Numark NS6 Review

Reviewer: Gizmo • Date: June 2011 • Link: Numark  Price: $999/£799/€999

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Just when you thought 2 channels were more than enough, along come 2 more to throw a massive spanner in the works, and at the same time create an all new way to make people want to chuck away their last expensive shiny just so they can hang with the cool kids. Yes, the 4 channel gravy train is rampaging through the industry, leaving a 2 channel graveyard in its wake.

Most of the big boys have already put out their own take on the 4 channel controller in the last 12 months. But one notably missing exponent of such things is Numark, who blazed a trail with the eversowonderful NS7. Mindful of how their faithful customers would be knocking down their door for the next scoop of controller goodness, they teased their own future offering at BPM 2010, thus ensuring that their loyal customers would wait, rather than jumping aboard the aforementioned gravy train early just to satisfy their hunger for new tech.

But the Numark NS6 is upon us, and ready to be unleashed to a rather suspecting DJ world. Like a handful of other media outlets, we got an NS6 in pre-launch, and like the good hack that I am, I’ve given it a thorough beating to see how well it holds up to all styles of DJing.

In A Nutshell

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The Numark NS6 is an all-in-one Serato ITCH based digital controller. Sporting 4 channels, it has effects built in (so no extra ITCH box to buy later) and can handle analogue inputs too. As you can plainly see, you get 2 jog wheels, with access to all 4 channels via the layer buttons. Out of the box, it comes with ITCH v1.8.1 – named ITCH for Numark NS6, but should also have support for Traktor and Virtual DJ on release day.

Construction

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

What set the NS7 apart from the competition was the stellar build, and that’s been carried on to the NS6. Whereas other controllers feature a lot of plastic, the NS6 is mainly metal. The entire chassis is metal – an anodised base with a brushed top plate. It’s also a single piece faceplate, so unlike the NS7 it appears to be a single unit rather than a narrow mixer surrounded by V7s.This dear reader is about as far away from “toy” as a controller gets.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

There have been changes in the detail though. Numark are renowned for rubber buttons. But after extensive research and listening to user feedback, these have been eradicated on the NS6, and replaced with hard plastic ones. More or less every control on the NS7 had a hard plastic frame around it as well as custom moulded buttons. The NS6 however whilst being simplified, and having harder buttons, feels good. The click is solid and the lights are bright. Some may prefer the rubber type, especially if repeated button bashing is your game, but I like these just fine.

Otherwise, the controls are all pretty solid. Pitch faders are often an afterthought but these are better than other controllers. I do however wish that the movement exhibited by the plastic posts could have eliminated by putting metal pots in there. Numark tell me that these are tried and tested on other products in their range so I imagine that they’ll be just fine.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Physically, it falls somewhere in-between its nearest rivals – smaller in all ways than the Pioneer DDJ-T1, bigger than the Denon MC-6000 and similar to the NI Kontrol S4. Weight wise however, it’s a bit of a bloater, with the S4 being the lightest at 7.5lb and the NS6 being nearly twice as heavy at 14lb. That said, you only have to look at the construction to see the difference.

So overall, the NS6 is a beast – a smaller and lighter beast than the NS7, but a beast nonetheless. But if you plan to travel a lot with it, it just too big for hand baggage, so it’s in the hold for the NS6, right next to the DDJ-T1, while the Denon and NI units sits happily in the cabin.

Note to Numark – 6 big rubber feet only aids stability on the flattest of work surfaces. My advice to people is to take the middle ones off.

Now, let’s pull the NS6 apart, bit by bit into its key areas.

The Analogue Mixer

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

First off, it’s worth stating here that the NS6 is as much an analogue mixer as it is a controller. You can plug phono and line level into the middle 2 channels and line/mic sources into the outer 2 channels. And all this can be done without ITCH running or your laptop plugged in too, and the EQs and fader curves operate independently of ITCH. You cannot however use ITCH’s effects on analogue sources.

This means that you have many options available to you. For example, I tested running Scratch Live with the SL3 though it (you always need Rane hardware to run SSL), and I could switch between ITCH, SSL and regular analogue without a hitch. It means you have to run SSL and ITCH at the same time, but given the relatively low footprint of both, it should be manageable to most users.

