DJ controllers with built-in screens have exploded in popularity. Having to constantly look at your laptop can take you out of the moment. In this review, we check an excellent controller that can keep you focused on your set.
Denon Prime 2
The Denon Prime 2 is the follow-up to the hugely successful Denon Prime 4. This refined 2 deck version is both cheaper and more compact.
There is an extensive range of features on the Denon Prime 2. Let’s dive into the details to see what this controller has to offer both new and established DJs.
The central mixer section of the Denon Prime 2 has everything you need to execute your mixes.
There are 2 channels with faders that feel robust and of good quality. Above each fader is a cue button, 3 band EQ along with a Filter knob. This controls the Low and High pass filters. Each channel also has a dedicated Level knob. The channels have independent VU meters so you can keep an eye on your levels.
The Denon Prime 2 offers a spacious central mixer section.
The central crossfader is also replaceable which is an excellent option if you have a preferred fader. Or if you happen to be rather aggressive and break it. Crossfader curve preference is also available on the front panel of the unit.
Above the crossfader, you’ll find the Cue/Mix controls. You can adjust the level along with the Cue/Mix amount. A Split button completes your options here. This allows you to run Split Cue which some DJs prefer. This feature is where the master plays in one ear and the cued track in the other.
Above the “Phones” section are Master VU meters to monitor the overall output level. These are in the signature Denon green, white, and blue combination of colors. Above them are browse controls. Load buttons, Back, Forward, View, and a large knob give you plenty of quick control at your fingertips.
The central mixer section is spacious and logical. Though it is only 2 channels which may be a dealbreaker for some DJs.
The Denon Prime 2 runs Engine OS hardware and offers Engine Prime Music Management software. The software has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Initially, it was the weakest link of the Denon Prime ecosystem. With consistent updates, it is starting to catch up to mainstays like rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ Pro. But, it still is not as polished.
The Prime 2 doesn’t offer support for Serato DJ Pro. Something that the Prime 4 does. If you are already familiar with Serato there is no word on if support is coming for the Prime 2. Virtual DJ is available as an option if you already use that software.
The Denon Prime 2 is also compatible with SoundSwitch and Resolume for effective stage lighting control.
The support for streaming is also impressive. With built-in Wi-Fi or hardwired ethernet connection, you can stream from a big range of services. Support includes Beatport Link, Beatsource Link, Dropbox, Soundcloud Go+, and Tidal. This opens up a staggering amount of music and choice. If you don’t have an existing library you can sign up for a service and be mixing with thousands of tracks instantly.
The Prime 2 offers the same jogwheels as the Prime 4. These 6-inch metal jogwheels are touch capacitive and feel great to use. Each jogwheel also features a small screen. You can see loop information, album artwork, or even apply a custom logo. It’s a nice touch to add some personalization. But, they lack the large spread of information available on the jogwheel screens of the DDJ1000.
The Denon Prime 2 has solid and dependable jogwheels.
Beyond feel and aesthetics, the jogwheels offer a few more features. You’ll have access to Censor, Reverse, Slip, and Vinyl mode. Features I would expect at this price point. The other interesting feature is the ability to alter the Stop Time from Fast to Slow. This impacts how quickly the track stops after hitting the pause button.
While not as large as other controllers the Prime 2 offers dependable jogwheels. The feel is good and scratch DJs should have no trouble adjusting.
The Denon Prime 2 features full-length 100mm pitch faders. You can adjust the pitch range as well if you do mix with large BPM ranges. As always large smooth pitch faders make the process of beatmatching by ear more seamless and efficient.
Further controls include Sync mode for automatically matching BPM and Beats. You’ll also have access to Key Sync to maintain the Key of the track irrespective of BPM changes. Pitch bend buttons complete the controls available to you. You can use these to momentarily increase or decrease the pitch of the track.
The Prime 2 offers a bank of performance pads for each deck. 8 pads on each side that are very responsive and feel great to use. Feature-wise they can control 4 modes. A little restrictive compared to other premium controllers but still a decent range.
The Denon Prime 2 performance pads feel great to use.
The first mode is Hot Cue. Used to set and trigger Cue Points. Next up is the Loop mode as an alternative to using the other dedicated loop controls available on the controller. Roll mode is the third option for triggering a loop while the track continues to move forward in the background. Finally, the Slicer allows for quick beat juggling.
There is nothing groundbreaking here but all the functions are well known and popular.
The Prime 2 also offers FX controls. Above each deck, you’ll find the FX activation button along with further controls. You can scroll through available FX and activate them easily. You can also adjust the FX Time/Parameter and the Wet/Dry mix. The only shortfall here is that you can’t layer multiple FX at the same time. If you like to mix using aggressive FX combinations this controller won’t be able to deliver.
Beyond the looping controls available on the performance pads you can also manipulate loops another way.
To the top left of each jogwheel, you’ll find a loop knob along with buttons. In and Out buttons are available for manually setting a loop. But the feature I like is the ability to set an auto loop by pressing down on the knob. From there you can increase and decrease the loop by rotating left or right. You can also move the loop forward or back while holding the Shift button.
I’ve always enjoyed controlling loops with a knob as it was a feature I heavily used on early Traktor controllers. No matter what way you prefer to activate and manipulate loops the Prime 2 will have you covered.
The Denon Prime 2 features a large range of connection options.
You’ll have access to balanced XLR Master output along with unbalanced RCA. This is usually enough to cover connecting to most speaker systems. An extra balanced Booth output is also available. I’m happy they opted for a balanced option over RCA here.
