It promises digital versatility and power with vinyl feel, but does it deliver? Find out in our Denon SC3900 review…
The Denon SC3900 is the flagship unit in Denon’s media player range. It offers the ability to DJ from a broad range of different media. It has a slot loading CD drive capable of playing audio and data files, a USB socket for streaming data files from external storage, can be linked so that four drives can share a single library, and can even be used as a controller with computer software (it has an excellent audio interface built-in).
Real 9” vinyl platters and adjustable torque
Audio quality is of a premium standard, as you might suspect from Denon, thanks to Burr Brown 24-bit DAC processing. Four hot-cue triggers add plenty of control, and these can be ‘layered’, doubling the number to eight, plus the usual loop controls.
The big difference between these and other similar media players lies in the platters. Rather than standard jog-wheel designs, the Denons have a 9” vinyl, mounted so that it slips over a spinning platter- just like a real turntable. In addition, torque can be adjusted to taste, from 1kg to 3kg, as can start and stop times. Very nice indeed…
The Denon SC3900 promises so much that it could almost be forgiven if it didn’t quite deliver. Thankfully, it does with considerable ease. Like all of Denon’s gear, the unit feels very nicely put together. Though it uses a few too many soft, rubberised buttons for my liking, the play and cue are now hard plastic.
It can be seen that the SC3900 is considerably cheaper than its direct competitors, and if cost has been kept down any particular aspect of its design, it seems most likely to be the display. Though perfectly adequate, and clear, it isn’t a full colour or touch screen OLED design you might expect these days.
This is in part due to the Denon Engine software included. This allows the user to manage the audio library across up to four connected players. Special mention must go to this software. It allows tracks to be prepared and even played back and controlled from a connected Mac or PC. The speed with which it searches and operates is lightening fast.
One of the nice things about the SC3900, which sets it apart from other media players of this type, is the Hybrid MIDI Mode. Aside from allowing the user to map MIDI functions easily, it can output DVS timecode, meaning you can control DVS software without the need for timecode CDs.
The platters are something of a revelation. If you have ever used traditional vinyl players, aside from the smaller size, you’ll be right at home. It feels just like a turntable, but without any needle skips, or any of the other drawbacks. Plus, the torque adjust and start/ stop times means you can make them feel just like the vinyl players you knew so well…
There are plenty of other great touches, too. For example, you can switch sources and leave the current track playing. There’s also a familiar strobe light, too.
The Denon SC3900 really is a DJ powerhouse. It provides just about everything a DJ could ask for, regardless of which medium they want to DJ from. The Engine software is powerful and efficient, Hybrid MIDI mode is incredibly welcome and effective, and sound quality is beyond excellent.
Add in the fact that there are maps available for all of the major, DJ software packages, and you have a truly complete media player. The only minor concession is the fact that it doesn’t have any built-in effects. If you choose to use this with a computer software set-up, this clearly won’t matter. Plus, if used as standalone players, the mixer connecting them will likely have onboard effects. There are, of course, standalone processors too.
At this price, the Denon SC3900 is something of a steal. Highly recommended.
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Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.