Pioneer vs. Denon in 2023 – Why Denon Is Better for Some

Pioneer vs. Denon in 2022 - Why Denon Is Better for Some

Right now, Pioneer is undoubtedly the industry standard when it comes to DJ equipment. However, Denon’s forward-thinking method has landed them some heavy recognition, resulting in an apparent overnight rise to prominence. 

People liked to pay a little more for Pioneer in the past because Pioneer was the market leader regarding quality and innovation leader by far. 

Both are no longer the case – Denon is at least on par with quality and miles ahead regarding functionality and innovation. 

Today, DJs such as Laidback Luke, Oliver Heldens, MaRLo, and Maceo Plex play Denon gear on their gigs, while Paul Oakenfold used Denon equipment on his 2017 ‘Generations Tour.’ 

Yet, the debate of “which is better” is completely subjective and eventually comes down to the respective DJ’s needs.

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Which One is Better, Pioneer or Denon?

Whether Denon or Pioneer is better depends on the needs of a particular DJ.

Pioneer is better if you’re a beginner because it’s a larger company, has more products, and thus has extensive support.

If you’re intermediate, Denon is better because its controllers have more features. You can experiment more and upgrade faster as you get better (lower prices with Denon).

If you’re a pro, there’s no rule. Pioneer has proven its quality over the years, but Denon’s moving up.

Also, the thing is that Denon and Pioneer have different priorities.

Roughly you can say that Denon mainly covers the private market, weddings, and sometimes bars. On the other hand, Pioneer relies on continuity, sound, and good maintenance.

The supply of spare parts from Pioneer, for example, is excellent. Not only is there everything, but it is everywhere. Overall, one takes the pragmatic approach and concentrates on what is important to professional operators and DJs.

This is shifted slightly in the case of controllers and all-in-one units, but the general direction remains.

The Difference Between Controllers

Beginner units

Here we’ll look at the two most popular controllers. Pioneer and Denon DJ controllers are hard to compare on paper, particularly when deciding between Pioneer’s DDJ-FLX4 and Denon’s DJ MC4000.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to try both. Both are excellent choices for anyone just getting started in DJing, and both receive high marks as DJ controllers, but for different reasons.

The MC4000 is aimed at those looking for something tough to use at parties and mobile events. In contrast, the DDJ-400 is a classic emulation of its big brothers, the CDJ-2000NX2 and DJM-900NXS2 mixers, making it ideal for professionals and those looking for a smoother transition into using more industry-based gear.

Professional units

DJ equipment isn’t designed to be used on paper, and while the Denon SC6000 unit appears to have the CDJ beat on almost every feature, it’s not a true representation of the CDJ’s capabilities. 

Pioneer DJ has a stronghold on the professional DJ market, with CDJ models in nearly every professional DJ booth. This is both a blessing and a curse for Pioneer DJ, who are constrained by the need to provide a consistent and familiar product to their existing customer base.

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Denon is rewriting the capabilities of standalone media players, freeing them from the expectations of users who expect their ten-year-old USB stick to work flawlessly right away. Sure, the SC6000 can read and play a Rekordbox collection, but only after conversion, which is inconvenient for professionals who need to begin their sets right away.

With this in mind, it becomes clearer why the CDJ-3000 exists and its shortcomings. Although it does not match the SC6000 stat for stat, it does provide a worthwhile update to a larger user base. An update that will undoubtedly continue to sell well and be seen in DJ booths around the world before the Denons.

Do you want to embrace the next generation of technology, or do you need your USB to work at multiple locations? The difference between these two incredible players will be that, not the number of ports they have.

All-In-One Units

Pioneer currently has five all-in-one players out, while Denon has four. Denon has the MCX8000, Prime 2, Prime 4, and Prime Go, and Pioneer offers the XDJ-RR, XDJ-XZ, XDJ-RX, XDJ-RX2, and XDJ-RX3. 

Purely hardware-wise, the Prime 4 is the most versatile controller of these. Looking at each unit’s software ecosystem (for example, Engine Prime for the Prime 4 and Rekordbox DJ for the XDJ-XZ) can influence your choice. 

Denon’s controllers deliver the deck layering function when used with the software. That allows us to control four decks from DJ software using just the controller.

Price will massively impact the customer’s choice when picking a new all-in-one player. For example, the new Pioneer XDJ-RX3 is a solid standalone controller but should cost 1000-1200 rather than 2000, as is often the case with Pioneer: old technology, and old components at the level of development of the device generation from 2016.

Pioneer tries to be premium but has long been “outdated vintage,” to put it positively.

Due to the price of the RX3, the Denon comparison model would be Prime 4 – which is even cheaper, and that’s a bit like the VW Golf 5 base model versus the fully equipped Tesla 2021. If Pioneer doesn’t take massive countermeasures soon and state-of-the-art products bring or maybe even put back in some areas, they will gradually go under.

Pioneer Thrives in Professional DJing

Although Denon made a big announcement at the start of the Prime series that he would confront Pioneer in discos/clubs/festivals, their priorities did not reflect that. Basic issues were missing and were not followed up promptly.

In addition, there was a strong emphasis on things like streaming, which no professional uses. Nobody who approaches the matter halfway professionally plays songs he has never heard, especially if you can’t even change the analyzed speed of the players. 

Here’s an interesting b2b set from December 2021, where Roger Sanchez uses Pioneer equipment and Oliver Heldens Denon.