This is especially useful for existing SSL users who want to add a controller to their existing setup, as ITCH and SSL share the same library. So because ITCH doesn’t need an SL box, it’s simply a matter of taking the NS6 out, and leaving their decks and SL interface at home. I’d say that as long as you use a separate audio interface, you can run any DVS through the NS6. It is after all a mixer too.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

It also means that should your laptop crash, you have a number of analogue options open to you. So rather than having to pray that the crowd doesn’t hang you for more than a few seconds silence, you can funnel that backup iPod of CDJ that might be hanging around through the NS6. Disaster recovery made easy.

The Digital Mixer

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

At its core, the 4 channel mixer section does exactly what it’s supposed to without trying to be too clever. It’s compact, but with plenty of space to manoeuvre between channels. The knobs are rubberised with a smooth but stiff action – not sticky stiff, but they’ll stay where you put them rather than move if brushed against. And where necessary they have a solid centre detent.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

One thing about layout. Unlike 4 channel mixers, the NS6 designates the middle 2 channels as 1 and 2, with 3 and 4 being the outer channels and carrying red markings on the faceplate. I suspect that because the majority of users will focus on 1 and 2, this has been centralised, and even if external decks are used, this 3/1/2/4 layout makes the most sense. This is also mimicked in the ITCH layout too.

Below this are the channel switches. These switch between line/phono or line/mic and “PC” channels – essentially analogue or ITCH. In tests, there is the tiniest of audible clicks in your audio chain when using the switch, but only when you listen hard. So if you wanted to get clever with doubles in analogue and digital, then it should be smooth.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Then we come to the cue buttons. Bright and shiny, you can cue one at a time, and listen to them via a cue/master control. Thankfully in the potentially complex soundscape being weaved across 4 channels, Numark saw fit to include a split cue, something that I think is pretty near essential on 4 channel units.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The NS6 comes with 3 band EQ with gains, that operate from kill to either 6 or 12dB – it’s a software switch in ITCH. It’s a highly pleasing range that sounds great with the 3 EQs doing a safe amount of work without pushing their ranges too hard.

Sound-wise, the NS6 is really good. It’s a 24 bit interface but the sample rate is just 44.1kHz. For those who like high numbers, the magic 96 is missing. But not being one for numbers, and rather more being about how something feels or sounds, especially when it comes to sound. So if I were to describe it, I’d say that the NS6 exhibits a loud sound with a generous bottom and and bright highs, but importantly exhibits no digitalness whatsoever. Numark have always been good in this area to my ears and the NS6 continues to please them.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Now let’s tackle the somewhat thorny subject of meters. I say thorny because it seems to have been the one thing that people have been quite vocal about online. Being a 4 channel unit, DJs migrating from a 4 channel mixer are used to having a meter for each channel plus a master meter. The Allen & Heath xone:dx for example has peak LEDs to tell you when things are getting a little lively – but the NS6 has none at all. It only has master meters (11 part Red LEDs with the top 2 telling you to turn stuff down) and for some this is a step too far. Or not enough as it were.

I however am somewhat more comfortable than most, as I’ve used mixers for years that have only had master meters. That said, I’m long in the tooth, whereas the newer generation of DJs, especially those who are used to make more control over sound or come from a 4 channel background have every right to feel a little short changed. I guess you’ll be learning about levels the hard way and just making sure that the master doesn’t get too loud.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

To help with this, there is a software limiter that kicks into play when things do get out of hand. It shows you on screen like a peak meter, but automatically keeps the volumes from maxing out the White LEDs all the time. The headroom setting in ITCH determines when the limiter kicks in.

IDEA: Perhaps ITCH could get some onscreen meters, even if it’s just a green, amber and red light. And make it an option as well as 4 channels takes up a lot of screen space.

The Faders

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

The Deck

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

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.

Pitch

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

In these days of auto sync, you’d think that pitch controls would be increasingly redundant. But no – auto or manual, you still need pitch in one way or another.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The NS6 features a solid 100mm pitch fader that has enough tension to stay put, but won’t move if nudged accidentally. ITCH offers pitch ranges of 8, 16 and 50% with somewhat rough resolutions of 0.02, 0.04 and 0.1%. I say rough as it can vary by a little bit. There’s also pitch bend that shifts by a seemingly infinite amount, but still offers good nudge control if you’ve yet to succumb to auto sync.

A note about pitch takeover – when using 4 channels with just 2 pitch faders, confusion can reign when dealing with pitch differences. So Numark have added takeover LEDs to the pitch, so that when swapping layers, an arrow will come on showing which direction to move the pitch fader to get the setting back to where it was. Very clever.


Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Speaking of which, auto sync is allegedly the devil’s own DJ scene destroying function. Accepted by most as a “use it or don’t” feature, this makes beat matching simple. Pressing the sync button on one deck makes the BPM match to the others. If you’ve got beat grids enabled, it’ll match those. But if not, it’ll match the transient beats. Given the possible hit and miss nature of beat grids, I find sync works better with grids off. It doesn’t always hit the right transient, at which point pressing sync a few times will eventually make it match.

Finally we have master tempo. No surprises here – pressing the button fixes the key while the pitch is moved. Traditionally, this words better for speeding up, but ITCH gives you a safe maximum range of 16%.

Strip or Skip?

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The NS7 saw the introduction of the hilariously named strip search. This touch sensitive strip lets you navigate the entire length of the track and drop in at any point. The NS6 strip search search has been improved with LEDs that indicate the approximate location in the track.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

It works fine, but I prefer the new skip function. Pressing the skip button and moving the jog wheel moves the track in single bar increments, bang on beat as well. So not only do you get to jump around your track at speed, but it also provides you with another creative tool.

IDEA: Perhaps shift/skip could be enabled to engage it fully so that some 2 handed creativity could be used.

Hot Cues and Loops

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

When writing these reviews, the same things pop up over and over – especially in Numark reviews. And this is oh so true of these 2 functions. So not wishing to sound like a broken record, let’s skim over these in outline form.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Looping works in 2 ways – auto and manual. Assuming the BPM is calculated correctly, auto loop will engage to the correct beat and loop depending on the buttons you press. You can expand the loop up to 8 beats or crunch it down to 1/32nd beats i.e. a buzzing noise, as well as shift the loop up or down your track. Using the ever useful shift key gives you loop rolling i.e. momentarily looping and reengaging at the right place when you release. Looping is exactly what you would expect and works perfectly. And the loops are automatically saved to ITCH and there when you need them too.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The same goes for hot cues. You can define them in ITCH in offline mode, or define them as you play. You get 5 to play with and are defined as simply as pressing the correct cue button. Deleting is a matter of shift cue button, thus clearing the cue and making it available again. The cues also act as stutters when the jog wheel isn’t playing. See – it’s all rather straightforward and works perfectly every time.

Beat Grids

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Something that has slowly leached its way into the DJ scene without so much as a fanfare is beat gridding. Maybe because like auto sync it’s seen as cheating, but it has nonetheless become a relatively standard feature in many products. Essentially it’s an advancement on BPM, and deals with beats and bars. Now beats aren’t too hard to work out, but there’s quite a bit more that goes into accurate beat gridding.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Here’s what happens – ITCH analyses the track, works out the BPM and does it’s best attempt to apply a beat grid. On tracks that maintain a solid structure and fixed BPM, this works really well. But some tracks need work, that maybe as little as defining the first bar, or even stretching a beat grid locally on tracks with an uneven beat. The NS6 give you these tools locally to do pretty much all the beat gridding adjustment and fixes that you want.

There’s still no quick fix or perfect beat gridding solution, but ITCH and the NS6 do give you the tools to make beat gridding easier to handle.You can do it on the fly of course, but if it were me, I’d be prepared to put some time aside to perfect your beat grids.

Or you can totally ignore them, as they can be turned off in preferences. The choice is yours.

Track Navigation

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The one key thing that I fell in love with about ITCH was how it focussed my attention on my DJ gear rather than playing with my keyboard. And this extends to loading tracks too, and the NS6 has all the controls necessary to make dropping the right track into the right channel really simple.

The scroll knob does a lot – not only does it scroll lists of tracks but pressing it switches between panels. The important buttons are the Load ones. These insert the tracks into the channels… to be honest, it’s all totally explanatory and doesn’t need further detailing. All you need to know is that loading tracks is simple and works.

Effects

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Another issue that some people have with ITCH units is that enabling effects can mean another hardware purchase. The NS7 needed the NSFX and the VCI-300 needed the VFX-1. The NS6 however has effects built in so no extra luggage or USB ports needed.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

You can apply 2 effects at once, to any channel or to the master. But only 2 effects at a time, so that’s 2 effects on one channel, one effect on a channel and one on the master etc. Each effect has a wet/dry fader as well as a single parameter knob, the designation of which depends on the effect.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

ITCH gives the NS6 12 effects – delay, echo, reverb, LPF, HPF, phaser, flanger, tremolo, repeater, reverser, braker and crusher. They’ve all been seen before and your skill set will determine how well they sound. I suggest much messing around with them to see what works and to come up with some crazy combos too.

