Numark n4 Review – this is what I am using

First of all I’m going to show you a review on youtube about the Numark n4 4 deck digital dj controller

 

Numark’s N4 is following in well-trodden footsteps. The company’s Mixtrack and Mixtrack Pro
models proved to be the biggest budget controllers of last year, and
continue to be a bestseller. Unashamedly plastic-built, they nonetheless
were great fun to use, with excellent jogwheels and just the right
basic features to keep the great majority of beginner DJs happy. Maybe a
pro bit their tongue and admitted they were fine for “real” gigging too.

Now with the Numark N4, the company has attempted to do the same for
the mid-range controller market – but unlike the Mixtrack, this one
actually does have serious public performance potential.

Packing in a large number of features, this controller is flexible,
even nicer to use than the Mixtrack Pro, retains the excellent
jogwheels, and comes with two choices of software like Virtual DJ and Serato plus stated
compatibility with Traktor Pro 2 to boot! What’s more, it functions as a
standalone mixer, and can even work with timecode…

First impressions and setting up

In the box is the unit itself, a pair of CDs (one for Serato DJ Intro
and one for VirtualDJ LE software), printed quickstart and guarantee
booklets, a USB cable, an overlay for Serato DJ Intro, and the power
supply. The Mixtrack got away with its plastic construction because it
wasn’t a massive controller, and I was interested to see if the N4 would
be more of the same only bigger and if the plastic casing would,
therefore, be an annoyance.

It turns out that Numark has upped the ante on the construction
quality. I’d say the N4 sits somewhere between the Mixtrack and the
company’s pro NS6 controller. It has a high gloss top surface (similar
in appearance to the Vestax VCI-300) and while its casing is still
rather cheap-feeling moulded silver-coloured plastic (complete with
black Numark motifs on all four edges), the overall impression is of an
adequately constructed unit.

It’s not particularly heavy, but nonetheless, it has two indented
carrying handles underneath each side, which make it easy to move
around.

The control surface

This is quite a large controller, which means everything is nicely
spaced out. The jogwheels are similar to those on Numark’s other
controllers, and while they feel cheap on the NS6, they feel better
suited to the N4. They have a touch-sensitive metal top (in dark grey)
and plastic silver edges, and they are both nicely weighted and firmly
attached with no horizontal give at all.

Numark N4 topThe controls are well laid-out with adequate spacing.

There’s a four-channel mixer section up the centre, which feels nicer
than that of the Mixtrack, featuring more slimline caps on the faders,
and rubberised rather than plastic knobs.

The buttons are of good quality, and backlit in four colours, to
match the deck colours on the Virtual DJ LE software (a nice touch) –
more on this later. The (non-replaceable) crossfader is nice and loose,
and the channel faders nice and firm. There are separate load and cue
buttons for each of the four decks.

Other controls are pretty standard – long-throw pitch faders promise
fine control, there are the usual cue and play/pause, legacy pitch bend,
sync and BPM tap, jogwheel mode (scratch/nudge), keylock and pitch
range. The two sections above each jogwheel control looping, samples and
effects, with eight buttons and four infinity controls for each side,
and the various output volume controls plus the library selection knob
are at the top middle.

Back

The back of the unit shows off some of the flexibility of the N4.
There’s the usual power on/off, 12V DC socket (it needs to run on outlet
power) and USB socket, the latter with a switch to adjust it between
controller and timecode modes. There are two inputs for external devices
(RCAs) which can be switched between phono (record decks) and line (for
CDs, iPods etc), and two outputs for master and booth (again, RCAs). In
addition, there are balanced XLR outputs for plugging straight into a
PA system.

Front

The front of the unit has a 1/4″ TRS inputs for two microphones, each
with separate gain controls, and there’s two-band EQ and on/off here
too, both functions affecting both microphone inputs together.

Numark N4 front panelThe front contains the two microphone inputs plus controls including crossfader curve and input selection.

There are toggle switches here to switch two of the mixer channels
between the external inputs and software control, and there’s a
crossfader curve adjuster to switch between “normal” and “scratch”. Dual
1/8″ and 1/4″ headphones sockets complete the features of this section.

Setting up depends upon which software you want to use and whether
you’re using PC or Mac. If you want to use video and audio, you need to
install the ASIO4ALL driver (PC only), but if not you just install the
software of choice (or both, it’s fine to do that). With Virtual DJ LE,
you need to go into the configuration and make a couple of changes to
select the N4, but with Serato DJ Intro everything just works right out
of the box. Either way, it’s a fast process.

Using with Virtual DJ LE

Out of the two software options, Virtual DJ 7 LE is the one that
gives you four-deck control, as Serato DJ Intro is only two-deck
software. Virtual DJ is a mature product and is well integrated with the
Numark N4. This is also a pretty powerful version of Virtual DJ LE, as
it has things like a filter and key change knobs in the software that
you might expect to have been removed from a “free” bundled version. All
four decks are colour-coded, and the coding carried across to the DJ
controller, so it’s easy to see which deck you’re working from on both
the screen and the N4.