The most important thing for the professional sector is product maintenance and half-life. You can argue about the quality, but Pioneer products are durable, despite the plastic, and serve their purpose.

In the pro area, you get exactly what you pay for. I leave the entry-level and mid-range areas outside. 

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I haven’t had a good opinion about InMusic for years, and I haven’t had any positive experiences, regardless of the brand.

Many complain to Pioneer about how long it takes for the model to be refreshed. 

Pioneer takes a long time before something new in the professional field comes onto the market because no club or studio wants to buy and install new mixers, CD players, turntables, etc., every 3-4 years, not to mention the costs.

Here’s why Pioneer’s CDJs are industry standard

Now look at what intervals InMusic (Denon, Numark, etc.) throws new equipment onto the market and makes the old one obsolete, although there are still bugs in firmware or cooperation with software. SC5000, SC6000, X1800, X1850, etc.

Pioneer produces professional equipment for professional end-use. They are dependent on customer satisfaction (not private users, but traders), so everything has to fit and run smoothly “plug & play,” so to speak. And if there are problems, they have to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Even if not everyone likes the features, they are technically not absolutely state-of-the-art.

The others knock out one current model after the other, regardless of whether it is mature or not. Quite simply, the masses only do it for a short time, mainly through private users. 

Pioneer Benefits From the Legendary Pioneer Mixers

One must not forget that the success of the XZ is not due to the XZ itself because it is such a great modern device, but the success of the box is based on the remaining status of the CDJ 2000 Nexus / DJM 900 Nexus. 

Despite the old technology and the price that is not in line with the market position, it is simply the cheapest way to acquire an almost Nexus Club Set with small cutbacks. 

But if the 2016 Club Set status is down the drain, which is already creeping but constantly the case, this marketing concept no longer works. Let another five years go by, maybe even less, then it will be pretty tight for Pioneer – unless the owners of the brand think about it very quickly. 

With the Inmusic Group, Denon has a completely different power, structure, and specialist knowledge from the other subsidiaries to develop and implement new things. It is questionable whether Pioneer even has the necessary resources. 

And the tasks of a current Pioneer head of development would have to be caught up first – we are so far away from Pioneer as a reinvigorated innovation driver. 

On top of that, there is also the company philosophy Battle Inmusic “User first” vs. Pioneer “We are the brand you have to buy” – Inmsuic’s long-term point also clearly goes to Inmsuic.

If Pioneer can somehow turn the market upside down with new super products within the next 12-18 months, I would be very surprised. Even if Pioneer could catch up with the current Denon generation, Denon will present it again. 

But of course, you can also talk about it – just like I liked to do it myself for many years at Traktor – I probably still hoped for 4-5 years – but unfortunately, it was a slow and gruesome death. Very sad about a former world market leader in the DJ software sector.

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Both Pioneer and Denon Have Great Experts on Their Side

Denon (InMusic) brought Rik Parkinson from Pioneer at the end of 2019 as “Director for Strategic Product Development.”

So EVERYTHING that Pioneer has brought onto the market by 2020 is, to a certain extent, on Parkinson’s cap.

Whether it will be better or different at Denon, no idea, we’ll see.

The Pioneer team brought Andrew Bach (formerly Stanton, Gibson, Apple, Guillemot, …). What will become of it, I have no idea. Time will tell.

At least decades before anyone in the DJ industry even thought of standalone controllers, Drew Bach developed and launched the first functioning controller (Stanton SCS.4DJ from 2011).

With the first controllers with “moving platters” (Stanton SCS.1d from 2011), he also had his fingers in it.

Both were way ahead of their time. Ten years ago, nobody was interested. DVS, sound cards, mixers with integrated interfaces, etc., were much more important.

Oh, and he also has the patent for constructing the tonearm suspension of the Hanpin SuperOEMs. He developed it on the side and is (or was) a working DJ on the side.

In other words: The guy has a lot in the box. With a corresponding backup, insanely interesting things can happen.

However, we now live in very fast-paced and dynamic times. The music industry, the DJ industry, the nightlife – it’s all changing faster than ever.

Denon Focuses on Consumers and Pioneer on Customers

Despite its simplicity & familiarity with the vast majority of artists, Pioneer’s DJ range (on the whole) comparatively delivers less for more when stacked up against Denon equipment.

As a result, Denon seems to have focused on delivering more for less, packing as numerous features as possible into their gear, while also peeking at what Pioneer’s equipment is missing – all for a competitive cost.

Pioneer focuses on customers, even if they don’t generate huge sales with them. Denon put their focus entirely on consumers. And for that, you have to give the consumer more and more new things to consume in the shortest possible time.

At Pioneer, they tripped themselves with consumers for a long time. Even elementary components such as RAM buffers were dimensioned far too small, which meant that the Beat Jump size, for example, was ridiculously short as no sensible track caching was possible. 

Even banal user requests such as the Vinyl Speed Adjust on the XDJ1000 Mk2 can be changed to stop-time only, were directly rejected by the good Pulse.

Denon has to be credited with the fact that they now have a very solid software foundation after initial difficulties. 

You can show your strengths by using this software on all your devices without any major variations (in principle, only 7″ vs. 10″ display size and single deck vs. AiO station). 

There is no longer a lot of experimentation and adjustments. New features can be delivered via free updates. 

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and researching audio equipment. Tray has over 12 years of experience DJing at home and events.

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