16 december 2014

Denon DJ MC6000 MK2 Serato Controller



Evolution is a buzzword round these parts right now. Manufacturers don’t seem to be in the game of pumping out revolutionary new pieces anymore, because end users are largely satisfied with the range of features on offer. So it’s a matter of making existing things better. Enter the Denon DJ MC6000MK2 — it’s certainly not leaps and bounds ahead of the original, but instead aims to make the old model better.

The Changes

We didn’t get a chance to review the first edition, so instead of doing a forensic analysis of press releases and product images, it proved somewhat easier to just ask Denon. So for those existing users looking for the differences, here’s a handy list:

MC6000Mk1 & MK2 A/B comparison plus notes

MC6000MC6000MK2
Mirrored Pitch SlidersNoYes
Pitch Range KeysNoYes
FX Assign Keys48 (independent)
Software BundleVDJ LE 7 & Traktor LESerato DJ Intro
Full Version SoftwareVDJ ProSerato DJ/Video
Platter ColourBlackSilver
Independent ‘vinyl’ buttonNoYes
Unit Side PanelsSilverBlack



i. The MC6000MK2 has an improved USB port over the Mk1 version, plus the feature of ‘Line1/2 Thru to PC’ Mode – facilitates live digital recordings of sets and mix tapes to a PC 
ii. Being a primarily focused Serato controller, the MC6000MK2′s top panel has dedicated buttons for Serato DJ performance functions, ‘Roll’, ‘Slip Mode’ and ‘Censor’
iii. Additional (but full version ‘Serato DJ’ software) keys for Serato user interface views – ‘Panel’, ‘View’, ‘Area’ and ‘List’ plus dedicated controls for ‘Beats Parameter’, ‘FX Beats Tap’ and ‘FX Mode Change’ 
iv. To improve ‘error-free’ deck selection, the MC6000MK2 has four independent (as opposed to the Mk1′s two, dual switching) deck selector buttons 
v. Internal sound card on the MK2 model has a significant improvement over the Mk1, offering D/A conversion of supreme quality 
vi. Physical dimensions of both the Mk1 and MK2 are identical though general finish and feel of the MK2 has had attention. Control(s) layout has been more ergonomically tidied with focus on a smoother more efficient DJ user experience when playing live 
vii. Pitch sliders on the MK2 unit have been re-positioned to lower outside left and right of platters
So the differences are for the pure betterment of the original, as well as bringing it in line with Serato DJ’s expanding repertoire. Is it worthy of an upgrade if you own the original? Let’s find out.

An introductory note about the software

As a four channel controller with video, the supplied Serato DJ Intro works, but really doesn’t do this unit justice. You can run 2 channels in Intro, and perhaps run to external sources through the other 2 channels, but you don’t get the same level of effects, and can’t use video. So right from the start, I’m recommending upgrading to Serato DJ, and that’s how I’ve done the review. It’s an extra $129 on top, but will do the MC6000 MK2 justice. Why are you buying a four channel controller to only use two of those channels?

Recommendation — try Serato DJ Intro and see if it fits your needs. if not, then upgrade to Serato DJ to use all that the MC6000 MK2 has to offer.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (20)

First Impressions

I’ve used lots of small basic controllers, as well as lots of larger complex controllers. But this is a small and complex controller. It’s typical Denon — lots of stuff thrown into the faceplate. Things are generally lined up in the way they should be, albeit it a little cramped. Out of the box, the MC6000MK2 is a slab controls and a temple of monochrome, but it’s when you plug it in that it all begins to make proper sense. The various regions start to differentiate themselves from each other via the bright buttons, but we’ll get to those later.

The build quality is top notch. I love the chassis design — it’s like a slab of metal with knobs on. The ends are hard moulded plastic that should protect the whole unit, but sadly the mass of knobs on the front are going to need a little more TLC to stop them getting yanked off when being pulled in and out of your bag. I only say this as the MC6000MK2 is bag sized, and likely to find a lot of fans with those who play out a lot in smaller venues who are more likely to use a bag than a hard case.

As per classic Denon, there’s a lot of rubber, both with the buttons and knobs. And despite a degree of usual Denon randomness, the controls are pretty logically laid out. There is a little shoe-horning going on because of the limited space for controls though. I have to admit though that I’m a lot more comfortable than I used to be with the EQs and faders being offset.

