust feature, thepitch slider's extended range, and the bonus of a 78 rpm speed thatyou'll feel severely limited when you have to use SL-1200 decks ata club or event.
PROS: Key Adjust button maintains pitch at any speed. Digitaloutputs. Speeds include 78 rpm as well as 33 and 45 rpm. Solidconstruction.
CONS: Slightly wobbly tonearm.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5