Denon has earned the reputation as a leader in the manufacturing of high-quality DJ equipment and is recognized worldwide for high standards of quality, durability and innovation. With the introduction of its new state-of-the-art DJ mixer, the DN-X800, Denon intends to keep that reputation. The DN-X800 is touted as the world's first digital and analog DJ mixer. The unit allows users to mix between (and interface) digital sources such as CD players and traditional turntable setups. An obvious task for the DN-X800 includes use as a house mixer in a club where different DJs can bring their own digital playback devices, but the unit is also perfectly suited to use in home studios and portable touring rigs.
First, here's a quick look at the DN-X800's mixing capabilities and performance features. The unit uses the same advanced features found on Denon's DN-S5000, DN-D4000 and DN-D9000 CD players. A new addition derived from these units is called X-Effect (short for expanded effect). This allows you to use the special features of Denon's dual-CD players from the DN-X800 itself. (It also works with other CD players.) You can trigger the sampler feature of the DN-D9000, as well as the hot start and brake effects of both the DN-D9000 and DN-S5000; users are no longer required to use both hands when working the CD player and crossfader at the same time.
The controls are laid out in a logical and user-friendly manner. High-quality 45mm faders provide level control, and the crossfader includes assignment and contour level controls for smooth transitions between tracks. Cue and program pan controls provide greater separation capabilities. The DN-X800 also includes input gain controls; high, middle and low tone controls; 14 accessible inputs for connecting to multiple formats; four digital S/PDIF inputs; eight line and three phono connections; two microphone inputs (balanced and unbalanced); and a balanced send/return effects loop. The mixer's eight outputs include two digital S/PDIF outs; balanced master and zone outputs; and unbalanced master, booth and tape outputs. A separate subwoofer output is also provided, along with a control for crossover frequencies.
As a producer in the dance/club market, I have worked hands-on with some of the best club DJs to learn the tricks of the trade. With my own personal expertise in live and studio applications, I found the DN-X800 to be exceptional for its purpose. It worked beautifully. However, I felt this mixer needed a real challenge. So I took it to a three-night gig with one of South Florida's top hip-hop DJs, DJ Scoobz, and let him tear it up. I chose Scoobz because of his incredible nonstop mixing technique and because he utilizes every part of the mixer — even parts you wouldn't think about.
At first glance, Scoobz was amazed by all of the available inputs and outputs and rejoiced over the balanced outs. Starting with those outputs, we connected the mains to the balanced out, ran the balanced zone to the club's VIP section and took the unbalanced outs to the booth. We also ran the sub out direct to the subs of the house P.A. It was exciting knowing the effect possibilities that one can create using the frequency control. However, we ended up removing them after discovering that the unit lacked a volume control for the subs. This can create problems unless you want to keep turning the amps up and down.
The DN-X800 allows you to record directly to a digital recording device with the included digital coaxial outputs. To record the set, I connected my laptop using the S/PDIF input on my MOTU 828 and one of the digital outputs on the mixer; I connected my DAT to the second digital out as a backup mix. The digital outputs on the DN-X800 maintain a constant 16-bit, 44.1kHz signal. We then hooked up two 1200s via the phono input jacks and a Numark dual-CD player to the digital inputs. The DN-X800 accepts any device with a digital output; the sampling frequency can be 32 or 44.1 kHz. We also connected a standard stereo mini-to-mini plug from the mixer to the Numark to take advantage of the new Fader Start feature. We used a Shure SM58 plugged into the balanced mic input and a stereo effects processor with the effects send/return loop.
Starting with the mic input, we tested it in the house and zones first. A basic EQ comprising high, mid and low controls is available on the mic channel. Fortunately for us, there wasn't any feedback. Having one or two sweepable EQs would be far more useful in most situations, as not every house is analyzed and EQ'd perfectly. Turning the mic channel on and off produced an occasional pop; switching the cable and the mic didn't solve the problem. We attributed it to a possible ground problem, but lifting it made no difference. The pop wasn't loud or even noticeable in the live mix; however, it did show up in the recording.
The DN-X800 produced a small amount of board noise through the analog outputs. It didn't produce any more than you might hear on most DJ mixers, and it would never be noticed in the typical club atmosphere — there was certainly no hum. On the digital side, no noise was noticeable at all other than the usual noise threshold of the turntables. And CDs came through flawlessly with no loss of digital sync or noise.
Scoobz could not control himself and had to try the new Fader Start feature. (Remember that we used a Numark CD player.) The channel-fader start and crossfade start from the channel fader worked perfectly. It was incredible — instant starting without a glitch. When used with one of the previously mentioned Denon CD players, the Fader Start can be used with the crossfader, sampler, hot start brake/platter and hot start 1 and 2. Users can start or stop the CD player by increasing or decreasing the level of the channel's fader or by using the crossfader — amazing control!
The Crossfader Contour, yet another great feature, allows DJs to customize the crossfader for their individual styles and ways of mixing. You can adjust the shape from long trance-style fades to steep pitch for the cut and scratch effects found in a lot of hip-hop mixing. The crossfader assignments worked flawlessly as Scoobz switched back and forth between sources.
Throughout the three nights, we both made comments, and I took notes. These are some of our discoveries along the way: The cue assignments are a nice feature and work great, but it would be nice if they were available on the channels. The EQs for the music mix work and sound nice for simple EQ chores. A 3-band EQ with bass, mid, treble and gain controls is available on every input channel and functions adequately. I would like to see a sweepable mid or a highpass filter incorporated into future mixers. The sub output is a great feature, but it doesn't include crossover points, which allows a loss of control. Volume controls for the sub output need to be implemented for club situations, though for most mobile DJs using powered subs, it may not be problem. The zone outputs are great for making your VIP section and the club owner happy (because you have your own volume control). Meter buttons on a momentary switch are great for checking mix levels instantly.
Wrapping up, we left the DN-X800 on for several nights of shows and had no problems. The mixer never got hot or had any apparent sound change. I brought in my 2100F on the second night to test it with the X-Effect, and it worked great. We didn't have a Denon DN-D9000 to test the sampler, but, nevertheless, this is an exciting feature. I found many of the features on the DN-X800 to be groundbreaking advancements for a DJ mixer; Denon really understands the needs of the modern DJ. A few missing items — such as lowpass and highpass filters, sweepable EQs and a subwoofer volume control — would put this piece right over the edge and possibly will be incorporated in the next generation. Regardless, the Denon DN-X800 is a brilliant, reliable centerpiece for the working DJ.
Special thanks to DJ Scoobz for his contribution.
DN-X800 > $700
Pros: Bridges gap between digital and analog sources. Compact, cool-running design. Interfaces with Denon CD players.
Cons: Minor noise with analog outputs and mic inputs. No subwoofer volume control.