Numark N4 Virtual DJ LEThe version of Virtual DJ supplied is powerful among LE software.

It’s worth noting that although it’s possible to mess with video on
the supplied software if you want to do serious video mixing you’ll need
to upgrade the software to Pro, which will give you the ability to run a
full-screen output from your laptop.

The EQs kill 100% with Virtual DJ, so when you turn bass, mid and
treble right down, the sound completely disappears. This is good because
it gives you the best control possible.

Browsing the library is done with the big browse knob to middle. By
using “shift” and pressing the knob, you can open or close folders (just
pressing the knob without shift switches from tree to file focus). You
load a track onto a deck by pressing its respective “load” button, and
this automatically switches the headphone cue to that channel – a nice
touch.

Jogwheels and pitch

The jogwheels work well, with convincing scratch sounds and good
progressive control (ie if you move them faster, the track moves
faster). Many a controller/software combo that should know better gets
this wrong, so top marks here.

The pitch faders, on the other hand, promise a lot but aren’t
perfect. Being nice and long, you’d expect fine control from them, but
the best you can get is 1/15th of a BPM adjustment, and it doesn’t
matter whether you’re set to +/-6% or +/-50% – same thing. The best
controllers manage +/- 1/100th of a BPM here. To be honest, 95% of user
will never care about this, because you can always beatmatch tunes
exactly using “sync”, but I’d like to have seen a better performance
here for manual beatmatching.

Effects, loops, samples and cues

The effects/sample/ loop section is not extensive, but what there is
works well. Virtual DJ has ten samples, and this unit can control four
of them (trigger and volume). Virtual DJ LE comes with only rudimentary
effects, but they’re easy enough controlled with two knobs and two
buttons, allowing you to select the effect you want and adjust its
parameters. Looping works fine – you can double or halve the loop length
(loops are beatmatched), set in and out points manually, and reloop at
will.

CuesCues are tucked up here on a shift combination.

There are three cues available in software as well as the default
cue, and these are accessible via shift functionality. It’s clear that
Numark is not expecting this unit to be used for cue juggling a la
Traktor Kontrol S4 – it’s a more traditional control surface, for, well,
playing tunes rather than massively manipulating them. Unless you see
yourself as the next Ritchie Hawtin, (in which case a Novation Twitch or Traktor Kontrol S4 would be more up your street), the fact that cue points aren’t front of the house will probably not trouble you.

Hardware and software control

As with all software/hardware combos, there are certain features
you’ll have to revert to the keyboard to control, and this isn’t
necessarily a bad thing. However, it would have been nice to see the
filters mapped to the control surface.

If you upgraded to Virtual DJ Pro you could easily map them yourself,
for instance by mapping them to the gain controls and remapping the
gains to Shift + Gain a la Traktor Kontrol S2 (and while you were at it
you might want to remap the four crossfader assign buttons to hot cues),
but it’s not possible with the LE software as supplied.

Using With Serato DJ Intro

Numark N4 Serato DJ IntroThe Numark N4 DJ controller running Serato DJ Intro software.

Serato DJ Intro is a relatively new product that competes squarely
with Virtual DJ LE and Traktor LE, as supplied with many a controller.
It has its own pluses and minuses: the main minus is that it’s only
two-deck, which means you have two spare channels to play with. Of
course, you can still use these with external inputs, and as many a DJ
doesn’t even DJ past two decks anyway it’s not always going to be an
issue, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

Serato DJ Intro’s strengths, however, are many: It’s elegant, easy to
use, based on Serato’s respected ITCH (and to an extent Scratch Live)
products, and if nothing else it offers you a genuine choice. Kudos to
Numark for including it.

The supplied template

To use Intro, you put the supplied overlay across the controls at the
top of the N4. It’s a high-quality metallic template and is immediately
intriguing because it says “Serato” not “Serato DJ Intro” on it, and
has four decks marked. Mmmmm, something in the pipeline maybe?

Anyway, this template has the various controls of Serato DJ Intro
printed on it. It fits well, and looks like it’ll stay good for many
years – there’s nothing that suggests it’ll easily crease or get tatty.
Also, the back of it is blank, so if you were using the Numark N4 with
say Traktor Pro 2, or remapping it with any other software, you could
grab a washable marker pen and write your own functions onto it.

Software features

So back to Intro. The software looks less cluttered onscreen than
Virtual DJ LE, and the waveforms are massively superior. You can have
them vertical (as with Serato Scratch Live), or horizontal (like Serato
ITCH), and they’re colour-coded to show you more about your track than
the single-colour waveforms of Virtual DJ LE.

Numark N4 Serato DJ IntroThe Serato DJ Intro software would be great if only it allowed four deck use. As such, it’s still good if limited.

The software is reasonably well-featured: the effects on offer are
more standard than the slightly wacky effects on Virtual DJ, with echo,
flanger, and crucially hardware-mapped filters among your options. While
they’re by and large all hardware controllable, you do have to make
your selections using the keyboard. There’s a beats function knob, that
lets you adjust how the effects map to the beats.

