Denon is a company that has strong roots with Serato, the leading DJing software company on the market. They’re often known for their larger than life controllers that come loaded with a variety of features that really add to the user experience and allow the DJ to truly get creative in the club or in their home studio.
Their latest standalone DJ controller, the MCX8000 is making waves in the music scene for all the right reasons, with a model equipped with the popular Serato software, an intuitive interface, and a premium controller that’s both powerful and reliable.
Versatile, highly portable, and featuring a solid construction that makes this controller durable and nearly indestructible, read on to learn if this controller really has what it takes to play clubs, and large venues, and if it really can meet the needs of both the analog and digital DJ.
Overview and Features
This controller is a few things:
- A DJ controller complete with built-in screens for Serato DJ
- A standalone USB DJ controller that works with files that have been analyzed in the Engine software program, or with regular music files via a USB stick
- A full standalone mixer with an impressive range of outputs, two mic inputs, and four channels.
Because of its design, setting up the controller will ultimately depend on how you want to use it. If you want to use the Serato software, you’ll plug the controller into your laptop in order to launch the program.
If you want to add external CDJs or turntables, you’ll plug these devices into the back of the controller.
If you want to use USB drives for just one or even both of the USB slots, then you’ll plug in a USB stick with music that’s been analyzed in Engine.
To use the controller with the included DJing software, you’ll need to hook it up to your laptop in order to launch the program. For external devices including turntables and CDJs, you’ll need to hook these devices up to the back of the controller.
The versatile design means there really are no limits in terms of how you DJ and what you want to do in a set.
The controller has a solid build that consists mostly of metal, so it can easily withstand heavy use and transportation. But despite the fact that it’s made out of metal it doesn’t have too much heft to it, which is definitely a plus for the mobile DJ.
The controller’s symmetrical layout consists of buttons made out of hard plastic, rubber pads, and rubberized knobs. The high-quality materials used really showcase the controller’s true quality.
The included jog wheels are capacitive with nudge at the edges and scratch behavior on top. They also have bright blue LED lights located around the edges which will start to rotate when a track is playing. One LED light will remain unlit to show platter position.
This model also comes complete with an extensive set of basic controller features including:
- Beat and key sync
- Manual and auto loop
- Needle drop
- Vinyl mode
- Censor and reverse
- Seven bar master
- Cue loop
- Loop rolls
- Serato flip.
On the controller, you’ll find forty-five-millimeter faders with the line faders offering a higher degree of tension. However, some DJs felt that the setup would’ve been better if the manufacturer used sixty-millimeter faders instead.
The crossfader has a nice feel to it and can also be switched out with a mini innofader. While there’s no crossfader reverse, the crossfader assign feature accomplishes the same thing. In the mixer section, you’ll also find a hardware crossfader control for engine, in addition to software for Serato. In Serato, the channel faders get software reverse.
The EQ offers only six DB on bass and kill to ten DB on mid and high.
This model functions as a full analog mixer, with the third and fourth channel offering line and phono switch. Hardware effects can work with all of the inputs.
The decks on this controller basically feel the same as they do on every other deck that’s Serato based. The five-inch touchable jogs and spin back have a nice feel to them.
Considered a Serato controller, this model has everything you need to DJ and then some, including velocity sensitive performance pads, DVS, and full four deck control. Users can smoothly switch from zoomable waveforms, to the library, and to the decks.
Because you can use both this program and the Engine library program at the same time, you can easily have a couple of DVS or Serato internal decks or a couple of Engine decks. Basically, you can use any combination you can think of.
This type of versatility is also perfect if more than one DJ will be using the controller during a gig. The only real issue people have run across with this controller is when it comes to syncing an Engine deck with a Serato deck. It simply won’t work.
Most DJ controllers that operate Serato have a similar feel in terms of functionality, so if you have experience with that particular software program, then you’ll feel very comfortable using this controller. It offers the classic Serato DJ controller experience, complete with a flip button.
You’ll also get the pitch play feature, which is perfect for the DJ who loves to experiment. For this feature, you’ll need to use the Pitch N Time expansion pack.
This model comes equipped with Engine, which is a popular library manager, and isn’t considered full DJ software. However, it makes plugging USBs into the controller much easier. In order to work some magic with Engine and your iTunes library tracks, you’ll first have to create a playlist and import those tracks.
Unfortunately, Engine isn’t able to handle Stem files. There’s a lack of beat grids in Engine, and because of this, Slicer is hit and miss. You’ll have to hit the slice bang on the beat and the beats per minute must be correct.
As a library manager, this program offers just enough of the basics for you to plug in a USB device and have it work efficiently. It’s a great program that can use your pre-cued Serato tracks. While it can be glitchy at times when it comes to importing playlists from iTunes, it’s a great program for the beginner and one that can help to manage your controller’s sets more efficiently.
Additionally, Engine only has one effect per deck, with a total choice of three effects. The effects are post line fader and pre-crossfader, which causes echo to shut off when the crossfader is closed. With Serato, you’ll notice that it’s all post-fader on every fader. However, compared to Serato, Engine tends to look much smoother on the screen.
As I mentioned earlier, this model works as a full standalone mixer. You’ll get a total of four line inputs, with a couple that are switchable to phono. This means you can use backup sources such as an iPad, or turntables, or CDJs. Both the mic channels are routed directly to master out, however, they both feature talk over, hardware echo and two-band EQ.
As you know by now, the controller comes with both Engine and Serato DJ, and while it’s totally possible to run both programs at the same time, doing so is actually pointless, unless used for switchovers. However, in the event that your laptop ends up crashing, it’s good to know that a USB drive and Engine can easily bail you out.
In terms of design, the manufacturer offers a more traditional approach to using CDJs or running turntables into three and four and using decks on one and two.
With this controller, any style of DJ can plug in their variety of gear and play a killer set. This really is a very versatile controller.
But using any type of deck with this controller doesn’t feel very natural. In the standalone mode with Engine, you can only enter in one letter using the shift function search, which only allows you to search for the title of the track.
Additionally, there’s no sort feature either. This makes the program feel somewhat disorganized, and DJs with a larger library will definitely struggle to find a specific track quickly since they’re only able to enter in that single letter for any song search. Basically, if you’re buying this controller solely for its standalone mode, then you may be disappointed.
The controller’s ethernet port allows the DJ to send metadata, which really makes this model stand out, offering more flexibility during a live set. As an example, you’ll be able to set up a light show using the software on a per song basis, this means when it receives track tags, it automatically knows to run them.
This gives the DJ the flexibility to change up their set or the tracks in their set on the fly and the light show responds automatically.
Can this Controller Play Four Tracks Simultaneously when Used as a Standalone Controller?
No, it can only use two channels when it has been switched to a standalone model. It only features the four channel capability when you use Serato.
Is this Controller Beginner-Friendly?
Yes. Both the controls and software programs feature layouts that I consider to be very beginner-friendly.
However, if you’re a beginner and prefer to use only one of the DJ’s modes, such as the basic DJ controller mode that requires the use of a laptop, then you may be better off with a lower priced model such as the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S8 DJ Controller, which offers many of the same features, but at price that’s more affordable.
Does this Controller Work Exactly Like a Dedicated Mixer?
It does, although for the beginner, learning how to mix can be a little intimidating, especially on a controller that offers so many different features and functions.
If you’re new to the DJing world and need a nudge in the right direction, click here to read my article on DJ Mixing for Beginners: How to Operate a DJ Mixer, where you’ll learn how to setup and adjust mixer-specific features in order to achieve the sound you’re looking for.