The great news is that they’re all post fader, be it line or channel. Being an all in one, it’s nothing less than you’d expect really.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

REALLY HANDY TIP: Owners of Vestax‘s VFX-1 can hook it up to the NS6 and get extra effects functionality. So if you’re trading up from a VCI-300, it might be worth hanging onto the VFX-1 – if you own one that is. I don’t know if it’s officially supported but worked just fine in the v1.8125 release of ITCH.

Ins and Outs

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Having established earlier on that the NS6 is a highly capable analogue mixer in its own right, let’s have a look at the actual connections. All channels have line level RCA inputs, with channels 1 and 2 being line/phono switchable. 3 and 4 are line/mic switchable with additional mic ports. There’s also a grounding post for those who want to link up their decks.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Outputs are very well serviced. Master output is via balanced XLR (which apparently you can thank me for insisting on their inclusion), as well as unbalanced RCAs. The most interesting output for many will be booth out – something that the DDJ-T1 and Kontrol S4 lack, much to the annoyance of end users. And for the record, this controller isn’t USB powered so expect to take the supplied wall wart everywhere. Don’t worry – it’s pretty small.

It obviously goes without saying that you get master and booth volume controls. But if I didn’t say it, someone would only ask.

ITCH v1.8

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Being a new ITCH controller, the software has been suitably updated to enable full ITCH functionality. Although we’ve walked this path many times before, let’s take a skim through ITCH and how it works.

ITCH is to controllers what Scratch Live is to turntables. It is the beating heart of the hardware, and it can be said that ITCH drives the hardware, rather than the hardware controlling ITCH.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

It works in the familiar metaphor of having a library of music, organised in crates and subcrates, but also having the additional functionality of smartcrates, where a crate can automatically contain tracks based on a number of predefined parameters.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

To prepare your tracks, ITCH works better in offline mode i.e. without hardware plugged in as you get a full screen with which to analyse and organise your tracks. Once your tracks have been analysed i.e. BPM, beat grid and waveforms created, you can set about sorting them however you want, and can predefine loops and cues rather than having to do all this while DJing. So you can do the important prep work wherever you are, even if it’s the other side of the world from your gear.

Once your library is all sorted (although you can just go at the NS6 with raw unorganised files), using the navigation controls becomes second nature as you zip around windows and crates with ease. Loading tracks is really easy, but you do have a few tricks in the preferences for good measure – things like playing tracks immediately when loaded and setting the play point to be from the first cue point are pretty handy.

While ITCH is very similar to SSL in looks, the layout is a little different, but still similar enough that you’ll feel at home if you’re transferring. And of course, ITCH shares the same library as SSL so changes made in one are reflected in the other. You do get some options as far as layout goes – waveforms can be viewed on the left, right or on the bottom. Having 4 decks does make things a little cramped, even on my 15″ screen, but I personally prefer the waveforms at the side, leaving more space for my library. ITCH v2 will feature SSL like views, but for those users who won’t use 4 decks, being able to switch them off completely would be a very good idea.

From my own point of view, the detail of ITCH is not as important as what it achieves. Instead of being focussed on my laptop, the screen is little more than a big library, with all the work being done on the NS6. And the 1 to 1 mapping symbiosis works perfectly. I know many controller users feel handcuffed by the closed nature of ITCH, but this is also its strength. Which leads me rather neatly onto…

Other MIDI Applications

One of the issues with making controllers acceptable to the masses is with the accuracy of the jog wheel. The NS7 and V7 absolutely nail the feel in ITCH, but translating that to Traktor for example has proved to be harder than most might expect. So when Numark announced that the NS6 would not only have full ITCH support, but also have Traktor and Virtual DJ support on day one of release (today as it happens). Numark have made the Traktor mappings independently of Native Instruments, and the Virtual DJ mappings come straight from Atomix.


Now I’m going to get something off my chest right here. Part of the reason that I love ITCH is because it is true plug and play protocol. There’s zero configuration and it just works. The same is true with NI’s Kontrol range within Traktorworld as well, so you can imagine how increasingly wearing it is to have to load TSI files and configure this option and select that option to get stuff to work. And heaven forbid if you have to go through the process of MIDI learn to make your controller do things that supplied files don’t do.