Overall, the MC6000MK2 is a rock solid lump of high quality controls crammed into a very small but workable space.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (10)

The Mixer

We’ve been here many times before, so let’s not dwell too much on the basics. The MC6000 MK2 offers 4 digital and analogue channels. All 4 are line levels, with 3 and 4 being switchable to phono as well. Essentially, the MC6000 MK2 doubles up as a full controller, as well as a regular mixer too. While I didn’t test it, you’ll be able to hook up your chosen audio interface and run DVS software on it too. And no, you cannot run Serato DJ as a DVS without the necessary hardware.

The faders are all 45mm, with hardware crossfader curve control and software reverse and line fader curves. Given the size of the unit, it’s understandable that some of this be offloaded to software. And given the type of user, I imagine that this is a set and forget feature anyway. The only real complaint is that it’s all a little cramped. Shaving a couple of millimetres from the caps wouldn’t have hindered use and certainly would have gave a little breathing room.

A regular complaint about Serato partner hardware is the lack of metering. Thankfully the MC6000 MK2 does have some, and makes best use of the limited space. You get 7 part LEDs — 3 green, 3 orange and the dreaded red, and these are switchable between channels 1/2, 3/4 and master. I know we live in a digitally limited age where running in the red isn’t quite the audio crime it used to be, but it’s nice to have the meters there, especially if you want to run analogue through them too.

Cueing is fully catered for per channel, and has the added luxuries of split cue and a cue/master control. The only thing missing is a minijack. But I forgive Denon, because the target user is likely to be a more pro level user with pro headphones. Besides, who isn’t tripping over 1/4″ adaptors in their DJ life?

The only things not fully implemented are filters. I say fully because they do exist, but only for software users. Given that they’re pretty much standard on even new basic mixers, it does feel like an omission. But at the same time, it would have been incredibly difficult to cram them in, and I imagine that Denon did a lot of research before making the decision to implement them in this way.

4 Channels in such a small mixer was always going to be a challenge. Indeed, it was one of the reasons why I wasn’t a fan of the mk1. I was immediately put off by the the way the EQs didn’t line up with the faders, and also that everything seemed to be so shoehorned into such a small area. Those design details haven’t changed, but having played with the MC6000MK2 at length, I can honestly say that it doesn’t bother me one bit now.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (16)

The Decks

Clearly the MC6000 MK2 hasn’t got the largest jog wheels in the world, but what it does have certainly ticks lots of boxes. Granted they’re tiny touch sensitive wheels (silver this time round), but they certainly perform well enough for all but the most hardened of turntablists. I wouldn’t be expecting to juggle on them with any precision as they’re no visual indicators for platter spin. 

Oh wait… some of Denon’s slight disorganised bad habits have slipped in here. I’m all for symmetry with controllers, but let’s try to be consistent. While the pitch faders have been moved to a much better location, the pitch bend controls have stayed in the same place, and the assorted deck, censor, and slip controls placed asymmetrically. Denon had the opportunity to make perfect sense of these features, all I know is that it jars in this still slightly messy layout. In use, I imagine you’ll get used to it, but I would have preferred to see proper symmetry with these controls.

Looking past what I feel are poor logistical choices, the basic deck functions work and offer a lot of features. It may just take your brain a little time to adjust.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (14)

Cues and Loops

This is the one of the places were Denon sets itself away from the rest of the Serato controller crowd. While every partner and his dog are putting 2×4 performance pads into even the most entry level of controllers, Denon has stuck to more traditional controls, and appears to have left these controls much the same as the previous model, albeit with a bit of a cosmetic reworking, most probably in line with guidelines laid down by Serato. Thus auto looping is implemented, with crunch/expand controls, and the four hot cues double up as sample players too.

If you’re looking for the Denon DJ MC6000 MK2 to be a creative powerhouse like the Vestax, Pioneer, Reloop and Numark offerings, you’re going to be disappointed. This is fundamentals — still a lot of control of course, but basic in comparison. Not a bad thing, as not everyone need slicer or pressure sensitive performance pads.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (13)

Effects

Effects across Serato controllers all work in much the same way. On the MC6000 MK2 with Serato DJ, you’re offered 2 effects sections, each with 3 assignable effects, and can apply those to any of the decks.  There isn’t a master assign like with other controllers, but that’s a minor workaround to be honest.

With the supplied Serato DJ Intro however, the offer is somewhat limited compared to the full version, but does offer enough to keep many DJs happy. But again, to get the full multi-channel multi-effect goodness of expansion packs, that $129 upgrade is pretty essential, especially if you want to escape from the isolated self-contained world.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (15)

Track Loading

The MC6000 MK2 features a comprehensive set of controls that stop you reaching for your computer to manage your library. This is pretty standard stuff now that allows you to load tracks into the selected deck as well as jump between library panels on screen. To be honest, I’m probably at a point where I’ll stop talking about them in future reviews. For me, it’s akin to explaining how a mouse works if reviewing a computer.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (12)

Video

Unusually for a controller, there are specific video controls. These are a remnant of the original MC6000′s Virtual DJ heritage, but given Serato’s steady move towards having Serato Video as a major product offering, I guess it’s nice to have these controls included, however scant they may be. It really is as simple as switching the crossfader to be for audio, video, or both depending on your needs. To be clear — there are no video outputs on the MC6000 MK2. That is handled by the computer that you use to drive it.

