The Denon DN-S3700 Direct Drive Turntable Media Player & Controller is a DJ instrument that provides DJs with a host of useful features for enhanced creative flexibility.
Denon DN-S3700 Review
Review By: DJ BLAZE (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I. Intro – The Denon DN-S3700 is the Newest active CD/Media controller to be released by the Denon DJ Division (January 2009). Obviously, this deck was modeled after its older brother unit the Denon DN-HS5500, but with a better (and bigger) platter design and a little less features. This unit has been long awaited as DJ’s everywhere were waiting for this sexy machine to hit store shelves so they could get a shot at spinning on them. With all of the built in effects and looping features it also makes this unit a must-see for turntablists and club DJ’s alike. Add that with the fact that you can play all CD’s and almost any USB device (including flash drives and IPOD’s) without the use of active DJ software such as Traktor or SSL and you definitely have a winner. As Denon Boasted about this deck having a strong Direct Drive Motor, USB and MIDI interface, an actively spinning platter, and a true vinyl record for control, I-myself couldn’t wait to get a hold of it! Now, here we are just three months later and I finally have two of these decks staring back up at me as I proceed to write this review.
II. First Impressions – After spending about 5 minutes setting up the platter assembly and placing them on the table, you can see that these decks are ALL BUSINESS. When power is applied to the deck, it lights up with blue bliss along with many other lights and colors that will bring a smile to your face. The construction of the unit is a blend between hard plastic and Metal. The black outer casing of the unit feels like a super-hard/heavy duty plastic with four metal legs that support the unit. The platter itself is VERY sturdy and solid. The controls for Pitch/Play/Pause/Cue are all exactly where they should be; in an analog deck orientation. The Vinyl record that is placed on the unit actually contains a total of four tracks which can be played on any standard analog Turntable. Therefore, you know the feel of the Denon DN-S3700 is 100% true to vinyl. Most of the buttons have a soft rubbery feel to them and they feel like they will hold up to most abuse. The other inset buttons are all hard plastic with a click-push feel to them. The effects and Parameter knobs have a metal look to them, but they may also be a hard plastic…either way, they also look/feel strong. On the front of the unit we have the CD drive which plays all types of CD’s along with MP3 CD’s. The CD drive is pretty quiet and feels stronger than the Numark CDX or Gemini CDT-05 drives (more on the lines of a Pioneer CDJ). The rear of the unit contains the RCA Line outs and digital output. Also are connections for the 1/8-inch Fader start, USB-B for PCI/MIDI, USB-A for USB device play, a keyboard PS2 input, and a D-Link RJ45 input to connect two DN-S3700’s together. There is an on/off power button and a permanently attached power cord also in the rear.
III. Actively Spinning Platter – The main component of any deck that most DJ’s will put their hands on first is, of course, the Platter. I must say that after using almost every smaller-form-factor CD/MP3 Deck on the market (Pioneer, Technics, Denon, Gemini, Stanton, etc..), the Denon DN-S3700 finally gets the feel nearly 100% correct! The platter is a total of 9 inches, and it is possible to use any vinyl you wish as long as you use the attached adapter. Under the vinyl is a normal slip-mat that you would find on any analog deck only it is cut down to 9 inches to fit on the platter. The Platter itself is an all metal construction, similar to the analog Technics 1200, and the motor is a very powerful Direct Drive, high-torque unit which is capable of being adjusted using three different presets (I kept this setting to the highest torque as it comes from the factory). The user can also use the preset function to set the motor to run in 33rpm or 45rpm mode. It was VERY EASY to pull off all types of scratches including complex tears, drags, and scribbles without digital distortion or place-holder issues. I spin mostly hip-hop so it is imperative that these decks function correctly when back-cueing and juggling from deck to deck…The Denon DN-S3700 got it right ever single time!!! The emulation never gave any signs of degradation even when using lower bit-rate samples from my USB library. To the upper left area of the platter there is a rubbery type switch which allows the user to only play sound as the platter is moving forward (FWD mode) or to play sound all the time as in an analog deck (BOTH mode). The Platter has an almost-instant startup time and it worked EXACTLY how a DJ expects the best Platter to work…PERFECTLY! Kudos goes to Silvio and the guys over at Denon for taking the time to get this platter design just right. They have gone back to the drawing board many times, and it has paid off heavily with the creation of this deck!