But such is the way of competitive implementations of proprietary protocols. And while buttons, knobs and faders are all pretty standard, it’s always the jog wheels and platters that let the side down when trying to map to other software. And this is the case with the NS6 too. Another thing that ITCH has over any other software is post fader effects, which for me is a bit of a deal breaker. This alone would keep me in ITCH.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Taking the Traktor mappings first – Traktor 1 and 2 are catered for, with a separate 4 deck and sample deck maps for Traktor 2. Obviously having 4 decks means a pretty complete map of the main functions, as well as compromises on mapping Traktor specific features to spare buttons, or just having to leave them off completely. For example, things like strip search became a filter. And while jog wheel response was good enough for mixing, I was only happy doing the very basics of scratch techniques. Traktor is known for complex effects, but due to a lack of buttons, only a limited feature set has been mapped. And switching between PC and line/phono had no effect – both play through each other. It’s at times like this when you realise why NI made a Traktor specific controller.

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

Virtual DJ gave me solid results too, and also offered the extra dimension of video mixing. Overall, I would say that I was much happier with the VDJ mapping, and when some smart user decides to make an NS6 skin, this is going to be a pretty tight user experience, and will certainly give people unhappy with ITCH an alternative.

In ITCH, everything works perfectly – controls do exactly what they’re supposed to and do it it ultra-tightly. And these MIDI maps in comparison feel like a compromise. But obviously each bit of software does things in different ways, so mapping controls to features in alien software is probably a matter of personal preference than anything. So I would take the available mappings as a starting point – something for the experienced mappers and MIDI geeks to get busy with and make better. These do work and work pretty well, and I feel that they’ll get better very quickly. And hopefully all kinds of different maps will become available to suit different uses, as well as expanding into other software like Mixvibes Cross, Avid’s Torq 2.0 and open source applications like MIXXX.

Summing Up

Numark NS6 Midi Controller ITCH review

The anticipation surrounding the NS6 has been high. The hype has impacted even on the look and feel of skratchworx, with Numark buying a serious amount of ad space to promote a product that they obviously have a lot riding on. But have they pulled it off despite being late to the 4 channel party?

Indeed they have. Many wanted a 4 deck NS7, and for the most part that’s what Numark have delivered plus effects and a full on analogue mixer being built in. You have to remember that the 4 channel market is already established and based upon people NOT using turntables or indeed even requiring any kind of wheel at all. Thus including a jog wheel is the best compromise, and it allows for a smaller size, radically reduced weight and subsequent competitive pricing.

What you get is generous scoops of the important bits of key markets, all neatly squeezed into a solid beast of a controller. It’s interesting to see this market develop without an established blueprint. Each manufacturer is doing their own thing and putting their own twist on what they feel the market needs.

But there are compromises on some of the finer points of each target market. The lack of channel meters is proving to be a deal breaker for many who are used to them. The slightly under specced fader setup and lack of motorised platter won’t endear the NS6 to turntablists either. But these are niggles more than faults – some of which could be fixed with software and firmware revisions.

What Numark have delivered with the NS6 is a unit that takes the key ingredients of a diverse range of genres and ticks the vast majority of potential buyer’s boxes with a big fat marker pen. 4 oh so trendy channels, a dollop of effects, advanced looping and hot cues, a full analogue mixer and various flavours of software support. Given that all of these 4 channel units are quite new, it’s a tough call as to which is best (something I know you all want me to state), especially as they’re all a little different. But I do find myself really liking the NS6 because of the true plug and play nature, wide software support on day one and stellar build quality. The build alone raises the NS6 above the usual toy criticism admirably. And having glimpsed the future with ITCH v2, the potential for further greatness is just around the corner.

Well done Numark – the NS6 was worth waiting for.

Ratings

Build Quality
In a sea of plastic controllers, the NS6 stands out as a tank. Large and comparitively heavy, but there’s nothing toylike about this at all.

Sound Quality
Everything sounds good these days. But the NS6 impresses me with its high resolution platter that offers vinyl-like drags. And the audio is near impossible to distort thanks to the built-in limiter.

Features and Implementation
It’s analogue and digital, and works with all major DJ software out of the box. And everything works really well. Can’t knock that at all.

Value For Money
The NS6 sits happily in the same price bracket as its peers, but arguably does more and has a superior build. So I’d say value is high.

The Bottom Line

The Numark NS6 has something for everyone – a real jack of all trades yet master of many that does everything well and has a lot to set itself apart from its competitors. This could be the ideal bridge between analogue and digital needs.

Gallery

The NS6 does lend itself well to studio shots, so here are some for your viewing pleasure.