A year or so ago,
a flatbed CD player came out, which looked like a scaled down vinyl
turntable and for those looking for no-frills alternative to
turntables enabling them to go wik,wikki,wik, pretty much built a
coffin for even the latest "better than Technics"
turntables. That same player was also a great way of warming up
the venue (don't touch the heatsink !!) Before nailing the lid
on that particular coffin, its now time to gracefully rest that
flatbed CD player inside too. Enter the Denon. The
Denon DN-D9000, to be precise. For the first time in several
years, a player has come out which offers considerably more
than "all-the-same-buttons, just laid out
differently". Read on....
Its happened to us
all hasn't it. You've got a full dance floor, and somewhere
between your tapping foot, your drumming fingers, and your
brain, a track pops into your head. It's the track that's going
to mix in perfectly to the current one and will drive the
audience into a rhythmic frenzy. In less than a minute though,
your hopes are dashed as you discover that the track of your
dreams is in fact on the same CD that you're already playing. "Oh
dear" you mutter, as you cue up some other track and
watch the dance floor frenzy cool, and the bar queue lengthen....
Picture the above
scene with your new Denon DN-D9000...The track you want next is on
the same CD that you're already playing. NO PROBLEM.
You press the "Alpha track" button select any track on the
CD that's already playing, even the same one. Cue it up,
listen to it in your headphones, adjust its pitch, get the beats
sync'd up with the track that's playing out to your audience.
(which is still playing regardless), slowly move your mixer
crossfader over, and watch the audience go wild. After a sip
from your pint, you pat the control panel of your Denon, accompanied
by a soft word of praise. Owning one of these units is just
like having 2 copies of every CD in your collection (but uses less space).
Unlike some other
players currently "leading" the market, however, the Denon
DN-D9000 doesn't just have one (previously) "great"
feature, bundled with and a few hum-drum ones. The amazing
Alpha track feature is just one of several world-first features
on Denon's latest musical miracle.
The back of the
drive unit gives you your first idea that there is something very
special about this unit. This double CD player has 4 (2 pairs)
of RCA Phono sockets PER DRIVE = 1 pair for Master (normal) CD
output, and another pair for the Monitor (Alpha track) CD
output. This means of course that you can plug the unit into no
less than 4 of your mixers inputs/channels at once, giving you
the ability to play, or just cue up any of the 4 outputs through your
mixers headphones, just like having 4 separate CD sources.
In the rare event that you'll be attaching this unit to a baby/2
channel mixer, you can choose to have both Master and Alpha
tracks playing down just 1 pair of phono's per CD-drive. With
the output level of the alpha track being gracefully controlled
by you, on the Denons own controls.
connecting lead, running between the control panel and the drive
units is well designed with a positive locking mechanism, to
prevent accidental removal.
The rear of the
main drive unit also boasts digital outputs, for 100% clean feeds to
mixers or digital recording devices. Its note-worthy that
the digital outputs on the '9000 still perform perfectly even when
the Pitch of the track is changed, and even when loops are
being used. Another "world first".
features include the remote fader start connectors, which, unlike
some other manufacturers "latest" offerings, work
with any "standard" mixers fader starts, not tying you to
buying the same brand of mixer & CD-decks, if you want
fader start. You can also pre-set the '9000 from the front
panel pre-sets to say how you want the Fader starts to work when
you (cross)fade away from the signal (go to Pause, or return to Cue point).
The front of the
main drive unit, is fairly straight forward. Thankfully, Denon have
sensibly stayed well clear of slot loading CD-drives, which
pull your CD and dust and smoke, into the player. In addition
to the two CD-drawers, there's a well protected power button,
an open/close button for each drawer (in addition to the two featured
on the control panel) and two very bright blue LED's which light up
the CD drawers when open, aiding you while loading your precious
disc's in the near dark environments that we all work in.
Thoughtfully, the LED's also flash to indicate when the drawers are
about to move. This is especially useful considering the
speed that these drawers close....faster than a Cash Register in
Dixons, on Christmas Eve.
mentioned in the manual, the drawers will also close automatically if
pushed the first millimetre. This is probably not recommended
but, its nice to know that if you accidentally brush against an open
drawer, it will close quickly, rather than stay out for more knocks.
