Silvio Zeppieri

Silvio Zeppieri
Silvio Zeppieri






Ruben Toro, KISS FM’s
resident after hours DJ


DJ Sneak performing with
MC and mix collaborator BearWho?




Denon’s first tabletop unit the
DN-S5000 has everyone talking.

By Anthony Martinez

The place: 98.7 KISS FM’s studio in New York.
The time: The days just following the release of Denon’s first tabletop CD player, the DN-S5000.
The man: Silvio Zeppieri, Denon’s Technical Support/Sales Assistant, a 20-year veteran of the DJ craft who still sees the value of vinyl but helped bring the DN-S5000 to market.
The DJ: KISS FM’s after-hours specialist Ruben Toro, who agreed to try out the product on the air.
The inquisition: Club Systems’ own Anthony Martinez, a dance music scholar and himself a working DJ.
The point: To figure out just what makes this latest addition to the surging pro CD player market just that special.
Martinez grilled Zeppieri about the DN-S500’s many features, its place in the market, and how he as a “vinyl guy” could feel comfortable advancing the digital cause.

Where did the concept for the DN-S5000 come from?
Basically, it was taken from our DN-D9000 [dual CD player]. A lot of R & D went into that machine – well over a year – and it took us 13 or 14 months to design the hardware and software for it. Thanks to that machine we were able to use the same format, as far as features and functions, and copy them over to the tabletop. We had to build a new box for it and make it spin, which was a challenge for the engineers. A lot of thanks go out to our guys in Shirakawa factory in Japan who are very passionate about building the best products in the world.

With the popularity of the Denon line of rack mount CD players, what made you venture into tabletop models?
We’ve been primarily doing rack mount units for 11 years, and we felt it was necessary to get into a new segment. But there have been plenty of tabletop players out in the last five or six years, so we wanted to make ours unique and make it stand out from the rest.

How did you do that?
The unique part of the machine is the active spinning platter that gives the DJ a true hands-on feeling, which is taken from an analog turntable simulation. Then there’s the Alpha Track feature, which allows the user to play two different tracks simultaneously with independent outputs. Essentially you could play up to an hour long going back and forth from track to track with just one disc, the machine, and a two-channel mixer. Plus the DN-S5000 is upgradeable with software, and we have already been doing that with the DN-D9000 [dual CD player]. Over the last year we have introduced two plug-ins that come with a handful of features; a lot of these features were brand new and others were refined as based on the input of our users. The DN-S5000 shares that function, where down the road we can essentially add a new feature to the machine simply by software, and you’ll never have to send your machine out for service. Another great thing about the player is that it does have a removable drive, which was implemented to offer zero down time – because one thing we don’t want you to do is be without a machine. The user can buy a spare drive and at any given moment if anything goes wrong. We are the world’s first to do that, as well as the software updates.

Does the platter really spin at the speed of a turntable?
It’s fixed at one speed, which is 45 rpm. The reason it doesn’t change is because there is no relationship between the platter and the CD spinning. They are running at two different speeds. We felt it was most important to have it spin so you can manipulate the top vinyl scratch disc as you would with a vinyl turntable.

So if I touch the platter the CD will
speed up and slow down?

Yes. The platter is broken down into two sections. The top piece is authentic vinyl–it even has grooves in it–and it has one task. The aluminum platter underneath it has another. Of course, a jock is accustomed to tweaking the pitch just a hair by holding the platter, and we implemented that function into the machine so if you put your finger alongside the platter it will slow down momentarily just like a turntable. We have a two-way pitch bend. One is a natural feel by using your finger, and the other is the famous Denon pitch bend button. It also has a key adjust that is rated to go up to +/- 100%. The range of the slider is 100mm, which is the same as a turntable and you can use the sliders range on the fly from 4%, 10%, 24%, and so on, depending on what you want to do.

Why make a CD player feel like a turntable?
We wanted to complement the turntable. Our goal was never to replace it by making it the DN-S5000 act and react like one. We feel that vinyl is still a very strong market. And no matter what format you play today, every jock has to interact with a CD within their routine. We wanted to make a piece that was very comfortable to use and that gave them the same exact feeling of using a regular analog turntable.

Has the surge of downloading music increased your sales?
So many files are shared now and put to CD. As far as the MP3 format, Denon has just gotten into that last year with the DN9000. That piece came out around March 2002 and later in December we offered an MP3 plug-in. The machine allows users to store and play up to 255 tracks per disc. It was not our concern as to where the music was coming from. We hoped it would be from your own collection. As far as how it has affected sales, I think it’s an added benefit to the DJ that he can now take MP3 tracks and make them part of what he is doing.

Does the DN-S5000 play MP3’s?
Currently it does not, but we do plan on offering a free software plug-in several months down the road to make that option available to users. They will be able to download it from the website and burn it to disc to upload the machine right from their own home within under a minute.

What is your marketing strategy for this new Denon venture?
This is a new segment for Denon because we’re looking to capture the turntablist side of the market. We’ve done plenty of marketing in the past for our rackmount players and we just are looking to get into this side by doing things like we are doing today: showing the player to various turntable jocks around the world and seeing what they think. Ten out of ten times they have loved what we’ve done.

What do you see as the next trend in CD player applications?
Some people say when you make a new product, “What else can you do with it?” And years later we find many more things. Ideas are like our imaginations; they never stop. We are always listening to our end users for feedback by email, telephone, and even in chat rooms. We compile the information and pick out the most reasonable suggestions that would probably be useful to the masses and implement those features in the next product. I don’t think you could ever stop building a product. There are always advances as technology advances.

Even with all the years I’ve been DJ-ing I can admit that this piece is quite intimidating for someone who hasn’t crossed over to tabletop models. What has the company done to ease new consumers into the age of CD players?
We took a lot of time to work out the ergonomics of the machine. It can do quite a few things, depending on what mode you are in. Most of our buttons are dual-function, and they’re laid out in such a way that when you push them once they do something and if you hold the button down for a second they can do something else. That is primarily the key to understanding the buttons on the machine. They’re all labeled. A user is likely to be intimidated because we offer more features than anyone else on the planet! You don’t necessarily have to use all the functions, but there are instances where you’ll find a feature that you’ve never used before very useful depending on where you are and what you’re playing. We definitely want to keep the options open, as far as what you want to do, because every party and gig is different.

What Did The Jock Think?
KISS FM’s resident after hours DJ is Ruben Toro, an 11-year veteran from Manhattan, who was using the DN-S5000 during his 1am to 5am set on the air.

How did you feel when you first looked at the DN-S5000?
When I first saw it I said to myself, “What’s different?” Size-wise, it has more components. And since Pioneer’s [CDJ-1000] came out first, they were going to have to offer more features.
What’s your favorite feature? With just this player I can play one track on Channel A and mix it in with a completely different track on Channel B. And the tabletop spinning; it really does have a vinyl feel.

So the piece had a vibe?
Definitely! I’m a vinyl man. I couldn’t do a party with just CDs. I like to actually feel the vinyl. This piece gives CDs that same feeling.

What would you like to say to those DJs out there who are adamant against using CDs while DJing? The future is here, and hopefully vinyl won’t be a thing of the past, but CDs are just like computers – we ‘re going to have to accept them. You got to get with it. Get hip to the times, brothers!

Do you think this product will open up doors for jocks who don’t like to use CDs? Definitely! This is the next level.

Putting It to Work
Denon may not have official sponsors for the DN-S5000 yet, but the buzz is brewing in the DJ community. The UK’s MYNC Project (aka Mark Younghead and Nick Corelli) used two of the units in the studio to mix their album Credence Club Hits Volume-1. The liked them so much that they ordered two more for the launch of their club night The Redroom Sessions at The Emporium in Coalville Leicestershire, England, adding to a gear arsenal that already includes four turntables, two mixers, and assorted effects units. “[The DN-S5000] replicates vinyl brilliantly,” reports Corelli.

The first Redroom line-up also included Chi-town’s own DJ Sneak performing with MC and mix collaborator BearWho?. Sneak too was impressed – he used the DN-S5000 extensively during his set.

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications