REVIEW: Numark NS7 Performance Controller
Written by: Jeremy Todd
The release of Numark’s NS7 has the DJ community very excited about what is to come to the world of digital DJing. This is the first software-specific controller from Numark – specifically designed for Serato Itch. The new controller allows a combination of technology, music, and live production that is previously unattainable with traditional controllers.
What is it?
The Numark NS7 is a MIDI-based controller used in conjunction with Serato Itch. It has 2 record platters used to manually control music and a built-in mixer with EQs. It has 2 stereo outs, one being RCA outs and the other XLR outs. It also has a monitor out and a audio in with gain, treble, and bass adjustments. It has loop controls with ‘on the fly’ loop adjustments and time control. It also has Cue Points that work integrated with the Serato Itch Software.
Layout – First Look and Feel
The look alone combines the old school with the new school in a beautiful yet practical controller. The 7 inch platters are the first thing one notices when looking upon the NS7; they give the feeling of not being completely separated from the classic feel of vinyl. These platters can be used as either traditional turntables or as tempo controllers with the simple change of a button. This kind of flexibility makes the NS7 attractive to both scratch DJs and House/Techno DJs. The built-in mixer puts the user in control, making the unit a standalone solution with requiring any additional hardware (aside from the laptop). The EQs both look great with tactile rubberized knobs that have an excellent feel. This is where the Numark NS7 starts to stand alone against other Scratch-specific controllers such as the Vestax 300. The pitch controller feels sturdy to the touch, with the added dimension of two pitch bend buttons underneath the pitch sliders. These give the user the ability to dramatically change the pitch up and down with just the push of a button. There are also keylock buttons that will lock in the key of the song while changing the pitch.
A Strong Design
The designer of the NS7 obviously had the DJ in mind when creating it. The layout maximizes the usefulness of the actual controller without making it feel cluttered. The front of the NS7 is used for an audio in, platter controls, and headphone control. The line in control is RCA-in and also has a small EQ panel that lets you adjust the gain, treble, and bass. This works great for plugging in an iPod/mp3 player which doesn’t give you the same audio controls that you have for music coming through the software. Additional controls for the platters are a series of switches that let you adjust how much torque you want on the platters in addition to dealing with the fader. One can set the crossfader to start the song over once the crossfader has reached the starting position or just like a regular mixer. The knob also allows you to set the sine wave of the signal to which the fader begins and ends your fade. The headphone jack gives the option of volume control that has more power than most mixers. This is great for DJs who have a problem with mixing in a loud and crowded space (or who don’t have a decent monitor setup).
Testing – Getting Started
One of the best attributes of the NS7 is the ease of the set up. All that it takes to get started is the power cord plugged in, the audio outs being attached, and the USB cord connected to your laptop; then it’s ready to go. There is never a delay when connecting the computer to the hardware which allows for a quick set-up time. There is absolutely no software loading time. One of the best benefits of the NS7 is the ease in which it can be used in the real club setting. While the controller is sturdy, it is still smaller than most CDJ/mixer combos and is a good deal smaller than turntables with a mixer. This means there will always be enough room inside any DJ booth or club. This also allows for smaller load in time and it’s as easy as plug and play.
Great Hardware Paired With Great Software
The Numark NS7 is paired with Serato Itch to provide an amazing interface between the DJ and their music. Serato Itch is a user-friendly version of Serato Scratch Live that has been made to fully interact with every aspect of the NS7 controller. The controller hooks up to the computer running Serato using a simple USB connection that eliminates dangling wires. The Serato Itch program works flawlessly with the controllers and is both intuitive and user friendly. Above the mixer on the controller is a series of buttons and a knob that allows you to scroll through your library without ever having to use a mousepad. There are also buttons that correspond with the Files menu, crates, and browse. This eliminates the user from having to lean over the machine to drag and click. The knob allows you to scroll through the songs and then you have separate load files for both sides of the decks.
Above each platter there are also loop controls that facilitate live looping, combined with premade loop control. There are buttons that can affect the loop you have already made without worrying about the timing; you can cut the loop in half or double the size of your loop. Below the platters are cue buttons which could not be any more user friendly. There are 5 separate buttons that control 5 separate cue points in Itch. There is also a delete button right on the controller which allows for easy manipulation of where you want your cue points. These cue buttons, combined with the platters, give you maximum control of your music.
After using the controller in the club for a while, my major critique would be the positioning of the laptop stand. While the controller laptop stand is quite sturdy, its location can be outside the DJ grasp. It can also be bumped up against at a party and it might not always fit inside of a DJ booth. Other little aspects that could be fixed by using the software is the mixer effects. While the built-in mixer is convenient, it limits what the DJ can accomplish. The alternative to this is running the NS7 into another mixer, which will fix the problem but then you have the built-in mixer becoming useless.
Numark’s first attempt at a program-specific MIDI controller has come out with almost no hitches. The controller is both aesthetically appealing and sturdily constructed. The weight of the NS7 gives it a sturdy feel without feeling like you are lugging around a whole DJ booth. There will be more controllers out in the upcoming years that will probably look at the NS7 to build on, but there is no other controller on the market more user-friendly but also capable of giving the user the options to take their craft to a higher level. It is in my mind the best MIDI control product on the market right now and it will take a big undertaking to dethrone it.
What is it: MIDI controller used with Serato Itch Software
Who is it for: DJs with laptop capability
How long does it take to set up: 10-15 minutes
What is required for its use: a PC or MAC (can be used with PC and MAC)
Difficulty level: 3 out of 5 Are there any limitations of the included software: The only limitations are the built-in Mixer which doesn’t come with any effects (such as phaser, echo etc.)