The layout of the
3-rack unit control panel has been carefully designed so that the
display remains visible even when you are using the
controls. This may sound like a logical, common-sense idea, but
apparently some other manufacturers don't have any common sense
- evident by them slapping displays in the middle of jog wheels,
which are then hidden by the users hand/wrist when you're using the
search controls - Doh!
All of the Denon
DN-D9000's main action keys are large rubber buttons, which not only
illuminate internally, but glow in different colours to show
different modes, making the unit even more user-friendly. For
example, the drawer open/close button (which sensibly cant be
operated when the disc is playing - we've all done that too, haven't
we...), glows Green internally, when you can use it, Red when
you cant. The Cue buttons, Play Buttons (Yes, I do mean
plural, remember you can play two tracks from the same disc,
each side !), The looping controls, the sampler buttons, all glow
internally, colour coded, and even dim or bright if you're half
way through a function, guiding you and confirming whats on and off
etc. Its like having Mr Denon as your Roadie.
Each of the two
multi-coloured displays are sensibly located NON-centred, so your
view of the display is not blocked by your hands reaching for
the controls. Ample LED's compliment the colour display and
identify which buttons are on/off etc. To reduce the
button-count, and give everything a well-spaced feeling, several of
the non-primary buttons, perform extra functions if you hold them for
longer than a second. Both static, and where needed, scrolling
Text displays clearly inform you of anything that's happening,
without cluttering the display with bounce-to-the-beat graphics.
The status of each of the four, nest-able seamless loops are
clearly shown, with Open, looping, and Exiting loops all depicted.
Its not big,
but it is clever
One of the first
ways that the Denon DN-D9000 shows its intelligence, is that as you
rotate the selector knob to select the tracks, the BPM of each
track is secretly calculated without you even going near the Play
button. Its not big, but it is clever. The BPM read
out incidentally, changes almost immediately when you change the
pitch control. For unusual tracks, you can use hit the
Tap key, to the beat, to enter the tracks BPM yourself.
Not only is the
Auto/Manual BPM counter, a handy feature for mixing, but all of the
studio quality effects that the unit offers are synchronised to
the beat. No more tricky mental calculations to work out that a track
running at 133BPM needs your separate effects unit to be set to
about 451.1278 milliseconds.
But that's not
where the DN-D9000's problem solving abilities end. Do
your audience hate the way that many of today's dance tracks
suddenly drop all their beat, and enter a quiet ambient/trance
section (eg: Castles in the Sky - 30 seconds into the track, or
PPK's Resurrection)? By the time the beats come back, half your
audience have picked up their handbags (even the girls) and
drifted back to the bar. Sound familiar?
Or how about that
track that's great to dance to, but has a verse that contains enough
explicit lyrics to earn you a hard stare from the organisers
wife? (The '9000 has another way around this *&#@%@ problem too
!! - See the "Dump" effect, mentioned later)
Mobile Jocks in
particular, does this sound familiar? You've got 2 minutes left of
the evening, the village hall caretaker has made sure that
you've seen him glance at his watch six times in as many minutes, and
has told you he's going to pull your plugs out "on the
dot". You cue the last track up and tremble when you see
its over 3 minutes long and has one of those distinctive endings that
everyone's going to notice if you fade it out early. NO
problem. Whilst cueing the track, press a button at the
beginning of the section that you don't want played (maybe the middle
chorus and that usual lengthy instrumental break a third of the
way through), press another button at the end of the section and cue
back to your start point. When you play the track, the
player seamlessly misses out the Spliced section as if it were never
there. Hey presto, your 3 minute nightmare, just turned
into a 2 minute dream.
