Controllers are about making the best use of a small space. You simply cannot squeeze a full sized 4 channel mixer into a portable unit, thus Numark have optimised the line fader section by using 60mm faders, but only giving them a visible 45mm throw. Given that Pioneer own the club scene with their 45mm throw line faders on the majority of their mixers, a lot of users will be perfectly happy with this. If you’re migrating from a mixer with 60mm throw faders however (and the list is quite long), you need to work out if this is compatible with your established styles. I suspect that most people won’t care that much.
Given the sheer number of screws in this unit, I wasn’t about to break out the skratchdriver to pull this NS6 apart to find out what type, but I suspect a quality of short bodied alphas. They’re certainly smooth enough for anyone.
The cross is a Numark D-Type – their mid-range fader but retooled to fit the constricted space. Feels good and has a 1.5mm lag distance, so more than good enough for the clicktastic techniques out there – although I’m told a revised faderplate will be available soon that will cut this down to a stupidly small distance. And I’m not the biggest fan of the faceplate fixing either as my fingers rubbed against the screws when scratching. But a CP-Pro would have been better given the premium nature of the NS6, but apparently there wasn’t enough room. And before you ask – the Innofader doesn’t fit either. The slot is big enough, and the connector is catered for in the Innofader kit, but the NS6 just isn’t deep enough. And there’s no room for the Innobender kit to work either. If you absolutely must have the Innofader, you’ll be cutting a hole in the NS6 baseplate and almost certainly screwing any warranty you had. Or adding washers under the faderplate and putting up with a sharp edge. Disappointing.
As far as other fader controls go – the line faders have a software curve control in ITCH, from a tight scratch curve with 2mm lag to a slight extended linear curve. Sadly no reverses on the line faders though – perhaps software could do this. And in analogue mode i.e. no computer attached, these curves are strictly linear. The crossfader gets a tradition sharp to linear curve control, and reverse is handled by the crossfader assign controls.
Now we come to crossfader functions in a little more detail. As mentioned, you can assign channels to particular sides of the crossfader, depending on your preferences. You can assign each channel to either side of the crossfader or simply leave it in the middle to play through unhindered. I guess it depends on how you play and what you have plugged in as to how you use them.
A long standing feature in many pieces of DJ gear has been fader start. Usually enabled by a separate mini-jack cable, this feature really becomes an incredibly useful creative feature in a controller. And with 4 channels all synced together, it’s an all new world of slam mixing synced pitch control heaven. I absolutely loved this on the NS7 and love it even more on the NS6.
So… a mixed bag in the fader department for me. So if you’re fader-centric, read this section again. But the fader start feature is an absolute winner in all-in-one units like this.
Here, I’m talking about the bit either side of the mixer section. The NS6 carries on with the same symmetrical layout that the NS7 had. Some like it, others don’t. But you soon get used to it. It breaks down into key areas that deserve special detailing so here goes:
The Jog Wheel
The key draw of the NS7 was the 7″ direct drive motor. So you can imagine how people felt when Numark announced a 4 channel jog wheel unit instead. But when squishing full sized units into a compact case, you can’t have everything. And when you consider that the target market for a 4 channel unit isn’t a scratch happy turntablist, it’s easy to see how the direct drive platters were left out.
The 6″ jog wheel is a silvery lump of metal and plastic. I like many others lament the colour decision and wish it had been Black. It conforms to the usual metaphor of the top being touch sensitive with a plastic edge that can be used for pitch bending, or at the press of a scratch button, the whole wheel becomes a pitch bender. There’s also a LED ring around the edge of the jog wheel – white for decks 1/2 and red for 3/4 that roughly represents playback speed – either 33 or 45 depending on your ITCH preference. To be honest, I find to be nothing more than decoration, but does give you a visual guide for deck focus.
But what does it scratch like? Well it’s no NS7, but the NS6 puts in a solid performance given the touch sensitive nature. Obviously, turntablists aren’t going to pull off the finer points of vinyl sensitive techniques, and for juggling it’s a matter of looking at the screen or using cue points. But for Hip Hop DJs, techniques beyond the basics are very doable. I did however have to slightly adapt my timing for the NS6 when comparing side by side with Scratch Live. Spinbacks however are perfect. They sound totally natural and suffer no buffering issues at all. Indeed, I backcued at speed through an entire 4 minute track without a single skip.
I’ll mention sound quality again here – the actually accuracy of the NS6 is amazing. It has 3600 clicks per revolution, and this can be heard when dragging back slowly – there’s no digital breakup at all. And I detected no drift either, but on this unit that’s not so important as the wheel position isn’t absolute.
Interesting line from the manual when describing the jog wheel – “this motorized platter”… probably a typo but oh how we wish that had been the case.
A few platter related items to cover off. The NS6 offers the usual reverse feature – press the button and it plays in reverse, but press shift reverse and it’s a censor feature that carries on playing and pics up where it should when you release it. The simulated platter speed can also be switched between 33 and 45, and can also simulate spin and up braking speeds too.