Today, Numark has officially announced a new piece of gear which further closes the gap between those that hate having a laptop in their faces, and those that can't deny the benefits of computer-based mixing.
Meet the Numark NV for Serato DJ. This new controller isn't terribly different from Numark's other offerings, with one big exception: it boasts two full-color, high-res screens onboard. It offers full control over the Serato DJ software, includes the performance pads and touch-sensitive knobs that you see on the NS7II.
Numark started teasing this idea a few months back, and they've finally made it official. And it gives a good indication of where DJ gear companies' heads are at right now.
Numark: Making a Habit of “Stepping It Up”
Back in 2010, Native Instruments released the Kontrol S4. It was probably the first controller that made people say, “maybe these things really can have a place in the DJ booth”.
Fast forward four years, and controllers are pretty much a commonality. Of course, it's no less a point of contention for many DJs who have their own ideas about what “real” gear is. But there's no doubt about it… controllers are here to stay, and Numark really seems to be stepping their game up to keep up with the NIs and Pioneers of the world.
Numark seems to be pretty good at listening to what digital DJs complain about not having. Let's examine a few examples. The Mixtrack Pro was a response to beginner (or budget-minded) digital DJs who wanted a full all-in-one solution, complete with sound card, at a price that made it a no-brainer. This is still a popular piece of starter gear.
The NS7II gave us a fully-fledged, pro-level, 4-channel, all-in-one mixer/controller with motorized platters that feel like playing small records. This comes as a response to DJs (especially, former and current turntablists) who like to do things like scratch, cut, and juggle… and wanted to do so while maintaining the spin and “torque feeling” they are used to. (Especially those who were disappointed by the Technics CD player solution… you know the one.)
And let's not forget the DJ IO… a solution to DJs who said “I have a laptop, I have a controller… I just need sound output and monitoring capability on the cheap!” (Remember, this was before pretty much every controller had an audio interface built-in.)
The new NV seems to be a response to DJs saying, “I need my laptop but hate looking at it.” In other words, for those of us guilty of “Serato face”.
And it's an all-inclusive solution that will only cost about $700.
Diving In to the NV
Numark's newest controller is the first intelligent Serato DJ controller with feedback screens that integrate with the software. The box itself is approximately the same size as the now-iconic Kontrol S4 (though it appears to be thinner), but it seems to borrow design cues from Pioneer. The sloped screens displaying waveforms and track lists are not unlike a squashed version of modern CDJ's and a mixer.
The NV would appear to bridge the gap between budget offerings like the Mixtrack, and the flagship NS6/NS7II, all while adding what could be a game-changing feature for some (and an unnecessary bonus for others). In the interest of keeping the price competitive and the weight/size down, the unit does not contain motorized platters.
What it does allow you to do is shut your laptop screen (not ditch it, like the XDJ-R1 or SCS4DJ) and still have a fairly professional, four-channel setup. All of the important bits (the stuff you have to look at your laptop for) are now theoretically displayed on the controller itself… waveforms, track selection, BPM, etc.
As you can see, the rest of the unit contains what you would basically expect from a mid-to-high-level DJ controller in 2014. It's worth noting that the touch-sensitive features of Numark's flagship controllers are present here… the platters and knobs are responsive to touch. You also get the velocity-sensitive trigger pads (sixteen of 'em).
Each channel has its own (small) LED level meters and individual gain controls. The crossfader is replaceable, and the back of the unit sports separate booth control and XLR-out for club use.
“NV has that ‘x-factor’ DJs have been searching for. It completely re-imagines the DJ experience while infinitely expanding creative performance options. Feedback elements are placed in the middle of the action, not away from it. The crowd will never again question what the DJ is doing in the booth, nor will the DJ question what they are doing with their hands.”
– Karl Detken, Numark Marketing Director
Basically, if you're a Serato user and you like the NS6, there's no reason to say you won't like this one.
What the NV is NOT
Numark's latest offering adds a long-discussed feature, but is not meant to be the end-all holy grail of premium DJ controllers.
The NV is not a mixer. That is, it does not function without a laptop connected, and you cannot connect turntables to it for DVS use. The controller does no “work” on its own and cannot play anything directly from USB sticks, for example (unlike, say the XDJ-R1). It doesn't allow you to ditch the laptop… only to possibly relocate or close it.
The NV will be fully MIDI-mappable and should have no trouble functioning with Virtual DJ, Traktor, etc…. with one exception. For the screens to function, you need to be using Serato DJ (the full version is included with the unit). So, effectively this is a Serato controller since users of other software have no real reason to buy this over comparable (screen-less) options.
It also does not have the motorized platters that some Numark users love, which translates into affordability and portability. It's also doesn't have a strip search/”needle drop” option, which is gaining popularity in this market.
It may also be worth noting that you “lose” the vertical side-by-side waveforms that many Serato users have become accustomed to. This is nothing new to Traktor users, but as this is a Serato controller, it could take some getting used to.
Is It The True “Serato Face” Cure?
It's all going to come down to this: how nice are the screens, is the information presented on the screens complete, and whether users are willing to lose a lot of screen real-estate.
This is only going to be answered with some hands-on DJ time, so we will wait and see. But it seems to work for CDJ-2000nexus users, and Numark has that as an example. I'd say there is no reason that it couldn't work.
It remains to be seen if the screens can be used as “additions”… that is, can be mapped for other functions so that they can be used in other ways than as a means to closing your laptop lid. But rest assured, you won't be checking your email directly from the controller. (Now, I'll await a wunderground article on that very topic!)
All-in all, it's a very interesting time for DJ controllers. For a good while, things were progressing slowly towards the direction of laptops, and now they are slowly pulling away.
What does this mean for the future of digital DJing? It's hard to say, but it's nice to know that companies like Numark are listening to what their customer base has to say about their habits in the booth.
Rumor has it that the NV will be released sometime in September. Keep your eyes peeled!