Unit 10: DJ Equipment Review

Numark Mixtrack Pro 3  vs.  Pioneer DDJ SB2

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DJ Controllers have come a long way since first hitting the scene in the early noughties,  each year bringing more FX, controls and usability enhancements to the table. They have opened the gate to a new generation of DJs, with low costs and high performance capabilities. 2015 brought the latest releases in DJ controller technology, the highly anticipated Mixtrack Pro 3 and the latest in the Pioneer DDJ-SB series. Two of the leading brands, and biggest contributors to the DJ world.

Designed with the skilled, professionally-aspiring DJ in mind, the most recent piece of gear from Numark ranks highly amongst retailers and review websites all giving at least 4/5 stars. It is a highly versatile controller, enabling entry level DJs to grasp the basics of DJing yet theres enough features to keep an intermediate level happy. The other plug and play controller, the SB2, scores even higher with most reviews ranging between 4.5 and 5 stars.

Lets start with the storage of tracks. Each controller comes bundled with Serato DJ Intro, and its easy to set up crates (playlists) within the software to organise your favourite tunes. Serato analyses the files to create a visual waveform display in which shows low frequency hits in red and any high frequencies in a light blue/white.screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-22-41-30 This can be very useful as gives you an indication of what type of sound is about to play. and detects the bpm and key of each track. With the Serato upgrade (£80) you get a colour coded key display ranging from 1A to 12B that makes it easier to put a quality set together. Both controllers have a file browser knob for easy searching through your files and folders without having to reach over to your laptop.

The next stage in the mixing process is cueing and beat matching. The Mixtrack features 100mm pitch sliders for fine pitch adjustments to ensure your tracks don’t drift out of sync. This is great for beginners but you can easily start depending on what you can see rather than what you can hear. Both boast 5″ dual zone metal platters, creeping closer to that of industry standard CDJs, allowing for scratching, stopping a track by touching the top of the platter and adjusting the pitch by nudging the side back or forward. Sync buttons inevitably appear on these controllers – good for beginners or a quick effortless mix but unnecessary for anyone looking to improve on their skills as a DJ as the equipment does all the work for you. Serato makes it even easier to keep each track perfectly in time by displaying the peaks of each waveform against each other, a nice feature, but again easy to slide into the habit of using your eyes rather than ears. Each controller now has a level meter, only for the master output of each channel, but its good practice to start getting used to keeping your levels in check early on. This being said, the Mixtrack doesn’t have a gain control knob so the only way to balance the levels is with each EQ knob which is less than satisfactory.

The SB2 and the Pro 3 both come equipped with 16 multi-function backlit performance pads to control loops, launch samples, hot cues, and in the SB2s case, play and pause the track. Each contain 4 hot cue pads for each channel that save a point in the track to jump back to whenever you want. The pads on the SB2 also double up as loop controls and sample hits. Both models have an auto loop and a manual loop function with controls to loop from 1/2 – 4 bar loops. Unfortunately Serato limits the loop range from 1/4 – 2 bars unless you pay for the upgrade so you won’t be able to use your hardware to its full capabilities unless forking out more money. The pads can also be used to launch samples from the customisable sample bank within Serato.pioneer-ddj-sb2-famasom5

Both controllers house an FX unit. The Mixtrack features a unique multi-function touch strip that can be used to scrub through the track and control the dry/wet output of each effect selected (maximum of 3). The touch strip seems too gimmicky and can be impractical, it would be better if it was a knob to control the FX like the Pioneer. The updated DDJ-SB comes with a handful of new effects that can’t be found on its rival. Pioneer have added a filter fade button just above the crossfader that applies a high pass filter to each track for a seamless mix. Another addition is a pad-trans effect that gives a choppy stuttered effect. One more thing that the SB2 has that the Mixtrack lacks is the ability to switch between 4 decks with the push of a button.

Its worth mentioning that both controllers have two headphone jacks (one 1/4″ and one 3.5mm), a 1/4″ mic input with a mic level knob, one master RCA unbalanced output and a USB B port. It would be nice to have another output port to record live sets directly from the controller but yet again its only an option with the Serato upgrade.

You get what you pay for with these two controllers. Whilst the SB2 would set you back £251, the Mixtrack only comes in at £169. The Pioneer seems to be geared towards a more advanced DJ as it has extra features that can’t be seen on the Mixtrack such as filter-fade pad-trans and most importantly a master gain knob. However the Numark is great for a beginner. Its cheap, its easy to use and is a great tool to kick start any DJ career.

 

Bibliography:
Amazon. (2016). Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 | All-In-One DJ Controller for Serato DJ incl. Serato DJ Intro & Prime Loops remix tool kit. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/it4/Numark-Mixtrack-Pro-DJ-Controller-Serato-incl/B00SCP7IB4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479035971&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=mixtrack+pro+3&psc=1
Morse, P. (2015, May 19). Review & Video: Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 Serato DJ Controller. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from Digital DJ Tips: https://www.digitaldjtips.com/2015/05/review-numark-mixtrack-pro-3/
Numark. (2016). Mixtrack Pro 3. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from Numark: https://www.numark.com/product/mixtrack-pro-3
Pioneer DJ. (2016). DDJ-SB2. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from Pioneer DJ: http://www.pioneerdj.com/en/product/controller/ddj-sb2/black/overview/
Pioneer DJ. (2015, August 10). Introducing the entry level DDJ-SB2 controller for Serato DJ – with trim pots and Pad Trans effect. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from Pioneer DJ: http://www.pioneerdj.com/en-gb/news/2015/ddj-sb2/
serato. (2015, October 27). Learn: Serato Key Detection & Display. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from serato: https://serato.com/latest/blog/18396/learn-serato-key-detection-and-display
serato. (2016). serato DJ Intro. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from serato: https://serato.com/dj/intro

 

 

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