Denon’s first tabletop
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
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
The point: To figure out just what makes
this latest addition to the surging pro CD player market just
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
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
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
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
Do you think this product will open up doors for jocks who
don’t like to use CDs? Definitely! This is the next
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.