Denon DJ: Pioneer’s Biggest Threat?

For the best part of the 21st century, Pioneer DJ has dominated the DJ market. From the CDJ-200’s release in 2004 to the CDJ-3000’s release last year, the Japanese giants have always had a stronghold over the industry. On the club & festival circuits, most venues will have a pair of CDJs & a DJM. However, in recent years, the tides have started to turn in Denon’s favour. With some of the scene’s biggest DJs jumping on board, as well as offering equipment at a competitive price, the now-U.S-based company are starting to seriously gain the recognition they’ve been striving for.

“Wait, what am I missing here?”

Despite its sheer size & dominance within the industry over the past 2 decades, there are still, inevitably, consumers who are left asking for more. Pioneer’s DJ range doesn’t have any glaring flaws per se, more so, there are things that can be improved on.

Since its acquisition from D&M Holdings in 2014, Denon’s parent company; inMusic Brands, has seemingly invested a lot of time into looking at what customers don’t like about Pioneer, just as much as what they do like about Pioneer. Despite its simplicity & familiarity amongst the vast majority of DJs, Pioneer’s DJ range (on the whole) comparatively offers less for more, when stacked up against Denon gear. As a result, Denon appears to have focused on offering more for less, packing as many features as possible into their equipment, while also looking at what Pioneer’s gear is missing – all for a competitive price.

“But, you get what you pay for”

More often than not, the aforementioned idiom is indeed valid, however, in this scenario, Denon seems to acknowledge that not everyone necessarily has the money to pay for what they truly, ultimately want, hence why the lower price tag isn’t entirely a reflection of the product’s actual value.

In a 2020 survey conducted by Digital DJ Tips, 35,073 were surveyed to observe the industry’s current state and where it could soon lead toward. It showed that more than 70% of participants made 10% or less of their total income from DJing & producing. In addition to this, nearly 50% of participants were either bedroom or mobile DJs. Furthermore, nearly 40% of people claimed to have a laptop & controller setup, with 70% of all participants saying they plan to upgrade their equipment within a 12-month time frame.

Given this information, it’s quite clear that many individuals don’t necessarily have the budget for a pair of AUD$4000 (each) CDJ-3000s, hence why Denon’s cheaper (but not lesser) alternatives to some of Pioneer’s flagship equipment have sold so well. Of course, on the whole, DJing is an expensive hobby, so DJs will always expect to pay a pretty penny for any sort of equipment they buy, however, whenever they can save a substantial amount of coin, they surely will.

“Okay, genius, explain”

In an article published in February via DJ Mag, the following is explained by Mick Wilson

When talking about Denon’s SC6000;

“While the CDJ was born out of a time where physical medium (CD) was the focus, the SC6000 has come from a period where many DJs are used to digital DJing software.”

This very quote here, is arguably what sets Denon and Pioneer apart. Denon’s willingness to adapt to the times at a much quicker rate is quite evident. When looking at both companies’ all-in-one standalone consoles, the Denon Prime 4 boasts 4-channel capabilities, built-in wifi, SSD-storage support, and Tidal compatibility. The XDJ-RZ, however, does not contain any of those features. The same story rings true when looking at the SC6000 & CDJ-3000. The Denon SC6000 is WiFi-enabled, and also incorporates streaming services such as Beatport LINK, Beatsource LINK, TiDAL and SoundCloud Go. Once again, Pioneer’s model does not bear any of the aforementioned features.

However, technological differences aside, Denon also boasts another advantage. In the DJ controller market, Pioneer has some stiff competition. Brands like Denon, Native Instruments, Numark & Rane each have their own controllers to rival Pioneer, however, when looking at media players (decks), the narrative is very different. In the media player market, the market share ladder goes as follows; Pioneer & Denon – absolute daylight- all other brands. Due to a lack of strong competition, Denon’s market share in this scenario is quite significant, thus giving them a significant chance to leapfrog Pioneer. However, because people are always more comfortable with what they know, many consumers are still hesitant to try out Denon gear. Hence why brand ambassadors such as Laidback Luke & Oliver Heldens play such a large role in Denon’s rise to the top. If the top, DJs are using them, they must be good, right?

However, this article isn’t a Denon advertisement – it’s an analysis. Pioneer has been the industry standard for so long, for a reason. The sturdy build of their equipment, as well as the simple, easy-to-navigate layout, has evidently been a hit with consumers. The XDJ controller range all boast mechanical jog wheels, closely emulating that of the CDJs, compared to Denon’s capacitive jog wheels. Some users have noted that Denon products’ build quality doesn’t quite stack up against that of Pioneer’s, however, this appears to be subjective.

“Ummm… TL;DR please?”

Pioneer is, right now, unquestionably, the industry-standard when it comes to DJ gear. However, Denon’s forward-thinking approach has landed them some serious recognition, resulting in a seemingly overnight rise to prominence. Artists such as Laidback Luke, Oliver Heldens, MaRLo and Maceo Plex, all now request Denon equipment on their riders, while Paul Oakenfold also used Denon gear throughout his 2017 ‘Generations Tour’. However, ultimately, the debate of “which is better” is entirely subjective and ultimately comes down to the individual DJ’s needs. This article’s purpose is not to cater to this debate, rather, it highlights Denon’s approach & why it’s been so successful. Will Denon eventually take over or is Pioneer’s spot atop of the DJing hierarchy forever cemented?

James Todoroski
James Todoroski
Melbourne-based Journalist, producer and DJ. Completed a Diploma of Audio Production at SAE Institute and loves everything from Jazz to Disco. Have a question? Don't hesitate to drop me a line!




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