Everybody pitch in
The range offered
by the pitch control is remarkably wide. Even while a CD is
playing, you can change the range between +\-4%, 10%,16%, 24%
and even 100%. At this last setting, you can bring the CD to a
complete halt !!! or have it ticking over at a fraction of its
normal speed. Without getting too technical, the incredible
microprocessors within the Denon (2 per drive) are able to keep the
key, exactly the same, regardless of any pitch range you are using,
without any hint of the singer on the CD sounding like a deep
voiced lumberjack, or a squeaky chipmunk.
players offer this key/master tempo feature to a certain degree, but
most (even the well known brands) start adding deep
chopping/clipping/throbbing noises when asked to cope with much more
than a few % pitch change, due to lack of processing
power. The processors in the Denon handle all the master
key/master tempo ranges without "non-9000" distortion on
all, but the most extreme pitches (mind you, I think that even the
sugar-babes themselves might sound a bit distorted too, if
asked to sing "Freak like me" at minus 70% pitch.
Round and round
Denon were one of
the first to introduce seamless loops to the frustrated DJ, who found
that popular tracks were just too short, and that the 12"
remixes were often too different from the standard "Radio
edit" versions that the audience wanted. Also, buying two
copies of every such track, enabling the track to be extended by
mixing the track back into itself, was just too expensive.
Does this unit
have seamless loops? Of course it does...8 of them to be precise (4
per drive), as with most seamless loops, there are no time
limits as to how long a loop can last. And of course, when you
press exit at any time while the loop is playing, the track
just carries on perfectly from the end of the loop.
Each drives 4
loops can be nested, eg. A loop within a loop (within a loop, within
a loop !!), or used independently. So, if you'd like to
loop a tracks intro, to make it easier to mix it into a track that's
already playing, then loop the end of the track, to make it
easier to mix the next track into it, you've still got two seamless
loops left for creative looping of the middle portion of the
track. You can also change the end of a playing loop instantly,
shortening the loop each time, until your down to a tiny loop
(like a snare drum), looping several times per second, until you
release the loop by pressing exit.
Unusually, if you
set up a loop while the tracks playing (live), and don't get your
timing quite right (giving yourself either no beat, or a double
beat, at the end of each loop) , you can adjust not only the the loop
exit point, but unlike other players, also the loop entry point
- ALL while the track is still playing, until its perfect. On
other players, you'd have to just Hit "Exit" a live
loop, and cover your reddened face.
useful for "off-air" adjusting longer loops, is the Denon's
ability to play you just the few seconds before the end of the
loop, then the beginning few seconds after the loop. These few
seconds being the only parts you really need to hear to make
sure the loop is on-the-beat. The alternative, without this
feature, would be to listen to your whole loop, making brief
adjustments on each pass until it sounds "right". This is a
seriously good time saver.
Off to a Hot start
Hot starts are a
great mixing tool and the Denon has 6 of them, again per drive,
making 12 in total enabling you to instantly jump to precise
point (set by you) on any track on a CD. In practice, you could
set up a hot start for the first beat of the intro on track 4,
and jump instantly to that point as your current track starts its
instrumental break. Another great use of Hot starts
is to stutter parts of a track, just like you might do with a
sampler, but with the advantage that the rest of the track continuing
to play, unlike a sampler that would stop playing at the end of its
Sample time. An option on the hot starts section enables
you to have your selected hot starts play only whilst you're holding
down the button, further enhancing the creative options.
elsewhere in this review, the Denon 9000 effortlessly allows you to
combine several functions at once. So a few seconds
scratching ending in a rapid back spin of the platter, followed by
a hot-start, to resume the track from exactly where you
want it too, is a stunning effect, but simple to do.
Thanks for the memory
If you like the
sound of what you've heard so far, and are thinking that it would be
a shame to turn the unit off, losing all of the Cue points,
pitch, Loops, hot starts and splice settings that you've perfected,
fear not. The Denon offers you 5000 memory slots for
storing such information at the push of a couple of buttons.
Recalling the information is simple too. When you insert
a disc in the player, an icon on the display appears if the player
knows that it has memory information about a track on that
disc. At the push of a confirmation button, all the previously
worked out loops, splices etc are loaded up in seconds. A
friend of mine regularly curses two single CD players that he bought
recently, for although they have loop memory feature, he can
never remember which of the two players he stored the track settings
on, for any particular disk. This causes him the hassle
of having to attempt the mix manually, or playing some other track in
the one player, just to free up the player holding the memory
information. Like previous Denon's, the player will
automatically recognise and load memory information for any CD,
placed in either drive, regardless of which drive the memory was
If you ever get
close to filling up all 5000 memory slots, you can either delete the
contents of specific memory slots manually, or let the Denon
delete a block of the oldest memory slots for you.