Denon DJ MC6000 mk2 MC6000mk2 Controller Serato DJ Intro Review (21)

Ins and Outs

Firstly, we must cover the incredibly comprehensive microphone controls. I don’t remember a controller having 2 separate mic channels (one XLR/TRS and one TRS), nor do I recall any mic channel being so well specced either. Each mic channel has full three band EQ, with echo, and there’s a ducking control too. Clearly this is for the mobile guys, the wedding and karaoke DJs who will spend a lot of time talking, as well as having a facility for a singer too. These also play through, so you can use the MC6000 without a laptop.

Outside of playing to Denon’s core market, the MC6000 MK2 is fully endowed with everything a DJ will need, including balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outs, and balanced booth outputs, each with volume controls. You can also define what gets pushed through the booth output too.

There’s also a pretty cool USB audio output control. Via a switch on the rear, you can record via USB through different sources on the MC6000 MK2, and of course if you upgrade to the full Serato DJ, you can record all of your mixes internally. This won’t include mic channels or other sources, but you will get your set without all the shoutouts.

One finally thing to mention — you will need to take the power supply with you at all times. The MC6000 MK2 is not bus powered. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In Use

Having played with every single Serato DJ controller, the MC6000 MK2 was expected to be a little bit underpowered and maybe even a tad disappointing. But it was quite the contrary, and rapidly became a solid workhorse. Once I had got past the lack of performance pads, I put myself into the headspace of a mobile DJ, and was delighted with what I had in front of me.

Firstly, it’s compact which is often a key feature for DJs who play out with their own gear. And it’s built to last too, which again is very much in line with being lugged around and generally abused. The almost excessive mic controls are perfect for private parties where drunken revellers want to shout their favourite lyrics at a screen too.

Ultimately, I found the MC6000 MK2 to be a real swiss army knife — a proper jack of all controller trades. You can still get creative thanks to the features offered in Serato DJ, but the unit does an awful lot in an extremely compact, high quality, and cost effective way.

With Other Software

As mentioned, the MC6000 MK2 comes with Serato DJ Intro, but I fully recommend updating to Serato DJ to unleash the full power of the hardware. But it can be used with Virtual DJ and MixVibes Cross out of the box. Well it can when they’ve updated the software. But this is built-in supported compatibility. As per the trend, Denon will also supply their own mapping for Traktor, and NI have all but stopped mapping for 3rd party controllers now.

Summary

As I continued to play, I definitely developed quite a tech crush on the MC6000 MK2. I feel that this was because it’s compact and rugged, and definitely focussed on the needs of working mobile DJs rather than those who want more creative performance options. Of course, the MC6000 MK2 has a solid arsenal of tools, but despite being a Serato DJ unit, it lacks the 4×2 pads and the creative options that go with them.

But the more I thought about the MC6000 MK2, I came to realise an overriding fact about it — while it runs Serato DJ, it doesn’t try to take on the already full market of 2×4 performance pad enabled products. Indeed it stands away from the crowd and plays to Denon’s established strength — the mobile market. You only have to look at the emphasis on core DJ features and microphone support, as well as the stellar build and compactness to see that the MC6000 MK2 is a different beast to what are considered to be its competitors.

So if you’re looking for Denon’s answer to what everyone else has, then this isn’t it, nor do I feel that it’s enough of an upgrade for existing users, unless they want Serato. Instead, the MC6000 MK2 stands away from the crowd, and does its own thing in a most effective way. I wish it had filters per channel, and also wish that elements of the deck layout were better. I especially wish it came with the full fat Serato DJ.But outside of these quibbles, the MC6000 MK2 is possibly the most focussed mobile friendly controller on the market.

Ratings

Quality: Outstanding. It’s an offensive weapon in controller form.

Features: Some will say it’s missing key features like performance pads. I say it’s got more mobile focussed features than anything on the market.

Value: Really good. Reloop’s pricing is aggressive, Pioneer’s is always high, and Vestax is in a similar price bracket. This is more about deciding what’s right for you feature-wise, as this isn’t strictly comparing apples with apples.

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