IV. Active Display – The active display is similar to the display seen on the Denon DN-HS5500 minus the color and a few other features (most notably, the dual deck display items). The display is on an angle towards the DJ so that it can be read very quickly and without bending all the way over the unit to see the display information. All of the information on the display is clear enough to see even though there is a lot of information to show. The display will tell the DJ the following information: track number, time elapsed/remaining, Pitch, A-B looping, BPM, Platter Place-holder, Type of playback (CD/USB/MIDI), Track title and information, and the newest feature to the Denon Display, the waveform output of the track along with the timeline indicator which tells the DJ how far along they are in the track. The Waveform display is one of the standout features of the unit. When you press the Display button on the Denon DN-S3700, you get the mirrored display of the waveform, together with an icon display of all hot start locations (different icons for each). Even though it may sound like a lot of information to display all at once, I can tell you that I have used every single piece of it during my DJ sessions and it was easy to use/read at a glance.
V. Normal Analog Deck Functions – The Play/Pause and Cue button are a soft rubbery material and they work just fine and they feel like they will last for a long time. The CUE function can be made to work either as the "Other/Pioneer" style or the "Denon" style using the preset menu. In Denon style CUE mode, the cue point is set at the start of the play/pause mode, while in Other/Pioneer style CUE mode, the cue point is set whenever the CUE button is pressed during play mode. Above the CUE button are two hard-plastic in-set buttons for Quick Jump/Fast Search so you can skim through the track without having to use the platter. The Brake speed can be modified anywhere from 0.0 seconds all the way to 4.0 seconds by pushing the Brake button and changing the brake time by using the parameters knob. Also on the lower section of the deck is the hard plastic inlay Reverse button and indicator. When the Reverse button is pressed the deck will play in reverse and the indicator light above the button will come on. The Disk Eject button is also the same rubbery material as the Play/Pause button and works as expected. The Denon DN-S3700 can be played in two modes, the Classic Vinyl mode which allows the platter to remain active as in an analog deck, or the Bend/Search mode which will allow the platter to be passive as in the Pioneer CDJ series where the platter movements speed up or slow down the source material. The Pitch adjustment knob is a hard plastic which has the zero-click to let you know when you are at perfect pitch. There is a hard plastic pitch range button that allows the DJ to switch the parameters of the pitch slider to 6%, 10%, 16%, and 100%, or it can be turned off totally. There is also a hard plastic Key Adjust button that will turn Key adjust mode on and off. Under the Pitch slider is the Pitch Bend buttons which will temporarily change the speed of the source track to make it easier to beat match.
VI. Hot-Start/Auto loop Section – The upper left hand corner of the Denon DN-S3700’s is dedicated to the Hot Start/Auto Loop functions. There are three rubbery buttons, labeled 1, 2, and 3, where each can store a hot-start point on the same track. Each button has a hard-plastic inlaid button directly above it to clear the previously set point (CLR1, CLR2, CLR3). This comes in handy because it allows you to easily clear and set new points to each individual button on the fly. To set a Hot Start, all the DJ has to do is hit the button at the correct time they want the hot start to begin. In order to set the auto loop, the Auto Loop Set button must first be pressed. In order to exit the loop, simply press the Exit button located in the same section. There is an indicator above the auto loop set button that lights up if the DJ has set the Auto Loop. The Auto loop can be trimmed using the Loop Trim (+) and (-) buttons while the TAP button either locks the loop or only allows it to play for a shorter period of time. There is so much fun and experimentation to be had using this section of the DN-S3700 alone! In addition to the Hot Start/Auto Loop section, there is a Reloop section towards the upper right of the unit. I had such a great time spinning hip-hop and using the Reloop section that I just couldn’t stop! This section is very easy to use as the DJ simply presses the A button to start the loop and the B button to end the loop. If you are on-beat you can get it perfect every time, but for those times when you don’t get it perfectly, you can use the A/B Trim button found under the A and B buttons. When the loop is active you will see the data on the display to confirm. You can also flip the loop or clear it out using the same button.