Sample-wise, you can control the supplied four sample slots in the
software, but again you do have to use the keyboard for this, and it’s
the same for the hot cues – no hardware mapping of hot cues at all.
Looping, on the other hand, behaves and is controlled similarly to how
it is in Virtual DJ.

The manual pitch control fares no better than with Virtual DJ,
suggesting it’s a hardware resolution limitation, but the scratch
control I’m pleased to report is again very good – typical of Serato
software, I must say.

Offline mode

Serato DJ Intro works a little differently to most other DJ software
in that there’s minimal duplication of controls on the screen and the
hardware. For instance, there are no crossfader or mixer controls
onscreen. The idea is that this isn’t necessary, but what that means is
that you need a hardware control surface to use it properly. Indeed, if
you unplug the N4, you switch into the “offline” mode, where you can
prep your tracks.

It’s worth reporting here that Serato DJ Intro’s offline mode is
limited. So here’s a little trick. If you download Serato ITCH (it’s
free fro the Serato website, the catch being it won’t work without an
ITCH-enabled controller, which the N4 isn’t) you can nonetheless use
that software in its respective “offline” mode.

Now, ITCH’s offline mode is much better than Intro’s – you can add
smart playlists, for instance, which are well worth playing with. The
killer feature is that Intro and ITCH (and Scratch Live) all share the
same music library and metadata – so you can use Serato ITCH to prep
your music including rules-based playlists, and when you load up Intro
and plug the N4 in, there is everything waiting for you.

Standalone mixer functionality and external sources

So you get two extra slots to plug in your record decks, CD players
or just an iPod (or two) for backup. These are separate entirely from
the software: thus they work even when you don’t have the unit plugged
into a laptop. Effectively, the N4 becomes a simple two-channel mixer in
this instance, complete with two microphones.

Virtual DJ timecode vinylWant to use it with Virtual DJ timecode vinyl? No problem, it’s all ready for you to do so.

To select the decks, you just hit the toggles on the front from “PC”
to “INPUT 3/4”. As the signal is not routed through the software, you
can’t use your software effects and the like, but you can use gain,
volume and EQ – and of course, headphone monitoring and master/booth
controls etc all work as you’d expect.

To use with Virtual DJ timecode, you switch a little toggle by the
USB on the rear to “timecode”, and play away. We don’t have any Virtual
DJ timecode here to check this, but I’ve no reason to believe it
wouldn’t work exactly as advertised. (You can’t use it with Traktor or
Serato timecode without additional hardware.)

Conclusion

There is an awful lot to like about the Numark N4. The sheer amount
of stuff packed in for the price is a real indication of how far digital
DJ gear has come in a really short space of time.

This is what I would call “semi-pro” gear – you can get a level of
performance out of it that is going to be pretty much indistinguishable
from the pro stuff, but without the true pro build quality and specs
(and so without the price).

Sure, the sound is only 44.1KHz /16-bit with a s/n of 89dB, but only
perfectionists will notice any difference between this and the best
audio interfaces – trust me, your audiences won’t. Control isn’t as fine
as the best pro units, and cue juggling, effects manipulation and
manual pitch are all areas where performance is less than the best
that’s out there – but the overall mix of features remains strong.

Build-wise, my instinct is that the Numark N4 will be reliable as the
Mixtrack and Mixtrack Pro have proved to be. Built to a budget doesn’t
have to mean unreliable, as Numark has already proved. As far as how
much fun using the thing is, Numark truly has it nailed: It’s an
absolute blast, pregnant with possibilities for the ambitious up and
coming DJ.

It’s great to have multiple microphone inputs, which with EQ are
genuinely useful. Want to mess with DVS and timecode? Virtual DJ
timecode is a valuable way of doing just that. Got existing gear? It’ll
incorporate fine. Want to bypass an external mixer and plug straight
into a PA system? The XLRs have you covered. Want to try Serato, Virtual
DJ (and Traktor if you’ve got it – the unit has been mapped to TP2)?
Again, Numark is ahead of you.

Who it is and isn’t for

So who is the equipment suitable for? If you’re an up-and-coming DJ on a
budget who wants to keep all your options open, it’s currently one of
the best choices out there. It’s also particularly suited to mobile DJs
on a budget because of the dual microphones inputs with EQ and the
output options, and analogue backup is a cinch as you can get your iPod
through a spare standalone channel to keep the music paying should you
have to reboot.

It’s not the best option if you’re a controllerist as it’s more made
for flexibility and doesn’t drill deep enough into features such as
sample manipulation and cue point juggling to be an obvious choice. If
you’re a mashup artist, techno loopmeister or budding button-troubler,
you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Otherwise, if this is your budget, you’re going to get an awful lot
for your money with the Numark N4. As an all-around, multi-format,
semi-pro DJ controller, it’s currently the best out there.

Is this the controller you’ve been waiting for? Do you think it’s
good value for the price? What would you like to have seen included
that isn’t?

 

Watch the other reviews of the Denon and the story of the Pioneer

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *