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DN-X300 mixer review - by Gizmo - April 2005

Denon are a company full of surprises. Hot on the heels of Pioneer's CDJ-1000, Denon unleashed a spinning platter CD deck in the shape of the DN-S5000. This spawned a sibling 3000 deck and suddenly everyone wanted to embark on a digital scratch frenzy. And everyone wanted a Denon scratch mixer as well - so Denon brought out a 4 channel mixer (the DN-X1500) to please the majority dance DJ's. It could scratch but wasn't really up to the rigours of your average fader killing scratch DJ. And suddenly out of nowhere, Denon had "D-Day" - and dumped a baby CD deck (the DN-S1000) as well as 2 scratch mixers right into our laps to compliment their growing CD deck range.

2 scratch mixers? That's like a range or something. Now Denon is a company built on quality so they couldn't really bring out anything less than excellent, but at the same time, they had to remember that the Denon turntablist market is pretty small - leaving a large market full of hard-up turntablists looking for Rane 56 quality and bargain basement prices. And thus a product brief was born and what follows is a cold hard look at what Denon like to call Rane-a-like.

The Basics

Let's get this out of the way right from the start - when Denon realised that the unquestioned No 1 scratch mixer was the Rane 56, they didn't mess around trying to come up with some cool and original styling. Oh no. They just went for the lowest common denominator and just made the 300 look like the Rane. In fact, when I first walked into the Denon stand at PLASA, I wondered why they'd plugged a load of Ranes into their decks.

Take a look at the picture - same colour scheme, same basic layout, and surprisingly the same solidy build quality as well. Denon have clearly realised that if they're to take it to Rane, they have to match the 56 as closely as possble. So if you're a Rane user, you're on safe ground as everything is where you'd expect to be.


Denon have added some EQ kill toggles. These toggles kill the EQ in 2 ways - firstly they be used to permanently switch one or all of the 3 ranges permanently. For most of us, I'm sure we'll be hitting the low toggle more than the other 2. Secondly, pushing the toggle upwards does a temporary kill. Like most toggles, there's a audible click but for a quick toggle it doesn't really matter. Now the location of the toggles has caused some concern on the net with some claiming that they must get in the way. Well for me, they didn't at all. I found them a little close together - reaching for a quick toggle is tricky.

But here's where it gets really interesting. If you grab all three toggles, they act as one big double throw transform switch. Grab all three and use them like a regular switch and you've got turbo transforms - really cool side effect from these switches.

One thing Denon have done here to keep costs down is to dispense with micro-faders and have stuck to knobs. Aside from the channel faders, it's all knobs and toggles.


The front panel is different as well. As simple as can be - fader curve and reverse for each channel. But unlike the Rane, the 300 has fader starts for each channel for all you suitably equipped CD jocks. And that goes for line channels as well as crossfader channels. But one thing the 300 doesn't have that the Rane does is crossfader curve contours for either channel.


Yes - it has three. One Penny & Giles crossfader and 2 Alpha line faders. And it's fair to say that this is where it fundamentally differs from the Rane. The 56 has it's own awesome non-contact faders - and they are in part what makes the 56 so damn great. But when you're trying to bring out a mixer to beat the market leader but at a cut price, something's gotta give.

A scratch mixer will live or die by it's faders but slotting in a P&G is no guarantee of success, nor does it mean it makes it a good mixer. The P&G in here is solid, if slightly loose but feels nice in the hand. But when in use, the crossfader does hit the faceplate with quite a thump. The cut-in and lag times on both faders are very good when scratching slowly, but ramp up the pace and both begin to suffer. It seems like the decay problem previously noted in the DN-X1500 is also manifesting itself here (although perhaps not as much). It can just about perform fast finger based techniques but it just lacks the sharpness of it's rivals - like someone has turned the fader curve a little - essentially softening the cut-in time. Slow down again and it returns to it's normal very good setting. I'm not saying it doesn't cut OK, just not like it's peers. It might just take some time to get used to.

The other stuff

There's little point pouring over every little detail of each feature as these days, they're all much of a muchness so in brief:

Aux Channel: As with any other mixer, there's an aux input channel - especially useful for that iPod input.

Mic channel: Am I alone in simply not needing a mic channel? Well for those of you that do, it's here. 2 channel EQ and talkover switch.

EQ: Any scratch mixer worth it's salt has EQ's with full kills - and the 300 is no exception. A nice -40dB to + 10dB sweep gives a lot of control - and let's not forget the EQ kills toggles as well. And it's switchable on or off.

Effects loop: Becoming a standard feature on most scratch mixers these days is the effects loop. On/off toggle with wet/dry knob - but this effects both channels at once.

Balance: Left/right balance control for each channel.

Booth: As the name suggests, booth volume adjustment

Cue section: It get's a little more interesting here as Denon have expanded on the regular cueing section found on most other mixers. You have the option to switch between inputs - ch1, ch2, both, master or aux in. And you can fade between cue and master as well. And to top it off, there's a split cue button as well, allowing you to hear the cue in the left ear and master in the right.

Round the back

Having crammed so much into the mixer on the top, you quite rightly expect that the rear panel might well be equally full. And it is for sure.

Starting with the power supply. For some reason, Denon have gone for the RJ45 connector for the power supply. Hmmm... not a fan. I've broken more ethernet cables than I care to mention. But I guess it stops it getting pulled out.

As mentioned previously, there an effects loop and to enable proper usage of an external unit, 1/4" inputs and outputs are provided.As far inputs go, each channel has a switchable line/phono input plus a separate 3rd line input as well as an aux in as well. Outputs are balanced and unbalanced and booth out, and to round everything off, there's fader starts on both channels.

In Conclusion

In the skratchlab, I have the Pioneer 707, Ecler 360, Xone 02 and of course the Rane 56. This does put me in the enviable position of being able to test the X300 against the best mixers on the market.

The Denon DN-X300 is a high quality, highly spec'd scratch mixer that's chocca block with pretty much every feature you'd find on any scratch mixer and then some. It's clearly aimed at replicating the success of the Rane 56 but for a non wallet denting price. But that's a hard act to follow. And while it certainly does put in a very good show, there's a key fundamental area that it does fall down on - the crossfader.

I've got used to the ultra light feel of the Ecler 360 and the equally awesome instantaneous cut in and log of the Pioneer 707. Sadly the X300 just isn't in the same class fader wise. If you're new to turntablism then this might be OK for you but you really must try before you buy.


For everyday DJ use - 85%

For scratch DJ's - 65%

For more info visit Price - £379/€450/$399

Pros: Quality, features and the street price is becoming bargain basement (£299!)
Cons: The crossfader for serious tablists. Such a shame...

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