Link: Numark – Price: $999/€979/£799
When Numark aim for the pro end of the DJ controller market, they tend to come out with big, sturdy devices that more closely resemble gear from the pre-laptop era of DJing. The Numark 4Trak is no different, and along with its imposing size it has a host of extra features – from standalone audio mixing to in-the-box Traktor licence and pretty flawless Traktor mapping (the ‘trak’ part of the title is supposed to give that away), which, on paper at least, seem to make it a massive bargain. Is it, or is it just a massive paperweight?
It’s always nice to use gear that doesn’t pull any punches and feels like it’s got genuine professional use in mind, and the 4Trak fits the bill perfectly. It’s incredibly tough, and the controls all feel like they’ve been designed with durability as a major focus. The buttons all have the same clicky feel, which helps to build muscle memory confidence across the controller, and the standout feature – those big platters – are light and smooth. It’s a bit of a shame that there’s no tension adjust possible on the platters, as that’s a feature I’ve really enjoyed on other controllers to help me tweak the best vinyl-like compromise for my taste, but they seem to get the balance between free rotation and enough tension to make them feel solid pretty right.
The knobs are standard Numark, smooth and fairly, but not excessively, loose. Faders are nice and light, with fairly standard curve control, and the crossfader is Numark’s Pro crossfader design which feels like butter and has great cut-lag and a tight curve. My only issue is just how loud the clicks on the crossfader are as the stem hits the edges – they do get annoying – but I’d prefer it to a cheaper, sloppier but quieter fader.
A fairly strong feeling of deja vu strikes when looking at the 4Trak. Save for the obvious change in anodising colour, the 4Trak is physically identical to the NS6, Numark’s four channel Itch controller. I prefer the black of the NS6, but considering NI’s own controllers are black it’s understandable that Numark would want to make the 4Trak stand out. The choice of lighting colour is aligned to the bare metal look, with an attractive golden hue emanating from the primary controls and, in a sensible move, blue and green are used as differentiators for the decks depending on the decks (A/C, B/D) that they’re controlling at the time.
There is one feature that makes the 4Trak stand out from the NS6, though, and it’s the integration of 12 extra knobs and buttons that sit at the head of the unit at a slight angle, and the requisite mounting plates to match. Connecting the units together is a fairly simple process, and once the extra plate is on it feels sturdy enough to fool you into thinking that you’re fiddling with a single unit (an illusion that’s broken if you grab the add-on to lift the 4Trak, whereupon it will slip out – but Numark aren’t exactly recommending you use it as a suspension device). Admittedly, it’s a bit of a pain that Traktor recognises the two devices as separate, requiring an assignment for each, but once it’s done it’s done.
Feel wise the knobs and buttons are exactly the same as the mothership, too; once it’s all hooked up it really does feel like an all in one.
So Numark have saved on R&D by using the tooling for existing kit, but making a clever little addition: let’s look at how this affects the ergonomics, and what’s going on under the bonnet to make this all warrant a Traktor specific market push…