In addition to the
above memory, the Denon also allows you to program the order of
favourite tracks (like a playlist) on up to 6 CD's. This
is really useful for background music applications, before the main
nights entertainment starts and again, the Denon will recognise
CD's (again, in either drive) which you've stored a playlist for
track listings, and will load the program up almost
instantly.. You can even insert track numbers into one of the
six programs/playlists without having to start programming from
Well actually 4.
(OK, I admit that was a lousy pun). Despite what some confused
sources currently have listed. The Denon has 2 Samplers
PER DRIVE. Each sampler holds 15 seconds of sound.(enough for a full
32 beats of most dance music). Each sampler can be
played/triggered manually to your hearts content, seamlessly looped,
have its start and end points trimmed, stuttered, and even
played in reverse (and even looped in reverse if you want it).
The samples can even be included in various ways with the
Effects and platter section of the player. (more on this later).
As if all the
above (and theres still more to come) wasn't enough, the DN-D9000 has
a selection of studio quality audio effects, which can be
applied to either the main track, the Alpha track or the
samplers. The 4 effects include Flanger, for those
whooshy jet aircraft effects, Delay, Filter (2 filter effects for
those popular remix effects where the track starts off like its
being played down a phone line, then builds to full-bandwidth sound -
at your own speed),and Transform; 2 effects, one of which even
transforms between the playing track and the sampler!! Offering 6 in
total, with the two each of the Filter and Transform effects.
Any or all of the
4 types of effects can be selected at the same time. Also all
the effects are sync'ed up automatically using the units auto
BPM counter (with manual override), so that the effects
"fit-in" with perfect timing to the track you're
playing. Each of the effects can also be adjusted
with various parameters, and their inclusion in the mix can be
separately adjusted from dry (no effect-original signal only)
to Wet (all effect - no original signal audible), or anywhere in between.
Each effect can be
configured to your hearts desire, then switched on and off/bypassed
as required. Want to know what your flanged/delayed
and transformed effect is going to sound like on that alpha track,
that you're about to play? You've guessed it, No
problem....Smooth transitions between the original (un-effected)
track, and the "wet" (Effected) track are facilitated
with the platter wheel, which simply glides your effect in, or out,
if the "instant on/off" that the Bypass switch gives you,
is too much.
Ok, you've seen
the pictures, and you've probably noticed that large 70mm Rubber
coated wheel, with rich blue back illumination, on each
deck. What does it (The platter) do? Well, quite a lot.
surface gives much better control over the platter than real vinyl,
or indeed it must be said, over the
"friction-challenged" control offered by other players that
have tried to make their platters look/feel like grooved vinyl.
What you cant tell
from any of the photos, or web-shots is how reassuringly professional
the platters feel. (and I don't mean that I've been fondling
that "Smoke gets in your eyes" group from the '60's)
The platter movement on the '9000 is silky smooth. The platters
feel solid, and I suspect have quality bearings "deep
down". Give'em a spin, and their momentum will keep
them rotating for a good 10 seconds or so.
The Platter also
has several effects/modes all of its own, separate from the effects
already mentioned. Drag Start, which gives you an
adjustable "speed up time", slurring the track like an old
belt drive deck would do, when you press Start. Brake
effect, which slurs the track down to a stop, like when the power
plug falls out of your turntable. Reverse Play, which (wait for
it) reverses the direction of playback each time you press Play.
Tail echo, which is BPM synchronised (and user length
adjustable) to give a pleasant remix type ending when you hit Pause.
Finally, and very
cleverly, the Dump function, which plays the running track backwards
when you activate the dump, but when you de-activate it, it
plays from where the track would have got to, had you not activated
the feature. Although difficult to explain in words, this
feature has been used several times on recent releases to disguise
offensive words in Radio edits. EG:
Shaggy and Ali G -
You know he really said "Erection" but it sounded like he
was singing "noitcerc", or when Afroman's "got
high" mentioned what he was going to eat a "yssup" but
the tracks flow, or beat didn't suffer.
vinyl? - No! BETTER than vinyl !!!