Two TRS/XLR combo jacks offer you the ability to connect two microphones. Microphone controls are another solid feature of the Prime 2. Level controls are available for each microphone. A master 3-band EQ will control the output of both microphones. Finally, a very handy Talkover feature is available. A great option for working DJs that need to also MC and make announcements. Not having to manually lower the volume when using the microphone is a small quality of life tool that mobile DJs love.
The Denon Prime 2 offers extensive control over connected microphones.
There is one solitary RCA AUX input. You can use this to connect with another media player. But, unlike the Prime 4, there is no capability to connect turntables.
The Denon Prime 2 also offers a total of 3 USB ports. 2 of these ports are available for loading of music while the third is a mobile device charger. A further SD slot is also available. To complement these options the Denon Prime 2 also includes a dedicated bay for a hard drive. This makes the Prime 2 an excellent all-in-one controller. Rounding out the options is the choice between a ¼-inch and ⅛-inch headphone connection.
An extensive range of connection options that are capable of handling a wide variety of situations. Not as fully featured as the Prime 4 but more than enough for most DJs.
One of the most appealing elements of the Prime 2 is the beautiful touchscreen. This central 7-inch screen is the hub of the controller. It’s bright, responsive, and contains all the information you need. You can manage and adjust settings and also manage your performance. At a glance, you’ll be able to load and prepare tracks.
The full-color touchscreen is a joy to use.
The screen is smaller than the Prime 4 but about the same size as the Pioneer range of controllers with built-in screens. But that is where the differences end. While Pioneer’s screens are starting to show their age the snappiness of the Prime 2 is fantastic.
The only downgrade from the Prime 4 is the lack of tilt control of the screen. While not a dealbreaker it is a feature I wish was available on the Prime 2.
Despite a few differences, it is a joy to use and one of the biggest selling points for the Prime line from Denon.
The Denon Prime 2 is a more compact controller than the Prime 4. While the Prime 4 is large and cumbersome to cart around the Prime 2 is far more comfortable to take to gigs.
The Denon Prime 2 is large but still portable.
At 15.9 lbs. (7.2kg) it’s also lighter than the Prime 4. If the sheer size of the Prime 4 has put you off, the Prime 2 is an excellent alternative.
Build Quality & Design
The look and feel of the Denon Prime 2 are in line with the other controllers in the Prime range. The distinct Denon colors are on full display. The layout is clean and logical and the component quality is also very high. The same architecture of the Prime 4 remains.
While missing some of the more advanced features the Prime 2 is still a professional-grade controller. The pads, faders, knobs, and jogwheels ooze quality. Denon has an excellent reputation for quality gear and that is also the case here.
The Denon Prime 2 is an attractive and professional looking controller.
The only drawback is that the price difference between the Prime 2 and Prime 4 is not that much. Considering the reduced features I was expecting a lower price. With a smaller screen, 2 channels and cut features it could have been cheaper. Despite that, it is still an affordable all-in-one unit that is miles ahead of the competition. If you can save up a bit more the Prime 4 offers even better value.
What Others Have To Say
People do enjoy the Prime range of controls and often mention the build quality and feature set. The only gripe seems to be the Engine Prime software which is still not as polished as the competition.
How To DJ Anywhere
One of the benefits of a standalone controller is the ability to set up and DJ anywhere without the need for a laptop. The only caveat is that you have power. Want to play in the park? Or in a friend’s backyard? Here are some tips to get you rocking any location.
With the right equipment you can DJ practically anywhere.
The first thing you’ll need is a portable power source. A portable battery pack or battery-powered generator is often enough to power your controller and some speakers. But reliable models can be expensive.
The next thing is portable speakers. Many consumer-level portable speakers offer Bluetooth connectivity. While this may seem good on the surface expect to deal with audio delays. Small portable PA systems are a good alternative.
With your controller, battery pack, and portable speakers you can set up and DJ practically anywhere. Just keep in mind any local laws around volume and time restrictions. The last thing you want is for your gear confiscated or paying a big fine.
The Prime 2 offers some excellent features in a great package. But there are other controllers worth considering. Here is a small selection of choices.
Pioneer XDJ RX2 Review
The Pioneer XDJ RX2 is the natural comparison to the Prime 2. Both are 2 channel controllers with a screen built-in. But there are some differences worth noting.
- The layout mimics club gear which is great if you have ambitions to play professionally.
- Full software. Use standalone or connected to a laptop.
- The touchscreen is not as snappy as the Prime 2.
Read our full Pioneer XDJ RX2 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer XDJ RX2
Denon Prime 4 Review
If you are willing to spend more the Prime 4 is a big step up from Prime 2. Access to more connection options and a bigger screen are just some of the upgrades.
- A huge 10-inch screen offers plenty of real estate for track/performance information.
- Capable of connecting turntables. Plus additional zone output.
- Same Engine Prime software that lags behind the competition. But, it does offer Serato support.
Read our full Denon Prime 4 review for more detailed information.
Denon Prime 4
Pioneer DDJ 1000 Review
If the standalone option is not a concern the Pioneer DDJ 1000 is also worth considering. It has full capability to connect to external gear and offers 4 channels.
- Full-size jogwheels that feel great to use. A good choice for scratch DJs.
- Maintains the Pioneer layout that has become the club standard.
- No flexibility when it comes to software. Will only work with Rekordbox.
Read our full Pioneer DDJ 1000 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DDJ 1000
Should You Buy?
The Denon Prime 2 is an excellent controller. The gorgeous screen allows you to focus on your gear. The controls and layout are intuitive and mixing is a joy. While not huge the jogwheels are capable.
If you want a 2 channel standalone controller it is up there with the best. And with continual updates to Engine Prime software, I can only see this controller getting better and better.
Denon Prime 2