VII. Effects – To all of those who know me, you know by now that I am not usually the person to start playing around with Effects…But that was the old me…and the old me is Dead and Gone (sorry T.I. for the plagiarism). This deck has some very fun effects built right in. Above the Search buttons, there are three effect buttons which are made of the same sturdy hard plastic as many of the other buttons. These Three effects are Echo/Loop, Flanger, and Filter. To set the effect, all the DJ has to do is press the appropriate effect button. To change how wet/dry the effect is, the DJ uses the Effects knob for the Y axis and uses the Parameters Knob for the X axis (as needed with the echo/loop effect). The properties of the effect will then show up on the display (lower left) to let you know exactly how wet/dry the effect is. When the button is pressed a second time, the effect turns off. Each effect button has a small LED indicator in it which lets you know which effect is presently active. There is so much that can be done here, but I will leave that up to you guys to have the most fun and post some sick youtube videos (let me know when you do)!
VIII. Source Material – The next best feature on these decks (first being the awesomely active spinning platter) is all of the different media types that this machine can play. Of course, we have the obvious range of CD, CDR, CDRW, CD-MP3…but this deck (like it’s older brother the Denon DN-HS5500) also can play music using almost any USB device. The rear of the units have a USB-A input so that the DJ can go grab his IPOD and simply plug it in, hit the USB button, and start playing away! Similarly, you can use flash drives or huge hard drives that plug directly into the USB port and have entire libraries or playlists right there at your fingertips. Each Denon DN-S3700 comes with a Denon DJ Music Manager Software CD, so that the DJ can setup the music to be played on the unit (IPOD was plug-n-play without setup software being used). After the USB device is plugged into the unit and the USB button is pressed, then the display turns into a navigation type of area where the DJ uses the Parameter knob to cycle through and click to select playlists, artist, track, album, genre, etc. The DJ must select which parameter that they would like to use to select tracks, and then they will be able to navigate through the files and simply click the parameter knob to select the track they would like to play. To go back to the previous screen (in case a user error was made when selecting a playlist or file), the user must simply press the BACK button. After setting up my playlists using the software it was VERY easy to find the tracks I was looking for. So easy that I no longer need the DJ program I was previously using, therefore freeing up my laptop for other duties… The DJ can setup a total of 1,000 playlists which can contain up to 99 tracks each. For those of you who want to use this unit with the computer, it also works as a MIDI device controller which can plug into the computer through the USB-B port for total control by pressing the MIDI button. The unit must be powered down to switch to MIDI from CD or USB, while switching between CD and USB playback is on-the-fly. The USB-A port can also be used to update the firmware of the Decks when Denon makes down-loadable updates available to further improve features, performance, etc...
IX. Conclusion – I see exactly what Denon was trying to do with this deck …They were really trying to bridge the gap between analog and digital while also making sure they had all of the major features effects/loop DJ’s need right at the fingertips. They also wanted to make the unit sturdy so that it would last years of abuse and being on the road for gigs. They wanted the unit to be accessible to CD, MP3, USB, and MIDI DJ’s alike. They even had this crazy idea to make the BEST platter and motor combination seen on a “smaller-form-factor” deck. With all of these features, the boys over at Denon even wanted to make it one of the easiest decks to use… If these were Denon’s Goals with the DN-S3700; then they succeeded tremendously!
I am not saying that this deck is perfect but it is damn hard to find fault with what they have done on the DN-S3700. My main issue with this deck is the PRICE! These decks go for about $899 at most DJ gear outlets, but it is to be expected for a deck that has the potential to become an industry standard. The other gripe I have with this unit is the motor-off function after the Play/Pause button is pressed. I would have liked it much better if the platter went into a “free vinyl” type of mode INSTANTLY after the Brake is activated. The way the DN-S3700 is configured; the platter must come to a full stop after pressing the pause button (brake) in order for the platter to unlock making it free to do whatever you must. Even after these minor issues, they are still, hands-down, the BEST small form factor CD/MIDI/MP3 Controller with an actively spinning platter on the market!!!