Firstly, if your
one of those oppressed soles, who is getting increasingly hacked off
that you cant get as good a selection of vinyl as readily as
you could even 6 months ago, but like to have a little scratching
session now and again, so simply HAVE to keep your Technics
SL12's (and all the cartridges, styli etc), prepare to be released
from your shackles. While one other CD player
manufacturer has made a player that is almost as good as scratching
on vinyl, Denon set their sights higher and have successfully
surpassed that. Its fair to say that the DN-D9000 offers
"Better than vinyl" scratching.
Like most features on the DN-D9000, the scratch feature offers
different settings/parameters. In this case, namely
forward sound only, Backward sound only, Forward & Backward
sound. The scratching can be set to work on the playing
track(s), or the Samples. Think of the cash you'll save in
replacement crossfaders. No more having to change you
input/transform toggle switches with a pen tip because the shaft
snapped off during a particularly heavy transforming spot you
were doing a few weeks back. The only people who will not
appreciate this feature, are the Spares department at your
As with almost all
the Denon DN-D9000's features, you can use several features at
once. Want to scratch to your hearts content (with or
without hammering your mixer faders), over a seamlessly looped beat,
while manually firing off one set of sampled vocals at the
start each "chorus", and firing off another sample at the
end? Mixing in another track off the same CD? You
do? The Denon DN-D9000 will do it for you, and even more
simultaneously too...and that's using up only one side of the player.
Is all that
scratching making you itch? Well, the platter is also used to search
forwards and backwards through tracks, adjusting the start and
end points of loops, samples etc.
Let's get personal
Do you get fed up
with switching on some of your gear and have to immediately change a
few things to get'em just the way you like it? Changing
the Time Elapsed display to Time Remain perhaps? Does your equipment
do "convenient" things, that you recognise are a good
idea, but just don't quiet work exactly how you'd like them to?
Like the way the CD drawer of your current player chooses to
auto-close, at the same moment you're loading the next CD? (oh, that
distressing sight of a closed CD drawer, with half a CD poking
out. (not at all distressing when it happens to someone elses CD of course).
By no means a
first for the DN-D9000, but certainly a feature that other
manufacturers seem to be oblivious to, is pre-sets. The
9000 allows you to set the way you want various features to work,
then it remembers them, giving you those settings as soon as
you switch on. These settings can be changed by you of
course at anytime of course, either briefly, or as your new presets..
The 9000's presets
give you control over things which are normally "factory
set". Such as which Time display you'd like
(Elapsed/Remain), how many seconds the CD drawers stay open before
auto-closing, how long before a drive will stay inactive before
dropping into "Sleep mode" (to further enhance longevity of
the quality drives), whether you'd like the auto-cue on or off
(This cues each track to the music start, which as you know, is
rarely at 00mins:00secs:00frames).
Very nice till
Once you've used
your Denon for a while, the last thing you want to do, is have to
send it away for one reason or another. Indeed, being a
double CD player, it would be a shame to lose the whole player for a
few days for a CD drive to be replaced, when the other CD drive
is working perfectly. NO problem (this phrase is starting to
become a catch-phrase for this player).
The CD drives are
independently USER removable. The manual even tells you that
you're allowed to remove them, and even what the part number
for the replacement drive. Four screws, a low-voltage power
cable, and a ribbon/data connector later, your old drive is
out, and the new one is in. All possible while the other drive
is still playing a track.
What will they
think of next?
Nowadays it seems
that as soon as you buy something, "they" bring out
something, which does even more. NO problem. The
Denon has a certain amount of future proofing, in the way that its
software is upgradable simply by inserting a CD
containing the upgrade data, into the drive and powering up.
OK, don't expect any software upgrade to suddenly give your player
twice the number of loops, hundreds of hot starts, or give you twice
as much sampling time, it wont. But there are already
rumours of a software upgrade to allow MP3 files to be played and
manipulated on the DN-D9000, being released in the
Autumn/Winter 2002, stealing the already diminished and humbled
"thunder" from other manufacturers, current attempts at
counter releases to this new world-leading player. Read