Denon DJ has announced an industry first for DJ gear: starting today, a new software update allows its Prime 4 standalone player and its SC5000 and SC5000M media players to directly connect to the internet via Ethernet or built-in Wi-Fi. The feature was first beta tested a few months ago, but is now available for all and allows Denon’s devices to play music straight from streaming services. The company’s first partner is Tidal, and it plans to integrate SoundCloud, Beatport, and Beatsource early next year. This rollout means a DJ could show up to a club with Denon gear and play from Tidal’s entire catalog without having to bring any additional hardware.
Built-in internet connectivity feels like a wild landmark feature for a product category in 2019, but DJ gear has mostly stayed away from integrating it. Aside from the complications of inking and carrying out deals with streaming services, the idea of relying on stable Wi-Fi with no latency or dropouts while DJing is still a valid fear.
Because of this, and a variety of other reasons (like decades of DJs used to bringing physical media to gigs), DJ gear existed for a long time without the need for Wi-Fi. So, now, Denon DJ tells The Verge that delivering baked-in Wi-Fi is a technical challenge for many DJ gear companies since their devices historically haven’t had components that allow for Wi-Fi use without the need for additional hardware.
Despite all this, DJing with streaming music is catching on. Plenty of DJ apps have integrated streaming, like Rekordbox DJ and Djay Pro 2, and there are DJ controllers specifically built to pair with smartphones and laptops for streaming. But all of these streaming integrations so far mean you’re still either DJing with an app directly on your phone, tablet, or laptop, or DJing with an app by plugging one of those things into DJ hardware.
To use the new feature, a Wi-Fi symbol should appear on the Prime device’s screen when selecting your media source. You can then choose any available network, pop in the password if needed, and tap connect. A settings cog next to the network will show more information like the network’s strength and security. Then you’ll have to link your Tidal account to the Denon device. Once that’s done, your Tidal account will show up on the screen, and you can scrub through saved playlists, favorited tracks, or search the entire Tidal catalog. The track will be analyzed for BPM, musical key, and beat grid, and then, things like hot cues and loops can be set like on any other device.
Denon says that DJs using Wi-Fi and Tidal on Prime devices won’t have to worry about dropouts or latency since the Tidal tracks aren’t being played as live streams. When a song is selected to play, the entire thing is buffered as an ephemeral copy to the device’s internal memory. That temporary copy only exists until another song is loaded up and writes over it, or until the user logs out. (Of course, you’ll still need a reliable internet connection to download those copies in the first place.)
There are some other new features with Denon’s latest software update. DJs can now tap the album artwork from the track list on the Prime SC5000 and SC5000M players to preview tracks without loading them, and tap across a track title to “needle-drop” different parts of a song. There’s also a new Zoneplay feature that lets a DJ send a dedicated playlist to a separate zone or room with automatic crossfade transitions between songs. There are also some more minute updates, like finer adjustments for loops and improved search speed.
This is a cool first, but only a handful of people can benefit for now: Tidal’s subscriber base is small and not many venues have Denon Prime gear on hand. Denon has been aggressively updating and pushing new features to its Prime series of media players ever since they were first introduced in 2017. When I attended a hands-on for the Prime series that year, a Denon DJ rep told me that the company had “over-engineered” the tech, expecting its capabilities to stay up to date for at least five years. By introducing built-in Wi-Fi two years after launch as an industry first, Denon is thus far living up to that promise.